From bars to bling
Before Montel Vontavious Porter could dream about signing the highest free agent contract in sports-entertainment history or one day winning United States Championship gold, MVP was sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in a penitentiary.
Years before he'd don the upscale threads and studded footwear befitting a high-profile Superstar, Porter spent time wearing an orange jumpsuit with shackles. With nothing but time on his hands to rethink the direction of his future, he served his prison sentence and emerged a new man with a new focus in life.
That said, MVP was hardly thrilled about elaborating on the specifics of his past with WWE.com. His 252-pound frame tensed up, and he glared with disdain as he tipped his mirrored sunglasses downward.
"Do you think I'm some sort of cliché?" he asked, visibly irritated. "Attempting to encapsulate my entire life in one interview just isn't possible. Unless you have a month to talk about my origins and the elements that have shaped me into becoming the champion I am today, don't even bother. There's more to me than the fans will ever know or be able to comprehend."
Prying further into his pre-sports-entertainment life only elicited more emotion from MVP, and reminiscing soon turned into an invective, one-sided conversation about the difference between him and everyone else.
"I grew up in Opa-locka, a place in southeast Florida the Miami New Times called ‘West Baghdad' because of the homicide rate; I'm somebody who had nothing as a kid, so go figure out what that was like," snapped the new United States Champion. "My mother gave everything she had to provide for her sons, and it still wasn't enough. I saw gunplay and violence on a regular basis as a child. The only people I saw that had anything were hustlers and players."
In a world where witnessing injustice was commonplace, MVP believed that going to school for anything -- including wrestling -- was destined for everyone else. As far as he understood, the wrong path was the only path.
"I knew there were doctors and lawyers out there if you went to school for 10 years, but that life just wasn't real to me," he said. "What I saw in front of me every day…that was real to me. I grew up in the time of Miami Vice; I wanted a Ferrari and a condo that overlooked the Atlantic shoreline. And I only knew of one route to all of that."
In order to seize those goals, Porter took his skills from the Miami streets to the mat. But again, the harshness bred by his environment had continued to plague him.
"On my wrist right now I'm wearing a band that says ‘In Loving Memory of John Williams,'" he explained while reading the inscription. "He was my best friend. He got stabbed and killed outside of a club on South Beach that we used to work at together. On any given night that could have been me — but I'm still here."
As it happened, the detours MVP took from living that lifestyle -- or the moral avenue by which it could be attained -- may have taken longer than he would have liked. But suffering through the pains of prison life and striving for a better existence have obviously paid off. Now that he's living large in WWE and has earned the respect -- although not necessarily the admiration -- of our fans and his colleagues, MVP doesn't plan on letting up.
Porter still keeps what he's learned in perspective, admitting that his life experiences have helped him develop thicker skin than most people. The mere fact that he's still living -- especially outside prison walls -- gives him the strength to take losses and other letdowns in stride.
"I can get over losing a match fairly easily, because I'm still around to avenge that loss. I will get mine when it comes to retaliation," he claimed. "Not that I won't learn from it, but in my life I've been shot at and stabbed, and I'm still here. Every day I think about how blessed I am to still be here, just to be living life…and then I think about how blessed everyone else is to watch me livin' it."