To close out Black History month, Knockout Nation sits down with Ron Killings, aka WWE Superstar R-Truth, to discuss how he got started in the wrestling business, his take on Blacks in wrestling and some of his favorite hip-hop peeps.
Knockout Nation: How’d you get started in the Pro Wrestling?
R-Truth: I got started by a guy named Jack Crockett. I was trying to get into the music business and he saw more than just music in me. he thought I could make a good wrestler. I was just at the point in my life where I was just pretty much ready to change the way I was living and pretty much change the direction my life was going in. I was ready for someone to put me under they wing and let me fly.
Knockout Nation: How long did it take you from beginning your training to having your first match?
R-Truth: I think I trained for six months before I had my first match. That’s not the average, some have their first match sooner, some later than that time. Each individual has their own determination of when they’re ready to get in that ring.
Knockout Nation: Being a lifelong wrestling fan, was there any particular move you saw growing up as a kid that when you started training you said “Show me how to do THAT!”
R-Truth: I was ready to to learn every aspect of doing professional wrestling. I had seen it all my life and now I was ready to just do it. And every move you see I wanted to learn how to do.
Knockout Nation: For us wrestling fans, we see it as sports entertainment. But it’s not all fun and games. For example, when you take a bump on that mat and fall down on it, it hurts. Tell how hard is it to take a bump and what does it feel like?
R-Truth: It’s like being in a car wreck when you have that first impact. As a matter of fact, when I first started training, just taking a bump, you have to learn that. There was times where you had to take 15 in a row. There were times that after I was done training I would get nosebleeds and headaches. Getting up, taking it and again, over and over again, you have to build up a tolerance to take that type of impact constantly.
Knockout Nation: Now you’re not a small cat, you’re pretty swole. Does having the muscle mass that you possess help with taking that impact?
R-Truth: Shoot, not at all! (Laughing) Only thing having that extra muscle does is give you that extra bit of look good.
Knockout Nation: You grow up in what was once a wrestling hotbed, the Carolinas, where they had Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, Jim Crockett Promotion NWA territory. Growing up, what wrestlers were you influenced by?
R-Truth: Man, I was a huge fan Nikita Koloff, Magnum TA, and especially, Ricky Steamboat, he’s one of my favorites. Ricky Steamboat had the best arm drag in the business. He was like a maestro in the ring. His whole aspect of ring awareness and psychology, he just made it look very easy.
Knockout Nation: Besides coming out rapping your entrance music in the WWE, you have a strong passion for Hip-Hop. How did you keep your passion and continue pursing rapping despite starting a wrestling career?
R-Truth: I had a love for both. I was into music prior to wrestling. Crockett told me that since I rap, write and produce it, I should just come down to the ring to. I’ve been doing this since day one. I feel like it sets the pace and the tone. I feel music is a great way to introduce yourself to the people.
Knockout Nation: Do you feel you’ve converted hip-hop purists into respecting you rapping ability?
R-Truth: I’ve definitely done that. You have to acknowledge “Ok, he’s on beat. Well damn, the guys is rapping pretty good. He’s not cheap.” There’s no gimmick where you see they had to put my music together.
Knockout Nation: Do you have a preference of being a heel or baby and as an African-American do you feel pressure to perform as a babyface to show a strong positive image of a black man?
R-Truth: I don’t worry about that but do understand that line of thinking. But people forget what they’re watching. We’re the biggest entertainment company in the world. And I can entertain somebody as bad guy or a good guy. If I’m a bad guy and I can make you that mad to where you want to create controversy about the fact a African-American man is playing the bad guy, I’m doing my job. As a good guy, I’m doing the same thing vice versa. I think it’s all on the individual to be their own maestro and shine within their character. Yeah, and there’s this stigma that all Blacks are supposed to be the bad guy, that’s not true. My first time debuting in the WWE, I was the good guy. Anyone complaining can join the haterade crowd.
Knockout Nation: Speaking of your in ring persona, one aspect of your character that’s been received very well by the masses is the creation of lil’ Jimmy. Where did that get the inspiration to create him?
R-Truth: That was just something I decided to call all the John Cena fans. That was all of them that wanted to go and live the straight and narrow. Those are who I consider the little Jimmy’s to me.
Knockout Nation: If you gave lil’ Jimmy a physical representation would he be: JJ from Good Times, Arnold from Diff’rent Strokes, Webster, Rudy from The Cosby Show, or Jordan from the Bernie Mac Show?
R-Truth: I’m going to say he looks like Jordan from Bernie Mac with a lil bit of JJ’s attitude from Good Times.
Knockout Nation: If you were asked to drop a hot 16 for your favorite artist who would it be?
R-Truth: How much time you got? Wayne, T.I., Wiz Khalifia, just met him. Lil boosie, Trick Daddy, Mystikal. I could go on and on.
Knockout Nation: If you could do a cameo on your personal favorite rap song, what song would it be?
R-Truth: ‘To Live and Die in LA’ with Pac, or ‘Dear Mama’. We’re talking about real life struggles, real life situation. I come from the struggle. I want to show people that there is hope from where you come from. I want people to see that there is hope and they can overcome any situation.
Knockout Nation: You’ve run afoul of the law in your younger days and yet you stand as one of the most recognized WWE Superstars in the world. Do you feel a sense of pride that you were able to turn your life around?
R-Truth: I take that role on with great pride. I’m not ashamed about the mistakes I’ve made. That’s part of growing up to be an individual. And going from a child to a young man to being a grown man. And I put my business out there for young black guys, young white guys, anybody that has taken that wrong road because of peer pressure or whatever life struggles that’s lead you down that path. You have that choice to be yourself. You have that choice within yourself to determine whether you want to stay in that situation. Because people are going to make mistakes regardless. But it’s up to you, each individual, if you’re going to keep making those mistakes keep hitting that brick wall, learn from it. Gain more out of life from what you learned to reach a higher level.
Knockout Nation: Now we’re in WrestleMania season and you’ve been lucky enough to make several appearances at ‘Mania including WrestleMania 28 where Team Johnny fought Team Teddy. Can you possibly put into words what it’s like to be out in front of that huge audience on the WrestleMania stage?
R-Truth: You just gave me goose bumps thinking about that moment. It’s such a rush and exciting at the same time. There’s not enough time you can get to prepare yourself for a situation like that. You just have to be ready to absorb every bit of the energy from the people and feed off of them. You could go out there and the people could be chanting nothing and you can still feel it from them, because of the intensity they’re giving off. It’s like the highest level that you’d ever want to be at.
Knockout Nation: What does it take to make the WrestleMania card?
R-Truth: It takes busting your butt 365 days a year and upping your game every year. Because say you don’t make that WrestleMania card, you better be working towards making it on the card the next year. The whole rest of the year should be all about perfecting your craft and jumping them hurdles to get there.
KO: Now it’s Black History Month and we’d be remiss if we didn’t ask you who were some of the Black wrestlers you looked up to growing up?
R-Truth: Of course the Junkyard Dog. Booker T was one of my all time favorites and Butch Reed, very underrated.
Knockout Nation: What Black wrestler do you feel doesn’t get enough shine from wrestling?
R-Truth: Ron Simmons. Ron to me is, and I’ve heard this saying before, “There’s God and then there’s Ron Simmons.” Ron is a man’s man. Whether your White, Black; Ron is that iconic guy that you want. I definitely will say Ron Simmons.
Knockout Nation: Who do you feel doesn’t get their due in Hip-Hop and is under appreciated?
R-Truth: DMX. I don’t think he has ever got his just due for being the lyricist that he is and also bringing the realness of the street to the perspective of people’s ears and talking about real life situations. Its more to life than just popping bottles and being in clubs. I’m talking about living real life man.
Knockout Nation: If you look at Hip-Hop, most artists rap about three types of subjects: real life gangsta rap, braggadocio/Mafioso baller party rap, and conscious rap. Do you think somebody can be successful in all three forms or is one sub genre better than the other?
R-Truth: I think you can be successful in any and all three. It’s the audience and if you got an audience that wants to listen to that type of music and strive to be better and more open to listening to it, then that’s what you cater to and what they’ll buy. You have ears for everything, it just matters on who wants to listen and what they will buy. And who you cater the market too.
Knockout Nation: Earlier this month Hip-Hop lost it’s collective mind with the Album of the Year Grammy going to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. In your opinion what was the best album you listened to last year?
R-Truth: Lil’ Wayne dropped a really good one with I’m Not A Human Being 2. I’m being straight up honest with you. It’s between Wayne’s album and T.I.’s Troubleman. Every song on both albums were good to me, especially T.I.’s. Every song he had on there was about real life situations. His kids, his fans, I think the whole album was banging.
Knockout Nation: What is the most conscious, black empowering rap song you would bump to celebrate Black History Month?
R-Truth: It’d have to be a 2Pac song. I’d go with “Changes.” You talking about coming to together, changing and doing positive things with your life. “Until The End Of Time” would be a good one too.
Knockout Nation: If Vince came to you and said he was giving you free reign to go into the ring and shoot on any wrestler to any rap song, who would you call out and what song would you use to diss them?
R-Truth: In storyline, it would have to be the WWE World Heavyweight champion, Randy Orton. I would call him out with “How Do You Want It” by 2Pac! You can go anywhere with that one, I’m trying to tell you!
Knockout Nation: We’re going to play a little word association, except with Hip-Hop artists and WWE Superstar. I’m going to throw some rap names at you and you tell me who currently exemplifies them on the WWE roster.
Knockout Nation: Kanye West.
Knockout Nation: Ice Cube.
Knockout Nation: Eminem.
R-Truth: Cody Rhodes. He’s very talented. Hes’s that guy who gives you the Eminem type of stigma.
Knockout Nation: Kendrick Lamar.
R-Truth: Probably Damien Sandow. They’re very intellectuals and have a great way with words.
Knockout Nation: Jay-Z.
R-Truth: Kofi Kingston. He’s a very smart individual with cat like instincts. He’s aware of his surroundings and reacts quickly.
Knockout Nation: Snoop Dogg.
R-Truth: Randy Orton. Randy and Snoop are both very laid back. You think Randy isn’t paying attention, but he’s very aware. He’s very calm, collected and cool and has that swagger,
Knockout Nation: Nicki Minaj.
R-Truth: Nikki Bella. She’s sassy, she’s got the attitude, and she got all of that and then some.
Knockout Nation: John Cena.
R-Truth: He’s like a Biggie to me. I have so much respect for him. His mind is always going and he’s always thing about next month, not tomorrow. He’s always prepared and ready. Matter of fact, the album I’m working on, John just came over and laid down some bars for me. I have much respect for him and carries all of that for me.
R-Truth is a 17 year wrestling, with his second stint in the WWE. Outside of wrestling he’s working on a rap album that he says he’ll be completing in the next month or two that will have appearances from Wiz Khalifa, Juvenile and DMX. You can follow him on Twitter at @RonKillings.