Josh Barnett's Bloodsport taps into the tradition and competition of pro wrestling
When it comes to professional wrestling, the conversation usually includes some reference to the pageantry and personality that have long been synonymous with the sport. That kind of spectacle specific to professional wrestling is naturally going to commandeer the attention of the fans - even the most jaded. Yet for a profession that requires a lifetime of training, the constant threat of injury, and the kind of sacrifice that only few humans could ever endure let alone understand, the notion of athleticism and competition never seem to get the same kind of shine.
In a world where storyline and schtick seem to take precedence, Bloodsport serves a gloriously violent, supremely athletic antithesis. The counter culture to the polished, pomp and circumstance of the squared circle, the absence of gimmick is as evident as the absence of ropes and turnbuckles. If the mainstream is defined as sports entertainment, Bloodsport is competitive combat.
Created to serve the fans that understand and appreciate a more traditional element of the sport, the knockout or submission only rules nurture a heightened sense of spectacle that bridges a well established lineage with the practitioners of catch wrestling and Japanese shoot wrestling. Following in the tradition of generational athletes that utilized grappling and realism of full contact to craft compelling matches, Bloodsport takes its cues from an era of wrestling that emphasizes a great scrap over a dramatic storyline.
As the current namesake of Bloodspot, veteran MMA and wrestling ambassador Josh Barnett holds the kind of credentials that bring a healthy degree of authenticity to the banner. A mainstay of the pioneering Japanese MMA promotion Pancrase, the hybrid model of mixed martial arts and wrestling emphasized real strikes and real submission holds. Most importantly, Pancrase typically didn’t have worked matches.
It’s that same authenticity that resonated firmly with the two athletes set to headline the third installment of the event on October 11th. As the current AEW Champion, Jon Moxley is regarded as one of the premier names in the sport. Exuding a zero-bulshit disposition and a true affinity for the grappling aspect of the competition, Bloodsport instantly registered on the wrestler’s radar as a fan. Recalling his first experience with the event, Moxley showed up as a fan and instantly knew he wanted more. “There was no talking on the mic. There was no cheesy shit. There were no wacky angles. It was violent. It was competitive.”
Though in attendance to watch Josh Barnett face off against Japanese legend Minoru Suzuki, Moxley was asked by a friend in attendance with him if he would ever consider doing this show. Moxley’s response, “I HAVE to do this show.” That news made it’s way to the promoter of the event and set the wheels in motion for the standing AEW champ to eventually make his Bloodsport debut as a headliner.
Even before his first appearance, Moxley speaks about Bloodsport with the kind of excitement that is tough to fake. “Being in that crowd for the show it was like, ‘I’m home.’ THIS is pro wrestling.” Moxley continues, “This isn’t a one and done thing for me. I want to be a part of this moving forward.”
Considering Moxely’s pedigree, Bloodsport seems like a natural fit. In detailing his training, Mox talked about starting with the fundamentals, “I learned how to take a thousand back bumps and you got put into holds and learned how to get out of them. That was how my training started.” That base would inevitably steer Moxley towards an appreciation for grappling and the art of submission. “I love watching a good scramble. I could watch that shit for hours. You have to know what to look for to appreciate that kind of wrestling.”
The realism at the core of Bloodsport is what seems to be the resonating commonality. Particularly for Moxley’s opponent, Chris Dickinson, being too real has worked against him - until now. “I’ve taken shit my whole career for being too real, being too aggressive. It’s something that has been used against me,” explains Dickinson.
What may have been a liability prior is what has made Dickinson such an integral part of Bloodsport thus far. Competing in the previous previous events, Dickinson took on a legend in Dan Severn and went all out in a bout against Every Time I Die’s Andy Williams, then wrestled the boss in Josh Barnett in a show that has arguably been one of the banner’s best.
Acknowledging the show’s roots in UWF, UWFI, and Pancrease, Dickinson is like Moxley in his appreciation for the competitive aspect underscored with Bloodsport. “I’ve really dove into the UFW and UWFI and I’ve been a fan of Pancrase. When you get familiar with that style you really see everything that wrestling can be.” Reiterating his admiration for the competition and the combativeness of his craft, Dickinson echos a shared sentiment, “I’m a matches kinda guy. I like to see good matches and with Bloodspot there’s no stupid fucking angles, it’s ‘I’ll see you out there.’”
Shifting the narrative of professional wrestling from choreography and theatrics to combat and competition, the excitement of Bloodsport is fueled by a collection of participants that have the requisite talent but more importantly, deliver the necessary realism on the canvas. “Josh (Barnett) is one of the most dangerous human beings on the planet,” says Dickinson. “He exists with a different type of integrity to professional wrestling and he wants guys that are going for that same realism.”
Josh Barnett's Bloodsport broadcasts October 11th at 5pm PT on FITE.TV