July 7th 2021 will be a date set in the minds of All Elite Wrestling fans for a few reasons.
Sure, the Road Rager special episode of AEW Dynamite marked the first shows outside of Daily’s Place and the Nightmare Factory for the first time since March 18 2020, giving fans outside of Jacksonville their first sight of AEW in over a year. But, more importantly, a surprise debut will live a long time in the memory of the company.
When the lights went out on Arn Anderson and Tony Schiavone in the middle of the ring, we knew there was going to be someone else making their presence felt. Very few of us, however, expected the person who actually showed up.
35 days after being released by WWE, the former Aleister Black was revealed stood in the corner as the lights came back on, smiling as he delivered Black Mass (no doubt due to be renamed) to Arn Anderson. With Cody Rhodes coming out to help his coach, Black delivered another beautiful spin kick and left both men lying in the middle of the ring. With the crowd chanting “Tommy End” – in reference to the name he used pre-WWE – Excalibur warned us all that this was not Tommy End. This was Malakai Black.
With an obvious reference to Malachi, the messenger of Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible, Malakai’s “release” video on social media goes some way to explaining that Tommy was the vessel to the messenger that has been unleashed. What, exactly, that message is, and what it means for the AEW roster, will no doubt be revealed in the coming weeks.
By targeting Cody Rhodes, we know that the immediate future involves Malakai taking the fight to the head of the Nightmare Family, but what happens after that? Who else will be on the receiving end of Black’s message?
Let’s have a look at five possible future opponents for Malakai Black.
Note: I am purposefully leaving out former WWE guys who have had matches with Black on television. I am also, reluctantly, not going to include the possibility of Michael Dante turning up to reform the Sumerian Death Squad – even though I would mark out massively to either SDS vs. FTR or Proud & Powerful.
5 – DARBY ALLIN
I feel as though I’m cheating on this one, as it’s a bit of an obvious choice, but it’s a logical progression from the feud with Cody. Darby has made no secret of his respect for Cody Rhodes, even when facing him. Assuming Black has a definitive victory over Cody, it’s easy to see Darby stepping up to avenge him after getting past his own feud with The Men Of The Year.
The promos alone between Darby and Malakai would be compelling viewing, especially if Sting is involved. Keeping Allin and Black apart during the feud would make sense – both men being fed Dark/Dark Elevation talent to destroy in quick order in a game of one-upmanship – at least for a few weeks.
Utilising a slow build would create a tension between the two that not many in AEW can match. Deliver this at a big PPV as a marquee match, and devote time and budget to spectacular ring entrances as well, and you have a recipe for a red hot crowd before the two have ever locked up.
Both men are known for their athleticism in the ring, but Darby’s nihilistic approach against Black’s striking annihilation would be a sight to behold, with both men refusing to hold back in attempting to hurt the other. Allowing them a good portion of the early moments to showcase their massively underrated technical wrestling ability will add an extra sense of spectacle.
Just imagine a Coffin Drop countered with a Black Mass…
4 – ORANGE CASSIDY (w/ Kris Statlander and Abadon)
Orange Cassidy is a one-of-a-kind performer in wrestling these days. He’s at home in both comedy matches at the beginning of a night as well as main event championship bouts. He flirted with the big gold belt in the triple threat match against Kenny Omega and Pac, but since then hasn’t really had anything to get his teeth into.
To get to Black, let’s side-track a little to Kris Statlander and Abadon. Statlander has slowly been working her way up the rankings, currently sat in 4th place with a 10-0 record in 2021. Meanwhile, Abadon has racked up an impressive 11-1 record this year, with her only loss coming against then-champion Hikaru Shida. Abadon, in theory, should be in the rankings and could take out her anger at not being there on Statlander.
With Malakai Black’s character being borne out of what looked to be a mental health facility, and The Living Dead Girl’s character yet to be fully explored, an alignment between these two is easily written – with Black helping Abadon explore what drives her, to understand the true message she’s delivering. An alliance between Black and Abadon would strike fear in a lot of the roster, and with Orange Cassidy backing up Statlander, a series of singles and mixed-tag matches would capture fans attention.
We might also finally get to find out whether Cassidy’s Kicks Of Doom~! truly stand up to an outstanding striker.
3 – SAMMY GUEVARA
I can’t believe I’m writing this, but poor Sammy. Even when trying to push him as the breakout of the latest Stadium Stampede match, he still comes across as the sidekick to Jericho in the Inner Circle. Sure, his match against MJF was a great watch, but it still felt like a setup for what’s to come with MJeff and Y2J.
Sammy’s in-ring ability is unquestioned, but he needs that standout moment to truly set himself as what he’s being billed as – the future of the business. The whole Inner Circle vs. Pinnacle stuff has run its course already, and fans are crying out for at least Sammy, Santana, Ortiz, and Wardlow to be allowed to shine.
Pull the trigger on the Inner Circle disbanding, once and for all, and let Sammy fly. A few wins in tough matches on Dynamite, with Sammy’s ego starting to flourish, leads Guevara to call out a true challenge. Answered by Malakai, with Black questioning Sammy’s ego and narcissism, a short feud would give both men a chance to shine. Black would bring the best out of Sammy, both in the ring and on the microphone with Sammy having the chance to evolve into a potential main event player.
This feud would be worth it for Black’s ability to reference ancient civilizations and their beliefs against Sammy’s Spanish God claim.
2 – PAC
Right, so I said I wouldn’t use anyone Black has faced on television, but I’m still claiming this. Tommy End did face Neville at the WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament event, but that was almost a goodbye to that stage of Black’s career. The match was great, but with Neville still leashed, and End introducing himself to the WWE Universe, we knew even then there was more to come. The match never featured on WWE television after that, with the two only crossing paths a few times later that year in Europe, in triple threat matches also involving Austin Aries.
Pac and Black are two of the very best wrestlers in the world, and deserve – and NEED – an opportunity to showcase what they can do against each other, and could well be, in my eyes at least, AEW’s answer to the likes of the Christopher Daniels vs. AJ Styles feud in TNA history.
Black’s promo work would carry this feud and make it the main event. That isn’t to say Pac can’t hold his own on the microphone; more that he wouldn’t need to, and could fully utilise the “man of few words” part of his character without it having any negative impact.
The opportunity to include matches between Black and both Penta El Zero Miedo and Rey Fenix in the story is mouth-watering, especially if we do get the introduction of Michael Dante. I know, I sound like a broken record with this, but Dante and Black were incredible partners and a Sumerian Death Squad reunion, even if only for a small number of events against Triángulo de la Muerte, would be amazing.
Pac vs Black at the end of this should blow the roof off of any arena they hold it in, and leaving the issues unsettled for multiple returns in the future would be a smart option.
1 – DARK ORDER
Again, I’m cheating in this by not picking one person, but Black targetting the Dark Order as a stable could be another one of what is becoming an AEW signature in long-term storylines.
When Dark Order first arrived, with Evil Uno and Stu Grayson, they were accompanied by several masked minions and were put across as an almost cult-like stable. With the introduction of The Exalted One, Brodie Lee (RIP), this became a bigger part of their identity while introducing some humanity to the group. Since Lee’s passing, the Dark Order has turned face, and have become involved in some spectacular storytelling – not least the resurgence of one Hangman Adam Page. However, there is some dissension in the ranks, with Alan “V” Angels being bullied on Being the Elite, which can easily be built on.
While increasing Black’s record of victories in any one of the feuds mentioned above, he faces Angels on Dynamite and beats him convincingly. This sparks a fire in Angels, who not only becomes determined to improve but also becomes increasingly concerned that the rest of the Dark Order aren’t looking out for him. Building on this, and creating a rift within the faction, would allow Black the chance to start getting “in the ear” of Angels and others – reminding them of what they once were and questioning their goals.
A series of matches between Black and members of the Dark Order would help elevate their status as individual stars. Stu Grayson and Malakai Black would be a brutal all-out war, Black against John Silver would be an impressive physical display on both sides, and Malakai taking on Colt Cabana is an indy dream match that somehow never happened.
This feud could be designed with multiple outcomes – creating a new faction with Black at its head; splitting up Dark Order for singles and tag-team runs; even reaffirming the solidarity within the group as they convince Angels he belongs.
As a piece of long-term booking, drip-feeding the story over a few months, with so many players involved, this story has the potential to have the same longevity as the Hangman one running at the moment – and even has an opportunity to deliver Page vs. Black along the way.
Whatever the future holds for Malakai, I will be watching. Already, through one Instagram video (posted above), his character stands out as unique among the AEW roster. Black’s intelligence when delivering promos – especially when referring to ancient civilizations, their religions and beliefs, and iconography – has been evident for years. Attaching this to Black being a “messenger”, and the storyline opportunities are endless. Throw in Malakai’s excellent in-ring ability to back up his presence and aura, and his future, and AEW’s, is going to be exciting to watch.
The future is bright. The future is Black.