“Jungle Boy” Jack Perry Is Ready for His First PPV Main EventPhotos courtesy of AEW TV Features "Jungle Boy" Jack Perry
AEW’s future will have officially arrived when the main event of its Double or Nothing pay-per-view starts this Sunday night. MJF, Darby Allin, Sammy Guevara, and “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry are wrestling each other in a four-way match for the World Championship, in a battle of the company’s so-called “four pillars.” It’s a huge match for all four men, but for Perry it’s a chance to do something that has eluded him so far: win a singles title.
In 2021 current AEW World Champion MJF anointed himself and three of its other most promising young stars as the company’s “four pillars,” lifting a term used to refer to the top stars of All Japan Pro Wrestling during its ‘90s heyday. AEW’s four pillars—MJF, Guevara, Allin, and Perry—weren’t yet the company’s biggest stars, but the implication was that these four wrestlers then in their 20s (two years later Allin is the only one to turn 30) would be the ones to keep AEW aloft as its initial class of main eventers retired or moved on.
What was initially a one-off reference in a random TV promo has come to partially define all four men’s careers. MJF has since progressed to the top of the company, winning its World title in November 2022, while Allin and Guevara have both held the TNT title multiple times while often main eventing AEW’s flagship TV show, Dynamite. Jack Perry is the only one of the four to not win a singles title in AEW yet, but he is a former tag champion, and at 25 is the youngest of the four by over a full year. It’s a huge spotlight for all four wrestlers, but nobody has more to gain—or more to prove—than Perry.
It’s been a meteoric rise for the wrestler. Born and raised in Los Angeles, the son of beloved actor Luke Perry, the man who would become Jungle Boy always knew he wanted to be a wrestler. He started wrestling in local independent promotions in 2015, when he was 18, and quickly made a name for himself with his high-flying acrobatics and matinee idol good looks. When he was only 21 he signed a full-time deal with All Elite Wrestling shortly after it launched, wrestling at its very first event, the original Double or Nothing, in May 2019. In the years since he has grown as a wrestler and a man on live TV, first excelling in a championship tag team with Luchasaurus, and coming under the wing of Hall of Fame wrestler Christian Cage. Christian’s shocking turn on Jungle Boy in 2022 incited a brutal blood feud that culminated in Jungle Boy’s best singles match yet at the Revolution pay-per-view in March 2023. That betrayal by his mentor Christian and best friend Luchasaurus, and the grudge matches that followed, hardened the carefree “Jungle Boy” character into a more serious and experienced wrestler, paving the way for Perry to use his real name in wrestling for the first time in his career.
Perry’s rise from the teen rookie with a famous dad to a World champion on his own terms could reach its peak this Sunday night at Double or Nothing. Paste recently talked to Perry about the big Double or Nothing main event, his career, and what drove him into wrestling instead of a more traditional acting career. The following conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Paste Magazine: So you’ve been with AEW since the beginning, the very first Double or Nothing in 2019, and now you’re in your first real main event story at this year’s Double or Nothing. How do you feel about the last four years and how your career has progressed in that time?
Jack Perry: I mean, I felt good overall. It’s been interesting for me, kind of since the beginning, in one way or another, I’ve kind of always been tied to either one other person or multiple people. For a while it was Luchasaurus and Marco [Stunt], as like a team, and then, even in going into this long feud with Christian I was pretty much tied to him all the time. And it kind of feels like for me, this is like starting over. This is my first time, sort of, on my own. Or I don’t necessarily have someone there with me at all times. And as you said, it’s like the first main event of a pay-per-view that I’ve ever done. So it’s exciting. And it feels kind of new. And like, I feel like four years in I’m kind of getting ready to start over completely.
Paste: So is that why you’ve kind of backgrounded the Jungle Boy name and started focusing more on your real name?
JP: Yeah, I mean, really, what that came from was during the feud with Christian when he kind of started saying all these really personal and real things. It just was sounding silly to me to have him say this horrible thing right here, and then also be calling me Jungle Boy the whole time. So I kind of thought we’ve sort of blown this thing out of the water a little bit like, obviously, I’m not a real Jungle Boy anymore. So I think it’s kind of just time to start transitioning a little bit. But I like it. There is a nickname still, I think it’s cool.
Paste: I know Jim Ross used to often call you Jungle Jack Perry. Did you feel like that could be a way forward, or will “Jungle Boy” stay the full nickname with Jack Perry?
JP: “Jungle Boy” wasn’t even something I came up with. It was like a nickname someone gave to me. And then the first time I heard Jim Ross saying my name, I was kind of shocked, because I’ve never heard it. That’s right. And I think his nicknames are kind of just best to let other people do what they want, and something will stick.
Paste: I don’t want to focus too much on the name, but since we’re talking about it, you just mentioned that you didn’t really come up with the nickname. I know it was sort of given to you by some of the fans at your early matches. Why did you run with it? What does that nickname mean to you?
JP: Yeah, well, when I first heard it, I thought it was ridiculous. I was like, “This is so stupid. I can’t believe that.” Like I thought it was just a terrible joke. But what I realized was during these matches that I was having, people were chanting. And that was the part that they kind of connected to which I ended up sort of then crafting my character in some of my wrestling style and whatnot around the name. And what I ended up really liking about it was, to me, the Jungle Boy character was a character who didn’t speak, he didn’t say anything, he just wrestled. And that’s really what I wanted to do. Because I felt like, with my personal life and stuff, there was a lot a lot of things that I feel like could have been distracting or I didn’t want people thinking about necessarily, and I just wanted people to watch me wrestle and I wanted to either fail or succeed based on my wrestling, how good or how bad it was. So Jungle Boy kind of let me just stand out there in a pair of underwear and wrestle and either liked it or you didn’t. And yeah, it’s pretty much what it was. And then it was crazy to get signed to a major company as Jungle Boy. And then I was with a guy called Luchasaurus… it’s like, it’s a whole kind of bizarre little thing. But I think it worked. And I think people liked it.
Paste: It was a really fun act for a few years, people really got into it. You just mentioned how you liked sort of being able to slip into that role instead of playing yourself and worrying about distractions. When did people in the wrestling business start to realize who your father was?
JP: That happened pretty quickly. And I got a lot of advice that I did not want to take, which was, essentially, a lot of people wanted me to be like a sort of Dylan McKay type character, which I really didn’t want to do ever. And that whole aspect of life was not something that I really wanted involved [in my wrestling career], like, I was really trying to do my own thing. And at the point that I started, I was driving down to, like, not-good parts of town and a warehouse with 20 people in it, and like you don’t get paid. So I was really trying to go out of my way to like, not focus on that sort of aspect of my [personal] life and try and get far away from that. You know, I’ve come to find it’s kind of inevitable, you can’t really escape it. But I feel like for the most part, I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping that separate, and just sort of doing my own thing.
Paste: So early on in your time in AEW, you were labeled one of the company’s “four pillars.” And that’s obviously the crux of your current storyline in the match coming up at Double or Nothing. What does that term “pillar” mean to you?
JP: At first, it really didn’t mean a lot to me, I think the whole thing was kind of propaganda by MJF, realistically. It was a way to position himself as the best of the four pillars. And I think that’s why he came up with the phrase. But I do think he was onto something. And then I think, when you look at the four of us, we’re all super different in a lot of ways. But we’re all young, hungry guys, who really try and push what we’re doing every time we’re out there. And I think, you know, in the beginning it wasn’t even a thing, but I never thought “I want to be a ‘pillar’ of this company.” I just wanted to go out there and have the very best matches that I could have, every single time. And I think those three guys are very similar in that respect. And we do it in different ways. But I think that’s a very kind of common goal that we’ve all had from the beginning. And I guess it’s yeah, it’s nice to see people recognize that, you know, just the group of us and what we’re kind of trying to do and help push the company forward and grow with it and whatnot.
Paste: Do you feel like any sort of special connection beyond just the name with those three guys?
JP: Honestly, I really don’t particularly like any of the three, like, personally. So no, there’s not really like any sort of group or anything. But that’s what I think is kind of cool about it. It’s like, I think we have these similarities, but we’re also so different, and we’re all kind of really on our own path. But there’s just kind of that common thread. I think it’s gonna be a very interesting match. Just because we are so similar in a lot of ways. And we are also different. I really kind of don’t really even know what to expect out of it.
Paste: So how does a four way, instead of a traditional one on one or tag, change your preparation going into a match?
JP: I don’t know. I feel like I always kind of prepare the same way, from a physical perspective. I guess it’s more just mental. There are more people you have to account for and more situations that can take place. I don’t know. I think it’s cool creatively, though. You got extra bodies there to kind of do what you will with. So I don’t know. I think it’s kind of a broader canvas to sort of do whatever you want.
Paste: Yeah, you can do more things, lay out more elaborate stuff with more guys in the ring and everything. So you’ve been doing this professionally for a while now. It’s your career. What’s the hardest part of the job for you?
JP: The main thing I’m trying to do is I feel like there are aspects of the job or the game, whatever you want to call it, that I’m not as strong at. And I think my goal is just to kind of keep getting better piece by piece. I think everyone has their own journey that they’re on. And I feel like mine in the larger sense is kind of like growing up. When I look back at the beginning, when I look back now, that’s sort of what my journey has been, people watching me grow up. So I’m just looking piece by piece, day by day, to get better at all of it. At first, the travel was kind of a shock. I wasn’t used to being in a plane that often, but it’s just like, it feels like I’m in the office now when I’m in a plane. So yeah, it has its frustrating elements, for sure. But for the most part, it’s a blast.
Paste: Speaking of travel, one thing that’s good about AEW is it’s a lighter schedule than other major companies. And really, historically, it’s very different from what wrestlers used to have to deal with. Would you look forward to having a deeper schedule with more house shows, more matches, driving town to town? Or do you like where it is now where you fly into the town and then go home afterward?
JP: Yeah, personally, I like that. I’ve never been on that kind of house show schedule or whatever. But what I liked about the one big show a week that it lets you—or at least me—go like 100% balls to the wall at it for that night. Whereas if I knew I had three more things lined up the rest of the week, I might want to keep a little in the tank or not go as hard as the one night. So for me, I like kind of just being able to throw it all out there on the Wednesday night and then have the rest of the week to recover.
Paste: Yeah, it makes sense. I can’t imagine, you know, guys doing that to their bodies, six, seven days a week like they used to.
JP: Yeah that’s crazy. I have no idea. That’s nuts.
Paste: So something that has really gotten worse the last few years really, especially since the advent of AEW, there’s a ton of toxicity in wrestling, online and in social media. I know you’ve gotten the brunt of it sometimes, including recently. How does that impact you on a personal level? And how do you deal with that kind of nonsense?
JP: I feel like it used to affect me more. I think when the whole thing was brand new, I was more inclined to look on there and be like, well, I want to see what people are saying. It’s kind of for me… There are people out there who’d say wrestling is life. For me wrestling is not life. It’s something I love to do, and something I’m passionate about. It’s my job. When I go home, I’m at home and I have a life that is not revolving around wrestling. And I think it’s been important for me to learn to just switch that part off. Because if you really think about it when I’m at home on Thursday, Friday, whatever day it is, and somebody’s complaining about not liking wrestling [that happened] on a Wednesday. It’s like, what can you really do about that at a certain point. You’re choosing to take time out of your actual week and out of your actual life to complain about a wrestling show that’s on TV on a Wednesday. It’s like, you know, do whatever makes you happy, and I support people’s right to do that. I guess thats what these platforms are for, but I try to not think about it too much beyond that.
Paste: I don’t know, I see these Twitter accounts where it’s like they post 40 or 50 tweets every day about a wrestling company they hate. And it’s like geez, man, what’s wrong? You know, hopefully you find something in your life that makes you happy, because obviously it’s not happening for you right now.
JP: Doesn’t seem like it. I do think some people though, that’s what they like. I think that’s exciting for them, getting online and kind of engaging in this discourse, or whatever it is. I feel like they’re getting, sometimes, more enjoyment out of that than the actual wrestling. But I don’t know. It’s a weird, weird kind of phenomenon. I guess you’re a fan, but then you’re also on there to just [criticize it] all the time. So I don’t know. I hope you guys are having a good time.
Paste: That’s a good answer. So a couple more questions for you that I’ll let you go. Where do you hope to be in 10 years?
JP: I don’t know. That’s a hard thing for me to think about. Because 10 years ago, I would have been 16 I guess. I didn’t necessarily think I would be here where I am in 10 years. I’ve found that stuff can change so much. Really, for better or worse. But just like overnight, things are different all of a sudden and then your life is different. So I don’t exactly know, I don’t know, 10 or 10 years feels like a long way away, but I just, I want to be enjoying whatever I do. And having a good time, because I think that is the thing I’m most fortunate about is that I get to do something that I love to do. I know I said before, it is extremely frustrating at times. I just want to bash my head into the wall, sometimes feeling some of these things. But at the end of the day, when I think about it, I’m a professional wrestler, which is the first thing that I ever wanted to do in life, and I get to do it every week, and I get to do some of my best friends. It really literally is a dream come true. So I just hope whatever I’m doing in 10 years that I can kind of feel the same way about that.
Paste: Obviously, a lot of wrestlers transition into traditional acting, and you have a background with family background in that. Did that ever appeal to you becoming an actor?
JP: Not particularly. The part I wanted to do, which I was actually kind of pursuing before this all took off, was I wanted to be a stuntman. I always thought that the fun stuff. And maybe this comes across in my wrestling. I get some flack for this or whatever. But I don’t go to the movies. I don’t particularly like to watch like the 20 minute monologues that people do, that somehow MJF also gets to do on the TV. I like the action. That’s the cool part to me. That was something that I was kind of interested in pursuing. Because I feel like there are a lot of similarities to wrestling in that. But I don’t know at this point. You just got to see what comes around the bend and kind of make the most of it.
Double or Nothing 2023 airs live on pay-per-view and in select movie theaters this Sunday night, May 28, at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT. The Buy-In pre-show starts at 7 p.m. ET.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s also on Twitter @grmartin.