A lot has changed in the world of All Elite Wrestling since the last time they came to Milwaukee. UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena was the last stop before AEW’s All Out in Chicago. That show featured the AEW in-ring debut of CM Punk and also featured Adam Cole and Bryan Danielson making their first appearances in the company.
The debuts have only continued with Kyle O’Reilly, Samoa Joe, RUSH, Athena, William Regal, Keith Lee, Swerve, Toni Storm, and Stokely Hathaway all making their way to AEW in recent months. The roster is as stacked as it has ever been and the lone AEW show in Milwaukee this year—taking place Wednesday, June 22 at Panther Arena—should be a big one, as it will feature the last two episodes of AEW television before another huge Chicago pay-per-view, AEW/NJPW Forbidden Door.
The New Japan stars should be plentiful in Milwaukee, including the first (and probably only) ever appearance of the legendary Hiroshi Tanahashi in town. The Ace Of The Universe will take on Jon Moxley at Forbidden Door, but will be teaming with Moxley against Chris Jericho and Lance Archer on Wednesday. The show will also feature a high-stakes match between Penta Oscuro and Malakai Black for a spot in the finals of the All-Atlantic title tournament at Forbidden Door. In preparation for the event, Milwaukee Record asked Malakai Black about his match, AEW, NXT, Forbidden Door, goop, and metal.
Milwaukee Record: AEW is coming back to Milwaukee. You wrestled here as one of your earliest live shows for AEW. You wrestled Brock Anderson in the main event. The company has changed so much, what kind of changes have you seen in that time?
Malakai Black: Obviously, there’s been an influx of a lot of new talent coming through the ranks of AEW. Which has progressively, with myself and House of Black, has given it a bigger presence and a bigger platform. More people have garnered interest in what AEW has become. Even at the time the country was a major player, but the company has continued to grow on the aspect of mainstream culture, pop culture.
You see all sorts of artists mentioning it, following it, partaking in it, and a lot of the old timers—like a lot of the legends—jumping in on it and talking about it. There’s been a very steady growth in what AEW has done and obviously with the addition of the New Japan pay-per-view coming up, it borders a lot more into the subculture of professional wrestling and the mainstream culture tying together.
MR: When I first saw you here, you did a couple of shows right up the street at Turner Hall for NXT. That was when NXT was the coolest thing in the history of wrestling at that point. Looking back at doing those smaller tours and smaller events, is there something you’ve been able to take from those and bring forth with you?
MB: It’s safe to say that a lot of what I did in NXT is not everything prior to my independent career in Europe and Japan, it’s that NXT has given me that platform to being the reason that you and me are having a conversation right now. From a platform of just conversing with people and getting my name out there, it’s obviously given me a platform and skills to have a continuation of what I’ve always done in wrestling but just giving me that larger stage and allowing me to translate what I do on a bigger platform. A lot of the smaller shows, even with NXT, were a massive part of that. It’s undeniable.
I’ve heard on many occasions that the reason why wrestling is in the state it is is because the years of 2017 to mid-2020, NXT and the gold-and-black brand. It’s shaped wrestling and it’s actually a conversation I had with William Regal not too long ago. Regal was also very much under the impression that what we did back then garnered a lot of eyes and made people think about how wrestling could be presented too.
MR: It’s definitely changed the game and advanced ever since then since you came to AEW. With AEW, you’ve brought along a couple of friends, Brody King and Buddy Matthews. It definitely seems if you were putting together a group that those would’ve been your top picks, was that the case?
MB: Going into AEW, I already had some ideas of what I wanted to do and what I wanted to present in the ring, and that was definitely a part of it. The first time I ever mentioned something in regards to the House Of Black was with Cody back then when I kicked him on the ramp, or I kneed him on the ramp, and the entire crowd started chanting “Black” and then I said “This is no longer your house, Cody. This is now the House Of Black,” and it kind of caught fire. At that point I created the environment that made AEW ready for something in terms of the stable that is the House Of Black and those were the two names I had in the back of my mind immediately once that started coming up.
I had a conversation with Tony. I said “this is what I think, this is what we should be doing” and Tony likes stables, clearly, and when I presented the idea it was almost as if Tony kind of took the words out of my mouth before I said it. It was definitely something that him and me both wanted and both saw vision-wise similarly.
MR: You and Brody do a lot of tag teaming as well in PWG and places like that. Do you see that as a part of your future in AEW, more of a tag?
MB: I wouldn’t say more of a tag, I’d say more that I, and Brody, as well as Buddy, are capable of being singles stars, tag team stars, and trios stars. We can do everything. I think we’ve proven over the course of a very extensive career between the three of us that we’re capable of everything. Don’t forget that even Brody in Ring Of Honor was a tag and trios guy, he was in multiple stables with guys like Homicide and stuff. He’s very capable of being a tag team wrestler, but has also proven on AEW’s Elevation that he’s more than capable of being a singles guy.
And obviously, me and Buddy, that legacy speaks for itself, but even what we’ve done in AEW in terms of our trios and tags, it speaks for itself. We are very versatile, we can do everything. Is it part of what I want to do moving forward? Absolutely, but it’s being a singles guy part of moving forward with AEW, under the banner of House Of Black? Yes, absolutely.
MR: The trios stuff, that’s the long-rumored titles in AEW and House Of Black would really take that to another level, I think.
MB: I think so too.
MR: A big part of your persona since coming to AEW has been the black mist, the black goop. You blinded PAC, you spit it at Cody and he decided to go to another company. With the New Japan show coming up, is there anyone in New Japan you have in mind for this? Or is it something that comes up organically?
MB: I think it’s a question you just answered in both aspects. Do I think of people? Yes. Will I give my cards away? No. Is it something that happens organically? Yes, it does too. It’s something that I calculate, but also sometimes I do believe very strongly that…I’m not a man of faith, but I’m a man of understanding that sometimes life will throw weird things at you but eventually it will unravel and give you the answers that you’re looking for. Even though you might not understand what happens in the beginning. I think all kind of will be revealed in due time, and I have always held up that philosophy under my own banner. Sometimes things happen and you don’t know immediately why they happen, but in due time the course will reveal itself. And that’s no different than what happened and will happen in the coming future. As well as moving forward into the New Japan pay-per-view.
So perhaps you’ll see something very deliberate or something that is meant as a last resort, but will eventually result in possible changes within that company or possible changes within the House Of Black. You never know. But like I said, I’m not someone who really gives away his cards too much because I’m also not completely blind on knowing who is listening and reading these interviews.
MR: This might sound silly, but I just have to ask. The goop as it was, does it have a unique taste?
MB: It doesn’t.
MR: You’re wrestling Penta Oscuro on Wednesday here in Milwaukee. I believe you’ve wrestled him before, but this is definitely a new environment. You’ve had a lot of interactions with Death Triangle, but it’s not something that seems to be getting old. Is that a type of opponent that you look forward to? Mixing styles with Lucha.
MB: I’m very acquainted with Penta. Even prior to adapting who I am now, I’ve had multiple run-ins with him. Even though we forced the change of him becoming Penta Oscura versus the Penta that he was before, I think that’s very telling. He’s an individual that felt, even though we changed him, that he needed to change with what we did to him in order to defeat us and he still couldn’t get the job done.
In a recent interview, he called me a clown that pretends to be a bad guy. I always listen to the words that people pick, right? Now, if I were to beat him, then he has to swallow his own words of calling me a clown that pretends to be a bad guy. So, that’s the guy that will beat him. Now, in the almost impossible event that he beats me, then what does his victory mean? It means nothing because he already put me lower than what he should’ve and then he beats me. So his victory would mean nothing for him and nothing for the fans.
As where I will absolutely acknowledge the fact that Penta is a very talented and dangerous competitor. I do not go into that fight with him blind. I know exactly what he is capable of and I know exactly how to handle him. I’m not going into this quasi-relaxed or underestimating or undermining who he is. No, on the contrary. I will go into this knowing that he’s a very dangerous individual. I’m glad that he goes into this thinking I’m a clown who pretends to be a bad guy because if that’s your narrative then that’s not a good narrative to go into this battle seemingly, as I’ve defeated you four times in a row but you haven’t learned your lesson.
MR: If you do move on, you’ll be at AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door. This is something that probably didn’t even seem possible at the time you left WWE and came to AEW, but how does it feel to do such a historic show?
MB: It feels great. I think it’s very telling of the landscape that we’re in and if I were to be so lucky to partake in the finals of that tournament, then I think it’s not just telling for the world of wrestling, but telling for myself and the House Of Black as well. Whether or not I will compete there, it’s like I said, it’s very telling for what the state of wrestling is right now with a mainstream company like AEW acknowledging something in regards to New Japan.
It’s not like the WWE has ever been ignorant of what New Japan is or what New Japan meant. It’s just over the course of the last 15 to 20 years, nothing has really been done with it. I think NXT made some strides with mentioning certain things or acknowledging certain things, but with AEW, they basically said for the first time in a very long time, for an American company to say “let’s do this together, let’s present both platforms on the American market.” Which I think is great. And, of course, in the past it happened with the WWE or WWF at the time, very long ago, but this—this is in a new age, the age of social media, so the eyes on this are exponential and the growth that it shows for wrestling is tremendous. I think it’s a very smart move and a very fun move because that’s the thing, right? It’s all about showing fans new things and exciting things and different things because we can and that’s the beauty of the age we live in. Everything is so open and everything is so accessible that things like this, it gets me excited and I can tell on certain platforms that fans are excited for it because it’s been a very big topic for a lot of people.
MR: Yeah, definitely. I just want to ask before I let you go. I know that metal is a big part of your persona, your presentation, your entrance music. I’m just wondering, any favorite metal albums this year?
MB: Right now, I’m very high on the new album of Watain. Watain has dropped one of their recent albums on Nuclear Blast, it is The Agony and Ectasy of Watain. I think it’s a banger. I think it’s a great album. It’s definitely one that’s kept me occupied for a while now.