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HeadLocker — Jay Shannon

OWW Wrestler of the Weeek: MVPVP

Our resident philosopher, Jay Shannon, profiles the new United States champion who beat all the odds, both inside and outside the ring, to become a top WWE superstar.

No one gave MVP a chance of taking the US, this close to Wrestlemania. Add to the equation that JBL had just taken the Intercontinental title,one week earlier. MVP surprised everyone on the 500th edition of Smackdown by cleanly pinning Shelton Benjamin to take the US strap. MVP’s win, as well as his years of dedication, have earned MVP this week’s OWW Wrestler of the Week award.

A rough start

Alvin Burke, Jr. grew up in Florida. Despite being the son of a local police officer, Alvin got into deep trouble, due to his gang interaction. Alvin adopted the African name of Hassan Hamin Assad during his gang days. Alvin spent some time in juvenile detention, thanks to getting caught in a robbery. Alvin didn’t learn his lesson and ended up being arrested again. This time, he received an 18 1/2 year sentence for robbery and kidnapping. He served approximately half his sentence (9 1/2 years) before being released for good behavior. In prison, Alvin focused on getting into good shape. He boxed in the prison leagues and was hoping for a minor boxing career, once he left jail. Instead, he ended up in the wrestling business, thanks to the help of a corrections officer that Alvin had befriended.

Alvin adopted the ring name of Antonio Banks in the indies. He received the majority of his training from Norman Smiley and “Soulman” Alex G. Antonio became acquainted with TNA superstar, Homicide. They worked several indy cards, as well as a few shows for Ring of Honor. Homicide even got Antonio a few appearances with TNA. Antonio worked a couple of on-air spots, but was never seen beyond the jobber level.

The Evolution of an MVP

In 2004-05, Antonio worked several house shows and dark matches for the WWE. He modified his ring name slightly, substituting a dollar sign for the “s” in his last name. He became Antonio Bank$. He character was a cross between Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Man, the Cuba Gooding character from the movie Jerry Maguire and Terrill Owens.

WWE kicked the hype machine into high gear in preparation of the arrival of it’s newest superstar to the Smackdown brand. The new ring name was a play on the sporting term Most Valuable Player (MVP). There was a rumor that MVP’s first name was a tribute to talk show legend, Montel Williams, but that has never been confirmed.

MVP debuted in the WWE at No Mercy 2006. It was seen as very unusual for a new talent to make his first appearance at a Pay Per View, even a secondary one. MVP easily defeated the jobber, Marty Garner, thrown at him. MVP then moved to Smackdown as the highest paid “free agent” in the industry. MVP was instantly targeted by the fans (and announcers) who mocked his ring gear as something stolen from a Power Rangers movie. MVP wanted to prove he wasn’t another Doink or Max Moon, so he demanded tougher competition. He should have been cautious with his request. Kane accepted the challenge to offer “tougher competition”.

MVP and Kane went through several “gimmick” matches over the next few weeks. MVP won the majority of the matches, barely. The feud was brought to an ending in an Inferno Match. The goal of the match was to set one’s opponent on fire. MVP lost and received 1st degree burns across his back. The burns were not real but the story was pushed that MVP was seriously injured. MVP took some time off to push the story.

The US/Tag Team championships

After returning to the WWE, MVP focused on Chris Benoit and the US title. They had several excellent matches, including a fantastic outing at Wrestlemania 23. MVP took the US title from Benoit at Judgment Day. MVP often credits Benoit for teaching him as much, if not more, than any other trainer or opponent that he ever faced. Sadly, their feud was ended when Benoit ended his life and that of his family. The murder/suicide struck MVP deeply. Some reports say that MVP never got over Benoit’s death.

With the loss of Benoit, WWE Creative had to scramble to find MVP a new challenger. They decided on Matt Hardy. During the opening weeks of their feud, MVP was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, which is a heart condition where the heart beats at an accelerated pace. The condition, which was real, was eventually written into the storyline. MVP blamed his condition for his losing efforts against Matt in several non-wrestling contests.

In an odd twist of fate (pun fully intended), MVP and Matt were forced to team together to battle tag champs, Deuce and Domino. The feuding stars actually took the tag straps off The Throwbacks. The two would bicker and argue, but continue to defend the titles for several months. Eventually, Matt demanded a US title shot against his partner. Their disagreement in the ring allowed John Morrison and The Miz to slip in and take the tag belts from the dysfunctional duo. Matt and MVP then cut loose with a massive fist fight.

When Hardy’s appendix legitimately ruptured, MVP drifted around with several minor feuds. His most noticeable was against Ric Flair at Royal Rumble. MVP tried to end Flair’s career (by decree from Vince McMahon that if Flair lost, he would be forced to retire). Instead, he fell victim to the infamous Figure Four Leglock. MVP then moved on to Wrestlemania 24, when he was poised to win the Money in the Bank match. That was derailed when a returning Matt Hardy hit a Twist of Fate off a ladder to neutralize MVP. The two then began their feud again. At Backlash, MVP lost the title to Matt Hardy. MVP’s reign had run 343 days, one of the longest title reigns in recent WWE history.

The Slump

MVP finished the summer feuding with Matt Hardy. While MVP came close to winning the US title back, he kept coming up short. Beginning in August, MVP was scripted into a massive 5 month-long losing streak. As the streak continued, MVP was threatened with the loss of his “bling”. His entrance tunnel was eliminated. Later, his pyros were canceled. MVP lost a huge performance bonus (story-wise) and his various necklaces were eliminated. MVP’s losing streak was capitalized on to push the face turn of The Great Khali. MVP was dominated in their feud, making Khali look more impressive than before.

Triple H assisted MVP in finally snapping the streak with a win over The Big Show in a Last Man Standing Match. MVP was serving as a proxy for HHH in a match to garner the Cerebral Assassin a spot in the Royal Rumble.

Bringing back the bling

MVP began a long-deserved face turn, following his assisting Triple H. MVP earned himself a spot in the Money in the Bank match at Wrestlemania 25. Shelton Benjamin mocked MVP, claiming his was a much better US champ than MVP had been. MVP and Shelton split several non-title matches. On the 500th edition of Smackdown, MVP was given his chance to regain the US title. In a clean finish, MVP took the win and the title. MVP now begins his third reign as US title. He also has the chance to earn a shot at one of the three top titles, if he can win Money in the Bank at Wrestlemania 25.

In Conclusion:

MVP started life at a self-induced disadvantage. His choices to align with gang members could have destroyed his world. It almost did. MVP came back from the depths of prison to the spotlight of the WWE rings. While he still can’t wrestle in some countries (like Japan), he is a future Hall of Famer who may be ready to take the next step in his career. Only time will tell.

–Jay Shannon
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