Shortly after he learned of his WWE release this morning (June 2), Aleister Black jumped on his wife Thea Trinidad’s Twitch channel for an almost hour-long chat with fans. Fans expecting a savaging of life at WWE didn’t get one from Black, whose real name is Tom Budgen and who will once again be going by Tommy End professionally.
Guys i’m not mad, at all. Let’s have a talk about it. Share some stories with me! Come hang out on Twitch. https://t.co/kf6a87a5tw— Tommy End (@WWEAleister) June 2, 2021
As you can tell from the tweet, End was almost entirely positive when it came to his time in WWE.
“I got told it was budget cuts. Whether that is budget cuts or not? Doesn’t matter. I’m here now, and I’ve had a great time. I’ve had a phenomenal 4 - 5 years in the WWE... I’m just really thankful for a lot of things that WWE has done for me. The most thankful I am is that I was given a platform, in a limited amount, I was able to give you guys parts or myself, of my character.”
From there he spoke a lot about his creative process, and how much thought he put into what we saw on screen - things like how the colors on the wall during his “room” promos correlated to the next person who was supposed to knock on his door, or how he used color and tarot card designs to tailor his entrance jacket to a particular opponent. He was excited about the Dark Father gimmick, something he said is based on his own upbringing. The glasses he wore during the vignettes (which are his own reading glasses) and the decision to keep the eye effect from his feud with Seth Rollins were done based on his research into how cult leaders often have something unique about their appearance.
He gives a lot interesting back story, especially for the version of the Aleister Black character NXT fans enjoyed. That didn’t translate after he was called up to Raw with Ricochet, however. End says “they could never really nail down what the wanted Aleister to be on the main roster.”
Don’t blame WWE creative for that, though.
“The one thing I also want to say is... don’t get mad at our creative. Our creative - well, their, [I’m] no longer there - their creative tries their absolute hardest, and there are good people working there. Very creative, talented people.”
So who should you blame? It’s not clear. End describes how influential and helpful Triple H was throughout his WWE career. Fellow wrestlers like Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt (who “fights tooth and nail” for his vision), Jon Huber aka Brodie Lee, Roman Reigns (“honest to God, one of the fucking best locker room leaders I’ve ever had in my life”), the Usos, and Apollo Crews all get shout outs as positive forces behind-the-scenes during his time there.
The WWE is a “crazy, crazy landscape,” but Tommy doesn’t really get into why. In fact, he’s grateful for the constraints it put on him. He says that’s something he had in common with The Revival, who thought being forced into WWE’s system forced them to be creative.
“If there’s no cuffs and you can do anything, that’s one thing. But if you have boundaries and rules, and can still shine, that’s the testimony of being a professional.”
He specifically talks about his good relationship with current Executive Director of Raw and SmackDown Bruce Prichard, who “tried to protect me a lot of situations.” When he was under Paul Heyman, the then-Raw Executive Director “fought tooth and nail for me, but at the end of the day, when a decision is made, a decision is made.”
The man who presumably made those decisions? End has good things to say about Vince McMahon, too.
“...all my conversations I’ve ever had with Vince, he was always very positive. I have a good relationship with Vince. I always told him how I felt, he always respected that about me. And he always praised me on my creativity, and my ability to have manners and respect, but still being honest with him about howI felt. You never really truly know why things ended the way they did, but all I can tell you if from my point of view and the word that I was always given was that Vince was always pretty high on me.”
“Don’t listen to these reporters that talk about, ‘Oh, Aleister Black this’ or ‘Vince was never high on Aleister’. That’s not true. That’s not true at all... don’t listen to them, because they don’t know anything. They don’t have insiders. They have people that tell them warped stories. I think in like the seven months that I sat home, I think there were like seven different reports, like that my NXT request got shot down. That’s not true at all. Didn’t get shot down at all - actually it got praised. Vince was actually like, ‘That’s a really good idea.’ But his through was like, ‘I want to do it this way first, and if it doesn’t work out, I can always put you back in NXT.’ Because I had a whole plan for that too, but it wasn’t shot down hard - not at all.
“Again this is the problem. They’re not in those talks. They don’t know any of these people. Don’t waste your money on it. For the most part, it’s like a 5% truth, and they’ll fabricate 95% around it just so you’ll click on it. It’s just sad to see that this business has become like a tabloid thing, which I always think is so strange. Why are you scamming people, why are you feeding this negative narrative continuously - I get it. Because negativity sells. But you have to be smarter than that, because I can guarantee you from being in that company and seeing some of these articles pop up? 95% of them are just fabricated...
“It’s frustrating, because it puts us in a shit position, because you as fans - and I don’t blame you for the most part - that’s the closest source of news you have. But it’s not a source of news. It’s fabricated, and it’s fabricate to make you think a certain way. It’s programming your brain to be like, ‘Oh these mother f-ers.’ And a lot of times it’s not right. Sure, there’s times it’s right. I mean, a broken clock is right twice a day too, right?
“And I always like the ‘oh plans change’ line. That’s literally the biggest cop out in the world. As far as I’m concerned, I think I was spared for the most part. Despite those things, there’s clearly also good intent in some of them, but there’s a thing like validating your sources and validating your stories versus like blatantly putting out stuff that harms people. Take the thing a couple of weeks ago with my wife, that harmed her so much. Nothing but hate comments and like awfulness, all because someone was like ‘sign up to my Patreon and I’ll have news,’ when in reality there was no news. There literally was no news. There was just - it was nothing. It’s the same people that all talk about being supportive, and helping each other out, and then doing stuff like that and don’t realize the harm that they cause. I blame people like that for that. I just don’t like that.”
There’s a lot to unpack there, and I’ll try to do it without getting defensive (we don’t claim to be journalists here at Cageside, and as bloggers provide our thoughts on the reports of others in part to try and encourage the community to keep rumors in perspective. One of the reasons Kyle Decker grades them every week is to remind all of us to not take them as gospel. But we definitely play a role in the wrestling media environment Black is critiquing, and I won’t pretend we don’t).
My main observations would be the “tabloid” nature of things he’s unhappy with is far from just a wrestling problem. Every topic under the sun is covered the same way in the 21st century - with lots of sensationalism designed to encourage outrage. Whether it’s pro wrestling or politics, everyone is motivated by the bottom line to some extent. You just have to find sources you trust are trying to earn your click or your money - which is really the same thing - by providing you with information you want in a way you enjoy taking it in.
As someone who consumes as well as creates pro wrestling #content, I have my preferred outlets. Even with those, I have my issues with them, but they do have sources and try to validate them. It’s a thankless task in a business built on fooling its customers where no one will go on the record, but they’re out there. They’re the ones Kyle will mark correct in the Rumor Look Back more often than not.
It also seems ridiculous to me to decry “plans change” as a copout on the same broadcast where you say you were told yesterday your big angle would kick off on Friday’s SmackDown, then got released today. Plans obviously do change, and if you have multiple people who claim to know those plans telling you what they are, sharing them with people who want to know what they are isn’t inherently wrong.
So from my admittedly biased perspective, while the wrestling media should be striving to be as thorough as possible, the onus is more on the reader who would take any report about men and women on a television show and use it to send those people “hate comments”.
As I said, it’s a wide-ranging topic. But of all the topics he covered, there are a couple from Black’s Twitch stream I absolutely agree with.
“I love being in this business. I love everything - even in spite of what I just said, we need people like that, to an extent. I love everything about this business.”
Me too, Tommy. And, while it may not be best for our bottom line, I also second this:
“You don’t want to wake up 20, 30 years from now going, ‘Why the crap did I spend so much time arguing with people on the internet, or getting so absorbed with shit that doesn’t fucking matter.”