By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
TJP on origins of Suicide character on TV: “A funny story, the first inception of it back in, I think, 2008. A lot of us were in the locker room for Victory Road or Destination X. It was in Houston in 2008. They had told Frankie Kazarian, ‘We would like you to portray this character,’ and he was bummed. He was super upset because he’s a little bit older than me, he comes from the same generation, but he’s a little bit older than me and was finally getting the chance to be himself. He had matured himself as a performer and was at his peak, I think. They were kind of undoing that. He didn’t want to do it, he wasn’t having it. We all sat around the locker room and Christopher Daniels joked, ‘TJ should just be Suicide, he’s already in a mask,’ because I was Puma at the time.
“Fast forward to, I don’t know, 2012. The character had gone through its ups and downs and had gone through a lot of different portrayals. They were bringing it back for one night only as maybe nostalgia. I don’t think they knew who they wanted to portray it. I said, ‘If you don’t have any idea for this, I’d be happy to do it.’ At the time, they didn’t know what to do with Puma, the character, and I was tired of sitting at home. They said, ‘Good idea.’ One night turned into two, turned into three. At this point, I might be the longest-running Suicide character portrayal. It was just an accident. After night one, they thought, ‘This is the way we always envisioned it being and we love it. Let’s see where it goes.'”
TJP’s pitches for Manik character “I think it was the day of the Boston pay-per-view we had, Slammiversary. It was not long after the bombing in Boston. They had thought about changing the character, changing the name. At the time, TNA was doing arena shows and live TV every week. It was closer to what AEW is doing now. They were trying to get over that hump. They had network TV with Spike and everything. Maybe they thought the name should be changed. I was really kind of the one to break the silence and say, ‘Hey, maybe now is the time. We’re going to a city that needs a little bit of uplifting. I don’t know that Suicide is the best name for the correct. And you guys have been wanting to rebrand it a little bit for a while so.’ I don’t know who came up with Manik but I said, ‘Okay, we could do something with that. It’s better.’
“I had pitched a lot of different ideas for the character change. I had wanted to do something based on the Aswang, which is Filipino folklore. It’s like our vampire, ghoul, werewolf-type thing. I wanted to turn it into a Great Muta-type character. Sort of what Demon Balor is now. I don’t think he was doing that at the time yet, but that’s sort of what I wanted to do. They had taken the mask off and everything and I said, ‘What if we have a character that is me and this character at the same time? Sometimes it’s this character, sometimes it’s me.’ We had a lot of starts and stops and what we ended up getting was Manik with a new suit.”
TJP on importance of Opera Cup ahead of MLW Fightland: “One thing that I think is really great as far as that setting, most commonly when you get to the upper levels of wrestling — like where WWE, Impact, MLW, New Japan, Ring of Honor is — when you have steady programming, they are essentially presented as television shows. As a television show, you kind of have your cast. You have a roster, it might be 200 people, but the show’s really about ten people. If you watch WWE, the show is really about ten people. What I like is that MLW’s roster is not too big and not too small.
“And what I like is on the indies, tournament formats are really great for what is essentially a single-serving, ensemble cast. For an indie show, a lot of people aren’t familiar with a lot of the guys. There isn’t a lot of linear storytelling depending on the number of dates in that regional promotion or whatever the case may be. The tournament format is such an instant draw for people to be interested in because it’s a springboard, it’s a debut, it’s a first look at a lot of guys, or it’s just a dream booking for a lot of guys if they’re familiar with the participants. I like MLW using the Opera Cup, having the Opera Cup and that platform on a major league — so to speak, no pun intended — format because they have the type of programming to have a linear track for it with the excitement of the single-serving, one-night-only feel to it. It’s kind of marrying both worlds together.”