MVP saw his pro wrestling dreams realized from working for WWE and parlaying the experience to accomplishing the goal of working the Tokyo Dome as part of New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). Now the father of a four-year-old, the veteran approaches the business a little differently than he did a decade or so prior. Although with the landscape of the industry changing seemingly by the minute, MVP is open to at least hearing any opportunity that comes his way.
"I'm a businessman," he said of potentially working for a promotion again full-time. "So, I'm always available to talk business. The circumstances would have to be right for all parties involved. I'm 45 now. I don't want to be one these guys who stays past their expiration date. I can still go. At 45, I still wrestle pretty much every weekend on the independent circuit. I'm not keen on signing a contract that has me on the road 200 plus days out of the year.
"That was great when I was in my 20's and 30's. Now in my 40's I'm not so quite motivated to do that. There are other things I want to do. I want to start transitioning out of the wrestling business. I want to start doing more speaking engagements. I do want to get started on that book. I like being able to be home and spend time with my son. At this point in my life, that is one of the most important things for me."
MVP's story of entering the wrestling business are far from traditional. After serving nine-and-a-half years in prison, this proved an outlet and source of motivation to turn his life around. The former Antonio Banks recalls the days of working the Florida independents as the young performer. The trip down memory lane puts things in perspective of how far he and pro wrestling has changed.
"Now I'm the O.G. in the corner of the locker room. Lots of times I'm on the show, and I'm the oldest guy on the card," MVP said. "Just yesterday I was the young guy. The technology of how wrestling is being consumed by audiences now has changed the game completely. I think it's great that for the first in a very long time, since the territory days, you can be a professional wrestler and make a living as a professional wrestler without having to work for Vince.
"It has been a long time since that has been the case, except for that small group who can go to Japan or Mexico. Generally speaking, you have the Young Bucks, who are among the biggest stars in the industry who have never been on Vince's TV not one single day. I think it's really cool they found their lane. Some of the evolution of what professional wrestling is becoming, I guess in my old school foundation, that I'm not particularly fond of. But I always argue with some of these old-timers who say, 'You're doing it wrong. These kids are giving away the business.' I ask them, 'How are they doing it wrong if people are buying tickets to see it? If they're buying tickets, they aren't doing it wrong.'"
He takes an optimistic view of where things stand within the biz, specifically WWE. There are strides made toward representation. An example needn't look any further than Kofi Kingston winning the top prize at WrestleMania.
"I think you can say prior to Kofi Kingston nobody that looks like Kofi Kingston has ever held the WWE championship. There is definitely something to be said for that. I think WWE as a whole has undergone a philosophy change," MVP said.
"Look at how the business has changed, and they've been forced to change along with it. Everything constantly evolves. Either you evolve or you go with the dinosaurs and get wiped out. You just look at NXT and that business model. You look at Kevin Owens. When I worked at WWE, a fat guy in a t-shirt. Vince wasn't having it. Kevin Owens comes along, dazzles everybody with his talent and ability and beats John Cena. That was unheard of. Now he is a viable talent holding it down. There's definitely change, a philosophical change in WWE. As far as overall race, specifically to WWE, Kofi was a huge statement. I think now one of the things with the current wave of talent is the inclusiveness."
For MVP, it's a far cry from even when he broke in and more of an exclusive group. There were as he describes gatekeepers.
"If you came and weren't tough enough, guys would haze you and beat you up," MVP said. "Only a certain kind of person could get in the business. Now anybody can. It's kind of like the natural that these longer kids are talking about. If you're gay, trans, black, white. These intergender matches, equality, men and women. All of these things are going on.
"I think this newer generation doesn't place the same emphasis on race or any of those other factors. It's a revolutionary time in the wrestling business now. Thanks to technology primarily, you're seeing all types of stars emerging from places you've never seen before. Everyone doesn't have to be 6-foot-4 with abs anymore. It's pretty cool. I like what I'm seeing. And as I'm making my exit from the business, it's pretty cool seeing the business is in good hands."
MVP's full interview with Wrestling Inc was released as part of Tuesday's episode of our WINCLY podcast. It can be heard via the embedded audio player at the bottom of this post. In it MVP discusses his recent Ted Talk and work addressing how America treats its prisoners.