Jonathan Elijah Graves (real name unknown) - better known by his ring name, Johnny Graves - was born January 5, 1995 in Paradise, Nevada. He is the youngest adoptive son of Anthony and Katherine Graves.
Graves was born to a sixteen year old girl who had conceived him one night at a drunken party. Unable to provide for a baby, his mother gave him up for adoption. As fate would have it, Johnny would be adopted by Anthony and Katherine Graves. The young couple were unable to conceive children and after thousands of dollars and multiple attempts at a fertility clinic they had given up on having children of their own and decided adoption was the most logical course of action. Having already adopted a boy named Caleb, the happy couple welcomed a six month old Johnny into their home.
Life was good and the Graves family was happy. That is until tragedy struck in the form of a devastating car accident that left Anthony with a broken back and neck - along with several other minor injuries - as he was coming home from work. Life almost seemed to be put on hold as the family dealt with the physical therapy and recuperation of Anthony Graves. Due to his inability to work, Katherine picked up a second job to keep the family afloat during this trying period. Because of this, Johnny and his brother, Caleb, spent much time with relatives often spending the night in different homes each night if their mother had to work too late to pick them up.
It was at the age of eleven that Johnny discovered his love of sports. He began playing baseball in the spring/summer, moved to football in the fall, and basketball in the winter. Though he couldn’t explain such a complicated emotion at such a young age, Johnny clung to sports as it was the only place he ever truly felt he belonged. He was good. A naturally gifted athlete and a fierce competitor. The feeling he would he get when he made a big play and his coaches, teammates, and the parents at the games would cheer him on, pat him on the back, and praise him. He craved it.
It was also around this time that his father had finished his physical therapy and while healed, he would never be one hundred percent again. Frustrated that he couldn’t do the things he used to: play with his children in the backyard, renovate their relatively older home, repair issues with the family’s car without being in an extreme amount of pain and often barely being able to move the next day. His father fell into a depression and it wouldn’t be long before he would fall into a bottle as well. Anthony’s drinking became excessive and to make matters worse, so did his temper. Verbally and physically abusive towards Katherine and the children, Anthony spiraled and family soon followed.
Johnny began acting out. At school he would get into fights over the smallest things, often finding himself annoyed with the other boys and just punching them in the face without warning. Moreover, Johnny began committing crimes. They started small as these do: stealing candy or soda from the neighborhood convenience store, using sharpies to tag walls of businesses and homes, things of that nature.
By the time Johnny reached high school his family life had completely deteriorated. His father was gone and the drunken monster that wore his skin was unrecognizable. Because of this Johnny and Caleb made it a point to spend as little time as possible away from the home. Often times not coming home until one or two in the morning, knowing that by that point their father would be passed out for the night. They went to school, went to practice (whatever sport was in season), and then roamed the streets of Paradise getting into whatever trouble they could find until they felt it was safe to go home. But the boys weren’t the only ones who avoided the family home. Katherine struck up an affair with one of Anthony’s closest friends. A man named Marcus Carter. Marcus was a former professional boxer turned promoter, turned sports agent. When Katherine wasn’t at work she was often with Marcus.
When Johnny was fifteen he - along with his brother - was pulled out of football practice and asked to go to the principal’s office. Thinking the kid he had beat up earlier squealed, Johnny was prepared to be suspended. Again. What happened instead, he was informed that there had been an incident at home and that a police officer would be taking the boys to a nearby precinct where their parents already were. When the boys entered the precinct, they didn’t find their parents. Instead they found a detective who sat the boys down and - as kind as he could - explained to them that their mother had been killed. It turned out that Anthony had learned of Katherine’s infidelity and confronted her. Upon her confirming the source of where her passions now lied, Anthony went into a fit of rage and murdered her.
As Caleb wept beside him the only thing Johnny could think about was his father. Looking back, he isn’t even sure if he felt anger or sadness or anything in that moment. The only thing he could think about was the fact that no one was ever going to do to him what his father did to his mother. He would make sure of it. And if - somehow - they were successful. Then they were damn sure going to own it. Sent to live with their aunt, Johnny informed her that he wanted to learn martial arts. His aunt suggested Karate like her own daughter was studying. Johnny disapproved. So instead he convinced his aunt to allow him to train in Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu.
Life only seemed to get more difficult after that. Johnny was angry, hurt, and lost. He began hanging around the wrong kinds of people (along with his brother, who acted more as a protector than an instigator of mischief). Running around with a local group of hoodlums who referred to themselves as Feral Gang, Johnny began robbing local convenience stores and any poor soul unfortunate enough to wander through the gang’s territory while they were bored. At the age of sixteen, Johnny was arrested and detained for one of these crimes. The trial was brief and Johnny’s lawyer didn’t a hell of a job arguing that his client was simply a lost kid looking for direction and acceptance. Johnny was sentenced to serving several hundreds of hours of community service.
The punishment didn’t exactly deter Johnny from the life he was following into. If anything it simply motivated him to be smarter about the things he did and avoid being suspected of anything ever again. Life continued on this way for awhile longer until Johnny turned eighteen. Three days after his birthday he collected the money he had saved up and left his aunt’s house moving into an apartment of his own. Johnny began competing in local MMA promotions throughout Nevada and California and found - from day one - he had a natural affinity for combat sports. Which really didn’t come has a surprise considering he had been fighting his entire life. Marcus Carter reached out to Johnny and offered to represent him in order to ensure he wasn’t taken advantage of by some shady promoter.
At the age of twenty, after compiling an MMA record of six and oh, Johnny had issues with one of these shady promoters. Carter was away on other business with another client and Johnny was on his own. The two men argued over the amount of money Johnny was to be paid and soon an angry promoter pulled a pistol. Instinctively Johnny lunged at the man and grabbed the pistol and the man’s hands. The two struggled for a moment before the gun went off. The promoter slumped to the floor, eyes wide, and Johnny was left holding the gun. Panicked, Johnny fled the scene. Returning to his apartment he would once again collect the money he had stashed away from his shadier dealings, packed a bag, and caught a taxi to the airport. Several hours later he was in Mexico where a friend of his was conducting business of his own. Johnny reached out the man who provided him safe haven and a job. Johnny began setting up and tearing down a professional wrestling ring for the luchadore promotion his friend co-owned. Johnny was fascinated by the sport. It was so much more theatrical than MMA, so much more lively.
Johnny couldn’t stay in Mexico however. Whether it was paranoia or legitimate gut feelings he knew he had to move. For the next three years Johnny traveled the world, keeping his head down. This wasn’t a vacation after all. He would pick up fights in underground fight clubs and bare-knuckle boxing matches to earn extra money. If he needed more he’d knock off a liquor store or rob some drunken tourists. Few weeks in a single city, a single country, and he would move on.
At twenty-three he received word from his brother that their father had requested to see them. At first Johnny refused the offer, but eventually gave in to his brother’s wishes. Johnny returned to the states and the two young men visited their father in prison. It was the first either had seen of him since they left for school the day he murdered their mother. Their father apologized, broke down in tears, proclaimed the love he had for his wife and his boys. Johnny didn’t speak. Nor did Caleb. They just sat and watched the man they called ‘dad’ for so many years break down before their eyes. Neither forgave him.
With Johnny back in Las Vegas, his brother showed him what he had been up to the last few years. He invited Johnny to come to a wrestling card he was competing on. Once again Johnny was exposed to the world of professional wrestling and watching his brother inside the ring only caused to captivate him further. When the show was over, Johnny confessed to his brother that he too wanted to become a professional wrestler. So Caleb introduced him to Zeek Williams, the man who had trained Caleb. Seeing something special in Johnny, Williams agreed to train him.