TJ Perkins was WWE's first ever Cruiserweight Champion, as the title does not share the lineage of the previous WWE Cruiserweight Championship that was inherited from WCW, but his tenure with the company came to an end earlier this year. Perkins opened up about his time at WWE and working with Vince McMahon when he spoke to Wrestling Inc. on our WINCLY podcast.
"For me, it was always a lot of fun and was fulfilling," Perkins said of working with McMahon. "He really is like a father figure to everybody and he's really more of a normal dude. I can't stress it enough how normal of a guy he is. I think people are more just scared of his door than anything else. He's soft spoken and listens really well and cares about your ideas."
Perkins said McMahon would often give feedback but never yelled at him like he'd heard stories about.
"He was always amazing to work with as far as that goes. And he's really smart as I learned a lot being able to work with him. When I would have stuff he would like or didn't like, I would learn something new about why that was the case. It made me a better way person in this game by being able to have that interaction," revealed Perkins.
Despite being the inaugural Cruiserweight Champion, expectations for Perkins in WWE were never met and he explained why.
"I think it's really just a question of volume as they have so many items in the cupboard. If you have so many players on the roster, there's only so many positions and so many games to play…. I've never believed in faulting someone in that position because it's not my team, money or investments. What they want to go with is what they want to go with," said Perkins.
"The plan was for a while to figure something out for me. They just didn't know what position they needed me to play… A lot of the guys, as you can see, they don't get to be seen and I was just one of them."
Perkins never aired his grievances publicly like many others have and he talked about the thought process of some performers complaining on social media.
"The morale wasn't low at all. Everyone was happy, but everyone has their own things. Every once in a while you'd see somebody pop off, but I don't see a lot of it because I tend to stay away from social media in that way. I try not to see or read anything wrestling-related as I'm thinking about basketball or something if I'm on Twitter," stated Perkins.
"If I'd catch something like that, a lot of times it would surprise me because I'd say wait, I just saw him 12 hours ago at SmackDown and he was happy."
Perkins said talent can vent at weird times like 5 am on a flight and then they realize it wasn't that serious and probably shouldn't have said what they did.
Lio Rush recently made some comments on social media about others wanting to tear him down. Rush also surprised many by stating that he's broke even on a WWE Superstar salary.
"I couldn't imagine being that tight," admitted Perkins. "But again, everybody's different. I couldn't really speak as far as person-to-person. For me it was not that serious. I was making relatively the same money for TNA and other times before. But it was good and I bought a house and was comfortable. I don't know about people who are super-tight and might be other details of their life that are none of our business. In my case, it wasn't that serious."
Perkins also brought up the fact that for lots of young talent, this is really their first real job and first time they are making real money.
"Ali for example – this is his first wrestling job. He's never been in this environment before, so that could be a shock to your system on how to handle it. You're getting a lot, but there are a lot of pitfalls that maybe you're not used to," said Perkins.
"You pay for a lot, but you make a lot. In my case, I did get a lot of shirts so I was making good bonuses. As long as you're able to work a good volume, then you're gonna be making a lot. Even if you're sitting, the downsides are still good. Any time you're making six figures, it's gonna be good."
Perkins was then asked about John Oliver's recent comments on hair WWE classifies its performers and he gave his two cents on the matter.
"The labels kind of skew people's perception of it. If you take away labels, you have to look at it as a business," said Perkins. "Is that the ecosystem that all of this exists in? Then maybe that's the case. Would it be better if we could be taken care of better or considered in a different way? Sure, of course. But all I know is that I've existed in much worse environments and did okay. I've done a lot worse for a lot less. In some cases, I've been taken care of better and it wasn't exactly paradise."
TJ's full interview with Wrestling Inc was included in a recent episode of our WINCLY podcast that 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, the launch of AEW, his future plans and more.