NXT's resident flower child, CJ Parker, will watch as other prospects stride past him, unable to catch up to the athletic wizards and muscular beasts of WWE's developmental system.
Despite playing his free-spirited character quite well, nothing about Parker's repertoire will have scouts buzzing the same way they do about his peers. His skill set is not so much flawed as it is lacking the spectacular.
Bearing the same name as Pamela Anderson's character in Baywatch, Parker has grown into one of the more memorable members of the NXT roster.
He has recently taken his "peace and love" attitude and inverted it, turning his pro-environment stance into the basis for his villainy.
From his dreadlocks to his bragging about the gas mileage his Ford Fiesta gets, Parker's character stands out.
He has embraced the character with as much fervor as Johnny Curtis took on the Fandango role and Windham Rotunda morphed into Bray Wyatt. It's hard to even remember who he was before adopting the hippie persona.
That's evident when he dances with a glazed look on his face or in this clip where he's working on his presentation skills. The lines seem to just slide off his tongue.
In the ring, he's solid in most categories but not great in a single one.
Parker is agile, quick and smooth in the ring. None of those traits are elite, though. His in-ring tool that most grabs one's attention is his ability to sell his opponents' offense.
In a match against Cesaro earlier this year, Parker made the Swiss Superstar's slams look devastating and his holds look torturous.
This isn't a case of overacting, either. His reactions to being hit are dramatic enough to elevate matches but realistic enough not to distract from them.
He has good size (6'3", 220 pounds) and is a handsome man, which is always a bonus as The Shield's lovesick teenage fans have proven.
What he lacks in comparison to those three men, though, is stellar ring work.
The issue is not about something lacking from Parker's wrestling—it is that his peers are ahead of him. Tyler Breeze, Sami Zayn, Adrian Neville, Adam Rose and Bo Dallas are all better overall in-ring performers.
He's solid in a field of excellence.
That's partly why his resume lacks any true standout matches. All the men mentioned above have had at least one bout that has wowed fans and forced them to take notice. Parker's name just doesn't come up in discussion of NXT's best bouts.
Against The Miz, he seemed to occupy a rung lower than his opponent.
There's nothing from this clip that pops off the screen. Neville and Zayn have achieved that with acrobatic sequences, and Rose and Dallas have done it with in-ring storytelling.
While fans gush over Cesaro vs. Zayn or Breeze vs. Neville, there's not an equivalent for Parker. In the crowded, competitive world that is NXT, he needs to catch up to those prospects in terms of eye-catching moments and memorable matches.
That statement applies to his mic work as well. While he's certainly ahead of NXT's worst mic workers, he's not at the level of NXT's best.
Parker collided with Miz backstage, and the difference in charisma was striking. Miz appeared comfortable and magnetic. Parker was several steps behind him in those qualities.
He, of course, has time to grow in WWE's developmental system and won't be asked to host a segment on Raw or do commentary like Miz does anytime soon. This is one of the things that is not main-roster ready about him, though.
While the prospects around him are assured a call-up based on either stellar ring work or mic skills, Parker is only good where greatness is required.
Parker's ceiling is lower than a dynamo like Neville or a bruiser like Rose, but he can be a dependable part of the main roster, if only for a brief period of time.
Thriving in taking on his character makes him someone WWE can plug into the lower part of the card. His shtick has the potential to catch on, earning him a solid fanbase and a shot at selling a good number of T-shirts.
"Fandangoing" gathered some buzz for a while, and Parker's antics can as well.
Expect him to have a short, successful run but fall away from the spotlight before winning a title. Without excelling in any one part of the Superstar equation, too many other wrestlers are going to get those kinds of opportunities before him.
He's not quite as talented in the ring as Fandango and is less charismatic. If Fandango is struggling to make his way up the card, it's best to temper one's expectations about Parker then.
Being a skilled seller will likely get him a steady job as a victim to bigger stars. He has the ability to make other guys look good—much like Dolph Ziggler, although to a lesser extent.
He's in danger of having the next hot prospect pass him by like a Fiesta in a race with Porsches.
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