When WWE superstar Montel Vontavious Porter first stepped into the ring and declared himself MVP, everyone was quick to call his character the Terrell Owens of the squared circle. But according to the wrestler, comparing his role to just one spoiled athlete simply isn't giving the gimmick its due.
"People want to make the comparison to MVP and T.O., but MVP was basically everything that's wrong with pro sports today, and I don't want to take anything away from T.O., but he doesn't get sole credit," MVP explains. "MVP is an amalgamation of T.O. and Ochocinco and Allen Iverson and Ron Artest. All the bad attitudes and misbehaviors of overpaid, pompous athletes rolled into one.
"Besides," he continues. "I'm a little bit more masculine than T.O., a bit tougher."
So isn't it ironic, I ask, that now the fans cheer MVP, attitude and all, just like they still cheer for Owens, Ochocinco, and all of the other athletes he was originally trying to mimic?
"Well, when I came up with the concept for MVP initially, part of the idea was, yeah, everyone hates a guy like T.O. and you boo him, unless he's catching touchdown passes for your team. Then you cheer him," he says. "I always thought the character of MVP had that ability because at some point, it would just be a matter of the fans thinking I was cool, and as long as I'm scoring those touchdowns they'll come around to my side. And that's what's cool about it, because it was organic. I never did anything definitive to become a good guy. I just did the same things I had been doing as a bad guy and the fans, instead of booing me, they started cheering and got behind me."
Jon Robinson: As a lifelong Raiders fan, how did it feel to watch the rival Chargers fall flat on their face in the playoffs?
MVP: It was wonderful [laughs]. Absolutely wonderful. But it was bittersweet, because the Raiders are still the worst team in the NFL barring Detroit. The Raider mystique is dead. We need to figure out some way to resuscitate it.
Robinson: Everyone knows you're the biggest sports fan in WWE, but one sport you're passionate about that goes under the radar is your love for soccer. How did that come about?
MVP: Yeah, the English Premier League. I'm a big Manchester United fan. When I was a kid, I worked with a guy who was a Man United fan, and that was the first soccer team that I was turned on to. Over the years, I always followed them, and that was the team that I knew. There's a place in Miami called Churchill's Pub that shows English Premier League, so I'd slide in there when I could to watch. It's just something that I was introduced to as a kid and always held onto.
Robinson: The Royal Rumble is coming up Sunday, and to some wrestling fans, this is even better than Wrestlemania. What do you like about this match?
MVP: I like the fact that you have 30 guys and everyone is fighting to be the last man standing. To quote the Highlander, "In the end, there can be only one." That one person gets catapulted to the main stage, the main event at Wrestlemania, and what stage is bigger than that? So the prize is huge. And it's always fun to see what guys end up forming alliances with each other. To be in there is chaos, but out of that chaos someone rises to be that one who moves on to Wrestlemania. That's what the allure of the Royal Rumble is. You never know what to expect.
Robinson: I was just playing a Royal Rumble in "WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010" and won it all as the virtual MVP. You're rated an 85 overall in the game. Are you happy with that number?
MVP: I think they shortchanged me a little bit. My hair looks good, but my moves are a little stale. I'm not crazy about my moves. I'm kind of mad at whoever did the mo-cap for me, because the rhythm is off.
Video games are amazing to me, though, because I'm from that era when the Atari 2600 was brand-new, and it was hot. I remember when "Pac-Man" was great, and "Pong" and all of these primitive video games. If you look at the advancements we've made in video games, I can't even begin to imagine what these games are going to be like 20 years from now.
Robinson: The last few episodes of "Raw," you and Miz have really worked well together in terms of building heat. How important is it for both of you to try and elevate each other through this feud?
MVP: Any time you have two talents on the screen, the whole point is to create compelling television. You want to create something that the fans are going to tune in to watch. I've known Miz for a long time. We were both at the now-defunct Deep South developmental territory, and dude works hard. He works really, really hard at his craft. I remember him vaguely as that kid from "The Real World," and I had no respect for him, but he earned my respect by working hard and practicing and improving his craft. Now we're both at a level where we both want to be in that top tier; he's bringing his A-game, I'm bringing my A-game and neither one of us is going to back off. It's just a matter of you have to step your game up, and when we do that, the fans win. It's a win-win for everybody because we step our games up, the fans get to be entertained and the higher-ups get to watch us evolve and grow. Hopefully we're the main-eventers that you're going to watch tomorrow.
Robinson: Do you see the feud lasting until Wrestlemania where you can finally face him for that U.S. title?
MVP: It's interesting, because with stuff like that, you never know. I don't know, but I'd love to see Miz at Wrestlemania for the United States championship. That would be huge. I just don't know if he'll be able to avoid me that long.
Robinson: What did you think of the whole Bret Hart comeback? Was it exciting to watch from backstage something that most of us thought would never happen?
MVP: I had met Bret Hart for the first time, and Bret Hart is just one of those guys who I respected immensely. It's not often when I have a moment where I'm star-struck, if you will. But having the opportunity to talk to Bret Hart and shake hands with somebody who I think so highly of, and then see him inside the ring with Shawn Michaels, it was a historic moment. And to be there and to watch it take place was a privilege because it was definitely a moment in time that will be remembered in our industry.
Robinson: The thing about the Royal Rumble, you never know who is going to walk down that aisle next. What would you do if you're in the ring and Bret Hart's music hits and he starts strutting your way?
MVP: You never know [laughs]. Wow. I would love to wrestle Bret Hart one-on-one. He's one of the best all-time, bar none. If I saw him at the Royal Rumble, I'd take a second to appreciate his music, but then once he got to the ring, he'd be like everyone else and I'd try to eliminate him. Sorry, Bret, you gotta go.
Robinson: To wrap things up, let's talk predictions. First prediction I'm after is the Super Bowl. Who is going to win?
MVP: I have to say, I'm really disappointed that Brett Favre didn't make it. I wanted to see the 40-year-old make it back there and do it one more time. If you love football, man, you wanted to see Brett Favre take on Peyton Manning. But at this point, the Saints and Drew Brees might be the truth, but you'd be foolish to go against Manning and the Colts. I have to give it to the Colts by 10.
Robinson: How about a prediction for the Royal Rumble?
MVP: Hornswoggle. He'll come out from under the ring, dump the last guy over the top and win it all.
Robinson: Wow. I think the Internet would blow up if that happened.
MVP: [laughs] That would be a good thing if the Internet blew up.
Robinson: There's so much wrestling commentary on the Internet, do you ever go online and see what people are saying about you?
MVP: I used to because I generally wanted feedback and see how I was being perceived, but there is just so much garbage traffic on there. People pass off rumors as fact or they'll get a piece of the story but not the whole thing. And everybody is an armchair quarterback and knows what's best. At this point for me, it's just a matter of performing and having a great time. My critics are the fans in the building. They let me know how I'm doing right there as it happens.