Jungle Boy Became Jungle Man at AEW Full Gear

Not long after AEW Dynamite launched on TNT in October 2019, it was clear the company considered Jungle Boy to be one of its brightest young stars, and for good reason: His technical wrestling and high-flying abilities outpaced most others in his age range, and he had a unique look, with his long, curly mane.

But the character had a shelf life. Even Tarzan has to grow up. Jungle Boy, everyone knew, at some point would need to become a Jungle Man.

More AEW Full Gear 2021 Coverage

Full Gear represented one of the most significant steps in Jungle Boy’s maturation, and not just because it marked the in-ring debut of his new “beard” (it hardly concealed his baby face). In a Falls Count Anywhere Match in which he teamed with Christian Cage and Luchasaurus to take on the SuperKliq (The Young Bucks and Adam Cole), Jungle Boy came away looking like the biggest star.

Consider it his Wrestling Bar Mitzvah.

AEW

A serious player in defeat

The match was months in the making, with roots dating back even longer than September 5’s All Out, when Cole debuted in AEW and superkicked Jungle Boy in the head, signaling his allegiance to The Elite.

Jungle Boy’s first brush with the group came June 26, when he challenged Kenny Omega for the AEW World Championship after winning the Casino Battle Royale at the previous month’s Double or Nothing event, last eliminating Cage.

In one of the more memorable moments of Omega’s reign — which came to an end at Full Gear, when he fell to “Hangman” Adam Page — Jungle Boy took the veteran to the limit. The bout, which spanned 17:18, was punctuated by a breathtaking closing sequence: Jungle Boy wiggled out of Omega’s One Winged Angel and countered into a stack pin. Omega kicked out, but Jungle Boy deftly transitioned to his snare trap submission, bringing the Daily’s Place crowd to its feet.

Not two minutes later Omega pinned Jungle Boy for the win — the champion pulled the challenger’s hair to break the hold, then finished him with a Tiger Driver 98 and a One Winged Angel — but the blue-chipper earned some respect for hanging with Omega.

That was not the last the Elite would see of Jungle Boy, however. Most everyone in AEW is involved in a stable, and so Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus smoothly transitioned to a feud with the Young Bucks, leading to an AEW Tag Team Championship match on August 18, in which the Jacksons retained. The bad blood between the groups persisted, with Cage challenging for Omega’s championship in the All Out main event, leading to the dramatic moment of Cole super-kicking Jungle Boy. That prompted a September 29 match between the two, which, again, saw Jungle Boy look like a serious player in defeat.

As much as it helped the 24-year-old prospect to share the ring — and hold his own — with the Elite, in good wrestling stories characters display some sort of growth. In this situation, it was clear what had to happen: Jungle Boy needed to find an edge.

AEW

In the wings

The Falls Count Anywhere match was slotted fourth on the Full Gear card, after a trio of bangers to open the show: MJF vs. Darby Allin; Lucha Bros vs. FTR; and Bryan Danielson vs. Miro.

This had turned into a blood feud in recent weeks, with the six men taking turns theatrically throwing each other off the stage.

From the opening bell the bout was a slugfest, with chairs, trash cans and ladders quickly brought into the fray. The action often circled back to Cole and Jungle Boy, including about three minutes in, when Jungle Boy flung a chair square at Cole’s face, knocking him to the mat. After Jungle Boy countered the Jacksons’ attempt to throw him out of the ring and threw a table, reverse arm dragging the brothers out of sight, he took a seat in the same chair, crossing his legs and folding his arms, looking satisfied. That’s when Cole bounced off the ropes and kneed Jungle Boy in the face, sending the youngster tumbling to the mat.

A few minutes later, not long after Jungle Boy hit Cole with a pair of rapid-fire topé suicidas—his third dive, a topé con hilo, was stymied when the Young Bucks smashed him with a trash can—he instructed Luchasaurus to grab a table. “Jungle Boy Jack directing some traffic,” announcer Jim Ross said. “He’s growing up before our very eyes.” Ross then noted that Jungle Boy was the first male competitor in AEW to reach 60 wins.

That’s as much a function of AEW’s trust in the performer as it is the company’s devotion to getting him more reps. If there’s one knock on Jungle Boy, it’s his acting, both on the microphone and in the ring. That can be improved, though, and it helps that he has good genes: His father, the late Luke Perry, starred on hit shows Beverly Hills, 90210 and Riverdale, among others. What distinguishes AEW from WWE is its rich storytelling, and if Jungle Boy wants to climb the card, he’ll have to add more layers to his character.

To that end, the Falls Count Anywhere match was a useful device. Not long after the fracas spilled back into the ring, Jungle Boy stood with a chair in his hand over Cole, whose head lay on another chair. It was a call back to the Nov. 3 Dynamite, when Cage hit Cole with his signature con-chair-to. Faced with the opportunity to replicate the brutal maneuver, though, Jungle Boy hesitated and was taken out by Matt Jackson.

The match wore on, with each man taking his fair share of bumps, until the competitors moved to the top of the stage, where much of the final few weeks of build-up had taken place. That’s when something clicked for Jungle Boy.

After Luchasaurous’s shooting star press of the stage wiped out Cole, Nick Jackson and Elite stooges Brandon Cutler and Michael Nakazawa, Cage lined Matt Jackson up for the finale. He placed Jackson’s head atop one chair, grabbing another for himself. That’s when Jungle Boy tapped him on the shoulder: “I will do it.” He looked to the ceiling, wound back the chair and connected with Jackson’s skull, securing the pin for his team and displaying that much-needed edge.

AEW has earned headlines in recent months with the additions of CM Punk and Bryan Danielson, but perhaps the most exciting part of the promotion is the cavalry of young performers waiting in the wings.

Jungle Boy is atop the list, though it might be worth rethinking his presentation after Full Gear. Perhaps, now, it’s time we call him Jungle Man.

Tags

Joshua Needelman

Joshua Needelman is a freelance writer based in New York who spends way too much time thinking about professional wrestling. He's written about the scripted sport for The Washington Post, The Guardian and Washington City Paper, and he's seldom found without a mug of steaming hot green tea by his side. He can be found on Twitter @JoshNeedelman.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.