(Transcription Credit: Michael McClead, WrestleZone)
On How Wrestling Companies Hid His Age:
Because of that reason they stuck me in a mask and I had a costume. I had Hayabusa pants and a top, so you could kind of hide a little. You knew I was young, maybe that I was not of age. I hid the best I could that I was 13 years old. They might have thought I was 16 or 17.
TJP On Starting Pro Wrestling At 13:
I was 13 years old making U.S. dollareedoos….the thing that it was is that I was so absorbed by it as a little kid, I thought that everybody grew up to be a wrestler. I knew there were other occupations in the world, but I was so absorbed by wrestling that in my head, we’re all gonna grow up to be wrestlers; every kid in my class, everybody I knew, even my own family, everybody, but that’s just how introverted I was with it. My earliest memories growing up…I was 2…watching Saturday Night’s Main Event. Me and my dad were just sitting there watching it and he was breaking off some of his chili dog to feed me…..I grew up totally absorbed by it.
I started in the 90s. We didn’t have social media and stuff at the time. There wasn’t a message board or that sort of thing. You could go to chat rooms, like AOL Chat Rooms and that sort of stuff that was themed after wrestling. You might be able to find a message board about wrestling here or there, but there wasn’t a lot of knowledge. I grew up watching guys like Ric Flair, and The Guerreros and they wrestled when they were young, so I thought, ‘I’ll wrestle and somehow that will lead me to pro wrestling.’ I don’t know why I thought that, but somehow that will lead me there.
When I got to high school, first day, they told me they didn’t have an amateur program. This was 1998 and I was just like, ‘Well I could write to the schools I see in Pro Wrestling Illustrated…’ I think so little about tomorrow that I’m still just not thinking about yesterday. That is how much I think about the future. At the time I didn’t think anything through. I thought, ‘Let me see what they say and I’ll figure it out.’ Now things are more transparent and lenient. You can get started young now. At the time it was difficult to get started young. You had to be 18, a lot of them you had to be 21. They were looking for people that had at least gotten through college or were around that age because this is a tough life to get into. Obviously, I’m not relocating and I wasn’t even half that age.
[TJP ends up meeting another student in school, a couple years his elder, and learns about a local school, which he ends up attending]
A couple months later, I started tagging along with the older guys to matches….I would just tag along with them and then, if they got stuck in a big tag match, I would usually be the final guy, or an extra guy. My first few matches were like that. I was just an extra guy.
On Being Humbled:
I didn’t appreciate being paid thousands of dollars and being flown first class to wrestle in the Tokyo Dome until I was wrestling in front of 8 people for $15 on a bar room floor full of peanut shells. I had a career. Now that real life just literally kicked my ass, my parents were suffering because I didn’t know what a career was. My family literally needed me and I was like, ‘We’re all living in cars right now.’ I was like, ‘There’s a level of failure that you weren’t looking at.’ I just started all over and basically had a second career, ten years in, I hit the wall, and started all over again. Before I knew it, I was here.
On NJPW & Personal Clash With Kendo Kashin:
I clashed a lot with Kendo Kashin. [Antonio] Inoki put him in charge of the foreign juniors. It sucks because I actually really like Kashin, as a wrestler, and as a person, but he’s kind of a clown. He likes to push people’s buttons and he clashed with me a lot. I think he just picked on me because I was the youngest, so there was this big disconnect and kind of this falling out, so I quit NJPW and moved on. I was like, ‘I had my fill now,’ not that I ever wanted to leave. I’ll always consider it home, but if it was gonna be that difficult, I just wanted to move because I didn’t want to deal with the personal issues.
On Kushida Coming To WWE:
I’m very surprised [that there is chatter]. My opinion is the more the merrier. To me, selfishly, I think it’s very similar to a lot of the things I can do. Where a lot of people might be threatened by that sort of thing, I think it’s great because it gives me the opportunity to be me more.