Hard Work And Sacrifice
Source: WWF Raw Magazine October 2001
By: Seth Mates
Booker T Has Made It To The Top After A Career of Bumps & Bruises
At the 2001 King of the Ring, Stone Cold Steve Austin defended the World Wrestling Federation Championship in a Triple-Threat Match against Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho. As the match wore on, the fans at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey, were buzzing with the thought that they might see a new champion. And they got one...
Austin was soon thrown to the outside of the ring, and suddenly the unthinkable happened. Booker T-the WCW Champion-jumped over the railing, attacked the Federation champ, and slammed him through the Spanish announcers' table. The crowd went nuts. Austin? Well, Stone Cold was out cold.
The following night on Raw Is War at Madison Square Garden, Booker T again made an impact. The WCW Champion attacked Federation owner Vince McMahon right in the middle of the World's Most Famous Arena.
The message was loud and clear: With its Champion at the helm, WCW had arrived.
"That's how you make a statement," says WCW owner Shane McMahon. "The WCW Champion hitting Vince and Stone Cold Steve Austin at the Garden, where WCW has never, ever been before-that was a statement. He's the champ, he's the focal point."
Booker's attack of Austin at King of the Ring set the wheels in motion for the WCW Invasion storylinem and since that night, it's been full speed ahead for Booker and for WCW. It's amazing to think that as recently as one year ago, Booker wouldn't have been at the forefront of WCW.
"For so long, I always sat in the background and watched all the other guys in WCW jockeying for position," Booker says. "Everybody wanted to be the top guy, and they'd stab you in the back for it. So, I never really thought about being the Heavyweight Champion. When I finally reached the pinnacle and won the WCW title, it was truly a dream come true."
As successful as he is these days, life hasn't always been a bed of roses for Booker T. Having battled to the top of the sports-entertainment industry, Booker is living proof that hard work, determination and sheer will can make your dreams come true.
The youngest of eight children, Robert "Booker T" Huffman was born in Houston, Texas, on May 1, 1965. By the time he was a teenager, Booker had lost both of his parents and had fallen in with the wrong crowd. But thanks to the strength and support of his siblings-including his brother Lane, better known to sports-entertainment fans as Stevie Ray-Booker was able to get his act together.
"I was a street kid," Booker recalls. "I never played sports. I used to hang out in the parks on on Sunday with my radio, looking for somebody to battle against, as far as break dancing, popping or whatever."
One day, Lane told Booker that he was thinking of going to wrestling school, and he asked his brother to come with him.
"At that time I was just holding a regular job, and I figured I might as well give it a try," Booker says. "You never know. So I tried out, and 10 years later, here I am."
The Huffman brothers were trained by "Cowboy" Scott Casey, who also gave Booker his first gimmick-"G.I. Bro," a knock-off of G.I. Joe. He made his pro debut in 1989, and after a few matches in the Texas territories, Booker and Stevie were signed by the Global Wrestling Federation (GWF), a Dallas-based promotion where they competed as the Ebony Experience.
"The GWF was a great time," Booker says. "We didn't make a lot of money, but it was on-the-job training. Winning the Global Tag Team Championship with my brother was one of my most memorable days. All of our family was there that night. It was one of the biggest nights of my wrestling career. I always felt like going through Dallas and working at the Sportatorium- a lot of great wrestlers came through there-so for me to go through it and come out, I felt like I was one of the boys."
One night in early 1993, Booker was getting ready for a GWF show when he received the phone call that would change his life forever.
"We were at the Sportatorium one Friday night getting ready to work, and Sid Vicious called," Booker says. "He told us he had been watching ESPN for some time and thought we had what it took to be in the business, and that he was going to do his best to get us in WCW. We didn't know him; he didn't owe us anything. Six months later, we were in WCW."
In WCW, Booker and Stevie Ray were re-christened "Harlem Heat," and for their tryout match, they were given Col. Robert Parker as their manager. The thought of an African-American tag team with a "good ol' boy" manager was intended to rile up WCW's Southern crowd.
Booker grimaces when he recalls their first WCW match.
"It was a disaster," he says. "Everything that could have gone wrong did. That's one night I want to forget about and put behind me forever."
But Mick Foley-who was then competing as Cactus Jack in WCW-says he saw potential in the youngster.
"He had charisma, athleticism and a great speaking style," Foley says. "I would have said he was a good bet for stardom."
Col. Parker was soon scrapped as the team's manager, and before long, Harlem Heat were top tag-team contenders. On December 8, 1994, Booker and Stevie defeated Marcus Alexander Bagwell and the Patriot to win the first of a record 10 WCW Tag Team Championships.
Three years later, Booker won his first WCW singles title, defeating Disco Inferno to win the Television Championship on December 29, 1997.
"I happened to win that title on my son's birthday. It was a great night," Booker says.
As TV Champion. Booker established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the singles division. In mid-1998, he began a rivalry with Chris Benoit and the two waged a memorable "best-of-seven" series for the TV title on WCW's two flagship programs, Nitro and Thunder.
"To this day, no matter where I fo, someone always asks me about the best-of-seven," Booker says. "Chris Benoit put the stamp of approval on Booker T as a singles wrestler. He made my career, in a sense, because if it wasn't for Chris Benoit and the best-of-seven, I really don't think people would have looked at Booker T as a great singles wrestler. After that, they had to look at me as one."
In the two years that followed, Booker won a total of six Television Championships. Then, on July 9, 2000, he accomplished a lifelong dream when he defeated Jeff Jarrett to become WCW World Heavyweight Champion.
"For that to happen in one's career, is a milestone. So for me, it's a great feeling," says Booker.
Mick Foley-certainly no stranger to WCW politics-says Booker's WCW title win was long overdue. "For a long time, Booker was seen as a guy who deserved better than he was getting in WCW," Foley says. "Anybody who knows wrestling knows he should have been a major player a lot sooner than he was in WCW."
In all, Booker's five WCW title reigns-along with his 10 Tag Team title reigns, even seven TV title reigns and one reign as U.S. Champion-make him the most decorated star in WCW history. So it was only appropriate that Booker won the WCW title from Scott Steiner on the final broadcast of Nitro.
"To close out the final WCW Nitro being the Heavyweight Champion and U.S. Champion goes down as probably the greatest moment in my wrestling career," Booker says. "It showed all the hard work of the past eight years paid off, that one of the good guys came out on top. Booker T had been there since the beginning, and he withstood the test of time. And in the end, he came out on top-WCW Heavyweight Champion and U.S. Champion."
Booker's progress in the past few years is nothing short of extraordinary, and in working his way to the top, he has earned the respect of his peers.
"A few months ago, an interviewer asked who in the last five years has impressed me the most. I said Booker T," WCW referee Charles Robinson says. "He carries himself as a champion. He has a lot of charisma, energy and is willing to work with anyone to either help himself get over or vice versa, which is what this business is all about."
WCW legend Arn Anderson agrees.
"He has ton of charisma. He's a great, pure athlete. I think he has an absolute love and dedication for the business," Anderson says. "The only downside I see in Booker is he wsa schooled in a lot of bad habits that we in WCW contributed to, so we said to him, 'You have to re-educate yourself if you're gonna reach that upper one percent.' Now he has the opportunity to do it."
Diamond Dallas Page-a three-time WCW Champion who has battled Booker on many occasions-says that Booker has that intangible "it" which will keep him at the top.
"He's a student of the game," says DDP. "His athletic ability is incredible. What the WWF machine does with his character as time goes on will take Booker to a different level. Athletically he's there. It's the direction that only the McMahons and the WWF machine can put behind him."
Jim Ross is excited about Booker's future in sports-entertainment.
"From an athletic standpoint, and an overall approach to the business, at some point he's going to be a significant hand," says Jim "J.R." Ross. "He has a desire to to improve and his passion is there. Anytime you get somebody who has passion to improve, you like the equation."
His fellow WCW stars standing firmly behind him, Booker T is psyched for the next stage of his magical career.
"I feel like there's so much more to come," he says. "Everything is for one common goal: the fans. That's where my heart lies also. The fans made Booker T; if it wasn't for them, there would be no me. Me being here is perfect, because I feel like I fit into the system just fine. I'm already the WCW Champion, and now I'm gonna go and get that WWF title, and it'll be all good."