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21 August 2013

TNAMecca Exclusive: Interview with TJ Perkins


TJ, thanks so much for agreeing to answer some questions for us.  Many of our readers are huge fans of your current character, myself included, so this is quite a treat for all of us.  Before we begin, on behalf of everyone at TNAMecca, I'd like to congratulate you on winning the TNA X Division championship.  I can only speak for myself, but for me, it was a mark out moment.   

Tell us a little about that experience.  The moment Brian Stiffler raised your arm, proclaiming you the new X Division champion...did you realize the magnitude of that moment?  Or did it sink in later?
It sort of didn't hit me until I was hanging there and unfastening the title. That moment played out in Slow motion to me. The reason is because the crowd was SO LOUD. Maybe the loudest point in the night except for the world title match.

People at home don't realize things like this on WWE or TNA programming. Most of the time the sound is largely cut out in the production and filming. Sometimes it's extremely loud but you don't hear it on TV and oftentimes you see ringside people who can't see the ring very well, standing still on camera when the upper levels with a birds eye view are going bonkers but aren't on camera.

It was slow motion to me because the sound swelled slowly from the point I laid a hand on the title, to when I gripped it, then pulled it, then held it up. When I got to the back one of the first things I could hear from the production staff and Dixie Carter herself actually came up and asked me, "Did you hear that reaction!?"

So that last moment hanging there then falling down to the ring mat was like a slow motion moment of understanding for me. It all registered right then. And honestly all I could think about was walking through a parking lot in the middle of the night searching for one last quarter.

I mentioned earlier, I'm a huge fan of the Manik character.  The reality, however, is that some fans were not happy with the new character, particularly since you were unmasked after the Austin Aries scandal.  They didn't quite understand it.  I'd love to give you the opportunity to tell us, who is TJ Perkins?  Who is Manik?  And what exactly is it that connects the two?
TJ Perkins and Manik are the same person. There's no split really, one is just a projection of the other. People see me everyday speaking on Twitter, in pictures, in my life outside the ring, and I'm jovial and witty and very charismatic. I'm often a class clown. In the ring, those qualities can only draw people in so much and project you only so far. Manik is really just an old trick from an old dog (in wrestling years at least, 15 long years).

Masks weren't always intended to "hide identities." Masks were originally to be used to artificially aid a wrestler who was aging and needed to be viewed as a serious threat. For me, I used one when I was 13 years old to artificially negate my youth and be perceived as a threat although I was just a kid.

In this case, the mask is an image I'm projecting to the people and my opponents of how I should be viewed in the ring. Looks can be deceiving, and sometimes wrestlers who are serious threats don't look like it externally. Manik helps me to find another level to myself in the ring that TJP may not necessarily be viewed.

It's no different than picking out your favorite T-shirt to wear or combing your hair a certain way before you go out. It's an image of TJ Perkins that gives me a very specific identity.

So rather than using the mask to hide my identity and take an element away from the people, it is actually a way for me to further define who I am as a wrestler and give them something more than just the TJP that they see everyday on Twitter or in interviews.

It's funny you say that.  I mentioned on TNAMecca, the other day, that I'd refer to you as "TJ Perkins as Manik" in your matches from now on.  I also wrote the following in my column, "...a vulnerable young man whose mask is a form of escapism."  Is that accurate?  Is there at all a psychological aspect to the mask?
Yes absolutely. Like I said we all wear "masks" of some kind. Everyone chose the outfit they are wearing at this very moment, or chose to wear none at all if that's the case as well. We all make these choices to project who we want to be, who we are on the inside, perhaps who we aren't but we wish we were. We might get a new haircut after years of the same one, dressing a little more formal, talk a little differently when a hot girl is around, stand up a little straighter when a mentor is watching. These are all masks. We don't always do this stuff on our own, it's a projection to others.

We escape, as you say, in the presence of others into something more than what we are by ourselves. Everyone has a projection of some kind to varying degrees.

For me, Manik is a way to put 15 years of worldwide major league experience together. It's not easy to encompass that much experience both in time/quantity and in quality...all into one person. Manik, for me, is a way to put it all together and project it under a single entity. Just on another level than if I had no projection. My mask is just an image and a symbol. No different than the shirt your wearing or the way you comb your hair before you leave the house.

Before we move on to something else, what do you think of the new X Division title belt?
I really like the belt. It is a slimmer plate design which reminds me of the old NWA World Title. So many belts are gaudy and big now. I like the more streamlined and undersized design.

Let's fast-forward two weeks...you're now the new X Division champion and your first match, since winning the title, is against the TNA World Heavyweight champion Chris Sabin (at the time) in a champion vs champion match.  How was that experience?  I don't know if you read the comments on social media after the show but many fans compared your match to that of Chris Sabin's vs Alex Shelley at Genesis 2009, which is still one of my favorite matches in TNA history. 
There is no one in the world, including Sabin or I, that would have predicted we would be the divisional faces of iMPACT Wrestling if you had thought about it a year ago. Think about it...go back one or two years...

Who would you think would be the face of the company and world champion a year later? Probably not Sabin.

What about the X Division champion? Probably not me.

I don't read anything on the Internet about wrestling. I never have, it's a personal rule of mine that I have always had ever since before social media when wrestlers would just read those newsletter things. I have no idea about that comparison about our match and how our performances were received, but I am grateful if people enjoyed it.

I'm curious, what are your thoughts on Option C?  As the current X Division champion, is it something that you think about or is it premature?
Definitely premature, perhaps even unnecessary.

My goal, if I could reach for one here, would be to establish a significance to the X division title that rivals other divisions.

As it stands, the X Division title is the most significant cruiserweight title in the world but it is a niche division.

We have boxing welterweights that are the prime main events in the world, also some lighter weight classes than that and of course heavyweights. They are interchangeable. The UFC's top represented title holders have come out of the middleweight, welterweight and light heavyweight divisions. I would like to see the X Division be held in the same regard as the heavyweight title. I would like to boost its significance.

I love your enthusiasm for the X Division and what it represents.  Let us discuss the three-way format a bit.  I admit, I initially liked the concept, thinking that it'd give new talent an opportunity and I was right.  Since its inception, we've seen the return of Petey Williams, Sonjay Dutt, Homicide, Mason Andrews, Rubix, among others, and of course, Suicide.  I have to say though, my opinion has changed a bit in recent weeks.  I'm still of the belief that qualifying matches should be triple threats, again, giving new talent opportunities that are much needed in this industry.  But I also believe that X Division title matches should be, mostly, one-on-one.  What are you feelings on this?  Especially now that you're the top guy in the division. 
Honestly, I do like the triple threat format because it makes the division larger just by circumstance. More wrestlers are needed to make those matches so we get to see a larger division roster. The only downside is that direct rivalries are more difficult to forge. However I like it because it forces everyone to be individuals, which is more important than your choice of moves. It also puts a premium on winning, which in boxing, MMA, and wrestling, records unfortunately hold little weight in top 3 rankings for title matches. I think being able to have isolated singles matches is important as well but the multi-man format kills nearly every bird with one stone if a viewer is unbiased enough to see it.

Let's talk about your finisher.  Recently, you had asked fans on Twitter to vote on which of your finishers they'd like to see.   I believe, judging by the response, that the Detonation Kick was most popular.  Is that a move we might see from you in the future?
Sooner than you think!

TJ, before I let you go, I just wanted to, once again, let you know how appreciative I am that you took the time to answer some questions.  As we conclude, is there anything you'd like to say to our wonderful readers, many of whom are fans of yours?
Yes, thank you for following me. Thank you for reading. Even if you hate me, you are still reading this so thank you for caring enough about me or wrestling even if it is negative.

Without the fans we all might as well be playing wrestling video games instead. Our jobs mean nothing without you.

To follow TJ Perkins on Twttier, please click here

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