By: Adam Barras & Matt Glover
Going Over Wrestling. Your number 1 source for all wrestling news and views. Your insight in to the superstars of wrestling. But what happened to the wrestlers who, didn't quite make it to "Superstar" status. The men and women who come up in drunken conversations on the weekend where people go, "Yeah, i wonder what happened to them? I thought they were going places". Join us as we present to you our ongoing series. This is the story of those select few, this is the story of men and women in the world of wrestling who were... "ALMOST" over.
Today we go back to a time when every home had a VHS player. A time when the wrestling world changed and the Invasion angle was in full swing. A time when Triple H inspired the youth of the wrestling industry with impactful speeches.
A time when Tough Enough debuted. The time was 2001, the man, was MAVEN.
That’s right ladies and gentlemen , this mans actual LEGAL name was Maven. Maven Huffman to be exact. Maven's career began differently to anyone before him as he started on the reality show Tough Enough. From June 21 to September 27 Maven was trained by Al Snow, Taz, Jaqueline and Tori and outlasted the rest of the field to be named Tough Enough Champion alongside Nidia Guenard. At the time, no one really knew what this meant or what it looked like. Unlike the most recent series of Tough Enough where the talent disappears off TV for a while or has a stint in NXT, Maven had his debut match on Smackdown on October 4th 2001, 8 days after winning the show. It was obvious WWE was keen to capitalize on the success of the show at the time and get this man on TV and push him to the moon.
His debut built up quite the hype and Maven was slotted against his Tough Enough trainer Taz. This would be a strong debut showing as you would expect. Maven lost the bout but this would be the first time inside a WWE ring other than the Tough Enough series. After the match Taz would clothesline Maven kicking off a feud.
His first match also led to the discovery of arguably one of the great entrance themes of all time. It would later come to be known that perhaps Mavens entrance was more popular than his character, but we continue our story (A song by BIG MOTHER THRUSTER of all people, WHAT A NAME)…
The feud with Taz would only to be a very brief one. I guess you could say a 2-3 week introduction to show off what Maven had learned and to let fans remember that he won their reality TV show. Maven eventually took the win via help from fellow Tough Enough winner Nidia in the coming weeks.
A strong introduction for Maven but it didn’t lead to much else before he’s entry into the 2002 Royal Rumble a few months later. He seemed destined for good things after shockingly drop kicking the Undertaker to eliminate him from the match (with of course some help form Team Extreme). This would result in the Undertaker re-entering the ring and then removing Maven (One of those amazing Rumble rules when even if you have been eliminated over the top rope, you can still come back in and do as you please).
Taker then proceeded to destroy Maven, all over the arena. Starting off with numerous chair shots and then taking him up to the concession stand where he then threw Maven head first into a popcorn machine leaving him in a bloody mess. This was the last we saw of Maven that night.
On the 28th of January episode of Monday Night Raw, Maven was given an Undisputed Championship match by virtue of never actually being eliminated from the Rumble (and after just having the holy hell beat out of him) by WWE co owner Ric Flair. Maven tapped out to the Walls of Jericho but was attacked by Undertaker after the match.
When you look back, this should have been the beginning of an almighty career as it began his feud with the Undertaker. The feud lead to Maven eventually defeating the Undertaker in the coming weeks for the Hardcore Title with some help from The Rock. At this point it’s pretty clear when booking Maven that he could never do things on his own and needed already built stars to help his popularity with the crowd. When booking out a match or a feud became a constant throughout his career. The booking was strong but Maven didn’t have much of a character besides what he showed in the Tough Enough series and a basic wrestling style which is pretty much all you can expect from a person with just a few months of experience.
Maven would stay in the Hardcore Title scene for quite a while, not really going anywhere as you would expect when chasing or defending the title. He did however defend the title at WrestleMania 18 which he lost and won again by the nights end after pinning Christian and then leaving the arena. After this, creative for Maven dried up as did any significant push. The one thing Maven had going for him is that the crowd had not turned on him yet and was being booked to be very likable. One of the things that was disappointing was that he still looked like the same guy from Tough Enough. No new look, same coloured attire and no real development on the wrestling side of things.
Evolution. The biggest group in wrestling around 2004 (and perhaps one of the greatest groups of all time) was Mavens last big opportunity to be involved in such a high level feud. Teaming up with Orton, Benoit and Jericho in a 4 on 4 Survivor Series style match where the winners would have control of Raw for a month (1 week per member). During this time Maven did get a victory over Batista in the weeks building up to the Survivor Series match, his biggest win to date. Team Orton would go on to win and Maven decided he would have himself a match with Triple H on Raw for the World Heavyweight Title. Unfortunately due to outside interference from Flair and Snitsky he did not win the title and this seemed to be the last time we would see Maven ever get booked so high on a card.
Even with the biggest push of his career it never felt like Maven didn’t belong with any members of top tier talent on Raw. Always playing the underdog reality TV show winner and not an actual wrestler who had any legitimate seriousness that the fans could get behind. The sporadic booking was to blame. Zero consistency for months and the fans were ready to move on from Maven as a top star the WWE were trying to bill him as.
Maven began a lower card feud with Eugene of all people where he turned heel to try and mix it up and perhaps have a last ditch effort to get him over. This went nowhere and led to a feud with Shelton Benjamin culminating in a match at New Years Revolution in 2005 for the Intercontinental title. Benjamin embarrassed Maven beating him twice after the match was restarted because Maven claimed he wasn’t ready.
At WrestleMania 21 Maven competed in a 30 man battle royal and made little to no impact. After this he formed a tag team with Simon Dean. As a dedicated user of the Simon System, they would become a tag team, but sadly a jobber tag team which was more of a joke for them and did not allow them to show off the greatness that was the Simon System. This only lasted a couple months before Simon Dean was drafted to Smackdown. It was a real shame as this had potential and when we look back, Maven really could have worked out as a great heel character.
Shortly after, Maven was future endeavored at the beginning of July in 2005. It is not very well known but Maven popped up in TNA in February 2006 where he and Jeff Jarrett lost to Jeff Hardy and Kip James. It was that memorable that he never had another match in TNA. Maven would not wrestle again until 2015 where he had some indy matches with Brian Myers (Curt Hawkins).
His career outside the ring involved a handful of TV roles such as a shopping network host and even another go of reality TV, this time on MTV's The Surreal Life. The last we heard of Maven was that he was a bouncer, perhaps at a nightclub near you?
Maven was active in the wrestling industry for 7 years, with 4 of these in the top company. His overall title reigns included 3 stints as Hardcore champion. He was named Rookie of the Year in 2002 by Pro Wrestling Insider. He was a man with potential, a man who could have been over before he even debuted after his rise to fame on Tough Enough. A man who had a face run, and a heel run. A man who maybe would have been best suited in a tag team? A man who maybe we never saw his full potential.
Either way, this was the story of Maven, someone who never really quite made it. A wrestler who was ALMOST over.