When it comes down to making a living in professional wrestling, PJ Black has figured it out. Other than the time he stepped away from the business to work toward his college education, wrestling is all he has known. PJ gained a great deal of notoriety while working in the WWE as Justin Gabriel for eight years. However, his goal before he leaves the sport is that the fans will remember him for being PJ Black. He currently wrestles as Dr. Black for Ring of Honor.
PJ had the chance to return to the WWE, but since Ring of Honor gave him complete creative control of his character, it wasn’t a hard decision for him to make. In 2020 he signed a two-year contract with the 19-year-old company. All promotions are different when it comes to how much control the talent has. In the WWE, wrestlers must follow a script. The promos written for the talents are word for word. At Ring of Honor, producers give PJ the guidelines for the story, but the rest is up to him.
“My promos here are not scripted, and I get to fill in the blanks. Ring of Honor knows that I have experience,” Black explained. “My character has evolved over time and now I have transformed into Dr. Black. I’m going back to my African roots and I have become something of a witch-doctor.”
The name Dr. Black is fitting for PJ. Since he has a master’s degree in sports nutrition, he has been helping a lot of the boys out with their diets and training for some time. So, he has been called a doctor for years and the time was right to turn it into a gimmick.
Sitting down and putting pen to paper becomes challenging when you are trying to figure out how many years PJ Black has been involved in the wrestling business. The 40-year-old wrestler from Cape Town, South Africa started as a referee at the age of 11 and he had his first match at 15.
He has been around wrestling since the day he was born due to his father’s involvement in the business. PJ is the son of one of South Africa’s most notorious wrestling heels, the Pink Panther. Behind the moniker and his distracting pink attire was the man, Paul Lloyd Sr. Not only did Paul wrestle, but he booked talent and ran his promotion called All-Star Wrestling in his home country. The Pink Panther passed everything he knew about the business over to his son before he died in 1999.
“My father told me when I was 16 that I will do my best work between the ages of 40 and 44,” Black said. “Now that I am 40, it makes sense to me. I have experienced wisdom through my lessons.”
It wasn’t always easy for PJ to obtain that wisdom. He had to work for it. There were always two rings in the backyard while he was growing up. Most days, PJ would get stretched by his dad or one of the international talents who worked for his father. Being able to wrestle with people from different parts of the world taught him a variety of skills.
PJ has also worked with TNA and Lucha Underground, and countless amounts of independent companies. Not to mention he has wrestled in 64 countries. PJ has been fortunate to step into the ring with some of the best players in the game, many who bear an array of techniques. PJ describes the way he wrestles as a hybrid style. It’s a mix of Japanese, Lucha Libre, English, German, American, and maybe one the most important ingredients of all is the use of old-school wrestling.
“Old school wrestling is becoming a lost art because nobody teaches that method anymore,” Black stated. “There are very few over-the-top characters and no storytelling. I feel that I must pass on what I know.”
What is old-school wrestling?
Old school wrestling can be described as a technical or scientific style in which submissions are holds applied. It might be considered slow and boring compared to today’s wrestling. The current wrestling style is much faster and some action tends to be missed or overlooked by those who are watching it. Storytelling and in-ring psychology are the main elements in this classic style, but it is almost nonexistent with the new generation of wrestlers.
Since his early days in pro wrestling, PJ has always liked performing high-flying maneuvers. Though his father would try to convince him that those moves were not necessary, there was a time the in-ring stunts were what PJ was known for.
“He would tell me that sort of thing will get a reaction, but I didn’t have to do it,” Black recalls. “He would constantly remind me that it came down to characters and storytelling. He could do the high-flying stuff, but he never did and my father was one of the most famous wrestlers in South Africa.”
PJ didn’t achieve his success in wrestling all by himself and for that reason he tries to help as many wrestlers as he can. He travels all over the world teaching seminars. Since he has a wealth of knowledge he can share that with the younger generation and teach them what specific companies are looking for.
The most important thing PJ tries to instill into new wrestlers is that the fans are different everywhere. Just as a comedian wouldn’t tell the same jokes in Atlanta as he would in Los Angeles because the crowd isn’t the same, wrestling is the same way.
“Most wrestlers on the indie scene dream about being on T.V. and I know what Vince McMahon likes,” Black continued. “Some wrestlers know they want to wrestle with New Japan or Ring of Honor. I show those who I teach what certain T.V. companies are looking for and the proper way to do it.”
Wrestling is something PJ has done more than he hasn’t. It has always been a big part of his life. Wrestling is who PJ Black is. One day he plans to go back to South Africa and open a wrestling school. The passion he first experienced when he was a child wrestling in his backyard with his father and the other wrestlers has never gone away.
“I like it for the over-the-top characters and the storytelling. My dad used to call wrestling a stunt mans ballet, Black grinned. “It has a little bit of everything. It has athleticism and drama. It is a soap opera for us guys.”