(Transcription Credit: Michael McClead, WrestleZone)
TJP On WWE Allowing Him To Tell His Story Whereas Other Companies Did Not:
Thankfully, WWE wanted to tell me story. They were the first place that wanted me to be me. Prior to this, I had places that were like, ‘You’ve got to pretend to be Mexican because you look like that. We don’t know what a Filipino is. Do you speak Spanish? If you don’t speak Spanish, you can’t have a job here. We’re gonna put a mask on you. You’re gonna pretend to be Japanese.’ It’s like, ‘Man, I’m not any of these things. I have nothing against that. I’ve been to all these places. I’m probably more Japanese than the guy you have pretending to be, but I’m not that. I’m me.’
TJP’s Response To Being Pigeon Holed By Promoters:
Don’t tell me not to be me. I don’t care if anybody else is like me. Just don’t tell me not to be like me.
On Being Homeless:
A lot of people took away from, when they told the story on TV, they thought, ‘He was homeless when he was young. Oh man, he grew up homeless, or he tried to go to wrestling school and he was homeless,’ but that’s not how I was homeless.
I was like a silver spoon wrestler, sort of. I started and I was doing loops and I was kind of like a journeyman and I was doing old school style because at the time that’s still kind of how it was done, but I wasn’t homeless then. It was still a tough road, but after that NJPW, CMLL, I was being handed opportunities. I was a kid. I didn’t know what these things were. I earned it retroactively because I was applying myself. I was on top of the world. It was after that stuff that I was homeless. That’s what people don’t understand. I wasn’t a young adult or college kid that was homeless by choice. It wasn’t, ‘I’m going to wrestling school, mom and dad. Screw you guys. F the machine. I’m doing my own thing and I’m just gonna eat Ramen and sleep in my car. I don’t want to come home.’ When I was homeless, I didn’t have a home to go back to.
I was 20, 22 maybe and I had done a lot of work for WWE, as far as coming in for dark matches and things. The guys knew me and saw I was looking for an opportunity, but that’s a hard way to get in WWE. That almost never happens. You have to be like Brian Cage for that sort of thing to happen and it happened to him like three times. [Tommy Dreamer suggested he try a different route, as this was no longer the best way to get WWE attention. TJP left and headed to FCW in Florida.]
I went home, packed up the car, drove to Tampa, and signed up as a walk on for FCW, as if I’d never wrestled before. They had a night camp for people that wanted to learn to wrestle…..I literally signed up for wrestling school. I wrestled in the Toyko Dome. I’ve been in IWGP title matches. I’ve wrestled in CMLL. I’ve main evented in Arena Mexico and I’m walking in there with my hat in my hands, ‘I’d like to learn to wrestle, sir.’
[TJP was training every night and unable to tour. He had also been wrestling since the age of 13 with no solid work history behind him. Despite multiple efforts to find work (including commission only jobs) TJP was unable to secure employment and was eventually asked to leave FCW, who had nothing for him. His spots in NJPW and other promotions were now taken by other wrestlers.]
I was starting over from scratch. 10 years in and starting over literally from day one. I couldn’t get a job. I got evicted and was spending nights in laundromats. My parents back home in Los Angeles had just gone through a divorce went bankrupt and lost their house. My parents were homeless too, so I was homeless and I didn’t have a home to go back to. My parents needed my help and I had no help to give them. I needed help, but couldn’t ask them for help. As is the nature of the wrestling business, I would call friends…and wouldn’t tell them that I had a lot of trouble, but I would kind of let them know that I was in a little bit of trouble and could use some help, but now that I’m not in the position I was they could look at me differently….’Oh, I don’t know if I can help you,’ I think they were happy the spot was theirs.
It was literally back to wrestling at bar shows in front of 8 people…..I would do that and that’s how I would eat. I would sleep in the car and answer room for rent and stay one night and then skip out in the morning when they came with lease papers to sign. I’d sleep in laundromats, whatever I could.
[TJP was eventually offered an opportunity to stay at Gabe Sapolsky’s rental house and then worked his way back up the wrestling ladder via Evolve, TNA, and ROH]
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