Three Things I Like About NXT’s CJ Parker
NXT’s CJ Parker didn’t start off as such a polarizing character, but over time he’s begun weaseling his way into even the stoniest smark hearts. Parker (formally Joe Robinson) has been in the indie wrestling scene since 2009 when he debuted at IWA Mid-South as Juice Robinson. Two years later he made tracks to FCW, the promotion that would become NXT, and today he plays CJ Parker on WWE TV.
Parker’s character is a pumped up Greenpeace champion and professional ass-hat. A super far-left leaning hippie who’s got a bone to pick with society, Parker wears his hair in instantly recognizable dreadlocks and earth tone gear emblazoned with peace signs, carrying a sign with a slogan declaring his support for terra firma. Parker manages to incite the crowd not because his message is a bad one, we can all get behind a little conservation, but his delivery embodies the worst aspects of the activist. He’s loud, he’s in your face, he acts holier-than-thou and looks down on anyone who doesn’t believe in his message 100%…which is everyone.
At first glance it’s easy to write off Parker. I did. The annoying activist gimmick is perfect for getting under anyone’s skin…and that’s when it started to click for me. So without more ado, here’s a little list of three things I like about CJ Parker.
1) He’s Decent In The Ring
When Kevin Owens made his debut on NXT Takeover: R Evolution last week he came out to squash CJ Parker…or so we thought. What seemed like an “Okay here we go new guy gets over in 30 seconds” was actually a much more drawn out affair, with Parker taking the majority of Owens’ offense. Yet Parker fought and fought hard against the newcomer, even split Owens’ nose open enough to get the juice flowing, and carried the match through almost ten minutes of brutal attacks from Owens.
While Parker may be a go-to for jobbing in NXT, he doesn’t take it lying down like the poor opponents of Baron Corbin and Bull Dempsey. He’s tenacious, vicious at times, and he doesn’t make it look sluggish or boring. He can put on a good match with many different opponents, and look at least decent the whole time he does it. No big marks off for his technique.
2) He’s Annoying As Shit (In A Good Way)
His music is a sort of pseudo-metal 1960s rock song, he comes out to the ring carrying signs with slogans that tear down his opponents or build up Mother Earth, he wears peace signs and dreadlocks, and he hardly ever wins. When he hits the top of the ramp the crowd erupts in boos upon seeing him, and he triumphantly strides towards the ring ignoring their jeers or shouting his message at the top of his lungs.
To be a top heel you must be booed. Case closed. Heels that get booed are Anti-Faces, not heels. CM Punk got boos, but he also got TONS of cheers regardless of what he was doing for the most part. Dolph Ziggler famously calls himself HeelZiggler on Twitter, but although the self-centered show-off may be looking out for himself most of the time he’s proven he’s Anti-face material by being the crowd favorite for many months. CJ Parker however is one of the only effective heels in NXT at the moment, partly due to the NXT crowd and partly due to the rest of the roster.
The NXT crowd will typically cheer for any reason. Bull Dempsey gets cheers, Baron Corbin gets screams, The Ascension get some cheers, The Vaudevillains get cheers…and they’re all talent that I would consider to be on the “heel” side of the coin. The crowd in NXT LOATHES CJ Parker. He gets more negativity than just about anyone else that comes down the ramp, which means his character is working perfectly. He’s a good guy with a good message being delivered in a bad way, and I think that’s what really gets people’s goats. The other mean and nasty members of the roster are all so one-note with their plans and delivery that Parker’s attempt to make things not about him, but about the environment, are a fresh breath of clean, mountain air.
3) He’s Trying
Speaking briefly with a current member of the WWE roster recently, we discussed CJ Parker. I learned that the dreads were Parker’s idea, that the signs were too. He got handed a tough to sell character, one that put a bit of a chip on his shoulder, and he took the ball and ran with it. Parker has fully embraced his Angry Hippie persona and it’s showing in his actions. He looks angry, he’s in great shape, he scowls and frowns while surrounded by peace signs and messages of hope. The character of CJ Parker is an onion, and each layer just adds a touch of complexity. He doesn’t need a library of great matches or high profile feuds to stand out as among the pack.
So mega props to CJ Parker for shining shit. There are two ways a shit gimmick can go (see: MIZDOW), and he took it in the positive trending direction. He’s breaking in new guys, angrier than ever, and I know that one day he’ll get some proper time in the sun from creative and shine brilliantly. The efforts in his actions are proof of that.
Three cheers for CJ Parker I say! Though he may not be the darling of NXT at the moment he is an important part of their (snicker) ecosystem and the dynamic would miss him if he was gone. He’s using violence to spread a message of love and peace, he’s beating people up for Mother Earth, and his backwards methodology is fun to watch play out. By showing the other folks at developmental and the top brass that someone with a unique look can carry a tough gimmick with his chin held high and chest puffed out, he’s doing a service to the storytelling side of professional wrestling and keeping alive the tradition of interesting characters that we’ve all come to expect.
[images from wwe.com and twitter]