Exclusive: TJP talks about his journey to WWE and pride in representing the Philippines

We got the chance to catch up with TJP of WWE’s 205 Live. TJP, formerly known as TJ Perkins, was the first-ever winner of the Cruiserweight Classic tournament held by WWE in 2016. As a result of winning, he won the Cruiserweight Championship as well and was a major part of 205 Live for the majority of 2016 and 2017.  More recently, he teamed up with Mike Kanellis to take on Lucha House Party. 

We asked him about his experiences in WWE, and the wrestling business in general. In the first part of this interview, TJP talks about fitting into WWE’s locker room, he talked about coming to WWE, representing the Philippines, and how the changed slot for 205 Live has affected the wrestlers.

Q: What does it feel like to be a part of WWE after such a long journey from when you began your training in 1998 at the age of 13?

TJP: It’s weird, it’s a funny thing, I have circled being here a few different times, the last 20 years or so, but I mean the best way to describe it is just kind of feels like home, it feels the place I was just meant to be.

Q: Was it really difficult to fit into the WWE locker room culture?

TJP:  No, not at all really, I mean the thing about, I mean it can and it can’t be sometimes, but the thing about professional wrestling is you know especially for somebody who has a career like in my case you put in a lot of years in other places and in those other places you share a locker room with a lot of the same guys who are you know in WWE today so, in my case it was easy because a lot of these guys have been in lockers rooms for, you know,  20 years.

Q: You came into WWE on an incredible high, because you won the first Cruiserweight Classic and were the first Cruiserweight champion. Could you describe your emotions at that time?

TJP: It’s funny actually, I don’t often think about it, but I did reflect on it sometime early this week, talking with friends and stuff like that. It was a really nice thing for me, primarily because I was able to represent Filipinos and South East Asians and the reason that was big for me was because wrestling at times can be kind of archaic, (laughs) medievally speaking, and you know I have done this since I was so young and I never had a chance to really just represent my own culture, and who I am,  you know where my family comes from and things like that and there are times where I would wrestling somewhere and a lot of people know that I was brought up in Lucha Libre and I played a lot of masked characters and things like that and yeah there have been times when I was asked to portray different characters to fit in with what was believed to be portrayed by me.

I have never been able to just be myself so really the thing about CC was such a big deal for me is that here have been times I have been asked to be things I am not – a Mexican wrestler, a Japanese wrestler or things like that and been portrayed as something I am not. For once I came in and again this is why it feels like home here because I just simply asked if I could be myself and they said: “Yes, that’s exactly who we want you to be”. You know winning and everything and all that was nice but it made it special for me because it was the first time I got to be myself.

Q: You’ve spoken in the past about how you want to be the first ever Filipino intercontinental Champion. Is that something you still think about?

TJP: I don’t think about it often, it’s really more something  that I thought about as a little kid and now people ask me often what my goals are and its funny and I think about a story, I think it’s from John Lennon of the Beatles and he says that when he was younger he was told that you know he wanted to be happy in life and his teacher asked him to complete an assignment in school What do you want to be when you grow up.

He wrote he wanted to be happy, the teacher said “you don’t understand this assignment” and he said, “you don’t understand life”. And so for me, my goal really is especially after 20 years, like I have been everywhere and I have kind of done everything, I just want to be happy, I just want to have fun doing this stuff. But you know, people ask me what you really want to do and sometimes I tell them that I have goals like that that I set, and it’s really for them, for Filipinos for example, I can live without ever being the IC champion but I think that’s a special thing that I can give to people that I know it would mean a lot to them.

Q: The 205 Live slot has changed recently so that it’s taped before SmackDown and broadcast the next day. Has this affected the wrestlers at all and the sort of reception you get from the audience?

TJP: You know it’s funny, a lot of people, a lot of the wrestlers included spoke about it before it changed about going on before Smackdown as opposed to going on after Smackdown. But there were actually times in the last few years that we for one reason or another, just specific cities where we did go before Smackdown just because of scheduling or logistics and something like that and they were good cities too.

I remember there was one time we had television tapings in Philadephia and Washington DC maybe, and I want to say we were doing Tribute to the Troops or something like that, it was a special week. So, we taped part of our show before Raw in Philadephia which is an amazing wrestling city and we taped before Smackdown as well which was in Washington which is in the North East which is a good area for wrestling. And it was the same reaction. So a lot of times it didn’t really change anything. Even now I feel like it doesn’t really matter. I think at the end of the day the real filter is you have to be who you are and you have to be good at what you do.  and you have to make a connection so that people want to follow you.