Aleister Black was one of the premier players on WWE’s black and gold brand, NXT. There, Aleister was a part of memorable feuds with Velveteen Dream and Adam Cole, and he also had a reign as the NXT champion. Now, after a brief stint in a tag team with Ricochet, where they went back and forth between RAW, SmackDown, and NXT, Aleister Black finds himself as a full-time member of the RAW roster. On RAW, the former NXT champion looks to once again find singles success.
SteelChair Magazine recently spoke to Aleister Black as part of a WWE media call, and during this call, he explained how influential Paul Heyman has been to his development since his move to the main roster, what he foresees the Aleister Black character becoming, whether or not his transition from NXT has been the correct path for his career, and much more in this exclusive interview.
You’re now a part of Monday Night Raw, and obviously, Paul Heyman is the executive director of the show. What’s your relationship like with Paul, and what are you looking forward to while working under the tutelage of Paul Heyman?
The relationship I have with Paul is we have a really good friendship. That’s first and foremost, but we also have a lot of trust. Paul has given me so many obstacles to kind of test my metal a little bit, and he has taught me so much about not only the business but the Aleister Black character. He’s made me dive into that character so deep that I have literally written an essay about who and what Aleister Black is. And it’s helped me a lot in wanting to do certain things with Aleister, and giving him a direction, and I have Paul to guide me in that direction. Paul is basically the outside source that tells me from a neutral point of view, what we should or should not do, and then explaining that to me. And thus, I learn from that a lot.
We all know Paul Heyman. We all know what he has done in sports entertainment, in professional wrestling, and it’s that outside the box thinking that fits perfectly with Aleister Black. So it’s only natural for me and Paul to establish that connection, that bond because Paul always roots for the unlikely one. He always picks the out of the box characters, and he’s an out of the box character himself. He doesn’t fit the mould. He doesn’t fit the norm. He never has. That’s how ECW came to be, and as I said, we all know his contributions to sports entertainment. So for me, as Aleister Black, to have someone like that not only guide me but mentor me is, man, mind-blowing. If you would have told 15-year-old Tom (his real name), that this is what you’ll be doing one day, and this is the person that will be guiding you one day, I would have called you a liar. You know what I mean?
Paul Heyman is one of the crucial people within this business that has shaped, formed, and influenced this business, and people like myself to the point where we have everything that we have now. He was one of the first ones to think outside the box this way.
Absolutely. You talked about him helping you during your transition to the main roster, and your transition from NXT has been quite interesting. Since joining the main roster, you’ve not really had a singular focus or feud with anyone, especially as of late. What’s that been like going from NXT where you had long storylines with guys like Velveteen Dream to now?
Well, you have to understand that the cogs and wheels of RAW and SmackDown work very differently than NXT. In NXT, there is room for hyperfocus, and RAW and SmackDown it comes down to being established first and seeing how the fans react to you. And then once that inkling of focus is there, they can start building with me. So what they’ve been doing with me, especially the last few weeks, is just building what is Aleister Black about. How effective is Aleister Black?
I mean, if they booked me in matches where I go toe to toe with whomever, and it’s a fifty-fifty contest, and it’s like these killer barn burning matches, that’s all great. But number one, I think the WWE Universe knows I can already do that. The problem is it doesn’t make me stand out because our roster is so stacked and talented, so we can all have these barn burner matches. But what is going to set Aleister Black aside, and it’s not just going to be those kinds of matches. We have to establish who he is first, and that’s a process.
A lot of people forget, establishing a character or a person, that takes time. It’s not going to happen in a month. You have to literally repeat the process over and over, so people have a level of expectations with someone’s move set, how they speak, act, and their mannerisms. Once that’s established, then you start bringing in these variables because now people have a preconceived notion of what this character is about, and that way, they can start responding to him from an emotional point. But the emotional boundaries first have to be set, and that’s a process that as a fan, you don’t understand that’s what you’re going through.
So it’s very easy to criticise what’s going on when you don’t have a grasp on what professional wrestling is, and what professional wrestling actually entails. So like I said, it’s very easy for people to sit on the sidelines and go, “They’re doing nothing with him,” but that’s not true. They’ve been doing so much with me, that by the time we’re going to introduce these variables, you’re completely aware of what Aleister Black is and what he does. And that not only goes for me but for a lot of superstars you’ll see.
What have the backstage promos been like for you because that’s something that is a little different from when you were in NXT?
I wouldn’t say there super different. It’s just a different angle and a different approach. We wanted to make them a little more direct, and I think the beauty of my character is that it doesn’t matter if I am a good guy or a bad guy, I can go either way. That’s the magic of the Aleister Black character that I’ve always been, even back on the independents. I was either the guy you agreed with, or you just thought, “To hell with this guy.” And that’s all good with the Aleister Black character because I’m not designed to be either a good guy or bad guy, I’m designed to fit whatever norm or idea you have for what is good and bad.
Your character is very interesting because your style is grounded in reality with the martial arts techniques, but you also have this vampire inspired entrance. Would you be open to the character taking a supernatural direction like say The Undertaker or Bray Wyatt?
The funny thing is there is a hint of supernatural to the Aleister Black character. I mean, I rise from an abyss. A normal human being doesn’t do that. If I were to explain to you what Aleister Black is, which I won’t because that is something that is for me. You would understand that he is one hundred percent supernatural. The problem is, I sometimes don’t know if I think that Aleister Black is implied supernatural or that he is supernatural. Because I would never want to have the character to the point where he does extreme supernatural things, but I like the idea of people thinking, “Could there be something supernatural about Aleister Black?” I like the implied idea better than the actual workings of him vaporising and shooting lasers, or setting things on fire with his hands.
I like the implied stuff more than I like the actual existence of it. I think that’s a lot of times where the strength of Aleister Black lies. The character’s no-nonsense, and with the way that I wrestle, the way that I compete, there’s no need for having supernatural powers to the point where I have to manipulate the field. For example, the Gargano feud, there was no need for me to vaporise or materialise inside the arena, I just walked in, and I beat all the security guards up.
You talk about still developing the character. How much involvement do you have in the direction of the character and where you want it to go?
I have one-hundred-percent involvement in the character. The whole thing is all me, and I get advice from people, and obviously, we all decide on where the character goes. But let’s put it this way, let’s say ninety-five percent of the character is in my control. But there’s always going to be that five percent that comes from a directive position. I always have to take everyone’s consideration into effect because this is the company that I work for. I have a contract, and I work for someone who has a great mind for professional wrestling, and whatever they say, obviously goes.
But as far as the involvement, they have literally let me do my own thing and let me try things. And you mentioned the character’s still in development, but I think that any good character is going to be in development for the remainder of my career. No character, as a human being, is ever done working on itself.
All images are courtesy of wwe.com