A travesty was committed at WrestleMania XIX and I am not talking about the insulting and embarrassing “cat fight” that aired instead of a REAL wrestling match either. That’s a whole other issue for a whole other editorial. When Booker T left the show without the WWE World Heavyweight Title strapped around his waist, it made one thing crystal clear. The WWE product is at the mercy of backstage politics just as WCW’s was in its dying days. What’s that about he who ignores history is doomed to repeat it?
The WWE could’ve counteracted all of the undeniable racial overtones surrounding the Triple H – Booker T feud by having “good” win out over “evil” at the biggest show of the year. A genuine class act, Booker T would’ve been an ideal champion in the ring and a honourable spokesman for the company outside of it. All of what we learned about Booker T in the lead-up to WrestleMania is the God’s honest truth. Coming from a single parent home with eight other siblings, Booker T had a tough life growing up which included a regretful brush with the law. Flying straight and a struggling single father years later, Booker sacrificed everything so that he and his young son could have a better life. Booker has always worked hard to break down barriers and portray the type of character fans…especially African American ones…could be proud of.
“That’s been my prime motivation and my prime objective since Day One of getting into the wrestling business. Growing up, I watched wrestling but it wasn’t something I had to go out and see on a regular basis due to the fact that every wrestler that I looked at in the sport who was black was always stereotyped in one way or another. They always could dance. They always had hard heads like a coconut. You know, something like that. I have worked to break that stereotype. That’s why when you see me come to a wrestling venue or an event, I am always going to be dressed better than anyone else because I don’t just represent myself, I represent a whole race of people who are watching these shows,” Booker told me back in 2000 when he was still working for WCW.
At a time when the industry is on a meteoric downturn and there is very little mainstream press (most of it bad) about the pro wrestling business, Booker T could’ve made the difference. He could’ve bettered the WWE’s image and might’ve changed the way the general public thinks about pro wrestling if he had been given the right push – not only in the wrestling ring but in the mainstream media as well. The WWE let the opportunity pass them by preferring to keep the belt on the self-serving Triple H, a grossly unpopular champion who at every turn does what’s best for himself and his good friends backstage rather than what would be in the best interest of the company or its fans.
Since being awarded (insert a loud scoff here) the WWE World Heavyweight Title by RAW TV program general manager Eric Bischoff on August 9th of last year, Triple H has lost the title once. Naturally, it was to a good friend of his, Shawn Michaels. How long will it take another close pal of Triple H’s – the returning Kevin Nash – to get main eventing billing on a WWE pay-per-view and win the title? Though there is virtually no interest in seeing Triple H and Nash clash, you can count on it in a month or so as well as a Nash title reign…whether we like it or not. Ho-hum. Triple H versus Kevin Nash does not equal ratings or pay-per-view buys. Ho-hum. Actually, neither does Triple H any more. The sagging ratings for the WWE’s weekly Raw program – the show Triple H headlines – is proof of that.
Triple H’s arrogance and self-indulgence was never more evident than in an interview posted on the official WWE Web site at the beginning of this month. Even though Booker T is a squared circle veteran who held the WCW World Tag Team Titles nine times (with his brother and partner Stevie Ray as the team Harlem Heat) and the WCW World Heavyweight Title five times, Triple H has these condescending comments to make about his performance at WrestleMania. Triple H said Booker “really stepped it up” and proved “to a lot of people that Booker T deserves to be in matches of that caliber”. Obviously Triple H never saw the string of matches Booker T had with “Rabid Wolverine” Chris Benoit in WCW or how Booker was more than up to the task of headlining pay-per-view after pay-per-view in WCW. Maybe Triple H has forgotten how WCW’s product buried the WWF’s throughout the nineties and that Booker T was a big part of that surge by WCW. Ask any fan, any insider or any journalist, Booker T has nothing to prove to anybody. His career speaks for itself.
What it comes down to is knowing the times we are in, who would you rather have as champion? A man who off camera is down-to-earth and respectable or a cocky, egotistic Ric Flair wannabe who has publicly stated he “couldn’t care less about what fans on the Internet think”? It seems as though Triple H needs to get with the 1990’s and understand that most of North America is now online and that dissing the fan base in an interview posted on the company’s official site isn’t a good public relations move. It looks as bad on the WWE as it does on him. Methinks that Triple H and the WWE just don’t like the fact that the once “silent” fans, now have an open forum where they can air their likes and dislikes. A forum that the WWE can’t control and holds the company and its employees answerable for their actions. Too bad. So sad, Triple H.
In the same in-house interview, Triple H said that what most wrestlers would like to do is retire on their own terms rather than be forced out by an injury or promoter. It seems to me that Triple H should take his own advice. When a main-eventer is no longer a draw, when they no longer contribute to the television ratings in any meaningful way, when fans, insiders and the media are voicing their displeasure, maybe it is time to step out of the spotlight before you are unceremoniously yanked out of it.
The sad truth is that Triple H’s current reign will be remembered not because he gave fantastic performances or was insanely popular. Neither would be true. It is because of the relationship he has with the family who owns the company. All of the respect Triple H garnered when he successfully carried the company in the absence of Steve Austin and The Rock, has been denigrated beyond repair. Not even the constant rub provided by Ric Flair can smooth over the damage. Even if it is the McMahons or the bookers who are hyping him through the roof, Triple H should be smart enough to realize that the push is doing his legacy and reputation more harm than good.
Booker T didn’t deserve to win the match at WrestleMania because he had a hard life or happened to be born with darker skin. He should be the WWE World Heavyweight Champion because he earned it, he can run with it and he is the type of person the WWE needs at the forefront of the company right now. It is just too bad that the bookers, owners and Triple H are too stupid to realize that.