(CBSLA/CBS Local Sports) — Three months ago, “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry was sitting quietly at a table inside of a conference room in Las Vegas. In front of him were stacks of publicity photos and a few black Sharpies to sign them. As he scanned the room he saw many familiar faces, some were Hall of Fame wrestlers, others were still climbing the ladder. There were even a few who he would be making history with the following night. The rest of the crowd was made up of die-hard fans decked out in the t-shirts and hats of the heroes they were hoping to meet. It wasn’t long before they started lining up for a chance to get a selfie with Jack.
It was the eve of All Elite Wrestling’s Double or Nothing pay-per-view, essentially the coming out party for the promotion that is taking direct aim at Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment empire. There was an electricity in the air not felt in the wrestling community for decades. Yet, there was Perry, all of 21 years old, sitting there calmly and ready to do his part to change the world, which has been AEW’s stated goal since its inception.
Despite his easygoing demeanor, Perry understood the gravity of the moment. It was also possible that his mind drifted. It was only weeks earlier that he was rocked by the sudden loss of his father, actor Luke Perry of Beverly Hills 90210 fame. The elder Perry was only 52 years old.
Wrestling was something that the father and son bonded over, having spent many Monday nights in front of the TV together watching RAW. They would also frequent the Staples Center whenever WWE would come to Los Angeles. In fact, Luke Perry once appeared in the ring with The Miz on an episode of SmackDown and later was a guest on The Edge & Christian Show that airs on the WWE Network.
Both were fans, and Luke encouraged Jack to pursue wrestling at a young age. The elder Perry recognized it was his son’s passion, even as he and his wife grew tired of watching Jack practice moves on his younger sister on the family’s trampoline.
Luke found a wrestling school that would allow Jack to train when he was just 10 years old. While the younger Perry’s classmates were busy with civics lessons and pre-algebra, Jack was busy learning headlock takeovers and the finer points of a front bump. He was a quick study too.
All the while, Luke was there to cheer his son on.
Prior to his death, Luke would go to wrestling shows as he had so many times before. Only this time he was there to see Jack in the ring. He probably felt a mix of emotions. Certainly there was a sense of pride from seeing his son perform in the ring. Very likely there was also a sense of relief that Jack was throwing someone other than his little sister around.
It’s hard to think that Luke Perry wouldn’t have been in Las Vegas to witness his son’s AEW debut in late May. Likewise for the company’s second pay-per-view offering, All Out, this Saturday in Chicago. But his presence will still be felt backstage that night as Jack readies to climb atop Luchasaurus once again and burst through the curtain to the roar of a sold-out crowd at the Sears Centre.
You got into training when you were [how old]?
I first started training when I was like 10 years old, and I did it for a couple years then… But when I got into middle school, I gave it up for a little bit, and I didn’t really get back into it until kind of the end of high school.
How did you start training at 10, what was that even like?
My parents found a place for me to train. I used to go out on my trampoline and throw my sister around. And I think they decided, “we should find some other people for you to throw around instead.” So, yeah, it was cool. It was kind of [a] wild experience, because it’s a weird kind of wacky world, wrestling. Especially being that small, it was kind of crazy, but it was cool.
You threw your sister around, did she ever get the itch to get into the business?
No, she’s doing much better things.
You’re an 11-year overnight success. It seems like in the last six or eight months that you’ve really burst onto the scene.
You know, it’s been crazy. It really kind of was overnight. It just really blew up, and I really owe that to Joey Janela. You know I feel like it had been a while coming, and I just needed the opportunity that I was given, and I made the most of it. It’s been crazy ever since then. You know it’s been kind of like a whirlwind of this awesomeness.
It’s a ladder, so you got to keep climbing the rungs. Do you know how high that ladder goes? Do you have a vision?
Right now I’m just having a lot of fun. I’d like to go as far as I can go. You know, we’ll see how it all goes. I’m just having a real good time right now.
What are your nerves going into [Double or Nothing]? The show is massive.
I always get nervous, because I want to perform well and all that. But this time, I’m actually more nervous about performing in front of Cody and the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho. I’ve performed in front of a bunch of people before, and obviously it’s an important event and all. But these are guys that I’ve looked up to and idealized, and now they’re going to be seeing me work, which is kind of intimidating.
You’re still pretty young, I guess you don’t remember the Monday Night Wars [between WWE and WCW].
No. That was before my time.
Can you grasp the magnitude of what’s about to happen, or what is happening, I should say?
I wasn’t around for that, but I can see, just as a fan of wrestling, I can see that things are changing, and you know there’s a new shark in the water.
There is an emotional aspect of the past few months with the loss of your father. When you go into the ring now, do you get the feeling like he’s looking down on you and smiling?
At this point, I’m not fully sure what I think about all that. But I feel like, more than anything, my dad is kind of with me. … I knew my dad, and I knew who he was, and I know he’d be proud, and I know… I kind feel him there with me a bit.
Did he ever get on the trampoline with you and take a couple of bumps?
No, no he was too banged up from other stuff.
When you would watch wrestling together did you cheer for the same people?
It’s funny, because my dad’s favorite wrestler growing up was Dusty Rhodes. You know, it’s cool now the way it’s all worked out with Cody and everything. It’s a cool little thing.
ALL ELITE WRESTLING ALL OUT
START TIME AND CARD
Date: Saturday, August 31
Time: 7 p.m. ET pre-show / 8 p.m. ET main card
AEW World Championship
Chris Jericho vs. Hangman Adam Page
Kenny Omega vs. Pac
Note: PAC (formerly Neville in WWE) replaces Jon Moxley (formerly Dean Ambrose in WWE) who has been pulled from competition due to an injured elbow.
AAA World Tag Team Championship – Ladder Match
The Lucha Bros (c) vs. The Young Bucks
Cody vs. Shawn Spears
Jungle Boy, Luchasaurus and Marko Stunt vs. SoCal Uncensored
Darby Allin vs. Jimmy Havoc vs. Joey Janela
Best Friends vs. The Dark Order
Riho vs. Hikaru Shida
The Buy-In Pre-Show
21-woman Casino Battle Royale – Winner receives spot in match to crown the inaugural AEW Women’s World Champion
Private Party vs. Angelico and Jack Evans
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.