Aleister Black, now Malakai Black, officially made the jump to AEW during this past week's AEW Dynamite: Road Rager event. The debut was met with a massive wave of excitement from fans as the former NXT Champion immediately inserted himself into a feud with Cody Rhodes. Jim Ross, AEW's play-by-play commentator, appeared on Busted Open Radio later in the week to reveal how he reacted to the moment, as well as what was said in his first interaction with Black backstage.
"As many fans know that listen to my podcast — which drops every Thursday — I didn't want to know," Ross said (h/t Wrestling Inc.), admitting it was just as much of a surprise to him. "I react better if I don't know the lay of the land, as much. I don't look at this as a theatrical performance. I look at this as a ballgame, and I don't need to know who wins the game until the game is over. I was pleasantly surprised that Malakai Black joined us. I saw him after the show, he shook my hand. I never met him before, he said he was glad to meet me and likewise for me.
"I said, 'We're counting on you. We're counting on you to play in a big way. Not just come in and be one of the boys, but come in and be one of the stars.' I think he hadn't heard that in a while," he added. "And I think that meant a lot to him. I wasn't trying to blow smoke, I was just trying to say, you're a highly regarded piece of talent that we value and we're happy you're here. So, now we're looking for great things. You set the bar high with your debut, now let's see where we can take you."
Black talked about his debut during a recent Twitch stream —"It was a hassle to keep under wraps. Once I found out that my contract was a tad different than the usual, I just came up with this idea. I had already made the character movie and I came up with this idea and the company liked it so we ran with it. It was all very last second. I feel like, in modern-day wrestling, there are few moments to make a genuine surprise and get people to look your way.
"For me to sneak in, not be seen, dip and dive so they wouldn't see me, that took some skill," he continued. "Kudos to AEW and the entire crew. What a great operation they have there," he said. "It feels good where I'm in a place where my creative mind can be utilized instead of stopped and controlled and knowing that things weren't going to work."