TJP goes over a number of topics with Fightful.
T.J. Perkins has gone by several names throughout his two decades in the world of professional wrestling. Perkins began training at the age of 13 and those early training sessions have led him to becoming the first WWE Cruiserweight Champion of the modern-era, TNA X Division Champion, an American Young Lions Cup tournament winner and sharing the ring with the likes of Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Tyson Kidd, Zack Sabre Jr., Kyle O'Reilly and many more names in the wrestling business that have gone on to have successful careers.
In 2016, TJP entered the WWE Cruiserweight Classic and won the tournament and that milestone led to him signing with WWE. TJP would remain with WWE for three years until it was announced by the sports-entertainment company in February of this year that Perkins had been released from his contract. Since departing from the company, Perkins has returned to the independent scene and wrestled for a number of promotions and has had the opportunity to mix it up with fresh faces who he had not had the chance to wrestle before. Fightful had the chance to speak with TJP and he told us that he was excited about being back on the independents because of the freedom.
"Man, it’s weird. I haven’t had this type of freedom in like ten years because… I did a few seasons for Lucha Libre USA on MTV and straight from there, hopped to Ring Of Honor for a couple of years then to TNA for three or four years then obviously WWE the last three years. The independents, it was never this way before. Guys are so awesome now. There’s a lot more big shows to do. I don’t know if I want to give this freedom up.” He expressed.
There have been several former WWE talents that have spoken out at length bout their positive and negative experiences working with WWE creative this year. The latest to do so at a attention-grabbing level was the current IWGP U.S. Heavyweight Champion Jon Moxley. TJP shared some of his experiences working and collaborating with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon and NXT founder and senior producer Triple H. Perkins said that working with Triple H and Vince was always productive but the disconnect came when working with those underneath Triple H and McMahon. He said there were times when he felt handcuffed and added that there are points where wrestling in WWE feels like there's no soul mixed in with the art.
“I always had wonderful experiences with upper administration." He said. "Working directly with Vince and Hunter, that was always pleasant for me but the lower management, like the micromanagement from the producers and creative and the writers and things like that, that was really the ultimate source of a lot of guys’ unhappiness, at least for me. It’s frustrating, and guys in that position, they play favorites so then a lot of guys get held back. Not that the brass ring doesn’t exist and it’s not that it doesn’t exist in a fair way to Vince and Hunter, but people that micromanage beneath them, they arrange us in different starting lines so for some guys, it’s impossible to get ahead because you’re constantly handcuffed, and one part I love about the freedom I have now is that, I don’t have somebody telling me that I can’t say this and kind of wresting my match for me through a headset. Sometimes wrestling there feels like it has no soul.” He said.
One of the ideas that TJP pitched to get himself back in the mix of WWE was a move back to NXT. He lobbied and threw other ideas out to the powers that be. Perkins revealed that there was a plan to move him from 205 Live to Monday Night RAW and that was a solid plan for the later portion of 2018 heading into 2019 but a proper story could not be pieced together for that transition.
“Oh brother, you’re preaching to the converted." TJP said when asked about a move to NXT. "I wrote stories for me and everybody on the roster. I pitched for me to -- not even just the big stuff and obviously you pitch the big stuff but, I wanted to wrestle Jinder [Mahal], I wanted to wrestle Elias, I wanted to wrestle everybody. Uhaa or Apollo Crews as most people know him and it just came down to creatively -- they have trouble finding a rhythm and they just simply have too many guys in the [company], so, even when good pitches would come up, it’s like, ‘We don’t know where to fit this. We’re gonna move you to RAW’. Like, for most of the year, the plan was to get me on RAW, and we literally just couldn’t find a story to tell, and so yeah, it’s frustrating. I tried to go to NXT. I’ll wrestle anywhere man.” He said.
One of the promotions that TJP has had the chance to compete for since departing from WWE is AAW. AAW was founded in 2004 by Danny Daniels who has spoken to Fightful on the record in the past. AAW's 'Destination Milwaukee' show is coming up on July 12th and at the promotion's 'Take No Prisoners' show back in May, TJP took on Myron Reed. Perkins praised Myron's in-ring ability and described what he felt wrestling for AAW.
— AAW Wrestling (@AAWPro) May 12, 2019
“So, it’s funny because AAW is one of the places that did exist before I was off the indies like way back in the day, and since then, its become this huge thing and it’s really popular and I was really looking forward to that date when it came up on my calendar -- it was one of the first ones I had so I was looking forward to that. I had not met Myron [Reed] before but I had heard a lot about his work and saw a little bit of his stuff and he’s really good, and being in there, he proved me right about that because he’s got composure and good temperament, makes good decisions, he’s a really good performer and it was a great atmosphere to be in." Perkins said. "That’s a really diehard fan base to go [to] so it can be -- for a performer, only the strong survive type of thing but it was a pleasant surprise to go there and have a great match with a great young guy and to welcomed back to freedom.”
Perkins is well versed in various styles of wrestling. He has experience working the Lucha Libre style, Catch wrestling, Pankration and has had a taste of the Strong Style form of wrestling as well. Fightful asked Perkins about some of his favorite styles of wrestling and he shared that Catch Wrestling is where he feels home but the Lucha Libre style is close to his heart.
"You know, Catch Wrestling is really where my heart is. It’s what I most naturally excelled at, always has been. I got my start in Lucha Libre, so Mexican wrestling is in my soul.” He laughed. “But a lot of that is rooted in technical wrestling and for me, I see technical wrestling the way that James Harden could handle a basketball and a step back. It’s that sort of thing so I feel that’s my strength as far as what I bring stylistically. I love to keep it on the mat because I think I have a way of dressing it up in a different package than more traditional Catch wrestlers like Jon Gresham or like a Zack Sabre or Drew Gulak. Those guys are fantastic, they’re the best in the world but I think it just sets me apart because you don’t see technical wrestlers that talk or dress or act like me. I think that’s what makes what I do a little bit special.” Perkins explained.
The audio from TJP's interview is up on the Fightful Pro Wrestling YouTube channel and to check out more exclusives from Fightful, check out our "exclusives" section.