Last year it was Matt Riddle’s, but this year GCW’s no-rope shoot-fighting show bore the name of Josh Barnett – and proved to be another show-stealer.

We’re back at the White Eagle Hall in Jersey City, just in time to see Bryce Remsburg almost slide across the ring as he made it in time. Ring announcer Rich Palladino goes over the rules before we start – wins can occur via knockout, stoppage, forfeit or DQ… oh, and of course, there’s no rope breaks. The crowd boos the “no low blows” rule, because damnit, these fans don’t care WHERE the blood comes from. Denver Colorado is on commentary with Kevin Gill… and we get lower thirds for this show!

Phil Baroni vs. Dominic Garrini
Baroni looks like a “what if Joey Ryan got old” tribute act, which is something I can say safely behind a keyboard. I’m not that stupid to say that to his face, you know!

Baroni’s crotch chopping like it’s 1998 here, and we get going with Baroni and Garrini shuffling around the ring. A body shot from Baroni finds the mark before Garrini tried to charge in with a waistlock, instead getting thrown to the mat as he tried to go for the arm. From the bottom, Garrini swings his legs to try and trip up Baroni, who just decided to go for a takedown. Some punches in the guard keep Garrini rocked, as Baroni was then forced to roll away as Baroni ran into the corner to avoid an armbar. The crowd got on “Phil Jabroni”’s back as Garrini went for another cross armbar, but an eye rake broke it up – something missed by the ref. As Bryce Remsburg was figuring out what to do, Baroni decks Garrini with some hard shots to the head, then went for a visual pin… just because.

Garrini gets back up, but is instantly decked before Baroni backhanded the ref. That’s not a DQ, for some reason, as Remsburg instead did a standing ten count that Garrini couldn’t answer… but the decision gets reversed as Baroni went in for some afters, and Garrini gets the DQ win! ***

JR Kratos vs. Simon Grimm
Kratos is a California guy, with a penchant for shiny red pleather, going by his sleeveless trenchcoat. Simon Gotch, on the other hand, recently shaved off his moustache for MLW’s Contra Unit storyline, and for some reason is going by his Simon Grimm name here.

Grimm’s giving up lot of weight here, and after an initial fist bump he took down Kratos into the corner, forcing a restart in the middle of the ring, where Grimm took the back, only for Kratos to fling him away. Grimm tries to invite Kratos into his guard, and it worked as Grimm took the back again, throwing an elbow to the side of the head before another restart was called due to them being on the edge of the ring.

Kratos catches Grimm with a right hand, following in with a takedown as he tried to work over Grimm’s left arm, before the scramble on the mat led to another restart as Grimm was taken outside. An enziguiri from Grimm stuns Kratos, as the pair began to throw shots with little remorse. There’s a nice pumphandle’d flip as Kratos put Grimm back on the mat ahead of an attempted Kimura, but Grimm floats over before the hold was fully applied as the pair went back and forth on the mat… only for them to stand up as Kratos waffles Grimm with an elbow to the side of the head. A boot to the head keeps Grimm down… and there’s blood on Grimm’s chest and leg (from Kratos’ nose) as he tried to elbow away an armbar. He continued to resist the submission attempts, as he rolled into the guard and threw down elbows from above to further bust up Kratos’ nose.

Grimm uses a powerbomb-like takedown to break up Kratos’ guard, and from there a variety of palm strikes led us to the tease of a shoot piledriver before Grimm rolled into another cross armbreaker. Another powerbomb-like throw broke that up as Kratos dove in on the downed Grimm with a punch… and there’s your flash stoppage! A heck of a contest in the mat, but in the end Kratos’ weight advantage was put to good use. ***½

Killer Kross vs. Davey Boy Smith Jr.
Kross was at WrestlePro the prior night, complaining about how wrestling wasn’t a serious business. Against Davey Boy Smith Jr., I don’t expect there to be any comedy…

The opening exchanges see both men test each other with kicks, which led Smith into a takedown as he looked to take the back… which he did so successfully as Kross had to scoot to the edge of the ring to force a restart. Back on their feet, Kross gets tripped as Smith picked the leg, but he’s able to swivel out and throw some shots from above, before the pair rolled around in the guard, throwing shots. Kross stands up and rolls in with a heel hook, which Smith almost countered into a Sharpshooter before they rolled to the edge. That’s a darn thing…

Back again, Kross tried to roll Smith on the mat, but he’s on his back again as he tried to go for a cross armbreaker… but again, Smith rolls back as there’s another break called on the edge of the mat. Smith comes back in search of a Key lock on the mat, but Kross rolls out as they again teased rolling off the ring. Kross tries to cheapshot Smith from the restart, but he stops himself short as another Key lock from Smith ends with the pair rolling to the edge as there’s yet another restart. This time, Kross is the aggressor with a suplex takedown before he looked to take Smith’s back, this time finding an advantage with a series of knees to the ribs, only for Smith to slip out as he went for almost a grounded abdominal stretch.

Smith instead throws some knees as Kross was on all fours, before they got back to their feet for more kicks, this time with Kross sending himself down with a missed kick, putting himself in harms’ way. A big elbow cracks Kross, who returned the favour, only for Smith to slap him silly with a palm strike. The receipt barely fazes Smith, who has more of those left in the tank as he looked to draw blood from the ears before a head kick from Kross found its mark. A Saito suplex from Kross dropped Smith as he tried to mount a comeback. A second head kick grazes Smith, before the Bulldog came back with a kick to the knee of Kross, then to the face as more palm strikes led to a deadlift Saito suplex as Smith quickly followed up with a crossface for the submission. Davey Boy Smith Jr. was in his element here, and if you thought he had a point to prove after his recent usage in New Japan… well, you’re right. Excellent, excellent stuff from both men. ****

Jonathan Gresham vs. Masashi Takeda
Takeda’s here barely a week after wrapping up a Big Japan deathmatch tournament, and boy, he’s got the scars to prove it.

Gresham shot in for a takedown early on, but Takeda spins away to avoid it before the pair found themselves on the mat, where Gresham looked for a head and arm choke. Takeda easily rolls away to reverse the control, only for Gresham to re-establish it as he looked for any body part.

Gresham looked to grapevine the legs, but Takeda powered free and nearly shoved Gresham to the floor as the restart was called. They do spill to the outside seconds later as the referee was slow to stop them scooting on the mat, and with the referee remaining useless, they exchange a barrage of palm strikes on the outside as Takeda had gotten bloodied up above his left eye. Takeda tries to grab a chair, but gets calmed down as they continue to throw back in the ring, only for Gresham to ground him in a head and arm triangle. Takeda’s blood begins to stain the canvas as Gresham swivelled into a North-South choke attempt, but Takeda gets up, only to stop a barrage of palm strikes with a rolling cross armbreaker.

Somehow, Gresham gets out and throws from above as they tease a stoppage, but Takeda rolled on top and threw strikes too. A head kick from Gresham finds its mark, as does a rear spin kick before Takeda just stopped him cold with a bicycle knee. Holy God, that was a beautiful flash finish, with Takeda looking like he’d fought every bit for that win. ****

Andy Williams vs. Chris Dickinson
I’d be shocked if this is anything more than a slugfest, and with Dickinson being a substitute for Tom Lawlor… he’s got a point to prove.

Williams, perhaps better known as the guitarist from Every Time I Die, does a wrestle every now and then, so this isn’t exactly one of those freakshow bookings. We start with the pair windmilling each other like it was a bar brawl before a shoot powerbomb from Williams led him to the mat as he tried to finish Dickinson early. Dickinson seemed to have little response, especially as Williams deadlifted him up with a gutwrench suplex before going back to that arm. Somehow, Dickinson gets free and manages to get Williams’ back… but they stand up as Williams tried to roll to the mat, only for Dickinson to cling on with the rear naked choke for the submission. A decent showing, but Dickinson had to withstand a hell of a fight before he forced the stoppage. ***

Frank Mir vs. Dan Severn
This was a weird juxtaposition as two of the biggest names in UFC’s history collided… and of course, Dan had the old UFC music while Phil Baroni was back out being an annoyance.

Severn looked for the early advantage, rolling Mir to the mat in a front facelock as the pari scrambled for an advantage. Another takedown from Severn hits the mark, but he struggled as Mir looked for an armbar, and seconds later he’s forced to tap to a heel hook. Well, the age difference hampered Severn, but this was a decent enough scrap for the time it lasted. **¾

There’s chants of “sign him, Regal” for Frank Mir. Regal, and a few other faces from WWE, were spotted in the balcony at this show…

Timothy Thatcher vs. Hideki Suzuki
Thatcher’s got his new Dropkick Murphys theme here as he’s furthering himself away from the RINGKAMPF identity… and this is another match that has a lot of potential.

Suzuki and Thatcher flashed through holds and escapes early on, as Suzuki worked his way unto a cravat that had Thatcher in trouble. Thatcher manages to escape as he rolled Suzuki into a hammerlock, before he drove a knee into the kidneys of Suzuki, only for Suzuki to hit back with a knee of his own before flipping back on Thatcher’s leg. As Suzuki had Thatcher’s legs tied up, he absorbed some forearms before suckering Thatcher into a butterfly hold… but Timothy slips out and goes for a chinlock, only for Suzuki to catch him with an armbar stretch as the escape led both men into onto the edge of the ring.

A bow-and-arrow hold’s next as Thatcher tried whatever he could to find the upper hand, including rolling Suzuki into a half crab. Suzuki picks a leg to get free, before he trapped Thatcher in a leg lock… kicks from Suzuki continued to sting as Thatcher came back with an enziguiri-like kick from the bottom as he tried to weaken Suzuki, who just shrugged it off before he was forced to block a gutwrench. It didn’t work, as Thatcher flung him across the ring, following in with some hammer blocks and a palm strike to the face, before Suzuki blocked a Saito suplex. Thatcher tries to pull him down with a Fujiwara armbar, but it’s rolled through as Suzuki hit an enziguiri and a backbreaker, before a butterfly suplex threw Thatcher down hard… and there’s your stoppage! That was a nasty landing for Thatcher, whose “very bad month” just continued here as he came up short to Suzuki in an absolute war. ***¾

After the match, Suzuki slapped Thatcher with a towel before finally giving a handshake.

Minoru Suzuki vs. Josh Barnett
Jersey City is a good crowd. Kaze Ni Nare.

The crowd’s amped for this one, but Suzuki and Barnett don’t rush in at the bell, instead, they lock-up with a Greco-Roman knuckle lock before a scramble on the mat led to a stalemate. Barnett locks in a head and arm choke, taking Suzuki down to the mat… but down there it’s escaped as Suzuki locked in some headscissors, forcing Barnett to escape as a leg grapevine served to neutralise Suzuki for a spell. It almost backfired as Suzuki got in a leg lock, before Barnett went back to the arm as the pair flowed back and forth. There’s almost a cobra clutch from Suzuki, who looked for another ankle lock as Barnett writhed on the mat, looking to get to the edge to force a break.

Instead, Suzuki drags him down in a rear naked choke, as he asked the crowd if he should “choke out?” Barnett. I think only Josh didn’t want that… Barnett manages to escape and grab an armbar, countering another counter as Suzuki’s rear naked choke was broken up with almost an Angle Slam. Suzuki somehow manages to sneak in a heel hook as he tried to eke out the submission, before relenting as he began to pepper Barnett with knees and a forearm as he tried to force a stoppage instead.

When that didn’t come, Suzuki rushed back in with forearms, only to get clocked with a head kick and a headlock suplex from Barnett, who found his proverbial second wind, before a knee from Suzuki left him wobbly ahead of a Gotch-style Piledriver attempt. Another knee looked to make things easier, but Barnett manages to avoid it and trap Suzuki in a STF. The arm drop gimmick almost forces the stoppage, before Suzuki returned with a Saito suplex… then rolled outside for the heck of it. On the floor, Suzuki grabbed a chair from the crowd, but staggered back into the ring as he then shot in with a headlock to drag Barnett outside. A kick shoves the referee away, as Suzuki then shoved him down so he could throw chairs at Barnett. That just angered Josh, who kicked Suzuki around the ring as this just broke down… knees and forearms to the head follow back inside as the enraged Barnett neutralises Suzuki with a simple headlock, before a gutwrench suplex sent Suzuki flying.

A medic checked on the referee as the match continued, rather than being thrown out, as we continue with back-and-forth forearms while the time wound down. Suzuki’s left wobbly in the corner, forced to steady himself on the ring post as that demented face appeared, prompting Suzuki to wallop Barnett with elbows and get one back in return. The crowd booed because Josh’s didn’t make the same thud as Suzuki’s, before a headbutt greeted the final sixty seconds, as both men continued to throw bombs until the time limit ran out!

Rather than boo the draw, the crowd roared as they seemed to beg for five more minutes… and we get it!

Suzuki starts the extra time with some stinging kicks, but Barnett comes back in with a diving kick of his own that looked to have Suzuki rocked… only to follow through with a German suplex. Nope, that has no effect too as Suzuki tries to show fighting spirit, only for Barnett to leap in with a rear naked choke… which Suzuki bites his way out of!

There’s more biting as he went for Barnett, before pulling him into a mouth-assisted leg lock as he was given a lot of leeway from the ref. They rile each other up into more forearms and uppercuts, which led to Suzuki slipping in with an Octopus stretch. That doesn’t get a result, as the final of the five minutes began, with Barnett looking for a gutwrench before a scramble on the mat ended with Suzuki and Barnett trapping each other in a leg lock until time ran out. ***¾

Bloodsport, much like Ambition and Tetsujin alongside it, is an acquired taste. Strike-and-grapple heavy shows only work so long in the sphere of pro wrestling, and fortunately this was a show that breezed by. Even fans who aren’t big fans of mat wrestling should find something to sink their teeth into here, with Davey Boy Smith Jr/Killer Kross and Takeda/Gresham being excellently violent.