August 16, 2003
Final chapter for Booker T?
By TJ MADIGAN
I honestly can\'t remember the last time a WWE championship changed hands at an untelevised house show.
Well, I guess there was that ridiculous string of hardcore title switches a couple of years ago but that doesn\'t count since the hardcore strap was just a token belt with a pointless lineage that wasn\'t even acknowledged on television.
No, when it comes to the \'real\' title belts in wrestling -- the WWE, world, intercontinental, U.S. and tag-team championships -- the changing of the guard has always been reserved for shows where the TV cameras are rolling and those nice folks at Nielsen Media Research are counting the viewers.
There have, of course, been a number of notable exceptions to that rule over the years.
There was Edge winning the intercontinental title from Jeff Jarrett at a house show in Toronto in 1999, a last-minute decision by wrestling bosses to give Adam Copeland\'s home-town crowd a moment to remember.
Then there was the Rockers\' only tag title win over the Hart Foundation in 1990, which was controversially overturned by then-WWF president Jack Tunney and never acknowledged on television.
And, of course, there was Bret Hart\'s shocking world title win over Ric Flair at a non-televised card in Saskatoon in 1992, the beginning of a series of events that would turn The Hitman from a star to a superstar.
Last weekend, another house-show belt switch was added to that list and, while it probably won\'t compare in terms of historic relevance, it certainly came as just as much of a surprise.
Midway through the non-televised event in Des Moines, Iowa, on Sunday night, Christian and Booker T duked it out in a short intercontinental championship tilt.
Most people expected the match to end when Booker (Robert Huffman) went for an axe-kick finisher but, instead, collapsed on the mat.
Christian quickly hit him with the Unprettier and cleanly pinned the Houston native to raise the intercontinental championship.
The fans in attendance waited for the inevitable Dusty Finish, or at least some kind of reversed decision, but neither came. Christian walked out of Memorial Auditorium as the new (and completely unexpected) IC champ.
When I got the e-mail on Sunday night letting me know the title had just changed hands at an Iowa house show, my first reaction was disbelief. When the report was confirmed, I figured maybe the WWE was finally adding an \'anything can happen\' feeling to house shows.
Sadly, I don\'t think this is a new promotional initiative for non-televised events.
To cut a long story short, Booker T is hurt. Badly. He\'s actually been suffering from this particular injury (believed to be a problem with his back or spine) since his WCW days and he reportedly aggravated it in a big way on the Australian tour last month.
The WWE obviously felt it would be safer, from a ring-quality standpoint and for Booker\'s own well-being, to have him drop the strap on a non-televised show with no pressure to produce a TV-quality match or to take stiffer bumps for the cameras.
Talking to the Sun a few months ago, Booker T said he only expected to spend another year or two in the wrestling biz before he hung up his boots for good.
Sadly, he may be forced to bring that retirement date forward. Even though some reports suggest he could be back in action in eight months, there\'s a good chance the injury spell the end of his career.