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Observer Exclusive: CJ Parker on why he left WWE, his NXT experience

CJ Parker

By Gary Mehaffy,

Listen to the full 30 minute interview.

I had the opportunity to interview now ex-NXT Superstar CJ Parker -- just more than a week after he left WWE. We spoke for around 30 minutes on a variety of topics, including his reasons for why he left, who he rates as trainers in NXT, the evolution of his character, and much, much more.

Here's some of the highlights:

What the WrestleMania experience is like

It’s incredible! It’s not only just Sunday, it’s the entire week from Thursday to Sunday. They take over the entire town! Everywhere you look there’s John Cena there, there’s a WrestleMania 31 logo there – it’s incredible. And then the fans! You’ve got 80,000 fans that come from all over the world and it’s all anybody is talking about that weekend!...It makes you really proud to be a part of pro wrestling.

Taking part in Axxess during WrestleMania week

Being part of Axxess is so cool. There were some of those days we wrestled 5 or 6 times! You get to meet fans from all over the world….Sometimes you forget how big NXT is and how it covers the whole world. People from all over know who you are!

Getting signed by WWE

They hire based on giving people opportunities and signing people with potential…..I was doing TV shots for them when I was 19 or 20. I would go to the All-State in Chicago and handle myself like a good young kid – I was happy to be there! They would always call me because I wouldn’t be a fan boy – I wasn’t a headache! Tell me when to be there and I’ll be there – thought I’ll eat a lot of catering!....Out on the indys I wrestled Lenny Lane – we were having 20/25 minute matches. He called his buddy Norman Smiley….basically what Lenny told him was that I was a young kid with lots of potential and before he gets any bad habits you should get him in the system. Norman agreed and there was a try-out – it was, like, $1000 – I ended up getting the money for that and the rest is history!

His thoughts on leaving NXT

I want people to know that I’m not negative at all. Maybe I was a little frustrated but I wasn’t negative towards WWE. I love WWE, and I always will! But I felt as a performer – as a pro wrestler – if I didn’t pull myself away (from NXT) and go out and get more experiences and more exposure and more (of) all those things that I think I might have trapped myself in a hole as being the guy out there that puts everybody over in 5 minutes. That’s not why I got into pro wrestling. I’m not a guy who’s just happy to be there (WWE). I’m not a guy who’s like “Well, I’m an NXT Superstar – hell yeah – give me some free drinks at the bar!” That’s not me. I wanna be on that team, but I wanna be batting third and hitting RBI’s every night. I wanna be a go to guy that they can count on…..There’s more in me that what I was doing, and I felt like the only way that I could show them that is maybe leave for a while and get some experiences and show them that I do have star potential. It was a really tough choice…..

Becoming a wrestler:

(I said) to my buddy Roger (at the IWA show): ”These guys aren’t much bigger than us! I think I could do this”. I think I talked to Ian that night – I was 15 or 16. I told him “I want to do this” and he said “Well, you’ve got to be 18.” (So I decided) I’m gonna do college too but I’m going to do this.

As senior year was rounding out I started going to some shows near my house. I met a guy who (laughs) started to train me – kind of! He taught me how to bump and how to hit the ropes. He ran in a town that was really close to my house. Little did I know he just wanted me on the show so I could sell tickets to all of my friends and family!.....I’m so excited to get in the ring once a month and learn how to do a back bump and run the ropes and do a dropkick and a hip toss – and that’s about what he taught me! And then he said I was ready! I wasn’t trained but I sold about 100 tickets to my friends and family!

I realised that wrestling training was supposed to be a full time thing! it was supposed to be 4 hours a day, 4 times a week for, like 12 weeks. I’d been in a ring maybe 3 times and they put me in a match – that wasn’t the way I wanted to learn!....Truth Martini was working for Danny Daniels in AAW at the time, and I eventually spoke to him – and I talked to Danny too – and I said “I’m going to move to Detroit and od this the right way.”

We cover lots more in the interview, like his thoughts on the NXT training staff, life in FCW v NXT, his long-term scaphoid injury that ultimately led to his character change, being a ‘go to’ guy, his hopes for the future, wrestling characters v pure pro-wrestlers, whether he would be interested in wrestling for TNA or ROH and much, much more. It’s a great interview from a very cool, humble guy. I hope you enjoy it!

Listen to the full 30 minute interview now!