Former WWE Cruiserweight Champion TJ Perkins (TJP) did an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) chat with fans on Reddit earlier this week. You can read the full transcript at this link.
TJP, who left WWE in February of this year, discussed his departure, behind-the-scenes notes on WWE matches, the WWE locker room vs. the New Japan Pro Wrestling locker room, a ridiculous rumor on Vince McMahon and his name change, tattoo advice from Randy Orton, the rumored Cruiserweight Tag Team Titles in WWE, and lots more, plus he responded to some fan criticism. He also revealed that he previously had talks with AEW and would be interested in going there.
Below are highlights from the AMA:
How micro-managed are matches in WWE? Are you allowed to free range with your opponents in-between major spots/the finish or is everything marked to the tee by producers?
TJP: Early in the day your producer sits down with you and a sheet of paper and insists you tell them every single move you will do and what part of the ring you will do it in. I’ve asked constantly, especially as a 20 year guy from an older generation with a lot of experience at every level, why that’s necessary and why do they ask us to be able to “feel it out there” or etc when they don’t want that at all. They never have a real answer for that. Personally I guess I don’t care because I was taught to make it as I go in there. I prefer that. Like a QB running the no huddle offense, or a point guard in basketball. But I’m fine with tons of details too. But you get sent thru the curtain and the first thing that happens is the ramp camera man meets you at the top. He tells you to stop or go…so your entrance isn’t necessarily up to you either. Once you get to the ring the referee relays from the back how to finish your entrance and where to stand. And as I do my match, at least with the producer we had for 205(not Hunter) I’m being told by the ref, “they’re saying slam him and grab a headlock….they’re saying get on top of him and lay in some punches….they’re saying send him into the turnbuckle and dan at the crowd…” and then afterward it’s the same thing as your entrance just in reverse. Stay in the ring, or hurry up and exit, stop at the top of the ramp etc
Your match just isn’t your match there for many guys. Some guys they play favorites with and will sit down more creatively and have more fun. Others your basically an ant collecting crumbs with another ant in a line full of ants.
Holy f–k wow this is sad, I get that the producers and wrestlers should be on the same page and know what’s going to happen for the most part but damn this is so restricting and limiting. How can the art, creative flair and joy of wrestling be respected and upheld this way? Even down to how you act doing your entrance. No wonder so many matches and wrestlers feel so similar in WWE when it’s overproduced in this manner
TJP: There were some I loved working with. Malenko was the best, D-Von Dudley and Rotunda as well. They never asked me for any details and I think they knew I would rather go in the ring with very little details anyway. The best art is created that way. It should be reactionary with just a few parameters in place. But there’s definitely a lot of producers/agents that seemed to just treat you the way they were treated and if they had to deal with unfair creative hurdles they force you to deal with it as well.
What do you think 205Live is/was lacking? Why has the show gone unchanged?
TJP: There’s no consequence to it. That’s why it’s not must see tv. You can’t do it on content alone. Great wrestling doesn’t keep anyone’s attention, there needs to be a fear of loss of you miss it. CWC worked because every week someone got sent home. You had to keep up with it, there were consequences, and potential for what it would look like integrated into RAW/SD. Then 205 started and there was no integration nor consequences to our matches. That’s also why I think viewership continued to get worse during the Neville period. We all loved Neville because he’s incredible. But building a brand new group of guys around one person doesn’t work because it sets the bar that we are all losers except for him. And great matches won’t overcome that. In the beginning we had 4-5 of us that could all beat each other. Myself, Brian, Swann, all seemed equal footing and then behind us there was a tier of Cedric, Nese, Jack etc that ppl wanted to see move up and challenge. At best that made us interesting if you were into the concept. But being separate from the WWE main characters tells the audience that we aren’t as good as them, and once they started focusing the division around one guy at a time, Neville, Enzo, etc it became harder to keep ppls attention because there was little consequence to the results. I pitched a tag team title tournament once to play out weekly so we could spark investment. But nothing changes on that show because the company doesn’t care about it. That’s just the truth of it, it’s their investment and they don’t care. That’s their call.
did you always know you were winning the  cruiserweight classic and how was that experience?
TJP: I knew after round 1. I was asked who I wanted in the finals, Metalik or Zack. So I knew from at least that point I was winning my bracket. I chose zack but they opted for metalik because of the broader range of styles the match would produce. I usually never ask about winning or plans, I’d rather just do my job and you can tell me what I need to do when it’s decided. I pitch ideas occasionally and am always proactive but I rarely need to know my own destiny. I’m just not into that sort of thing. But in this case I knew something was up because from day one they treated me differently.
Usually when you go to WWE as a young wrestler you can’t do anything right. You walk on egg shells. And for me this time around it was totally opposite. I was late for a pre-tourney meeting once and expected to get yelled at, they instead caught me up on everything and apologized to me for all the info. After every match Regal and Hunter and Shawn all waited behind the curtain to encourage or advise me. It was like the twilight zone. I always seemed to have twice the media appointments as anyone else on my schedule. So I kinda knew before it started.
I can’t remember for sure but I remember reading something afterwards that they suprised you both in the ring with the Cruiserweight championship being on the line, was there any truth to that?
TJP: That’s exactly what happened actually.
Did you know ahead of time then that you were going to be used on TV as CWC winner then. Or was that a surprise too?
TJP: They told us before the finale that we would be getting our own division on raw and maybe a show down the line. So I kinda knew. But I knew I was going to to win after the first round because they asked me who I wanted to wrestle in the finals zack or metalik. And they really treated me abnormally nice throughout the entire tournament.
you went from no visible tattoos to pretty covered in a short period of time. What made you decide to change your appearance so dramatically? How did that go over with the high ups? Cool to see someone comfortable just being themselves. Respect
TJP: No problem! Umm well it wasn’t about changing my appearance necessarily. I didn’t do this because I think it looks cool. Tbh I have no thoughts on how it looks to anyone else. I actually wanted to start like 10 years ago when I was in my early 20’s. All my tattoos have a specific meaning to them, my right arm/chest is landmarks of my life and career and the left arm/chest is personal inspirations. But way back in Lucha Libre USA in 2010 they were making a mainstream product with toys etc for mtv and asked me to not change my appearance. Then ROH was the same and starting to become more mainstream, then TNA was the same and after taking the sleeves off the Suicide costume they didn’t want any crazy changes. So finally in WWE it was like 10 years went by and I finally asked if I could be a grown man and control my own life and they said sure. So I started getting them during my last year there, you can tell on tv because I would wear a sleeve over fresh ones while they healed.
Orton gave me good advice and said if I ever have time off for injury or otherwise to just get as much ink done as you can so you’re not worried about them healing on the job. So that’s why I did it so much so fast, and also because I knew what I wanted after 10 years of waiting. Everyone was fine with it. Hayes would always ask which ones were new and check them out etc. during this time I met with Vince almost weekly to pitch stuff back and forth so he would see them and ask which was new and what certain ones meant etc.
I think fans read too much into it and write their own history on it from the outside because you guys wouldn’t always see me on tv every week. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t there…so it’s not like I magically showed up out of nowhere with tattoos. I was there every week and the office would see each new piece whenever I got one. No one was shocked.
One of the biggest rumours surrounding you during your time in WWE was Vince not liking the restaurant Perkins, and therefore dropping your last name in favour of TJP. Was there any truth to this? If not did they tell you why? How did they approach you about the name change?
TJP: Hahaha not true at all. They didn’t approach me, I approached them. One day in Boston I went to Vince’s office before raw and asked for 2 things. To use TJP as a nickname(it was previously a nickname fans gave me on the Indys back in 2010) and also me and Summer Rae pitched a wrestler/valet combo like Shawn/Sherri. Since I was turning into a bad guy. Vince said sure no problem to the nickname, but the valet thing never stuck. Summer and I tried pitching it a few times but it didn’t take.
Why did you end up dabbing on television?
TJP: Simple answer is I saw Westbrook do it before a game when he had his pregame dances, he’s my favorite player so I just did it once. Then as WWE does, they wanted to spam the hell out of it because I was getting such big reactions doing it certain ways. I never knew it was a trend, I don’t really keep up on such things. I didn’t even know what it was called at the time. I continued because for better or worse it became synonymous with me, like my crotch chop or too sweet or diamond cutter sign….I could use it to embarrass myself when I play a bad guy. And it really makes a kids whole world when they can pose with you for a picture. Otherwise, I’m not much into fads or anything. I just want to entertain ppl.
TJ, would you be open to perform on AEW if the opportunity arises? If so, who would you want to wrestle the most there?
TJP: Yes absolutely. I’ve talked to them a little bit but it was way before tv started. They have the crew they want, they’ve had it in place for awhile so that’s what they’re going with right now. And would love to get back in with Darby. He’s really one of my favorite characters right now and something I can relate to as a punk rock kid myself.
Who was most helpful to you during your time in WWE?
TJP: Shawn Michaels. I used to fly to Orlando instead o the west coast after SD so I could sit with him one on one at the pc for a few hours every week. He treated me like his kid and mentored me a lot. Often we didn’t even talk wrestling but life. I’m grateful that MY Michael Jordan ended up being my greatest mentor. I still text him whenever I have a question.
Is there any bad blood between you and WWE?
TJP: Not that I know of. I didn’t leave over disciplinary stuff, it was a creative thing. I said I was unhappy about a year prior. I went to vince in London before raw and said I don’t feel like I’m a commodity to him, I’ve been kind of detached from repping my community since coming off the cwc, I’m not having fun anymore, and that I was just a good wrestler in a company full of good wrestlers so I’m not of any value to him. I don’t believe in quitting, so I told him I wanted to do better. He asked me how he could use me better, and I said I would show him. That was in February 2018. Then I spent the year organizing my own appearances for Filipino events, doing red carpet interviews and participating in charities and community activities. Worked with groups that do stuff like Filipino heritage nights for nba and nfl teams and wanted to work with WWE to do the same centered around me.
Around survivor series I presented it all to Vince, I told him he asked me to show him how I can be used differently and this was it. He was on board and wanted to find a spot on RAW for me to kind of change gears, so he said to pitch some creative and we could meet again and figure something out. So I wrote stuff for everyone I could think of, but it just became apprentices that there’s just too many main characters they already are invested in and none of it stuck. I expressed I do wanna go back to japan and Mexico and eventually Vince decided to let me go do what I want. He said he didn’t know how to use me but didn’t want me to be an unhappy player in the same spot I was in. He said he has a lot of respect for what I wanna do and the balls to tell him and that I should go out and spread my wings.
But no bad blood as far as I know, in fact they were gracious enough to let me start working way before my 90 days was up. I still keep in contact with many of the producers and such.
Crusierweight Tag titles were “leaked” any info to why they never happened? When they stopped taping the ropes purple and using the special mat, was it telling that they had given up on the brand?
TJP: Some of the guys said they saw the titles on the production prop truck on night before 205 had even started. I didn’t see them myself but I remember that. They probably didn’t do them because they didn’t care. I don’t think the rope color change was any indication so much as how segregated we were coming in.
When I was champ all my stuff was on the main ppvs. Clash, hell in a cell, (In Your House:) Road Block…as 205 started they moved all Cruiserweight stuff into pre shows except for a couple instances. I remember they had me wrestle Nakamura as a special main event for nxt and it got a great reception from fans because it was like the first interaction with cruiserweights and heavyweights…but they didn’t care at all. For me I knew when they didn’t care because of things like those changes happening.
What’s the vibe like in the WWE locker as opposed to NJPW? Is one more lax or business like?
TJP: WWE at times is like a locker room full of strangers. It’s like a high school cafeteria. Not a lot of unity, some groups here and there. And similar touchiness as far as social clout. NJPW by comparison is like a varsity locker room. You’re all there with the same thing in mind, everyone is together and there’s very little social clout involved. It’s relaxed and fun, somewhat business like, They all know they are trying to score for the same team and act accordingly.
Hey TJP if you had an option to work in NXT would you?
TJP: I don’t know. WWE is the only place I’ve ever been where wrestling didn’t make me happy or feel like an escape from the world.
Hey TJ, big fan until I found out you were cancer in the locker room. Hows it feel to have been a c list wrestler for 15 minutes? Congrats on the promotion out of WWE.
TJP: I’m sorry you feel that way. I’ve never been a big fan of myself so I’ve never rated myself. Not have I ever had any problems at work or in the locker room which is why I’ve always had an easy time working pretty much everywhere. I wish I understood your agenda, would love to answer any question or concern you have. And thank you, I actually do consider leaving a promotion for myself.