Once handpicked by Antonio Inoki to be the face of the ill-fated Inoki Genome Federation, Josh Barnett took on Claudio Castagnoli in a huge match-up on the pre-show.
Jon Moxley joined Claudio at the commentary desk, making his first appearance since suffering from a concussion against Rey Fenix at AEW Grand Slam 2023. His appearance was a huge surprise to the crowd, who gave Moxley one of the biggest pops of the night when the first few notes of “Wild Thing” rang out through the arena.
As expected, Josh Barnett and Claudio Castagnoli started off with some classic European wrestling. They grappled in the technical style of wrestling, beloved by Nigel McGuinness at ringside. Barnett quickly targeted the leg of Castagnoli, locking in a leg bar before nailing his Swiss opponent with a Spine Buster.
After being bested on the mat, the Blackpool Comabt Club member resorted to elbow his opponent repeatedly (at the behest of the yelling Moxley at ringside). Barnett continued to lock in knee bars onto Castagnoli, bringing a style of wrestling not often seen in the US. Excalibur noted that he would be “at home in the Wigan Snake Pit”, the legendary training facility that stars like Dynamite Kid graduated from.
Castagnoli resorted to uppercuts to try and get the upper-hand on Josh Barnett, but the American continued to lock him in a series of intricate submission holds. The match was a clear representative of the philosophy of “Inokism“, and definitely showed the fans what the late-promoter believed to be the future of pro-wrestling.
Josh Barnett lost the match when he was forced to go blow-for-blow with Castagnoli. Despite resisting The Neautralizer, he was locked into Inoki’s Octopus Stretch before being rolled up for a pinfall. After the match, Josh Barnett grabbed a microphone, complimenting Claudio. He said that Inoki would be a fan of his, and that he wants a rematch some place down the line.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.