CJ Parker quickly made a name for himself by performing on WWE NXT week in and week out. He made the decision to leave WWE last month and it’s had everybody talking. I sat down with the man that now goes by CJP after his championship match against Papadon at Five Borough Wrestling in Brooklyn for an incredibly entertaining and informative discussion about his time in NXT and what it was all like.
Alex Obert: What’s going through your head after your first match since leaving NXT?
CJP: It was starting off pretty fun and then the middle rope snapped. Papadon took a spill to the outside, so we had to improvise. No big deal. You’d be surprised how many things involve the second rope. It ended up being okay, I just ended up having to beat his ass with the turnbuckle. It ended up being fine and fun. It was a blast to get back in there and do my thing.
Alex Obert: I noticed that you were in the corner watching Paul London vs. JT Dunn prior to your match in the main event. What was going through your head at the time? Were you taking in the moment?
CJP: Yeah, I was watching what they were doing and seeing how the crowd reacted. That way, I would be able to plan what I was gonna do. I didn’t want to repeat anything they did and I wanted to give it a different feel than what they were giving the audience. The audience loved their match. But Paul London is a very different performer than me, I can’t do the kind of things he does. I was watching what he did, saw how the audience took it in and planned my match accordingly.
Alex Obert: What is it like not wrestling at Full Sail University?
CJP: I think people forget that we do NXT shows in front of two hundred people on Fridays and Saturdays. Not everything is Full Sail. I’m used to these small crowds and I love them. It’s a little more intimate, it’s a little more up close and personal. It’s cool. I like it as much, or in some ways, even more than a big, huge crowd. You can really, really connect with individuals and it’s a great time. If you can get a hundred people to make some noise, you’re doing good.
Alex Obert: Aside from taking bookings and your first weekend of wrestling events, what have you been up to for the past two weeks since leaving?
CJP: It’s been weird not really having structure for two weeks. I’ve been trying to keep myself busy with setting up my t-shirt shop. ProWrestlingTees.com/CJP, that’s a plug. I’m also printing out 8x10s and doing interviews, trying to get booked, all that stuff. I’ve been busy, but it’s been a different kind of busy.
Alex Obert: What did guys like Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens tell you about the independent wrestling lifestyle once they found out that this is what you were going to do?
CJP: They just said you gotta hustle. You gotta talk with promoters, you gotta bargain. You gotta make sure you have merchandise to sell to people. They know how I feel about wrestling, they know that I’m passionate about it. They know that I’m gonna make it work and I’m gonna have a blast wrestling here at Five Borough or tomorrow at CZW or in the backyard at some twelve year old’s birthday party. I’m gonna have a great time doing it. They’re just happy for me because they know how happy and excited I am.
Alex Obert: What did the outpour of support and well wishes from NXT talent and alumni on Twitter mean to you?
CJP: It was overwhelming, all the Twitter action and all the texts, all the conversations and everything. People were sad to see me go. It just reminded me how close-knit of a family that WWE is. It’s a great support system and they really make you feel good. That was the hardest part of leaving, I’m leaving my friends and coaches that I have personal relationships with. I’m leaving what I know.
Alex Obert: When I spoke with Kevin Owens, he said that you’re as good as anybody that he’s ever been in the ring with and that you are the best guy that wasn’t prominently featured on NXT.
CJP: What a compliment. I’m not gonna sit here and say that they didn’t prominently use me because I was on the show and they gave me tons and tons and tons of opportunities. For whatever reason, I must have not have shown the right people the right things. And I’m not angry or let down about that, I’ve just gotta go try it a different way now. But for Kevin to say that, coming from a guy like him that I respect so much, it really makes you feel good, man. Somebody you look up to saying something really nice like that.
Alex Obert: How did you originally discover Kevin Owens?
CJP: Dude, I’ve known him for a long time. I remember watching him in Ring of Honor wrestling at the time, Tyler Black at a show in Chicago Ridge. I was in the crowd. He got awesome color and I remember thinking how badass and quick-witted of a dude he was. I instantly gravitated towards his work. The first time I actually met him was when he came to the Performance Center. Funny story about Kevin, I tried to make him laugh because upon meeting people, I always try to make them laugh. I don’t know why I do that, that’s just a weird thing that I do. But for a while, he wouldn’t laugh at any of my jokes. I thought this guy probably hates me. (laughs) Now he laughs at everything I do because we’re buddies, but for while, it was really hard to make him laugh. I just remember trying so hard and failing miserably.
Alex Obert: How was it brought up to you that you would be facing him in his debut match at NXT Takeover: REvolution?
CJP: We kinda figured because it was already starting to go that route. When newer people would come in and get started, I was usually one of the first ones in there with them. We were hoping it was gonna be us. There were a couple other names thrown around. He was really hoping that it was me and so was I. It ended up working out and we had a great match. Even with breaking his nose and blood everywhere, him breaking the sign and diving on me, the crowd was so hot and it was a great time. It was pro wrestling.
Alex Obert: I also spoke with Sami Zayn who said that the fans turning on you and your hippie gimmick legitimately broke your heart. Quite reminiscent of how the fans took to Bo Dallas in NXT.
CJP: It made me question if I was good or not. I was worried that that might have been my only chance and if they didn’t take to me, that might have been it. Luckily, it wasn’t, but I didn’t know that. I was just trying so hard to do so well. That’s what it was, I think I was trying too hard. I was trying to be something that I’m not. I think you saw how I really am tonight, that’s me in real life. That’s me as a good guy, there’s no gimmick there. I’m a real person and I don’t need a gimmick. I wish I would’ve done that and went that route when I was there. I can’t look back and regret it because it’s gonna make me better in the long run. I wouldn’t be here today and I’m really happy right now, so it all works out.
Alex Obert: Were you nervous about turning heel and thought it could have backfired?
CJP: No way. I was ready and willing and able to do it. It was awesome. There was no pressure there, in fact, I felt like a weight was taken off my shoulders. The audience naturally didn’t like me because they knew that I was being something that I wasn’t as a face. To be able to be myself, it was easy and it was fun. I tend to have a little more fun as a heel. I’m glad it happened the way it did.
Alex Obert: Who came up with spinning on your stomach in the ring during your entrance?
CJP: I did that at a live event once when me and Jason Jordan were tag partners. I just got in there and started spinning on my, let’s say, pelvis. And it was funny. I just kept going and going and going and going. And then I was told that I had to do something when I got in the ring for TV. Well dude, I should just spin around! I was just messing around. I’m a knucklehead, so of course I’m gonna do weird stuff like that.
Alex Obert: And how about filming the entrance video for the hippie gimmick?
CJP: That was a guy named Ryan Katz who helped me with that. The idea was based off of That ’70s Show. He brought me to the green screen and he did it in like ten minutes. He asked if I had any ideas, I brought a bunch of outfits and started dancing around and acting like a knucklehead. The guy’s amazing, he works behind the scenes for WWE and he’s at the Performance Center all the time. He doesn’t get near enough credit. If you’re reading Katz, I love ya and thank you for helping me.
Alex Obert: What did you think of getting to work with The Miz and Cesaro in matches on NXT?
CJP: It was a huge opportunity, awesome. So much fun. Any time a guy comes from the main roster, we all just hope that we’re the guy that gets to work with them. It usually seemed like it was either me or Aiden English for a long time. I think he worked with Sheamus and RVD. I worked Khali, Cesaro and The Miz. Any time you can get in there with anybody that has more experience then you, it’s a huge learning experience. And when you’re learning, you’re having fun. That’s how I roll.
Alex Obert: How was Third Eye developed?
CJP: I think that might’ve been Konnor. That’s where the third audience, right between the other two. And he’s kinda into that stuff. I didn’t know what to call it, I was calling it The Taste for a while and then I was trying to think of something else. Me and Ambrose first did the move once in a match a long time ago. I just started using as a thing that would stop guys, but it wasn’t a finisher or a big move, I would just use it out of nowhere as a quick turnaround. Bill DeMott, Terry Taylor and Billy Gunn saw that and said it should be my finish, they thought it was cool. So then I started doing it.
Alex Obert: Weren’t you using the crescent kick as a finisher for a couple weeks there?
CJP: That was when we were trying to find something else, I just used it for a little while.
Alex Obert: I recall a match you had with Xavier Woods where the kick didn’t connect.
CJP: Oh my God! I love Woodsie, but brother, he’s like 5’7″ with a four inch afro. I just went right through his afro and it was so bad. Knowing what I know now, I would’ve just done it again because it was taped. I was hoping there was a better angle and there wasn’t. I think that was the beginning of the end for me. (laughs)
Alex Obert: Was it intentional that you were named after a character from Baywatch or was it a mistake?
CJP: Let’s talk about that because I don’t need anyone else tweeting me about that. I know, CJ Parker is Pam Anderson from Baywatch. I knew that right away and I told them. I said, “Hey, this is Pam Anderson’s name from Baywatch. There’s no way it can get past legal, right?” Nope, it got right past legal. I don’t know if it was a rib or nobody cared or whatnot, but CJ Parker was legally able to be me. Pam Anderson, no Pam Anderson, it didn’t matter.
Alex Obert: Were any other names pitched for you? Did you present them with any other names?
CJP: CJ Parker wasn’t what I pitched. I had CJ something and then something Parker, a different first name and a different last name. They kind of mixed and matched my ideas and came up with CJ Parker. I don’t mind CJ the first name and Parker the last name, but I don’t want CJ Parker because that’s Pam Anderson from Baywatch. That’s not me. But it is what it is and I just tried to make the best of it. Whatever, now there’s two CJ Parkers.
Alex Obert: Promo classes are a big thing for NXT talent. Were you there for the infamous Marcus Louis promo?
CJP: Is that the one where he talks about all the innuendos and stuff? I had probably seen that half a dozen times because William Regal loves it and thinks it’s the funniest thing ever, which is, if you see it once or twice. But anytime Regal would be there and a new person from office was going to be there, he would make Marcus do it in front of them. It got to the point where I think I knew the promo, but it was great. I think he did it in front of The Undertaker once. The Undertaker thought it was funny. If he thinks it’s funny, it’s funny.
Alex Obert: Who presented a gimmick in promo class that you wish took off?
CJP: Oh man, there’s been so many weird things in promo class. You’d be surprised. One time, me and Seth Rollins, I was dressed up in a monkey costume and Seth Rollins was a zookeeper. A very feminine zookeeper. He was wearing short shorts and he had me on a leash. Insane. When you’re down there for so long, you go a little crazy. So while he has me on a leash, I end up tackling a girl and trying to hump her as a monkey. It was a mess, but it was really funny. It never saw the light of day, but people would go that route every once in a while they we couldn’t think of anything. Might as well get silly with it.
Alex Obert: What was it like when FCW transitioned into the brand that NXT is today?
CJP: Everything just multiplied by a hundred. More coaches, more talent, bigger TV show, more production, more was expected of you. Everything got bigger. FCW used to be easy when it was just two or three cameras. And then NXT, boom, it’s like a mini RAW. Everything grew. Now it’s not really developmental anymore, it’s its own brand. I saw all that, it was a huge change.
Alex Obert: You were on the very first show under the current format of NXT back in 2012. You teamed with Mike Dalton, who later became Tyler Breeze. What do you think of how he evolved his character and stepped up?
CJP: I love it, dude. He was always a great wrestler, obviously everybody knows that. He really sunk his teeth into this character. It’s him now, he’s able to stay in that character and have badass wrestling matches. That speaks a lot for his ability as a wrestler and his ability to play a character.
Alex Obert: What did you think of your in-ring segment and original program with Tyler Breeze when you were first repackaged as hippie CJ Parker?
CJP: It was awesome. At the time, I don’t think there were many character-driven guys. Most people were just themselves, but me and him were playing characters. So it made sense that we would go up against each other. Unfortunately, the crowd really, really, really took to him and didn’t take to me. I was instantly the heel, which was not by design. I was supposed to be the babyface, he was supposed to be the heel. Full Sail crowd said otherwise and the rest is history. But anytime you’re in the ring with him, it’s so much fun. They were some entertaining, funny things like when he cut my dreadlocks with these gigantic Looney Tunes scissors. I still have them at my house and anytime I see them, I laugh. That whole feud was based off of me photobombing one of his pictures. If that right there isn’t a bunch of fun, I don’t know what is.
Alex Obert: What are some of your favorite NXT entrance themes?
CJP: Bayley’s is my favorite, it just makes me feel so good. When I hear her song, I just feel better. For some reason, I think I like most of the Divas songs. I think Charlotte’s is cool, it’s like three songs in one. It’s Flair’s song mixed with this new age techno thing. Sasha’s got a pretty funny song. All the girls have funny songs. Everybody likes Tyler’s song. Bo’s old song when he was NXT Champion, I’ll do anything it takes to make it! That song is so bad. (laughs)
Alex Obert: Was your most recent NXT entrance theme a production song or did they make it specifically for you?
CJP: No, they didn’t ever make a song for me or do the iTunes deal with me. I think they found it off a database that they had the rights to. I need to change that.
Alex Obert: Did you go to them and say that you wanted a song that was similar to The Clash or were they just like “here, this is your theme now”?
CJP: It was picked five or ten minutes before doors. I don’t think much thought was put into mine. But I like it, it was cool.
Alex Obert: What are you considering using for your entrance theme now?
CJP: That’s a great question. I’m gonna use the one that I have now, even though it might be illegal to be using it. I’m just gonna use it one time everywhere just so everybody knows I’m that guy from NXT. From there, I think hands down, I’m gonna go with Rocket Man by Elton John. It’s an awesome song, I don’t think anybody has it. Nobody better use it if they read this! I love the song and it makes me feel good when I hear it. That’s gonna be what I come out to.
Alex Obert: Having been in Orlando for so long, what’s your take on the theme parks there?
CJP: Dude, I haven’t really been to that many. I only go if I can go for free. (laughs) If I have a hookup, that’s the only way. If I’m with cool people, I’ll go there and have fun. But if not, I don’t really care. I hate Sea World, I think it’s a terrible organization.
Alex Obert: What are your passions, hobbies and interests outside of wrestling?
CJP: I like going to the beach. I like hanging with my friends. Just being outside and doing stuff. Just doing life, man. Whatever that is at the time, pretty easy.
Alex Obert: Who are some of your favorite bands?
CJP: Foo Fighters, love them. Red Hot Chili Peppers. I like Avett Brothers. John Butler Trio. I like this guy named Brett Dennen. Slightly Stoopid. Obviously I love The Beatles.
Alex Obert: What was the first concert you ever attended?
CJP: The first concert I ever went to was Foo Fighters, me and my brother. Long time ago. They were actually with Against Me!, they were just starting. My brother’s a huge fan of them. Great times.
Alex Obert: What was the best one you ever went to?
CJP: Me, Bull Dempsey and Sami Zayn went to what we thought was a Steel Panther concert. We love them! They were actually just opening for Judas Priest. It was hilarious because we were there to see Steel Panther and I’m saying that I didn’t know if I even knew that many Judas Priest songs. It turns out that everyone knows a bunch of Judas Priest songs. If you don’t think that you know any, you probably know at least a half dozen to a dozen. We went there expecting to only want to see Steel Panther, we ended up just having a blast all night while rocking with Judas Priest. Huge fun time. We ended up meeting Michael Starr. Sami said to him “Hey man, I saw you once when I was in England.” And Michael goes “Yeah dude, the Panther’s huge in England!” (laughs) It was just a good time.
Alex Obert: What’s your favorite Steel Panther song?
CJP: I would have to say Girl From Oklahoma. But I like Community Property, Gloryhole, there’s so many great ones. The funny thing about Steel Panther is they’re incredible singers, it just makes it so much better. It’s funny because they’re so talented, but they like to have fun and just be entertaining.
Alex Obert: Adam Rose.
CJP: I actually had my first ever developmental match against him when he was Leo Kruger. Just to see how much he’s evolved and changed and just become exactly what the company wanted in order to use him the way that he wanted to be used, it was awesome. He went from just a wrestler’s wrestler, exactly what you think a WWE Superstar should be, then he totally took that and changed over the years. I’ve seen him do the darkest character, now he’s a flamboyant character. I can’t say enough about how he’s evolved and how determined he was to make it in whatever way it took. That speaks a lot about who he is as a man.
Alex Obert: Enzo Amore.
CJP: He’s got the gift of gab, man. And he’s an incredible writer. People don’t realize that he has binders and binders full of promo ideas, one-liners and jokes. He’s actually a rapper too, I’ve heard his stuff. He’s an entertainer.
Alex Obert: Jason Jordan.
CJP: Bluechipper. Incredible, incredible athlete. So big, so strong. He can just throw people around. I’ve seen him throw Bull Dempsey from one corner of the ring to the other. Just insane strength. He’s got an incredible amateur background and I think he’s gonna blow up here in a year or two.
Alex Obert: Simon Gotch.
CJP: He’s a character in real life. He’s quirky. What you see on TV is who he really is. He’s a very, very, very, very rare bird.
Alex Obert: Braun Stowman.
CJP: Man, I’d like to see him get going here! I’d like to see him get in the ring and do his thing. Hopefully he’ll make it, but he’s been having some trouble with injuries. Hopefully he can stay healthy. He’s a big dude who’s just a big teddy bear, man. But at the same time, he’s incredibly strong and totally kicked ass in the strongest man thing, the World’s Strongest Man stuff. He deadlifts like thousands of pounds and shit. He could probably flip my car over with me in it. I’ll only say nice things about him in that case. He’s a big teddy bear who has a big heart.
Alex Obert: Seth Rollins.
CJP: The man. He’s incredible. He’s the Shawn Michaels of our era. Standout performance after standout performance. You put him in there with anybody and it’s gonna be awesome. He’s my buddy.
Alex Obert: How do you and Seth bond over music?
CJP: We split, he goes one way and I go the other. His kind of music ain’t really my kind of music. But I’ll go to any live music and I’ll be able to find good in it. Music and wrestling is the same thing, dude. If you go and see somebody up there just giving it everything they’ve got and being them, you’re gonna like it if you appreciate art. The same goes for wrestling, if I see somebody out there just emoting and being themselves and just tearing it up, I’m gonna love it. Music, wrestling, same thing. But I tend to not like the music he likes as much as what I like. (laughs) We like two different things.
Alex Obert: What was your reaction to his big Wrestlemania moment this year?
CJP: It was incredible, dude. Knowing him for as long as I’ve known him, around seventeen or eighteen years old, seeing him accomplish that on my last day there was emotional. He deserves it. Hell yeah.
Alex Obert: What were your thoughts when the crowd at the RAW after Wrestlemania were chanting for NXT and its wrestlers?
CJP: Dude, I just think it speaks volumes about where NXT’s going. It’s not really developmental anymore at all. People latch onto it and they get really passionate about it. People have seen it from the start and know it’s the underdog. They realize it deserves everything that RAW gets and Smackdown gets and dammit, why doesn’t it? I think it’s awesome.
Alex Obert: In closing, what is the biggest life lesson that you took out of your NXT experience?
CJP: Everybody has to go a different route. Everybody’s gonna have to do it their way and has their story. I’m just starting mine.
Alex Obert: I am looking forward to this journey that you are on. I’d love to thank you for your time.
CJP: Yeah, man. Thank you!