WWE Hall of Famer Booker T inspired by Macho Man Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat WrestleMania classic


Miami Herald Writer

Booker T will never forget his first WrestleMania.

The WWE Hall of Famer watched in awe as Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and “Macho Man” Randy Savage stole the show at WrestleMania III in 1987.

“That made me want to be a professional wrestler, create and do something special for the rest of my life,” Booker T said “Still, to this day, that match is etched and burned in my memory.”

From that point the determined legend worked his way to the Global Wrestling Federation and then World Championship Wrestling. He made a name for himself, acquiring numerous tag championship reigns with his brother Stevie Ray and even won the world title in WCW. In 2002, Booker T made it to the promise land of WWE and WrestleMania XVIII. He faced Edge before more than 68,000 in Toronto.

“I was really nervous, but a friend of mine told me to take a deep breath and as you make that walk to the ring, just take it all in and feel that moment,” Booker T said. “I went out and did that. It totally calmed me to the point where I realized this was the place I should be in. It was a great feeling.”

Booker would continue to be part of the big shows that followed over the years. He believes he had his WrestleMania moment.

“What’s a WrestleMania moment? That is for the fans to decide,” Booker T said. “For me, just being a part of WrestleMania and the week of festivities and the celebration of what we do on the highest level has been the biggest thing to me…My dream was to headline WrestleMania. I wanted to be in the spotlight at WrestleMania. I got a chance to do that. I got a chance to wrestle Triple H in the spotlight [at WrestleMania XIX]. That was my biggest moment there. One thing I never dreamt was, I didn’t dream to win. I didn’t win that night. It would have been sweeter, but life goes on. I became World champion and King Booker. I left a winner.”

This year Booker was recognized for all he accomplished in his career with inclusion in the 2013 class of the WWE Hall of Fame. He was inducted by his brother Stevie Ray, who raised him and his other siblings after his parents died. Booker had a falling out in recent years with Ray, but they managed to come together for the occasion.

“It was kind of like burying the hatchet and putting that part of our life behind us and moving forward,” Booker T said. “WrestleMania weekend was a chance to do that and the Hall of Fame was a way to mend that bridge. Now we are as close as ever. The Hall of Fame ceremony was a once in a lifetime thing we wish we could do every year. It proved to my fans, my peers, that all of the work I put in was worth it. I always wanted to leave my mark and legacy on the business so that one day 50 years I will be remembered. It’s something I strived for many years to attain.

“…My brother and I had not spoken for about five years, maybe six. Maybe a little bit longer. I thought it was time to get past that. Leaving the business the way I started was really important for me. We just talked about doing stuff together. It definitely filled a void that was there for a very long time, thank God.”

The last time Booker was on WWE TV he was the general manager of SmackDown until Vickie Guerrero took charge. He says he never really sees himself returning to the ring.

“I really want to get past that stage in my life,” Booker T said. “I’m trying to put that part of my life behind me. I want to produce and direct. I want to work behind the scenes. Let the guys like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, The Shield do it and get to that next level. It’s not about me anymore. I understand that first and foremost. Don’t try to fool myself that I can still hang with these guys because they can run circles around me.

“Over a period of time anyway, I can hold my own for one night. It’s about these guys and the young guys. It’s about WWE and the superstars and looking at WrestleMania, looking at it 15 years from now. Who is going to be that big superstar? What superstars will be created in that time? The evolution of life goes and goes and never stops. You have to be prepared for that. Thank God I have been preparing that for many years.”

These days the talented performer has been giving back to the business with his Reality of Wrestling. The Texas organization and wrestling school provides training and puts on shows regularly.

“It is really rewarding to give back in that way,” Booker T said. “My Reality of Wrestling is really taking off. It’s something I hold near and dear to my heart to help these kids get to that next level. [Promoter] Paul Boesch was my idol here in the city of Houston, and I’m trying to keep his dream alive. I want to teach these kids the right way here and the tools to be able to do this. I always say that I want to give them at least half a chance of making it. That’s what I try to do with my students. They go out there and do a great job.

“We are creating stars of the future. We actually have one that I will give a little plug to in Rex Andrews. We are trying to get him a WWE tryout when the show comes to Houston. He does such a great job for the last couple of years, but hasn’t been looked at.

“That’s what I want to do, help these kids make it to the next level and fulfill their dreams. Give them a chance to go all around the world and then thank Booker T in appreciation for the opportunity. That is really what it’s all about.”

He is also finishing a follow-up to “Booker T: From Prison to Promise: Life before the Squared Circle,” which chronicled his hard life leading up to pro wrestling. This autobiography will focus more on his run in WCW and tenure with WWE and reign as King Booker. At this point in his life in the business, he enjoys the present and future of WWE.

“That brass ring is right there to be grabbed,” Booker T said. “There are so many guys who are right there to move up the ladder. Right now in my ‘Fave Five’ is Dean Ambrose. He is a guy who I have a lot of praise for right now. I see a lot in him. I see a lot of growth that not needs to be made as well. There are a lot of guys on the roster. I don’t need to count guys like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan because those guys are bona fide superstars. Guys like Randy Orton and those guys, but that star of tomorrow have to work really hard because it’s right there for the taking.”

Mixed in with the young guns on the roster is a grizzled veteran in Goldust, who had a solid run with Booker T. The popular a dynamic and opposites attract sort of chemistry similar to Team Hell No’s Kane and Bryan. Today Goldust is tag team champions with his brother Cody Rhodes.

“I love seeing Goldie come back,” Booker T said. “He loves the ring and a true wrestler at heart. He is jumping around and still has so much in him at this stage of the game. He has so much energy and coming from WCW back in the day to him to our tenure as Goldust and Booker T to now. I see him living out his dream and teaming with his brother. That’s something that is really cool. First and foremost wondering if that is ever going happen and then for it to happen on such a huge scale, I’m so happy and so proud for him.”

WrestleMania XXX tickets just went on sale, and Booker is looking forward to seeing where the road to New Orleans takes the WWE Universe.

“With WrestleMania, you never know what to expect,” Booker T said. “You can almost guarantee you will see the Undertaker. He normally rises from that casket around that time. He sleeps all year and hibernates and comes out for the shining moment of WrestleMania. He always does something spectacular, even with some people doubting he can still go out there and do it. He rises to the occasion. You never know what you are going to see, but I think you are also going to see Daniel Bryan rise to the occasion.

“You know you are going to see CM Punk. Whether The Rock will be back to do something, who knows? You always see him stick around and come back to take the spotlight. Either way, you know you are going to see the biggest spectacle and a show.”

With all these predictions, does the consummate entertainer think we will see a Spinaroonie inside the Mercedes-Benz Super Dome?

“There’s always talk about a Harlem Heat reunion,” Booker T said. “It will be great to see Harlem Heat versus Cody Rhodes and Goldust. That is a dream match. Who knows if that is going to happen? That is what WrestleMania is all about. Making dreams come true and leaving memories for many years to come. Just like for me when it was Steamboat and Savage, there will be some kid who is going to have that same feeling about this WrestleMania maybe 20 years down the line.”

• WrestleMania XXX tickets are officially on sale. Tickets range from $25-$2,000. The big event occurs Sunday, April 6 from the Mercedes-Benz Super Dome in New Orleans. Visit www.wrestlemania.com for full details and updates.

• Follow Booker T on Twitter @BookerT5X.

Visit www.realityofwrestling.com.

• WWE Hall of Famer Booker T will join fellow WWE Hall of Famers Bret The Hitman Hart and Mick Foley to do commentary during the WWE Survivor Series pre-show on Sunday, Nov. 24 from TD Garden in Boston. Visit http://www.wwe.com/shows/survivorseries.

• Booker T will be the guest of honor for SportsRadio 610’s 5th Annual Celebrity Roast 8-10:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Houston Improv. MVP, the Boogeyman and Stevie Ray have been confirmed with more names to be announced. Comedians Ali Siddiq and Ryan Thauburn will also be part of the event. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Booker T Fights for Kids Foundation. For information, visit http://realityofwrestling.com/sportsradio-610-celebrity-roast-of-booker-t/.

• 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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