Malakai Black has some high praise for Triple H.
AEW star Malakai Black had many ups and many downs during his run in WWE. However, according to Malakai, many of those ups occurred while competing in the company’s [now former] black and gold brand, NXT. Black credits many of his successes to the one and only, Triple H, who Malakai says he felt he worked more with, rather than for.
“Someone like Hunter [Triple H] did this thing where he would work with me and instead of like giving me the ideas, he’d be like ‘hey, so what do you wanna do?’ He’s like, I got you for a reason,” Malakai explained when appearing on The Universal Wrestling Podcast. “In the beginning and ya know, I’m the beginning of NXT, I was super confused, I had so many people in my ear and it kind of took me a while to figure out who I was and what I needed to do. Case and point, my first match at TakeOver just wasn’t good against Andrade, it’s just not what it needed to be. We were instructed in a certain way and now, we at least knew what we did not want, right? I think that at the third TakeOver, with my match with…and like, it’s obviously a bit of a different individual nowadays in terms of like mentioning him but let’s look at the wrestling, not at the person, but Velveteen Dream. I remember vividly telling Hunter, ‘let me do this, let me call this, if I completely screw this up then the ropes are back in your hand, you tell me what you wanna do’ because I had a good feeling about this one, I think I had a good feeling about what he wants. So, when we came back, he’s like ‘I’m never telling you what to do ever again’ and I was like ‘OK, thank you!’ And it was from then that he really wanted to work with me. I’m sure there’s still like, through the TV’s, there’s what he thought was best…and I would listen but you and I had many conversations in regards to where I felt like I would not, ya know, verbalize myself in these ways but I’m so time, we found a good balance.
“But Hunter was definitely a guy that said like ‘what do you want to do, what do you think, what do your characters think? Like, ya know, he would work with me because he knew where I came from and he knew what I did and then he went, I have this dude that looks this way and he doesn’t these certain things, I don’t want to tell him how to do it because he’s clearly understanding what I want from him and I can now help him. Again, even still that process you’ve been thinking about, it was a lot of…I wouldn’t say ups and downs but there were a lot of like, ya know, curves and a lot of like, learning moments and a lot of conversations, which you and I both know, conversations in wrestling are always plenty. Conversations to be had prior to like doing one thing and that’s the nature of the business and that’s fine, it’s also TV. But he would work with me, he wouldn’t try to stop me, he wouldn’t try to like influence me, he wouldn’t say no, do it this way, he would say ‘OK’ and he would find the middle ground and we would both put in our pennies and clearly it was a success and clearly what we wanted to do, ya know, it worked. He made me a marquee player in NXT because of working with me and not trying to stifle creativity and not trying to tell me what to do. There’s people who work really well with be given all their direction, but I need to be able to stretch my wings and I think that’s also one of the biggest differences between me in NXT and on the main roster.”
Malakai would then reminisce to some of his favorite moments under the NXT umbrella, which includes a certain street fight that occurred against his now ‘All Elite’ colleague.
“That me and Adam Cole had at Philadelphia [NXT] TakeOver, it was a street fight if I remember correctly, it was the perfect audience that was in the perfect town, it was the perfect person, Paul Heyman, introducing that pay-per-view and everything aligned there,” Malakai remembered. “On that night, Adam, who is a phenomenal wrestler, I hold him in high, high regards, he did such a great job, ya know, selling the character that was Aleister [Black]. That was always a big thing for me, Taker used to come up to me and say ‘just make sure that whenever you wrestle, people…people cannot be normal with what you are’ and even now in this, in this installment, people can’t look at what I do and just go ‘right, regular guy’. He’s like, because you’re not a regular guy and characters like ours need to be sold by the individual. He always mentioned Shawn [Michaels] being so good at it because Shawn would like mock him but then all of a sudden, Taker would go like insane and be like, oh [rolls his eyes], ya know. I mean, there would always be an uh-oh moment and that would sell the character and Adam did that naturally, I didn’t have to tell Adam anything, Adam understood…Adam understood what I represented and Adam worked with it. Adam’s a guy, that in my opinion, especially around that time, is a very well-rounded, ya know, person, he’s got a good look, he’d got a great promo, he’s for a charismatic face, has great wrestling ability. We’ve had so many matches, which I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad match with him because he’s so organic, he’s so natural and that night, a lot of things just kind of came together. What I particularly remember from that match, was there’s a part where he throws a chair at me and I catch it and then, like, I’m on the top rope and I said ‘not today, Cole!’ and he super-kicks the thing right in my face and I fall off the top and I fall through a table. I remember going ‘yeah, that table didn’t break my fall at all, I can’t breathe’ [laughs].”
While flourishing with his new found creative freedom, in NXT, once called up to the main roster, Malakai quickly found out that, that wouldn’t be the case when answering to one Mr. McMahon.
“I definitely had my wings clipped in the main roster but I also thought to myself ‘don’t be that guy, don’t be that guy’ and I think I listened to that a little bit too long,” Black said. “Having said that, eventually when I started talking, we got into the Buddy Murphy and Malakai Black thing, which was positive but I felt like it never progressed due to aforementioned reasons.
“The one thing I will say, I’ve always had this in my head where I felt that the room promos eventually ran it’s course, even [Paul] Heyman said that. But Vince [McMahon] liked them very much and he never really wanted him to change very often and we were like ‘OK’ but we felt like we needed to… everything needs to evolve, ya know? I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ‘pick a fight’ line but again, I didn’t wanna be that guy, I was given something, so I tried to make it work but eventually when me and Heyman both felt like, OK it’s running it’s course and these promos are not completely connecting, it was intriguing but it never went anywhere. I felt like we were never able to like, see the evolved version, we would never see what was going to happen next because the whole world changed and what we were filming changed and the narrative changed and where I was placed in the program changed and all these things were happening.”
Malakai Black signed with WWE in 2016 and would hold the NXT Championship as well as winning the Dusty Rhodes Classic in 2019 alongside Ricochet before struggling to find his footing on the main roster before his ultimate release from the company in June 2021. Malakai would make his All Elite Wrestling debut on the July 7 edition of AEW Dynamite.
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