The stars of WWE return to the Trent FM Arena next weekend on the Revenge Tour. SIMON WILSON spoke to former armed robber Montel Vontavious Porter aka MVP about going straight and being battered by handbags...
What are you up to today?
I'm about to go to a school somewhere in Kent to reward one of our Wrestlemania Reading Challenge winners.
Meeting kids is all part of job?
Yeah – one of my favourite parts of the job, actually. It's such a privilege and an honour to be able to have such a heavy influence and impact on children's lives and to be able to be a positive influence.
Every time the WWE tour comes to Nottingham it tends to be a sell-out.
Yeah, it's a hot ticket, you know. The WWE programme airs in over 50 languages in well over 100 countries around the world. And I think part of the reason that it is so successful and it's such a hot ticket is in addition to the colourful personalities and the action-packed wrestling matches, it's an age-old story of good versus bad. Everybody understands that regardless of the language.
Your personality is publicised as pretty arrogant but you don't sound it. Are you just playing?
Well, actually MVP is really who I am with the volume turned way up. But yeah there's quite a bit of arrogance in me and it's funny that me and my brothers and my former wife always say that the people who watch don't know that that's really who I am. You know they tease me a bit but there's a bit of truth in that. I'm quite a vain individual.
You joined WWE in 2005 but have been around a long time. Why did it take so long to become a WWE star?
It was just a matter of paying my dues along the way. You have to keep in mind that WWE is the best of the best within professional wrestling and you can't just crack in those ranks straight away. You have to learn and perfect your craft. And it takes a while to do that, to compete at that level. And I'm glad that I didn't come in straight away because when I did come in, it meant I could make an impact right away.
Money aside, what are the benefits of being part of WWE?
Well we travel to so many different places and meet so many different people. The people in Luxembourg who don't even speak English all know how to say "MVP sucks!". And there's something special about that. Whether we're in Spain, France or anywhere, people are energetic and excited about our arrival. We're in the business of putting smiles on people's faces and I'm very proud of helping people forget about their problems, their woes and be able to vent some of that frustration by screaming at me.
British wrestling reached a peak in the 70s with people like Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. Do you know who they are?
Oh yeah, Johnny Saint, Jim Brakes – I'm a big fan of English wrestling, absolutely.
Back then it was common for an old woman to be ringside swinging her handbag at the wrestlers. Has that ever happened to you?
Yes (laughs). There are still some places in the States where you get that old lady. I actually had an old lady endeavour to do me grievous bodily harm once. I enjoy that. I really dig that someone's that passionate about loving me or hating me. There are places like that even now, even after we've exposed professional wrestling as entertainment. In years gone by it wasn't presented that way, so there were guys that were really good at being the villain that actually got death trashed. But I still get the occasional bottle of water thrown at me.
It's odd that people, even though they know it's staged entertainment, get so passionate about it.
Oh yeah, they get worked up. Even though the outcome's pre-determined, it's still like you're rooting for your favourite football club. You're a supporter and you really get wrapped up in your club. The same thing happens with your favourite WWE star.
Have you been to Nottingham before with WWE?
Yeah, twice. Matter of fact, I had the pleasure of going in Nottingham Castle, I took some pictures there. I even had the chance to stop in and have a pint at Old Jerusalem. It's amazing. I was shocked when I saw the date. It's one of the oldest pubs in the world. I ran my fingers along the stone walls and thought of all the people who've been there over the hundreds of years to tip a pint. It was a real treat.
Were you a fan of Robin Hood when you were a kid?
Oh yeah, of course, Sir Robin of Loxley. In the United States as a kid, that's a really big story. Even years ago before the Hollywood film with Kevin Costner, it was just part of your childhood. Robin Hood, Little John and the Sheriff of Nottingham. That story's just as popular in the US as it is in the UK.
Every time WWE comes to town, you always stay in the same hotel and stay up late partying.
Yeah, well we work hard so we play hard. We don't mind tipping a few pints and enjoying a few shots along the way.
Batista's in recovery before he gets back in the ring isn't he?
Yeah, I spoke to him the other day. He had a tear in his hamstring and he had surgery to repair it and he's already up and walking around. I mean just look at him, he is the Animal, he's a freak of nature and he's recovering quickly so he might be back sooner than expected.
Have you ever had a bad injury?
I haven't had any injury that could put me out of the ring for an extended period of time. Before I got to the WWE when I was on the Independent team, I had my orbital cracked once so that was pretty tough. But even that didn't keep me out of the ring. I've been fortunate so far that I've had no serious breaks or tears or anything along those lines.
You got into wrestling in prison because of a fellow inmate. Is that right?
Actually it was one of the guards – he was an independent wrestler and would bring in video tapes and title belts.I was at work release, which is when you're at the end of your prison sentence and you stay at a facility and work at a regular job out in the community. He told me he'd take me in his ring and teach me a bit. Needless to say the rest is history.
And there's more money in WWE than armed robbery?
(Laughs) Oh yeah absolutely. You know I tell people all the time that now I'm making more money than I've ever legally made in my life. The beautiful part is I don't have to look over my shoulder or worry about anybody kicking my door in and coming to collect me at two in the morning.
Honey Monster Presents Wrestlemania Revenge Tour: WWE Raw, Trent FM Arena, Sunday April 19, £30-£50, 08444 124624. For line-up details go to wwe.com.