Ring of Honor continues its free agent spree in 2019, by announcing the official signing of PJ Black (formerly Justin Gabriel in the WWE). Black joins a list of top tier international indie stars who have joined ROH in recent months, including Jeff Cobb, Mark Haskins, Bandido, PCO, Brody King, and “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams.
“I’m here to bring back honor, grace, style, athleticism, sportsmanship and entertainment to #RingOfHonor”
— ROH Wrestling (@ringofhonor) February 5, 2019
Debuting in 1997 in his native South Africa at the age of only 16, PJ Black would move to the United Kingdom in the early 2000s to continue his training, working with IPW:UK and the Frontier Wrestling Alliance (FWA) Academy. A second generational wrestler, his father Paul Lloyd Sr., a former South African wrestling star and booker for South Africa’ All Stars Wrestling (AWS), and Black returned to the South African indie scene a more well rounded wrestler, as well as continuing to work across Europe. “In Africa, we didn’t have a specific style,” Black told ROH in the press release today. “At a young age, I traveled to the UK to learn the British style and combined that with lucha and some strong style, creating my own hybrid style, which is what everyone these days seem to follow.”
In 2008, PJ Black became the first South African to sign with the WWE and began with their then-developmental system, Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), where he wrestled as Justin Angel (after initially wrestling as both PJ Black and his real name, Paul Lloyd). He won go on to win the FCW Tag Team titles with Kris Logan (now known as Brian Cage of IMPACT Wrestling) and would hold the FCW Heavyweight Championship for 175 days, before debuting on WWE television as part of the NXT reality show that preceded NXT as a it’s own brand.
On June 7, 2010, now known as Justin Gabriel, he joined the rest of the NXT reality show’s cast as the Nexus, viciously taking down John Cena and CM Punk.As Justin Gabriel, he would see great success in the first year of the Nexus storyline, winning the WWE Tag Team Champions three times with Heath Slater.
But for the next few years, Gabriel would see his stock diminish in the WWE Universe, and in 2015, he departed the company. It wouldn’t take him long to find work – he would soon show up briefly with IMPACT Wrestling (now back to PJ Black) and he would debut with Lucha Underground‘s second season.
Over the next couple years, he would return to the UK scene, returning to IPW:UK, as well as Revolution Pro (RevPro), Southside Wrestling Entertainment (SWE), and Preston City Wrestling (PCW), as well as making his US debuts with EVOLVE Wrestling, House of Glory (HOG), House of Hardcore and more. He continued with Lucha Underground, joining Johnny Mundo (aka John Morrison, Johnny Impact, etc.) in Worldwide Underground, capturing the Lucha Underground Trios Championship alongside Mundo and Jack Evans.
Last year, he would begin work with several more new promotions, including Mexico’s Crash Lucha, Joey Ryan’s Bar Wrestling, and CHIKARA to name a few. It was late last fall when he would make his Ring of Honor at ROH Survival of the Fittest in November. He appeared at the January TV tapings in Atlanta and faced Bandido at ROH Honor Reigns Supreme the same month, and now it appears that Black has decided to make ROH his new US television home. “I’m here to bring back honor, grace, style, athleticism, sportsmanship and entertainment to Ring of Honor,” he told ROH in the press release today. “Sometimes I’m a bit fast for mass appeal, but I’m a team player as long as everyone follows my lead. I’m the change this company and this business needs and wants.”