Three things you probably didn’t know about “Darewolf” PJ Black: He’s a futurist; he’s a venture capitalist; he can seriously kick your ass in Mortal Kombat II—and plans to do so on Wednesday at the first-ever ArcadeMania event.
First things first.
ArcadeMania is on March 29, at Blipsy Bar, 369 N. Western Ave, Los Angeles. The press release promises that it will “be a fun-filled, interactive evening that combines the thrill of competition with the excitement of a live show! ArcadeMania is the perfect opportunity to relive your childhood and connect with other gaming and pro wrestling enthusiasts.”
Hollywood club promoter Noe Vega is the man behind ArcadeMania, and Black has long been a friend.
“He runs international shows, clubs and big events. And he’s a massive wrestling fan. He has Mortal Kombat I, II, and III arcade [games] at his place in Los Angeles. We host these tournaments all the time,” Black told SlamWrestling.net.
Noe proposed the idea to Black one day, and they agreed it would work, with WrestleMania 39 in Los Angeles, running April 1 and 2.
“I know a bunch of the guys will be in town, and a lot of fans will be in town. WrestleCon is in town and there’s a bunch of events happening this whole week,” said an excited Black, who is scheduled for four other events (so far) around town, including the massive WrestleCon fan fest, which is within walking distance of his L.A. abode.
ArcadeMania will feature two retro classic tournaments—Mortal Kombat II and WWF Superstars arcade games. Entrants will fight against pro wrestling superstars. Scheduled to appear are Chavo Guerrero, Chris Adonis/Masters, Carlito, Santino Marella, and the multi-named John Morrison who will be Johnny Kombat. Juventud Guerrera will be looking after the entrance music for all entrants. There’s a championship title—see the top photo—for whomever wins each tournament, and prizes for costumes too.
“It’s basically just like a super meet and greet, where fans get to hang out, get photo ops, get stuff signed, but they can also enter this tournament, where they can actually win the belt,” said Black, who was Justin Gabriel in a previous incarnation. “Either a fan or a pro wrestler can win the belt, and the winner will get to go to the next event.”
Modestly, Black confessed to being ranked in the top five in the Mortal Kombat League in Los Angeles.
The native of South Africa doesn’t game much today, but is a “massive fan of all the retro games, especially Mortal Kombat I, II, III, even IV, Street Fighter I and II. Those are my jams when I was young. That’s the type of audience we’re targeting, people that watched wrestling in the ’80s and ’90s. It’s kind of like a nostalgia event. Noe’s trying to make it like an interactive fan experience. Some of the VIP ticket holders will get their own entrances against wrestlers. It’s definitely a first of its kind, I haven’t been a part of anything like this, I’ve never seen anything like this before. It should be a fun, fun night.”
One of pro wrestling’s best-known gamers, Xavier Woods has already laid down the proverbial gauntlet to Black. “The other day, he’s like, ‘Are you really that good at Mortal Kombat?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, I’m pretty good. I’ve been practicing for this event. I plan on winning this belt.’ So if I do win, he’s definitely going to challenge.” Black noted that another WWE star, LA Knight, used to live with Noe Vega, and enjoyed gaming with them too.
Video games are just a part of our culture these days, noted the futurist Black (real name Phillip Paul Lloyd), with its overall value dwarfing movies and music combined.
“Whether you play retro video games, or you’re into Xbox or the Switch or the PlayStation, it doesn’t matter — everyone plays games. We can see it. If you sit on a train in LA or New York or even London, anywhere you go, people sit on their phones; 80% of the time those people are playing video games,” he said.
There’s a bigger picture out there. “We hear the stuff of the metaverse going around all the time, but I think the metaverse has been in existence for ages. You know if you’ve ever played Grand Theft Auto, that’s a metaverse, if you’ve ever played World of Warcraft, that’s a metaverse. I feel like gaming is here to stay and it’s just going to grow bigger and bigger and bigger.”
Back to that futurist thing, and his work outside of the wrestling ring.
“Everything I do is usually in technology. We sell technologies that make people’s lives easier, especially for the cannabis farmers, we sell stuff that just makes their lives easier,” he explained. “That’s just something I fell into when I came to California a few years ago.”
There’s talk of Bitcoin, blockchain technology, Ethereum, and digital commodities in general, all things that don’t necessarily fit on a wrestling website.
But there’s more.
“Right now, one of my companies is trying to figure out a way how we can integrate all that technology with professional wrestling. I’ve stumbled upon a few things that I’ve been working on that I cannot say, I cannot talk about right now, but it’s very, very interesting,” he teased. “I will say this again, I’m a futurist. We just adapt the technologies for whatever business within that way that we do business with. I’m hoping to bridge that gap between technology and sports entertainment.”
But, at his core, Darewolf is still a pro wrestler.
He admitted that he is “very selective” when choosing his wrestling bookings. “If it looks fun to me, if there’s a lot of people I know on the card that I can hang out with, or it’s just a match that I can sink my teeth into,” then that is a booking he’ll take. “I love first-time matches, wrestling against guys that I’ve never worked before. I see wrestling as an art form, so I express myself.”
Tickets for ArcadeMania are on sale now. Visit www.arcademania.club or on Instagram @arcademania23 for ticket information and more details.