It's sometimes hard to tell where Tom Budgen ends and Aleister Black begins. The Aleister Black character that Budgen portrays in NXT is based on a unique childhood that Budgen had while growing up in the Netherlands.
Black says that his father grew up in a religious cult and many of the inspirations of his wrestling character are derived from that atmosphere. He joined Lilian Garcia's podcast where he further discussed his childhood and how it affects him to this day.
"I think it was too much stuff about reading things I shouldn't have been reading about," Black said of his childhood phobia of being scared of the dark. "Like I said, I had an interest in the occults and brought forth by things from my childhood and conversations with my grandfather. It's like, if I have to put into words what made me, me, I don't even know where to begin sometimes. It was one of those things where I needed to stop reading about these things because it was terrifying me to death."
Black says that when he was 8 or 9 years old he began to develop an interest in ghosts and various types of worship. Learning what the human mind is capable of frightened him, yet intrigued him at the same time.
"I had paralyzing fear as a kid. I couldn't watch horror movies, nothing. The funny thing is I got so sick of being afraid that I started doing it deliberately and instead of being afraid in my bed I would sit up on my bed and say, 'ok, come on, show yourself, do it.' I just started to confront stuff that wasn't there, but for my psyche I wanted to prove to myself that there is nothing wrong with this world," stated Black. "I am proving to myself that there is nothing to be afraid of and I just started to have a conversation with myself where I was like, look, you can be two things: you can be frightened for your life or you can go out there as a brave 13, 14 year old and face it head on.
"That is what I did at the time and my mind started to calm down to everything and I started liking being in the dark more, and I felt more energized at night, which is where I believe my recluse came from because I am a pretty big recluse. I like being by myself a lot."
Anytime a dark or mysterious character like this emerges in WWE, they always get compared in some way, shape or form to The Undertaker. Kane, Waylon Mercy, Bray Wyatt and now Aleister Black have all had their gimmicks measured up to The Undertaker, but Black says he doesn't get the comparisons.
"No, I don't," Black said on if he understands why he's compared to Taker. "I understand that people think that because there is a certain element of me that has stepped over to the dark side, but there is only one Undertaker and I can never fill that void. And there is only one Aleister Black, and I am the first one, and there will never be a second one. The legacy that The Undertaker has had, I can't even put into words. He changed the landscape."
While Black maintains that the two characters are different, he does acknowledge that there wouldn't be an Aleister Black without The Undertaker to pave the way.
"Is Undertaker directly responsible for Aleister Black? Sure, because he was the first to open up doors for darker characters and to really take it to that level and to allow an audience that wasn't so clean and cut," said Black. "Interestingly enough, I gravitated to him as I got older. I didn't grow up watching WWE. I was 16 I think when I watched my first WWE pay-per-view so I wasn't aware of The Undertaker because I grew up watching New Japan sports and WCW because that was what we had in Amsterdam.
"I gravitated to him because I love the aura about him that I could relate to, but I would not say that I am the modern-day version in any point in time as The Undertaker. I am not, I also wouldn't feel comfortable saying that. Darkness can be interpreted in many different ways and he was one who opened that door and showed the entire world something different, especially because of my WWE character he brought in a different light which is exactly what he did. A totally different light, something that is different and wasn't seen before."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Chasing Glory with Lilian Garcia with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Source: Chasing Glory with Lilian Garcia
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.