Meet MVP, Who Went From Cruise-Ship Robbing Opa-locka Teen to Wrestling Star
Inside the jam-packed arena, thousands held their breath and waited to learn the identity of the shadowy "Investor." In Total Nonstop Action Wrestling's twisting narrative, the mysterious character had been wreaking havoc for weeks with his nefarious behind-the-scenes plots. And now, millions watching at home would finally learn the truth.
photo by Tony Knox courtesy TNA Wrestling MVP was once a troubled Opa-locka teen named Alvin Burke Jr.
"Get out here!" Dixie Carter, TNA's president, bellowed into a mike. "Show your face!"
The lights suddenly faded to black. Hip-hop blasted from the speakers. And to thunderous applause, the wrestler known as MVP, dressed in designer threads and exuding the confidence of a self-made man, strolled out from a cloud of smoke.
The moment this past January in Glasgow, Scotland, marked the grand return of MVP to one of wrestling's biggest circuits. He may not have the name recognition of the Rock, another Miami native who ascended to the top of the pro wrestling game, but MVP is unquestionably a man on the rise with nearly a half-million Twitter followers, a fledgling rap career, and now a starring role in TNA.
But MVP's path to fame is even more fascinating than Dwayne Johnson's move from University of Miami football star to Hollywood leading man. Before he donned spandex, MVP robbed a cruise ship, survived months on the lam, and eventually did nine years in the pen. His postcriminal wrestling career has taken him from $5-per-gig nights in Jacksonville to packed WWE arenas and a huge fan base in Japan.
"Wrestling essentially saved my life," says the star, who returns to Miami this Sunday for TNA's Lockdown pay-per-view match at the BankUnited Center.
MVP was born Alvin Burke Jr. and raised by his mother, Lynne Magruder, in hardscrabble Opa-locka. With their father mostly absent and Magruder working long hours at a call center, Burke became a father figure to his younger brothers, Brad and Justin. "We were raised by our mother to look out for each other," says Brad Burke, who's now a Miami-Dade Police officer. "He wouldn't allow me to get in trouble... He was very particular who came around us. He was that father figure."
Even as a kid, he was drawn to fighting culture, for better and for worse. He asked to sign up for a Police Athletic League boxing class, but it never happened. "Instead of learning how to box, I learned how to fight," the pro wrestler says.
His spiral into crime began at North Miami Junior High, where he was jumped on a regular basis. Tired of her son coming home with a black eye and a split lip, Magruder transferred him to John F. Kennedy Middle. The move only exacerbated the situation, because he soon hooked up with a local gang called the Kings Only Posse.
"Somehow I ended up getting punched by someone in another group one time. During the melee, I snapped and thought, No way am I going to let this happen again. Something changed inside me that day. And I beat the shit out of that kid... I wasn't a bully, but a bully's bully," he says.