At 26 years of age, Jack Perry has barely scratched the surface of his potential, and yet he’s already racked up impressive victories over some of the biggest stars in All Elite Wrestling. So, M&F sat down with the current FTW Champion to find out how he trains for those big-time matches, and what it’s actually like to step between the ropes and wrestle some of the biggest monsters ever to enter the squared circle.
“I’m never gonna be the biggest guy, and I kind of like that,” says Jack Perry. Of course, athletic performance isn’t measured by muscle size, and in 2019, pro wrestling fans learned that this man’s heart was as big as a lion’s. Having made his debut in 2015, on the Los Angeles independent scene, Perry joined AEW as one of the company’s first signings in 2019. In November of that same year, the young upstart (who was then going under the name “Jungle Boy”) was challenged by AEW Champion Chris Jericho to try and last 10-minutes with the titleholder without losing. Fortunately, he did just that, and earned a ton of respect among critics and fans for doing so.
“That was huge for me, because the show (Dynamite) was brand new at that time, but also at that time, I felt like a very small fish in a brand new, huge, pond,” recalls Perry. “You know, I’m walking around backstage and there’s a bunch of these guys who I’ve looked up to … and then pretty early on I get thrown in there with Chris Jericho, who pretty much is the biggest fish of them all. So, that was a really nerve wracking experience, but I’m also kinda glad that I got to do something like that so up front, and felt that I could hang at that point.”
While “Jungle” Jack Perry was showing flashes of brilliance as a single competitor, his alignment with the “Jurassic Express” faction saw him working a lot of tag-matches, regularly teaming up with the 6’ 5”, 275 pound man mountain known as Luchasaurus. In January 0f 2022, Perry and Luchasuarus became AEW World Tag Team Champions and they held on to those titles for 161 days, but following a loss to The Young Bucks in a ladder match, the team soon disbanded, eventually leading to matches against his former mentor, Christian Cage, and former partner, Luchasuarus — in a steel cage. Having wrestled with the likes of Chris
Jericho, Christian Cage, and Luchasaurus, Perry knows what it means to step inside the ropes and perform at the highest level.
This pro wrestler’s high-flying wrestling arsenal is exhilarating to watch, but don’t be fooled into thinking that Perry isn’t seriously strong. He also came up with a brutal looking running elbow to the back of the head that can change the dynamic of any match within seconds.
“That (move) was something I deliberately thought of because, I feel like being a smaller guy, a lot of times I get thrashed around in these matches and I’ve had my head smashed a couple times and I was thinking that a lot of my moves are fancy and cool looking, but they don’t necessarily do a lot of damage, some of them. I was thinking, I’d like to have a move, that I can put right in at the end of the match after these guys have been punting me around the entire time, and make them pay with it.”
Taking his elbow and smashing it into the back of his opponents certainly does the trick. But what about getting into a steel cage? How does Perry feel about that?
Jack Perry explains what it’s like to wrestle inside AEW’s steel cage
“The steel cage (match against Luchasaurus) was actually one of my top five favorite matches,” shares Perry, who says that this was his first ever cage match. “And, there was a lot going into that one for me because that was someone who had been my partner for a very long time and one of my closest friends. I started wrestling when I was around 10, and Luchasaurus was in the same beginners wrestling class that I was in. He was just a bit older … You know you see (these matches) on TV and feel kind of familiar with them, and then the time comes where you are walking through the door and it’s kind of like ‘Oh, s**t, I’m actually in this thing.’”
Perry was thrown around his inaugural cage bout like a rag doll. “I think people might have misconceptions about how (the cage) might feel,” he says. “That thing is just straight up metal. It’s rough on your skin and I got cut pretty early on in that one. Towards the end of that match, I climbed up to the top of it, to jump off, and it’s higher than it looks (on TV), it’s loud in there, there’s a bunch going on, so I think it’s definitely a daunting kind of experience but actually I really, really, enjoyed it and the match that came out of it.”
During that grueling steel cage match, Perry hoisted Luchasaurus up for a piledriver, and delayed the execution, holding up the 275-pound monster for what seemed like an eternity before finally driving him down headfirst toward the canvas. Such moves require incredible core strength. “That was cool. One of my favorite moments and actually the first piledriver that I’d ever given to anybody,” says Perry. “And at that point, I’d already been bleeding for around 10 minutes or so. When it came time to do it, I was like ‘Oh boy, let’s see what we got left in here.’ But, I think it was a really cool visual, that one. The slower nature of it.”
Perry says that he loves to rise to strength challenges such as that epic moment, as it surprises those who only expect him to do the more highflying types of moves. “in my preparation, and workout, I try to be all-round pretty strong,” he says.
Jack Perry says he is learning from the positives, and steering clear of the negatives to grow as a talent
Having defeated ECW legend Taz’s son, “Hook,” for the unsanctioned FTW (F*** The World) title back in July, Perry understands the importance of continuing his legacy with the support of those that paved the way before him.
“I feel like one of the great things about AEW is that there are so many people, who are so good at what they do, whether they be in-ring people of behind the scenes. That match with Chris Jericho changed my outlook on a lot of stuff. So early in, I saw the way that things are done at this level, especially with someone like him, and it was different than what I’d been used to at the time. Even just being in there with the guys, seeing what they do and seeing how it works, I kinda take little bits and pieces and think ‘It’s pretty cool how he did that’ or why this guy did what he did. So, I think, all the time I just try and keep an open mind and see what’s going on around me, see what I like, and also what I don’t like because there’s a lot of that going on too. Stuff that I see, that I’m not a huge than of and I just think ‘Well, I’ll steer clear of that.’”
When it comes to holding the FTW title, Jack Perry understands the importance of its lineage and says that he feels proud to wear the belt. A few weeks ago, on AEW’s weekly show; Wednesday night “Dynamite,” Perry defeated an ECW original and bona fide superstar when he took on the 52-year-old wrestling icon, Rob Van Dam. It was a match that surpassed many people expectations, with RVD showing that he has plenty of gas left in the tank, but for Perry, there was never any doubt that his former hero turned opponent would give him everything that he had. “
That was a match that I really wanted to have,” he says. “Just from a fan perspective, I was a huge fan of Rob back in the day. I still am. I was really excited just to be a part of it and to be in there with a guy who I had been such a fan of as a kid. And, also, I was kind of excited to see [him] up close and personal. If you look at it, the things he does are amazing. A lot of it is stuff that, even today, nobody is able to emulate. And, I guess his slogan, or whatever, is ‘One of a Kind’ but I really think with him, more than a lot of people, that’s actually the case.”
So, with his career on the up, Perry has everything to keep working for, but at just 26 years of age, he is not just navigating pressures inside the circle, but outside of it as well. This pro wrestler’s new, darker, on-screen personality is allowing him to display parts of his personality that weren’t possible with the shackles of the more cartoonish “Jungle Boy” but dealing with fans and backstage critics is perhaps his most current learning curve. “I certainly felt that it was time for a change, and I’ve kind of been waiting on that change for a while,” says Perry of his recent ‘heel ‘ turn. “And, honestly, a lot of it kind of grew through real frustrations that I guess I was having in the workplace, but also with certain wrestling fans. I feel it’s kind of split down the middle. So, a lot of wrestling fans are the best fans you’ll ever find, and a lot of them are just very ungrateful and cynical, and kind of just looking for a reason to talk s**t about people, and I felt like over time I’d been getting fed up.” As a “bad guy,” Perry no longer needs the cheers of the crowd, and says he feels all the freer because of it.
Fortunately, even as a self-professed hard gainer when it comes to building muscle, Perry is able to clear his head of the perils of being a pro wrestler by exercising, often opting to go outside and have fun in the elements. But, when it comes to the gym, his go-to is the bench press. “The bench is definitely my strongest lift,” he says. Perry also likes to squat and deadlift when his body is not too tight and beat up from his busy wrestling schedule.
Jack Perry is proud of his progress so far in AEW
Longtime followers of the grapple scene will recall that Perry was first on pro wrestling television screens simply as a fan when he attended WWE SummerSlam in 2009 with his father; the late, great actor, Luke Perry. While dad is no longer in the crowd, he’s always there in spirit. “I think he’d be digging it,” says Jack. “We talked a lot about wrestling, obviously as I was coming up, doing it, and I got his input on a lot of stuff. He was still with us when I signed my first AEW contract, and we were both, kinda, just over the moon about it. I think he, as I am, would be really happy with the progress and the journey of the whole thing.”
Of course, when it comes to making his fans and family proud, there could be no better time to do that, than when AEW rocks London, England, on August 27, where, at the ALL IN pay-per-view from the giant Wembley Stadium, more than 80,000 fans are expected for one of the biggest events in pro wrestling history. “People want to see AEW, and what that entails,” says Jack Perry. “And I just think, to be a part of a company like that, to have been here since the very beginning, to see it culminate in this huge event with people all around the world paying their money to come and see us, it’s a real special thing that’s going on.”