While WWE’s Nexus faction from the early 2010s produced the likes of Daniel Bryan, Bray Wyatt, Curtis Axel, and Heath Slater, not everyone from the stable was able to enjoy a long and/or successful career with the promotion. One of these Nexus members who didn’t quite establish himself in WWE was PJ Black — then known by his WWE ring name of Justin Gabriel — who left WWE early in 2015 and has since appeared in multiple rival companies, including TNA/Impact Wrestling, Lucha Underground, and Ring of Honor.
With Black just months removed from signing an exclusive contract with ROH, the South African high-flyer opened up to Wrestling Inc. in a recent interview, where he recalled his earliest days in the American wrestling scene as part of the Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) roster. He looked back on how The Nexus made a controversial main roster debut in the summer of 2010 — taking part in an angle where they made a surprise appearance on Monday Night Raw, destroying the ring and attacking several wrestlers and officials.
“At the time we didn’t know how big it was gonna be and how cool it was gonna be,” Black recalled of his time in The Nexus as Justin Gabriel.
“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.'”
Later on in the interview, Black revealed that he was given a chance to return to WWE last year and re-debut for the company’s NXT brand, similar to how wrestlers such as Drew McIntyre and EC3 returned as developmental talents after several years competing for WWE’s rivals. According to Black, his decision to refuse WWE’s offer mostly came down to ROH offering him the same amount of money, but for a much lighter workload.
“I had an opportunity to go back to NXT,” Black explained. “It was the same money for 200 shows more, so really that was a no-brainer for me.”
Aside from the opportunity to earn decent money while working a lighter schedule, ROH offered an “old-school” wrestling vibe that worked to his favor, Black continued. The indy wrestling veteran also mentioned creative freedom as another reason why he prefers working for ROH — despite admitting that he still “loves” WWE, Black opined that the company’s current creative team has a tendency to micromanage wrestlers. This, he said, is in contrast to the “Attitude Era” of the late 1990s, where WWE performers had a lot more input when it came to their characters and storylines.
PJ Black’s interview with Wrestling Inc. marked the second time this month where the 38-year-old wrestler put over ROH for giving him the creative freedom he desires and criticized WWE for not booking him to his full potential. Speaking to Comic Book earlier in June, Black also spoke out about creative micromanagement in WWE, saying that it may work for some wrestlers, but not for others who have a specific idea of what they want for their in-ring characters.