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Интервю с Booker T


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Booker T. Huffman is a man that has been through it all and had an incredible journey. His true story should be called From Prison to Prominence: The Booker T. Story. Hell, the guy just went on the wrong path once and could have ended up in jail 5-99 years. But the dude persevered. He didn't just get out of prison and become a huge wrestling star, known all over the world. He didn't just become one of the most decorated champions in wrestling history. You see, Booker T. Huffman got out of jail and never looked back. Most importantly, Booker became a better man.

I was lucky enough to sit down with former WCW/WWE World Heavyweight Champion to discuss his WCW, WWE, and TNA runs, trials and tribulations, as well as the charity work he and his wife Sharmell participate in. It's certainly an interview you don't want to miss.

TSC: When did you become a wrestling fan?

Booker: I've pretty much been a wrestling fan my entire life. Houston wrestling was very popular here in Texas. Paul Boesch was the promoter down here and also a former wrestler himself. I watched it on television a lot, but I wasn't one of those kids that dreamed of becoming a wrestler. Some kids dream about being a professional wrestler their whole lives. I wasn't like that, but I did watch it on television all the time. Saturday night and Sunday mornings are when they would air. Junkyard Dog (JYD) was my favorite wrestler.

TSC: You said you didn't want to be a wrestler when you first watched it on TV. When did you decide you actually wanted to be a wrestler?

Booker: Well, it wasn't a decision of something I originally wanted to do. It was an avenue I decided to pursue early on. It was something my brother Stevie Ray really wanted to do. I didn't want to actually become a wrestler until I went to wrestling school in 1990. Ivan Putski opened up a wrestling school in the area and held an eight week course. I went in with my $3,000 and when I came out, I felt like wrestling was something I was meant to do.

TSC: So Stevie Ray was the one that pushed you to get into wrestling?

Booker: I wouldn't say he necessarily pushed me. It's something where we used to pretend that we were wrestlers as little kids, but never thought about being wrestlers. Maybe my brother did more. My brother thought about that when he was growing up a lot more than I did because he'd go to the Sam Houston Coliseum to watch wrestling. It was something he started out doing himself by working out and bodybuilding, but I never thought about it like that.

TSC: Your past problems have been well-documented. How did you get through your trials and tribulations to become who you are today?

Booker: Just believing in myself, knowing I didn't want to be one of the kids still on the corner, 20 years later drinking a 40 oz.—never seeing what life was really all about. I always felt like I was going to be one of those kids that got to see the world. Having faith. I had some good people around me as a kid too. I went to prison at age 20 and then coming out, people believed in me and didn't categorize me as someone that was a bad kid. Having somebody believe in you gives a whole lot of motivation.

TSC: Besides going to Ivan Putski's wrestling school, how did you get your first major break in the business?

Booker: My brother and I went to a show in Amarillo, TX. It took us 18 hours to get to the show from Houston because the weather was so bad. We ended up meeting Skandor Akbar. He ran a promotion down in Dallas called the Global Wrestling Federation (GWF). He saw me work and said “I need to get you guys to come work for me one day.” That was the beginning. Going to the GWF and being seen on ESPN Monday through Friday every week was great exposure, as far as being seen on TV on a worldwide stage, even if we didn't get paid that much. That was the beginning [precursor] of my WCW run.

TSC: Thoughts on your WCW run: When you became WCW World Heavyweight Champion at Bash at the Beach 2000 (by defeating Jeff Jarrett), how long before that match did you were going to with title?

Booker: I knew I was scheduled to wrestle for the title, but there was a lot of chaos that day.

[Editor's note: WCW Bash at The Beach 2000 is infamous for being Hulk Hogan's last appearance with the company and then-head writer Vince Russo publicly bashing The Hulkster live on pay-per-view. And Hogan pinned Jarrett for the WCW Title when Double J um...laid down. Then Russo made the match between Jarrett and Booker T. for the “real” WCW Title and the rest is history. Confusing, right? And you wonder why Vince Russo gets bashed. At least he rightfully gave Booker T. the strap...]

TSC: I can imagine!

Booker: It was chaos backstage with the promoters, Hulk Hogan, and what not. I didn't know I was actually going to wrestle for the WCW Title until 10 minutes before the match (laughs).

TSC: What was it like when you accomplished your dream and finally ascended to the top by winning the World Heavyweight Championship?

Booker: Well I won't necessarily say it was a dream. I never really wrestled to win titles or anything like that. I always felt that with being a good wrestler that titles just come with being a pretty good worker. Although, fulfilling the goal of becoming champion was great because it was something I thought that would never happen. Being in that company for so many years, the thought never went through my head of winning the WCW Championship. When it happened, it was not only a great moment for myself, but for a lot of people that watched me and looked up to me. It was special for a lot of minorities to see that if Booker T. could do it, then they could do it too.

TSC: Did you enjoy being a singles star more or tagging with Stevie Ray as Harlem Heat?

Booker: Both of those runs were gratifying. Being a tag team wrestler with my brother was really good. Him being able to watch my back was good because wrestling is a cutthroat business and someone could stab you in the back in a heartbeat. If you don't have somebody that can watch your back, it can get pretty cold out there. The success my brother and I had as 10-time WCW World Tag Team Champions was great. Also, we came from the GWF and won the tag titles there, so there were a lot of great moments I had being a part of Harlem Heat. Singles wrestling was just as gratifying. To go out there and have the best matches with Chris Benoit in in Best of Seven Series for the WCW Television Title was great. And then to go on to win so many titles, those moments were just as gratifying. But you know, I don't put my singles or tag team career over the other. It's like saying you like Ne-Yo more than Babyface. Both of then give you instant gratification.

[Editor's Note: Booker T. is a Ne-Yo and Babyface fan. His great taste in music gives me more reasons to like him as we speak! Sorry about that. Back to the interview....]

TSC: (Laughs) Were the politics in WCW as bad as everybody says?

Booker: Politics is going to be in every workplace. I never played the political game. I kind of just let my talents speak for themselves when I worked above and beyond everybody else. Politics came into play as far as job security goes, but I always felt like if you were talented, you didn't have to worry about that. I just also went out and performed and let everything else play itself out. I never got into the politics game.

TSC: Thoughts on your WWE run: What went right and what went wrong?

Booker: I don't think anything went wrong. I had a great WWE run. It was a long run—seven years straight of wrestling without any breaks. That can be really, really hard on you as far as your body goes. It can mentally break you. That's why a lot of WCW guys didn't make it in WWE because they weren't prepared. They may have been physically, but if you're not mentally prepared, that schedule could wear on you, chew you up, and spit you back out. I had a lot of great moments in WWE: winning the World Title, becoming the Champion of Champions (defeating then-ECW Champion The Big Show and then-WWE Champion John Cena at Cyber Sunday 2006, in a match in which King Booker's World Heavyweight Championship was on the line). I had a lot of great moments with Goldust, as well as my “Stone Cold” Steve Austin episodes. I had a lot of great moments in WWE. I wouldn't say there was anything bad about it at all.

TSC: Do you think WWE waited too long to give you the World Heavyweight Title? Besides Great American Bash 2006, the last time you had won the Big Gold Belt was 2001. Do you feel as though you should have won it from Triple H at WrestleMania XIX in 2003?

Booker: A lot of people ask me that question on whether I should have won the title at WrestleMania XIX against Triple H. I always say “Everything happens for a reason.” I was totally cool going out there and putting Triple H over, but more importantly, I just wanted to go out there and have the best match on the card and I really think we did that. We went out there and put in a lot of effort. I did walk away without the title that night, but when I finally did win it [from Rey Mysterio at Great American Bash 2006 as King Booker], it was perfect timing for me. Should I have won it before? Who knows, but when I did win it, it was perfect timing for me. Like I said before, coming out the Champion of Champions, before that winning the King of The Ring and then becoming World Champion—that just put me in a category that no wrestler is in as far as what I accomplished [during that run as King Booker]. Even now, after it's all over with, people are going to remember that more than anything. It was perfect timing. Should I have won the title earlier? That's really not for me to say.

TSC: What brand did you like more? Raw or Smackdown?

Booker: I had a much better time on Smackdown. It was a lot more relaxed. You could make some mistakes on Smackdown that you couldn't make on Raw. Raw was a brand that was definitely more cutthroat. You got to be totally on your game and mistake free. Backstage in Smackdown was a lot more chilled out and relaxed, so I guess I can say I preferred Smackdown.

TSC: Thoughts on your TNA run: You had a pretty good couple of years. Why did it abruptly end?

Booker: Well I felt like I had been in TNA for two years and I really only had three angles [as a singles wrestler]. I did the whole Main Event Mafia thing [as a stable], but I'm not a behind the scenes player. I'm a frontrunner. I like to be out there doing my thing. I never really got a chance to work with guys I really wanted to wrestle like Sting and Kurt Angle. I wanted to be right in the middle of things. After two years of waiting [for a major singles angle outside of the Main Event Mafia], I got a little frustrated and felt like it was time to move on. The company was good to me. I just didn't like the writing. After Jeff Jarrett left and Dutch Mantell was let go, they really had no wrestling minds in the office writing the show. The show was being written from a writer's perspective and I just thought that it was a big mistake. I just didn't want my career to go down in the tubes and for my legacy to end up with writer's pen dictating it.

TSC: It's very interesting you say that because that brings me to my next question. I hate to say it, but TNA kind of reminds me of WCW from what I've read, between Hulk Hogan signing on and saying he's going to fire all the writers to Dixie Carter sending Jeff Jarrett home. I feel like there's no transparency and that nobody really knows who is in charge, much like in WCW. Towards the end of you TNA run, did you notice that at all?

Booker: When Jeff Jarrett left, it became a whole lot different. Jeff was let go and there was no real focus [after that] on what the wrestlers needed and more of a focus on what was good for the writers. The wrestlers had to just go out there and do what the writers said. I felt like that wasn't the right formula. It should be the wrestlers and the writers working together to make the company bigger and better. Now Hulk Hogan is coming in saying he's going to fire the writers and going to be in charge. It could get a lot better, but I think success can come with the writers and the wrestlers working in conjunction to create a show. And I think that's what's missing. I think that's what TNA is going to be needing a lot more of [going forward].

TSC: I personally enjoyed them, but I have to ask you. What was the deal with all the accents in TNA? My personal favorite was Wolfman Jack.

Booker: Well there were five Wolfman Jacks. It was part Wolfman Jack, part something else. I'm a performer and an entertainer. I don't just go out there and entertain for the wrestling fans. I want to go out there in Los Angeles and do movies. I want people to see me in movies and see my range [in talent]. I don't want to be typecast as just a wrestler. I want to be seen as an entertainer. I want to be seen as someone that can be an entertainer in the wrestling world, as well as the silver screen world. When I'm out there, I'm hoping some director, producer, or anybody in the Screen Actors Guild is looking at me and sees someone they can use in a project.

TSC: What character did you like being more: Booker T. or King Booker?

Booker: Booker T. is a guy that's self-contained. A guy that's a self-made man. He's from the streets and a man of the people. King Booker was royalty. He was Camelot. I was like Barney. I had a chance to act and be somebody totally different. You saw me with a British accent. You see me with a Jamaican accent. Like you said, you see me with a Wolfman Jack accent. My thing is just about playing a role. I like playing roles. I like going out there and entertaining people in whatever aspect it may be. King Booker was great. A lot of people hated it. A lot of kids loved it. It's like they saw a cartoon character come to life and perform. It was a great run. King Booker could have ran for a whole lot longer, but you got to know when to “hold 'em and when to fold 'em,” as they say.

TSC: Was your partnership with Goldust some of the weirdest and funniest things you've ever been apart of or does nothing top your supermarket brawl with Steve Austin?

Booker: I think the Goldust stuff tops that. Goldust and I were two guys that WWE thought would never become as popular as we did [as a tag team]. Goldust and Booker T. was just one character totally mixed with another. Each was totally different, but we made it work and that was the challenging part. For myself to go out there make it work, it was challenging. But people loved the entertainment value they were being given. In the end, when we broke up, a lot of fans actually cried because they didn't want to see Booker T. and Goldust end. We fulfilled what we were trying to do and that was to just go out and create entertainment for the fans with what little that we had and I think we pulled it off. We played off each other's characters and were able to make fun of ourselves. I think the Goldust-Booker T. tag team tops the Steve Austin stuff by far.

TSC: Who is one person in WWE you wish you could have faced, but didn't?

Booker: The only person I feel like I haven't wrestled is Shawn Michaels. Shawn Michaels is a great talent. I feel like he's one of the greatest of all-time as far as storytelling goes. The fans really buy into what he does. He's not one of those guys that just flies all over the place. He actually brings a whole lot of drama into the ring. At the beginning of the match, fans may not know what they're watching, but at the end of it, they're on the edge of their seats. I feel like Shawn Michaels is perhaps, one of, if not the greatest talent that ever put on a pair of boots. He's the one guy I never got a chance to mix it up with.

TSC: Who is your greatest inspiration in the ring and out of the ring?

Booker: In the ring, I don't have a whole lot of inspirational guys I looked up to as far as that form of it is concerned. Probably Undertaker. Undertaker is a really good friend. He's one of those guys that took me in when I came to WWE. He's a guy I respect to the utmost. Out of the ring, Muhammad Ali has always been my greatest inspiration. He was a guy that defied all the odds. People tried to say things to bring him down, but when they saw him light the Olympic torch years ago, a lot of people cried and felt a whole lot differently about him. Muhammad Ali is my greatest inspiration.

TSC: Elijah Burke said that WWE can't seem to push more than one black wrestler at a time. What are your thoughts on that quote and do you feel like there aren't enough African American wrestlers?

Booker: That question has been asked to me several times. The way I always look at it is this. When I came up in the neighborhood, wrestling wasn't our way out. It was always football, basketball, selling drugs, or something like that. We didn't gravitate towards wrestling. I think that's why there's a lack of abundance of black wrestlers. I have a wrestling school and only one student is black. That's why I say that. As far as WWE pushing one black wrestler at a time, maybe they only one black wrestler good enough to be pushed (laughs). So I really don't fault the company for not having enough black wrestlers—and black wrestlers that can perform.

TSC: Who is your favorite opponent? Least favorite?

Booker: My favorite opponent was Chris Benoit. We always beat each other up and had great matches together. My least favorite opponent is probably Finlay. Not because he is a bad performer or anything like that. Finlay is a brawler and you may have a plan to go one way in a match and he'll totally change it up on you (laughs). He kicks you in the back as hard as he can, so those would probably be my two guys, but Finlay's a great wrestler.

TSC: Any thoughts on WWE's current product?

Booker: I feel like you got to tap into every area, which is why they're doing the guest hosts and catering to kids. In this economy, you got to do what you got to do to bring in more viewers. If you can bring in more viewers in the acting world or from any side, I feel like you should try to tap into it. I feel like it's just a product of the economy right now and they're trying to do what's necessary to keep attendance up.

TSC: Your WWE run ended abruptly before you went to TNA. Is the door open for you to return to WWE?

Booker: It's something we've talked about. I know one thing. I don't want to work 180 days a year anymore. I don't want to work at that pace anymore. I'm sure WWE is another avenue for me [down the road]. I've never burned any bridges. There was a lot of stuff on the Internet about me having a bad attitude towards the end of my run, but I'm sure if you ask the wrestlers, none of those guys would say that.

TSC: Now that you're on the independent circuit, can we expect a Harlem Heat reunion or is permanently Stevie Ray retired?

Booker: My brother is retired. He retired back in 2000. One thing I always say is “never say never,” especially in wrestling. I'm just doing some freelancing. I'm working at my pace and taking bookings from that aspect. But I always say “never say never.”

TSC: Back in 2006 during your U.S. Title feud with Chris Benoit, you had a chance to do some commentary for WWE and received a lot of positive reviews. Is that something you could see yourself doing down the road?

Booker: Definitely. I'm sure if I do go back to WWE, it would be in a commentary role just because I don't want to work a full schedule. When I was Black Snow in TNA, I got good reviews. I know where I'm at and I want to be some place where I know that. One thing about me: I've never been fired from any wrestling company. I always go out and do my job. So you might see me back one day in a commentary role.

TSC: Who is your favorite wrestler to watch and who do you think is the best right now (besides yourself)?

Booker: It's hard to say who's the best wrestler. There's been a lot of great matches from some talented guys. I look at a guy like AJ Styles, who I enjoyed working with and helping him perfect his wrestling game and taking it up another level. Then there's Samoa Joe, who's a good friend of mine. I actually enjoy watching him when he's at the top of his game and TNA lets him do what he does best and that's just beat somebody up. It's hard to say who I really like watching right now at this stage of the game because I don't watch a whole lot of it. I'm always thinking a lot more about my wrestling school, my students, who will be the next Booker T. from there, and next big superstar. I really don't watch a whole lot of wrestling these days.

TSC: I know you opened up Booker T.'s Pro Wrestling Alliance (PWA) School a few years back. What's one message you try to preach to your students?

Booker: One message I always tell my students is “If you can't make it in the locker room, then you can't make it in the ring.” It's very, very simple. You could be one of the greatest up-and-comers, but if you have a bad attitude and you don't have the loyalty and respect of the business, then you won't make it. You got to have that.

TSC: You do a great deal of charity work. Can you tell us about the Booker T. Fights For Kids Foundation?

Booker: It's all about keeping kids on the right track, going to schools and talking to them. Little kids that are wrestling fans will see Booker T., but they don't know my story until I tell them in my lectures. I tell them my story as far as what I went through. I don't sugarcoat it. I came from a single parent household. My mother passed away when I was real young. I got into trouble with the law, but I let them know they can still come out of that situation and make something of their lives. Most importantly, I talk to kids about education and what it really means. I always tell them to watch the news and see what's really happening in the world. That way they can see what happened to them. I got in trouble one time in my life and ended up going to prison. I could have gone to prison 5-99 years and it was my first time ever making a [real] mistake in my life. I just make sure the kids are wise and smart enough to know better and inquire things about life. Sometimes I'll take kids to my wrestling school. Some of them won't have money and we'll still take them in. We teach them how to be young men and young ladies. It's just really [teaching them] about life situations more than anything.

TSC: What's next in the immediate future of Booker T. Huffman?

Booker: Like I said, I have an agent in Hollywood, so I'm going to do some stuff there. As far as my wrestling career goes, I'm going to Puerto Rico on January 6. I'm wrestling for IWA. That will be my first wrestling match back since leaving TNA. I plan on going to Spain. I plan on going to Africa and do some work over there. I want to teach not just in Houston, but around the country. If people can't come to me, then I'll come to them. I still have a lot in my plate. I still have a lot I want to do. Don't count me out as far seeing me back on TV wrestling again.

Аудио: http://www.mediafire.com/?4d3nofwl2hz

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