wrestling / News

TJ Perkins Thinks AEW Is Giving Fans WCW in Reverse, Denies That He’s Signed to Impact Wrestling, Reflects on His Biggest WWE Accomplishments

June 15, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
TJ Perkins

Wrestling Epicenter recently interviewed former WWE Superstar and Cruiserweight champion TJ Perkins, where he spoke about AEW, WWE, working with Impact Wrestling this month, and more. Below are some highlights and some audio from the podcast:

TJ Perkins on how much more profitable indy wrestling is now: “For one, and it is not just outside WWE because for the last 10 years or so, I’ve been locked up one place or another. Like, I spent a few seasons at Lucha Libre USA which was a MTV Lucha Libre show – For a few seasons, I was there. From there, I moved to Ring of Honor for a couple years. Then to TNA (Impact Wrestling) for the next 3 or 4, then WWE. So, it is not since about 2010 that I have wrestled outside of a major company. Wrestling, at that time, was almost like the dark ages compared to now! (laughs) The social connectivity was so different because of the way distribution is with on-demand and all kinds of streaming services. Now, there’s all of that, but there’s a lot more tent pole like promotions I’ve noticed. Places like a SMASH Wrestling, DEFY, Prestige, PWG… There didn’t used to be anything like that even during the original indy boom back in 2004 or so. When I started back in 1998, there was none of this stuff! There was no Google, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook… Most people didnt even have cell phones. DVDs weren’t even being produced for wrestling. Maybe it was on VHS if they even taped it! So, it is so different from what I was brought into and from what I last remember. But, it is a breath of fresh air! People are full-on entrepreneurs now and fully in control of their brand. It is great!”

His thoughts on AEW and the start of a new wrestling brand: “I thought it was great, I thought it was amazing! I’m really excited for everybody involved and all for different reasons. Nick and Matt (Jackson, The Young Bucks) I’ve known for a long time. We come from the same place. I was a part of, and you probably have seen them reference it, back when they were doing their High Desert backyard/indy promotion that they had going when they were young. I was one of their guys! So, I’ve seen them go from that to this! I’m incredibly happy for them and proud. And, of course, Cody (Rhodes), it is kind of a birth right to be able to work in this capacity as more than just a performer and work administratively and offer that to the wrestling world. And, the performers! Some of them have been around a long time and finally are getting the platform they deserve and then there are some who are brand new and this is their first shot and they’re getting it pretty early and that is pretty exciting because I know what that was like! (laughs) It is weird to say that I was young once. But, at this point, it is true! I was young once! I remember being 17, 18 years old and getting recruited by New Japan and doing the Dome at an early age, working Arena Mexico at an early age, headlining CMLL shows at an early age, getting the opportunity to do Impact pay-per-views and live TV at like 18, 19 years old. Now, you’ve got a lot of these young kids and this is their first shot, I’ve been in their shoes and that is really incredible to see!”

Perkins on AEW comparisons to WCW: “I do think they’ve given us WCW back but in reverse. (laughs) In this case, they (AEW) are like the WWF where they have this exciting product where you want to see their talent and how they’re going to develop. It is exciting – And partially unknown and that is part of what makes it exciting! And WWE, they’re sort of like WCW in that they have the deep pockets and the huge roster but they’re the old guard in this case. But, yeah, they (AEW) really did give us that dynamic back! (laughs)”

On what being Cruiserweight champion and winning the Cruiserweight classic means to him: “I’ve always thought it would mean more the further away you get from it. A lot of things are going to feel that way now because this generation is big now on social narratives. The thing is, those things fade – 3 or 4 years go by, those things fade and then 5 or 10 years go by and those things are non existent. Then, you only have the history of what happened and people are able to see in the grand scheme what it meant. So, I’ve always felt it would mean more the further we got from it. At the time, I went back to my room, ordered a pizza, and played some video games and just laid the title on the bed. But now, it means more because I see what it did. It kind of opened the door for a huge demographic within our industry to succeed where previously there had been no landmarks to say, “Hey, you can!” Because, for like 10 years, the door was closed for guys like us.”

TJ Perkins on winning the WWE Cruiserweight title: “I knew I was going to win because they asked me who I wanted to wrestle in the finals after round 1. (laughs) I knew everyone was looking at Zack and Kota (Ibushi) and they were in separate brackets. Something I came to find out about WWE is they do stuff like that on purpose because they know a certain subculture of fans is going to fantasy book that. So, they plant that seed because then they know they don’t have to do any more work because that group is already going to be hooked on it. So, they asked me who I wanted and they gave me a choice between Zack (Sabre Jr) and Metalik and I actually chose Zack. I’m good friends with Metalik, I’m good friends with Zack. But, I really wanted Zack. In the end, I think they felt that maybe Zack and I were a little too similar – Not too similar but with Metalik, maybe they’d get a more diverse match and maybe a more diverse demographic as well. So, I knew right from the beginning that I was going to go to the final at least on my side of the bracket anyway.”

TJ Perkins on cruiserweight wrestlers now becoming heavyweight champions: “The real reason to that is the world is getting greener. That’s just the way it is. People are getting closer to their natural… (laughs) You know, like, that is just not the way the world was for the longest time. Technically speaking, almost everyone is obese at least by definition because we’re not the healthiest version of ourselves or as we could be as God intended. So, I think the world being greener contributed to it – People are leaner now and operating differently. Conversely, in the carnival days, what made wrestling different in an archaic system where guys weren’t as talented and the system wasn’t as much of a well oiled machine as far as having an upbringing in wrestling, people wanted to see the unattainable, the literally larger than life. But, now that there are a lot more elements to it, the necessity for guys like that is a lot lower.”

TJ Perkins on his biggest accomplishments in WWE: “Winning the championship was cool. But, there is other stuff that special to me maybe for more personal reasons. Shawn Michaels had just started working for WWE in a backstage role right around the time I started. It might have been the first thing he did but he produced the match that I had with Rich Swann in the tornament. That was kind of cool that the first thing he did was to have me and for me, he’s a huge hero. So, to work with him in that capacity… And then, from there, I sort of met with him every week and he became a mentor to me in real life. That far outweighs winning a title, having that experience. On a similar note, it was cool to finally do a show at the Staples Center – To be in the house that Kobe (Bryant) built and as an LA boy, it was like,”Ok, this is awesome!” Cedric helped me break the hometown curse, we won a match one day at the Staples Center. And then, there was another night and this might be my favorite one. Neville and I, we clsoed a show at the Pond. I remember sitting in the crowd at the Pond to see WrestleMania 12 and seeing Shawn (Michaels) and Bret (Hart) in the (Iron Man) title match. That was a huge moment for me. And, when I first started wrestling, I wrestled at Swap Meets down the street from the Pond in Anaheim. I was riding home from a show with my friend Dave and we went by the Pond and I said, “One day, we’ll wrestle at the Pond for sure. Trust me.” Dave ended getting out of wrestling a few years later. But, eventually, I had that match in the Pond. I had Dave come out. We hung out. I told him, “We finally made it!” (laughs)”

TJ Perkins on the negative reaction Enzo received in ROH: “Yes and no. He knows what he’s doing, for one. And, I know people don’t want to believe this but the reality is, this is people trying to control their own social narrative when they say “There’s a difference between good hate and bad hate.” (laughs) The reality is there really isn’t. Tension is a necessary product in entertainment. You have to have tension. I mean, I was all right with him. I get it, though. I have patience for that sort of thing. We don’t hang out or anything. But, he gets it. And, he knows how to accentuate that all the time in order to create that tension. So, it doesn’t surprise me. But, I still think it is a useful tool to have that tension. It just is all in how you use it.”

TJ Perkins on his experience backstage at Impact Wrestling TV tapings last week: “Everything was positive in that it is and it isn’t (the same place he left a few years ago). The roster is still a hell of a roster. I might say this might be the best roster that they have ever had in terms of the amount of talent and the talent that they have. There is so much diversity but there is so much unity. There used to be so many tiers of the type of guy in the locker room. Now, everybody, basically, is all in one room! Everyone is all togethr and there is no separation. So, as much as you have all this talent from all over and they’re all so talented, there is no separation there. That was (Impact) a company I was kind of like the R2D2 of in seeing the backstage of it through the years. I was there in the early days, the middle days, the later days. I’ve seen all the transitions and this is by far the most talented locker room they’ve ever had but they’re all together. That is very refreshing. And, the administration is very approachable, very flexible, and very encouraging. That is different than it used to be and a pleasant surprise. It was really cool to see it.”

TJ Perkins denying his Wikipedia saying he’s signed to Impact Wrestling: “No, that is not the case. There is a connection on this flight but the plane hasn’t landed yet is the best way to put it. I think there are more stops in the future but there is no contracts right now. It is a polace I’d like to keep on the horizon. On the other side as well, I know that they’re interested in having me back. But, my schedule is so packed! That is the thing, I’m enjoying my freedom. So, wherever I do land, it has to come with a certain amount of flexibility for me. I don’t know that I really want to give this freedom up maybe ever again. I don’t know.”

TJ Perkins on the Suicide/Manik persona: “Funny story. I had come in to do a World X Cup in 2007, 2008… Somewhere around there and they had come up with this concept. Frankie (Kazarian), friend of mine from Southern California, was told the concept and was kind of bummed out. He was at a stage, especially then, where he was in his prime and wanted to be himself and spread his wings. He had just come off a couple of angles in TNA where he wasn’t able to do that and now they wanted to put him in this thing all together. It was a cool concept but maybe not for him. He was bummed out. I remember joking, sitting in the locker room with Christopher Daniels and Kazarian and him (Daniels) saying, “They should just have TJ do it. He’s already in a mask! They want to have him full time but they don’t know what to do with him.” I was like, “Yeah, they should give it to me.” I ended up not coming back to TNA for a while. It is weird. I came back 3 or 4 years later and that is exactly what happened! I think it was kind of dead in the water by that time just because of the momentum that it had. But, the way that they had invisioned the character was the way that I played it.”

Perkins on working with Hogan on camera in TNA: “It was amazing. He’s Babe Ruth! It is funny to say this and I don’t remember who told me this but there are like 3 people that could be considered the most recognizable people on Earth to where everyone knows who they are. He’s one of them!”