Since leaving the WWE in early 2015, Justin Gabriel — now known as PJ Black on the independent circuit — has been able to wrestle all around the world without being limited by the company he works for. During his run with WWE, which began in 2010, Gabriel was mostly relegated to WWE Main Event or Superstars matches.
The athletic thrill seeker who enjoys skydiving and performing acrobatic moves in the ring is now part of the Lucha Underground roster. The promotion known for its high-flying in-ring style, gritty feel, and cinematic approach to vignettes, skits, and promos has lured several big names to its roster.
In a recent Ask Me Anything session on Reddit, Gabriel discussed why Lucha Underground is so well-liked amongst fans and performers.
“If you asked ten different people on the roster, you’d get ten different answers. I look at it as a combination of both. When we film the wrestling in front of the crowds, it’s more like wrestling. When we film backstage stuff, it’s more like a TV series. With this combination, we are able to tell stories and finish them, whereas straight wrestling shows keep going on and on forever.”
The brand keeps growing and with each additional season tacked on, it gets more exposure from the worldwide audience.
— With Spandex (@WithSpandex) March 28, 2016
One of the most talked about moments during Gabriel’s run with Lucha Underground was a spot where he, Prince Puma (aka Ricochet), and Rey Mysterio performed frankensteiner — something the trio pulled off at an independent show last year. Gabriel spoke about that spot and why he hopes Lucha Underground can keep growing.
“I hope that we keep building on our momentum, and that more people get their eyes on the product. I feel like we can appeal to wrestling and non-wrestling fans, which is really cool. I did, actually, with Evan Bourne. I suggested to Rey and Puma to try it once at a show in Canada, and it ended up going viral. We recreated it in Lucha Underground later. Before we did it in LU, I called Evan and told him we pulled it off and he said, “I know, I hate all three of you a**holes.”
Gabriel’s most prominent time in WWE was when he was a part of The Nexus, a stable of rebels who wreaked havoc on the WWE roster. Their big moment was supposed to happen at SummerSlam 2010 when Team Nexus faced off against Team WWE (John Cena, Bret Hart, Edge, Chris Jericho, R-Truth, John Morrison, and Daniel Bryan). However, Team WWE defeated Nexus as Cena made a valiant comeback to dispose of several members by himself in the elimination style match.
— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) June 14, 2016
Years later, Gabriel says that he and several veterans were opposed to Team WWE — specifically Cena — defeating the stable and essentially halting their momentum. The trigger was pulled for a Cena win and Nexus never recovered. Gabriel says that after it all happened, Cena realized he was wrong but at that point, it was too late to salvage the situation.
“Yea, it did, and we tried to fight that – Edge, Jericho, guys like that fought for us and knew where the storyline was supposed to go. But unfortunately, one guy had a lot of power and made the change. He admitted he was wrong after that and there’s nothing more we could do about it.”
[Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images]