Enjoy some memorable lines delivered by the always-entertaining WWE star, who talked to us about his mistakes in life, wrestling being “fake”, and Shawn Michaels
Being in showbiz means you better articulate well.
That doesn’t ring truer than in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), the multi-million-dollar wrestling promotion that popularised the term “sports-entertainment”.
Its shows are often marked by as much talking (usually of the trash type) as there are actual bouts, with wrestlers entertaining the crowd while driving the storyline through their gift of the gab.
Undoubtedly one of the best at it was recent hall-of-famer Booker T, who flew into Malaysia and Singapore last week to publicise WWE. He met Singapore fans at Bugis+ mall after speaking to 31 kids from the StarHub-Central Singapore Nurture Programme as WWE’s childhood literacy ambassador.
Click through the gallery for photos of Booker T in Singapore and why he is a “quotable” sports-entertainer. Read on for the rest of the story.
Remembered for being brash, aggressive but also comical in his wrestling days, Booker, whose full name is Booker Tio Huffman Jr, revealed his gentler side when he read to the children excerpts of Jacqueline Wilson’s “Buried Alive”, a book about bullying.
“I ran up against racism, bullying, so many different things,” the dreadlocked 48-year-old said.
“Myself being a troubled youth, going through school not having that direction, not capitalizing on the opportunity of free education, more than anything.
“I’ve been through it and know how important education is to fall back on, for young kids to finish the journey, go to college, change the world, create a better future for the next generation.”
Booker, the most decorated man in the history of World Championship Wrestling (WCW), the rival promotion that was bought over in 2001, was orphaned at 14, jailed 19 months for felony, and a single parent. That is why the topic of youths is close to his heart.
“I go to schools, I go to prisons, talk to inmates who are going to be released. Hopefully they can come out and change their lives.”
And if there’s one regret, instead of jail time, Booker pointed to his relationship with his first son.
“I was on the road a whole lot. I was a single parent. He was staying with my sister a lot. I lost focus, I lost track, when I thought I was doing the right thing, trying to make a living for him. At the same time I was losing him because I wasn’t there as much as I should have.”
But despite playing a villain – or “heel” in wrestling jargon – for most of his career, Booker surprisingly said he has not met much misconception of him as a person.
“I’ve pretty much been an open book. I’ve let everybody know exactly what I’m all about. Everybody knows my background, the trouble I’ve gotten into and whatnot.
“When I leave here and go home, I’m just ‘dad’, no big star at home or anything like that. I don’t look at myself like other people look at me.”
Furthermore, he believes WWE’s fictional plot could actually be an educational tool.
“The only way you can look at wrestling is it’s entertainment. If it wasn’t, the bullying would be real (laughs). Because it’s not, it sends a message. It shows what bullying really is, when a guy like [three-time world champion] Daniel Bryan goes out and beats the bully up, it says you don’t have to lay down and accept bullying. Even a guy as small as Daniel Bryan (he is 95kg and 1.78m), he overcomes.”
He also defended its entertainment value, recalling the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the process.
“Everybody knows what wrestling is, but it’s our job, the good wrestlers, like Shawn Michaels, to go out there and suspend the fans’ imagination, release all their issues. And the guy’s not getting killed, not going to the hospital. That’s what WWE is and I’m glad [owner] Vince McMahon made it public many, many years ago just so fans don’t have to keep thinking.
“But WrestleMania keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger every year because fans want to be entertained. After 9/11 we were in Houston my hometown, probably one of the best shows I’ve done. The fans came out and got a chance to stop thinking about what was going on in the world for just that one moment and be entertained.”
Booker’s numerous mentions of Michaels, Bryan and other wrestling stars he has worked with across a 23-year career threw up the inevitable question – who, in the eyes of this six-time world champion and 15-time world tag team champion, was the ultimate wrestler?
“The Heartbreak Kid” (Michaels’ nickname), according to Booker.
“Greatest wrestler perhaps to ever put on the pair of boots.
“He’s not the biggest guy, but when you think about Shawn Michaels you don’t think about how big he is, you just go ‘Shawn Michaels’, you know what I mean?
“Every time you watch him in the ring, you go ‘wow’, you can’t wait to see what he’s going to do next. He didn’t do a whole lot of things that were over the top, he just made you feel a certain way when you watched him, and you left that arena shaking your head wondering ‘man I can’t wait to see Shawn Michaels go again’.
“So I say definitely one of the fish that got away from me, because I never got a chance to wrestle [him].”
Among those Booker did wrestle with, it was tougher to pick the best opponent.
“It’s really hard to say. My most fun opponent that I liked working with throughout my career was Rey Mysterio, just because it’s Rey, and he’s so graceful at everything he does. And it was always a good match for me because I could pick him up over my head. Him and I always had a really good chemistry.
“Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho too. The list goes on and on. My thing was to just go out and try to measure up to my peers. Coming from WCW, I was always kind of looked down upon for many, many years until I finally gained their respect.”
Click on to find out how quotable a personality Booker T was in our 15 minutes with him!
Catch WWE on StarHub TV’s SuperSports (channel 202).