The Young Bucks on Jack Perry’s Ascent to Stardom–And Their Attack on Tony Khan

The Bucks also detailed their ladder match at Dynasty against FTR’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.

The Young Bucks on attacking Tony Khan: “It felt dangerous and rebellious”

A month ago at the Dynasty pay-per-view, Bryan Danielson and Will Ospreay put on an all-time clinic.

This was a rare blend of storytelling, athleticism, and awe-inducing moments. Right from the moment both men stepped into the ring, the crowd in St. Louis soaked up every moment.

In the back, the Young Bucks and FTR were preparing. Their ladder match was up next.

Considering this is the feud that reintroduced CM Punk to AEW programming, with a backstage video of Punk from last summer at All In part of the buildup to the Bucks-FTR IV, this ladder match needed to deliver. But for two teams that always combine for company-defining matches, there was a sudden realization: how in the world were they going to follow that?

“The building was shaking,” said the Young Bucks’ Matt Jackson. “The louder it got, the more nervous we all got. Always happy for guys when they’re killing it, but I was certainly thinking, ‘How are we going to follow that?’ At this point in our career, it’s those types of challenges that excite us the most.”

A masterpiece of a ladder match followed Ospreay-Danielson, filling all four of the men–the Bucks’ Matt and Nick (ahem, Matthew and Nicholas) Jackson and FTR’s Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler–with resounding pride. Four times these teams have met in the ring, and four times have they delivered cutting-edge tag matches.

Yet that was not why the Bucks–who are also AEW EVPs–had seemingly permanent smiles attached to their faces after the match. After the blood, sweat, tears, and toil from that grueling encounter, they were even prouder of Jack Perry, who made his highly anticipated return in the closing sequence of the match.

“Jack unfairly ate crap for a very long time,” said Matt Jackson. “So we had a lot of empathy for him, and we were very excited to help launch his comeback.”

Jack Perry returned to AEW at Dynasty
Jack Perry returned to AEW at Dynasty / AEW

Perry had been away from the company since August. He was the recipient of Punk’s backstage chokehold at All in, and the decision to air that footage this spring still divides wrestling fans. Punk was fired because of it, and Perry was given a lengthy leave of absence for his role in provoking Punk with his “cry me a river” comment.

If Perry was suspended, which was never made official, it was likely revoked after viewing the footage. But one element that never changed, not even as the weeks turned into months following All In, was that Perry continued to sit at home.

Yet the muddy and complicated situation had a silver lining. Perry developed a close-knit bond with the Bucks, who helped guide him from afar as he embarked on a sabbatical in Japan.

“We kept an eye on him the entire time he was gone and helped him navigate the situation–a familiar one that we had also gone through,” said Matt Jackson. “We also talked him down a few times. We gave him advice on how to succeed in Japan. It felt like he was our little brother. We saw him for the first time since All In, a couple days prior to the pay-per-view. We met him in our private jet, and talked endlessly the entire flight. We let him get it all out of his system, but assured him that this would be a fresh start. I was so thrilled to hear and see the groundswell for him when he appeared for the first time. It was like a rebirth for him.”

Perry’s return swung the pendulum in the ladder match, costing FTR the titles and elevating the Bucks to their third reign as AEW tag team champions. Fittingly, before his identity was revealed, Perry disguised himself in a Sting mask.

“We had just wrestled Sting in his retirement match, so that was perfect,” said Nick Jackson. “We were super proud and happy for Jack. He deserved a big moment and a big reaction, and he got both of those things in one moment.”

The Sting mask was Perry’s idea, leaning on the Bucks’ rivalry with the wrestling icon.

“We retired his old ass the month prior [at Revolution], so I thought that was cool,” said Matt Jackson. “Jack’s like the wildcard kid-brother who’s completely unafraid of consequences. He surprises me every week. A young, handsome, unapologetic, athletic kid–that is a very dangerous person. I want that guy on my team.”

The Bucks have worked closely with Perry and Kazuchika Okada, forming a new version of The Elite. They team together this Sunday at Double or Nothing, battling Bryan Danielson, FTR, and Darby Allin in an Anarchy in the Arena match.

The Bucks and Kazuchika Okada
The Bucks and Kazuchika Okada / AEW

The pay-per-view marks AEW’s five-year anniversary. Tonight is the last Dynamite before the event, and the Bucks will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in wreaking their unique blend of havoc.

“It’s the go-home episode heading into Double or Nothing, our final chance to make our mark on ‘Team AEW,’” said Matt Jackson. “Which is a silly name, considering only one of the participants on that side is an AEW original. Meanwhile, The Elite are either founders, originals, or part of the revolution that created the company. We’re the real Team AEW, and it’s time to go big or go home. And much like my gambling-addicted brother Nicholas says when he’s down six figures at MGM Grand Casino’s High Limit Room in Vegas, it’s time to go double or nothing.”

A critical moment in the Bucks’ ascent to top villains occurred last month on a Dynamite that serendipitously aired a day before the start of the NFL Draft. The Bucks and Perry physically assaulted AEW owner Tony Khan, even laying him out with a Tony Khan Driver.

“It felt dangerous and rebellious, and it broke our own rules that we set in the beginning,” said Matt Jackson. “And it was big. I was told it was a complete curtain sell-out, and the locker room gasped when it went down. Afterward, my phone lit up like a Christmas tree. It was probably the most feedback I’ve ever received for anything I’ve ever done, so I know it worked. It was personally great for me, because I had fantasized many times about dropping Tony Khan on his head ever since I met him. I can remember many times watching him talk during production meetings, and my mind would wander to beating the hell out of him, so you can imagine how great it felt to give Tony Khan a Tony Khan Driver.”

Ever since, the Bucks have been exerting their control of AEW on-screen.

“We already take the heat and the blame for anything that ever goes wrong,” said Nick Jackson. “So we might as well be the ones running the show.”

Khan is an executive with the Jacksonville Jaguars, a franchise his father owns. Throughout the draft, Khan generated a lot of attention for AEW by wearing a brace around his neck.

“I’m surprised he had the balls to show up on TV after we humiliated him like that,” said Nick Jackson. “But I give him credit for it.”

“Seeing him appear at the NFL Draft with the neck brace on was something even I had to respect,” added Matt Jackson. “Maybe he’s tougher than I thought.”

With all due respect to Khan’s neck brace, the Bucks are marketing a much more meaningful product. The brothers from Rancho Cucamonga, California are teaming with Reebok to create a new sneaker–the Reebok Pump Omni II.

This isn’t the Bucks’ first foray into sneakers. They enjoyed a successful collaboration with Diadora in 2022, and now have the chance to make an even more significant impression in the shoe industry with their new line that drops on May 27 exclusively through Champs.

“To be in The Elite, you have to be part of the one percent in the wrestling business,” said Matt Jackson. “You have to be a special, special talent. You’ve gotta have movie star good looks, and a catalog of big matches like The Rainmaker. Or, you have to be a young, brilliant mind with world championship material like The Scapegoat. How do you be an honorary member of this exclusive club? You grab a pair of our limited-edition Reebok Superkick Pumps at on May 27. Or, if you’re fortunate enough to be in the Vegas area this weekend, you might be in luck.”

The Young Bucks x Reebok Pump Omni II Superkicks
The Young Bucks x Reebok Pump Omni II Superkicks / Reebok

The Bucks were even a part of the creation of the new footwear.

“This is really a bucket list item we get to check off the list,” said Nick Jackson. “I never in my wildest dreams thought we’d have a Reebok shoe. What’s crazy is I always wore Reeboks early on in my career. It’s full circle and that’s what makes this so much more special. It blows my mind, and it makes me feel so blessed to be living the dream.”

Following family and professional wrestling, the Bucks’ next greatest passion is sneakers.

“Family, wrestling, and sneakers definitely describe Matthew and Nicholas Jackson,” said Matt Jackson. “We wanted this new sneaker to match our current aesthetic–a solid black, with some fun familiar Young Bucks flare. A versatile sneaker that you can wear to the ring, on the court, at home, traveling, or even in business meetings. I’ve worn them with a suit, gym clothes, and everyday wear, and they go nice with everything. After a quick sell-out of our first Diadora Sneaker, Reebok approached us about working together. When they mentioned giving us our own sneaker design on the classic Reebok Omni 2 Pump, we didn’t even think twice. We’re two of the first wrestlers to get a major sneaker deal, so I can only hope that we are blazing yet another path to helping wrestlers succeed even more, outside of the ring.

“When I was a kid on the playground, you either had Air Jordan’s, or you had a pair of Reebok Pump. Those were the accepted sneakers. I remember when I was 18 years old, standing in my backyard wrestling ring wearing a pair of Reebok Pump. They’re retro, yet timeless. There’s something magical and satisfying about leaning down and pumping air into that iconic basketball on the top of the sneaker.”

Perhaps by pumping themselves up, the Bucks may even show off their new sneakers this Sunday at Double or Nothing. The Anarchy in the Arena match is an AEW trademark, and they are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to work beside Okada and Perry against Danielson, FTR, and Allin.

“Those guys deserve what they’re about to get,” said Nick Jackson. “We have a lot of tricks hidden under our sleeves and they’re about to find out what this new Elite is all about.”

Matt Jackson (with Jon Moxley, 2023) has experience in the Anarchy in the Arena match
Matt Jackson (with Jon Moxley, 2023) has experience in the Anarchy in the Arena match / AEW

While no title is on the line, this match has a lot of importance. It was designed as a way to separate AEW from every other company in the world. As AEW originals and executives, the Bucks are highly invested in its success.

“I’d suggest they roll back tape from last year’s Anarchy in the Arena Match and see what lengths we’re willing to go,” said Matt Jackson. “I still get pain in my right heel to this day when I step a certain way on it from getting slammed barefoot into a pile of thumbtacks last year. We’re willing to go completely violent and crazy, to keep AEW on track to changing the world, and ridding the locker room of the remaining toxicity. Maybe we’ll do something wild with our new sneaker to do just that?”

The match also gives the Bucks a chance to work with Bryan Danielson, who missed last summer’s Blood & Guts match against the Bucks.

“I’m worried about Bryan Danielson’s safety–and Bryan Danielson should be worried about Bryan Danielson’s safety, too,” said Matt Jackson. “He’s one bad bump away from the end. But still, we know we’re dealing with a very dangerous man. And Darby Allin is one resilient kid. He just broke his foot a second ago, and then got Final Destination’d by a bus in New York, yet he’s still somehow walking. And FTR are tough as heck, not afraid to get a little blood in between their fingernails as proven in our recent ladder match.

“We know between the four of them, this isn’t going to be easy. But it’s also going to be a lot of fun.”

The (Online) Week in Wrestling

  • Bryan Danielson has returned to AEW programming, and he will wrestle Satnam Singh later tonight on Dynamite. This is Danielson’s first singles match since his pay-per-view bout last month against Will Ospreay. 
  • On the subject of returns, Mercedes Moné took her first real damage in a year when Willow Nightingale put her through a table last week on Dynamite
  • Randy Orton advancing to the finals of the King of the Ring makes sense, but it does feel like LA Knight is being left behind in the main event scene. Knight lost on SmackDown, falling to Tama Tonga, who eliminated him from the tournament. 
  • We’ll get a better sense on SmackDown, but it feels like Bianca Belair–who would defeat the underdog Lyra Valkyrie–is the plan for the Queen of the Ring tournament.
  • Eddie Kingston will be missed in AEW while he takes a stay on the injured list due to a tubular fracture, as well as tears to his ACL and meniscus. Here is the spot where he was hurt:
  • Otis is back in the mix in WWE, which is a positive for viewers.

Gunther ready for the throne

Gunther is on pace to win the world heavyweight championship by the end of the summer.

That theory looked strong this Monday on Raw, where Gunther advanced to the King of the Ring finals by defeating Jey Uso. This puts Gunther in a finals bout against the winner of Randy Orton-Tama Tonga, where the overwhelming favorite is Orton.

A victory over Orton in the finals would be significant for Gunther, who had an outstanding run as Intercontinental champion. But if there was one flaw to his reign, it was that he feuded mostly with talent outside of the main event picture. Getting the better of a legend like Orton would be a major moment in Gunther’s rise to the world title.

On the subject of the world title, all signs point to Gunther getting crowned in August at the Bash in Berlin. Whether that is the world heavyweight championship–currently held by Damian Priest, but could change next month to Drew McIntyre–or Cody Rhodes’ WWE title is harder to decipher. But there is no doubt Gunther is on a world title trajectory, and that reign will start before summer’s end.

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Justin Barrasso


Justin Barrasso has been writing for Sports Illustrated since 2014. While his primary focus is pro wrestling and MMA, he has also covered MLB, NBA, and the NFL. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.