When we last checked in with Black Label Pro a little over a month ago, they had just come off a day featuring two of the best shows in the company’s history. As a company that can alternate between high highs and low lows, the double-shot was a rousing success and had me hyped for future shows, knowing that their Turbo Graps 16 Tournament was coming. While a handful of wrestlers were pulled for various reasons, Black Label Pro was able to scramble over the last couple of weeks and put together a really neat tournament for the day. Despite my constant reservations about indie wrestling running at all right now, I am nevertheless still watching a handful of shows as they pop up. I feel particularly wary of The Collective this coming weekend, as 12 shows will happen over the span of three days at a fairground with larger crowds than have existed until now. I have faith that solid precautions are being taken, but there is undoubtedly an air of uncertainty about everything.
To recap the last Turbo Graps 16 Tournament in 2019, it was won by WARHORSE; he defeated Erick Stevens in the final to win not only the tournament, but the IWTV Independent Wrestling Title (which Stevens held for a couple of hours after winning it from Orange Cassidy). Stevens enters the tournament once again this year, but WARHORSE is purely defending the title he has held for 13 months in the later show.
All said, and before we get to brief reviews and a top match list, I’ll say this: when the wrestling isn’t GREAT, six hours of wrestling is A LOT. I can’t imagine being live in the building with my mask on and limited space to move around, but even sitting on my couch, this was a LONG Saturday between the two shows. Neither show was bad, and both featured solid to good matches and even had some SURPRISING performances, though neither reached the heights of the August shows.
BLACK LABEL PRO
TURBO GRAPS 16 2020 – PART 1
OCTOBER 3, 2020
CROWN POINT, INDIANA
The basic setup for the day was that the eight first round matches would take place on the early show, while the second round (taking place on the later show) would feature two 4-way matches. The two winners of those 4-ways would meet in the finals. The second show would also feature various matches stuffed in and all around to fill out the card. Due to loving tournaments and singles matches in particular, “Part 1” was destined to be the favorite, and it certainly did deliver a bit more than its later counterpart.
In a move that seems to be happening more and more, the show opened with the company’s title match, as Jake Something defended the BLP Heavyweight Title against the man he “stole” it from, Calvin Tankman. When these two faced off in August, it wasn’t much of a match. Tankman had just been through a war with Erick Stevens to win the title before Something cashed in and demolished him in seconds. This was a match that looked great on paper, with two of the legit biggest guys on the U.S. indies facing off, but they didn’t really seem to be on the same page, moving a bit in slow motion and having some misfires. Not a bad match, but not near the top of what either man is capable of and not a great way to start the show. Something got the win with a low blow to keep the title in a bit of a letdown. The match was also interrupted dozens of times because IWTV was having terrible streaming issues for the first 70 minutes of this show (I had to rewatch on VOD). In the other non-tournament match, Violence Is Forever (Kevin Ku & Dominic Garrini) had a fun, chaotic match with Top Flight (Air Wolf & Angel Dorado – now maskless)! The match was a sloppy mess, but was hard-hitting and everyone worked really hard. Top Flight are super young, but will be really good really soon, and I almost always love when VIF works a show.
As for the tournament matches – AJ Gray defeated Erick Stevens in a bit of an abbreviated “dumb jock” match, where both guys tried their hands at power grappling, chopping each other and throwing gnarly suplexes. The match never got into that extra gear that both guys are capable of, but was still one of the better matches of the day. Dan the Dad revealed himself to be Dan The Wrassler; he fought Ethan Page while still wearing glasses in a bout that still did nothing for me. Blake Christian, who despite my constant disdain has improved quite a bit over the last few months, took on Chris Bey, who I absolutely love. The two had a really fun 8-minute sprint. Bey showcased his swagger, Blake reigned in his insanity, but the match still had some of the more innovative and insane spots of the show. Bey isn’t a guy who will probably ever give you that MOTY-type match, though he always entertains. Not Dasher Hatfield, a.k.a. A Very Good Professional Wrestler continued his streak of being my favorite guy on the indies right now by working a match where he absolutely destroyed Isaias Velazquez, before the smaller Velazquez got a sudden flurry of offense to sneak out a win.
Tom Lawlor was scheduled to face Levi Everett, but due to an attack from Big Beef during his entrance, Everett was unable to compete. In a surprise twist, Lawlor instead faced off with Mike Bennett (looking absolutely jacked), and the two had the best match of the day. ACH squared off with Christian Casanova in my most anticipated match of the tournament, and while the two were solid, they didn’t really get to showcase all that either can do. Effy defeated Brian Myers in a match that was fine. And in the main event, which was the last first round match and with the BLP Midwest Title on the line, Alex Shelley surprisingly beat Kylie Rae. He not only beat her, but dominated her. Shelley looked like a killer and ended the show with a new title. Overall a pretty good show where nothing was outwardly bad, but only one match that approached “great” status.
BLACK LABEL PRO
TURBO GRAPS 16 2020 – PART 2
OCTOBER 3, 2020
CROWN POINT, INDIANA
With less than an hour between the two shows, the second part kicked off with two sets of 4-way matches to determine the finals of the Turbo Graps 16 Tournament. In the first, AJ Gray, ACH, Blake Christian and Isaias Velazquez battled in a fast-moving, hard-hitting match that was reminiscent of many scrambles seen in today’s indies. ACH was particularly crisp, while AJ Gray seemed to be the one likely to win – before Velazquez snuck in for the surprise win. With his win, the second battle between Effy, Tom Lawlor, Ethan Page and Alex Shelley seemed very obvious. Shelley and Velazquez have had split victories in two recent matches. The obvious winner did in fact win, setting up the rubber match between Velazquez and Shelley for the main event.
A special shoutout is due to Deonna Purrazzo who pulled easily the best match I’ve seen out of Billie Starkz in a quick little exhibition revolving around the typical Deonna technical stuff. It wasn’t anything special, but was totally serviceable and made both wrestlers look good. Boomer Hatfield (and his newer floppy hair) and Molly McCoy came to BLP to face off with Big Beef and Mickie Knuckles. While they put up a fun fight, they were totally overmatched by their bigger opponents. Big Beef continues to be one of my favorite guys on the scene right now, really conveying his size and brutality better than many others. EC3, looking like the homie Lumis, completely squashed Travis Titan. WARHORSE defended his Independent Wrestling Title against Joshua Bishop in a match that continued to show the improvement of Bishop as someone we should all be keeping our eyes on. Tre Lamar and Kevin Blackwood had a super fun PWG-style sprint, busting out big moves before Lamar got the W.
The BLP Tag Team Title match seemed like it went on for a hundred hours, even though I generally really enjoy both teams, but the Besties in the World successfully defended against To Infinity and Beyond. Afterwards they were challenged by Violence Is Forever. In an intergender scramble match that featured internet darling Megabyte Ronnie, the unscheduled A Very Good Professional Wrestler entered himself into the match and wreaked havoc.
In the main event and the finals of the Turbo Graps 16 Tournament, Alex Shelley defeated Isaias Velazquez in a very good technical match and the best of their three to retain the Midwest Title and win the tournament.
The second show wasn’t quite as good as the first, though it did have some surprising moments. Neither show is MUST WATCH from beginning to end unless you are a huge fan of the people involved, but if you wish to pick and choose some matches to check out from the 20 that happened, my list is as follows:
SEVEN BEST MATCHES OF THE DAY
- Turbo Graps 16 First Round: Tom Lawlor vs. Mike Bennett (Part 1) – I was looking forward to the likely brawl (and comedy) between Lawlor and Levi Everett, but the surprise of having Mike Bennett instead really worked out. While Bennett didn’t get much of a reaction from the crowd as he popped out of the curtain, he showed once again that he is still a super solid wrestler as he and Lawlor just beat the shit out of each other for about 12 minutes. Bennett looks like a million bucks right now, and if he can continue to have matches like this, I’ll be in his corner hoping for success. Lawlor almost always delivers and this was no exception. A match with only a handful of big spots (a series of T-Bone suplexes from Lawlor and a big Death Valley Driver from Bennett), this one just FELT violent in a way many of these first round matches did not. ***¾
- Turbo Graps 16 Final / BLP Midwest Title: Alex Shelley vs. Isaias Velazquez (Part 2) – What happens when you put two of the best, most seasoned technical wrestlers on the indies together? Well – usually good things. Though I was disappointed in the match these two had on “Professional Wrestling,” they made up for it here. Shelley worked the part of heel (without going overboard), having handily defeated Velazquez’s fiancé Kylie Rae in the first round. These two went at it with technical expertise, the equivalent of a good Pro Wrestling NOAH juniors match with the mix of ground work, limb work and big spots that counted. Though Shelley took most of the match, Velazquez had really convincing control segments as well. A couple of more minutes and this could’ve been a runaway match of the night, but as it stands, it was still really good. If Shelley continues to work with a bit of a heel edge on the indies and in BLP, I’m here for it because it really works. ***¾
- Turbo Graps 16 First Round: Isaias Velazquez vs. A Very Good Professional Wrestler (Part 1) – In a bit of unthoughtful bias, I had predicted AVGPW to win the tournament, mostly because I wanted him to. At the very least I expected him to put away Velazquez in the first round – and he almost did. In a match that went about 10 minutes, AVGPW looked like an absolute killer for about 80% of the way, totally dominating the smaller Velazquez and really just busting out cool, high-impact moves. Velazquez used his speed advantage to sneak the win out, and though it made for a good story, the early domination from Not Dasher was a real thrill to watch. ***½
- Turbo Graps 16 First Round: Blake Christian vs. Chris Bey (Part 1) – This was just a fun sprint full of stupid (though slightly more subdued) moves, charisma and getting the crowd hyped. The match was only like 8 minutes long and felt even shorter. It wasn’t just balls to the wall, Ospreay/Ricochet-action, but it didn’t try to be. It was two wrestlers who often try to do too much just going out and having fun and putting on a fun match in the middle of a card! Easy watch.
- Turbo Graps 16 First Round: ACH vs. Christian Casanova (Part 1) – I hyped myself up for this too much, absolutely loving every single thing ACH has done since returning to the indies a couple of months back, and being firmly in the camp that Casanova is behind only Ben Carter as the best new flashy wrestler on the scene. ACH didn’t work overtly heel here, in fact maybe he just worked babyface, which is part of the reason this match didn’t quite get into that next gear. Still, the sheer athleticism and skill of the two men was enough to carry it onto the list. This would be a matchup I would love to see build for years, if we’re honest, with a big Casanova win way down the road. Anyway, still good, even if I was personally disappointed.
- Violence Is Forever (Kevin Ku & Dominic Garrini) vs. Top Flight (Air Wolf & Angel Dorado) – This match was basically 11 minutes of chaos, as Top Flight continually tried to push the envelope against the hard-hitting vets, but getting smacked down over and over. There were spots that I absolutely rolled my eyes at, including this weird front handspring double team spot from Top Flight that didn’t quite work and then resulted in a Total Elimination from VIF that caused Air Wolf to suplex his brother, but hey, the chaos is somehow what made this really fun. I usually get annoyed when a match has wrestlers continually trying spots they can’t execute and that happened here multiple times, but the cool thing was that Garrini and Ku made the young dudes pay for their mistakes. Just a fun, quick tag team match with a killer ending. And for what it’s worth – I’m happy the members of Top Flight now wrestle without their masks, it’s a better look!
- Tre Lamar vs. Kevin Blackwood (Part 2) – Just a quick exhibition match between two of the better young guys on the indies. This was the debut in BLP for Blackwood, but if these Midwest promotions know anything, they should continue to try and book the boys from Buffalo as often as possible because they are perhaps the most honed in and awesome people going right now. Lamar didn’t look quite as impressive as he has in the last few months, but still was his usual solid self and the two just executed a fun PWG-style, big-move match to thrill the crowd.
Just Missed The Cut: WARHORSE vs. Joshua Bishop (Part 2), Alex Shelley vs. Kylie Rae (Part 1), AJ Gray vs. Erick Stevens (Part 1), Big Beef & Mickie Knuckles vs. Boomer Hatfield & Molly McCoy (Part 2)
As stated above, while watching these shows straight through can be a bit of a slog, there was enough good in the matches and story progression throughout to still get an overall recommendation. If you aren’t a big-time U.S. indie fan, or only parachute in for the stuff that is truly praised, you can probably skip everything, but if you like to keep up with what is happening, a single-day tournament is one of the better ways to do so.