But as a writer and marketing director for TWD, I knew I had a special opportunity to use my real-life skills as a newspaper reporter and command of the English language to create feature articles that differed from the standard fare of dirt sheets and wrestling tabloids.
Being a new, young site without much of a reputation, it seemed the right mindset would be to be grateful and appreciative of any wrestlers willing to grant us an interview. Thus, it all began with “Through the Looking Glass,” an article examining the career of Minnesota-based Alison Wonderland.
That interview would be the launching pad for a variety of in-depth interviews to follow, featuring names like current Ring of Honor star Mike Sydal, CHIKARA founder Mike Quackenbush, Dragon Gate USA and EVOLVE promoter Gabe Sapolsky and wrestling legend Jesse Ventura.
But in the early days of the site, there were two interviews that jointly represented a milestone, both for TWD and myself personally. In October of 2009, Ring of Honor made a visit to Collinsville, Ill., a suburb of St. Louis (for lack of a better descriptor), and I decided to attend. This would be my first major independent wrestling event.
In advance of the show, I made contact with ROH about arranging an interview to help promote the event. While waiting for their response, I also took it upon myself to contact Tyler Black, who had been a personal favorite of mine since beginning to watch the company’s HDNet television show, through MySpace – yes, MySpace.
Black returned my message and was gracious enough to grant an interview. The story that resulted follows, but there’s more to the story than you’ll read here.
The article originally contained a comment from Black about HDNet being a “stepping stone” to something bigger. The day after publication, Black sent me a text message, stating he had received heat from management about those comments and asking me if I could remove them.
If this was my real newspaper job, ethics would have prevailed, but for our fledgling site, it wasn’t worth burning potential bridges to take a moral stand over the issue. In the end, it paid off, as ROH plugged the revised article in their newswire.
Granted, seeing one’s name in an ROH newswire is really a meaningless accomplishment, but to me, at that time, it meant the world. The same would happen a few days later when I published “The World’s Hero,” an interview with Black’s “Clash of the Contenders” opponent Chris Hero.
Now, nearly three years later, the scope of the wrestling world has changed. Black and Hero have both been signed to WWE, where they compete in the developmental system as NXT Champion Seth Rollins and Kassius Ohno. Ring of Honor has been bought out by Sinclair Broadcast – whether that be for the better or the worse is up to you.
As for me, I’ve moved on in the wake of the collapse of TWD. After a sabbatical from wrestling journalism, I returned full force, now writing for the Baltimore Sun’s Ring Posts blog and having a major backstage role with All American Pro Wrestling.
I’ve interviewed Jerry Lawler, Sheamus, Christopher Daniels, Cody Rhodes, Jeff Hardy and a contingent of other top-caliber and world-famous stars; I’ve had locker room chats with Colt Cabana, Dragon Gate star PAC, El Generico (albeit it difficult with his broken English-speaking skills) and “Tough Enough” contestant Matt Cross.
But when I look back at what’s gotten me to this point, I’ll never forget those men and women willing to talk to a nobody writer on a no-name website. I’m glad to see many of them have found more success in life than I will ever enjoy. They all deserve it.
In October 2009, with the assistance of Tyler Black, the revolution was published.
– Adam Testa, August 2012
Tyler Black: The TWD Interview
Originally published by The Wrestling Daily, 4 October 2009
Black, 23, said his recovery has gone well, despite complications and the need to have his wound reopened and re-stitched a few weeks ago.
“I wrestled two smaller shows in the last couple of weeks and really feel like my neck is back to not-quite-100 percent, but it’s getting real close, and I had a good week in the gym,” Black said in a phone interview. “It’s always nice to get some ring time, and it worked out fine. I got thrown around a little bit here and there, but everything worked right – no side effects, no reoccurring injuries or problems with the neck. This weekend should be fairly exciting for me to get back in the swing of things.”
Black will face Chris Hero in his return match Friday at the Gateway Center in Collinsville, Ill., located outside St. Louis. The next night, he will begin his quest of revenge against ROH World Champion Austin Aries, who took Black out of action with a fireball to the face in ROH storylines, by challenging Aries’ ally Kenny King in Indianapolis. While he’s not feeling 100 percent yet, Black seems confident this injury won’t have a lasting impact on his young career.
“The neck itself is going to be an issue, as it is for a lot of wrestlers, for the duration of my career, but it’s not really something that hinders my performance or anything like that for the time being,” he said. “I’m not terribly concerned about it. You’re not going to see a different Tyler Black when you’re watching me. I’ll still be going out there giving 110 percent every time.”
During his recovery, Black only traveled with ROH for television tapings for the promotion’s Monday night broadcast on HDNet. The company tapes six episodes at a time, and he did not want to be absent from television for that extended of a period.
Though Black has only been out mere weeks, the landscape of ROH has changed, and the returning star recognizes the potential for growth and development in the new atmosphere. Two of the promotion’s top stars, “The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness, signed contracts with World Wrestling Entertainment, the largest professional wrestling company in North America.
“It’s kind of a bittersweet time for us because we’re sad to see Bryan and Nigel go, just like all the fans, because those guys are both locker room leaders. Bryan’s literally been with the company since day one,” Black said.
He continued: “But at the same time we’re really happy to see them go because it’s great for both of them. They’re able to transition to the next part, the next step in their career.”
“They’re going to have an opportunity to make a really big name for themselves on a grander stage and make money. I’m sure both of them would have loved to have had that opportunity if ROH would have grown, but the time comes when you’ve got to transition, you’ve got to make moves, and they did that.”
But the departing stars aren’t the only ones to benefit from the move, Black added.
“It’s also good for us because it gives guys like myself and some of the younger guys on the roster, like Kenny Omega for example, a chance to really step up and shine and really earn a position as a top-spot kind of guy in Ring of Honor – that is a sought-after position in the company and in the wrestling world,” he said.
Black, a two-year ROH performer, said his time has come to establish himself as a legitimate contender to carry the company on his shoulders and one of the best wrestlers in the world. To accomplish this goal, he desires to expand his experiences, earn bigger wins and compete in more high profiles matches. For about the past year, he’s worked toward that goal, finding himself in the ROH world title picture.
“Being around the belt and having high profile matches with top contenders or world champions are something I’ve gotten used to and grown accustomed to, and hopefully at some point down the road, take that belt from Austin Aries or whomever and I can hold the flag, I can wave the banner and I can actually be the top guy in the company and be someone they want to build around for the future,” he said.
And when he makes it to the top and looks back on the path he took to get there, Black will find himself reminiscing about the same men whose departures will likely help open doors for him.
“I really think my matches against Bryan Danielson have been really memorable for me just because he was someone I looked up to when I was younger, and I also think that my title matches with Nigel going into the Take No Prisoners pay-per-view a while back was a real big deal for me,” he said.
“Then we did the main eventing in New York at the Hammerstein Ballroom, which was really kind of exciting for me, as well, something I was really proud to be a part of.”
Another highlight of Black’s career came on March 21 when he faced former Age of the Fall partner Jimmy Jacobs in the main event of ROH’s debut show on HDNet. The launch of a national television deal helped secure the promotion’s place as the No. 3 company in the United States.
“It was cool being in the first main event,” Black said. “That’s important for Ring of Honor, and for wrestling in general, to really start to establish a third party besides WWE and TNA and build some company from the ground up that really deserves some credibility, and I think it’s cool to kind of be the guy that kicked that off. I know Jimmy was as excited about it as I was.”
Some wrestling fans and pundits questioned the broadcast’s ability to succeed on a network not readily accessible to many cable subscribers, but Black, as a performer on the show, looks at it in a different light.
“TV’s great for us,” he said, noting that the deal helped bring the company into the national spotlight even with a limited audience. Recently, the company and network switched up its scheduling, choosing to air ROH programming on Monday nights prior to WWE’s flagship Monday Night RAW.
“I think it kind of helped the wrestling world take direct notice that, ‘You know what? We’re not just going to sit by and let WWE run the show,” Black added. “We are hands down, in my opinion, a better wrestling than anything that’s on TV. You can take the two hours of RAW and the two hours of Impact and put them together and you’re not going to get a single match that’s as good as what we’re putting on. I really think we put in the effort.”
Black’s long-term goals for himself and his career are simple.
“I want to work hard, travel the world and make money, and meet fans, meet people and just enjoy my time in the wrestling business and the people and beautiful artform of professional wrestling,” he said.
He remains under contract with ROH through September 2010, and the next year will help him decide what may lie in his future.
“I’m sure we’ll see some developments with the direction of the company within the next year and see what kind of interest I have from the other parties, but for the foreseeable future, I will be with Ring of Honor,” he said.
But for now, Black’s attention remains focused on this weekend and his return to the ROH ring.
Adam Testa was the Marketing Director of TWD. He keeps his “surprised face” in a drawer and he only puts it on when absolutely necessary.