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Interview: Booker Huffman

By Alex Marvez

Booker Huffman – a k a Booker T – has experienced a tumultuous two months since debuting in the World Wrestling Federation. In his first two weeks, Huffman accidentally injured Steve Austin by throwing him too far past an announcing table on the King of the Ring pay-per-view show and he had a Monday Night Raw main event match against Marcus Bagwell that was so bad it was booed out of the building. On the positive side, Huffman has established himself as a legitimate top talent as evidenced by his pairing with The Rock for Sunday’s Summer Slam pay-per-view show. In the following interview conducted Aug. 15, Huffman discusses his WWF debut and offers insight on his career goals and brother, Stevie Ray.

Q: What has the transition to the WWF been like and is it what you expected?
Huffman: “In the beginning, I was reluctant as far as how I was going to be accepted. As far as the talent goes, I always felt that was what would pull me through. So far, I’ve gone in and done a good job carrying the ball. I haven’t dropped it yet and I don’t think I’m gonna drop it.”

Q: How much was ring rust attributable to that?
Huffman: “I wouldn’t say it was ring rust in the beginning. It was more going out and working. They threw us out in a hostile environment in New York and then I had wrestle a WCW wrestler in Marcus Bagwell. You’re always as good as your opponent, but that night I wasn’t up to par and I think it showed in my performance. Also, I think people were reluctant as far as Booker T really being the real deal. But once I got in there with (better) competition and had the chance to step up, it let the real Booker T come out. It’s been great for me.”

Q: How do you reflect on that Bagwell match?
Huffman: “For me, it wasn’t a good night at all. It was probably one of the worst nights in my wrestling career. I wanted to make that night special, but things happen for a reason. I always feel things happen for a reason. The reason was really to put myself through a test. I was even harder on myself. I put myself through the ringer and beat myself up a little bit. Maybe it was my fault the match wasn’t right. Maybe I should be able to make a broomstick look good. That night showed a different side of Booker T.”

Q: How hard was it debuting when the WCW product wasn’t really defined before you turned heel?
Huffman: “It was difficult because some fans liked me but then there were some true WWF fans who felt they weren’t going to like WCW no matter what. It was a little difficult, but the one thing I feel is that talent will always prevail. Right now being a heel, I can go out and wrestle Rock and Kurt Angle and Undertaker and all those guys I always wanted to get in the ring with.”

Q: How much time have remaining when decided to take Time-Warner buyout and why do it?
Huffman: “I had a year left. I was the first guy because I felt like the money I would lose by taking the buyout I would pick back up on the other side. For myself, it’s really not about the money. Since I got into the business, I did not get into it for money. I worked those $20 shows and $5 shows and worked for Global Wrestling (in Dallas) for two year making approximately $100 a week … I felt this was my time to go out and do this right now. I’m not getting any younger. I want to prove not only to myself but also the wrestling world that I was one of the greatest to hit the business.”

Q: What were last few months in Time-Warner WCW like for you with company in limbo?
Huffman: “At the end, it was chaos. There were battles going on all the time with Vince Russo and the old regime with the WCW staff. They just didn’t want to change and (Russo) wanted to change. I was always just trying to keep my head up. For myself, I just was trying to stay focused. The ratings were going down at the time when Russo decided to go with me as champion and he did it despite all the heat he got and everything. I give props that he did have courage to do it. He put himself out on a limb. There were a lot of questions but I answered them. A lot of people wanted to know, ‘Can Booker carry this company and be the man in a main event on pay-per-view and people buy it?’ I feel like my title reign in WCW was proof positive that I could do that and could carry show and people would buy into it. For me, it was bittersweet. It was great because I had the chance I always wanted, that being (WCW) heavyweight champion. Then I capped off the closing (Nitro) as U.S. champion and WCW champion. It was an even greater set up for me to go into the WWF. I have nothing but good feelings about what WCW did for me for eight years. There was chaos at times but I always felt I worked for the fans. It was the company that paid my check.”

Q: How hard was it what happened with Steve Austin at the King of the Ring pay-per-view and what went wrong?
Huffman: “I don’t know whether it was me being overexcited or not knowing the positioning of the table and the adrenaline rushing. It was an unfortunate accident. I didn’t mean for it to happen. One thing about us is that we’ve all got families. We want to walk away from the arena and feed our families and be back for the next show. It was crazy because it was such a big high (debuting), then I found out about (Austin’s injuries) later that night … I felt so high, then the next minute it was like, ‘Wow, what the hell have I done?’”

Q: Was he pretty understanding that it was an accident?
Huffman: “He was pretty understanding about it but he let me know don’t do it again. That’s to be expected.”

Q: What goals have you set for yourself now and do you still plan on retiring in a few years like you told me the last time we talked in March 2000?
Huffman: “It’s been like a roller coaster since day one here. When I started, I never expected any of these things to happen. I only have two goals left in the wrestling business. That’s to win the WWF title and main event Wrestlemania. Once I do those two things, I’ll have fulfilled everything I could have ever done in the wrestling business. Yeah, my contract here is for three years and I do plan on after those three years wanting to retire to get out of the business. Right now, I’d like to say I’m in the peak of my career. My body feels good and I can still do the spinarooni pretty good. My thing is I don’t want to be around too long or past my time. As long as the fan love me and I can go out and perform at my work rate, I know I can stick around. If I can’t do that or things like the side kick and scissors kick to the highest level, I don’t think I want to do this.”

Q; Finally, what’s up with your brother running shows in Texas and does he have any hopes of entering the WWF?
Huffman: “Right now, he’s not doing that stuff in Texas anymore. As far as coming to the WWF, there’s always a possibility for that. I’ve talked to him about it and talked to the company about it. There’s always room and there is a brother angle somewhere down the road. And people always want to see the Harmelm Heat. So don’t count Stevie Ray out.”
Alex Marvez's weekly pro wrestling column can be found in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Denver Rocky Mountain News, Biloxi Sun-Herald and a host of other newspapers that subscribe to the Scripps-Howard News Service.