Braun Strowman. Aleister Black. Lana. Murphy. Ruby Riott. Santana Garrett.
These are the names of the talented performers WWE released on Wednesday in yet another wave of budget cuts. Each one of these individuals brings something to the table, and they all deserved much better than their lackluster booking and their subsequent releases.
But perhaps more than anyone, Black’s failed run with the company hurts the most. The former NXT Champion has it all — from his distinct, legitimate look to his exemplary skills as a striker, he has “future main-eventer” written all over him. In the wake of his release, it’s fair to ask the age-old question, “Where did it all go wrong?”
As soon as Black arrived on the main roster, it was easy to see that he’s a special performer. Even for fans who didn’t see his remarkable run in NXT, Black’s presentation as a mysterious, cool character that could deliver fantastic matches was easy to like. But on paper, he wasn’t set up for success right away.During his initial stretch on the main roster, Black competed in a hodgepodge team with Ricochet, but the two stars made it work. They had surprisingly smooth chemistry, and it was easy to imagine the odd couple getting a run with the tag titles at some point.
Instead, just a few short months after he debuted on the main roster, the Superstar Shakeup sent Ricochet and Black to different brands. Many fans were excited to see what Black could do by himself, but the early returns of Black’s singles run were lackluster; he cut puzzling promos in dark rooms, asking his potential opponents to knock on his door. Even with this mediocre booking, Black’s impressive matches quickly elevated his stock; from a pay-per-view bout with Cesaro to a renowned series of matches with (Not Your Buddy) Murphy, “The Dutch Destroyer” regularly put on “Match of the Night” performances. Thankfully, Paul Heyman’s legendary eye for talent saw Black’s potential, and the then-Executive Director of WWE RAW gave the rising star a prominent spot on the red brand.
At the beginning of 2020, in the span of two months, Black rocketed up the ladder. He defeated former WWE Champion AJ Styles at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, thanks to a little help from The Undertaker himself, before he picked up a win in a fairly meaningless match over future WWE Champion Bobby Lashley at WrestleMania 36. Coming 0ut of that infamous show, it seemed like the sky was the limit for Black. But unfortunately, the wheels rapidly fell off.
Next Page: Did WWE purposefully bury Aleister Black?