For many, WWE is the pinnacle of the wrestling world. While there are other alternatives that can give wrestlers a healthy living outside of the top brand in the world while also giving them a fair bit of exposure, there’s nothing quite like getting to the company that is synonymous with the term “professional wrestling.”
While the nostalgia factor plays a role for some, making them drop everything simply for the chance to get noticed and make a name for themselves in WWE, even returning to the company after their original stints failed, there are also some who are happier on the other side.
For PJ Black, known as Justin Gabriel during his time in WWE, the latter couldn’t be more true.
When speaking with WrestlingInc recently, Black went over some interesting topics, including his love for Ring of Honor, the fact that he turned down a contract offer from NXT and more.
Below are some of the highlights from that interview.
On the Nexus and His Main Roster Start:
“At the time we didn’t know how big it was gonna be and how cool it was gonna be. Later on, we realized that when people backstage that had been working there for 30-40 years came up to us and were like, ‘This is new. This is something different.’ I wish it ran a little bit longer as we didn’t even get the WrestleMania moment. But it’s all history now.”
For many, the Nexus was finally something new that fans could get behind. A group of heel rookies hell-bent on destroying the status quo and flipping the industry on its head.
Unfortunately, things wouldn’t play out as planned and WWE would drop the ball on the Nexus’ push way too early. This would lead to various events that ultimately ended in Black’s eventual release from the company after a five-year run in WWE on the main roster.
Fortunately for Black, everything worked out exactly as it should as far as wrestling is concerned. While he may have never grabbed the metaphorical brass ring in WWE and became a main event star, he would do more than enough to prove himself as a wrestler while gaining some notoriety from the fans.
This helped him when he’d eventually move onto Impact Wrestling and the independent scene, eventually landing with Lucha Underground, NWA and most notably, Ring of Honor.
So how exactly does Black feel about Ring of Honor?
“Totally, totally happy. So happy. I had an opportunity to go back to NXT. It was the same money for 200 shows more, so really that was a no-brainer for me. I have creative freedom and freedom outside because I do a lot of things outside of wrestling that they let me do whenever. And with creative freedom in wrestling – just to be yourself [is important].”
It makes sense that Black would prefer ROH to any type of WWE product. He’s experienced both and he’s seen the lifestyle of both. While NXT may have changed since he left, it would make no sense for him to change four quarter for a dollar to ultimately work more dates in NXT while already feeling happy and free in Ring of Honor.
“I love the storytelling of ROH and the old-school Code of Honor of shaking hands before and after matches. I feel like fans appreciate wrestling different now than they did years ago. …As NXT shows, in-ring performance is very important right now and that’s what I like about wrestling; it keeps on evolving.”
It’s good to see Black doing so well for himself. It’s also not surprising that WWE would contact him and offer him a contract to return to work on the Black and Gold Brand given how talented he is in the ring. For WWE, hiring as many talented wrestlers is the goal right now. With so many alternatives to WWE out there right now, though, it’s possible that the decision to sign with WWE has never been a harder one to make.
To see the full interview including Black talking about wrestling in South Africa, check out WrestlingInc’s video.