Interview: PJ Black aka Justin Gabriel

After a five year spell with WWE Justin Gabriel quit the company just before the Royal Rumble. He has since signed with Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling as well as working on the Independent circuit.

The 34-year-old from Cape Town, South Africa is a second-generation wrestler and as well as wrestling in his home country he also wrestled in the UK before signing with WWE.

During his time in WWE Justin was a member of the Nexus and a three-time WWE Tag Team champion along with Heath Slater.

We caught up with PJ to talk about the original series of NXT, if the Nexus angle should have lasted longer, playing The Bunny and why he quit WWE plus much more.

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You grew up in South Africa and spent a lot of time in England wrestling, what was that like?

I went to college in England and lived there for five years and worked on the independent circuit. I started for FWA and got some extra training under Mark Slone and Alex Shane, it was awesome I really enjoyed my time over there.

Since leaving the WWE I have been back over to England. I have appeared on some Indy shows, which have been a lot of fun seeing some familiar faces and a lot of new faces as well.

Your dad was a wrestler as well, what was it like wrestling in South Africa?

Growing up in the eighties and nineties it was considered one of the territories but not many people knew that. I remember being a little boy and Fit Finlay and William Regal coming to stay there for a year. I used to watch Andre The Giant and Hulk Hogan job to our champion – there wasn’t the internet or YouTube back then so nobody knew who they were there.

It was pretty cool and surreal, I started going to these shows from a young age. When my dad started promoting I stated working for him and it was a totally different scene. Obviously when I went over to the UK it was different and then America was completely different again.

Who were some of the wrestlers that you enjoyed watching whilst growing up and influenced you to get into the sport?

I was a big fan of guys like, Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig and Macho Man Randy Savage. Guys who were wrestling for the Intercontinental Title at the time, that was more of the style that I was into.

Since leaving WWE you’ve been back over to the UK to do some Indy shows, how do the UK Indy shows compare to the Indy shows in the US?

It is pretty much the same in the UK and the US, everybody is trying to follow that fast pace style, it feels like all of the styles have just meshed. Everybody is taking the strong style with the Lucha Libre style and just mixing it together and that seems to be the Indy niche right now.

It took me a little while to get used to that again but it is actually quite fun, which is the most fun part of wrestling.

After spending time in South Africa and England how did the move to America come about?

It was kind of a hard transition, when I signed it took WWE about a year to get my papers and I literally moved over with just my wrestling boots. It was like starting from scratch, I had no money in my pocket, I didn’t have anything, I was staying at a friends house, it just all happened so quickly.

I was in FCW, the developmental territory in Florida, where I still live today and I was only there for ten months before getting called up for NXT season 1.

Everybody now knows NXT, but what was your time in FCW like?

It was awesome, I had a blast. Dr. Tom Prichard was amazing, I wrestled for like ten to twelve years before that but I learned so much in the ten months from him and Steve Keirn, more than in the ten years working across the world on the independent circuit.

NXT now isn’t even like a developmental territory anymore; it is run like a separate promotion. I’m pretty sure they’re going to start running international tours soon.

You spent some time in NXT, what was that like and what was Triple H like as a boss?

He is doing a great job with it, I tried to go back there for a while but they kind of blocked me because they wanted to do their own thing and I just think the timing wasn’t right. If I were to go back there now it would be like perfect timing.

I think Triple H is doing a good job with NXT, he has got his way of doing things and then the big boss has his own way of doing things. Sometimes they clash as you can see on TV, but seeing as though Hunter is in charge of NXT most of the time he gets his way, and I think he is doing a great job with it.

What was it like being a part of the first season of NXT and the challenges?

Some of them I enjoyed and some of them I didn’t. I didn’t like the fact we didn’t know what was coming up and it was live television, so it felt like we were just being made fools out of on live TV.

Maybe people don’t know this but nothing on that show was scripted or planned, we were just thrown in the deep end, matches and promos weren’t even planned. I kind of liked the challenges because I’m a pretty athletic guy and I won a few of them, I actually think I won more challenges than anyone else.

It had its pros and cons, the fact that it was on live TV and you couldn’t retake anything was kind of a con for most people but for me it was cool because I prefer it that way.

What was that night like when you made your debut as the Nexus and destroyed the ringside area on Raw?

That was pretty cool, it is probably one of my favourite moments of all time. We now live in a day and age where it is very hard to come up with a unique storyline or character because everything is borrowed or revamped. I think what we did that day was pretty unique.

They told us to do whatever we wanted and anything goes and then when we got back behind the curtain and heard about Daniel Bryan choking Justin Roberts they fired Daniel. We didn’t know what was going to happen and were asking ourselves was is too far, and for a while after that we were treading on eggshells.

When Daniel came back at SummerSlam we didn’t expect that at all, so that was a cool twist – it makes me wonder sometimes did they plan that all along.

Do you feel the Nexus angle could have lasted longer than it did?

I definitely think so, I think we should never have lost at SummerSlam, we should have kept that momentum going but there was a lot of politics involved in that which I won’t even go into but I do feel that angle should have gone on longer.

The Shield went on for two or three years whilst the Nexus was only around for six months. We should’ve at least gone on to Survivor Series or WrestleMania, that would have been perfect.

You can say what you like about The Shield and in my opinion they were awesome. They got it right with The Shield but they took part of the idea from the Nexus.

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What was it like winning the Tag Team titles with Heath Slater?

They were great times, it was pretty cool. Heath is a very good friend of mine and for the first three or four years we actually travelled together, so I would be spending five out of seven days a week with this guy. He is still one of my best buddies and is just a great guy who is super talented, I don’t think many fans realize how talented he actually is.

It’s kind different when your actually in the business, you grow up idolizing some people but then when you start working with them they’re really not that good. Heath is the opposite, everyone thinks he’s cool, funny and entertaining but in the ring he is so freaking good.

Winning the tag team titles with Heath on three occasions was really fun and I hope we can have another run one day.

You were also The Bunny, what was that like?

I wasn’t too keen at the beginning but I wasn’t doing anything so I thought oh cool it could be fun. The first few times I went out there it was fine and I was taking bumps in the suit, then it stopped becoming fun and they wanted a bunny reveal.

I had so many ideas for this and they had a lot of ideas as well, but none of their ideas made much sense. My ideas were cooler and funnier and everyone liked it but they just never went in that direction.

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What were some of your highlights from your time in WWE?

It’s hard to pick just one. That whole Nexus angle was just awesome because I got to work with the likes of Chris Jericho, Edge and John Cena on a nightly bases even on non televised shows which was like five times a week which was pretty surreal.

All of the WrestleMania’s I’ve been to were just awesome, we did an eight-man tag at WrestleMania when Heath and I were the tag team champions. My mum got to come and she had never seen me wrestle so that was a pretty cool moment for me.

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You actually quit WWE just before the Royal Rumble, what was your decision for that?

It was hard, there wasn’t just one or two things that happened, it was a build up of six months. I had all these new ideas for new character builds, but it seemed like every time I had these ideas and was gaining momentum something happened that would stop this momentum.

It began to get really frustrating in all truth it was probably longer than six months, it was more probably like a year. It was just frustration on frustration and on the day I quit it wasn’t just one thing that happened that made me do it.

I didn’t realize the Royal Rumble was coming up, I didn’t anticipate that, I didn’t plan it that way. It just kind of happened on the day, I just had enough, I’m 34-years-old, I have all of this stuff that I want to show people and if WWE won’t let me do it on TV then I’m just going to go and do it on the independents where people can appreciate it.

I see myself as more of an artist, I don’t really care about how much money I make, for me it’s more about the art of professional wrestling. There are a lot of guys that will just hang around because Vince will give everyone a shot and some guys will just hang around thinking that tomorrow will be their shot and then the next thing you know three years have gone by.

One year went by and I realized it wasn’t going to happen and I couldn’t wait any longer and that is the reason I quit. There are guys there that will just hang around waiting for their shots, who knows if it’s going to happen, it’s all a timing thing.

What are your thoughts on the WWE Network – do you think more could be done to showcase the current roster on the network?

That was another frustrating thing for me, we had a network, we have 24 hour programming and we could fit so many programmes on there. We pitched a cruiserweight show, we pitched a hardcore show, we pitched all of these different shows which never came to fruition.

How would you describe Vince McMahon as a boss?

Crazy genius, he is awesome, I love him.  He is definitely a crazy billionaire, he has a very extract way of thinking, he is very out of touch with reality, so very in touch if that makes sense.

He doesn’t know what goes on in the movies, if you talked to him about Wolverine he wouldn’t have a clue but if you were to talk to him about a storyline or pure raw emotional passion or human phycology he is just a freaking genius, I love the guy to bits.

Would you be open to a return to WWE?

Quite possibly, in two or three years who knows, I don’t plan that far ahead. Vince actually called me and said he knew I wanted to do my own thing and have more wrestling time so he told me go away for two or three years and go do my thing and possibly comeback.

Hunter on the other hand didn’t like the way I did it because I quit over the phone and told me he’s going to make me wait ages before I’m allowed to come back to WWE.

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Have you had talks with TNA and ROH about joining either of those two companies?

Oh yeah, I’ve had talks with both of those companies but I didn’t leave one company just to go and sign with another company. I like what I’m doing right now being my own boss, doing my own thing, I love it.

You are part of the Global Force Wrestling roster, how did that come about?

Jeff Jarrett called me out of the blue one day, and I told him I was enjoying doing my own thing. He told me I could keep my merch, keep my name, I could still do all the independent bookings that I wanted, he just asked me to keep some days free for them and I thought it was perfect and was exactly what I wanted to do.

Who are some of the guys on the Global Force Wrestling roster that you’re looking forward to working with?

Like I said before I consider myself as an artist and one of the most exciting things for me is putting matches together with someone I’ve never met. I was in WWE for five years and we would do 200 shows a year and you would have the same match ups countless times and it becomes boring for the talent as well as the fans.

In the last month I’ve had seven first time matches with other great Indy stars or ex WWE and TNA talent and to me that’s the fun part of wrestling, and that’s the art of it putting something together that the fans are going to enjoy.

I think the Global Force Wrestling roster looks amazing, there is a lot of guys that I want to work with and that is another main reason why I wanted to go with them and they’ve got lots of great things coming up and I’m really looking forward to the TV tapings in Las Vegas.

For more information on PJ Black you can follow him on Twitter @Justin_Gabriel

For more information about Global Force Wrestling and to by tickets for the Grand Slam Tour and TV tapings in Las Vegas at the Orleans Arena you can visit GlobalForceWrestling.com

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