There’s something about “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry and, indeed this whole extended feud with Christian and Luchasaurus that feels kinda timeless.
One school of wrestling philosophy is that wrestling is evolutionary and always improving. In some respects, this is true. It’s hard to argue that, in terms of raw athleticism, wrestling these days is of a higher overall quality. It’s akin to seeing modern Premier League footballers and comparing them to the drinking and smoking players of the ’70s. But there’s another side to wrestling, another way to value that goes beyond the visual, and that’s the way that it engages you on an emotional level. It’s here that Jungle Boy’s trajectory this past year has hit the high notes.
As a character, he’s not exactly got a whole load of depth, but that’s worked to his benefit. He’s not the everyman; indeed, he’s almost the opposite, the sort of heroic archetype you’ve seen in a thousand fables and classic tales; the one you root for not because you identify with him but because you support the cause of justice he struggles for.
On the other hand, Christian has played the foil to perfection, and it’s worked a treat in building up Perry as the promised Prince. Heelwork is difficult in the 21st century, especially as the relationship between the fans and wrestlers has morphed, often into the parasocial. Unlike others who try to subvert things by breaking the fourth wall or playing pantomime villains on social media, Cage has played the heel role almost entirely straight. It’s worked well enough that, yes, we can suspend our disbelief for those moments when he’s on screen.
Christian’s had an immensely successful and fruitful career, both in terms of innovation, wrestling ability, and storytelling. He’s the sort of person I’d argue should be on the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame ballot, especially as his long-time collaborator, Edge, is on. Christian’s lack of respect in this regard seems to be no fault of his own, but simply that, unlike his partner, he was never pushed as a true main eventer in WWE. It’s an oversight that I think reflects a weakness in how wrestling critics value people’s contribution to the art/industry; we know that these people are actors and that wrestling is far from a meritocracy, and yet we rarely celebrate with the deserved fanfare those whose contributions mine much deeper over the decades than those who may have been on top for a year or two.
I said earlier that this is about the story, but I want to highlight that regarding technique, the match from AEW Revolution 2023 was a low-key masterclass. People want different things from their wrestling. Was this a pseudo-realist brawl? An ultra-violent spectacle? A movez-fest? Nope. And if that’s what you like, then fair enough, I’ll watch those matches too. So what was this? I’m struggling to think of a pithy description of the aesthetic style here, but all that comes to mind is that this is magical realism. That has nothing to do with the casket stipulation, but because it was a classic pro wrestling style: more believable than a movie fight, more outlandish than a bar fight, and much more importantly, executed really well all in one take. There was a tightness to the set pieces and spots and a pace that gave it that extra edge: the lack of hesitation between reversals and changeups, indicating confidence far above many of the roster. The finish was pure wrestling gold, a highly visual motif of evil being vanquished by a conquering hero.
JUNGLE. BOY. 🦖
— B/R Wrestling (@BRWrestling) March 6, 2023
Christian vs. Jungle Boy was a match that aimed an arrow at the higher calling of wrestling-as-artform and hit it firmly in the bullseye.