Malakai Black, then known as Aleister Black, arrived on WWE television in early March 2017 to much fanfare.
The demonic Dutchman who had earned something of a cult following on the independent circuit, debuted at NXT TakeOver: Orlando, later going on to claim the NXT Championship at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans.
On that night, Black defeated Andrade for NXT’s top prize, holding the title for 102 days before losing to Tommaso Ciampa in July 2018.
Ahead of his in-ring debut with AEW, Black sat down with the Wrestling Perspective Podcast to discuss his career to date.
Reflecting on his NXT Title win, Black called the moment “bittersweet.” He explained that while he was happy to win the championship, he felt like an “interchangeable champion.”
“I knew it was coming,” Black said. “I had Terry Taylor who was one of the people, I think we spoke about it. Terry already knew and was like ‘look, it’s my job now to make you the guy. So I have to talk to you to make you mentally understand what that means to be the guy.’ I always look back at my NXT title (reign) a little bittersweet, because I felt that, and this might sound strange, I felt it wasn’t the right time. Because Johnny and Tommaso’s feud was so hot, I felt there was always a level of intrigue with me that could’ve passed through their feud, and then make the call. The decision was eventually made for like, so okay, I become champion. I had a match with Lars Sullivan, didn’t like that match at all for multiple reasons. And then I lost it to Tommaso, and I always felt like I was an interchangeable champion.”
Black continued, revealing that he thought he was given the title because of how much merchandise he was selling at the time. Before adding that he still looks back on his time as champion with pride.
“With merchandise I did great. I think that was one of the reasons I won it. I was very popular, I did really good in merch, and I always felt like that was one of the reasons I became a champion. And sure, based on who’s popular, based on the skill, based on presentation, sure. All of these things there. But I felt that what Johnny and Tommaso were doing, even for me, felt more important. It felt like it transcended the belt, and clearly it did because they were main eventing and stuff. And kudos to them because they worked their asses off to do it and I will never, ever take anything away from those two. Those two have been my greatest proponents and opponents, and I have a lot of love and respect for both men. But I always felt, from a company standpoint, I wished it had started with them and then looped me into it. I felt that would’ve made it better, but it is what it is.
I look back on the fact that I was an NXT Champion with a lot of pride. I thought it was an honor to be picked to represent that part of the brand, represent that part of the company and that the world was ready enough for me to be the champion. I thought that was crazy cool.”
Malakai Black will make his AEW in-ring debut when he takes on Cody Rhodes on August 4th.
Black appeared from the darkness on July 7th, laying out Arn Anderson and then Cody Rhodes as he tended to his fallen mentor.
The following week, Rhodes called out Black, who responded with a promo of his own from an undisclosed location. However, as Rhodes challenged the new AEW star, the lights went out and Black appeared in the ring once more. Although this time officials rushed the ring keep the two men apart.
On night two of Fyter Fest it was announced that Rhodes and Black will attempt to settle their differences in the ring on August 4th.
H/t to Wrestling Inc for the transcription.