MVP's legacy as U.S. Champion: Ballin' or Bawlin'?
DES MOINES, Iowa -- In a recent WWE.com poll, our fans were asked what Montel Vontavious Porter would do to celebrate his impressive straight-falls victory over Chris Benoit at Judgment Day.
Nearly half suggested the flamboyant, flair-covered Superstar should do a victory lap at Disney World. Others suggested a bling-filled shopping spree, a rap-video debut, a champagne toast or some new celebrity endorsements for the "Franchise Playa."
But why choose just one?
The truth is, MVP probably did all of that and more as a tune-up for his SmackDown celebration Friday night -- and deservingly so.
Coming in as one of the most highly-touted free agents in the company's history, Porter has reached a plateau that many Superstars never see -- winning the United States Championship. And he showed off the glitz and glamour of the championship as he was chauffeured to the ring, awash in red, white and blue bunting and balloons.
"When I challenged Chris Benoit for the United States Title, you felt I was out of my league," MVP told our fans from his star-spangled podium. "Now that I've beat [Benoit] for the United States Title, you have no choice but to believe."
Stunning the locker room and our fans with consecutive pinfalls over the Rabid Wolverine a week ago, whispers in the locker room have MVP's name uttered in the same breath as other great U.S. Champions -- one of which got to see Porter's title victory up close.
"I think he'll do tremendous things for the legacy of the United States Title," said SmackDown commentator John Bradshaw Layfield, who is a fan of the cocky, yet confident titleholder. "Anytime you are champion, you need to feel like you're No. 1 of all time."
JBL, a former U.S. Champion himself in 2006, feels that MVP's increased swagger and self-proclamation as the greatest U.S. Champion ever is partly a by-product of his newly won gold.
"With him being the champion, that's what he's got to feel. And except for me, he is the greatest [U.S.] champion of all time," JBL said.
Others former U.S. Champions in the locker room are reserving judgment on the Judgment Day victor's title reign.
Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, a four-time U.S. Champion in three different decades (1977, 1978, 1984, 1994), thinks MVP's lack of respect for Benoit and the title's lineage of legends is the sign of a poor titleholder.
"[MVP's] nothing but a big, braggadocious guy that got a break early in wrestling," Steamboat said. "Grant you, he's done well. He's cornered Teddy Long into a big, multi-million-dollar contract. Maybe kudos to him for that and maybe lots of guys are jealous that he is able to command that type of money."
"For me and the way I was brought up in our sport, I think respect falls in one of the top three things that you have in our sport, and MVP has not shown respect to anybody. The only person he respects is himself."
"The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes, a U.S. Champion in 1987-88, sees MVP's defeat of Benoit as the highlight of his Porter's young career.
"[The U.S. Title] is a very prestigious title. A lot of great men have held it. Beating Benoit two straight was a really big deal," Rhodes said. "I doubt seriously that he could ever do it again. [MVP] might of caught [Benoit] on a bad day, but Benoit makes no excuses."
Rhodes thinks the world of MVP's potential as champion. "The bottom line: When [MVP] was signed by SmackDown as its newest and biggest Superstar, it was like signing Alex Rodriguez when he was 22 or 23 years old," Rhodes said. "He has the ability to be the greatest entertainer in our era. Whether it happens or not remains to be seen."
"I think time will tell, but he has all the tools. It's now a mental game with him."
Steamboat recalled his own reigns as U.S. Champion, and the emotions that enveloped him. "Truthfully, the moment that I won the U.S. Title, I thought I was the best in the world," he recalled. "Blame it on adrenaline. Blame it on the moment. Blame it on the time and period in my career. But it was a great feeling."
Steamboat cautioned the new U.S. Champion to keep those emotions in check.
"MVP takes [arrogance] to another level, to the other side of the door ... a door you want to keep closed," The Dragon warned.