WWE superstar and master of the devastating Spineroonie maneuver Booker T is the newest member of the Gow Media family, hosting the Hall of Fame show Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights on ESPN 97.5 FM.
The show, with co-host Brad Gilmore, airs live from 9-11 pm. While the main focus of the show will be WWE happenings, mixed martial arts, and boxing, Booker T isn’t exactly shy about giving his opinion on politics, sports, and whatever else.
The show’s title is a natural. Booker T was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a solo performer in 2013, and next month will be inducted again as part of the Harlem Heat tag-team with his brother Stevie Ray. For the record, Booker T (Robert Booker Tio Huffman) and Stevie Ray (Lash Huffman) are real-life brothers, but they weren’t raised, nor ever lived in Harlem. They’re from the South Park section of Houston.
ESPN 97.5 program director AJ Hoffman says, “Booker T and Brad bring an energy and excitement to the table. They want to be here as much as we want to have them. We think the show will bring new ears to 97.5, and they’ll be a perfect fit in our station’s brash culture.”
Between breaks of his show, I cornered Booker T and hit him with 10 Questions.
CultureMap: Which is more frightening, fighting Triple H in a WWE ring, or battling him on TV’s The Weakest Link?
Booker T: Oh, The Weakest Link for sure. Wrestling is easy. But a TV game show like The Weakest Link is a pressure situation. You’ve got to be quick on your toes. You might say something you wish you didn’t say, like what happened to me. It was nervous time, sweaty palms, butterflies, the whole thing.
CM: Are you serious about running for mayor of Houston?
BT: Absolutely! I’m very serious. My ultimate goal is to be the mayor of Houston. It might be too late for me to get in the 2019 race, but a mayor’s term is only four years. It looks like 2023 will be my time.
CM: What is the worst injury you’ve suffered as a sports-entertainment performer?
BT: Several years ago, I slipped a disc in my back in Australia. I was working a match, nothing out of the ordinary, but when I woke up the next morning I couldn’t move. I was out for two months and had to take two epidurals.
CM: What is your relationship with WWE now?
BT: I still work for WWE. I’m currently an analyst on pay-per-view shows and ambassador for the company. My contract runs through 2029.
CM: You run an independent wrestling promotion called Reality of Wrestling in the Houston area. Most of your performers are young men and women new to the business. Do they have the same fire and intensity that you had coming up?
BT: We try to instill that. Not everybody is going to be like me when I was entering the business. In Reality of Wrestling, we have a lot of ambitious guys who want to get to the next level. We push them as hard as we can. If they don’t have fire in them, they don’t last very long. I’m extremely tough on them.
I don’t accept any excuses. I didn’t accept any excuses from myself. I was a single dad when I started in the business. I was working six days a week. I had a beat-up car. I never asked anyone for anything. I worked my butt off to get where I am today.
CM: You grew up very poor, and you struggled as a young man. Your life is very different now. Are you enjoying success?
BT: It’s a funny thing. I enjoyed life when I didn’t have a whole lot. You don’t miss what you never had. Life is the same for me, I’m just able to pay my bills now. I’ve never wanted to be flamboyant or front everything I have. I have two beautiful kids, a boy and girl twins, a beautiful wife (former wrestler Sharmell), and a nice home. I was happy growing up poor, and I’m happy now. I’m blessed to have this life.
CM: Your most famous move is the Spineroonie. In the middle of a match, you would bust a break dancing move. Tell me the first time you did that in a ring.
BT: I did it during my very first match. I used to do it in practice, just screwing around. I was a break dancer back in the day. It was very natural for me. So I did it during my first real match. It changed the whole momentum of the match.
I knew it was something that would stick with me forever. It’s actually easy to do in a ring. Under the mat, there’s a pretty hard piece of foam, and there are 2-by-4’s under that. It’s pretty sturdy and it gives me good balance, so I’m not going to break any skin.
CM: Name the wrestlers who you most admired growing up. Did you get to compete against them?
BT: Ric Flair, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and Bret Hart. I was in awe of them. They were major players who did so much for the business. I was a kid from South Park in Houston and never imagined working with anybody, let alone those three legends. Wrestling against them took me to another world.
CM: Is a hot dog a sandwich?
BT: When you’re poor, anything between two slices of bread or on a bun is a sandwich. And that includes pancake syrup sandwiches and ketchup sandwiches.
CM: Are you a tough guy in real life? For instance, can you beat up Channel 2 anchorman Bill Balleza? He's a former Marine, you know.
BT: I’m a pretty tough guy, I’ve always been tough. It’s just in my blood, in my nature. I’ve always been very confrontational. And I would 100-percent beat the hell out of Bill Balleza.