The Covid-19 pandemic was a trying time for everyone, including Malakai Black.
“The first day of lockdown, I’m sitting with my wife on the couch and we just did all our groceries because we’re expecting…ya know, we’re expecting the apocalypse to basically happen and waking up in a wasteland the next morning [laughs]. I’m sitting on the couch with my wife and my wife goes ‘we’re in lockdown,’ I’m like I have no idea what this means, what does it mean, what are we doing? I think that state of confusion just twinkled all throughout the world and specifically into our into our world because no one knew what to do, ya know? I mean everybody was just like ‘what’s happening?’
“The pandemic was obviously not good for me at all and I’ve always been told that the reason why is because Vince [McMahon] could not gauge because he didn’t have an audience. We come in with this raw style but then we were guided to be smart about how the structure of like…how the match structure would like be more presented and more potent, basically. That’s why me and Buddy [Matthews] were like, I think one of the few first…again, with the Tommaso’s [Ciampa] the [Johnny] Gargano’s, etc., that had a hybrid style of coming with that high impact indie style with the blend of traditional pro wrestling and storytelling and TV wrestling.
“I feel that’s what made us stand apart because it was exciting and dynamic and it was a little bit different and then like I said when the pandemic hit, I was always told the reason why the booking was the way it was is because Vince was just going ‘I don’t know who’s over or not, I don’t know who’s getting a good reaction, I don’t know because the ratings are doing all this’. I don’t know, he couldn’t like track it and that made him really frustrated. Which is understandable because obviously, prior to that, I was a very well…at least, maybe well is not the right word but I was in a position where I was actually being pushed more up the ladder. I really think that the pandemic era did so much damage and not just for me, but for like ya know, people like you and for a lot of people because it was hard all around.”
Malakai would then credit both Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins on being there for him, not only whilst struggling with the pandemic, but also from a lack of creative direction from WWE.
“You know I have to give a special thanks to both Seth [Rollins] and Kevin [Owens] because they held my head up high during those times of like complete confusion. Seth was also someone who was there for me with a lot of advice and a lot of like knowledge and a lot of like, try this angle, try that, tell me about this. So, if you think about your character what would you do this way what would but you know he really made think. Ya know because Seth is a lot smarter than people realize he is in this business. People like don’t understand how long he’s been on top because I don’t care what people think. That guy’s been a top player for the man for almost like a decade. He’s been a high profile guy even from his NXT days, he was a high profile player there to being a high profile player on the mat. He’s so smart.
“The same goes for Kevin. In those last few matches right before I, ya know, rang the door and basically said ‘boss, we need to have a conversation because what the hell is happening?’, Kevin would check on me every single week because he knew what was going on and he knew that it wasn’t right and he knew that, what was being presented and what I was promised versus what I was given would flip-flop literally every Monday and it drove me insane. Like, it drove me insane because I was just like what’s going on? But again, reflection of that, Kevin would like check on me every single week after TV or like basically go ‘hey man, penny for your thoughts and just know I understand that this is not the easy part’ and he’d say this is the frustrating part. But ya know, trying to keep my morale high but I think commonly, I think we all try to keep each other’s morale high because it was…yeah, it was a pretty grim kind of phase in the whole universe.”
Malakai would call back to trying to make the best of a not-so-great situation and putting his all into his WrestleMania 36 match against Bobby Lashley, a gesture that WWE Chairman, Vince McMahon appreciated.
“I remember when Mania came and how strange it was but I still felt that ya know, because I came out with the big horn jacket because I was like well it’s still Mania and I’m gonna make this a goddamn Mania. Yeah, I’m gonna come out with the jacket that was supposed to be seen by 80,000 people so I’m still gonna wear it and ya know, because I also want to I also wanted Vince to know that like you know, performance center or not it was WrestleMania, ya know and I wanted him to know that and we briefly spoke about that and he appreciated that I still came out with all the bells and whistles. It was just a strange time for like all of us.”
Malakai was released from WWE in June 2021 before signing with AEW in July of that year.
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