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Kenneth Crawford is now known to millions of pro wrestling fans as Montez Ford and was seemingly born to compete. The 31-year-old’s journey to WWE has been a physical one, but his love of intense competition is only equaled by his desire to entertain.
Born in Chicago, Crawford was hailed as a track star at Anson High School after moving to North Carolina and it was there that he was named athlete of the year in 2007. “I ran in high school, from my freshman all the way through to my senior year,” he says. “I ran the 400m and the 200m, both of their relays. I also ran cross-country to keep my endurance up, and I was a member of the JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) in high school. So, I’ve just been running my entire life (laughs).”
Straight out of high school, Crawford joined the military. “There you go, once again, running,” says the charismatic athlete. “And training, on just how to go 100%. It was just go, go, go all the time, so that’s where the foundation of my physical fitness comes from.” The athlete says that he found serving his country to have parallels with his track career.
“There’s zero room for error,” he shares. “It’s prepared me a lot for [the pressures of] live TV. In track, you really don’t have much room for error when you a running a race, and it’s the same thing with the military, there’s no room for error in the different tasks that are going on there. I feel like they both helped to shape me for WWE, in regards to live TV programming. Thank God I did have that training! [laughs].”
Crawford was always interested in pro wrestling, and after his details were submitted to its recruitment website, he was invited by WWE for a tryout. While his sporting background proved to be a great springboard for a wrestling career, he found learning the ropes to be one of his toughest challenges.
“The crazy thing about it, a lot of people don’t know, I actually had two tryouts,” he says. “I had one on 2013, and one in 2014, and finally got signed on the second tryout, so I didn’t really start until mid 2015. One of the most difficult things I remember was that it is completely different watching wrestling, to actually doing professional wrestling. The art and craft that goes into the sequences. In doing it, you realize there’s an art to it. You have to wait for certain moments, or pause here, or slow down there, just maneuvering your body in different ways as well.
“Like, in track, or basketball, you have your regular fixed movements. In track, it’s straight ahead, or in basketball you may have to switch side-to-side, and in football you have to use agility, but in wrestling you use every aspect. Whether it’s jumping out of the ring or landing on a small space on the apron, or climbing a ladder (laughs), there are so many different ways to use your agility.”
Kenneth Crawford excelled on the mat and adopted Montez Ford as his WWE ring name. During his time with the NXT brand, Ford met his future real-life wife, Bianca (Blair) Belair and his Street Profits tag-team partner, Angelo Dorkins.
Fast-forward to today, and The Street Profits are now one of WWE’s most celebrated teams having garnered the NXT, Raw, and SmackDown tag-team titles. But that could all change on Oct. 1, when WWE starts its next draft — a cross-brand WWE superstar shake-up that could see wrestlers moving to different shows.
It is an unpredictable time of year, because the talent discovers their future on live television, leaving little time to prepare for a different touring schedule that could serve to separate them from friends, partners, and loved ones. Montez Ford is staying positive though. “The draft is one of the most exciting times of the year,” he says. “We’ve spoken about it before, and there is always the possibility of us being split up (by the draft). We’ve had past success on all three brands including NXT, Raw, and SmackDown, so in regards to that actually happening, we are prepared for it.”
He adds: “In my case it wouldn’t just mean leaving my team, but also leaving my spouse, so it’s one of those things where it’s bittersweet, but you try and prepare for it, and it’s a very exciting time, there will be so many fresh faces, rivalries, and fresh competition.”
Fortunately, The Street Profits and Bianca Belair have a special bond that cannot be broken by a WWE Draft. Ford and Belair were married in 2018, and at WrestleMania 37: Night One, the two were able to celebrate in the ring after the “EST” of WWE defeated Sasha Banks for the SmackDown women’s championship. And, while Ford was overcome with pride for his wife’s accomplishments, it also helped to light a fire in terms of his own desire to main event WrestleMania.
“Not only was it a great, and just a landmark moment for the EST of WWE, but it was also motivating for myself as well,” says Ford. “You know, seeing her in that position, seeing her not only do well, but succeeding obviously by winning the title and being the main event, its inspiring that I can do the same thing and so that one day, eventually, Bianca can come and celebrate with me as well.”
In terms of singles competition, Ford, who can do an impressive vertical jump of 64 inches, has already shown that he has what it takes to hang with the big dogs. Earlier this month, he battled Roman Reigns in a thrilling main-event that showed the potential of the 6’1″, 230-plus pounder. It was a huge pressure test that he passed with flying colors. “I felt comfortable afterwards, knowing that I did it,” says Ford. “When you come through something like that, and succeed, it lets you know that when that time comes back around, you will be even better. Not only was I grateful and blessed that I was able to hang in there with arguably the greatest in-ring performer right now in the world, Roman Reigns, but I also look forward to doing it again, very soon.”
Tune into the WWE Draft, beginning on Oct. 1, during SmackDown to find out the fate of Montez Ford, Bianca Belair, and Angelo Dorkins as relates to which brand they will be assigned to represent.