Global Wrestling Superstar MVP has a story of redemption like no other.
Best known as a champion with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), he is a Social Media powerhouse with over half a million followers.
Yet life has not always been plain sailing for this Miami native.
After joining a Graffiti Crew at a very young age, life quickly descended into chaos.
At the age of 16, he pleaded guilty to charges of Kidnapping and Armed Robbery following a world famous heist in Florida. Tried as an adult, a teenage MVP was sentenced to 18 and a half years in prison.
His outlook was grim – a number of his friends and acquaintances had been shot dead or sent to Prison. A Florida prison full of murderers, drug dealers and sex offenders was no place for a 16 year old.
Yet hard time behind bars was only the beginning of this incredible transformation.
Not much is known about his time in Prison. However, following his release after nearly a decade behind bars, the man now known as Hassan Assad turned to his mentor, a Prison Officer and part-time wrestler by the name of “Primetime” Daryl Davis for help.
Davis introduced Hassan to Professional Wrestling and gave him a whole new outlook on life. In Daryl’s own words, his new student was “addicted” to Wrestling like no one he’d ever seen.
After wrestling across many independent promotions, Antonio began making sporadic TV appearances for Impact Wrestling (formerly known as Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling) by competing on episodes of TNA Xplosion and Impact.
By 2005, Antonio Banks was winning Heavyweight Championships in independent promotions around the United States. Assad eventually signed a developmental contract with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and was assigned to their developmental territory Deep South Wrestling.
It was there he introduced the MVP in-ring persona: an arrogant, self-obsessed athlete inspired by real-life pro-athletes such as Terrell Owens, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, Deon Sanders, Ron Artest and Allen Iverson.
It was with the WWE that MVP became a global superstar.
First introduced on the Aug. 4, 2006 edition of SmackDown, the cocky newcomer displayed “bravado and shameless self-promotion” that led WWE officials to sign MVP to the most lucrative contract in the history of their Smackdown TV show.
His on-screen arrogance did little to endear him to the WWE Universe but MVP defied the odds and won the WWE United States Heavyweight Title within months of his debut! A title he held for an astounding, record breaking 343 days.
The “Ballin'” superstar went on to have memorable feuds with Chris Benoit, Kane and Ric Flair among many other superstars. His never-ending game of one-upsmanship with Matt Hardy resulted in (now legendary) arm wrestling matches and pizza eating contests. Whilst at odds, they even won the WWE Tag Team Titles, putting two championships in the hands of MVP simultaneously.
MVP went onto become a two-time US Heavyweight Champion before he shocked the WWE Universe by amicably agreeing to part ways with the WWE in 2010.
The reason? To fulfill a life-long dream of Wrestling at the Tokyo Dome in Japan.
Hassan had been fascinated by Japanese culture all his life and it was his passion for ‘Puroresu’ that led him to being a flagship signing for New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) in 2011.
MVP became NJPW’s first ever IWGP Intercontinental Champion after defeating three different opponents in a title tournament – a belt he would proudly hold for 148 days.
After some memorable feuds, Hassan soon achieved his life-long dream of wrestling at the Tokyo Dome by winning a tag-team match with Shelton Benjamin at Wrestle Kingdom VI in 2012.
After winning again at Wrestle Kingdom VII in 2013, MVP left NJPW after a triumphant two year run to return home to America.
Hassan was soon signed by Impact Wrestling where he wrestled as MVP for a year before creative differences led to him leaving the company.
MVP made a surprise return to WWE RAW for their 25th Anniversary Show in early 2018 and continues to remain active on the independent circuit. He currently wrestles regularly across the USA and globally in countries such as the United Kingdom where he is the current Heavyweight Champion of Big League Wrestling.
MVP is also a fully-fledged purple belt Jiu-Jitsu fighter and often competes in competitions held by the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation.
Away from Wrestling, MVP has a young son, has released a rap album, had cameos in various movies and is a regular podcaster too. However his biggest passion remains being an advocate for prisoner education.
After all, if it wasn’t for his own prison education, life would be very different…