It’s been an eventful and important year for Juice Robinson. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, you’re more likely to remember him as CJ Parker from WWE NXT. I sat down with him for an informative interview shortly after he left WWE this past spring when he was going by “CJP”. He will now be going by “Juice Robinson” and wrestling in New Japan Pro Wrestling. We met back up recently at the first ever Us vs. Them Wrestling event in Enfield, CT to talk about his wrestling tour this past summer as CJP, who Juice Robinson is, memories and reflections on his time in NXT, wrestling for NJPW and much more.
What was it like being in the ring EC3 tonight? You two go way back to the days of FCW and NXT. Since then, both of your characters have evolved tremendously.
He’s one of my buddies. I’ve known him for the last four years since I walked into FCW in Tampa. First thing he said to me was “Hey, only one guy with curly brown hair here.” And he walked away. I didn’t know how to react and I didn’t know his personality at the time. But he’s awesome, dude. He’s one of my friends and I’m glad I got to get back in there with him. And to see how much he’s changed, he’s like a totally different person than he was when he left WWE. It’s him now, he’s better. He’s more fun to watch. He’s a star now. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s fun as hell to be in there with him.
Team Tremendous and David Starr are all in the area tonight, all of which are friends of yours. How did you meet them?
I’ve known Bobby Dutch, well I know him as Bobby Dutch, I’ve known Bill Carr since I walked into FCW. He was a real good friend of mine down there in developmental. So of course when I left WWE and he was tagging with Dan Barry, we became friends, me and Dan. That was through Bobby Dutch, which was cool. David Starr picked me up from the airport when I was going to do Best of the Best for CZW. And we just became friends. When you’re in the car with somebody, you get to talkin’. He’s a cool dude, so I’m gonna become friends with him. Those boys, all three of them, are gonna become lifelong friends of mine.
What did you take out of the CJP Tour after you left WWE?
The CJP Tour was in Europe, man, and I had the time of my life for eight weeks. I’d never left the country for wrestling, unless you count Canada. I don’t though, sorry Canadians. I started in Sweden. Went from Sweden to Ireland. Ireland to England. Then back to Sweden, back to England, just kind of went all over there. I was in London, Liverpool, it was a blast. I got to see another part of the world, learn a lot about myself, meet a lot of new awesome wrestlers that I’d never met. I got in the ring with people that I didn’t think I’d get to. It was so much fun. And over there, you wrestle every day. I was wrestling every day and it was beautiful thing.
Were a lot of them aware of NXT and CJ Parker?
Maybe on the spot shows or the independent shows, but I did most of my work over there for a guy named Brian Dixon. And his boys, man, they don’t know. They don’t care about NXT, I’m just another wrestler walking in. There’s guys that have only worked for Brian Dixon there. Colt Cabana did a great interview on his podcast with a guy named James Mason. Boy, I got in there with him about ten times…wow. How everyone doesn’t know a guy by the name of James Mason or Dean Allmark, there’s some hidden gems over there. Just some great workers that U.S. fans should be familiar with. If you get a chance, go on Cabana’s podcast and listen to James Mason.
While in other countries, which bars did you head to?
Wherever I was brought. (laughs) Whatever was in the near distance of a show. I went to Sweden and they have great beer there, now that we’re talking about bars and stuff. Their beer is just stronger. Women over there will drink beer with you. I went on a date with a beautiful girl and she just drank beer like it was nothing. She stayed right with me, didn’t even notice it, she was just pounding beer after beer during a great conversation. Scandinavian women, beautiful. My favorite. So many beautiful blonde women in Stockholm, Sweden. I’ll tell you what, I’ll go back right now.
Catch any musical acts over there?
I saw Paul McCartney over there. Saw Paul McCartney in Stockholm and I saw Robert plant at some sort of fairgrounds. Dude, so much fun. Mark them off the bucket list. Paul McCartney’s insane!
What was it like to use Rocketman as your entrance theme over the last several months?
Using that song was awesome. Rocketman, Elton John, what’s not to like there? It’s a classic! So you come out to that, it’s got that nice, long intro and everybody in the world knows that song. I love that song and when I’m walking to the ring, I feel it. I feel cool. It went good, but I’m not gonna use it anymore. I’ll walk out to the music that I’m using in New Japan. That’ll be my new song, whatever that happens to be.
Which wrestlers from NXT have been keeping in touch and checking up on you throughout the past few months?
All my friends, dude. I’m tight with all those boys and I talk to them all the time. I send texts, we’ve got our little group chat going on and we try to make each other laugh. I never seem to make them laugh as hard as they make each other laugh, that makes me mad. (laughs) As far as coaches and stuff, definitely Robbie Brookside. I think it’s because I was working for Brian Dixon. He worked for Brian Dixon. William Regal too. They’ve been checking in here and there. Everybody, man. I developed relationships with those people where even though I’m not there, we’re still buddies. We’re still family. I know it sounds cliché and all that, but they’re my friends. When they check in on me it’s not like “Hey man, you got a match tonight?” It’s not like that, it’s just like “Hey dude, how are ya? You’re home in Chicago? You’re happy to be by your family?” Just real things. I don’t know what’s going on in NXT right now. I hear it’s awesome, but I don’t really know. And they probably have no idea what the hell I’m doing. But if they ask, I tell them I’m having fun. That’s about where it ends.
Who have you talked to the most about joining NJPW?
That would definitely be Matt Bloom and Fergal. I ask William Regal a lot too. I go to those people. Seth’s somebody I go to for advice, even though he’s never been there. But he obviously has a pretty good grasp on everything. I talk to everybody. I saw Matt Striker today and I talked to him about it. I don’t know what to expect. Nervous, yeah. Overwhelmed, yeah. I feel like I need to show up with my A-game, gotta go there ready to rock.
How did you work out the deal to go over there?
I caught them at the right time, some of the higher-ups from the office were at Wrestlemania. I had already said that I was leaving. It was done, it was a conversation that had already been made. They were there and I was introduced to them. They watched me and it was just right place, right time. And it all just kept rollin’. Rollin’ along.
So who is Juice Robinson?
Dude, Juice Robinson, he’s different than CJP. He’s closer to Joe Robinson. You never know. He’s a weirdo. He’s flamboyant. He’s over the top. He’s fun. He’s cute. (laughs) He’s got a haircut. He shaves. Where I want to go with this character, I think it’s more like a flamboyant and over the top rockstar. I wanna walk down the aisle and just exude sex. I just want Japanese women, Japanese everybody to look at me and just be like “Jesus!” Whatever that is, I like it. Or I hate it. But I kinda like it. I don’t know, exactly. But I do know, it’s just hard to put into words. It’s gonna be fun.
While on that tour, did you run into any wrestlers that are prominent in the states?
I did. Chad Collyer, he was trained by Dean Malenko. Or maybe Father Malenko, maybe all of them. But it was funny because I met him in 2009 in Dreamwave when I first started. He was doing a gimmick called The Metal Master. I had a long ass day of travel and I got to the place where you stay in Birkenhead, which is right next to Liverpool. I was just exhausted and I found an open couch because it’s just this big, big, big house full of ten wrestlers. You’re hardly there because you’re on tour all week. That was an off day, so everybody was there. I threw my bag in the corner, laid down on the couch, pulled the bandanna over my face, but then I see somebody walk in. I peek through and I’m like “Metal Master?” (laughs) He goes “Juice?” I hadn’t even seen him, no offense to him, I hadn’t even thought of this guy for five, six years. And here we are. From Dreamwave and LaSalle to Liverpool All Star Wrestling for Brian Dixon. It was pretty cool. Also, Corey Graves’s brother, Sam Elias was there. He’s a friend of mine. Mason Ryan, Oliver Grey, they were there. A guy named Rampage Brown, who was in developmental for a while that I knew briefly, but didn’t really become good friends with until this summer. There’s all kinds of great guys there. A guy named El Ligero. It’s a great place. Nobody knows about Brian Dixon and what he does, as far as in the U.S. They should because it’s a great thing.
Some of the biggest news in wrestling over the last month is that Bayley finally won the big one in Brooklyn. It was a two year storyline.
Beautiful, right? They let it simmer and it was sweet. I haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard that it was just awesome. And I know how much it means to her, so it’s a great thing.
What was your first impression of her?
Honestly, I had a crush on her from the moment I saw her. There’s something about her. She’s real. What you see as Bayley is what you see with her in real life. What’s not to like? Of course everyone in the world is gonna fall in love with Bayley. And I was no different. (laughs)
How do you feel about one of the women from NXT that recently debuted on the main roster, Becky Lynch?
I love Becky Lynch. She’s a sweet, sweet girl. She’s so nice. She’s funny. Quirky. She’s goofy. She’s a great person. I’m so glad that she’s doing her thing on the main roster at the highest level. Very happy for her, she deserves it. She’s had a long road to get where she’s at and it’s paying off now for her. It’s awesome to see.
There’s another top star from NXT that you go with back with that I wanted to ask you about. How did you get Kevin Owens to put his guard down and open up when you met him?
I’ll tell you how you get a guy like that to open up, you palm strike him right in the nose! He’ll open right up! (laughs) You set me up for that one! But I used to watch him in ROH when I was just a young kid starting off. He was having awesome matches and I always thought he was cool. So right when he comes in the Performance Center, I want to be his friend right away. I’m gonna of course gravitate towards a Kevin Owens, the indy wrestlers. That’s what I am. When he came in, I just talked to him. I tried to make him laugh a lot and I couldn’t and I couldn’t and I couldn’t. Then something happened and now he’s one of the easiest people for me to talk to. I don’t know what it was, but we became really, really, really, really good friends for whatever reason. And we were tight before we had that match. He was worried that it was gonna be with somebody else, but he said that he wanted it to be with me. Then it ended up being us in a match and it was a great thing. We’re pals.
What was it like to watch the quick rise of Kevin Owens in NXT, his championship win and beyond?
Kevin reminded me a lot of Dean Ambrose. Both those guys came, they saw, they conquered. They kick ass, they take names and now they put NXT right in the rear view mirror. In Ambrose’s case, FCW. Came through, rocked the house and moved on. Just passin’ through. They’re both just passin’ through. Wasn’t a destination for them.
Though there are success stories such as Kevin Owens, have you ever seen someone drop out of the Performance Center?
Oh yeah, dude. I’ve seen so many. The funniest one ever was this girl, she was probably some kind of model or something, you know how they are. She did like a roll, did another one, stood up and looked at Sara and said “Terminate my contract. This isn’t for me.” (laughs) It’s like damn…haven’t even taken a hip toss yet. You haven’t even taken a back drop on the ground in the middle of Enfield, Connecticut for no reason. But yeah, all kinds of quitters. Can you blame them? Think about it, if you don’t absolutely love wrestling, how on earth could you wake up every single day at eight in the morning, walk into a giant warehouse and fall down a bunch and get back up and fall down and run around and bounce around the ropes? If you don’t love that, you’re not gonna do it very long. It’s almost like “Here…here’s a developmental contract for wrangling bull elephants.” If it’s as hard as I think it would be, I don’t think I would do it very long. I’m not really into that. I’m not really into wrangling bull elephants. But if it was my passion, I’ll wrangle some bull elephants. Those people aren’t passionate about it, of course they’re gonna quit. It’s hard, dammit. It’s not easy.
Did you notice someone that came from another field grasp wrestling while training at the Performance Center?
In my opinion, the person that has grasped it the most is Jason Jordan. He’s just a big, strong athlete. He grasped it about as quick as anybody could, in about every area. Chad Gable, he picked it up quick as hell too. I always thought Carmella picked it up pretty quick.
Who do you feel excelled the most at promo class?
There’s about ten, fifteen, twenty people that are gonna cut a good promo every single time. There’s certain people that I would make sure to watch every week and pay attention to, guys like Enzo and Cass. I was excited to watch them get up there and perform. Those guys are funny. They always came with something a little different and always had me laughing. They’re my favorite promos to watch. I completely can get caught up into them. They entertain me and they make me laugh. They pop me and they make me smile. The amount of guys down there that can cut a promo and grasp it, it’s a long list.
Needless to say, it was a controversial season of Tough Enough. Even though you had told me that you didn’t watch it, what’s your reaction from what you’ve heard?
I heard it’s not that much fun to watch on TV. I haven’t seen one second of it, I know that. I know Billy Gunn’s on there, so there’s a reason to watch it. To be honest with you, Alex, I haven’t heard one good thing about it. And that’s the truth. So here’s my answer for that…I hear Billy Gunn’s on it. (laughs) But I really am looking forward to WWE 24: NXT and WWE Breaking Ground on the Network. I’m stoked to see the hard work that all the guys and gals put on featured prominently. Viewers will get to see how much they put into everything, both physically and emotionally. It goes far beyond a full time job, it’s a way of life.
What was a typical day at the Performance Center like?
You get there at ten and you’d have film study or in-ring training from ten to one. Then you might have an hour off and from two to 3:30, you’d be in the weight room training with the weights, doing the cardio, strength and conditioning stuff. And then you’d have a couple hours off, you’d come back in the evening for promo class. That’s Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Thursday, we’d do TV sometimes. If not, maybe a house show somewhere in Florida. Same with Friday. Same with Saturday. On those three days in the morning, at least in my schedule, it’s a little lighter than some of the guys, you would do maybe weights in the morning and shows at night. And Sundays off.
Most ridiculous tweet you ever got?
It said “go get cancer”. I screen captured it for a while and I used to just laugh and laugh and laugh. It was just so good, that’s great! That’s the funniest one I’ve ever gotten. I would’ve retweeted it, but you can’t nowadays. You’ll have the cancer organization of the world coming after you. “You support cancer!” My rule is if I ever wondered if I should tweet it, I just didn’t. That was my rule for myself. When I got Twitter, it seemed like a thing I would get in trouble for. I’ll say something stupid eventually. So if I ever wondered, just don’t tweet. But there were times where they said don’t tweet this or that.
First wrestler you met as a fan?
The first big name that I ever met was in Morris, Illinois in 2005. Isn’t that weird? I was sixteen the first time I met a real wrestler. Ugh, that’s embarrassing. But it was Billy Gunn and he was so big. So jacked. He was just so big and so damn tan. I remember asking him if he would ever go back to WWE, he looked at me and he goes “Nah, I’m done with them.” (laughs) I had a picture with him that I wanted to show him so bad when I was there and I could never find it. I’m still looking for it at the house.
The next person from the Performance Center that will make an impact?
Braun Strowman, how cool did he look on his debut? I think he’s gonna be just fine. I’m excited to see him reach his potential and beyond as a member of The Wyatt Family. Again, it’s a case of right place, right tie. He sure does look cool on TV, I’m happy for him. I told you in our last interview that he was gonna be a badass. So far, he’s delivering on that. He has what it takes to deliver on a whole lot more in and out of the ring.
What’s your Subway order?
I’m always gonna get Footlong Honey Oat, unless I’m trying to be really healthy. In that case, I’ll get a salad with a bunch of bullshit spongy chicken breast. But I usually get a Footlong Honey Oat with turkey, double meat, double cheese. I don’t know if I like toasting it or not, I flip back and forth on that. No lettuce because they fill those sons of bitches with lettuce, so I figured that out right away. I’ll either do spinach or nothing or just get straight to the veggies, pretty much everything besides jalapenos. And then mustard and mayo. Salt, pepper, oregano, bam. Buncha cookies.
Favorite podcast at the moment?
It’s always gonna be Stone Cold’s, man. His is the best. I can listen to Stone Cold talk about picking up dog shit in his front yard. He pops me. I love when he talks about the business. I love when he talks about beer. He’s cool! It’s Stone Cold! Cabana’s is cool too. J.R.’s is fine, I like his too.
Favorite wrestling shirt you own that’s not yours?
My Robbie Brookside Wrestling Academy shirt I just got. I love it. It’s red, white and blue. It’s beautiful.
Favorite opponent on the CJP Tour?
James Mason. So much fun. The best. He’s had ten thousand matches and has been wrestling for twenty five years. He’s thirty five years old. He’s the man. If you do not know who James Mason is and you’re reading this, you need to look him up.
In closing, what you have to say to the NXT faithful that want to follow you on the Juice Robinson journey?
Thank you for everything. NXT, WWE, all that was so much fun. Everything that I’ve done to this point has been awesome and it’s made me who I am. But it is time to not be CJ Parker anymore, not be CJP anymore, not hide behind what I’ve done before. It’s time for me to start fresh in a land far, far away. As Juice Robinson. As me. Juice Robinson is Joe Robinson, Joey Robinson, Joseph Ryan Robinson. It’s the same thing. It’s Juice, man. It’s me. It’s still the same dude, but you’re gonna see more of who I am as a person and as a wrestler. It’s gonna be great. There’s no gimmick anymore. I am what I am. And you’re gonna see it.