Sunday, March 8, 2015

WWE 24's Booker T: Sentenced to Greatness

Finally had an opportunity to sit down and watch the WWE 24 episode on Booker T.  I know some eyebrows were raised by the title of this special, but I thought it was perfect.  Booker T really does have an interesting success story considering his rough upbringing and time spent in prison.  The show does not shy away from that at all and neither does Booker or his family.  It really was well done although 30 minutes may not have been quite long enough to delve into his life fully.  That said it really is an interesting look at a guy I've long been a fan of since the first time I saw him.

Booker T's story is one of tragedy and triumph.  Most hardcore wrestling fans know full well about his criminal issues.  In fact he mentions specifically that Jim Ross suggested he discuss that openly with the WWE Universe ahead of WrestleMania XIX.  What I did not know is that he lost his mother due to complications from surgery as a young teen.  This, of course, set the stage for his later legal issues as is all-too-common.  In fact Booker T tells the story of a prison guard that told him when he was released, "I'll see you when you get back."  As crass as that is we know it's not uncommon for that very thing to happen.  Thankfully, Booker T had other things in mind.  His brother, Stevie Ray (real name Lash btw) vouched for him and got him a job where he was working on some properties in Houston, TX where they grew up.  There he met a gentleman named Bruce Gasarch who put up the $3,000 to get Booker T into Ivan Putski's wrestling school.  From there him and Stevie Ray began their careers.  Stevie Ray working as Super Collider and Booker T working the infamous GI Bro gimmick.  Of note, Scott Casey was the guy who coined that name which is kind of interesting. 

As many wrestling fans probably already know, Booker T and Stevie Ray then transitioned to the Global Wrestling Federation as the Ebony Experience.  This is actually where I first saw them and became a fan of both guys.  Apparently they crowd gave them some pretty good heat during the match, but Booker T's antics (the yet unnamed Spinaroonie) and their athleticism got the crowd firmly behind them.  They transitioned to WCW and the name got changed to Harlem Heat.  Why not Houston Heat?  Harlem projected a rougher vibe.   Anyhow, business really picked up for Harlem Heat once they were paired with Sister Sherri.  They were excited about the pairing as they respected Sherri's accomplishments in the business.  Unfortunately, some of the heat they received was from some let's say less than progressive thoughts on race relations.  The pairing with Sherri was a real winner though and one thing I not only enjoyed back then, but have enjoyed while watching Nitro on WWE Network.

They don't really talk much about Booker T's transition to a singles wrestler in WCW, but I believe that his WCW World Title victory was quite possibly the last great WCW moment.  Booker T discusses the relief when he got such a big pop for winning the gold.  They then talk a bit about the end of WCW and how hot Booker T was at the time.  Due to his upbringing he didn't really concern himself with the end of WCW, but instead prepared himself for his WWE debut.  The highlights of his WWE career as presented here is the initial feud with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, his pairing with Goldust, and King Booker complete with Queen Sharmell.  What I did not realize is that Booker T was apparently about ready to hang them up after he married Sharmell, but WWE suggested bringing her on the road.  He credits this move for extending his career three years.  What was also really cool is how Sharmell helped him while on the road as far as taking care of him so he could focus on his business.  She helped him pack, and drove for him as well.  I had never heard that she was so instrumental in the behind-the-scenes business of their pairing.

The most interesting aspect of this episode is that they tackle the rift between Booker T and Stevie Ray.  The actual cause of it isn't really addressed other than they had a difference of opinions and they didn't speak for four to five years.  What brought them back together?  Oddly enough, it is Booker T's WWE Hall of Fame induction.  His siblings were excited to hear that he wanted all of them together because that seemed to suggest a reunion with Stevie Ray.  That did happen and Stevie Ray got a huge pop when he went to induct his brother the night before WrestleMania XXIX (29).

Those are the high points so far as I am concerned, but they talk about his career in the booth.  They also talk about his wrestling school and Reality of Wrestling.  The important thing there being that it is a way that Booker T can pay it forward and provide a path for people to get into the industry.  One funny story to watch out for is the inspiration of his hand in front of his face 5 time, 5 time, 5 time, 5 time, 5 time taunt.  If you hit me up on Twitter or Facebook I'll be happy to share as well if you don't have WWE Network or don't want to watch this.  

I cannot recommend this special enough especially if you're a fan of Booker T.  If not, his story is still worth checking out as it's inspiring.  Booker T is a great success story and it speaks to his resilience that he was able to overcome some tough issues in his youth to become the beloved superstar he is today.