MVP Talks WWE Return, RAW Underground, Hurt Business and Being a Player-Coach

One of the biggest WWE surprises of 2020 was the comeback of Montel Vontavious Porter, better known as MVP.

After returning to the WWE as a surprise entrant in January's Royal Rumble event, MVP wrestled the next night on Monday Night RAW in what seemed to be his final match of his career. On social media, the 46-year-old told his followers that he was contemplating his retirement, but things changed and MVP was offered a role in the WWE, 10 years after he was last full-time with the company.

Now, MVP is a foundational piece on Monday Night RAW as the head of the "Hurt Business" faction, alongside Bobby Lashley and Shelton Benjamin.

"SmackDown was where I was born essentially, but to be on RAW, that's the flagship show and now for the Hurt Business to stake their claim on Monday Night RAW, it feels good," MVP told Newsweek on Monday. "I'm happy to be back and I just want everybody to check out this tremendously talented cast of characters, but more importantly, keep an eye on the Hurt Business because business is booming."

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MVP and the rest of the Hurt Business have also become the de facto leaders of the new initiative RAW Underground, a fight club-esque storytelling vehicle that permeates through Monday Night RAW.

Newsweek caught up with the 20-year veteran to talk about his return to the WWE, his new role on Monday Night RAW and working with the young talent. This interview has been edited and condensed for the sake of clarity and length.

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MVP delivers a boot to Apollo Crews on WWE 'Monday Night RAW' WWE

Congratulations, first and foremost, on the new deal with the WWE. How does it feel just to get that new contract?

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It's pretty cool, man. It's one of those things I wasn't necessarily expecting, especially since making the intention of retiring this year, but as we say in the professional wrestling business, "card is subject to change."

You were contemplating retirement earlier this year, but what changed your mind?

The reason that I came back primarily was my son. He's five, would be six in October, and he became a WWE fan, and I guess [I] wanted to give him a chance to see daddy in WWE. We did the road tour, we did San Antonio [back in January] and that just opened up the doors and I took a position as a producer. I was offered a producer's position, but I was asked if I could do a few more onscreen things and just build from there.

Eventually, I started doing less as a producer and more as onscreen talent, and ultimately the biggest joy for me was my son. "Daddy, I saw you on TV. Daddy, when are you going to fight so-and-so?" I fielded all his questions and I guess what changed ultimately was being a dad, which makes me a different guy now.

After leaving WWE, you wrestled overseas and for different companies. How was that experience?

When I left the WWE, it was really cool because I had a year left on my deal and I asked Vince [McMahon] and he was kind enough to let me go. He said to come back when you're done, the doors are open here. I'm an old-school guy, so I really enjoyed the fact that I could go international, work for different companies and experience those different wrestling things that I wanted to experience.

I remember when I left, it was John Cena of all people. Someone asked John Cena about me and John Cena said, "He will be back, all roads lead to Rome." And I laughed about it because it took a decade, but I made it back. I had a great time in Japan and the other places that I worked. It was during that time that I developed for myself the moniker as the "Ronin of Pro Wrestling." I was the samurai roaming the landscape, looking for battle, serving no master. Looks like I'm back in service to the Shogun Vince McMahon. [Laughs]

Is there something that you learned in particular while you were away from the WWE?

Nothing specific comes to mind, but you know, like any profession, if you're any good at it, you're constantly learning and you're constantly improving and you're having the opportunity to travel to different places and work with different people. Working in different language barriers, crowds and styles of wrestling.

These are just cumulative things that build up, so at this point of my career I'm fortunate that I have the experience of wrestling in Mexico, wrestling in Japan and wrestling in Europe.

When you were first brought on as a producer, was there a feeling that you wanted to get back on television?

I'll be 100 percent honest with you: It wasn't a thing of I was feeling the "itch," because I'd resigned myself to retire this year. So being a producer and taking on the producer duties and working with the young guys, from a producer perspective, was very fulfilling. And those opportunities that I had to get back in the ring and do the VIP Lounge again or some short matches, yeah, that was pretty cool. It was like riding a bike—you never forget.

And it felt great and was rewarding, but now I'm in a position where I'm not officially a producer, but I still kind of work as one in the unofficial capacity when I'm working with some of the younger talent and these segments of matches. We still have a producer responsible for the segment, but I'm like a player-coach, so working with Ricochet, Apollo [Crews], Cedric [Alexander] and some of these young guys, there is the fulfillment, the reward of watching younger guys learn and I'm paying it forward because when I came in, I had some of these legendary veterans taking me up under their wing and [taking] time to teach me, so now I'm fortunate to be able to give that back and that feels great.

To be in the ring and actually working and looking and saying, "This is surreal. I'm back here. I'm doing this and working with these tremendously talented guys." That's all real cool.

You, Bobby Lashley and Shelton Benjamin are friends outside of wrestling, so to see you guys as the Hurt Business is cool. But what's it like to work with them in this new faction?

I'm really at a loss for words, but it's just one of those things [where] we have been friends for a long, long time. We are genuine friends. I remember being in the Staple Center years ago, when Bobby Lashely and Shelton Benjamin were having a competition. They had a piece of paper that they were trying to shoot across the room into a trash can and they were betting 20 bucks each time who could hit it, who couldn't and I think they were different shows at the time.

It was just weird, and then I entered the room and I got in on it, before I know it we're all sitting and saying, "I got this, no let's up it to 50." We're just having a blast. It was a very natural camaraderie that fell into place. So, over the years I've developed close friendships with both guys, so to come back here and at this point of our careers and be united in this position, man, it's so rewarding.

Also, just look at us. Bobby Lashley is a multi-time All-American so is Shelton Benjamin. If I'm not mistaken, [Bobby] is undefeated in MMA. And I'm a competitive grappler in jiu jitsu, a silver medalist at the world championships. You've got one formidable crew between us, so it's going to be interesting to see where we go from here. But more than anything, I've said many times, what's better than just making money with your friends?

When you were first putting together the Hurt Business, many fans were clamoring for a revival of the Nation of Domination. You've said in the past that you don't want it, but do you still feel the same?

Yeah, it's been done. At the time it was done it was great, the individuals that were there are legendary and Hall of Famers.

I was more, let's do something new rather than rehash something that's already been done, and I'm excited for what we've done in how it's been received and Vince is high on it, so we are in a great spot now

You and the rest of Hurt Business now run RAW Underground. The segment was a shock to us watching, how was it pitched to you?

It was a shock for us, too. Shane McMahon explained to us the concept of what they wanted to do and I thought, "Wow, that's pretty cool," and you know, we're all competitive athletes in combat sports so it was like, "Yeah, OK, that's right up our alley."

Creatively it was just go in there and beat people up and that's what we do. We did and it worked out wonderfully and we've gotten a lot of positive feedback. Overall, the reaction to RAW Underground has been favorable and, of course, the Hurt Business going in there and wrecking shop, that's also been pretty favorable. I'm stoked. I'm excited to see what happens with RAW Underground going forward because it's just a different sight with a different flavor, different vibe and it seems pretty cool. I think people who weren't initially sold on it, I think anything that is new sometimes takes a little getting used to. I liked it right away.

Your first major feud has been with Apollo Crews. You're heading into a match with him at SummerSlam. What can you say about him?

Apollo Crews is tremendously talented. One of the things that impressed me the most about Apollo is his coach-ability; he wants to improve, he wants to learn, he's got a tremendous attitude and he's eager to do well. He doesn't put limitations on himself, he listens and I've been able to work with him. Some of our promo segments we talk and I give him some insight and bounce things off of each other, and I'm seeing his growth, and he's been a pleasure to work with. He's awesome and I see big things for Apollo Crews.

There are three of you in the Hurt Business. Is there room to grow that number?

I think there's room to grow. Let's just say we're in business and we're constantly looking for new business opportunities and potentially new business partners.

You've been watching and working with the talent in WWE. What can you say about the depth of talent that's there?

It's huge, man. Between RAW, SmackDown and NXT and all of the untapped talent that's in the pipeline at the Performance Center who are waiting for an opportunity to come up, I don't think I've ever seen a roster as deep, as rich with talent, ever. I think at this time the WWE is truly stacked so it's impressive to walk into a locker room, look around and just feel like, "Wow, all of these guys are really, really good."

You've worked with younger guys like Apollo, Ricochet, Cedric, but is there someone else you want to work with?

There's always someone. I was talking recently with Aleister Black and his talent has impressed me. He's a guy that impresses me in the ring and out of the ring and in the locker room. He's got that old-school mentality emerging as a locker room leader in his own right and he's gifted.

What I understand, ole Samoa Joe is gonna be back in action and over the years Samoa Joe and I have been great friends, but we've never ever faced each other. At this stage of my career, I think I feel a lot more confident facing him, knowing that I got Bobby and Shelton backing me up—but I also know that wouldn't phase Joe in the least.

There's a number of guys that are coming along and that I'm looking forward to having an opportunity to work with in some capacity.

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Shelton Benjamin (left), Bobby Lashley (middle) and MVP take over RAW Underground. WWE

You've had a long career in and out of the WWE. Now that you're back, what is your mindset? What do you hope to accomplish?

My mindset today is what it's always been. I'm just a little more mature. I want any opportunity that I have to perform. It's my goal to go out and get the best possible performance that I can and in the process to make those around me better.

I want to think about the big picture. I've enjoyed doing what I'm doing right now and down the road, perhaps less in-the-ring wrestling and then maybe more of a managerial world, like Paul Heyman. I was doing commentary for Main Event and I'm enjoying that a great deal. Perhaps down the road there's room for MVP on commentary.

I used to hear all the time that "with age comes wisdom." You know, at this stage of life, I'm a lot wiser about a lot of things. I even said it in a promo before, that a "smart man learns from his mistakes, but a wise man learns from the mistakes of others." I've seen a lot of mistakes made. I've made a lot, so my mind fits in this stage of my career.

I'm just a lot more relaxed, you know, I'm not as exuberant as I used to be, but I have a lot more patience at this stage in my career and a lot more understanding and that translates to allow me to be a better teacher, better coach, better worker, better everything across the board.

Watch MVP on Monday Night RAW each week starting at 8 p.m. on USA Network.

MVP Talks WWE Return, RAW Underground, Hurt Business and Being a Player-Coach | Sports