OWW’s Wrestler of the Week: Booker T!

HeadLocker — Jay Shannon

OWW Wrestler of the Week: Booker T

Our resident philosopher,Jay Shannon, profiles Booker T, who became the first man to qualify for TNA’s Four Ways to Glory match at No Surrender.

Robert Booker T Huffman grew up in Texas. Both Robert and his brother, Lane, wanted to be pro wrestlers. They started in the WWA. Robert’s wrestling career almost came to a premature end when he was arrested for assisting in a robbery at a Wendy’s restaurant that he worked at. After that situation was resolved, Robert and Lane refocused on their careers, in Dallas.

Going Global

Robert and Lane were brought to Dallas to train under “Cowboy” Scott Casey. They were teamed as The Ebony Experience. Robert was known as Kole, while Lane was called Kane. They took the Global Wrestling tag titles on three occasions. Global had to close their doors due to an absurd lawsuit by Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation. Vince’s people claimed that Global was another term for World and, as such, GWF was infringing on the WWF name. While the lawsuit was ridiculous, GWF’s owners couldn’t afford the legal costs, so they closed shop. Robert and Lane didn’t stay unemployed for long.

10 + 4 + 1 + 6 = WCW Supremacy

Robert and Lane kept their Kole and Kane names when they debuted in WCW. The original gimmick was to have them portray Wild Samoans-like characters, where Colonel Robert Parker would bring them to the ring in chains. Initial testing of that gimmick received huge negative feedback due to the slavery impression. WCW decided to go with a more street-thug team called Harlem Heat. Robert took his middle names, Booker T, as his identity. Lane would be named Stevie Ray. Harlem Heat would win the tag titles on 10 occasions, beating some of the top teams to ever compete in 1990s WCW including: The Nasty Boys, Sting and Lex Luger, Public Enemy and The Steiners. In 1997, Stevie Ray suffered an injury and retired, temporarily, from active competition. Booker T then moved forward to a successful singles career.

Booker T’s first singles championship came as the result of an unusual twist of fate. Rick Martel was scheduled to fight for the Television championship. Martel’s wrestling boots were in his luggage, which were lost by the airlines. Booker was tapped to take his place. Booker would defeat Disco Inferno to win the title. Booker would thengo on to battle against Chris Benoit in a Best of Seven series that has been called some of the best WCW matches in the company’s history. Booker would end up on the shelf due to a knee injury. When he returned, he didn’t come alone.

Booker T and Stevie Ray reunited as Harlem Heat. The team would eventually implode as Stevie brought in Ahmed Johnson, as Big T, to replace Booker T in the newly-formed Harlem Heat 2000. Stevie even forced Booker to drop the T surname. Stevie would eventually fade from the scene as Booker took an unusual identity turn. Booker aligned himself with the Misfits in Action, which was a military-oriented group. Booker brought back an old gimmick that he used in GWF, G.I. Bro. He had to use the character after Eric Bischoff “fired” him. That camoflauge character was a short-lived creation that was abandoned in favor of his Booker T character.

As WCW came to an end, Booker was the reigning US and World Champion. During his run in WCW, he held the tag titles (10 times), the World Title (4 times), the US title (once), and the Television title (6 times). He was one of the most decorated champions to ever wrestle in WCW.

The Invasion

When WWE bought out WCW, Booker and several other WCW stars did an Invasion angle. Booker was the first WCW alumni to attack a WWE star (Kurt Angle). Booker also performed in the first official WCW match under the WWF/E banner. He also faced Kurt Angle in the first WCW v WWF/E match, besting Angle.

WWE kept the WCW titles alive for a short time in WWE. Booker’s infamous Five Time chant about winning the World title bridged the gap between the two organizations. He won four under the WCW banner and one in WWE. Booker would lose the title to Chris Jericho, who would merge it with the WWF title as the Unified World Championship. Booker gave his US title to Kanyon on the same night he lost the World title. Booker would also win another pair of WCW tag titles with partner Test. A concussion suffered at the hands (well, feet) of Rob Van Dam’s Van Daminator put Booker on the shelf, again.

The Return

Booker worked a few house shows to get back in shape, leading into the Royal Rumble. Booker was eliminated in less than a minute. Booker also lost at Wrestlemania, to Edge. His luck would turn, later in the year, as he formed a successful team with Goldust. They feuded with the nWo, trading wins with the outlaw faction. Booker and Goldust would also feud with the UnAmericans and others on their way to the WWF tag belts. Eventually, the team would go their own ways after losing the tag belts to William Regal and Lance Storm. Later in the evening, Goldust was “electrocuted” by Evolution and went into his Tourette’s Syndrome character that was incredibly offensive.

Booker feuded with various members of Evolution, seeking revenge for his injured and changed partner. Booker would lose to Triple H at Wrestlemania in a bid for the World title. Booker would also feud with Chris Jericho, who had taken the WCW title from him. Booker would be hospitalized on May 11, 2003 for flu-liked symptoms and dehydration. He would return, one week later, to start a new direction in his career.

Quest for the Gold

At Judgment Day, Booker T fought in an Intercontinental Championship Battle Royal, losing to Christian. Booker would try on several occasions before finally securing the I-C strap from Christian. Booker would drop the belt to Christian due to a back injury that side-lined him, again.

When Booker returned in October, he had a few singles matches before aligning with Rob Van Dam. Van Dam had injured Booker in the past, but that injury was ignored by WWE. Booker T and RVD defeated Evolution’s Ric Flair and Batista to take the World Tag titles. They would lose them back to Flair and Batista about one month later. Booker T was drafted to Smackdown, and he wasn’t happy about it.

Talking Smack on Smackdown

Booker showed up on Smackdown with a bad attitude. He felt slighted to be demoted to an inferior brand. Booker began to disrespect his locker room companions. Booker claimed to be the biggest star on Smackdown. Someone from the back decided to correct him…The Undertaker. Booker and Undertaker had a brutal feud Their feud was bizarre, with Booker contacting a psychic and getting dirt from an unmarked man’s grave. Undertaker dominated the feud.

After his losses to Undertaker, Booker moved on to battle John Cena. Kurt Angle, acting Smackdown GM, stripped Cena of the US title. Booker defeated seven others to capture the US title on the July 29, 2004 edition of Smackdown. Cena and Booker would face off in a Best of Five match that would rival the Booker/Benoit matches in WCW. Booker had to take some time off to recover from an unknown liver issue. Rumors circulated that it was steroid-related, but that was never proven.

Attitude Adjustment

After recovering from his liver issue, Booker returned as a Face. Booker feuded with John Bradshaw Layfield over the WWE title. Booker would also battle against various non-American wrestlers who denounced the US. Booker would eventually bring in a new partner to aid him…his real-life wife, Sharmell. Booker met Sharmell while in WCW. Sharmell had been a Nitro Girl.

Booker and Sharmell would continue their various battles against singles and mixed duos. Sharmell would trip Chris Benoit during a match against her husband that would lead to a US title win for Booker. That set off another round of matches between the two men. They had another Best of Seven series of matches that many say out-shone the WCW series. Randy Orton stepped in to assist Booker, who had begun to switch back to a Heel character.

Booker and Sharmell would find themselves in a bizarre feud after the Benoit feud. Booker and Sharmell bumped into The Boogeyman. Booker and Sharmell tried to have Boogeyman banned from the WWE, but it didn’t work. Their brief feud came to a head at Wrestlemania 22 where Booker and Sharmell would lose a 2-on-1 mixed Handicap match to Boogeyman.

The Royal Couple

Booker T went on a quest to become the King of the Ring. He would defeat Matt Hardy and Gunner Scott (Brent Albright) to earn a spot in the finals, against Bobby Lashley. Booker would defeat Lashley at Judgment Day to become King. Booker would keep his royal title throughout the rest of his WWE run.

Booker then wanted to add championship gold to his royal title. He focused on Rey Mysterio. Booker ended Rey’s Cinderella Story title reign. Booker would feud with Rey, Batista, Undertaker and others during his reign. Booker would battle in the first, and only, Champion of Champions match. He was pitted against John Cena (Raw World Champion) and The Big Show (ECW Champion). All three belts were available to be defended. The fans chose Booker’s title to be the prize at Cyber Sunday. The fans were very disappointed when Booker won his own title. Fans expected a unification of the titles, only to find that nothing changed.

King Booker would lose his World title to Batista. King Booker and his Royal Court (Fit Finlay, Dave Taylor) would feud with several faces over the next few months. King Booker and Queen Sharmell would be drafted to Raw, where they finished off their WWE careers. Booker was suspended for 60-days due to a second violation of the WWE Wellness Program (which Booker denied). Booker felt that the suspension was unfair and he and Sharmell decided to quit the WWE. They were given their release on October 17, 2007. They were free to work anywhere they wanted.

TNA and PWA

Booker created a wrestling organization, based in Houston, Texas. Booker also debuted in TNA as Sting’s Mystery Partner at Genesis. Booker split his time between TNA and PWA. Sharmell spent most of her time running the new promotion. Sharmell would join her husband in TNA, which would lead to one of the most disturbing angles in TNA history.

Robert Roode took exception to Booker T’s arrival in TNA. Roode felt that too many stars were walking into TNA and pushing the deserving members of the TNA roster, including himself, out of the spotlight. Roode challenged Booker to a series of matches. At the 2008 edition of Final Resolution, Roode struck Sharmell with a Back Elbow by accident. Sharmell supposedly suffered a broken jaw. She disappeared from TNA for several weeks. The angle would be re-done by Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho at Summerslam, only not nearly as realistically.

Booker got serious Face reaction from the crowd after the attack on his wife. Booker would team with Traci Brooks to battle Roode and his new assistant, Payton Banks. The feud was abandoned when Banks suddenly disappeared without explanation from TNA. Sharmell would rejoin her husband to finish off the feud, with Booker and Sharmell taking the feud.

Booker then felt a need for the TNA World title. He began a feud with Samoa Joe that switched Booker from Face to Heel. Booker also spent quite a bit of time with his fledgling organization in Texas. Booker and TNA have talked about the PWA becoming a developmental territory for TNA but nothing has been finalized, yet. Booker has yet to take the title from Joe, but their feud has led to an interesting side story. Sting’s black baseball bat has come into play, several times, during the Booker/Joe battles. There are indications that Sting may be turning Heel. Sting has yet to join his old friend, Booker T, in the ring. An alliance may or may not happen. Booker T will continue to battle Joe at the upcoming No Surrender Pay Per View. Booker was the first person to qualify to face Joe for the NWA World title.

In Conclusion:

Robert “Booker T” Huffman has had a rollercoaster career. He has been plagued with injuries and “Wellness” issues. Despite all the negatives, Booker has risen above his critics and succeeded to heights beyond his wildest dreams. He has held almost every title in both the WCW and WWE. He is a top contender in TNA. He has his own promotion that is doing well in Texas. Plus, he has one of the strongest marriages in wrestling. He is the definition of success. His win to earn a spot in the main event at No Surrender not only proved his talent in the ring. It also garnered him this week’s Online World of Wrestling: Wrestler of the Week award.

— Jay Shannon
[email protected]
(8/25/2008)