When the WWE continued to cut a number of talents this morning, roster cuts weren’t surprising as it had been reported last night that the cuts were inevitable. The surprise was rather who was cut, which included former Universal Champion Braun Strowman, who just recently challenged for the WWE Championship at the most recent pay-per-view event. Yet, the biggest loss to me is somebody who just recently made a return to the product, Aleister Black.
Through every round of cuts, there’s always somebody who becomes a bigger name after they were cut than before. Sometimes, it’s obvious which WWE superstars were mishandled, such as Drew McIntyre, who set the blueprint for making Independent Wrestling matter before returning to the WWE embarking on a journey where he’d become WWE Champion by defeating the biggest name in combat sports this century in the main event of WrestleMania. Sometimes, it’s the not so obvious talents such as Taynara Conti, a female talent who had primarily worked on the Florida “coconut loop” in NXT prior to being cut. Conti, now in AEW, is considered by many fans to be one of the best women’s wrestlers in the world seemingly overnight and has made a major name for herself both inside and outside of the industry. Often times, it’s not about who was utilized the most by the WWE prior to their release but the skillset that they have entering a completely different world that requires a completely different set of skills. While Drew McIntyre wasn’t the biggest name of talents released in 2014, that’s because he was in a comedy act playing an air guitar. Meanwhile, he had more tools than anybody and went to the Independent world to hone his craft. Drew Galloway worked in every company under the sun outside of the WWE and had one of the most rigorous schedules in wrestling, but he thrived in the opportunity because of how good and untapped his in-ring skills were but also his natural charisma that WWE never allowed him to show. Next month, he goes for his potential-third WWE Championship.
When Drew Galloway hit ICW to a raucous ovation, the wrestling scene was about to change for the better. Outside of New Japan, which wouldn’t hit its peak until June of 2018 when Kenny Omega defeated Kazuchika Okada in Osaka-jo Hall, there wasn’t anywhere outside of WWE to gain eyes. Drew Galloway brought name recognition and a passionate fanbase, as he’d go on to win the Impact, Evolve and WCPW World Championships while also working in promotions such as PWG. While Drew would return to the WWE to a major success story, it was a 2016 release that followed the blueprint that Drew wrote that altered the course of the business in America for good. When Drew’s former WWE Tag Team Championship partner Cody Rhodes left the WWE, he never went back. A rousing success, Cody, alongside Kenny [Omega], Nick and Matt Jackson, Adam Page and Marty Scurll created a group called the Elite. The group marketed themselves and created a juggernaut that led to The Elite being household names outside of wrestling without a major company backing them, something unprecedented. In 2018, The Jackson Brothers and Rhodes promoted their own pay-per-view built around all six members of the Elite, prompting billionaire Tony Khan to reach out to the Young Bucks (Matt and Nick) as well as Kenny Omega about creating their own wrestling company in the states.
That company is now one of the most profitable wrestling organizations in US history and the number one ranked show in the Wednesday Primetime timeslot across all of America. The company has also created a “Forbidden Door” with talent exchanges with both NJPW and Impact. Despite not being as clear with NJPW, seeing as the Impact World Championship is on the current AEW World Champion, plenty of NJPW talents have crossed over. Just this past Sunday, Lio Rush was added to an already growing list. AEW has allowed Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley in the past to go to Japan, but with the pandemic and how strict Japanese travel laws are we haven’t been presented the opportunity to see AEW send talent over just yet.
Jon Moxley is the man that is probably the best example to show what Aleister Black could become. Moxley, arguably the top guy in AEW, recently worked the last few Bloodsport events with talents such as Chris Dickinson and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Josh Barnett. He is the current IWGP United States Champion as NJPW looks to continue its US expansion, allowing Moxley to compete on NJPW Strong and big NJPW events should the pandemic come to a close in the imminent future. Moxley recently showed up at GCW Spring Break, confronting newly crowned champion Nick Gage, which has now booked a deathmatch for the GCW World Championship, arguably the top championship on the Independents. There’s more money in life outside of the WWE now than when Aleister Black stopped portraying the “Tommy End” persona in 2017 when he went to NXT, yet Tommy End was still one of the biggest international stars in wrestling at that time. Tommy End, a character in similar vein to Aleister Black, was an eloquent yet very dark and sinister character that still had normal human capabilities, a tough line to walk that few master. End is still one of the few. Working in promotions such as WxW and Progress, he made a name for himself due to his unique look and impressive workrate. Black, despite his style and character, is able to work with just about anybody. One of the most important and oft-overlooked aspects of wrestling is footwork, yet Black may legitimately have the best footwork I’ve ever seen. He’s never had a sloppy spot because of it, and a lot of it stems for his background in kick boxing which you can see a lot of in his moveset. Black might be the best striker foot wise in wrestling history, made even more impressive by his stature compared to talents such as Sean Waltman or Rob Van Dam.
In wrestling standards, Aleister Black is still a relatively young guy at 36 years of age. Black had moderate WWE success, notably becoming NXT Champion. On the main roster, Black worked programs with top stars such as AJ Styles and defeated the current WWE Champion at WrestleMania just fourteen months ago in relatively quick fashion. Black left television last October. Black returned recently on May 21st, immediately a focus in the Intercontinental Championship story. Black himself has noted how surprised he is at the timing of his release.
End would then speak on his wife’s, known to WWE audiences as Zelina Vega, Twitch channel. Twitch and calling for unionizations led to Vega’s premature release from the company in 2020. Black on the stream, noted that he wants to open a wrestling school but also feels as if he has at least another ten years left of his prime. While being released is never a good thing and surely is devastating to anybody released today, End is in a prime spot to make a big impact in a new world. Tommy End mentioned the Aleister Black character and compared it to “the devil with memory loss” citing that “he knew he’d done something but, but couldn’t remember what.” AEW, unlike a WWE, position their darker characters in more of a spotlight, with one of their top guys being Darby Allin. Tommy End is a character that does not have supernatural abilities like an Undertaker, but uses mind games to his advantage. For example, the way Tommy End backflips into a crisscross, frightening his opponents and catching them off guard. A character such as this would thrive with a machine behind it in the modern climate. The 18-49 demo is the key, and that demographic grew up on bands such as Bad Charlotte, My Chemical Romance, Three Days Grace and a Day to Remember, as well as others. “The scene” was a real thing and a real way of life for a number of people in those generations and Aleister Black is the living embodiment. There’s a lot of potential to tap into with a creative mind such as Tommy End.
It also seems as if Tommy End has a lot of drive going forward, focusing on how much he wants to work and continue to live wrestling and paint his own canvas. End thanked Triple H and Vince McMahon, noting that there’s no bitterness and he’d be open to a return down the road. End expressed the creative freedom allowing him to try some new characters in the near future.
One thing that may be a change of pace for End, however, will be how one builds their brand. The presence of social media is a key in 2021, with talents such as WARHORSE and Danhausen using the platforms to become sensations despite not being on a major program. Talents such as Aoife Valkyrie used the platform into WWE contracts. It’s a whole new world and social media has taken off in the wrestling market in such a big way since 2017 when Black debuted in NXT. Black himself noted on the Twitch stream that he isn’t that active on social media because he’s not really into it. It’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts going forward.
Regardless, there are a variety of options for a guy like Tommy End that weren’t there previously. AEW has taken the industry and with its finger on the pulse, is starting to branch out in a way that the business hasn’t seen in a long time. Ring of Honor airs on FITE. MLW recently landed a deal with VICE TV. NJPW is starting an American expansion. Impact Wrestling with Omega at the helm has been revitalized. For people like Tommy End who would seemingly be fascinated by an opportunity that a product like Bloodsport or Paradigm Pro presents and would fit right into what they do, there’s also those options. For somebody as good and unique as Tommy End is, combined with his passion of professional wrestling, there’s so much more opportunity to tap into the creative side while making really good money than at any point in his career thus far. Of all the releases, keep an eye on Tommy End because this absolutely will not be the last that you’ve heard of him.
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