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  Mon, May 27, 2002

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Maven ravin'
Former teacher gets top marks for good luck

By TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

 From teaching kids their ABCs to being taught hard lessons on the mat.

 Maven's rise to wrestling's big show has been quick and definitely without precedent.

 In a business renowned for earning your break after years of hard knocks toiling in minor wrestling associations both in North America and abroad, Maven went from raw rookie to WWE star with lightning speed.

 The former Grade 6 teacher was chosen the winner from 13 hopefuls on MTV's made-for-TV reality show Tough Enough and given a contract with the WWE.

 Maven made his debut on Smackdown! a week after being named the Tough Enough winner Sept. 27.

 He faced Tazz, who was one of his instructors on Tough Enough.

 So it was with that the 27-year-old, born Maven Huffman, went from a relative nobody to a well-known somebody.

 "My life's changed 100 percent," agreed the very personable and humble Maven.

 "It's been quite a ride."

 After nearly six months in the WWE, Maven said he's finally feeling at home and that the process of fitting in has gone better than he thought.

 "Twice as good as I thought I would," answered Maven.

 "Just like any job or any team, they have to accept you.

 "I went there respecting everybody and working hard and showing them I was serious about doing my job.

 "It took awhile but now it's great.

 "I can go in there and they joke with me and it's a lot of fun."

 Of course, the fact Maven didn't have to earn to his stripes, so to speak, did ruffle a few feathers in the WWE dressing room in the beginning.

 "Yeah, a lot of people did (think I got here too easy)," said Maven.

 "They said, thank your lucky stars you got the opportunity you did.

 "But what people realized and what a lot of people told me was don't let anybody fool you.

 "If they had the same opportunity, they would have jumped on it.

 "I'm the luckiest man in wrestling, I'll be the first one to admit it," he continued.

 "The business has changed and I was able to capitalize on it.

 "I'm the most fortunate guy in the world and I do thank my lucky stars everyday."

 The success of Tough Enough has already spawned Tough Enough 2, which, like its predecessor, has been a ratings winner. And for good reason. Much like the megahit Survivor, Maven said the show was taxing both mentally and physically for all 13 participants.

 "It was constant go, go, go, every day," he recalled, saying they usually got up at 7:30 a.m., hit the mat by 9 a.m. and didn't get home until 9 or 10 p.m.

 "My body was sore and it hurt and it was hard work. It really was."

 The show, however, gave Maven a valuable glimpse into life in the WWE and enabled him to be somewhat prepared. Somewhat being the key word, of course.

 "Nothing can really prepare you for life in the WWE," he explained.

 "But it was a really good precursor. It let us know how intense it could be."

 So what about Maven's former pupils at Twality Middle School?

 Has he had a chance to go back and see them since Mr. Huffman became a national celebrity.

 "Actually, it's funny you ask," he said.

 "I'm planning on going back soon to see them for the first time since everything happened. I'm very excited."

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