Going into the WWE Cruiserweight Classic, TJ Perkins was overshadowed by the bigger names who were a part of the tournament like Kota Ibushi, Zack Sabre Jr and the returning Brian Kendrick. Perkins had a great tournament, beating the charismatic Da Mack in the first round before facing Johnny Gargano in the second round in one of the best matches of the tournament.
Perkins, the proverbial underdog, beat fan favourite Rich Swann in the quarter-finals to qualify for last night’s Cruiserweight Classic finale – facing the ‘Goldenstar’ Kota Ibushi in the semi-finals. Ibushi was considered the favourite to win the whole tournament but Perkins beat him in a stunning upset to move onto the finals where be made Gran Metalik tap out to become the winner of the inaugural WWE Cruiserweight Classic and as an added caveat was also crowned the new WWE Cruiserweight Champion.
With the WWE Universe abuzz about the ‘Duke of dab’, let’s take a look at 5 facts about TJ Perkins that WWE fans need to know.
6: Perkins was supposed to wrestle The Miz on Raw in a 2009 episode but Snoop Dogg replaced him
Yet another reason to hate the guest host era. If it hadn’t been for Snoop Dogg intervening in The Miz’s match, the WWE Universe could have gotten its first glimpse of TJ Perkins in 2009.
Perkins was supposed to wrestle the United States Champion, The Miz, in an episode of Raw in 2009 until guest host Snoop Dogg appeared on the Titantron, flanked by a host of WWE Divas, to change the match and replace TJ Perkins with an ageing Marty Jannetty.
5: TJ Perkins started wrestling at the age of 13
TJ Perkins started training to be a wrestler at the tender age of 13 when he joined a lucha libre school in Los Angeles. Perkins made his in-ring debut at the age of 14 and the promoters insisted that he were a mask because he looked so young.
In order to make it to shows he was booked on, Perkins had to miss school on Fridays and wrestled in California, Nevada, Arizona, and Mexico during his first two years.
4: Shawn Michaels, Eddie Guerrero and the original Tiger Mask are his all-time favourites
Being a smaller guy himself, Perkins is similar to a lot of the wrestlers for WWE’s New Era who idolized smaller wrestlers while growing up. Amongst TJ Perkins favourite wrestlers growing up are legendary Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels, the late great Eddie Guerrero and Japanese wrestling legend Tiger Mask.
When asked about working with Shawn Michaels backstage in an interview with TJRWrestling.net Podcast, Perkins said:
“I wanted to tell him the whole time that my Mount Rushmore is your face four times (laughs)… or maybe three times and then Eddie (Guerrero) on the end. There’s not a lot of people that I would hold in the same regard.”
3: Competed all over the world
Perkins started wrestling in Mexico while he was still a teenager. He later joined New Japan Pro Wrestling’s dojo in Los Angeles to hone his skills and trained there with a young Daniel Bryan and a young Shinsuke Nakamura.
Perkins then became the youngest non-Japanese wrestler to ever wrestle in New Japan Pro Wrestling when he made his debut in October 2002 at the age of just 18 years and three weeks. He made his CMLL debut in 2003.
Apart from New Japan and CMLL, Perkins has also competed for Ring Of Honor, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and TNA where he is a former X-Division Champion.
2: His relationship with Daniel Bryan and Samoa Joe
TJ Perkins was coming up in the business at the same time as Daniel Bryan and Samoa Joe, and he shares a close relationship with both of them. Perkins refers to Bryan and Joe as his ‘older brothers’ and spent a lot of time on the road with both men.
They spent time in the gym, training and travelling together and Daniel Bryan also referred to this during the Cruiserweight Classic finale.
1: TJ Perkins was homeless during one point in his career
Things went well for TJ Perkins at the beginning of his career and he wrestled in some of the world’s most famous wrestling promotions like New Japan Pro Wrestling and CMLL. At this point, Perkins took a chance on himself and moved to Florida to try to get signed for WWE’s developmental system and pursue his dream of wrestling in the WWE.
At this point, things didn’t work out for him and with the US economy was still recovering from the recession, Perkins ended up homeless and lived out of his car. Having wrestled from his teens and with no educational qualifications to fall back on, things went from bad to worse when his parents went bankrupt in LA due to the recession.
Perkins didn’t let the hard times get to him. In his words, he used the opportunity to kick start his career again and he’s followed his dream of wrestling in the WWE. Next Monday, he’ll appear on Raw as the new WWE Cruiserweight Champion.