In an interview with Wrestling Perspective Podcast, AEW star Malakai Black was asked about the transition from WWE, where he was released earlier this year, to AEW. While Black has enjoyed his first few weeks with AEW, he admitted he was still adjusting from the mindset he had from working in WWE over the last several years.
“I’m still absorbing, I’m still absorbing,” Black said. “I come from the dojo mentality, so I was used to like sweeping mats and cleaning dojos and all that stuff. That’s always how I entered wrestling as well. I always kept that principle. That’s why in training, most of the times I wasn’t problematic. I got my ass chewed out a couple of times, as we all do. But I’ve always kept a level of trying to be humble all the time. One of the things I find very important is that especially the younger guys see that I’m approachable and that you can absolutely talk to me about things and that the older guard sees that I’m willing to learn, despite the things that I’ve done, that I’m still open about a lot of things. And I want the company to know that I’m there for them.
“I had a good conversation with some of the members of the company. And it’s important for me, and I did this in WWE too, it’s important for me for them to understand I feel we’re all colleagues. From the ring crew to the lighting crew to the sound crew to the boys in the back to the people behind the table, we’re all part of the same team. I don’t look at anyone higher or lower, we’re all the same. We’re all there for one goal. And for me that’s always the important thing, that we’re all equal. I find the aspect of equality very important. I’m still slowly coming down on everything, because it’s a lot to absorb. I go from one place where I spent half a decade, dedicating myself, to now having a complete switch with another company that I’m absolutely going to give every single thing to. But it takes awhile to get rid of that half a decade of ‘this is how we did it there, and now we’re going to do it this way.’ And I’m still figuring that out. I came in the first time and I was like, it was that eggshell, eggshell feeling but it was quickly like everyone was like ‘no you don’t have to do that here. That’s not how we do things.'”
Black also talked about how AEW was instantly on his radar from the moment he was released, though he remains interested in a New Japan run. He also revealed that a conversation with the late Brodie Lee put the idea of wrestling in AEW into his mind months beforehand.
“I’ll be completely honest with you. The day I got released, AEW popped into my head,” Black said. “I had so many friends there. One of the last conversations I had with Jon (Brodie Lee), rest in peace, he said ‘you’d love it here. You would have so much fun here.’ So that kind of always stuck with me. Him and me, every once in awhile, would talk, and there’s definitely been moments where I was very frustrated. And I know he went through similar stuff, so I spoke to him about it a couple of times. And he’d tell me how great he felt and how much relief he felt. So that conversation stuck with me a lot. And then I got released, and from day one that was the thought process. There were multiple offers, conversations happening from different companies. One of the companies that I still want to do some stuff for, hopefully in the future, is New Japan. Because that would make my circle complete. That’s what I was kind of raised on, I always wanted to go to Japan, I always wanted to go to New Japan. That’s always been one of my ultimate goals. One of the last few things on my check list is New Japan. So let’s hope in due time, someway somehow, we can make that happen in the future.
“I just want to have something that means something, and I felt like AEW was the company that I could do that. I want to matter, I want it to mean something. I want to look back on this and go like ‘I did one thing right. At least one thing I did right. At least one person is going to say ‘Tom, because of you I became a wrestler. Because of what you did there, what you said there in that promo and what you did in that vignette or in that match, that turned me. That was my moment.””
One guy not in AEW right now that Black is interested in wrestling in KENTA. The two collided while both were in WWE and Black would like to run it back, this time in a different environment to see what the two can really do.
“One of the things I would really like is to compete against KENTA in Japan in his own setting,” Black said. “Not in a WWE oriented setting. Not that there was anything bad about it. But I would like to see what him and me could do without that environment, without people giving us cues and direction and basically just go ‘what do we really want to do?’ And that’s something I really want to have answered at some point. I think what he’s doing now, I think his work is phenomenal. I think he’s one of those dudes, he’s one of those once in a generation type of guys. He’s inspired a bunch of us, and like I said, he definitely inspired me. I think the role of him, as an athlete and as a human being, he’s always been a great guy.”
Later, co-host and Rancid guitarist Lars Frederiksen asked Black if there was ever a moment in his career where he realized he had made it. For Black, he couldn’t think of just one.
“Two things,” Black said. “When I got my first contract in Japan and when I was finally able to pay all my bills from just wrestling income. And it sounds like, again, we just talked about the monetary stuff not being as important right? But at the same time if you get to the level where you can go ‘all my bills are paid? I have some money extra? I’m good.’ And I did that all with my own hands. I created that. And that’s what I felt was an unprecedented level of success for me as Tom the human being.”
You can watch the full interview below.