TJP. Photo: New Photography Studios

TJP. Photo: New Photography Studios

Whilst the WWE Cruiserweight Classic (CWC) introduced a lot of wrestling fans to TJP he was far from a fresh face on the wrestling scene. Before winning the tournament and becoming the first man to hold the revived WWE Cruiserweight Championship TJP had been touring the globe competing for every major wrestling promotion there is. Now that TJP has left WWE he is back plying his trade on the independent circuit as he prepares to compete in yet another prestigious tournament, the New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) ran Super J-Cup.

During a recent stop in Sydney at Wrestling GO! we had some time to sit down with the self-proclaimed ‘cruisergreat’ to discuss his journey through wrestling, rediscovering his passion for the art form and his thoughts on the talent here in Australia.

For TJP he describes his wrestling journey as “crazy” right from the outset. As a kid he loved watching wrestling and described himself as “a hound” for it. A passion which saw TJP watching all types of wrestling and amassing a library of between 500-1000 tapes, which he still has to this day. By watching such a diverse mixture of wrestling from around the globe TJP developed quite an extensive knowledge of the path many of his favourite wrestlers took before becoming major stars.

“I grew up on Tiger Mask, Dynamite Kid, Eddie [Guerrero], Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho. I knew these guys all came through the NJPW junior system so that always the thing that I wanted the most but I always thought ‘god knows how that will ever happen.’”

Much to his surprise, NJPW would be the first of many goals TJP would achieve in wrestling.

“New Japan recruited me right out of high school, so I went from English class right into Korakuen Hall and the Tokyo Dome,” recalled TJP. “It all went by so fast that I didn’t realise the impact of being that young and being over there. But now that I look back I realise how special that was and don’t think anybody will ever beat that record because I was only 18 which is so young.”

Given his prodigious resume, TJP was one fo the first names chosen by WWE for the CWC tournament in 2016, an honour which he is still very proud of.

“That tournament changed the perception of how that company sees guys of our size. To be able to be at the forefront of something which opened up the doors for this entire generation is something that I’m really proud of.”

Upon winning the CWC TJP would join WWE full-time as part of their revived cruiserweight division. During his three year stay in WWE though TJP would see his passion and enjoyment of wrestling dwindle. When speaking with J.A.M it was clear that TJP didn’t hold any ill-will towards WWE, it was simply a matter of the system being different there because of the television show format requirements.

“I used to be so happy to just get in the ring. Even if it was just for five minutes, no matter where I was. It didn’t matter how bad life was if I could just get int the ring those five minutes cured everything. It was so weird there though, WWE was the first place that I didn’t feel that anymore.”

Now that TJP has returned to the independent circuit he says he is “very much” enjoying the art of wrestling again. This regained enjoyment is based on his ability to “wrestle anywhere and whoever” he likes.

Whilst in Australia TJP will lock up with Michael Spencer, Damian Slater (who also competed in the CWC, but never crossed paths with TJP) and Matty Wahlberg. When we spoke with TJP shortly after his match with Michael Spencer he was very impressed by the level of talent in Australia.

“Spencer was incredible, he really exceeded my expectations of how good he would be… I was really impressed with a lot of the women as well. I think you have a really balanced, fun and talented crew here. I’m really looking forward to my match [against Matty Wahlberg] at the end of the month!”

Before he takes on Matty Wahlberg at Pro Wrestling Australia (PWA) though TJP has his sights set on yet another prestigious tournament, the Super J-Cup. Thought his career TJP has desperately wanted to participate in this tournament. However, due to the infrequency with which it is run it had been a tournament which had alluded him.

“I never thought I’d get the chance to compete in a Super J-Cup because it’s the most rare of things.”

Should TJP advance out of the first there is a tantalising prospect of him squaring off with Australia’s own Robbie Eagles, something which was very appealing to TJP.

“Hopefully we’ll get to do it in the future. If not now we may have to do it in Tokyo.”

Follow TJP on Twitter & Instagram @MegaTJP

Buy tickets to see TJP wrestle.

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