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The 7 - Guest Columns - The Shelton Benjamin Story - by Brian Popkin
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#1 Posted on 7.11.02 0839.39
Reposted on: 7.11.09 0840.13
Itís All About the Benjamins

"Shotgun" Shelton Benjamin. That was the name that an OVW (Ohio Valley Wrestling) creative staff member came up with. It was a new gimmick for Shelton Benjamin. He would be a gangsta. His character would talk about how heíd put in work banging with his homies. Shelton could easily picture his catchphrase, ďBenjamin 187 says I just put a cap in your ass.Ē He didnít hesitate when he turned it down.

The Staff Member couldn't understand what the problem was. It was the opportunity for this kid to get over. It was a good gimmick for todayís edgy Sports Entertainment programming. It could be cross-marketed with MTV style videos. Itís not like he would have to be a real gangster. He would just be playing the character in a wrestling show. Nobody looks down at DeNiro for playing a mobster. Anyway, everybody knows itís all fake. He didnít know why Shelton turned it down. He obviously didnít know Shelton Benjaminís background either.

Shelton Benjamin grew up in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Orangeburg is a rural county located between Columbia and Charleston. It is a poor county. In 1990, black county residents had an average income of $5,965. More than 36 percent of the countyís residents belonged to households with incomes below the poverty level. And the county had more problems than just money. The townspeople naively thought that they were immune to gang activity. They thought that gangs only existed in California. Changes were taking place slowly. Boarded up tenements were tagged with graffiti. Next they were turned into crack houses. One day in the early nineties they woke up and noticed that the gangs had taken over their town.

Hanging around gang members had been a bad influence for Shelton. He was 15 when he started his freshman year of high school in 1990. Right away, he was getting into fights with the other kids every week. One day he brought a gun to school. That got him suspended for two days. In todayís zero tolerance, post-Columbine policy that would have gotten him expelled for at least a year. He was following this dead-end path when his mom was about to take him out of school and put him into the Job Corps. His Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School coach had convinced his mom to let him stay in school. He was on the track, football, and wrestling teams. His wrestling coach has seen that despite his lack of technique, he had a natural raw talent. The discipline of sports kept him out of trouble. He excelled at all three of his sports. Colleges were recruiting him to be a star football player. He was given a full-scholarship from North Carolina State college.

His time at NC State didnít last long. Soon after he joined the football team he suffered a torn ACL. He was going to have knee surgery. His situation wasnít helped when he confided in team officials that he preferred wrestling over football. The team took away his scholarship and gave it to someone else. Without his scholarship he had to leave the school. He transferred to Lassen Junior College in California. He didnít enjoy attending this college located in the middle of nowhere. But, he took advantage of his second chance by winning trophies in track and wrestling. After two years, he transferred to the University of Minnesota where he had a full scholarship for wrestling. He was successful during his two years wrestling for Minnesota. He led the team to a third place finish behind only Iowa and Penn State. When he had no eligibility left he stayed at Minnesota as an assistant coach on the wrestling team. It was then that he met a new wrestler who had just transferred to Minnesota named Brock Lesnar. Shelton was one of a handful of guys at Minnesota willing to practice against the huge Lesnar.

During the 1999 Summerslam, the WWF scouts were in Minnesota looking at the All-American, Brock Lesnar. While scouting Jerry Brisco, WWF official, noticed Shelton Benjamin. The Minnesota coach had pointed out to Brisco that Benjamin was also an All-American. And unlike Brock who had a year left in college, Shelton was able to sign with the WWF right away. After a successful tryout, he signed with the WWF in January 2000.

He spent two years working in OVW (Ohio Valley Wrestling). In OVW, he formed a tag team with Brock Lesnar called the Minnesota Stretching Crew. He won the OVW tag team titles four times. Three times with Lesnar and once teaming with Redd Dogg. His other OVW accomplishments were performing a 450* Splash (similar to 2 Cold Scorpio) and bodyslamming the Big Show (Paul Wight).

Shelton Benjamin made his Heat debut on 8/4/02. He has appeared on Heat a total of five times, his last appearance on 9/15/02. His Heat record is 4 wins and 1 loss. His one loss was against William Regal. His 2 wins were against both Shawn Stasiak and Justin Credible. He has shown a variety of impressive moves during his Heat appearances. His finishing move is a variation of the enziguri. Once his opponent catches his foot and turns him, Shelton kicks his opponent in the back of the head with the same foot. The move can be called a modified standing spinning heel kick. The problem with this finisher is that it requires a lot of cooperation from his opponent. In his last Heat match he used a modified powerslam as his new finisher. Heat announcer, D-Lo Brown was most impressed when Shelton ďskinned the cat.Ē This is a move where he gets thrown out of the ring, but holds on to the top rope and flips himself back into the ring (ala Ricky Steamboat.) The rest of his moves he displayed on Heat are an armdrag, backslide pin, dragon screw leg whip, drop kick, gorilla press slam, hip toss, inverted atomic drop, northern lights suplex, reverse neckbreaker, russian legsweep, spinning back elbow, and a superkick. (Thanks to thecubsfan for his Heat recaps.) Shelton is 27 years old and listed at 6í2 and 248 lbs. (To me he appears to be the same size as Edge, which is less than 248. Considering how bad Raw has been, it wouldnít hurt them to give him a chance either.)

His mother still lives in Orangeburg. He still remembers his rough childhood when he visits her there. He is aware that wearing his wrestling uniform in his hometown would get him shot. Itís not because the gang members hate wrestlers. But, his blue tights and blue kneepads would get him shot by members of the Bloods for wearing the wrong colors. That is a reason he flew out of town after graduating high school. It is also a reason he doesnít want to be associated with gangs and guns.

He recently was seen at a Smackdown house show wrestling Bull Buchanan, but that is just fine. He is a lifelong wrestling fan living out his dream. He is taking chair-shots instead of gun-shots. He couldnít be happier.
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#2 Posted on 7.11.02 1245.13
Reposted on: 7.11.09 1245.14
Very good column.

I hope Sheldon makes it big in WWE.
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