Booker T to play two more years
New school, new wife current focus of Smackdown! star
JASON CLEVETT -- SLAM! Wrestling
|From the archives: Harlem Heat, Stevie Ray & Booker T
Life is great when you're Booker T. The Smackdown! superstar recently married long-time girlfriend Sharmell Sullivan (who was Paisley in WCW), opened a wrestling school in Houston, Texas with brother Stevie Ray, and is looking forward to the final two years of his in-ring career.
"I recently renewed my contract," Booker told the popular show Wrestletalk Radio recently. "I
tried to sign for just one more year but the company believed in me enough to ask me to sign for
two, so I will definitely be on your TV for two more years."
It has been an interesting -- and at times controversial -- ride for Booker, who came to WWE after WCW
folded. He still remembers the final Nitro in Panama City, Florida.
"The atmosphere was somber and a lot of guys were sad that it was all coming to an end. It was
the end of an era. It was something special for myself because I got to fulfill my dreams in
another way, I always wondered how I would do in WWE and I knew that my chance had come. I was
happy and sad at the same time. I was the United States champion going in and won the World Title
from Scott Steiner that night so it was a great night for me in that aspect. To work with Scott
to end it was cool, we had a lot of history together, Harlem Heat had a lot of matches with The
Steiner Brothers so to do it with Scott meant a lot."
While he misses WCW, his run with WWE has been enjoyable, with the highlight being his three
appearances at Wrestlemania against Edge, Triple H and a four corners tag title defence with Rob Van Dam.
"Being part of Wrestlemania is something every wrestler wants to do regardless of where you are.
Working in WCW when 'Mania came around you wished you were there. I really enjoyed watching the
promos and the big build ups and wondered what it would be like, I wished for one of them for
myself. When I did the feud with Triple H it was unbelievable to go out (at Wrestlemania XIX) and
wrestle for the title and take the people on a rollercoaster ride. It didn't go that way my night
and was something I wouldn't trade for the world."
Booker has settled down however and is focusing on interests outside of the ring in addition to
his career. Marrying Sharmell was one of the best days of his life.
"We were together for five years, lived together and then got married. It wasn't one of those
Cinderella stories, we fell in love right away but we didn't fall into a relationship and get
married, we wanted to make sure it was right before we got married. In the business it can be
lonely, especially at the top. The night I won the WCW title I was so beat up and tired I was in
my hotel room, I had the belt with me and no one to celebrate with. People imagine everything is
great and lovely, but at the time I was the WCW champion it was a lonely time, my relationship
was in chaos. To have my wife with me to share it now is pretty cool."
Booker and Sharmell were recently in a high profile feud with Kurt Angle prior to the former Olympian being drafted to Raw, which raised some eyebrows due to its sexual nature.
"I am definitely comfortable with it. It's TV, no different then anything else you can watch. If
you take it too seriously you would get caught up on. Everything we have done has been good
quality and good taste and I wouldn't let it be any other way. I don't have any say in writing
the storyline but I have a say in what my wife and I are willing to do. We are all human beings,
we have to leave that arena and come home so there has to be a certain level of respect."
The other big news is the opening of the Booker T and Stevie Ray Wrestling Academy in Houston,
"It is something I have always wanted to do and we finally got it kicked off. We have been
getting a lot of good feedback, working with guys like Dean Malenko and Steve Keirn who are great
trainers has put me on the right track. The training business is something new for me so having
guys like that tutor me is great. I will be doing most of the training. Classes are going to be
two or three days a week. If it takes me four months to train them, we will take it, five months,
sure. It will be an individual basis. After the training is up, we aren't just taking kids' money
and telling them to go, they can still be part of what we do, our shows and fundraisers and give
guys experience. There will be dues every month just to continue to be part of the Academy. I
make it clear that they won't make a million dollars, to get into the business is an adventure in
itself and say 'I have been on a hell of a ride' regardless of where you go with it."
It's becoming a trend that established wrestlers are starting to get into the training game.
"Here in Houston there have been guys pretending to be trainers for a long time, taking guys' money and having no direction for kids to go. I am close to the end of my career, I have a lot
left in me to do but I want to go out the right way. I will train students the way I was taught,
to create things the way I used to watch it. When I was a kid everyone had their own unique style
and you knew why you liked them or hated them. The way people are trained today the kids don't
get that. I feel like I have an obligation to give back in that aspect and train kids and get
them on the right track. Hopefully a few of them can go around the world and do their thing."
Booker is willing to put his name on the line for those who have the same passion for the
business that took him to five WCW titles and ten WCW tag team championships.
"You need to be trained by someone reputable and your word is everything in this business. If you
go to a promoter they will ask who trained you. If it's Joe Blow they will probably send you out,
but if Booker T or Stevie Ray trained you it will get a lot more respect and they will look at
you differently. I've been in this business for fifteen years and my respect is my word for what
I have given to other people and what I expect to get back."
Before he steps out of the spotlight to focus on his students, Booker has a few more plans inside
the squared circle including gunning for a final run at World Champion, and re-igniting his most
"We just had a big addition to Smackdown! with Chris Benoit coming over. Everyone knows our history and wants to see a best of seven series one more time. I came out on top the first time, but years later it would be interesting to see how it goes now," he concluded.
Booker T bio and story archive
Booker T & Stevie Ray's Wrestling Academy
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Order Classic Superstars of Wrestling Vol. 7: Booker T
Jason Clevett is the co-host of Wrestletalk Radio every Sunday night from 8-10 EST in addition to his work here at SLAM! Wrestling. To listen to the full interview with Booker T including his thoughts on the future of the WWE, why he rarely uses high impact moves like the "Houston Hangover" anymore, his feud with John Cena, and who he would like to face in a Harlem Heat reunion match by going here