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Kenny King’s two true loves embraced him with open arms earlier this summer after a short hiatus away.
Professional wrestling and his 10-year-old daughter.
The Ring of Honor wrestler put his career on hold for an opportunity on ABC’s “The Bachelorette,” featuring the show’s first black contestant, Rachel Lindsay.
Despite King’s (real name Kenny Layne) connection with Lindsay, he decided to walk away from the dating reality show in order to return home to be with his daughter, Makenzi.
“We [Rachel] both understood that even though we were cool with each other and it wasn’t a bad thing, we just weren’t in the right spot on top of the fact that I was going to be away longer from my little girl, I felt like it needed to be a little stronger,” King told Yahoo Sports.
With wrestling back in his life full-time, King will return to the national stage Friday night in Las Vegas at Ring of Honor’s “Death Before Dishonor” pay-per-view.
King spoke with Yahoo Sports about his decision to take part in “The Bachelorette,” the lack of social protests from black wrestlers in the wrestling ring and where the late Bobby Heenan ranks on the list of greatest managers ever.
On Friday in your backyard of Las Vegas, you’re wrestling against IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion Kushida on Ring of Honor’s “Death Before Dishonor” pay-per-view. What would it mean to you to work on a global stage like New Japan?
I think it would be me achieving the next goal. It is one of my short-term attainable goals I believe because I’ve been wanting to do it for so long. I think that I would be not only a top contender but they would have to look at me seriously if I beat Kushida on Friday. Kushida is not only one of the best cruiserweights in Japan but he’s one of the best wrestlers in New Japan.
Kushida has managed to work in his love for the “Back to the Future” franchise into his character. If you had to pick one movie that would serve as an in-ring inspiration to you, what would it be?
Let’s go with “Braveheart.” To paint my face blue and white. I don’t know about wearing a kilt but in that kind of whole epic battle feel, “Braveheart” would work.
Why did you want to take part in “The Bachelorette?”
It was just one of those things … when I got a phone call, I didn’t even ever think it was going to happen. I just thought it was OK, whatever someone’s calling and it’s just one of those things. So, to be completely honest with you, I just kind of said sure and sent stuff in but I just went about my regular life, working and wrestling and just going on as none of this was ever going to happen. And then it just kinda became a thing out of nowhere and then on top of the fact that I’m open to the fact of getting married and having a family and all that stuff. All of it was just the right perfect storm of events I guess.
What was the reaction from your wrestling peers about your time on “The Bachelorette?”
I found that most of my friends in the business were watching for the first time because their wives were like, “If Kenny’s watching, you have to watch!” Most of my friends in the business were “Oh, it looks like I’m watching now, appreciate you.” That was a lot of my friends in general. Overall the reception was overwhelming positive. The guys had a lot of positive things to say about it. Just myself, I think the biggest complements I was getting from my friends and the guys wrestling was that was you [on the show]. You didn’t pretend to be anybody else. That was a big complement for me.
What was your transition like in the ring after you returned from filming?
It’s a transition from not getting thrown around and kicked and beat on to all of sudden getting thrown around and getting kicked and beat on. It’s one of those things where you have to throw yourself in the fire. My body definitely appreciated the time off and I got to heal some nagging issues. I think that was one of the better things for me. It’s hard for any full-time wrestler to take six, seven weeks off voluntarily. I was able to do that and let my body relax and rest from the schedule.
Do you have any regrets about exiting “The Bachelorette” when you did?
No, I don’t have any regrets about that. The more I go over it and the more I watched it, I feel like it’s the most mature break-up that I’ll ever have in my whole entire life. It was just a situation where Rachel and I both understood that there’s something here and we’re digging each other but it’s just … it was a thing where the whole Lee thing took weeks, which felt like years off my life. In a situation like that where you only have 10 weeks, 2-3 weeks where you’re not moving forward, there are guys moving forward. That 2-3 week time where I was jammed up with Lee, that just threw me and Rachel off. We both understood that even though we were cool with each other and it wasn’t a bad thing, we just weren’t in the right spot on top of the fact that if I was going to be away longer from my little girl, I felt like it needed to be a little stronger.
Considering our current racial and political climate, do you think America is ready for the first black “Bachelor?”
Is America ready for it? Yeah, America should be ready for it. I would imagine a black president is a little more impactful than a black “Bachelor,” but I guess it just depends on who’s the real target group. There are sections of America who more than likely are not ready to embrace a black “Bachelor” every Monday and that’s just the reality of the country we live in. The country as a whole, I think everybody is ready for that. It comes down to advertising dollars and the true marketable demographics of the show.
Was your name in the running to become the next “Bachelor?”
If you ask everybody else, it was. I don’t necessarily know as far as the executives and what not. But it was pretty exciting for a minute. I was very flattered by it. My social media was blowing up on people suggesting they would like to see me as the next “Bachelor.” So it was definitely flattering but ultimately that decision isn’t up to me.
When’s the last time you’ve communicated with Rachel and what did you think about her decision of selecting Bryan?
Well, I think people forget Bryan got the first impression rose. Bryan was kissing on her like the first night. There was always something there between Rachel and Bryan. The last time I spoke to Rachel it was very cool. Rachel and I understand each other. We understood what time it was with our relationship and our situation and there’s no hard feelings. I felt that Bryan was ready. Bryan, overall, was a good choice for Rachel. He’s ready for all the things that Rachel said she’s ready for, so I definitely believe that’s a situation that could end with a happy ending and I wish them the best.
Why do you think we haven’t seen similar protests and demonstrations to racial and social injustice in the wrestling world?
That’s a good question. The platforms are a little different I think. Kenny King is a character. Kenny Layne is a person. [Colin] Kaepernick or Martellus Bennett or Marshawn Lynch … who they are and what they represent, as far as even endorsements and advertising dollars, that’s coming from a different place where Kenny King the professional wrestler is coming from. I think it’s just a little different the way it would come across because I couldn’t do it during a wrestling show without it being misconstrued as a gimmick or an angle. I think that if you pay attention to the social media of a lot of black wrestlers and wrestlers of color, they are very outspoken as far as these issues in one way or the other. There’s not too many I know that are silent on equality and social issues. I don’t think “Monday Night Raw” or “Death Before Dishonor” is the place to discuss real-life issues when we are blurring the lines anyways.
WWE Hall of Famer Bobby Heenan died on Sunday. Where would you rank Bobby Heenan on the list of greatest managers ever?
Bobby Heenan is the greatest manager of all time. My childhood wrestling memories are filled with memories of Bobby Heenan, Mr. Fuji and Slick. And then to a lesser extent, Paul E. Dangerously and Jimmy Hart. Bobby ‘The Brain’ is always going to be the guy synonymous with managers and great wrestling personalities.