Unlike nearly every other wrestler, when World Wrestling Entertainment superstar R-Truth enters the ring, he supplies the music.
A rapper since he was a kid, R-Truth delivers tough-flowing rap as easily as he does the Lie Detector, his signature move.
“It always works together,” R-Truth said of hip-hop and wrestling. “Wrestling is entertainment. Hip-hop is entertainment. I want to keep it real. My hip-hop is me. It helps with my character. When you see who I am, you’re getting a real character, a real person. R-Truth, that’s me.”
R-Truth is really Ron Killings, a 42-year-old father of four, who has been wrestling for the WWE and other circuits for most of two decades.
So how do you maintain a long career in rough-and-tumble sports entertainment?
“By the grace of God, doin’ what has to be done and working hard, keeping my head up and my chest out," he said. " I’m a grown man now, I’ve got a family, I understand responsibility. You suit up, put the shoes on and go out and do it.”
Like all veteran wrestlers, R-Truth has been a babyface (good guy) and a heel (bad guy) and been involved in plenty of feuds and out-of-the-ring drama.
But he said what goes on inside the ropes has remained relatively the same since he stepped into the ring in 1997.
“Characters and people change,” R-Truth said. “I don’t think the wrestling has changed. It’s always been entertaining. It’s always been demanding. It’s always been a competitive sport.”
Contrary to those who think it is entirely “fake,” wrestling is a very physical sport; even the smallest “bump” is nothing to laugh at when it’s delivered by a 250-pounder.
“We take some devastating hits out there,” said R-Truth, who’s 6-foot-2, 227 pounds. “A lot of times we’re out there injured. I’m injured now. I’m about 80-85 percent. I hurt my shoulder. But, as they say, the show must go on. So I’m out there.”
So if you’re playing hurt, do you have to change what you do in the ring or not go as hard?
“A little bit of both,” R-Truth said. “I may not do the backflip, but I’ll do the splits. Or I may do the backflip but with no hands. It kind of depends how you’re feeling. You improvise. You ad-lib. You try not to hurt it again.”
A high school football star who got bit by the music bug, R-Truth tried to make it as a rapper in his late teens. He dealt drugs to support himself and landed in prison for just over a year. He now uses that experience to try to influence others not to follow his path, or if they get into trouble, to see how they can succeed after.
“I definitely consider myself a role model,” he said. “I’m not ashamed to talk about it; I’m not embarrassed to talk about it. I’m human. I’ve made mistakes like everybody else. You have to learn from those mistakes, to do things right, to show that you can overcome those mistakes. In a way, I’m proud I made those mistakes. Sometimes a blessing will come out of mistakes.”
One of the blessings for Killings was meeting Jackie Crockett when he was released from prison to a halfway house. Crockett’s family ran the National Wrestling Alliance, the circuit that became World Championship Wrestling after it was sold to broadcasting mogul Ted Turner.
“I tried to get him to invest in my music,” R-Truth said. “He had a whole different idea for me. It worked.”
That idea was to make the former North Carolina high school running back, who turned down scholarships from Syracuse, Georgia Tech and other schools to pursue music, into a wrestler.
That process began in 1997. Seventeen years later, with stints in NWA, TNA and X-Treme Pro Wrestling along with the WWF and WWE, R-Truth is still rolling along, working at his crafts and supporting his family.
“I’ve got four kids and one on the way,” he said. “This is the last one. I’m done.”
When R-Truth isn’t out on the road doing WWE shows, Ron Killings is at home in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“When I’m not doing this, I turn into super dad,” he said. “Waking the kids up, getting them ready for school, get my coffee going, get them to school, get in my workout, pick them up from school, get them to dance class, to football practice, get them home and in bed at night. I become a husband, a father, a son and an uncle.”
R-Truth has the NWA World Championship, the WWE American Championship, and in 2012 he took the tag team belt with Kofi Kingston. But he wouldn’t name a single in-ring highlight of his career. Instead, he said, his biggest highlight was:
“Getting the WWF contract, the WWE contract, just coming here. My highlight is being able to do all I want to do. You can’t pick one thing. I’m working for the biggest company there is, doing what I want to do. I’ve lived the dream. I’ve accomplished the goal."
R-Truth will be in Lincoln Tuesday, working the “Smackdown” card at Pinnacle Bank Arena. “Smackdown,” which airs at 7 p.m. Fridays on Syfy (Time Warner Cable channels 41, 224, 1224 Time Warner Cable), is one of three weekly WWE television shows.
“It’s different when you’re on TV. You’ve got the pyrotechnics," R-Truth said. "You get to be seen on TV around the world. You have more of a chance to have your character seen, so people know who that character is.
“The best way to be entertained is to come to a WWE TV show. A lot of times when I’m out, I get recognized by families because the kids know who I am. We are a family-oriented show. If people haven’t ever seen it in person, I’d urge them to come out and see what it’s like. They’ll be entertained. I promise that.”