During his last months in the WWE, Booker T was known as “King” Booker. Come Sunday’s TNA Slammiversary pay-per-view event, Booker wants to become king again — King of the Mountain.
Booker, along with Robert Roode, Rhino, and Christian Cage will challenge TNA champion Samoa Joe in the annual gimmick match “The King of the Mountain.” Wrestlers score a pinfall or submission to qualify to climb a ladder and hang the TNA title from a harness. If you are pinned or submit, you spend two minutes in a ringside penalty box cage. It’s a gimmick that despite having happened five times still leaves fans scratching their heads.
“That’s a hard question right there, because myself, I’ve never tried to get behind the scenes, the writing, the storylines, and the way things go as far as that goes. I’ve always concentrated on my wrestling or my performance, as far as going out no matter what predicament or situation I’m in, still giving the people what they came to see,” Booker said in a recent conference call when asked if TNA has too many gimmick matches. “We do have a lot of different matches. We have a lot of stipulations in matches. Sometimes it confuses a lot of people … if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. The traditional ways still work, so maybe we ought to take a step back to take a step forward. That’s something that we will realize here in the near future. The ratings will tell.”
Booker T stepped up to the plate recently when Kevin Nash, who will be special guest enforcer for the match, didn’t call in to a Spike TV media call. Reporters were pleasantly surprised to speak with Booker instead.
“This is something new for me, as far as the King of the Mountain goes; it’s a different style of match. Just at the different stage of my career, it’s the beginning of the end of the beginning — that’s what I call it. Going into this match, it’s going to be no different than any other match. I’m pretty much the new kid on the block. But one thing that I’ve always done is gone out to try to show that I am still viable, I am still the number one player in the game, I’m still the best at what I do, and I go out and perform, entertain, in the middle of that ring. Come Sunday night, it’s just going to be, I think, the beginning of Booker T’s career here in TNA.”
Booker will be in the ring with Robert Roode, who he has had a lengthy feud with in TNA. Booker said he relishes getting to work with younger talent.
“I want to give all the guys a chance to wrestle with Booker T. When I was coming up, I got a chance to wrestle with Ric Flair, Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat, I got a chance to wrestle Bret Hart; I wrestled a lot of great legends and I learned a lot from them. The thing I had with Robert Roode, I’m sure he’s learned a lot over the past six months, and I passed a lot of experience and knowledge to him. I’m looking forward to the next challenge. The next challenge I’m looking at now is Samoa Joe. King of the Mountain is just the beginning, being the king of TNA is something totally different, so I’m just looking forward to the adventure.”
Booker has high praise for the champion.
“Samoa Joe is the future, no matter how you look at it. The guy has all the skills and techniques. He’s not the prototype body of a wrestler that you would normally see but that is the uniqueness about Joe. He has a lot to learn though, knowing how to talk and make things real to him, and feel it a little bit more, much as I did when I went to the WWE. When I came from WCW I had a whole lot to learn. I think Joe is a perfect candidate to carry TNA to the next level.”
After a run as a babyface, Booker is going into the pay per view as a recently turned heel, a role he has played often throughout his career.
“Right now, the Dudleys (Team 3D) are watching my back, and it’s a great combination as far as the unity of Booker T and the Dudleys. The fans like the beatdowns we’ve been putting on guys. At this stage of my career, I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m a bad guy; I’m a guy that just wants it all. I just want to be the champion, I want to be the figurehead of the company, I want to be the one that pushes TNA to the next level as far as the ratings, as far as attendance, as far just putting the spotlight on TNA. A lot of guys have done a great job before I got here. Being the bad guy is just something that seems to fit my character at this stage and point of the game. I think that’s what it is. It’s great.”
One of Booker’s goals is to become TNA heavyweight champion, a title also held by former WWE stars Kurt Angle and Christian Cage. Could one last run on top as champion be in the cards?
“At 43 I don’t know how much longer I can go. I can honestly tell you I feel great and my body feels good, I look better than a lot of these young guys. My performance feels at a high level. My retirement plan was to retire at 40, I got there and was still feeling pretty good and the best had not happened for me even at that stage. I am just going along with it, floating and rolling the dice. TNA wants me right now, I will stick around for a little while.”