After working for WWE, Impact and New Japan in the past, TJ Perkins is a free agent again and is enjoying his first extended run on the indies in quite some time. While some may see this as a step down, Perkins does not and he spoke to Wrestling Inc. on our WINCLY podcast to declare his goals after leaving WWE earlier this year.
"It's funny. I'm learning how to be a wrestler all over again [laughs] because I had a little bit of time a few years ago before I started with WWE, but other than that it's been 11 years since I wasn't under contract somewhere," revealed Perkins before rattling off all of the companies he worked for such as the aforementioned as well as Lucha Libre USA and ROH.
"I've been doing this 21 years and I've never seen the independents look so bright and broad-reaching and have such cool stuff to do now. So, it's exciting."
While most see WWE as the end goal in wrestling, Perkins revealed that he's actually doing better financially working on the indies than he did while with WWE.
"I'm not really a big fan of "me" so it's hard to place a value on myself a lot of times. But I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of stuff there is to do. In half a year alone, I'm probably gonna more than double what I would have otherwise made if I would have stayed [in WWE]," said Perkins.
He then talked about how the freelance wrestlers know what's possible now and know how to be better business people and build their brands.
"The freelance side of wrestling now is becoming standardized so people know what they can do and start checking off all the boxes…I'm looking forward to the rest of the year more so than maybe any year I've ever had over the last 21 years," stated Perkins.
With there being so much for wrestlers to earn on the indies, that could affect the morale of those in WWE who are seeking other opportunities. But Perkins says you need to have a certain work ethic in order to maximize your earnings.
"Everybody is different because when you think about it on paper, it seems like an obvious point of contention," said Perkins. "But it's really a question of peace of mind… Not everybody wants to, I guess, be like The Rock where you're always on your phone, working on something or meeting somebody. You're your own boss so the skies the limit, but it's a lot of work. So, if you're not motivated and that doesn't excite you, then for some people that's a burden."
He then talked about becoming resigned to the glass ceiling if you are making a lot of money and you sort of shift into autopilot mode.
"I've grown to enjoy being busy because I have so many projects I'm working on and a lot of them aren't wrestling-related and is stuff I wasn't gonna be able to do if I had stayed in WWE. For me, it's really exciting because I have that motivation," stated Perkins.
The one major promotion Perkins hasn't worked for is the promotion that hasn't had its first official event yet - AEW. Perkins discussed their launch and the connections he has in the company.
"I've known Nick and Matt for so long," Perkins revealed as he and The Young Bucks both grew up in Los Angeles. "We came from the same area and I remember when they were running their own show in their own town. I think I was even their champion at that time. So Nick and Matt, everyone loves reunions so we should do a nostalgia thing!"
Perkins said that The Young Bucks have always been administrators and geared in the way they are working and AEW's rise is akin to the wrestling scene in the 1990s.
"It's like wrestling getting WCW back. It's a banner that a lot of people want to be a part of and they're gonna do a lot of good stuff. It's gonna be really exciting. I just think people need to be patient about the timelines because it's a big endeavor. It's gonna be like a year before you get to see what their next level is gonna be," said Perkins.
As for if he's talked to The Bucks or AEW about working together, Perkins admitted that he has many other projects on the horizon, but has spoken with them.
"I've talked to them a little bit – not necessarily coming in in that fashion," said Perkins. "But maybe that will be something down the road. But I wouldn't be able to land anywhere for a while because I have 50-60 appearances between May and October. Even if anybody wanted me to wrestle somewhere in that capacity, I don't have the time. We'll see maybe in 6-8 months what happens.
"The next six months or so, I kinda have my own tour set up. So I'm gonna enjoy my freedom a little bit and go some places that I wanted to go and do the things I wanted to do. We'll see how it goes."
"They've got a hell of a group and a lot of the guys are my friends too. I believe they just signed Willie Mack and he's one of my best friends, just in life," stated Perkins. "Everybody's got a really good crew now. ROH's got a really great crew. I think the MLW's got a really great crew. AAA's got a lot of cool stuff going on right now especially with their new TV deal. New Japan – a lot of people were talking about them losing people with turnover, but everybody they've got on board is amazing.
"I've kind of seen a little bit of everybody and talked to everybody at one point. We'll see where that takes me. But preferably, as long as I can maintain a little bit of freedom, I'm just looking forward to exploring for the first time in years."
TJ's full interview with Wrestling Inc was included in a recent episode of our WINCLY podcast. It can be heard via the embedded audio player at the bottom of this post. In it TJ discusses making more money on the indies that with WWE, why it didn't work out for him at WWE, frustrated Superstars taking to social media, working with Vince McMahon, the launch of AEW, his future plans and more.