Making his debut in 2005, Black started out with Scott County Wrestling (SCW), the federation in which he would hone his skills under the name Gixx. He also began wrestling for Ian Rotten’s IWA Mid-South and later entered the Ted Petty Invitational tournament, defeating Sal Thomaselli before being eliminated by Matt Sydal in the quarter-finals in Hammond, Indiana on September 23, 2005. He also won the SCW Heavyweight Championship, and spray-painted the championship belt black to mark “The Black Era” in SCW. He later won the IWA Mid-South Light Heavyweight Championship as well.
He soon joined NWA Midwest winning the promotion’s tag team championship with Marek Brave. The two successfully defended the championship against Ryan Boz and Danny Daniels, Brett Wayne and Hype Gotti, and Jayson Reign and Marco Cordova several times in early 2006. He also faced Eric Priest and A.J. Styles in singles matches.
He briefly appeared in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling and teamed with Jeff Luxon in a loss to The Latin American Xchange (Homicide and Hernandez) on Impact in October 2006.
Independent promotions (2007–2010)
On May 25, 2007, while in a match with the Full Impact Pro (FIP) Tag Team Champions The Briscoes in Melbourne, Florida, Black’s tag team partner Marek Brave suffered a back injury that sidelined him for several weeks. During this time Black pursued a singles career, competing in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) where he defeated Joey Ryan on June 10 and former mentor Danny Daniels at the supercard Point of No Return ’07 on June 16.
At PWG’s Life During Wartime on July 6, 2008, Black teamed with Jacobs to win the PWG World Tag Team Championship by defeating Roderick Strong and El Generico, who was a replacement for Jack Evans. At FIP’s event on December 20, 2008 Black defeated Go Shiozaki to win the FIP World Heavyweight Championship. At FIP’s event on May 2, 2009, Davey Richards was awarded the FIP World Heavyweight Championship by forfeit when Black was unable to compete.
Ring of Honor
Age of the Fall (2007–2009)
At the Ring of Honor (ROH) pay-per-view taping of Man Up in September 2007, Black made his debut, alongside Jimmy Jacobs and Necro Butcher, with the three attacking the Briscoe Brothers, hanging Jay Briscoe from the rigging that had been used during the ladder match earlier that night. Jacobs announced that the three had formed a stable called The Age of the Fall. The angle was so controversial that ROH decided to remove the footage from the pay-per-view that was being taped at the event. However, the footage was also heavily requested by ROH fans, so it was shown on the ROH Videowire for the week of September 15. Later on in the event Black faced Jack Evans in a dark match, which ended when Jacobs and Necro Butcher interfered leading The Irish Airborne to help Evans. A six-man tag team match between The Age of the Fall and Jack Evans and the Irish Airborne ended in a no contest when Necro Butcher attacked the referee.
Teaming with Jimmy Jacobs and Necro Butcher against The Vulture Squad (Jack Evans and Ruckus) in several handicap matches during early October, he teamed with The Age of the Fall to against Jack Evans, Ruckus and Jigsaw in a 6-man tag team match the following month at Glory by Honor VI Night 1 on November 1. The following night, Black defeated Alex “Sugarfoot” Payne, but was attacked by The Briscoes following the match. He appeared with The Age of the Fall in their match against The Briscoes during the main event. At Final Battle 2007, Black and Jacobs defeated the Briscoes to win the ROH World Tag Team Championship. They lost the titles one month later on January 26 to the No Remorse Corps (Davey Richards and Rocky Romero) when competing in an Ultimate Endurance match also involving The Hangmen 3 (Brent Albright and BJ Whitmer), and the team of Austin Aries and Bryan Danielson.
At Take No Prisoners, ROH’s sixth pay-per-view, Black challenged Nigel McGuinness for the ROH World Championship in a losing effort. At Up For Grabs, Black and Jacobs won an eight-team tournament to win the ROH World Tag Team Championship for a second time. The two lost the championship at Driven to the team of Kevin Steen and El Generico. Black had a second chance at the ROH World Championship at Death Before Dishonor VI in New York City, when he faced McGuinness, Danielson and Claudio Castagnoli in a three-way match, but McGuinness retained. At Final Battle 2008, Black lost a number one contenders match to Austin Aries. Following the match, Jacobs turned on Black, and Black was then attacked by Aries. At Full Circle, Black was given a non-title match against the ROH World Champion Nigel McGuinness on January 16, and defeated McGuinness. The following night, number one contender Aries refused to face McGuinness, so Black faced McGuinness instead, but was unsuccessful as the match ended in a time limit draw. On June 26 at Violent Tendencies, Black defeated Jimmy Jacobs in a steel cage match to end their feud.
Singles star (2009–2010)
In September 2009, Black had surgery on a bulging disc in his neck. On October 10 Black defeated Kenny King in a first round match and then Claudio Castagnoli, Colt Cabana, Delirious, Chris Hero and Roderick Strong in the finals to win the Survival of the Fittest tournament; this earned him a match for the ROH World Championship. On December 19 at Final Battle 2009, ROH’s first live pay-per-view, Black wrestled ROH World Champion Austin Aries to a 60 minute time limit draw. Because of this draw, ROH commissioner Jim Cornette booked the two in a rematch between February 13, 2010 for the company’s Eighth Anniversary Show. The booking saw Cornette set up a judging panel with himself on and one person picked by each competitor, in order for there to be a decisive winner in case of another draw. Aries picked Kenny King while Black picked Roderick Strong, whom he guaranteed a title shot should he win. At the event, Black pinned Aries to win the ROH World Championship.
On April 3, Black retained the title in a three-way elimination match against Austin Aries and Roderick Strong at The Big Bang! pay-per-view, thereby depriving Strong of his championship chance in a singles match. He also retained at the following pay-per-view, Death Before Dishonor VIII, on June 19, in a match against Davey Richards. Black turned heel at the August 20 tapings of Ring of Honor Wrestling, after news broke that he had signed a developmental contract with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). His new heel character involved him criticizing the fans who were labeling him a sell-out for signing with WWE, a feeling Lopez states was based on true feelings. He also threatened to take the ROH World Championship with him to WWE, and refused to put the championship at stake in a match with Davey Richards on August 28 which he then lost by submission. On September 11 at Glory By Honor IX Black lost the ROH World Championship to Roderick Strong in a No Disqualification match with Terry Funk as a guest enforcer. This would mark his final appearance for the company.