Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Kenny King saw a full-page advertisement in the UNLV student newspaper looking for contestants for the MTV reality show “WWE Tough Enough.”
He had watched a previous season and thought the competitors were missing one important trait. The show aired in the early 2000s.
“There was a big ad that said, ‘Are you tough enough?,’” said King, a former college football player at South Florida. “I remember talking a bunch of mess to my friends watching the first (season), ‘Man these guys aren’t even athletes.’ It was like a sign from God.”
King was a finalist on the show, parlaying the exposure to a lengthy pro wrestling career for the Las Vegas resident.
The 36-year-old King is the face of the Ring of Honor touring organization, which he’s been part of since 2007. Friday, he fights Japan’s Yujiro Kushida at Sam’s Town in a Ring of Honor pay-per-view title fight.
And while wrestling followers know him as “Tough Enough Kenny,” King’s popularity has spiked to new levels in the past year after appearing this spring on the dating reality show, “The Bachelorette.” He eliminated himself from the series because he wanted to be back in Las Vegas with his daughter.
“I missed my little girl. I had never been away from her for seven solid weeks before,” he said.
Here are more highlights from the Sun’s interview:
Can you give us any insight as to who wins Friday?
The outcomes are pre-determined. Everything you see in a wresting match was created that day. There aren’t months to rehearse. There is one take to make it happen, especially on the live TV. Even if you get hurt, you have to continue the match. There is an art of working TV matches and the internal clock, say if the match is 15 minutes.
Fifteen years in wrestling isn’t easy. How have you managed to turn it into a career?
My goal was do what I have been doing — pro wrestle for a living. A high percentage of pro wrestlers have side jobs. A very small percentage of guys can sustain themselves with pro wrestling and make a good living. I have been sustaining myself with pro wrestling the last six years. You don’t get paid very much to wrestle the first handful of years, unless you are phenomenal off the jump.
One of your side jobs was as a Chippendales dancer, right?
I did that for five years. There is a misconception about Chippendales — there are no lap dances. It’s not a strip club. It is a stage show. Girls come in, they sit down. There are set changes and choreography. My mother even attended the show.
You came to UNLV to play football for Rebels. Looks like wrestling took over.
My dad sent a tape to a guy named Mike Bradeson, who was defensive coordinator. Coach Brad gave me a call and said, "Why don’t you come out here and check it out?" He was subsequently pissed off at me when I picked wrestling.
You’re in shape. You look great. What is the training like? How many hours a week do you practice? Is it mostly cardio and lifting, or are you working on body-slams?
At this stage, I have been wrestling for 16 years. They say every pro wrestler only has a certain amount of bumps (falls) in his bump card. I don’t bump very often unless I’m wrestling in a show.”
In other sports, being in your mid-30s would be toward the end of a career. What is the age range for your career?
This is a weird place because in this industry, I am considered hitting in my prime. Think about it. John Cena is 40. Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair wrestled into their 50s. It is not what you do, it is about why. It is about the crowd and simulating emotions. You really start to understand that the longer you are in the business. I don’t want to wrestle until I am 50. But I have taken great care of myself and I wouldn’t give it up because of injury. I just don’t want to wrestle forever.
Would you consider leaving Ring of Honor for WWE?
One thing that is not readily known is that I was in talks with WWE before signing my new contract with ROH. The main thing is moving to Florida. I have a 10-year-old daughter here. I have joint custody in state of Nevada. I can’t move to Florida, which is sort of a requirement if you want to work for WWE. WWE is the bigger company, but I do pretty well with Ring of Honor.
So, do people look at you as Kenny the Bachelorette guy more than Kenny the wrestler?
Guys know me from wrestling; girls know me from “The Bachelorette.” I had never watched an episode. I got a call from an ABC producer, "Hey, are you interested in doing the show?" I was still working wrestling. I was in Pittsburgh and they sent a text asking me for some things and pictures. The whole time I am laughing with the boys. Then, one day, they give me another call. I remember, I was in San Francisco. They said, "Let’s make this happen."
Why did you decide on doing the show? To help build your brand?
I didn’t go onto the show to become famous. Obviously, it was a fantastic opportunity. I went on the show, because who knows? You never know if a girl you met on the street, let alone someone on a (dating) show, is the person you’ll end up with.
Where you happy with the way your were portrayed? How did producers do editing your scenes?
I feel like I was portrayed as myself. I didn’t go on there to act a certain way. I went on there to show that woman who I really am.
Post-show, how have things changed for you?
I’m America’s favorite dad, now. My DMs (on Twitter) certainly show a certain level of interest. I have gotten some cool messages like, "I never knew my dad or I am estranged from my dad, but your relationship with your daughter has given me hope." I love to respond to those things.