Six years ago this June, R-Truth interrupted a Raw segment between Roman Reigns, Dolph Ziggler and Kane.
Truth’s promo was pointed—he had conquered his fear of ladders and was finally ready to claim sole possession of the Money in the Bank briefcase. That bravado came to a sudden halt, however, when he was reminded that he wasn’t even in the match.
“This is on me,” Truth said, making the most of the comedic moment as the crowd erupted and both Reigns and Ziggler could not contain their laughter in the ring. “My bad.”
Throughout the course of his career, particularly over the past decade, Truth has delivered more genuinely funny moments than anyone else in WWE. Ron Killings is the man behind the R-Truth character, and he has perfected merging wrestling and comedy.
“I have my own lane, and I know how to drive in my own lane,” Killings says. “Where I’m at right now, it’s destiny. The universe has allowed me the chance to keep myself relevant and in the mix.”
A unique element of Killings’ skill set is that, despite his uncanny ability to be funny on-screen, his greatest strengths are his in-ring work and the depth of his character. Now 48, he has established remarkable longevity over the past 24 years, which have also included some difficult stretches where he firmly believed he did not have what was needed to succeed in wrestling.
Killings first worked for WWE before the turn of the century. Known as K-Kwik, he had some success teaming with Road Dogg in 1998. He was ultimately released in 2002, leading to a journey of doubt, resiliency and creativity that has led him to his new role as the defining face of WWE’s 24/7 championship.
“There have been times I was ready to quit,” Killings says. “It’s hard to be your best when you don’t believe in yourself. There were times when I felt I wasn’t good enough, times when I didn’t think I had a shot of making it.”
A proud musician, Killings applied the same principles to wrestling that he had always attached to his music. No different from his pursuit of the perfect lyrics and beat, he chose to press on in wrestling, until he found his purpose in the industry’s complicated, physical form of storytelling.
Killings went back to the drawing board. He sharpened his in-ring skills, pushing himself to enhance his look, develop a stronger presence and deliver even more finesse between the ropes.
“I remember telling myself, ‘I’m not going to quit,’” Killings says. “That’s why I’m at where I am right now. Everything I went through back then, it helped make me stronger. It helped me find different emotions.”
Beginning in 2002, he had a run with TNA, where he defeated Ken Shamrock, starting the first of two reigns as NWA world heavyweight champion. He also worked seamlessly with several different tag teams, partnering with a variety of performers that included Lance Archer, James Storm, former NFL player Adam (Pacman) Jones and even current WWE star Xavier Woods.
The flirtation with failure only strengthened Killings. He returned to WWE in 2008, elevating himself into a Survivor Series main event with the Miz against the Rock and John Cena in 2011. He has also had runs with the United States championship and the tag title with Kofi Kingston. All along, he looked at the landscape in WWE. He wanted to add to the show by being himself, a role he has perfected as R-Truth.
“That’s when I learned it’s all about layers,” Killings says. “I built an engine where you can shift into different gears and hit different emotions. I mean, you can make people mad. People do that all the time. Someone can make their neighbor mad by walking to the mailbox. I want to do something else. I want to pull out different emotions.”
“My greatest gift is making people feel good. That’s a natural aura, that’s what I naturally do. You see a lot of Ron Killings in R-Truth. Vince McMahon always tells me, ‘Just be yourself.’ I know myself and I know my character. I’ve soaked up a lot from my time in the business and from my peers. And what people are watching right now is a combination of all my years and lessons. I’m so grateful I get to be me in WWE.”
While viewers are only rarely treated to Killings’ world-class abilities in the ring, he has instead carved out an indispensable role that adds levity every Monday to the three-hour Raw, which has shown over time to be an hour too long. Yet no matter what happened in the prior segments, there is always reason to watch when R-Truth steps onto the screen.
“Pro wrestling is entertainment at its finest,” Killings says. “I’ve always believed that if you’re given something, you find a way to make it work. I’ll make chicken salad out of chicken s---.”
The nature of the 24/7 championship is designed to be treated far differently than the WWE championship or the Universal title, which is part of the reason why the belt constantly changes hands. Currently the reigning 24/7 champ, Truth has held the title a record 46 times. But even more impressive than the number of title reigns is the manner in which he took a belt that was universally criticized upon its May 2019 debut and turned it into a valuable part of the show.
“It seemed like everybody disliked the 24/7 title at the beginning,” Killings says. “That’s the beauty of R-Truth—the character can make anything make sense. There are so many different levels of entertainment, and that’s the position I’m in right now. I’m making entertainment for an entertainment company.
“Wrestling is supposed to be fun, and this belt is entertaining. Entertaining people is what I’m supposed to do, and I love on-the-spot thinking. Vince has me come up with my own ideas, and that’s easy for me to do because I love making people laugh.”
Killings and his wife of 10 years, Pamela, are devoted parents to their five children. And though he relishes the fact that the WWE audience enjoys his works and connects with his sense of humor, he shared that there is nothing quite like the sound of his own children’s laughter.
“I can really make them laugh,” Killings says. “I was doing something with Bray [Wyatt] one time, and Bray said, ‘It’s going to be hard because Truth’s going to make me laugh.’ So I said, ‘Don’t worry, I won’t do anything to make you laugh.’ And Bray said, ‘Just saying that made me laugh.’ My youngest is just like that. She has that ability to connect and make people laugh without even saying a word.
“I’m so thankful for my family. They are my energy source. They push me to be a better wrestler, a better rapper and a better person. When they’re safe and good, I can go out there and be great.”
Greatness is often accomplished in the world of pro wrestling through a world title run. Although Killings has had a stretch with the NWA gold, the chance to hold a top WWE championship—potentially even upending close friend Roman Reigns for his universal championship—could forever change his career, in addition to being must-see viewing.
“The R-Truth character can fit with anyone,” Killings says. “So if that were the plan, I would step up to the occasion and carry it. I can still go in the ring. I’m still quicker than a hiccup. There is a lot more I can do, too.
“But I have other goals, too. I love to entertain, and I won’t apologize for that. That’s who I am and it’s what I do.”
In addition to adding levity to WWE programming—who else could bring a ladder to the Royal Rumble match?—Killings continues to make music. His newest album, Legacy, will be released later this year.
“My music and my wrestling go hand-in-hand,” Killings says. “I came into the wrestling business rapping. People that know me know that I rap. And when I’m making music, I always think first of wrestling fans. They made me. So my goal is to make R-Truth fans into Ron Killings fans. That’s why I am so grateful to be with WWE and have the opportunities I have. Music and wrestling, you try to deliver what you know, what you feel, and what you want to share with the world.”
Killings also takes pride in embedding a deeper meaning in his work. His goal is not to cut biting promos or wrestle the match of the night each week, but rather to provide those watching with something altogether different from anything else on the show.
“When people watch me, I want them to see that, sometimes in life, you’ve got to be your own cheerleader,” Killings says. “Nobody is going to cheer for you like you cheer for you. Nobody is going to believe in you like you should believe in you. I hope people learn to do that for themselves, giving them confidence and control of their lives.”