Empire State Wrestlings Wrestlebash Garcia vs Blackwood
This is the first of a two-part preview of Empire State Wrestling’s next event, “Wrestlebash”. Part one will examine the main event match between Daniel Garcia and Kevin Blackwood.
After successfully defending the Empire State Wrestling Heavyweight Championship against Davey Richards in October, “Red Death” Daniel Garcia briefly relished the victory in front of his hometown fans – his first match back in Western New York in nearly 18 months -before finding out his next challenger.
One of his best friends, Kevin Blackwood, appeared on the main screen at Buffalo RiverWorks. He announced that even though he moved to California recently, he still planned on claiming his shot at the Heavyweight title he earned from winning the 2019 Ilio DiPaolo Memorial Cup. With his video announcement, Blackwood officially set the match for him and Garcia at Empire State Wrestling’s next event, “Wrestlebash”, on Saturday.
“To wrestle again in Buffalo at all is a great feeling,” Blackwood said. “I feel like I’ve spent a good amount of time making rounds representing our city right, and especially living on the West Coast now it’s exciting to come wrestle at home again, and for it to be up against someone who means so much to me not just as a wrestler but as a person just makes it all around perfect.”
When the bell rings to start their match, it will not just signal the beginning of this main event matchup, but also a culmination point for two of the biggest Western New York wrestling stars’ careers and their own friendship.
“For both of them to be headlining what’s typically the biggest and most talked about event of the year for ESW is something special for not only them but everyone in the Buffalo area that have had the chance to watch them go from showing up for the first time not knowing anything about them to becoming two of the better known and well talked about wrestlers out there today,” said ESW promoter Brett Mednik.
The bond Blackwood and Garcia share is well-documented. The pair first gained traction on the independent wrestling scene as part of the “Buffalo Brothers” traveling group – hitting the road across the Northeast United States and Canada and earning a good reputation for their work. But their momentum took a hit one night in January 2019, when the group were involved in an automobile accident traveling home from a wrestling event in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Blackwood and Garcia both ended up being hospitalized with injuries that forced them out of action.
However, the pair remained resilient and a few months later, both returned to action. In Empire State Wrestling (ESW), Garcia won the Heavyweight title upon his return over “The Patron Saint of Professional Wrestling” Brandon Thurston and Blackwood would win a Last Chance Battle Royal to enter and win the 2019 DiPaolo Cup match within the same night.
Empire State Wrestlings Wrestlebash Garcia vs Blackwood
“The Blackwood-Garcia match reminds me of a British Bulldog/Bret Hart match without a wife or sister in the middle,” Mednik said.
“I don’t even see them as best friends anymore, they’re a family, Brothers through and through. They have literally gone through everything together from training, to the horrific car accident and the amazing comebacks.”
The future looked super bright for both wrestlers. Then the pandemic hit. New York State implemented some of the more stringent quarantine rules and restrictions that made running professional wrestling events within the state essentially impossible.
The pair’s inevitable clash was delayed, but their careers outside ESW were not. Although unable to perform at events in his regular stomping grounds in New York and Canada, Garcia picked up a lot of steam on the independent scene wrestling for promotions in other states such as Limitless Wrestling in Maine and ICW No Holds Barred in New Jersey. Eventually, he hit the jackpot by landing a contract with All-Elite Wrestling (AEW).
Blackwood also wrestled regularly for Limitless, plus a pair of matches for No Peace Underground in Florida and two bouts for AEW before moving out to California in 2021 and establishing himself in the U.S. West Coast independent wrestling scene.
“I think Daniel and I have worked so hard to get where we both are respectively and it means so much more that we got to do so much of that together,” Blackwood said.
“We’ve spent so much time on the road together, as partners, as opponents, and for us to basically be representing wrestling for our city in the main event of the top promotion in town means the world.”
Pandemic restrictions gradually rescinded and wrestling events slowly began to return, including ESW. The bout became destined again and, in a strange, beneficial twist, maybe for the better because of the delay. The pair became significantly more seasoned wrestlers throughout the pandemic and will bring more wrestling knowledge and experience to the ring than they would have a year prior.
“Daniel and I have wrestled each other before but especially in the last year and a half or so we’ve both hit a massive stride not just in our careers but in-ring as well,” Blackwood said.
“He’s always had it but I can say for me personally, I really found who and what I am as a wrestler just recently and my understanding of what makes a match great has grown exponentially.”
Blackwood believes that this match will be highly memorable for not just those watching but also for Garcia and himself.
“I think everyone can expect it will be a classic, hands down,” he said. “We’re going to continue the seeming tradition in wrestling of best friends being each other’s greatest opponents and regardless of the outcome I’m going to walk out knowing one of my greatest inspirations pushed me to what I know will be one of my favorite matches of my life.”
The last time these two locked horns was at Beyond Wrestling in July 2019. This will also be the first time Blackwood and Garcia wrestle each other in ESW. Considering Garcia signing full-time with AEW and Blackwood living on the other side of the country, it can be perceived as these two are at a career crossroads with each going down different paths. But Blackwood does not think this necessarily means that this will be the last time they wrestle each other.