Black Label Pro Wrestling “In Defense of the Genre” results: Vetter’s review of Kevin Ku vs. Joey Janela for the BLP Heavyweight Title, Skye Blue vs. Rachel Armstrong


By Chris Vetter, Contributor (@chrisvetter73)

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Black Label Pro Wrestling “In Defense of the Genre”
Replay available via TrillerTV+
February 24, 2024 in Berwyn, Illinois at Berwyn Eagles Club

The venue is a small room but sadly attendance is only 75-125. They just really struggle to draw here. I’ve attended events in this venue. This is the room where Shimmer Women’s Wrestling used to hold events, and Deadlock Pro just sold out their upcoming show here next month. Other Chicago-area promotions are drawing better, and I just don’t get why BLP struggles to draw. Dustin Alberty and Puf provided commentary, and I never write this, but these two were really amateur hour — they admitted right away they didn’t know much about the competitors, or even know what to call moves.

* BLP announced a few days earlier that Joshua Bishop was off the show; he was slated to face Kevin Ku. So instead, Joey Janela will face Ku. Janela was slated to face Amish wrestler Levi Everett, but now Puf will face him.

1. Aleah James defeated Heather Reckless at 6:45. This is my first time seeing the former NXT-UK talent Aleah since her fairly recent release. (She wasn’t cut when the majority of the UK talent were let go.) Reckless, the 4’10” blonde and a Chicago-area regular, stalled at the bell. She’s been on several AEW shows now. Aleah hit a bulldog for a nearfall. Reckless snapped backward on Aleah’s left arm and she took control. She went for a stunner but Aleah blocked it and she hit a jumping knee to the chin. They traded forearm strikes. Aleah hit a DDT for the pin. A bit of a surprise outcome.

2. Dex Royal defeated Bradley Prescott (w/Adam Slade) at 12:10. Prescott spoke on the mic but I truly have no idea whatsoever what he said. Royal is the thin Black man I’ve seen recently from AIW in Ohio to Action Wrestling in Georgia. The announcers said Dex was supposed to face Tre Lemar, so this is quite a step down in match quality. They shook hands and Bradley hit a huracanrana. Royal hit a missile dropkick. Prescott hit a senton at 2:00. Slade choked Royal with a shirt. Prescott hit a suplex. Royal hit a leaping DDT for a nearfall at 7:00. (The commentators are talking about everything from fast food to TV’s Modern Family. It’s awful.) Royal hit a German Suplex.

Prescott hit a coast-to-coast dropkick as Royal was tied in the Tree of Woe for a nearfall at 9:00. Royal hit a top-royal Spanish Fly, then a Tiger driver for a believable nearfall. Royal hit an enzuigiri and a running kick in the corner. Royal hit a top-rope crossbody block on both Prescott and Slade. Dex hit a spin kick to the jaw for the pin. Nice finisher. Good match but a Dex-Lemar match would have been a better match.

* Jason Midas replaced Puf on commentary, as Puf has to go get ready for his match.

3. Hayden Backlund and Trevor Outlaw defeated “Twist & Flip” Nate Kobain and Darren Fly at 7:30. Kobain and Fly have fairly identical black pants with neon green trim, and they worked over Outlaw early on. Backlud got in and hit a series of punches on Kobain. Kobain hit a dive to the floor at 6:30. Fly hit a Frankensteiner on Outlaw. Backlund cut Fly in half with a spear. Backlund hit a top-rope flying elbow drop for the pin. Okay action.

4. Levi Everett defeated Puf at 9:42. Levi carried his butter churner and he’s acting like a babyface tonight, but then he refused to churn and was booed. Again, Levi was supposed to face Joey Janela. Puf is the 400+ guy who looks rather unhealthy. Puf began churning the butter (yes this is all very silly) when Levi hit some shotgun dropkicks. Levi left the ring and vanished to the back. This is brutally bad at this point. They returned to the ring with Everett hitting Puf over the head with a small carton of popcorn, which has to be the least painful thing I’ve ever seen used in a wrestling match. Levi hit a flying elbow off the ring apron to the floor at 6:00. Puff hit a senton in the ring. He grabbed the butter churner and opened it and ate some butter. Levi hit a top-rope diving headbutt for the pin. Well… that happened, I guess. The commentators couldn’t stop talking about if Levi will ever churn butter again.

* Puf didn’t even head to the back, he returned to commentary.

5. Matt Makowski defeated Eli Isom to retain the BLP Midwest TItle at 12:33. This should be good. Isom still looks like he did during his Sinclair-era ROH run. They shook hands and traded intense mat reversals. Isom hit a dropkick at 2:30. Matt hit a Saito Suplex and he worked the left arm on the mat. Matt applied a crossarm breaker in the ropes at 6:00 and the ref broke it up. Isom hit a suplex. Matt applied another crossarm breaker in the center of the ring. He hit a butterfly suplex, then a spear for a believable nearfall. Matt applied a Cattle Mutilation hold. Eli escaped but Matt again applied a crossarm breaker.

They hit simultaneous clotheslines. They began trading forearm strikes while on their knees, then from the standing position. Eli hit a strait-jacket German Suplex for a nearfall at 12:00. Matt again applied a crossarm breaker, and this time, Eli tapped out. That was easily best match of the show so far, and Dustin Alberty called it an early MotY contender for Matt.

6. Skye Blue defeated Rachel Armstrong at 8:23. Rachel has appeared up and down the East Coast in recent months too and I always compare her to pop singer Corrine Bailey Rae. Sky hit a hard kick at the bell, then she flipped off the crowd. They appear to be roughly the same height and overall size. Rachel hit a huracanrana. They fought to the floor and Skye hit some loud chops. In the ring, Skye hit a snap suplex for a nearfall at 3:00. Rachel hit a dive through the ropes onto Skye!

In the ring, Skye trapped Rachel’s head in the corner and kicked her in the face and got a nearfall at 5:30. Rachel hit a DDT for a nearfall, but Skye grabbed the ropes. They got up and traded forearm strikes. They hit simultaneous boots to the chest and both were down. Rachel missed a top-rope summersault. Skye hit a superkick, then a TKO stunner, and she applied a Stretch Plum dragon sleeper, cranking back on the head until Rachel tapped out. That was pretty good.

* Intermission

7. Myung-Jae Lee defeated Kennedi Copeland in an intergender match at 8:50. I’ve seen a lot of Lee in Canada’s C*4 wrestling. Copeland is competing a lot in Massachusetts-based Wrestling Open and she is comparable to Ruby Soho. He hit a deep armdrag early on. She tied his left arm in the ropes. He hit a running penalty kick to her chest, and he tied her up on the mat. She hit a top-rope crossbody block at 4:00. He hit an enzuigiri, then a top-rope missile dropkick, and he was getting booed. (This is why intergender matches are so problematic; even a popular babyface male gets booed when fighting an under-sized female.)

He hit a brainbuster. She flipped him to the mat and cranked back on his left arm, but he reached the ropes. She went for a Kamigoye kneestrike but he blocked it, and he applied an anklelock at 7:00. The commentators pointed out Lee is bleeding from his nose. She hit a running knee to the side of the head for a nearfall. He hit a top-rope doublestomp to her head for a believable nearfall. He then nailed a Sabin-style Cradle Shock for the pin. He wiped away some blood after the pin.

8. Rico Gonzalez defeated Alex Zayne at 13:56. Gonzalez is under-sized but talented and I’ve also seen him from here to Ohio to Georgia. Zayne wrestled in Dallas about 18 hours earlier, and he has a size advantage. As I noted in my GCW debut, he’s added some good size in the past two years. Zayne hit a shoulder tackle that dropped Rico at 2:30. Rico hit a huracanrana and a dropkick. Rico did a dive to the floor and turned it into a huracanrana. In the ring, Alex grounded Rico. He hit a spin kick to Rico’s head at 6:00. On the floor, Zayne hit an axe kick to the back of the head; he pulled Rico in the ring and got a nearfall.

Zayne backed Rico into a corner and nailed some hard chops. Rico hit a hard clothesline at 8:30 and they were both down. Rico hit some Superman Punches, then a spin kick to the chin. He hit a dropkick to the face as Zayne was tied in the Tree of Woe, then he hit a one-armed powerbomb for a believable nearfall at 10:30. Zayne nailed his jump-up Frankensteiner and that popped the crowd. He hit a jumping knee in the corner. Zayne hit his swinging faceplant for a believable nearfall at 13:00 and Alex was shocked that didn’t get the pin. Rico hit a huracanrana for a nearfall. He trapped Zayne’s arm behind his back, got a rollup, and pinned Zayne. That was really good.

9. August Matthews & Davey Bang defeated “Latinos Most Wanted” Sabin Gauge & Koda Hernanedez and “Tragedy Boiz” Gaston Leroux & Percy Drews and The Highlight Reel in a four-way tag to retain the Black Label Pro Tag Titles at 10:35. My first time seeing the under-sized Tragedy Boiz. The Highlight Reel are identical twins and I’ve seen them at least once before. I’m a big fan of Koda Hernandez. LMW hit a dive onto Bang and Matthews to open the match. The Highlight Reel beat up Drews. Bang dove through the ropes. Bang and Matthews put the Tragedy Bois in Octopus Stretches. The Highlight Reel hit stereo corkscrew planchas to the floor at 4:00, then simultaneous moonsaults in the ring.

Matthews was late to break up a pin but the ref held up the count. Bang hit his moonsault to the floor. Sabin hit a flip dive to the floor, then a Fosbury Flop to the floor on the other side and that one popped the crowd. Koda hit a sideslam for a nearfall at 6:30. The Highlight Reel hit stereo Coast-to-Coast dropkicks for nearfalls. Bang hit a top-rope Frankensteiner. Gauge hit a tornado DDT on Bang. Matthews hit a top-rope doublestomp. Bang hit the Spears Tower. The Tragedy Boiz hit a frogsplash for a nearfall. Koda hit a Death Valley Driver, but Bang hit a 450 Splash on Koda! Bang then pinned one of the Tragedy Boiz. That was a fun, messy indy-style match. Some people will hate this but it was fun.

10. Kevin Ku defeated Joey Janela to retain the Black Label Pro Heavyweight Title at 35:42. Both of these guys, along with Zayne, wrestled in GCW in Dallas a day ago. This is a first-time-ever singles match, and they opened with standing switches. They traded chops at 3:00, and tehy switched to forearm strikes. Ku tied up his feet in an Indian Deathlock at 6:30. They got up and traded more loud chops and Joey’s chest was really turning red. Ku hit a Dragonscrew Legwhip in the ropes, but Janela hit a DDT on the apron at 8:30. They fought on the floor, where Janela hit a Rude Awakening standing neckbreaker. In the ring, Joey was in charge and Ku was holding onto his damaged neck and shoulders.

Janela twisted the left wrist and fingers. He hit a stiff kick to the spine at 13:00, so Ku hit his own stiff kick. Ku hit some spin kicks to the thighs. Joey hit a rolling forearm for a nearfall, then some European Uppercuts to the back of the neck, targeting the damaged area. Ku hit a Sait Suplex for a nearfall at 16:00. Joey fired back with a brainbuster, and Ku was doing a great job selling the pain in his neck, and he was shaking feeling back into his fingers. They traded slaps and chops while on their knees, and Joey hit a headbutt. Ku hit a Dragonscrew Legwhip, then a second one, and he applied a half-crab, and he turned it into an anklelock at 19:00.

Joey dove through the ropes onto Ku, as they landed deep into the rows of empty chairs (so many empty chairs. Why not more fans at this very good show? Sigh.) In the ring, Ku hit a running kneestrike for a nearfall. They traded more chops. Joey teased he was going to suplex Ku into the chairs but Ku avoided it. (This is so good the commentators actually focused on the match!) Janela hit another Rude Awakening at 22:00, then a piledriver for a nearfall, but he missed a top-rope doublestomp. Joey sold pain in his knee upon landing.

They traded more chops; these guys aren’t acting like they are fighting in front of 100ish people. Ku went back to an anklelock at 26:00. Janela applied a crossface and he hit some elbow strikes to the back of the neck, but Ku got a foot on the ropes. They got up and traded more forearm strikes. Ku hit a superkick; Janela hit a clothesline, and they were both down at 28:00. They got up and traded more chops. They hit simultaneous clotheslines. Janela hit a Death Valley Driver for a nearfall. I don’t know if this match has a time limit! Ku slammed Joey on his knees then hit a buzzsaw kick as we reached 30:00. Joey hit a Package Piledriver for a believable nearfall.

They got up and traded even more chops and Joey’s chest is really, really red. They went to the floor and traded more chops in front of the fans until they both collapsed at 33:00; they both got in the ring just before the 10-count. Joey hit a DDT and some more chops, then a superkick in the corner. Joey hit a top-rope superplex, but Ku rolled through it, got up, and hit a brainbuster for the pin. That was a war!

Final Thoughts: I am so hit-or-miss on Joey Janela. His more methodical pace is great for when he’s facing someone 40+ or a heavyset guy, making sure that person doesn’t get winded. This match was definitely a hit for me. Joey and Ku went all-out and had a memorable match… even if it was in front of 100ish fans. Makowski-Isom was really good for second, and Zayne-Gonzalez was a strong match for third. Disappointing that Tre Lemar missed the show, and he recently missed an AIW show I saw too, so hopefully he’s not out with an injury.

I can’t avoid the elephant in the room, though… I usually don’t dwell on it, but with a crowd this small, I’ll estimate a gate of $2,500. That has to cover renting the building and paying all these wrestlers. And Zayne, Ku, and Janela were in Dallas the night before so I highly doubt they drove all night for the 14-hour trek to Chicago, so presumably they were flown in. That just doesn’t leave a lot of money to pay everyone. Again, I really try not to dwell on the financials, but this really struck me. I like BLP and while not every match works for me, a majority do. But I don’t know how they make it work with a crowd this small. Also, this is the second straight show I’ve seen from this building where fans in the front row were staring at their phones and not at the action. I know that happens everywhere, but it sure seems pronounced here with this smaller crowd.


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