MJF, Darby Allin, Sammy Guevara and Jungle Boy are the semi-official “four pillars” of AEW’s future. Original signings with the company and all 26 and younger when the company started, the four wrestlers have all traveled down different paths during their three years with the company. This article is the fourth in a series of four that will examine the current accomplishments and assess the future prospects of each “pillar” in AEW.
A wise man once said that wrestling is ultimately only about two things: doing cool moves and looking like a badass. Those two aspects of the business go a long way in summarizing the appeal of the most successful wrestlers in history.
Mastering the second half of that equation will determine how far “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry will go in wrestling.
The first half; doing cool moves, he already has down with his risky dives and creative high spots. That second half; something that is harder to teach and more of a natural gift, is the challenge. As the youngest of the four pillars, Jungle Boy has always been on the longest path to stardom, and there are still many chapters to be written in his career before we can even begin to properly gauge his potential.
While MJF, Darby Allin and Sammy Guevara already had a few years of prominent indie experience and had all appeared on television before in MLW, Jungle Boy was a much rawer prospect. Outside of a few appearances in PWG, Jungle Boy was largely unknown to fans outside of the Southern California indie scene when he was signed. At 22 years old, he was the youngest original member of the roster when he was signed, and there was no doubt he was brought in based solely on his raw potential.
Being the son of Luke Perry, and inheriting his father’s TV star good looks, helped establish Jungle Boy early on in his career. When he wrestled in PWG, he probably wasn’t experienced enough to get over to that discerning audience, but it was clear he possessed a natural babyface charm and he got over with that audience.
That appeal quickly manifested itself in AEW. He was still very green, but the crowd immediately bought into him as a plucky, white-meat babyface. Pairing him with Luchasauras, a big guy who does cool moves and a fun gimmick, was a wise move and they caught on as a big guy/small guy midcard tag team. Marko Stunt, who was added to the act almost as a way to make Jungle Boy look older and bigger by comparison, also helped for a short period of time.
While Jurassic Express slowly climbed the tag ranks, eventually winning the tag titles and having a good reign with multiple strong matches, there was always an acknowledged focus that Jungle Boy was destined for bigger things. He has been given numerous singles matches, including memorable matches against Kenny Omega, Dax Harwood and Darby Allin, to show his ability as a singles wrestler.
Getting the job done bell-to-bell isn’t a concern for Jungle Boy. He’s improved a lot working with the great wrestlers on the AEW roster and now, when put in a big spot, can be counted on to deliver a strong match with almost any opponent. The concern comes from the fact that while his boyish good looks and Saturday morning cartoon gimmick were fine for a mid-card tag team act, the truth is that to be a top singles star in AEW, a wrestler needs to come across like a badass.
Compare Jungle Boy physically to Jon Moxley, or Kenny Omega, or even Bryan Danielson. Those wrestlers give off an aura of toughness and wrestling superiority; Jungle Boy can have all the skills in the ring, but it’s hard to convince fans that someone that looks like a 90210 character is a tough badass that can win a street fight against Jon Moxley.
This is a conundrum because a big part of Jungle Boy’s appeal is his youthful good looks and the Jungle Boy gimmick. Getting away from that may be necessary to elevate him to the next level as a star, but it also involves the risk of changing his character from what got him this far in the first place. Finding a balance between the likable babyface hero, and the badass who fans buy kicking ass at the highest level, is a delicate task.
The introduction of Christian Cage, leading to the dissolution of Jurassic Express, was a helpful step in that direction. Cage’s character in AEW exists to draw extra anger, extra toughness out of Jungle Boy by challenging him in promos and forcing him to get more violent in his behavior. In some ways, Cage’s injury that has drawn out the feud, has been a blessing because it’s allowed Jungle Boy’s transformation (complete with him using the name Jack Perry formally) to be more gradual.
His match against Luchasaurus at Full Gear was perhaps a turning point in his career. A steel cage match in a big spot, not only was the match of good quality, but Jungle Boy went to war with a monster heel and came out on top. The image of a bruised and bloodied Jungle Boy conquering a much bigger opponent inside a steel cage should be broadcasted as much as possible by AEW, because it sends the message that this guy is convincingly tough.
The other major question Jungle Boy has to answer is his ability on promos. AEW is a promo promotion, and the best stars have to at least be passable on the microphone, and really should be among the best in the game. MJF, Chris Jericho, Moxley, the standard is high.
It would be hard to say that Jungle Boy’s performance on the microphone has been encouraging so far. Early in his AEW career he quite literally didn’t talk, and as he’s been given more promo time, the results have been mixed. During his engagements with Cage, he has had some stinging lines that have gotten over, but has also sounded unconfident and lost at other times.
There are examples of wrestlers who started out as rough promos early in their career but turned into quality talkers as they gained more experience. Bryan Danielson, AJ Styles, Mark Henry, and others looked raw early on but were able to improve greatly as their career went on. Jungle Boy is still very much a work in progress, and again, the Cage feud looks aimed at trying to elevate his game to an acceptable level on that end.
Unlike Guevara and Allin, Jungle Boy has been on a pretty steady trajectory in AEW. He started off in a mid-card tag team and has now blown past that into having long single matches on PPV. He’s definitely improved in the ring, and he’s made some progressive improvements to his character that could take him to the next level. If he can’t develop into a strong promo, it is hard to envision him headlining a PPV or becoming world champion.
Still, he’s only 25 years old and a half-decade away from really starting his prime. Tony Khan has shown both that he is committed to pushing Jungle Boy, but isn’t in a rush to do so. He’s allowed Jungle Boy to develop at his own pace, and if he does one day get there, he will have a seat at the table and world title reigns and PPV main events should follow.