Welcome class, for we'll discuss wrestling history today. Today, we'll discuss one of wrestling's finest performers of the past years. For the most part, his talent is totally unappreciated by the main organization he's been in.
Now, as for the History columns in general... I've received quite a lot of requests for histories of the 4 Horsemen. Although I know quite a bit about each stable, I will say that a column about them would take several hours to do. The Horsemen have covered a lot of years and have done many significant things in wrestling history.
Also, many of you have asked me to do a McMahon vs. Austin column. All I can say is to watch their video, because I couldn't write anything better than that. Plus, I feel that it's too recent, you know? Maybe if I'm still Mr. Tito and writing Phat Daily Columns in 5 years, and them maybe I'll do one about them.
On to the PDC.
Now, why is it just Booker T and not Stevie Ray? Well, everything Stevie Ray has ever done in wrestling has been with or against Booker T. So if you want to say it's a history of Harlem Heat, you could, since Booker T had more focus anyway.
Ok, as the story reportedly goes, Booker T and Stevie Ray grew up in the streets of Harlem, New York. From what they've said, they grew up with a very tough life, and I'd assume that because both guys have large knife scars on their bodies. Eventually, they'd take a vacation in Houston, Texas where they'd meet a wrestler named Scott Casey. Casey told them about the business, and it immediately caught the Huffman brothers' attention. After their vacation, they packed their bags and moved to Texas to become pro wrestlers.
After training, they would join the WWA (World Wrestling Association, but I could be wrong) for several years to improve on all aspects of their wrestling. They mainly wrestled as a team, but every once in a while, they would wrestle in singles matches as well. Out of the small federation, they caught the eye of the upstart Global Wrestling Federation, who just signed a television contract with ESPN. Stevie Ray and Booker T joined up with the new fed, and wrestled as a tag team exclusively.
Now if you have ever seen Global, you'll know that it was one of the most boring federations on television, EVER! I mean, wrestlers would do basic moves on each other for 20 minutes, and then defeat each other with something like a bodyslam. It was terrible wrestling. The only true standouts were the Patriot, who held the World Title, and the Lightning Kid, who was the Lightweight champ but he would later become X-Pac of today. I'd do a history of Global, but I'd put myself to sleep writing it! The team that would later become Harlem Heat joined the federation sometime during 1991-1992.
Booker T and Stevie Ray were both still very green wrestlers in Global. They just weren't polished wrestlers like they would later become. They went with the name "Ebony Experience", and eventually picked up the legendary Gary Hart as their manager. If you know Gary Hart at all, you should remember that he was the top HEEL manager of World Class. With the organizing of Hart, the Ebony Experience shot up the tag ladder, and in the summer of 1992, they won the Global Tag Titles. They held the titles for a few months, until dropping the titles, which I believe happened because Booker T injured his knee. (Note: A lot of sites report that Stevie Ray hurt his knee, but don't believe it)
Stevie Ray was now able to wrestle a short but sweet singles, and he would capture the North American Heavyweight Title. Now if you watched Global, you'll know that the only interesting shows were the title tournaments. So after a while, Global was creating titles out the ass! This is one of them, and Stevie Ray defeated Rod Price for the title. Stevie would never lose the title, for he and Booker T were bought up by WCW. Global Wrestling Federation was losing talent left and right, and also losing money financially anyway.
With Booker T active again, the brothers entered WCW as a team. They were brought in as heels, and oddly enough, partners for Sid Vicious. Oh, by the way, we are in the year 1993, where WCW was being flushed down the toilet by stupid booking and bad spending. As partners with Sid, Booker T and Stevie Ray......oh, I mean Kole (Booker T) and Kane (Stevie Ray), for WCW's smart booking crew dubbed them new names, would go on to fight in one of the most embarrassing WCW feuds in history! Sting and the British Bulldog needed a 3rd man to fight off Harlem Heat/Sid, so they announced the SHOCKMASTER as their partner. If you've read my histories, you'll know who the Shockmaster is and I refuse to cover him right now!
After that horrible feud with the Shockmaster being involved, the brothers were pushed down the card. They wouldn't do much of anything until the Summer of 1994, where they gained Sensational Sherri to be their manager. With her, the newly dubbed Harlem Heat and with their names gained back as Stevie Ray and Booker T, they became an instant force in the tag division! Harlem Heat had some HUGE positives going for them, too. Teams like the Steiner Brothers, Doom, Samoan Swat Team, Road Warriors, and many more were long since gone from WCW. Plus, Hulk Hogan and his buddies ruled the singles division, and NOT the tag division. That's a huge plus, if anything. Finally, Sherri was very hated by the fans, going back to her managing days of Shawn Michaels or Macho Man Randy Savage. Heat for her was heat for Stevie Ray and Booker T.
Harlem Heat quickly went to the top, in November of 1994, they defeated the lame team of Stars and Stripes or the team of Marcus Alexander Bagwell (not Buff yet) and the Patriot. Although I'm a big fan of the Patriot, I hated Bagwell then. I thought that Bagwell was totally overrated back then, as I actually do right now. Anyway, Harlem Heat won their 1st WCW Tag Titles here, and then they were immediately feuding with the Nasty Boys.
The funny thing about the Nasty Boys were that they were underappreciated in WCW during their first run, but LOVED once they returned from their short WWF stay. I laugh at WCW for that. Anyway, Harlem Heat would fight the Nastys on many PPV or TV show cards, until May of 1995, when the Nasty Boys FINALLY beat Harlem Heat. By this time, though, Harlem Heat was earning the respect of tag team fans in the wrestling world. Although the surrounding WCW was about Hulk Hogan, the tag division was about Harlem Heat.
Booker T was considered to be the speed and the flashy member, while Stevie Ray was the power of the team. Quite a good mix. Harlem Heat would gain their titles back in 2 short months, making them 2-time, 2-time, 2-time WCW World Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, but they would then lose the titles a month later to the oldschool duo of Buckhouse Buck and "Dirty" Dick Slater, managed by Colonel Robert Parker. Man, they were oldschool, but that duo never caught on like WCW anticipated. Harlem Heat would the titles back at Fall Brawl 1995, but they would gain another manager.
This is the part I hated about the Harlem Heat team then. Before the Fall Brawl rematch, the WCW storylines made this strange attraction between Parker and Sherri. The strange attraction turned to "love" at Fall Brawl 1995, where Parker and Sherri distracted the ref enough to allow Harlem Heat to get the screwjob victory to win their 3rd Tag Titles. Buck and Slater dumped Parker as a manager, and Parker would then co-manage Harlem Heat with Sherri.
BUT we are now in the Nitro era, baby! The immediate night after, the newly teamed American Males defeated Harlem Heat to end their 24-hour title reign. About 9 days or so later, Harlem Heat would win them back for their 4th title reign. Harlem Heat would hold the titles until early 1996 when the conflicting team of Lex Luger and Sting defeated Harlem Heat, with that evil Lex Luger cheating to win the titles. After several failed attempts to regain the titles, Harlem Heat just surfed around on the Saturday Night and World Wide tapings, sadly enough.
Harlem Heat did help out Sting during his "Street Fight" match with the returning Road Warriors, at Uncensored 1996, where Booker T teamed up with Sting, at first. Evil Luger and Stevie Ray would later help Booker T and Stind get the win, but the real focus was that Booker T made a pretty good partner for Sting. It made several fans, including myself, look and see that Booker T was quite talented indeed. Harlem Heat then continued to lay low, while Sherri and Parker attempted to get "married" a few times. Odd controversies on this one would involve Madusa, and Parker would even fight her at one show. Stupid, stupid, stupid....
The one good thing about the weird stuff with Parker and Sherri was that both would eventually disappear from Harlem Heat soon there after. That way, it would be just Booker T and Stevie Ray wrestling, with no garbage on the outside. The Uncensored match somewhat made Harlem Heat faces, and they sort of lived on that vibe for a while. The Summer of 1996 hit, and the New World Order was about to take the Wrestling World by storm! Scott Hall and Kevin Nash assaulted wrestlers left and right, and they helped give Harlem Heat their 5th title reign. During a Nitro, it was Lex Luger/Sting against Harlem Heat, with the Outsiders coming down to the ring with baseball bats. Luger and Sting were so distracted that they forgot about who they were fighting, and one or the other got rolled up in a small package by either Stevie Ray or Booker T.
Harlem Heat would lose the titles to the returning Steiner Brothers a month later, regain the titles yet another month later and hold them from July 1996 to September 1996 (6th Reign). Public Enemy was getting hot during this time, and they defeated Harlem Heat on a Nitro in September. PE would prove to be a weak team with the titles, so they lost them back to Harlem Heat(7th Reign).
But the NWO was just too powerful of an influence during this period. With Hogan as the NEW World Champion, you just knew that the Outsiders, Hall and Nash, would eventually capture the Tag Titles. Harlem Heat would fight off the Nasty Boys, again, at Fall Brawl 1996, but at Halloween Havoc 1996, they fought Hall and Nash. The Outsiders won the titles, and did NOT let go for a nice long time, unfortunately. However, I understand the move in the hot NWO storyline. Just a shame that Hall and Nash didn't quite defend those titles much.
The Outsiders laziness to defend the titles MURDERED the tag division, besides the Steiner Brothers. So with that, both Booker T and Stevie Ray experimented in singles ranks in WCW. Neither got far at first, that was until Stevie Ray suffered either a knee injury or a back injury (or something else?). Whatever the injury may have been, Stevie Ray was out of commission for a long time. Now, Booker T had to go on his own officially, and the TV title division needed some contenders.
Before Booker T entered the fold, the two competitors for the title were the Disco Inferno and the tough Perry Saturn. Saturn was a HOT TV champ, but thanks to the friendly Disco backstage, he was undermined of his TV title by the Inferno. Booker T was looking quite good in the ring, and Bischoff and bookers were noticing. So they let him defeat Disco Inferno to win his first singles title in the Television Title.
Much to my surprise, Booker T was a TOUGH television title holder. He held the belt from December of 1997 until February of 1998. Yeah, that sounds short to you, but that TV title was traded a lot during those Nitro days. Booker T found a NEW tough competitor, besides Perry Saturn, in Rick Martel. Martel just made a HUGE comeback of his career, getting into his best shape ever. Martel would defeat Booker T on Nitro in February 1998, in a very good TV match. Perry Saturn was a tough competitor in the TV division, still, and I guess he earned the #1 contender's spot in that division. So for Superbrawl 1998, it was decided that Booker T and Martel would fight a rematch over the title, and the winner would have to fight Saturn that same night!
Booker T fought Martel to a hard fought victory in the opening bout of Superbrawl 1998. Sadly, though, Martel suffered a bad knee injury that match. It ended his great comeback to WCW, and if you listen closely to Bobby Heenan, it shows how sad the Brain was about it too. Damn shame, totally. After the Martel match, Perry Saturn immediately hit the ring and Pearl Harbored Booker T to start up the match. Perry just pounded Booker T throughout this match, but Booker made a surprising comeback to retain his newly won TV title. If you want to see the absolute BEST of Booker T, rent or buy Superbrawl 1998!
Booker T would have a short feud with Eddie Guerrero after Superbrawl, but then Booker T found himself with a NEW competitor. Good old unrespected Chris Benoit challenged Booker T for the TV title. Now, before we get any further, it should be noted that Benoit did, in fact, defeat Booker T, twice, for the TV title during houseshows in the spring of 1998. However, WCW didn't give two shits about Benoit to even acknowledge it. They just wanted to sell tickets at Houseshows, which weren't always strong for WCW, even though they were still the top federation.
But they did have a monster feud on TV! They fought each other to a few hard brawls on either Thunder and Nitro, and it was decided to have a Best of 7 feud, with the #7 match taking place at Spring Stampede 1998. Each match was a hard fought battle, although too much of a good thing isn't always great. Each were great matches, but seeing it every Thunder or Nitro there for a while became sort or tedious to watch. Their 7th match, oddly enough, was their weakest match of the series. In the previous 6, both Benoit and Booker T pounded each other. It's sort of hard to give your best 7 times in one month. You just can't do that. Booker T would retain the title, since there was no such thing as titles for Benoit back then.
But Booker T was still a great TV champion. WCW would then get the brilliant (sarcasm) idea to make Fit Finley a TV champion, making Booker T job. With the WWF now beginning to defeat WCW, WCW realized what a bad move it was and put the title back on Booker T. By now, Stevie Ray had returned, but with a bad attitude. He would question the "toughness" of Booker T, which made for some really dumb interviews. Booker T would then injure his knee, again, which actually helped the new Stevie Ray attitude. Stevie Ray claimed that his brother gave him the legal right to defend the TV title, and Ray would lose that title to Chris Jericho.
Booker T would then come back from his tough injury, and he'd question Stevie Ray why he screwed him of his TV title. Things got even more complicated when Stevie Ray turned around and joined NWO Hollywood. Stevie Ray didn't become much in the NWO, besides cheaply hitting opponents with the slapjack, flapjack, or whatever that weapon is called. Booker T just wrestled on the midcard, and he would run into his brother every once in a while. In early 1999, NWO Elite formed, and Stevie Ray wasn't quite a part of that.
A funny thing happened on a Nitro on February 22, 1999. Bret Hart was sort of revolving from being in cahoots with the NWO, and then trying to be a face at the same time. But on this Nitro, he fought Booker T, and lost! I remember watching and thinking "what the hell". A silent, but great moment for Booker T.
Booker T, with some involvement of Stevie Ray, would go on to take the TV title away from the NWO's very own Scott Steiner, but lose the title to Bischoff's hunting buddy, Rick Steiner. He held the title for about 3 months, and he would carry Thunder to being a decent show then. That's about the only show he was allowed to defend the title on.
After he lost the TV title, Stevie Ray began calling on his brother to make up for their differences. Harlem Heat reformed shortly after that in the spring of 1999, and in the summer of 1999, they defeated the New Jersey Triad to win their 8th Tag Titles. However, they were quickly defeated by the oldschool team of Barry Windham and Kendall Windham, the good old West Texas Rednecks. Ugh. A month later, Harlem Heat would win the titles back off of the Rednecks for their 9th Tag Titles. Harlem Heat would then lose the titles to the Filthy Animals, gain the titles back from the Filthy Animals shortly there after (10th Title reign), and then lose them back to the Filthy Animals again!
Vince Russo came to charge in the late fall of 1999, and Harlem Heat were basically lame ducks after that. The only significant thing was that Booker T was placed against Scott Hall for the US title, or the TV title too (!!), at Mayhem 1999. Scott Hall, who Russo loved, got the win, of course. Russo never really respected Booker T back then, and was forced to respect him during his second run.
Russo would decided to split up the brothers, and with the so called sports entertainment, he eventually made them feud heading into Souled Out 2000. There, the NEW Harlem Heat formed, with Big T (formerly Ahmed Johnson) attacked Booker T for a DQ finish. Booker T, now during the Sullivan era, would have a long and boring feud with the New Harlem heat. Sullivan didn't give two shits about Booker T, for he made Booker T job to the out of shape Big T at Superbrawl 2000. That match was a fight over the rights to the name "Harlem Heat", and also the rights to the use of the letter "T". So now, "Booker" was a man without music and a man without his famous "T".
Booker would grab up Billy Kidman as a partner, and they went after the NEW Harlem Heat. Funny thing is that they actually defeated the NEW Harlem Heat at Uncensored 2000, shocking myself. Kidman and Booker weren't exactly loved by Kevin Sullivan, so that's why I'm surprised.
Eric Bischoff later got his job back with WCW, and with that, he brought Vince Russo back for the ride. Russo, again, didn't care much for Booker T, and he began brainstorming for ideas. As the odd story goes, Russo and Booker T were brainstorming for gimmicks, when I guess Booker T mentioned that he once experimented with the name G.I. Bro in his very early wrestling career, probably at WWA. Russo jumped all over that name, and threw Booker T into the Misfits In Action stable. God, I hated these days. Booker T pained his face up for this one, and saved the day for his Jobbers in Action stable.
However, Vince Russo's injuries from trying to wrestle in the ring caught up to him. Russo needed some time off, and with that, the head booker became Terry Taylor. Taylor had enough of the no respect that Booker T got, as he remembered the great days of when Booker T was an awesome TV champ. So with that, and the dropping of the NEW Harlem Heat from sight, Taylor decided to dump the GI Bro gimmick and give him back his music and "T" in his name. Booker T was back, and better than ever. Taylor began to push Booker T, bigtime, in the few weeks that he was in charge. Russo came back, and he noticed that the Booker T push was actually a good idea.
Hogan's politics were in play, again, leading up to the Bash at the Beach 2000 Pay Per View. Hogan told Russo and company that he'd work with Billy Kidman if and only if he was to win the World Title at Bash at the Beach 2000 against Jeff Jarrett. With the creative clause in his contract, Russo didn't dare challenge it... but he had a plan. Why not give the fans a controversy? So Russo got together with Hogan, and planned a "work", to which Hogan and Russo would have a feud, sort of like Austin vs. McMahon. The plan was to have Jarrett lay down for Hogan, and then for Russo to "shoot" about Hogan, and give a REAL title shot to Booker T against Jeff Jarrett.
So it happened, and after a dirty loss against Kanyon that night, Booker T got his title shot against Jeff Jarrett. Booker T won his 1st World Title, and a great one that was! Much deserved, and we can thank Terry Taylor for being the man to push him initially. Booker T would keep the title for a while, and Hulk Hogan was then screwed out of the promotion. Little did the Hulkster know that Russo wasn't planning on doing a storyline with him at all. With that being said, the focus was a pretty good feud with Jeff Jarrett and Booker T..... well, not quite. During this time, Scott Steiner was making good strides on his behavior and bouncing back, better, from his bad back injury. Steiner would fight Bill Goldberg in some mighty stiff matches, and it had more focus than Booker T with the title. It should be noted that Booker T did get the win at a Nitro over Goldberg, even though Goldberg purposely kicked out at 2, despite the ref counting 3.
With the more focus on Goldberg/Steiner, and the fact that WCW let Booker T use his Bookend move as his finisher, it sort of made Booker T seem like a weak champ, in my opinion. The Bookend, if you don't remember, was Booker T's version of the Rock Bottom. It was sort of hard for any WWF fan to respect Booker T as a champ for using the WWF's champion's finishing move. For those of you who are asking why Booker T stopped using the Harlem Hangover, I believe it was because of his previous knee injuries and since I believe he hurt someone, accidentally, with the move.
After beating Jarrett several times, Booker T needed an opponent. So with that being said, Kevin Nash convinced Russo to make him defeat Booker T for the World Title. It's lovely controlling like that which makes me bitch about Kevin Nash's backstage politics. But, it turned for the better, and Booker T defeated Kevin Nash, cleanly, for his 2nd World Title.
Scott Steiner's improved backstage behavior helped him earn the next title shot at Booker T. With this feud, Stevie Ray was brought back as a supporter of Booker T, while becoming a main color commentator for Thunder. Booker T suffered yet another knee injury before their match at Halloween Havoc 2000. Stupid booking, though, prevailed and the match resulted in a DQ. So Booker T had to wrestle another month with a bad knee injury, one that would need surgery. For the weeks leading up to Mayhem 2000, the now Russo-less bookers decided to give Booker T a mean attitude. He was sort of hinting a heel turn, going against the Biggest WCW heel, Scott Steiner. However, it didn't amount to much, and Mayhem arrived. Scott Steiner defeated Booker T to win his first WCW World title, and then brutally attacked Booker T afterward. It gave Booker T a reason to get his knee operated on to make a comeback for the future. Stevie Ray would challenge Scott Steiner for a career match, to which, Ray lost. He would return, but then disappear again once Bischoff came back to run WCW, again.
Booker T only saw success during the final days of Bischoff once the WWF bought WCW off of Time Warner/AOL. Only then did Booker T defeat Rick Steiner for the US Title, and weeks later, beating his brother Scott Steiner for the World Title on the final edition of Nitro ever. Booker T had to now decide whether to make easy money by sitting on his ass while the Time Warner/AOL contract is still legal, or make a name for himself in the wrestling business by accepting a buyout to join the WWF.
With pride on his shoulder, Booker T took the buyout and had his sights set on coming to the WWF. His first night was at the King of the Ring 2001, where he attacked Steve Austin in his match against Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho. Austin actually sustained injuries from the table attack Booker T did, and it was feared that Booker T's early WWF career could be in trouble.
Booker T's debut was the beginning of the attempts to make WCW a good product again, and the WWF tried booking a Booker T vs. Buff Bagwell match on RAW. Buff performed poorly, and damaged any chance of WCW rising in the WWF. The WWF would later have to resort to making ECW invading the WWF, too, and form WCW and ECW as the "Alliance". Booker T, as a key member of the Alliance, would go on to feud with Kurt Angle, losing the WCW title the first time in the WWF (Tito was there!) and the Rock, which went for 2 Pay Per Views, where Booker T never saw his WCW World Title ever again.
Booker T wasn't much of a factor in the Alliance for a while, especially when Steve Austin joined and hogged all of the spotlight. The only success Booker would later find was teaming with Test, where they won both the WWF and WCW World Tag titles. Booker T was part of the Alliance team at Survivor Series 2001, where the Alliance was forced to disband. Booker T has apparently made his way back into the WWF by doing some evil deeds for Vince McMahon.
Please check out Coolbean's Booker T Site by CLICKING HERE. Coolbeans is the biggest Booker T fan on the planet, and a good friend of mine. So with that, check out his great site!
NEWS ORGY: More Crazy Stuff with Eminem and Elton John at the Grammys, and News that Doesn't Mean Squat. So CLICK HERE to Join the Orgy!!!
Wrestle Palooza Audio Show
LoP T-Shirts: NEW STUFF IN STOCK! Mouse Pads, Sweat Shirts, Coffee Mugs, more T-Shirts, Baby Doll shirts, and more! Also, you can now order via Credit Card!
@Holy cow! I didn't expect to write something for that long. Oh well, it's Booker T, so we'll let it slide. :) I'll be back tomorrow with some No Way Out hype, and yet another NEW PDC feature to debut on Sundays. Just lovely, eh?
BAN THE LEGDROP! BAN THE LEGDROP!!!!!!!
Take Care, and Thanks for Reading.
New York/New Jersey Hitmen (0-3) vs. Chicago Enforcers (0-3)
Birmingham Thunderbolts (2-1) vs. Orlando Rage (3-0)
**Oddly enough, the NY/NJ vs. Chicago game will have the team of Jim Ross and Jesse Ventura, despite both teams having losing records instead of the better divisional battle on the other game. But Chicago and the New York area have larger TV markets, so the XFL is hoping to actually improve in the ratings this week on NBC.
If the ratings drop again, expect the shit to totally hit the fan.