Thursday 27 February 2014

Moonchild Gone Bad

On the February 12 episode of NXT we finally got a definitive CJ Parker heel turn. It's been needed for months.

After defeating a no name enhancement worker CJ demanded to know why people don’t love him. Tweaking his character so it was less a generic hippy and more a right wing green guy CJ continued by saying that he reduces, reuses and recycles, all to help the planet. He mentioned that he drives a “fuel efficient Ford Fiesta that gets forty miles to the gallon” and stated that he cares about Mother Earth. Who’s to blame for the planet being in the state it’s in? The “NXT Universe”. His delivery was shaky at points but mostly good and the decision was to adjust his character was the right one. Being a condescending conservationist suits him for more than being a standard issue peace and lovenik.

This was nobody's favourite feud
Since his debut 'The Moonchild' has been either met with disinterest or boos. The reason for this is simple. Hippy characters just aren’t applicable to modern culture. The lifestyle they represent jars with the modern approach to life. It’s why fans cheered Tyler Breeze over Parker. ‘Prince Pretty’ is a more relevant character and so is more relatable. Audiences understand a self-obsessed, narcissitic pretty boy taking selfies. The same can’t be said for a man billed as being from the Moonchild Commune. It didn’t help that Breeze was far more entertaining and assured in his role than Parker was in his.

There’s no obvious reason WWE should have been reluctant to turn Parker. I think it simply comes down to stubbornness. They’d decided he would be a babyface and they weren’t going to change him until they’d tried everything they could to have him accepted in that role. It’s not as though they needed him to be a fan fave. He’s not done anything notable that necessitated he be cheered. It was simply the role he’d been allocated.

This is part of a trend in NXT. As regulars at the TV tapings the fans at Full Sail University are largely in the position to dictate who gets presented as what. They selected Big E (Langston) as a top guy and embraced his five count gimmick, which happily coincided with WWE’s plans. But they torpedoed Bo Dallas’s presentation as a babyface, forcing WWE to alter plans. That worked out for the best as it gave Bo the chance to play a face unaware that he’s a heel. It’s a very effective act when done right but it’s something we’ve not seen much of in WWE. He turned out to be good at it and it’s helped him become more over than I think he would have otherwise.

This is a good way of working. Instead of trying to cram guys into roles the audience don’t want to see them in acts are presented and altered accordingly (with a bit of waiting, obviously). It not only makes the NXT show more enjoyable but it also gives the wrestlers the chance to learn how to tweak their characters. That’s a knack that encourages character consistency as wrestlers search for a way to provide a different spin for their character’s actions. That’s useful in coping with multiple face and heel switches, something many will (unfortunately) find themselves subjected to if they make it to WWE or the low budget Florida equivalent that is TNA.

Of course this is possible only because the NXT audience are so in tune with how most viewers feel and because the NXT roster has so many talented wrestlers. If the NXT regulars were really into guys like Mojo Rawley things would be working very differently.

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