At Bash at the Beach 2000, Booker defeated Jeff Jarrett and made history as the first African American star to hold the WCW heavyweight championship since Ron Simmons in 1992.
When WCW closed, Booker was the WCW and United States champion. Upon his entrance into WWE, the superstar found himself battling heavy-hitters such as The Rock and Kurt Angle. Who will ever forget his supermarket brawl with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin? Got Milk?
Booker really started to click with the WWE Universe teaming with Goldust, which reminds me a lot of Daniel Bryan and Kane. I wish the entertaining duo had more time together, but Booker returned to the singles scene rather quickly. He was featured in one of the main events of WrestleMania XIX against Triple H but came up short in winning the heavyweight championship. Three years later, Booker captured the King of the Ring crown and won his first World heavyweight title in WWE. The next year, 2007, after seemingly doing it all in WWE, the top star had his last match against John Cena.
After a stint in TNA Impact Wrestling, Booker shocked the wrestling world as a surprise entrant in the 2011 Royal Rumble. The decorated grappler had a few matches, including a feud with Cody Rhodes, but eventually moved to commentary and currently serves as the general manager of SmackDown. The veteran is also molding the stars of tomorrow in Houston with his wrestling school and independent promotion: http://realityofwrestling.com/7.html.
With a career paved in gold over the course of 20 years, Booker T. is well deserving of his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. His brother Stevie Ray would be the most logical candidate to induct him. After all, he raised Booker and his siblings and helped his younger brother break into the business. Despite a falling out between the two, MSG and Hall of Fame would be the perfect place for a Harlem Heat reunion. Now that’s a Harlem Shake of a different kind I would like to see. Can you dig that…suckaaa!
• Donald Trump
Whenever WWE announces a Hall of Fame celebrity induction, the “pro wrestling purists” come out of the woodwork with their disapproval.
However, I think those who complain about a non-superstar or diva going into the hallowed hall is missing the point.
Sure there were some misfires over the years in WWE’s choices for the celebrity wing, but many of the inductees helped expand the company’s audience. Continuing to grow a fan base is an important key to WWE’s success. This year I think the decision-makers (like Trump’s inductor Vince McMahon) made a great pick with Donald Trump to join the 2013 class.
His partnership with WWE reverts to the early days when Trump Plaza hosted WrestleMania 4 and 5. It’s the only time in history the spectacular was housed in the same venue back-to-back. Also, the business tycoon has made numerous appearances at events over the years, from the 20th anniversary of WrestleMania to Monday Night Raw.
Then you look to WrestleMania 23 where Trump was part of the “Battle of the Billionaires” against Vince McMahon with their hair on the line. Bobby Lashley, who represented Trump, defeated Umaga, representing McMahon, with Stone Cold Steve Austin making the three-count. The event was a huge smash, drawing more than 80,000 fans at Ford Field in Detroit and generating a record-breaking 1.2 million pay-per-view buys.
Who could ever forget in 2009 when McMahon “sold” the flagship show on USA Network to Trump? In an unprecedented move and to play up the storyline, almost a quarter of a million dollars in refunds for tickets were doled to those in the arena in Green Bay. The commercial-free Raw episode he hosted amounted to a huge ratings success. At more than 6.8 million viewers, WWE said it was its highest rated Raw in seven years.
Trump’s ‘frenemy’ Mr. McMahon will induct him. I wonder if Trump will join Zeb Colter and check proof of U.S. citizenship at the MSG door. Either way, and despite some grumblings from some fans, Trump, 66, is deserving of the honor and will make the Hall of Fame that much richer. With any luck, maybe he will donate some Trump property to house a physical Hall of Fame facility for fans to enjoy.
• Trish Stratus
In the more than six years, Trish Stratus helped jumpstart women’s wrestling in WWE and proved she was more than a pretty face.
Decked in a trademark coat and cowboy hat, Stratus immediately came on the scene as the manager for Test and Albert (T&A). It was in this role that began her feud with Lita, who was with Matt and Jeff Hardy. Fans clamored to see the two divas mix it up in mixed tag team competition.
Over the years the pair showcased one of the most high profile and long-running rivalries in women’s wrestling history. Lita and Stratus were not only a part of a mixed tag team main event on Raw, but the two headlined a show in a singles match for the women’s championship. When was the last time you saw two divas headlining a Raw?
Stratus earned the respect of fans and fellow grapplers alike when she took a powerbomb from Bubba Ray through a table. The bump showed her toughness. Another early adversary of Stratus was her inductor Stephanie McMahon. The two would collide in a surprisingly good and physical battle at No Way Out 2001. Her program with McMahon and her family elevated her to a featured part of the shows each week.
Her improvement in the ring in such a short time was remarkable. At the 2001 Survivor Series, the diva’s division and women’s championship was almost reborn when Stratus took home the gold in a six-pack challenge. It was her first match back from injury. Believe it or not, this was at a time when the divas were given time to tell stories and build-up matches. Stratus had a series of great encounters with the likes of Molly Holly, Jazz and Victoria.
One of my favorite diva’s matches features Stratus battling Victoria (TNA’s Tara) in a hardcore match at the 2002 Survivor Series.
The decorated diva showed she could be naughty and nice throughout her career. Lita and Stratus were not only opponents but partners. They teamed in the first and only “Battle of the Sexes” match at Armageddon against Christian and Chris Jericho. Stratus returned to the dark side by turning on Jericho and joining Christian in one of the most memorable heel turns in WrestleMania history.
Even though Lita is arguably her greatest opponent, her storyline with Mickie James was perhaps the most intricate. James played an obsessed fan that had gone crazy. The WWE “Diva of the Decade” winner lost the women’s championship to James in her last WrestleMania match on the active roster in 2006. Stratus couldn’t have asked for a better sendoff as a full-time performer when she won the women’s championship against Lita for a record seventh time in her hometown, Toronto, at Unforgiven.
In the years that followed, Stratus made numerous appearances in WWE. She served as a trainer for the last season of “Tough Enough” and even worked in a tag team match at WrestleMania 27. No matter how long in between appearances, Stratus, 37, is welcomed back with open arms by the WWE Universe because of the respect and admiration they have for her.
One of her greatest accolades will come in New York City when the diva becomes the youngest inductee in the WWE Hall of Fame.
• For more on the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame inductees and WrestleMania 29, visit www.wrestlemania.com.
The USA Network will air a special on the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame at 10 p.m. EST Tuesday, April 9.
• 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.