Dig This, Sucka!
Source: WWF Magazine November 2001
By: Brian Solomon
Booker T Serves Notice:
"I Am the Best This Business Has to Offer!"
Boastfulness is one of the most common attributes found among squared circle combatants. From the first time a wrestler picked up a microphone and shamelessly sang his own praises in front of an audience, ego has played a major role in shaping fans' perceptions. Obviously, logic dictates that these combatants can't all be right when they proclaim themselves to be better than everyone else, but a select few are pretty close to the mark. It is entirely possible that Booker T is one of those.
He has been one of the most successful and dominant competitors in the history of WCW. A record-shattering 10-time World Tag Team Champion as part of Harlem Heat. A six-time World Television Champion, defeating the likes of Chris Benoit and former AWA World Champion Rick Martel. An undefeated United States Champion, who gave up the title to Kanyon of his own accord. And of course, WCW World Heavyweight Champion on five occasions-an amount exceeded only by Ric Flair, Sting and Hulk Hogan.
Since the beginning of the Alliance's invasion, the "Booker Man" has distinguished himself as one of the must-see athletes and personalities on Raw Is War and Smackdown! Some had argued that fans were growing tired of the same handful of Superstars competing in main events week after week, but when the Alliance came along to challenge the Federation for mat supremacy, Booker T more than rose to the occasion-delivering a shot in the arm to the Federation programming in the process. With the WCW Heavyweight title belt around his waist, he helped put WCW back on the map as a force to be reckoned with.
"[Vince McMahon] is seeing the ratings go up thanks to my matches," says Booker T. "Matches with me against guys like Kurt Angle, The Rock, Undertaker. There's been some good stuff on Federation programs lately, and Booker T has had a lot to do with that. And there's a lot more to come."
However, with the sports-entertainment landscape being what it is, as a WCW outsider Booker T had had to prove himself against the established Superstars of the World Wrestling Federation. Chief among these has been The Rock. Booker T's detractors have long stated that the Harlem native has made a career out of copying the Brahma Bull. Even The Rock himself agrees.
"The Rock has always felt that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," he stated when reached for comment. "But because Booker T had-from the beginning of his career-longed to be like The Rock, he will always be a cheap copy of the 'Great One'. And The Rock emphasizes cheap."
The Booker Man, however, is most vehement in his denial of this particularly damaging accusation:
"After 11 years in this business, it's a flat-out insult for The Rock to say that I'm trying to imitate him! Booker T had been a classy guy from day one. I've always dressed nice, always carried myself as a champion in and out of the ring. As far as trying to be like The Rock, that's some perception, but it's not mine. I think The Rock really wants to be Booker T!"
He does have a point, in that he has been in the sport twice as long as The Rock, and was already a seven-time WCW Tag Team Champion at the time of The Rock's Federation debut. Many of the attributes observers point to when they say Booker is imitating The Rock were already part of his persona years before. Perhaps then, there's some credence to Booker's claim that The Rock is, in fact, copying him.
"For so many years, people have seen the talent and ability of Booker T. Then this guy comes along, comes up with a few catch phrases, raises his eyebrow, and people love him," comments Booker. "There is no comparison! Booker T is the best wrestler this business has to offer."
"But I really don't think about the guy too much," he insists, after finishing a lengthly tirade on the People's Champion. "It's really about the fans. They wanna see Booker T. They'll decide who the real champion of the wrestling world is."
The linchpin of the Booker/Rock feud is the fact that they both reigned as World Champion at the same time. For much of last year and early this year, while The Rock reigned supreme as Federation titleholder, Booker T wore gold in WCW. Don't think there wasn't any professional jealousy raised, especially caused by the fact that The Rock was getting the lion's share of publicity while Booker was forced to play to a smaller audience due to WCW's dwindling ratings at the time. Sources within the locker room reveal that Booker T had long believed himself to be the "real World Champion," and wanted nothing more that to prove it in a Champion vs. Champion match.
In this sense, the dynamic between The Rock and Booker T reminds many of the "cold war" waged in the 1980s between Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan, the two biggest icons the sport had to offer. Hogan, the WWF Champion, had won over the media and the mainstream public with his charisma and Hollywood persona, while Flair, the talented NWA/WCW World Champion, was known to far fewer.
During that era, the Nature Boy was constantly heard to challenge the Hulkster to an interpromotional encounter, insisting that he was indeed the "real world champion." Hogan chose not to respond to the challenges, and fans wouldn't get to see their dream match until years later, when it had already lost much of its appeal.
But Booker T had taken advantage of WCW's invasion of the Federation to do what Flair could never do: take on the WWF's top banana while still remaining on the side of "the enemy." Their first match took place in August at Summerslam, with Booker losing the WCW World Heavyweight title to the World Wrestling Federation's leading hero. But that was just the opening shot in the war.
Make no mistake about it-Booker T has won more than his share of gold, but he's looking to earn the crowning achievement of sports-entertainment, its Holy Grail. He wants to unify the WCW and WWF Heavyweight titles and become the sport's first undisputed World Champion in over 40 years. To do that, he must assert his dominance over the cream of the Federation crop. So it would only follow that his disdain is not merely reserved for The Rock. He's got more than enough contempt to go around. For example, he feels special hatred toward Kurt Angle-the self-proclaimed American Hero, who of late has won over fans thanks to his tireless determination.
"Right now Kurt Angle is riding on the bandwagon of the American people, with all his patriotic speeches," Booker sneers with regard to Angle's apparent change of heart. "His wrestling ability is very sound, but as far as ring generalship, I run circles around him, and I'll prove it a whole lot more in the future."
Indeed, Booker's matches with the former Olympic gold medalist in the past couple of months have quickly become classics. Some would say it was his performance against Angle that initially opened up the eyes of naysayers as to the WCW competitor's ability and marquee potential.
Perhaps most shocking of all is Booker T's attitude towards his Alliance partner Stone Cold Steve Austin. When Austin jumped ship and joined the WCW/ECW partnership last summer, it seemed he had forged at least a tentative bond with WCW's in-ring leader. But apparently, not even the Texas Rattlesnake is safe from the Booker Man's unbridled ambitions.
"The Alliance is the 'cool faction' right now," he says. "But as far as Stone Cold Steve Austin goes, I don't give a damn about him either. He's just a piece of the puzzle. Like he says himself, 'DTA: Don't Trust Anybody.' Right now, we're just allies, but I don't like him. He can go straight to hell, too."
Could this bitterness on the part of Booker T be due to Austin overshadowing him in the hierarchy of the Alliance? Maybe. But whatever the cause, it's just another excuse for the master of the "spin-a-roony" to proclaim his dominance over the so-called giants of the sports-entertainment world.
With the game's major companies locked in an unprecedented war for ultimate power, now is the perfect time for someone like Booker T to seize control. Boastfulness may be the stock and trade of those in the sport of kings, but there has never been a more opportune time for the egomaniacs of the mat to back up their words and prove they are exactly who they say they are.