Malakai Black made a huge statement upon his recent arrival in AEW. That statement came when he attacked Cody Rhodes on the July 7 edition of Dynamite. That attack later lead to a one-on-one match that aired live on the August 4 Dynamite.
Black won that match in convincing fashion and in doing so, firmly cemented himself as a top player in Tony Khan’s company. So now that he’s making his way in his new environment, how long until he becomes the company’s top heel?
Black’s fans are certainly not surprised by the impact Malakai has already made. They saw his potential when he was still Aleister Black in WWE. They also saw how that company mishandled him near the end of his main roster run. It was an all-too familiar song that unfortunately, has been repeated quite a bit in recent years.
Same Old Song And Dance
“Creative has nothing for you.” Five simple words that have surely been used many times, with many different pro wrestlers, in the past. Those exact words were perhaps not used with Black, but in the end, all of his own creative ideas were not enough to prevent WWE from showing him the door.
Fans were shocked by his release and with good reason. It’s not often that a talent with such a firm grasp of his character, his potential and his craft, comes along. Those talents are often a rare breed and when a company finds them, the right move is to cultivate them and facilitate their growth.
But for whatever reason, Black was released and he took that creative spark with him. He’s said nothing but positive things about his former employer since then. However, the decision to let him go is still being frowned upon by many fans. Of course now, those fans have a reason to celebrate.
Malakai Black is here and his new life will unfold for the world to see in All Elite Wrestling. His initial entry was exactly what it needed to be. His first win over the face of the company was perhaps also pitch perfect as well. Cody Rhodes, despite any criticisms, has no issue putting others over and that’s exactly what he did on August 4.
New Life, New Opportunity
Now Black has all the momentum at his back that anyone could ask for. He’s in a prime spot on a buzz-worthy TV show and he’s surely enjoying the ride thus far. Black has always been one of the most popular stars in the industry and the same is true now. So with that being the case, is he even really a heel to begin with?
This is the sticky part for some fans and arguably for some behind the scenes in AEW. Cody himself has dismissed the idea of heels and babyfaces in the past. It’s a notion that is shared by some, who feel that those tropes are too old-fashioned to really work in this modern era of the business.
But the foundation of pro wrestling is built upon the idea of good versus evil and right versus wrong. It’s those basic principles that provide the drama in the business and enrich the storytelling that hooks the audience from the start. Fans won’t tune in if they don’t feel it and if the drama isn’t there, the product will suffer as a result.
The real proof of this came during Black’s match with Rhodes. Cody was booed for much of the match, while Malakai was cheered. But when Black used a crutch on Cody when his back was turned after the match, everything changed. Malakai was booed and Cody became the sympathetic figure.
Shadow Of Evil
The truth is that the heel versus babyface dynamic is still vital to the overall success of the pro wrestling presentation. Malakai Black, though he looks great and many fans love to see him perform in the ring, knows how to channel that inner villain. He’s done it before and if that’s what AEW wants from him, then he will do it again.
This version of Black’s character is much better as the antagonist. The same was perhaps not true of the WWE version, which depended on high impact moves and the theatrical image that put him over with the audience. Aleister Black was too cool to be hated. But will the same be said of Malakai Black?
The key here is what Black says moving forward. He has more control now over his own promos than he ever did in WWE. There are no writers to hand him a script and coach him up before he walks through the smoke to the ring. It’s all up to him now.
Then there’s the matter of who he faces next. From the moment he arrived in AEW, fans began fantasy booking him against some of the company’s biggest stars. Darby Allin, Hangman Page, Jungle Boy and Chris Jericho, are all top stars that Malakai can step into the ring with and undoubtedly have a great match. All of those talents are loved by the AEW faithful, which means Malakai won’t have a problem heeling out.
Choose A Side
Of course, that leaves out guys like Miro, MJF and Ricky Starks, who are all great heels in their own right. That also leaves out the current AEW World champion, Kenny Omega. How long until Malakai crosses paths with any, or all, of these men?
Maybe the bigger question is the most obvious. Is there a world in which Malakai Black, with or without a championship around his waist, is the most hated man in AEW? If so, is he in that position alone, or is he surrounded by a new stable under his charge? Is this an Undertaker leading The Ministry of Darkness situation? Or will it be a Bray Wyatt with The Wyatt Family scenario? Or maybe a bit of both?
The fact is that Malakai is only just beginning in AEW. The company certainly shouldn’t be in a rush to push him and he’s likely not in a rush either. He has his pick of opponents right now and this is the first real opportunity that fans have to see just how evil he can be. They knew Aleister Black. But Malakai Black is the devil they don’t know. Perhaps they will learn soon enough.
Tom Clark is a Senior Pro Wrestling Analyst and Featured Columnist for Wrestling Rumors. His podcast, Tom Clark’s Main Event, is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Music, Audible, Spotify, YouTube and live every Friday at 12pm EST on Wrestling Rumors Facebook Live