Appearing on Drinks With Johnny, AEW star Malakai Black talked about his struggle with depression. He revealed that for the longest time he fueled his wrestling career from it, and it wasn’t until being diagnosed with depression at 28 years old did he start to realize how unhealthy his behavior was.
“All that creativity, all that anger, all that frustration, all that sadness, all that hurt, it can create such creative passion,” Black said. “It literally is almost sometimes, and it’s sad to say, almost the best fuel to create some of your best work. I’ve had some of my best matches when I was at my lowest point. Even when I was 28 and I got diagnosed with depression, and then dealing with it, getting into therapy and stuff like that. Making sure that I understand the process of my brain and all the stuff that I was doing that I didn’t even know I was doing. All this unhealthy behavior that I was displaying, not just to myself but to people around me. I felt evil for a very long time. I felt like a very evil person.”
Black continued, saying that things got so bad that he thought he would lose his wrestling career if he didn’t use his depression to fuel him. He credits his rehabilitation to meeting his wife, WWE star Zelina Vega.
“There was a time in my life where I thought that I was going to lose my wrestling career,” Black said. “Because I thought if I wasn’t sad, or if I wasn’t depressed, I wouldn’t have any fuel to create. I wouldn’t have any fuel to make anything of myself and I would lose all of this stuff that I worked for. So all this anguish, I hate using that word because I sound so edgy, it’s not fun. It’s not fun to have this unhealthy mindset where you convince yourself where you can only be good if you’re absolutely horrible and you destroy s--t and you deliberately get involved with people you know aren’t good for you. You get involved with people who will never understand you, who aren’t on the same wavelength as you and you know are going to be bad for you. So you deliberately stay in those situations. And halfway through you get into one of those weird ‘what the f**k am I doing?’ This strange guilt trip. And then you’re trying to yank yourself out of it and then that turns into s--t. It’s like, whatever way you were trying to spin the ball, it all ended in the same manner, so you literally just created this maze for yourself, mentally, that you can’t escape. You feel awful all the time, you feel negative all the time, but you don’t want to. Because now you’ve reached the point in your life where you’re over it.
“One of my friends once told me ‘the definition of hate is to be obsessed with something till the day you die.’ And I was like ‘I don’t want that. I don’t want to carry that with me.’ A big part of my rehabilitation, let’s call it that, is my wife. She was one of the people that, for the first time in my life, when I met her, I just met someone that was in a different wave of energy that I was used to. There was no pressure, there was no awkwardness, there was no you have to or you should be or ‘you have to do this.’ There was no subconscious trying to change me, trying to make me something I wasn’t and that was a big shocker for me. I was like ‘okay I’m happy. This can’t be good!'”
On a more positive note, Black talked about his new entrance music, which dated back to his time in WWE. He conceived the idea after being told he was going to turn heel, and contacted one of his favorite bands and close friends to do the theme.
“When I changed the Aleister Black character to a bad guy character, I had a long talk with Vince,” Black recalled. “I said ‘look, if we’re doing this, we’re going to change everything. If we want to give this a shot, we’ve got to change everything.’ He agreed with me. One of my favorite bands, and they’re my friends to, are this band called Brutality Will Prevail. Very talented guys. Always been in Europe relatively successful. Never really, I don’t think, have ever been stateside. I was trying to set that up as well because I kind of wanted to see if I could, post COVID, set something up, get these guys over and kind of use my contacts to kind of get them around. And I might still do that, depending on how they feel at this point.
“But I started talking to them because I’d used their songs on the independents a lot too. I used their song “Heavy Eyes.” They were kind of the start of the black and hardcore movement that came around, when they were kind of using black metal rifts with hardcore rifts. It meshed perfectly with the Tommy End character, it meshed perfectly with who I was. So I said ‘hey, I have this opportunity to create a new character, at least add a layer to this character, and I want to change the theme song. But I don’t just want to come back with something that’s similar.’ I still want it to be an anthem. I don’t want it to be a complete departure where the first theme song was like an anthem for like the Aleister Black character, ‘The Root of All Evil’ song. It was such a statement, and I wanted this to be a statement too.”
Black went on to reveal that he paid for studio time for the band and even helped write the lyrics before presenting it to Vince. He detailed Vince’s reaction and WWE eventually producing their own version, that was to then be covered by Brutality Will Prevail, before Black was released. Black would state this would be his new theme going forward on the independents. As the podcast was recorded days before his AEW debut, it is unclear if it will be used their as well.
“I paid them for studio time and I wrote the lyrics with the front man, because I have to have something in each song that is me” Black revealed. “And we called the song ‘No Man’s Land’ because the basis premise of the character was going to be ‘he stands on his own and this entire wasteland belongs to no one anymore. Not even him. So he’s going to burn the whole empire down.’ He’s been in purgatory for so long that he’s either going to have complete victory or he’s going to drag everyone down. That was the basis of the character. So we recorded the song and I remember sitting with Vince in the office. I said ‘look I’ve got this new song. It’s heavy as s--t.’ He was like ‘alright, let me hear it.’ So I play the song for him and he’s like ‘does the volume change?’ And I’m like ‘yeah, yeah, it’s coming.’ So he listens to it and he’s like ‘wow. I don’t know what the f**k that was. I don’t think that was music. But I’m 76 years old, what the f**k do I know?’
“So he basically gave me the okay, but for some reason we couldn’t mesh it out. We had all the rights to the song, but I think WWE’s worries are, and I understand this part because it has happened in their past where they have used outside sources and then all of sudden, even when contractual is done, someone goes’ yeah but I want royalties. I want this, I want credit.’ It causes lawsuits, it causes issues. So WWE does everything in house, which I understand, it’s no biggie. It was just a bummer. And then they hired the front man of Brutality Will Prevail to write their version of ‘No Man’s Land.’ And the idea was after three to six months, the guys would be paid for studio time again and cover the WWE version of that song in their own way. So that we still had Brutality Will Prevail singing ‘No Man’s Land’, just in a slightly different way, but completely their way of doing it. And obviously we never got to that part, which is a shame. Even that character didn’t make it long, four weeks before, actually it was two weeks before they started changing the direction of it completely. So we never got to see any of that to fruition. But this is the song I’m definitely going to use out there.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Drinks With Johnny and provide a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription