Since Aleister himself would probably disagree with that tag, and it’s one that I usually avoid using because of the presence of confirmation bias, let me clarify what “alpha male” has always meant here.
An “alpha male” is a man who not only dominates the world around him, but more importantly, he dominates his own way, because that’s what he wants to do. In the process, he comes closer and closer to kleos, to carving his name into eternity. To put it more simply, an alpha male is a guy who does what he wants and comes closer to being remembered by endless generations in the way he wants to be remembered.
He imposes himself on history. History doesn’t impose itself on him.
One of the contemporary pop culture figures who lives this lifestyle is WWE’s Aleister Black, who wrestles on its NXT brand.
I wish people could be anything they want to be, and not be pressured into what they think society wants them to be. There’s a big difference in what you want and what they make you believe you want.
— Devil’s Blood (@WWEAleister) March 11, 2018
Your system, your machine, not theirs. pic.twitter.com/dutGXJ6I34
— Devil’s Blood (@WWEAleister) February 9, 2017
Aleister Black makes it a point to stand out conspicuously in how he does this. How you do it might be different. His message is to do it your own way and still succeed.
And indeed, he has succeeded in NXT. One of its two most popular protagonists (the other being Johnny Gargano), Aleister Black has stood out among his peers as one of WWE’s most interesting and exciting superstars to watch. Since Asuka’s departure, he has been the most dominantly-booked figure in NXT, having only lost one match, and only then due to interference. In the year he’s been there, he’s caught on so much that he’s getting a title shot this Saturday at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans, the night before WrestleMania 34. He’s likely to become champion.
Aleister Black will share the ring with current NXT Champion Andrade “Cien” Almas. The pairing is significant. Almas was the man who Aleister Black defeated in his NXT debut at last year’s TakeOver: Orlando, and rather easily. In the year since, Almas has exploded. Changing his attitude and securing the services of business manager Zelina Vega, he’s caught on in a big way, and aside from Aleister Black, he’s been NXT’s most dominant figure in the past 12 months.
Now, they’ll collide again, and the match promises to be a much harder-hitting affair than their first match.
How did Aleister Black stand out in his industry? How did he carry his attitude through the screen and hook fans? His unique look is one thing that distinguishes him, but NXT is also known for its storytelling, and he’s used his character traits over the past year in a masterful way.
The Story So Far
Aleister Black quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with through the combination of his aura and his unique striking ability. A veteran in kickboxing, he brought strikes to professional wrestling that hadn’t been seen before. Most notable of all was his finisher in NXT, his “Black Mass” spinning heel kick, which can come from anywhere and knock anyone’s lights out.
The move just looks cool, and having one part of your repertoire that looks cool, whether it’s in the wrestling industry or anything else, is enough to get people invested in you. Consider it a certain “X factor” that Scott Adams talks about in How to Fail At Almost Everything and Still Win Big.
Aleister Black also follows the law of creating compelling spectacles with his entrance. It’s unique in his industry and instantly grabs attention. Far too many wrestlers have similar entrances, which fans eventually get used to. Aleister’s contrasts with all of them.
For six months, this was the pattern. He would move to the ring in his unique way, have a good match, end it with his cool finisher that never fails to put an opponent away (a rarity in today’s wrestling world where finisher kickouts are common), and leave. He didn’t say a word. He still exploded in popularity anyway. Many fans consider good speaking skills to be vital in the industry, but true to his tagline, he did things his own way and still succeeded.
After his first few rivalries, Aleister Black spoke for the first time in NXT last October, only to be interrupted by the flamboyant upstart Velveteen Dream. Dream’s goal was to be acknowledged by the enigmatic Aleister Black, who refused at every turn, no matter what he did. Black’s refusal to “acknowledge a child who throws a tantrum to get attention” eventually led to a highly-praised match at NXT TakeOver: War Games in November, where both men looked like stars. Velveteen Dream had a breakout performance, and it was only because of that fact that he finally got what he wanted all along.
Aleister Black acknowledged his rival only on his terms, not those of anyone else. The whole rivalry was a great illustration of frame control. A socially dominant man only pays attention to the things he chooses to and that’s what we saw. Fans ate the whole thing up, because in many ways, that level of social skill is something they fantasize about having, even if only instinctively.
Following this rivalry, he began to set his sights on the NXT Championship, but he would need to overcome the arrogance of Adam Cole, who screwed him out of an opportunity, to get there. Reflecting real life, most wrestlers probably would have lamented about the unfairness of such an outcome. Aleister Black calmly “accepted this defeat, but not the reason for it,” retooled his focus, destroyed Adam Cole with a Black Mass kick at NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia, and would soon become the top contender for the title.
Showing his masterful frame control and command of his own attention once again, he did a few weeks ago what no one had managed to do before – lower what some would call Zelina Vega’s “bitch shields” and force her to show something less than total confidence. It got into her and Andrade “Cien” Almas’ heads.
Throughout his journey, he’s established himself as someone who does things his own way, and does it tremendously well, which is exactly the message he wanted to send to the world. Predetermined or not, to take off in the wrestling business you need to connect with audiences, or you won’t get the spotlight he’s gotten for the past year. Much of that connection comes from appealing to people’s fantasies. Braun Strowman does it with his feats of strength and beating the crap out of anyone he doesn’t like. Aleister Black does it by simply doing what he wants, while too many people do things they think other people want them to do. It’s not surprising that his social skills are “alpha” too. They go with the territory. If they don’t screw him up later, WWE has a big star on their hands.
NXT TakeOver: New Orleans is this Saturday. I look forward to seeing what Aleister Black does once he wins the title. He’s one of the most interesting characters in the industry right now.
Learn more about attention, frame control, and how to have dominant social skills by reading Stumped’s third chapter.