William Regal convinced a former WWE star that he should compete in the inaugural Cruiserweight Classic.
Before signing to WWE, T.J. Perkins (TJP) competed in a multitude of tryouts for the company in 2009. He wrestled for the company’s developmental territory, Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), and made a brief appearance on ECW in a match against the ‘Celtic Warrior’ Sheamus.
It wasn’t until TJP entered the WWE’s Cruiserweight Classic tournament in 2016 that he began to make a name for himself in the company. TJP defeated the likes of Johnny Gargano, Rich Swann, Kota Ibushi, and Gran Metalik to become the tournament winner and the inaugural WWE Cruiserweight Champion following the title’s relaunch.
While TJP’s victory in the Cruiserweight Classic helped launch his WWE career, it wasn’t without a bit of convincing from former NXT General Manager William Regal.
During his appearance on Insight with Chris Van Vliet, the former Cruiserweight Champion revealed that Regal called him frequently about entering the tournament. TJP was doing motion capture for a video game when Regal began pitching him the idea:
“He just kept asking me to do it [laughs]. I was doing motion capture for the WWE video game at the time. [Chris asks if LA Knight was also there] I don’t know if he was there that day, but I have done it a lot with him, I might have got him on the crew there. Low Ki got me on, and from that point whenever they asked I would try to get other guys on. They look for certain body types or movements, so I try to spread the wealth.”
“So I was doing the motion capture and he [Regal] had left me a voicemail, then he called me back again and I answered it. I didn’t turn it down, I didn’t have a reason to not necessarily want to do it. But what I didn’t think was that I was going to sign and stay with the company. But when he asked me I was like this could be a generational thing, this could be like the new J Cup.”
TJP said he didn’t care about etching his name in history and thought that the WWE wouldn’t accept someone the size of him anyway. However, he saw that the company was beginning to change and wanted to try something different with the Cruiserweight Classic. When Regal approached him about the tournament, he revealed that many guys such as Gargano and Metalik were already on the company’s radar:
“He said to me ‘Do you know guys from different parts of the world? What are we missing?’ I don’t know who I got on board, a lot of guys may have already been on their radar, but I did recommend people like Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik. But I did it and it was after that second round match with [Johnny] Gargano that they put us all in a room and gave us offers one by one. I kept turning them down, I turned them down three times.”
TJP would lose the Cruiserweight Championship to Brian Kendrick at the 2016 Hell in a Cell pay-per-view. He remained with the company for three more years until he was released on February 22, 2019.
Some of the wrestlers involved in the first Cruiserweight Classic Tournament ended up being signed to WWE. While some went on to NXT UK, most of them wrestled for 205 Live.
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