In days, the eyes of the wrestling world will be on New Orleans for WrestleMania 34. It’s the biggest weekend of the year for both wrestlers and fans. Whatever your opinion of the current WWE product, there is no denying that WrestleMania brings out a sense of nostalgia for wrestling fans.
My first exposure to wrestling was WrestleMania 5 when The Mega Powers collided in the main event and thus my fascination with this business began. Even to this day the mere mention of the word WrestleMania takes me back to the joy of seeing Hulk Hogan defeat Macho Man on the grandest stage of them all. There is nothing bigger in stature.
For the past few years though the ‘Mania event itself has somewhat been upstaged by the TakeOver event put on by their development brand two days earlier. Every man who has main evented at TakeOver has gone onto big success on the main roster, so it’s a good indicator that the chance of closing out the NXT TakeOver Mania event leads to brighter pastures.
This years event is headlined by the current NXT champion Andrade Almas and a man who has taken the company by storm since making his debut at last years show, Aleister Black.
The Dutchman has been on a great run since joining the company and there is an argument to make that he has been the biggest star in NXT over last year. This years TakeOver is arguably the biggest moment in the 15 year career of the Dutch destroyer and it seems the sky is the limit for him in the WWE.
But who is Aleister Black?
Born in Alkmaar, The Netherlands in 1985, he originally trained in Martial Arts before moving into wrestling, competing in both kickboxing and Pencak Silat at a very high level in Europe.
His wrestling training began in 2002 for Freestyle Championship Wrestling in his native Holland. Working under the name of Tommy End, he worked mostly in Holland for local promotions FCW, NBW, DEW before he moved out of the country and began working for Westside Xtreme Wrestling in Germany in 2005. Thought of by many as the top promotion in Europe, wXw gave Tommy the chance to grow, and it was there that he crossed paths with wrestlers such as El Generico, Steve Douglas, Bryan Danielson, Pac, Davey Richards and many others.
At this point Tommy was a completely different entity than he is now. A pretty skinny guy with no tattoos or obvious gimmick, he was a fairly generic fast-paced wrestler who put on good matches but did nothing to really stand out from the pack until he found his path. The tattoos and satanic gimmick began to take shape in 2008 and it was around this time he started to mix in his martial arts background by relying heavily on kicks and ground based style.
Summerian Death Squad
While he was having good singles matches, it was in the tag division that he really made a name for himself.
Starting the Summerian Death Squad with Anthony Zeus in wXw and Freestyle Championship Wrestling, the team eventually became a force when Michael Dante replaced Zeus for Big Japan Wrestling in 2011. The partnership of End and Dante soon became one of the best in the world and they slowly became a mainstay for promotions like wXw, ICW, BJW, CZW and all over Europe.
A dark and satanic duo that often dipped into the macabre, SDS were feared all across Europe. Winning titles everywhere they went, they held the wXw tag team titles for over 300 days and also had a run with the Progress and ICW titles.
Having matches against some of the best teams in the world, they worked regularly against teams like The Young Bucks, reDRagon (now two-thirds of The Undisputed Era) and Super Smash Brothers. SDS struck fear in the tag division of every promotion they ventured.
While he continued to work with Dante, it was in 2013 that he really started to break-out when he won the wXw 16 Carat Gold tournament, defeating Ricochet, Jonathan Gresham and Zack Sabre Jr. on his way to victory.
Tommy went on to win the wXw unified championship later that year, defeating current NXT roster mate Alexander Wolfe before holding the title for over a year. A reign which included successful defences against names such as Davey Boy Smith Jr, Chris Hero, Zack Sabre Jr. and Jonathan Gresham.
He returned to the tag division for Evolve when he and Chris Hero formed Heroes Eventually Die, with a match of the year contender against Johnny Gargano and Drew Galloway in 2016 being a particular highlight.
He also won the Super Strong Style tournament in 2016 for Progress Wrestling, defeating his friend and partner Chris Hero in the semifinals before defeating Mark Andrews in the finals. Tommy was fast becoming a star.
Murmurs began of him joining WWE and he said goodbye to the independent scene at Progress Wrestling's massive Chapter 36 show at Brixton Academy, where he lost a three-way to Marty Scurll and Mark Haskins.
There was a beautiful moment afterwards where End, along with fellow WWE signees Jack Gallagher and Tomasso Ciampa said goodbye to the crowd.
Roars of thank you Tommy came from the 2000 fans in attendance, and they meant it. For it was because of guys like Tommy and Tomasso and Jack that the independent scene has risen to the level it is at today. Guys plugging away and building themselves from the bottom, slowly building a reputation and helping more companies grow, which in turn helps more guys make a living in the business.
For as much as the fans were going to miss him, they were all happy that he was getting the opportunity to prove himself on a bigger stage.
Signing with WWE
Tommy moved to Florida and began to train at the performance centre towards the end of 2016. He would return to Progress for a one off in January of last year as a favour from WWE for their using Pete Dunne, Trent Seven, Tyler Bate and Mark Andrews during the WWE UK tournament. He later made his WWE debut that same day, rushing back from the Progress show in Birmingham to Blackpool to face Neville in a special challenge match.
A name change came around this time and Tommy End became Aleister Black, a fitting name for the Dutchman. Taking the name Aleister from Aleister Crowley, the famous occultist who is looked at by many as the face of satanism. Vignettes began to air on NXT TV in March that he was coming. Mysterious and dark, it seemed that Aleister Black was going to be keeping the satanic character that Tommy End had perfected so well.
He made his debut at TakeOver: Orlando against Andrade Cien Almas and it was a great first impression. Rising from the ground during his entrance, Black became an instant star in NXT.
Going on a run throughout the year, his fantastic match with Velveteen Dream at TakeOver: WarGames was a match of the year contender and a match that elevated both men. Keeping his martial arts offence, he still relies heavily on kicks and his devastating Black Mass spin kicks finisher is one of the most popular finishes in the business right now.
Black is looked at by many as the future of the business. With his dark gimmick, comparisons to The Undertaker are obvious. Whether he can ever fill the shoes of The Deadman is yet to be seen, but it's hard to deny that Aleister Black is going to be a major player for years to come.
This Saturday, he will challenge Almas for the NXT Championship in a highly-anticipated match, but can The Dutch Destroyer repeat the success he had last time he faced off against El Idolo? Tune into NXT TakeOver: New Orleans to find out, and possibly see the crowning of Aleister Black as NXT Champion.
What have been your favorite moments of Aleister Black's career so far? Let us know in the comments below!
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