Malakai Black & Cody Rhodes | Crossing Paths In Purgatory

On one side, we have an AEW Executive Vice President, a former TNT Champion, who was also a WWE Intercontinental and WWE Tag Team Champion. Standing across from him is a former NXT Champion and one of the most haunting characters in wrestling today. When Malakai Black (Tommy End) appeared on the July 7th edition of AEW Dynamite, fans were in shock and disbelief at who stood before them. At the same time, commentators were unsure what to call the man that stood in the corner of the ring. Finally, the name Malakai Black was spoken. This is the journey of Malakai Black and Cody Rhodes and a dark nightmare crossing.

Black’s debut was shocking. As his appearance was well before the 90 days had expired since WWE released him, and their talent typically has a 90-day no-compete clause. When he struck Arn Anderson with his Black Mass kick, it immediately lit the match, and the ensuing flame was that he would be Cody’s newest challenge. Moments after, Black struck Cody with another Black Mass, leaving mentor and mentee laying in the ring.

Before we carry on with the story, it is important to tell fans where they have both been. For Cody Rhodes, the second-generation star has carried on his family’s wrestling legacy. The son of a son of a plumber, Rhodes has feuded with several of today’s biggest stars. He has faced the likes of Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler. As mentioned, he was WWE Intercontinental Championship and WWE Tag Team Championship. After he departed WWE, he’s carried the flag as the IWGP United States Champion and was a Ring of Honor World Champion. He has traveled the world and, in the process, achieved the success that his father would be proud of.

The Darkest Nightmare Crossing

Rhodes’ time in Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling opened the doors for the American Nightmare to join The Elite and The Bullet Club. However, once his time in Japan had come to an end, he found another opportunity. As is well known, he, along with Kenny Omega and Matt and Nick Jackson, is both an Executive Vice President and on-air talent for All Elite Wrestling.

Rhodes faced his brother, ‘The Natural’ Dustin Rhodes, during AEW’s inaugural event. Their match would leave an indelible mark as All Elite Wrestling was introduced as another option for wrestling fans today. He eventually challenged for the AEW World Championship and, when he lost, was bound to the match’s stipulation that he would never challenge for it again. This is a vow that he has kept to this day – as of this writing.

Rhodes would later be synonymous with the TNT Championship. While some may consider it a secondary title, Rhodes sees the value in it. He built the title’s importance and exposure in the hope that it would be held in the same regard as other notable titles in wrestling history. As a result, he held the title twice, losing it the second time to Darby Allin.

While all these things were taking place over the 15-year career of Cody Rhodes, Tommy (Malakai Black) End was blazing his own trail around the globe. And over a career of nearly twenty years, he has earned a name for himself. He competed in promotions such as wXw, PROGRESS, Over The Top, and Insane Championship Wrestling in facing some of the existing and future biggest stars. Besides that success in the United Kingdom and Germany, he also gained exposure in North America, competing in Pro Wrestling Guerilla & EVOLVE.

Malakai Black & Cody Rhodes

In 2016, End signed with WWE and joined their NXT brand. At the start of 2017, End debuted, having been repackaged as Aleister Black. He would make his on-screen debut facing another current AEW star Andrade El Idolo during NXT TakeOver: Orlando. Over the next year, Black would rise to the top of the NXT brand, becoming its champion. Black’s star was as bright as it ever was, and after losing the NXT title, he would be moved to the Raw roster.

Once he moved, though, it appeared as if he was was in limbo. On-screen, his character certainly carried with it a certain allure, but his appearances on-screen were rare, leading fans to clamor for him to appear. Several vignettes promoted his return; however, as quickly as he returned, he would soon be released.

As mentioned earlier, after 30 days, Black appeared in AEW, rekindling a character that he was building prior to his departure from WWE. He sported what appeared to be a damaged right eye and was dressed all in Black; a figure shrouded in darkness. A week after knocking out Anderson and Rhodes, he would again appear in an AEW ring in response to Rhodes’ demand. Promptly, Black would exchange blows with Rhodes in the center of the ring.

Preparing For Their Initial Confrontation

On the July 21st edition of AEW Dynamite, they once again previewed their upcoming confrontation. The recap video showed the initial kick by Black and the enraged Cody asking for a fight. It is clearly presented as a battle of good versus evil, with both men dressing in attire that reflects the sides they represent.

On the July 28th edition of Dynamite, Rhodes and Black engaged in a fight backstage that spilled out to the entrance ramp. Black initially attacked Cody at the producers’ table and then knocked him down with a leaping knee. This brought out Fuego Del Sol and Dante Martin, and they, along with producer Jerry Lynn tried to discourage Black from doing any more damage. But the result was a Black Mass kick on Del Sol, knocking out the Luchador.

The stage is now set as both men will finally square off against one another. Will there be any other attacks prior to the match beginning? We have seen the lead-up to this contest become very personal very quickly. Only time will tell as both men prepare to do battle and officially cross paths for the very first time.