WWE Superstar R-Truth was Monday’s guest on the Chasing Glory with Lilian Garcia podcast. R-Truth opened up about his real-life rags to riches story, which saw him overcome a life of crime on the streets to become a WWE Superstar.
It all started after high school. Ron Killings was a highly touted athlete, yet despite receiving multiple scholarship offers from Georgia Tech, Clemson, and Syracuse decided to pursue ‘street life’ instead. Killings needed to make ends meet and also find a way to fund his budding rap career. R-Truth describes himself during the tumultuous time as ‘lost’, “I remember asking God, ‘What do I do? I don’t want to play football. I had injuries. I want to play music. What do I do?’ I chose to go to the streets.” That’s when the 22 year old Killings turned to dealing drugs, “I called myself a drug dealer and I called selling drugs a job….back then making $2,000 a week was big money, or $2,000 a day was big money. Me trying to do my music thing, believe in my music, and pay for it myself, I took a job being out there on the streets and selling cocaine.”
R-Truth lived a life that saw him repeatedly in and out of prison:
Before I learned my lesson, I was there four or five times. When you don’t have to be there a long time, it’s almost like a slap on the hand for you and you feel like, ‘Oh, that wasn’t so bad. I got no problem with going to jail.’ I went back and forth, back and forth. I’m talking about gun charges to everything, just being that guy that didn’t know what he was doing out there that didn’t belong out there. I was the guy that lost his way.
The short prison stints would soon come to an end for Killings. R-Truth began developing an extensive criminal record and eventually found himself doing thirteen months in jail. R-Truth credits his long prison stint with ‘slowing him down.’ His father would never visit him. R-Truth described his mother’s heartbreaking reaction, “That was one of the most hurtful things to have my mother see me in court and to have my mother see me behind bars. I was in the room and I overheard my mother tell one of her friends that that was one of the most hurtful things she ever had to see: her son behind bars. I did that.”
Killings’ old high school coach still cared for the young man. Along with his arresting officer and several other police, an intervention was set up. They were honest and told R-Truth that he wasn’t going to make it on the streets, “They pretty much told me that I need to get my life together and that I wasn’t gonna make it on the streets. My name was all over the streets in terms of what I have, what I can do, what I can get. I didn’t want to have that life. Drugs were out there for a reason, not for me to sell, but for me to get caught with.” Truth described the talk as eye opening, “I had a long talk with them that pretty much woke my ass up.”
Eventually R-Truth was moved to a halfway house and his life would change further when he was introduced southern wrestling promoter Jack Crockett. Crockett took an interest in the young man and offered him a job, “The immature me, I thought he wanted me to cut his grass or something like that or hang fixtures on the house.” Crockett instead had dreams for R-Truth in the world of professional wrestling, “He told me that he felt like he never gave back before and that God wanted him to give back to me. ‘I want to offer you a change of life.’” R-Truth; however, was committed to his music career and had no interest in professional wrestling. He turned Crockett down for more than two years. During those two years R-Truth would return to jail several more times over ‘stupid stuff’ like ‘driving with the lights off and the police pull you over and you’ve got alcohol, cannabis, and everything else in the car’ or ‘you got a gun in the car that’s not registered.’
After R-Truth’s stints in prison he said a prayer:
I said, ‘God, I’m not gonna sell anything else. All the cannabis I have, all the cocaine I have, I’m getting rid of. In front of my mom, I flushed all the cocaine I had down the toilet and I took my cannabis I had left and gave it away and said, ‘I’m done with the game. I’m done with everything.’
That’s when R-Truth picked up the phone and called Jack Crockett.
Crockett was eager to help Killings pick up the pieces of a broken life, but also realized that Killings, himself, must be willing to accept the new direction. R-Truth started with the basics like putting the ring together, learning ring awareness, and first learning to be a manager. After seeing R-Truth perform at a show, Manny Fernandez offered to train Killings to be a professional wrestler free of charge. Killings accepted.
R-Truth was happy where he was, but several others around him suggested he consider moving on to a major wrestling promotion. Killings was unsure until Ray Crockett brought him to a WCW show, “The only thing I’d ever been to was rap concerts. I saw Ric Flair come down to the ring and I saw the reaction from all the people. Now Crockett is sitting right down beside me and he’s like, ‘Just imagine that being you and you’re rapping and you’re dancing all the way down to the ring. You can even get to the ring and rap there.’ I’m watching Flair and feeling this electricity from all these people cheering and wooing and was like, ‘This is what I can do. This is it.’”
An inspired R-Truth sent a promo tape to Vince McMahon and within two weeks was flying to Connecticut to meet the WWE CEO. R-Truth describes the meeting in the following:
It was surreal. It was surreal because I was still very green as far as knowing the business, knowing about everything and then meeting Vince McMahon where he was like, ‘So, I saw your tape. You a rapper? You dance and rap? OK, we’d like to sign you and give you a contract.’ It didn’t dawn on me like, ‘You’re gonna get a real job.’
At first R-Truth believed the entire thing might be an elaborate set up:
“Back then I was getting checks for probably three or four months before they even sent me anywhere. I was just at home getting checks. I felt like at anytime they were gonna send the cops and take my ass back to jail. It was just all a set up because they were giving me all this money and I hadn’t done nothing yet. I was scared. I called Johnny Ace and said, ‘I don’t know if you guys know this, but I’m still getting money and I’m still at home and he laughed and said, ‘You’re fine, kid. We’re just getting things squared away.’ I was like, ‘Y’all know I’m cashing these checks, right? Y’all sending me this money now.’ He was like, ‘You’re fine. You’re fine. You’re fine.’ Eventually R-Truth made his way to developmental, which he described as ‘a whole new world.’ R-Truth stated, “It was a different life for me and I took hold of it and I held on and I’m still riding it.”
Although his life has drastically changed and for the better, things aren’t always easy for R-Truth, who describes his criminal record as always following him no matter where he goes. R-Truth is prevented from visiting Japan, a haven for professional wrestling. The WWE Superstar elaborated, “There’s certain countries that you can’t get in if you’ve got a criminal background record. There’s certain jobs in the States that you can’t get because you’ve got a criminal background record. That follows you the rest of your life….and that’s something you have to deal with the rest of your life.”
These days R-Truth’s main focus is on professional wrestling, but also making positive rap music, “All the music that I’ve done and that I do now, I never glorify or talk about selling drugs. I never talk about being a trap house…I never glorify street life. All my music has always been about positive, having ambition, having goals, having dreams, and believing in yourself. I don’t even rap about going to strip clubs or women or none of that. It’s all positive and upbringing and happy music when I do music.” Readers can watch R-Truth’s That’z Endurance below:
R-Truth looks at his journey as part of a higher calling, “I’ve always felt that God, himself, has chosen me for his purpose, for higher callings whether it’s to be an inspiration to somebody else’s life, whether it’s to change somebody else’s life, or whether it’s to be that support or light in somebody else’s life. I feel like everything I’ve been through, chasing my glory, chasing this higher calling that God has for me has all been for him. I can feel it in my soul. Everything that is happening for me, all the good things and all the bad things, I know they’re supposed to happen and I accept them, I’m rolling with them and I’m just waiting to get to that higher calling.”
(Transcription Credit: Michael McClead, WrestleZone)
Readers may listen to Lilian Garcia’s interview with R-Truth in its entirety below: