Q&A with WWE Hall of Famer Booker T

Cody Dalton
Sports Editor

The Hickory Crawdads welcomed WWE Hall of Famer Booker T for its annual “Wrestling Night” on Saturday at L.P. Frans Stadium.

Booker T, a 35-time wrestling champion and six-time World Heavyweight champion, is currently an analyst for WWE.

During Saturday’s Hickory Crawdads game, O-N-E Sports Editor Cody Dalton had an exclusive one-on-one interview with Booker T on a number of topics. Below are his responses:

CD: What are you most proud of in your wrestling career?

BT: “Finishing it more than anything. Being able to go through it and have that kind of experience. I don’t think just one thing in the wrestling business stands out to me. Certain matches of course — (Chris) Benoit versus Booker T. That’s something that put me on the map as far as a wrestler goes, as a performer goes and as a guy who may have the potential to be a quality champion perhaps one day. Just being able to have the experience of going around the world, seeing so many different cultures, meeting so many different interesting people and seeing so many different interesting things. Coming from South Park in Houston, Texas, I never even knew the names of a lot of the places that I went to. It was definitely an experience I would not take for granted at all.”

CD: In WWE, they are talking about this being “The New Era.” Who do you see out there wrestling now that you think will be the next big star in your business?

BT: “I think it’s going to be more than just one guy. WWE finally opened up the door to the independent world, letting those guys come in and show exactly what they have. I’ve always thought there was a lot of untapped talent out in the independent world. They weren’t the prototypical WWE Superstar, but maybe they are the ‘People’s Champion.’ I think now with guys that have been around like (Finn) Bálor, who has been around a long time. Kevin Owens, Neville — those guys have been around a really long time. You’ve got guys like Bobby Roode, Samoa Joe, (Austin) Aries and guys like that who are getting a chance to come in, as well. They get a chance to perform on the big stage. You see A.J. Styles doing very, very well since he finally got a shot at going out there and performing. You actually see a guy who has pretty much a Southern accent, can get on the microphone and deliver a good promo. There’s going to be a lot of guys actually that are going to be coming up. I feel like the business is in good hands for the years to come, the Wrestlemanias to come and the pay per views to come.”

CD: I know you’re a 2013 WWE Hall of Famer. Is there anybody that you would like to see in the WWE Hall of Fame with you?

BT: “Definitely, I want to see my brother (Stevie Ray) go in. I think my brother is deserving of being a Hall of Famer. I think Harlem Heat — our tag team — was deserving of being in the Hall of Fame, as well. That’s one thing that we’ll wait and see if it happens. We aren’t going to lose any sleep over it or anything like that, but we definitely would like to see that happen.”

CD: Are you an avid sports fan of any specific team or any specific sport?

BT: “As far as sports, I’m a sports buff — more fighting than anything. I love boxing. I love MMA (mixed martial arts). I love to cover it. I talk about it on my radio show a lot. Baseball has been kind of dismal. It’s been bleak in Houston for many, many years. It’s been dark as far as baseball goes. As far as basketball goes, since 1996 we haven’t smelt not even a remnants of a championship in Houston. Our football team is what it is. J.J. Watt is a great player, but he has no help. I love sports. Right now, the Olympics are going on, and I’m definitely tuned into the Olympics and being able to see stuff that you will remember where you were when you saw it. I’m a huge sports fan.”

CD: You mentioned your love of MMA. The big thing with wrestling and MMA right now is UFC fighter Conor McGregor putting down wrestling. Some people thinks its for business. What’s your whole take on that?

BT: “We’ve got the Cruiserweight Classic going on. Conor McGregor would fit in that Cruiserweight Classic. He’s not a big guy or anything. I think Conor McGregor has put out some inflammatory tweets I guess and got everybody all riled up. More importantly, I think Conor should just concentrate on his fight that he has coming up with Nate Diaz.Why is he not tweeting to Nate Diaz? Why is he not talking about him? Why is he not trying to make him upset? There’s got to be a reason. I think that’s what he needs to think about more than anything.”

CD: Your signature celebration — the “Spinaroonie” — has become iconic. How did that come to be and what do you think about how it’s taken off?

BT: “When I first started in the wrestling business back in 1990 in a practice session, I actually was just messing around and did it by accident. It’s pretty much stuck with me ever since the beginning of my wrestling career. I got my wrestling debut and break in the Global Wrestling Federation back in 1991. I got a chance to actually do it on television on ESPN. I saw how it worked. It was something that just seemed to be part of me. Being a break dancer when I was a kid and a street dancer and a pop locker, I grew up watching ‘The Lockers,’ which were the dance group from back in the day. They always made me want to entertain. I think bringing the ‘Spinaroonie’ to the wrestling world was just part of my way of bringing a little bit of entertainment with me at the same time.”

CD: You have a real “rags to riches” story. What advice would you give a kid that maybe is in the same situation you were in growing up?

BT: “Just never believe that you can’t. Never let someone tell that you can’t. Always know there is light at the end of the tunnel. You’ve just got to keep walking until you get there. Life is going to be hardest thing you ever have to deal with. You just have to look straight ahead and take it all.”

CD: Do you come around the Carolinas very often?

BT: “Lately I’ve been in the Carolina area doing signings and stuff like that. The Carolinas are huge as far as wrestling goes. I’ve been coming through the Carolinas for many, many years. Back in the WCW days, it was pretty much one of my stops on the map yearly. I’ve definitely got ties to the Carolinas. Ric Flair, of course, being a Carolina boy. I love the area.”

CD: I know you have a wrestling school in Texas — “Reality of Wrestling.” After giving your talent as a wrestler, talk about giving back to the business and teaching now.

BT: “That’s something I always wanted to do. When I first got in the wrestling business and when I first went to wrestling school, I paid $3,000 to go to a school that was for only eight weeks. I just didn’t think that was right even then. I got my foot in the door, and I made it with a lot of luck and God blessing me with a little bit of talent, but I just knew that wasn’t the right way. So one day I said I’m going to open up a wrestling school, teach these guys the right way and try to give them a half of a chance of making it if this is something that they want to do. I can only give them a half a chance of making it. Everybody is not going to make it to the WWE, of course. Even with my wrestling company, we can still take them on a journey.”

CD: Is there a match in you’ve wrestled that sticks out to you as the match of your career?

BT: “No. I never really looked at matches like that. Wrestling has always just been a performance. That’s the only thing that they have been. The matches are for the fans to remember. I didn’t really have the time to think about the matches when I was doing them because I always wrestled for the fan to have the memory, not for myself.”

CD: Is there anybody that you really loved to wrestle? Is there a guy you were anxious to get in the ring with every time?

BT: “Nah. There’s never been a guy like that. It was never like that for me. Wrestling was never like that for me. The only thing that mattered for me honestly was the performance and how good I can go out and do it every night and how long I could last in the business. Wrestling has always been just a job for me. I’ve never been a person that wants people to look at me. I’m just the same person I’ve always been. It’s always just been a job for me, but I always wanted to be the best at my job. I wanted to perform the best at my job. I go back and look at it sometimes now and check stuff out on the (WWE) Network. My kids want to pull something up and see it. I look at it and go ‘oh, that was pretty good.’ I never really thought about that when I was doing it. I just knew I wanted to be the best.”

CD: What’s harder — wrestling, teaching someone to wrestling or being a commentator in WWE?

BT: “Probably commentating. That’s why I’m an analyst now. That’s why I’m not commentating anymore. I’m just an analyst on the Kickoff Show on the pay per views. I like being an analyst. Being able to go out there and talk about Zack Ryder from a commentary perspective, there may be some rough patches, but to be able to analyze Zack Ryder — him being a guy that’s been in WWE for over 10 years, a guy that’s been a journeyman, a guy that’s been trying to crack through that glass ceiling and it just doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to happen for him. Maybe he should retire. Maybe he should just go away. I can do that.”