Fan Fest, Royal Rumble ignite Booker T, WWE

 

Headlining WWE’s Royal Rumble, The Rock cooking to main event WrestleMania again

More information

The Rock vs. WWE champ CM Punk (with Paul Heyman)

WWE Royal Rumble Pay-Per-View

8 p.m. EST

Sunday, Jan. 27

US Airways Center, Phoenix

Last Man Standing Match: World champ Alberto Del Rio (with Ricardo Rodriguez) vs. Big Show

WWE tag champs Team Hell No vs. The Rhodes Scholars

Royal Rumble match to co-main event WrestleMania and more.

Pre-show: U.S. champ Antonio Cesaro vs. The Miz


Miami Herald Writer

Booker T. shocked the world in 2011 by returning to WWE as a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble.

It’s a night the veteran performer will never forget. The minute his music hit a new phase of his career began.

“I didn’t expect the ovation that I got from fans,” Booker T. said during a conference call to promote his involvement in the “WCW and Monday Night Wars” panel which is 9 a.m.-noon Sunday, Jan. 27 during the Royal Rumble Fan Fest in Phoenix.

“I was totally taken aback from it, but it really put that stamp, as far as my career goes. What I have given to the fans, they gave it back to me that night, just from an applause and ovation standpoint. Just letting me know that they appreciate what I have done in my 22-year career. That right there was a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Despite enjoying that moment, the Smackdown general manager is looking forward to watching from the sidelines at this year’s 30-superstar over-the-top battle royal for a title shot at WrestleMania. If he had his way, Booker T. would have loved to see Junkyard Dog come back from the grave and compete on Sunday.

“Royal Rumble is one of the biggest times of the year, next to WrestleMania,” Booker T. said. “I’m sorry I’m not going to be participating this year. Normally I’m a special guest entry, but this year I’m going to sit it out and do my duty as [SmackDown] general manager and see how exactly the big Smackdown matches are going to play out. That is what I’m looking forward to first and foremost.”

Looking at the field thus far for the Royal Rumble, Booker T. doesn’t have a favorite.

“It’s really hard to pick a winner for the Rumble,” Booker T. said. “It’s an unpredictable match. Anybody can win on any given occasion. It’s one of those nights where luck has to play in your favor. Whoever is in the right place at the right time, that’s who is going to win. Picking a winner? I just can’t call it.”

Although the well-spoken superstar doesn’t anticipate being a part of the Royal Rumble, Booker T. will join Kevin Nash and the Big Show to field questions from fans about his time in WCW hours before the pay-per-view. Whether it’s addressing his use of the ‘N’ word on a broadcast or reflecting on the Shockmaster’s famous debut, the WWE onscreen figurehead is prepared for anything. There will be no holding back

“It’s great to go back in time, so to speak,” Booker T. said. “People always say there should be a WCW reunion or WCW invasion. I don’t think we should go that far, but as far as sitting down and talking about what went down back then from a real perspective, from a shoot perspective, I think it’s going to be really good. There have been questions fans have wanted to ask for so many years, and now they are going to get those answers.

“So I’m looking forward to actually answer all the questions. I’m sure there are going to be some crazy ones that will come up, but I will be prepared for them. I’m sure it’s going to be a great time.”

Despite not wanting to see a full-on WCW reunion, he hopes he and his brother, Stevie Ray, can reignite Harlem Heat one last time down the line.

“I think people want to see it,” Booker T. said. “I know there was talk about reuniting Harlem Heat, as possibly being in the Hall of Fame. That would be a great honor. I’m looking forward to my brother and myself coming back together and giving fans that one last look at a team that was so great. I think it’s something that we need to do more than something that we have to do.”

It’s fun for the former five-time WCW champion to remember his years working for the defunct Atlanta-based company for a few hours, but Booker T. takes pride today in giving back. He molds the next generation at his wrestling school and “Reality of Wrestling” promotion in Houston.

“Those days [in WCW] are over,” Booker T. said. “They’re never coming back. I’m not one of those people who look in the past and live in the past. It’s all about the future. What I’m looking forward to is our young guys creating their own destinies. That is what I’m thinking about right now.”

There is no doubt WCW allowed Booker T. to evolve and hone his craft during much of his career. He was one of the big stars involved in the heated rivalry between the Ted Turner-owned promotion and WWE.

“It really was a war from a certain perspective in the beginning,” Booker T. said. “It really was a war between WCW and WWE from a perspective from in-ring, how big the budget was going to be, how big they were going to invest in the pay-per-views in the look of it. It truly was a war. I can honestly say that when the nWo came along the tide shifted. The lay of the land totally shifted toward WCW, which was a good thing in so many ways as far as the ratings go and T-shirt sales and fanfare. Then again it was bitter sweet because the nWo (new World order) literally changed the landscape of the game, as far as the rules were and the game being played. It was great to be on top. The arenas were sold out.

“Then you saw the wrestlers relaxing. They were slacking. A lot of guys were making a whole lot of money but not caring about their performances. Guys were just partying like it was never going to stop. That is when I think the tide shifted back to WWE, and they took over and never let the reigns go from that point on. It was like being on a black stallion without a saddle. You had to hold on tight. It was a great time. It was a fast time. I was in the mix and having fun. I saw everything around me, as far as the guys getting soft.

“Guys were slacking…When the company folded, I was still ready and prepared to go around the track one more time. I wasn’t slacking. When it was time for those other guys to go, they were slacking, and all that money they made and cushion they were living on at that time. It caught up to them. Most of them couldn’t recover from it, as you see most of them at home sitting on the sofa wishing things were different, but it was a great time for me. Thank God I was prepared for the situation when it came.

“…WWE wasn’t on my radar due to the fact that they went to the cold cities. I don’t like being cold. I thought I was going to be a WCW guy during my career actually. I thought I was going to retire there. I thought I was going to be a 20-year guy with WCW and 15-time heavyweight champion like Ric Flair. That didn’t happen, but as I always say, ‘I was prepared.’ I was prepared for what was going to happen next. When the opportunity came, it came by the doors being closed on WCW.

“The opportunity still came, and I was ready for it, when it came. I had to start all over when I started with WWE. I had to leave all my accolades behind. I had to prove to those guys that I was ready for the task. Did I see myself in WCW forever? Yes. When the time came for it to close down and continue the saga, was I prepared to go and continue the saga? I definitely was.”

Among those on the opposite side of battle during the Monday Night Wars was The Rock, who will challenge CM Punk for the WWE championship on Sunday. Booker T. had a number of clashes with the “Brahma Bull” and is glad to see him return.

“People can say what they want to say about The Rock being back, but Rock means revenue,” Booker T. said. “Rock means ratings. Any time we can have that as part of what we do in sports entertainment is great. The Rock is not only a great performer but is a great ambassador for this business. He is one of the guys who stepped out away from the game and made his fame even bigger. Even though wrestling was the one thing that put him in the spotlight, he parlayed it and made us look good. I think it’s great to see The Rock back, and stepping into the fire with CM Punk, it’s going to be great, but he should be careful what he wishes for because CM Punk is really no joke.

“He is a guy who really believes who he is, that is the Best in the World. Whether nobody else does, that’s a very dangerous person right there. As far as The Rock being back, I hope the guys in the locker room are taking notes and realizing what it is to be a true superstar in this business. They can learn a whole lot.”

The master of the Spinaroonie hopes to teach a few lessons of his own with his memoir “Booker T: From Prison to Promise.” The autobiography chronicles his troubled past up and the call that would jumpstart his pro wrestling career, changing his life. Booker T. says his family was supportive of the book and his honesty.

“My brothers and sisters, we’ve come up the hard way,” Booker T. said. “We’ve seen it all from so many different perspectives. It was only right to put it out there from a raw perspective if I want to help somebody. If I wanted to sugarcoat it and put it there, I would be lying to myself. That’s something I can’t do these days is look at myself in the mirror and lie to myself…I wanted the kids to know when they read it that Booker T. has been in these situations, and if he can come out of it, I can too…It was easy to write it, but it was hard for me to read it going back in time through all of those eras and moments. It really touched my heart…I have no skeletons in my closet that anyone could pull out. I put it out there myself. I made sure to show what type of person Booker T. really is.

“You can trust Booker T. because I have lied before. I make sure these days that I walk a firm line. I want my kids to look up to me one day and say, ‘That’s my dad.’ That right there is what I’m working for these days. Any criticism or backlash that I get from anybody is going to be totally worth it for me because I think I did the right thing…’

“…I’m getting ready to start my second book now. We don’t have a name for it yet. I’m still working with Medallion on getting it out there. I think the fans deserve to hear that side of my career, the WCW side, as well as the WWE part of my career. As far as the TNA side, I will probably leave that out because that part of my career was bleak, and there wasn’t a whole lot happening. I just don’t want to leave fans with a sour taste in their mouths. We are getting ready to get started as we speak.”

• Booker T. will be part of the WWE Royal Rumble Fan Fest Saturday, Jan. 26 and Sunday, Jan. 27 at the US Airways Center plaza in Phoenix. Each day is filled with matches, superstar appearances, food trucks and more. In addition, a tournament will be held for a guaranteed slot in the Royal Rumble match.

A Shooting Straight panels kick off 3-6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26 with the “Montreal Screwjob” featuring Bret Hart, Jerry Lawler and Shawn Michaels. Then from 6:30- 9:30 p.m. the “Infamous DX” panel brings Triple H, X-Pac and the New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg Jesse James and B.A. Billy Gunn). On Sunday, Jan. 27 from 9 a.m.-noon, there is the “WCW and the Monday Night Wars” panel with Booker T., the Big Show and Kevin Nash.

For information on the Fan Fest and tickets, visit http://www.usairwayscenter.com/events/detail/royal-rumble-fan-fest-coming-to-phoenix-jan-26-27.

• The Rock challenges CM Punk for the WWE championship 8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27 from the US Airways Center in Phoenix. Alberto Del Rio defends the World heavyweight championship against the Big Show in a Last Man Standing match.

The main event is the 30-superstar over-the-top battle royal with the winner securing at title match at WrestleMania 29 in New York/New Jersey. Visit www.wwe.com.

• Follow Booker T. on Twitter @BookerT5X

Visit his website http://realityofwrestling.com/.

• Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN, http://twitter.com/#!/smFISHMAN, where I post links and information. Opinions expressed reflect no other entity. I can also be found tweeting incessantly during wrestling shows weekly.

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