Interview w/MVP: Discussing Jail Time, Japan, How He Got Into The Business

by Al M. on 31st July 2008

MVP looking to be a ‘beacon of hope’
By The Mayor of Parts Unknown

Yes, Dear Believers, the WWE’s special brand of bread and circuses — minus the bread — is headed to the Tri-Cities.

Lots of my peeps from Kingsport will be in attendance. Mi padre, the Old He, The Icon, they’ll all be there!

Sorry, Championship Wrestling fans, no autographs this time.

And so will my guest this week … MVP.

The self-proclaimed Highest Paid Superstar on “SmackDown!” will compete in a match with Mark Henry, Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy at Saturday night’s WWE house show in Johnson City.

What kind of match? That’s up to the fans in attendance, who will vote on either a tag match pitting the Hardys against Henry and MVP, or a fatal four-way for Henry’s ECW Title.

“Anytime you get a shot at the title, that’s always good,” MVP said in our one-on-one sitdown. “I don’t like the whole tag thing anyway. I’m a solo kind of guy. My star shines brightest by itself.”

MVP and I talked about his 9½-year prison term, as well as his experience watching the Grahams’ Florida promotion growing up, his love of Japanese wrestling and much more.

By the way, this will be the first time in MVP’s entire career — both in or out of WWE — that he has wrestled in the Tri-Cities area.

Read on, Beloved!

Mayor: Hello, MVP. Thanks for the time.

MVP: Hi, sorry I’m late, I had a few travel delays. (Mayor’s Note: MVP worked the “Saturday Night’s Main Event” taping Monday night, then flew to Hershey for “SmackDown!” tapings Tuesday, when this interview took place.)

Mayor: I’m sure you’re used to that, given the schedule you guys have.

MVP: It’s funny, because it happens all the time but it doesn’t make it any easier. It just happens. You miss your connection, your flight’s delayed, you have an issue with the rental car. It’s still aggravating.

Mayor: I think some fans know about it, but most fans don’t. But let’s talk about your background, because I think it’s really interesting, the issues you’ve had in the past and where you are now.

MVP: A lot of fans don’t know, but I think it’s getting out there. As a teen-ager, I ran the streets and got into all kinds of very serious trouble, which resulted in me going to prison for 9½ years. While I was in prison I met a corrections officer who was an independent wrestler. Got out, started training with him and discovered that pro wrestling was my passion. I devoted myself to it and worked hard and made sacrifices and after 5½ years finally got a shot with WWE, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Mayor: Did you follow wrestling much before that? Did you watch as a kid?

MVP: I mean, I’m from Miami. For most of my childhood life, Gordon Solie was the soundtrack to pro wrestling in my head. Dusty Rhodes and whenever Ric Flair came to town, it was a big deal. I didn’t see any WWF until later on, because, you could only see WWF on cable. When I was a kid we didn’t have cable. It was just Georgia Championship Wrestling and NWA stuff that we got. That, and of course, Florida Championship Wrestling. Now when I was in prison, at the time we couldn’t watch it. We didn’t have cable. And at that time, there was no “SmackDown!.” I can tell you a funny story. When I was on work-release, my interest in wrestling had been rekindled. They started showing ECW in syndication. I remember the first week, I was the first one in the television room when they put ECW on. The first week, one of the guys sat with me and everybody was, “Aww, man, that stuff is fake. I can’t watch that garbage.” The second week, there was about five guys. The third week, there was 15. By the end of the month, the whole TV room was packed and everyone was watching wrestling. My re-introduction to wrestling was through ECW. My first reaction was, ‘Man, what happened to wrestling?’ I mean I’m watching Super Crazy take two dives off a balcony, and Tommy Dreamer get whacked with a Singapore cane. That stuff blew my mind. That was the time during the wrestling wars. Right when I got out, I started watching “Raw” and “SmackDown!” and was blown away by what wrestling had become.

Mayor: Who was your favorite guy to watch in the old Florida shows?

MVP: I remember as a kid being struck by Sweet Brown Sugar. Watching his moves, in the white mask, his dropkicks and leapfrogs, I was blown away by his athleticism. Because back then, nobody moved like that. He really stuck out. Terry Funk, just his ability to be the bad guy. I was just drawn to him because he was so mean and nasty. Of course the American Dream. I remember King Curtis used to scare the hell out of me, too!

Mayor: About your background, Jeff Hardy made a subtle reference to it on “SmackDown!” last week. Would you like to see more of your real-life history brought into your on-screen character?

MVP: And we intend to do that, little by little. I intend to use my experiences with the youth, inner-city youth, what we tend to call at-risk youth. I’d like to use my experience to help them have a better life. I’d also like to use my opportunity as my celebrity increases to show ex-convicts. Because guys get out of prison, and there’s this overwhelming sense of hopelessness. Figure out what you want to do in life, and devote yourself to it and make sacrifices, you can do amazing things. I want to represent that. I want to be a beacon of hope to people whose circumstances I can relate to. Little by little, it’s getting out there and it’s definitely something I want to emphasize in the near future.

Mayor: Do you run into any extra trouble with the travel, especially the international travel, because of your record?

MVP: Absolutely. There are some countries that I’m not allowed into — Japan being one of them. When I go to Canada, there’s all kinds of legal paperwork that has to be done. There’s a special permit. For the most part, it’s been almost 20 years since my conviction and I haven’t been in trouble. There’ll be times I’m in the airport, they do a background check when I’m going to another country and they pull me to the side. Take me into a room and check my stuff out. But I understand it. Not that I agree with it. But I understand it.

Mayor: I’m sure Japan would be one of the places you would want to go. You can tell just by watching that some of the Japanese moves are a strong influence on what you do in the ring.

MVP: Oh yeah, very strong influence. I’m a huge fan of Japanese wrestling. I always say, once in my career before I hang up my boots, that I want to work in front of a Japanese crowd. I want to hear their applause, that “OHHHHHH!” when they clap. I just think that’s so cool. They’ll applaud for a reversal. It’s a different culture but I really enjoy their style.

Mayor: Who would you want to face from Japan? If you got to pick one guy.

MVP: Wow. Oh, man … I’d have to say, there’s a part of me that would love to say Chono. Or Muta. Then there’s some of the younger guys I’m a big fan of. KENTA is just amazing to watch. I’m a big fan of Tenzan. There’s a lot of guys over there I’d love to work with. But I’d probably say Muta or Chono.

Mayor: You really spend a lot of time watching and dissecting different promotions and different guys. How much time do you spend watching tapes and shows, and how wide-ranging is your collection?

MVP: I have a huge collection. When I’m home I try to set aside a couple hours minimum. I have a room where I have just a real comfortable leather massage chair. I watch everything. Some old English stuff, lots of Japanese stuff, some classic American stuff, old NWA and Mid-South. A lot of the time I’ll have the producers give me DVDs of some of our current stars that I’m set to face. I would say at least a couple hours a week. A lot of times I’ll take a DVD when I’m on the plane or on a bus trip when we’re overseas. I watch a lot of it. Probably too much.

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