Exclusive: TJ Perkins on his departure from WWE, Vince McMahon, frustrations, and representing the Philippines
One of the most surprising releases from WWE this year was undoubtedly former WWE Cruiserweight Champion TJ Perkins.
Just a couple of years ago, TJP shocked the WWE Universe when he won WWE's first ever Cruiserweight Classic, and the former TNA X-Division Champion would go on to go through many adaptions to his character, seemingly becoming a mainstay of WWE's 205 Live brand.
His release, however, would come as a huge surprise to everyone - but TJP has filled his calendar and is looking to make waves on the indies.
We caught up with the man himself.
Hi, TJ. Thanks for speaking with me. Let's go back to the Cruiserweight Classic. Before that tournament, you were mainly known for your time in Impact Wrestling where you wrestled under a mask.
How different is it to do that for so long and then perform as a completely different person without it?
Well there has been a lot of character transitions for me over the last 20 years. Before being Suicide in TNA I was known for being PUMA in New Japan Pro Wrestling and also myself without a mask in both New Japan and CMLL as well as ROH. Also Sydistiko in Lucha Libre USA, and Cobra 2 in New Japan way back in 2003.
All in all, I’ve had about 10 different masked characters. I like playing characters. Each one of them has been different and obviously myself is a little different. In a way, I feel so free as myself because I can be a little bit of each one all at the same time.
Of course, you won the Cruiserweight Classic. What was that experience like, and how was it getting to represent the Philippines so successfully?
Originally I was just billed as a Los Angeles wrestler with the American flag. I requested to represent the Philippines and Hunter [Triple H] said it was cool. For the first time, I was able to do that. It was huge for me because I’ve been the subject of a lot of inconsiderate decisions or passive prejudice when it comes to being Asian. I’ve been places where I was told the only way I could earn a contract is if I spoke Spanish and was presented as Mexican.
I have been labeled as Japanese or Mexican or Canadian underneath a mask. When I’ve asked about openly representing my culture, I was always turned down because it was considered insignificant by many companies I worked for previously. And on top of that, Asian targeted racism is still wildly tolerated in just about every locker room. No-one shuts it down.
So for the first time, being able to be myself and openly represent my people and to go all the way and win a major title in such historic fashion was a huge deal for me. Because now, forever, there is a major moment in WWE history that is linked to Filipinos. Hopefully more people will follow suit and cross my bridge and build more for themselves and others to represent Southeast Asians.
NEXT: TJP on his departure from WWE
COMING UP: TJP opens up about his earnings now compared to WWE