The Ballad Of Jungle Boy

Billy Gunn is a bigger star than Jungle Boy. That is, Billy Gunn was a bigger star, still is a bigger star, and will continue to be a bigger star than Jack Perry.

The recent “For The Love of Wrestling” convention in Manchester, England had several stars, both past and present, brought to the UK for autograph sessions with the British fans. As we know, All Elite Wrestling will be going across the pond to Wembley Stadium with a major portion of tickets already sold before a match is announced for the card. I was skeptical and still wonder how many fans will end up in the stadium, but I’m genuinely happy that the company did better numbers for the event so far than I would’ve guessed could’ve been accomplished. Along with its UK debut, AEW is more flexible with its talent, as far as their ability to take outside gigs, one of the perks of working outside the strict corporate structure of WWE.

Along with autographs and photo-ops, fans had the chance to attend Q&A sessions for a variety of the current stars, as well as the legends from the past. In the era of the smart phone and social media, some wrestlers, even those that you would think would know better, can make themselves look bad with a live mic in their hand.

Jack Perry, who is set to be featured in the main event of AEW’s next pay-per-view, Double or Nothing, is the latest performer to make himself and AEW look silly with the mic. Initially, I saw on social media that there were English fans that commented that despite paying for his meet and greet, Jungle Boy was less than gracious with his interaction with fans. As disappointing as it might be when someone that the fans enjoy on television is a jerk in real life, it’s not necessarily surprising since you’ve heard stories like that for years so I didn’t think much of the claims that Jack Perry might not be the enthusiastic guy that you see on television if you meet him in-person. While there’s no excuse for being rude or dismissive of fans, especially those that are paying for the autographs at a convention, we’re all human so it’s possible that Perry had a bad day. Maybe his bags were lost at the airport? Maybe he had diarrhea on the flight?

Everyone has a bad day occasionally, even if the professional thing to do would’ve been to greet the fans nicely that thought enough of his work to pay to meet him. However, the Q&A session, which was undoubtedly posted on Youtube to generate views, revealed that Jungle Boy’s attitude wasn’t the result of stomach problems, but rather that it was probably a reflection of his real-life persona. During the vast majority of the questions that were asked from the audience Jack Perry seemed annoyed to be there and aloof in most of his responses. The potential next top baby face of AEW looking as exciting as watching paint dry doesn’t exactly create any optimism or enthusiasm about the product. When asked who he talks to about matches, Jungle Boy said that he doesn’t talk to Billy Gunn and claimed that the former WWE star “hates Canadian destoryers” before he explained that he will sometimes vomit before big matches, but doesn’t for “the matches he doesn’t care about” in AEW.

There are two major takeaways from the flat answers that Perry provided.

First, one of the guys in the main event of the next pay-per-view just admitted that there are matches that he doesn’t care about. If the wrestlers in the ring don’t care about the matches, why should the fans care about them? More importantly, if Jack Perry doesn’t care about some of his matches, why should the fans want to pay to see his matches? Secondly, and this continues to be a common topic of discussion for AEW, Jungle Boy dismisses the advice of previous generations, which is very similar to comments Adam Page made about disregarding advice from older stars. It’s fair to consider the evolution of the sport, but the foundation of the business and thus the entire point of trying to draw money, remain the same regardless of the era. The psychology of “good guys” and villains is still a staple of the industry because there are heels in real life so that dynamic is something that the audience can connect with during show. Keep in mind, the goal is or at least should be, to draw as much money as possible and to maximize that opportunity so it makes sense to present a narrative that has the biggest demographic possible. The general public can relate to the baby face trying to get a win over the heel, it’s a narrative that is used in sports, movies, and politics. Isn’t it ironic that politicians always ask for donations in an effort to defeat the other side?

As far as Jungle Boy mentioning Billy Gunn, there’s a reason that he should take advice from the former WWE star. Don’t get me wrong, Jack Perry is a very good performer and he can go in the ring, his mindset, not his skills, are the topic of discussion. In theory, he has the potential to eventually be a top star for AEW, assuming he gets away from the minor league thought process. Granted, the King of the Ring push didn’t exactly work out in 1999, but Billy Gunn was a member of one of the most popular factions in the history of the sport during one of the biggest booms in the history of the sport. Furthermore, he more or less remained a part of the industry for the past thirty years, the majority of that time spent on the roster of a national promotion so it’s fair to say that he brings valuable knowledge to the table. At the peak of the Attitude era, there were roughly ten million viewers for pro wrestling between Raw and Nitro, and depending of the week, five or six million of those viewers watched Billy Gunn as a part of DX on Raw. For a comparison, Dynamite drew 776,000 viewers last week, which was a drop from 863,000 viewers that week before that. Yes, the Attitude era was a different time, both with the evolution of the industry and the media landscape, but the point being, Jungle Boy performed on a television show that had less than 20% of the audience that Billy Gunn performed for in his prime so the bottom line is, Billy has television experience that Jungle Boy isn’t in the same league of so it’s unfair to automatically write it off as antiquated advice. Until the ratings dramatically increase during Jungle Boy segments, which they haven’t then maybe it might be wise for him to consider what veterans have to say about the status of the television product.

Jack Perry seems to have an indy mindset and that thought process is based on a niche, which doesn’t translate to national television. Too often, the die hard AEW fan base doesn’t realize that the goal for the mainstream distribution of a cable network isn’t the same as the indy show in front of 400 fans. There’s undoubtedly a way to present the AEW style to the general public, but more often than not, the program seems too inside baseball for the causal viewer. Tony Khan put Vikingo in the main event spot against Kenny Omega for his AEW debut, but there was zero explanation about why it was being advertised as a “dream match” prior to that. If Perry doesn’t understand why there doesn’t need to be a Canadian destoryer in several matches then he will be great for an independent show with a few hundred people, but won’t make a dent in the national ratings.

As far as the perception of the current audience, the fact that Jungle Boy seems completely aloof to the bigger picture of national TV is probably moot. That demographic will support much of the AEW product regardless of the possible flaws, simply because its the contrarian point of view to the WWE. That being said, if Jack Perry being a jerk becomes a common theme on social media, the majority of the All Elite audience is in enough of the wrestling bubble that the domino effect could sour the live audience on his character. If it happened to Sammy Guevara, it could happen to Jungle Boy and it wouldn’t exactly help sell Double or Nothing if the audience rejects one of the baby faces in the main event of the pay-per-view.

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Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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