On a recent episode of the Talk Is Jericho podcast, Chris Jericho sat down with Malakai Black to discuss his WWE career and what went wrong. In NXT, Black was known for his unique and iconic entrance. He revealed who was meant to use the lift and the board at first.
“I got a text from Hunter (Triple H) one morning,” Black stated. “He said, ‘What do you think of this?’ And he shows me this big lift that goes up. I was like, ‘So I lay on it, and it comes up?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, it was gonna be for [The Under]taker, but Taker was too heavy for it. What do you think of it?’ I’m like, ‘I’ll take it.’ I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I never knew why Vince [McMahon] put this creek with it, but it was never intended to be an actual board, until Vince decided it was an actual board.
“It was just meant for me to just basically rise out of the mist. That’s why the whole thing was black, and in certain shots, you couldn’t really see that the board was elevating me. It was more of a visual trick. I was materializing almost through the smoke. I thought it was different. I thought it was cool, and I thought it added such a cool layer to the entrance. I thought I added a cool layer to the Aleister Black character.”
When Paul Heyman took over as Executive Director of RAW, Black was one of many talents that benefitted and thus suffered when Heyman as let go from the role. Black discussed what it was like to work with Heyman and revealed how long he had full control of RAW for.
“Since day one, me and Paul meshed. I love that man,” Black expressed. “I have so much love for that man. He’s always been really good to me. He’s been blunt with me, which I appreciate. I appreciate people being blunt with me. I don’t like to dance around subjects, just tell me how it is, especially in this business. Paul had big ideas with not just me, but with a lot of younger people like Buddy Murphy being one of them as well. He once told me that he had one night of control. That was the first night he was on, and after that, everything became a fight.
“Well, maybe ‘a fight’ is not the right word but a debate, which I can understand, but sometimes it makes you wonder and I let that go of what could be because we were fighting tooth and nail to get me out the room because the room needed to progress because it was the same thing week in week out. The promos, in my opinion, became more and more vague. That ran for a little bit, but as it was supposed to transition to something else, it didn’t. We wanted to get into one point and then completely switch it up because that’s what you do.
“That’s how you progress. You have to go to the next level, and this, in my opinion, had a shelf life. And I think Paul felt and it had a shelf life too, and we just wanted to progress, but the progression was just never approved. The progression just never came, and eventually, I became lost in the shuffle because the discussion wasn’t had and when the discussion was tried to be coined, it never went anywhere, no matter how many times I knocked on the door and tried to sit down and explain, ‘Look, we got to do something.’ It was always like, ‘No, no, we’re good here for now,’ and I’m like, ‘No.'”
Black and Murphy were talents that saw big pushes under Heyman. He revealed the plans Heyman had for the two of them.
“I genuinely thought that after the Buddy Murphy thing, here we go, and then it was right back in the room,” Black said. “And I was like, ‘Ah, that was the wrong move,’ because we had momentum. We had steam, but he went with Seth [Rollins]. Basically, what he wanted to do.
“He’s like, ‘I want to set something up between you and Buddy, that we can come back on WrestleMania in three – four years, maybe five years down the line. We lay a foundation now, and then five years from now, we circle back around, but we make it bigger. We put it on a bigger stage, and we can draw from what you guys did there.’ It writes itself because that’s how wrestling’s done.”
Black had discussed before in the podcast about the “disconnect” he felt with Vince McMahon. He spoke more on McMahon’s view of his character.
“Since day one, Vince was very fond of me,” Black stated. “I’ve had good conversations with him, always, but I definitely think that there was a moment where Vince was like, ‘I don’t know what to do with this guy,’ and every time I tried to say, ‘Well, why don’t we do this?’ Yeah, maybe, maybe, maybe.
“I think Vince was very keen on figuring it out himself, but I think he never did, and I think that is kind of what put the nail in the coffin. And then when we did the the Dark Father vignettes, which he approved, I was only supposed to be off for six to eight weeks. I was supposed to come back to the Royal Rumble. This Dark Father thing was supposed to speed up, and then it turned into seven months.”
Black was released by WWE this past June. He recalled the conversation he had with John Laurinaitis when he got the call.
“I have been told the actual reason, which I can’t talk about that because number one, it’s no longer relevant because I’m here now,” Black pointed out. “Two weeks before I attacked Big E on the night of the last vignette, I had a sit down with Vince, and he was very convinced of it. He liked it. I just wanted to get his thoughts. I hadn’t seen him in six months. A lot happened at that point. I wanted to sit down with him a little bit and kind of see how he was doing.
“We had just a normal conversation. ‘How do you feel about it?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, great. I it like a lot,’ and then we did the attack on Big E. Something about it just didn’t feel right, and I told my wife. I don’t know what it was. The way he looked, there was a disconnect. Not a disconnect as in, ‘I don’t get it,’ but I kind of felt that he had made up his mind even back then. It’s his company. It’s fine. No harm, no foul.
“Johnny Ace calls me. Even he was confused. He’s like, ‘I have to let you go. I have a list of people today, and you’re the one that I’ve put question marks behind. I don’t get it. I’m sorry. We’re invoking the rights for 90 days,’ and with everything that happened, and everything the way it went, and with the vignettes, you just know. You had this gut feeling. I saw his number pop up, and I look at my wife. We’re in the gym. I was just warming up, and I remember thinking in my head, here we go, because why would he call me on a Thursday morning? That conversation happened.
“I was shocked. I was kind of like, ‘S**t, John, we just started.’ He’s like, ‘I don’t get it. Couple names on my list, I don’t get it. Sorry, kid. Phones always there,’ love Johnny, and my wife started crying because she knew. I feel so bad for her because she was about to come back, and one of the main reasons why she wanted to come back is because I was there, which was more or less the driving force, other than the promises that they made her.”
Black would go on to make his surprise AEW debut in Miami. However, he appeared much sooner than his perceived 90-day non-compete clause would have allowed because due to an error, Black had a 30-day non-compete clause. Black revealed his reaction when he found out about the error.
“I think they forgot about it. I think they forgot to update it,” Black said. “I remember seeing that. I took a picture of it, and I sent it to my agent. I’m like, ‘Dude, do you see what I’m seeing?’ He’s like, ‘Does that mean 30 days?’ It’s like, ‘I think it does,’ so I contacted someone within the company. I said, ‘Look, am I reading this correct?’ And this person said, ‘No, that’s correct. Even now, I’m looking at it, you have 30 days,’ and I’m like, ‘Alright, perfect.'”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit Talk Is Jericho with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.