"It just felt like a good ending to a chapter of my life, like it was the beginning of 'act one' for me," the 25-year-old wrestler tells PEOPLE
Professional wrestling is ripe with maneuvers that can cause a lifetime of pain for anyone who steps foot in the ring. But for All Elite Wrestling star Jack Perry, a recent storyline referencing his late father put him on a path of healing he never could’ve predicted.
Jack, the 25-year-old son of actor Luke Perry, recently spoke with PEOPLE about his budding pro wrestling career and a fictional rivalry with his former on-screen mentor, which repeatedly evoked his late father’s name. His dad Luke, who had leading roles on Beverly Hills, 90210 and Riverdale, died unexpectedly in 2019 at 52 years old.
“He’d always been super supportive,” Jack says. “Both my parents were very cool about just letting me do what I wanted and figure it out myself. And they never pressured me into going into any direction I didn't want to go.”
In recent years, Jack has become a rising star in the world of pro wrestling, which often leans heavy on reality to help advance its fictional, action-packed story arcs. And over the last two years on TBS’ AEW: Dynamite program, Jack and veteran wrestler Christian Cage orchestrated an intensely personal on-screen rivalry, airing intimate details about their real life and emotional trauma each week.
It was all part of the show, Jack says, despite the real tears and blood that were shed as the rivalry came to a head this past March, nearly four years to the day his father died from a massive stroke.
“Luckily, it was long enough ago I feel like I kind of dealt with a lot of it and it wasn't so fresh,” Jack says. “That whole thing — in my real life — was a big part of my life and a huge event in my life, and I'm sure along the way it’s changed the course of what my life is going to be. To wrap it up in my work and something I'm very passionate about, with a guy like Christian, I feel like it helped give me some element of closure on the whole thing, too.”
Only in pro wrestling.
The scripted feud was Cage’s idea, Jack says, noting he and the veteran wrestler are good friends and Cage is a mentor to him in real life.
The rivalry saw a number of instances where Cage, whose real name is Jay Reso, insulted Jack’s late father in detail during in-ring speeches, belittling the actor’s son as a privileged Hollywood child who could never outshine his father’s celebrity shadow. In turn, Jack taunted Cage with references to his real-life divorce, as the pair blurred the lines of reality to make fans believe in the televised animosity.
In the ring, Cage beat Jack bloody while cameras would show his mother Rachel and sister Sophie looking on in horror at ringside. Perry's family got in screaming matches with Cage, while his mother once slapped her son's rival across the face.
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The Perry family was in on the act, Jack says, having been supportive of his dream to become a pro wrestler since he first started training at 10 years old.
And they were emotional after Jack ultimately defeated Cage in their final fight in March, “burying” his former mentor-turned-rival in a pay-per-view match AEW branded as the “final burial.” Along with it, Jack says the symbolic finish and the years of personal storytelling helped him further come to grips with his father’s loss.
“It felt like a happy ending,” Jack says. “It just felt like a good ending to a chapter of my life, like it was the beginning of ‘act one’ for me. Just closing that chapter of my life and being able to move forward with my life and my work and see what's next.”
What’s next for Jack is a chance at the AEW World Championship, the wrestling promotion’s top title and one of the most highly sought-after championships in wrestling today. Jack is set to participate in a world championship match against three longtime rivals — current champion Maxwell Jacob Friedman, Sammy Guevara and Darby Allin — in a four-way match this Sunday at AEW’s Double or Nothing pay-per-view show.
While Jack tries to become one of wrestling's top champions, Cage will surely be cheering on from backstage.
“If I never wrestled again, that’s someone I would talk to for the rest of my life,” Jack says. “There are a lot of people who do things and they'll kind of phrase it in a way like, this will help you, but it's really all for them and they're really kind of working for themselves. I never felt that way with him. And I think everything he did, it might not have seemed like it at a time, but I think was to help me in the long run.”
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Read the original article on People.