T.J. Perkins is the brand new WWE Cruiserweight Champion. He attained the title at the end of the 32-man Cruiserweight Classic tournament, which concluded on September 14th, and he has since been signed to the Raw brand.
Teddy James Perkins was born on September 3, 1984 in Los Angeles, California, and he been wrestling for the majority of his life. He is 5’10” and weighs 167 pounds. Perkins makes his debut on Raw on September 19th, along with Brian Kendrick, Rich Swann, Gran Metalik, Cedric Alexander, Lince Dorado and Noam Dar.
Ahead of his Raw debut, here’s everything you need to know about T.J. Perkins.
1. He Started Wrestling When He Was 14 Years Old
Prior to winning the Cruiserweight Classic, Perkins had been wrestling for 19 years, starting his training at the age of 13.
He trained at a lucha libre school in Los Angeles, California, his hometown. His debut in the ring occurred just a year later; he started going by T.J. Perkins but was sometimes called Pinoy Boy. Perkins also wore a mask when he first started wrestling because promoters were concerned he looked way too young.
“The internet wasn’t big at the time…so I’d write to schools I found in magazines,” he said in an interview with WWE.com. “I was only 13, so I couldn’t relocate. Luckily, I’m from Los Angeles, and there’s a lot of lucha libre culture in Southern California. I found a gym that was willing to take me on, even though I was really young. The rest is history. From then until now, it feels like it happened in a flash.”
Perkins says that he would often leave school on Fridays in order to make wrestling shows, sometimes far away from home. He’d wrestle for pretty much the entire weekend and then be dropped back off at school on Monday.
2. He Trained With Daniel Bryan
Perkins soon began training at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s L.A. Dojo, and he was far from the only performer there who would go on to make it big. He actually trained with Daniel Bryan, three time World Heavyweight Champion and current manager of SmackDown Live.
After T.J. Perkins won the Cruiserweight Championship last week, Daniel Bryan offered a huge congrats to his old friend.
Also training with Perkins and Bryan at that time was Samoa Joe, former NXT champion, and Shinsuke Nakamura, the current NXT champion.
“It’s crazy to look back on that and see where everybody is now,” Perkins recently said.
While with NJPW, 18-year-old Perkins was the youngest American wrestler to debut on the promotion’s card.
3. His Parents Are Both Airline Workers
Perkins says that he learned how to take care of himself from a young age, as his parents both worked in air travel and were away for extended periods of time.
“But I was kind of self-sufficient at a young age because of that, because I didn’t really have my parents around a lot, so I learned to do laundry and cook food and stuff when I was like 10,” he said in an interview with Fox Sports.
Perkins was, however, often taken care of by his grandmother. He notes in his WWE.com interview that he would never drink, smoke, or get in trouble while he was on his own, and his parents were understanding enough to let him travel for wrestling.
4. He Became Homeless in 2009
After working with Pro Wrestling Guerrilla for a few years, T.J. Perkins decided he wanted to take things to the next level and finally pursue his dream of wrestling with the WWE. So in 2009, he moved to Florida and attempted to get involved in the company’s Florida Championship Wrestling.
But unfortunately, this did not work out for him, and he was left with few options.
“At the time it was probably just a bad set of circumstances,” he told Fox Sports. “I bet the farm like right when the recession was hitting, and you know I’ve been doing this since I was 13 so I don’t really have a lot of work experience or anything like that. So it was kind of hard make a backup plan when things went wrong. I struggled for a few years.”
He says that for a while he was trying to find coins in the Walmart parking lot in order to buy cans of food. Perkins described what happened next as the process of starting his career over, going back to the places he used to wrestle. He says that this helped him to learn what’s important and was perhaps God’s way of maturing him.
“You hear about all the things that can and will happen when you start this,” he said. “A lot of people don’t expect them to happen, but it does, and when it does, you have to be prepared. I wasn’t surprised, I got through it, got back on my feet and here I am.”
5. He Hopes to Represent His Culture in the WWE
Perkins is of Filipino descent, and he says he hopes to represent this culture as he rises up in the WWE. In fact, he said this is as important to him as winning championship belts.
“Not that I wouldn’t wanna win everything but I think for me being able to represent my culture and everything is, to me, that’s just as important as winning the tournament and having that representation on the stage,” he said a few weeks before he won the Cruiserweight Classic. “For everybody, I think that’s really what my goal is.”
He offered a similar sentiment in an interview with WWE.com, saying that he wanted to give Filipino kids everywhere a hero in the ring.
“We don’t have a lot of heroes,” he said. “We have Manny Pacquiao, and I look up to Batista a whole lot, because of our shared roots. I’d like to represent my heritage because they’re such passionate people. I want to give them a hero that they can look up to on a platform they’ve never seen.”