WRESTLING REPORT

Solid RAW followed by shaky Smackdown highlights WWE; All Elite makes a move

WWE.com

…And Polyphemus shouted "Nobody kills me!"

As the first complete week of 2019 came to a close for WWE, the other shoe dropped and All Elite Wrestling made itself known.

RAW went over fairly well, the six man tag brought excitement to the opening and while Brock Lesnar and Braun Stroman's stare off wasn't exactly everything advertised it at least happened. Which is an improvement considering usually Brock can't be bothered to come the regularly televised show he is the champion of. It's like a movie star being talked about on a sitcom every episode but only showing up for the premieres and finales; it's exasperating. Hopefully this is something they're going to work on over this year and either book him more or have him drop the title and take some more time off.

Smackdown however ended all possible momentum that one good show could have given them, with the opening four man tag match just being completely botched and the Daniel Bryan angle is still obnoxiously unwatchable. It's one thing for a heel champion to be elitist, it's another for him to criticize American fandom in a fan driven sport; it's cannibalistic in a way. Miz and Shane vs. The Bar for the tag titles is the match no one asked for. Are people asking for more Shane McMahon matches in lieu of actual wrestlers? Where is this coming from? The saving grace is still the women's division, although the hyper insulting Mandy Rose wants to bang an Uso storyline continues. The triple threat match was awesome and surprisingly Carmella came to play and landed some great spots with the big dogs Becky and Charlotte. For god's sake give this division REAL screen time.

Now the elephant in the room: All Elite Wrestling chose Tuesday in Jacksonville, just down the road from the Smackdown taping in Orlando, to announce a bunch of things. For starters, they announced a May event in Vegas, Double or Nothing, building off the homerun that was the first wrestler owned event of this scale - All or Nothing - that ran last year. Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks also announced some new behind the scenes talent and some new in ring talent, WWE pros like Billy Gunn and Chris Jericho are going into the office to help shepherd this thing in the right direction and former WWE cruiserweight champ, Neville, is coming to AEW as PAC and some other top indy guys like Hangman Page also announced signing with the brand. This is the worst possible time for the WWE to have competition, with the Fox Sports deal kicking in later this year and there being clear directional issues internally at WWE. A young upstart with talent, structure and money could steal some thunder from the big brand.

2019 is shaping up to be a rather interesting year for sports entertainment, and how all this plays out is up in the air.

Booker T brings hall of fame swagger to ESPN 97.5 FM. Photo via WWE.com

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

WWE superstar and master of the devastating Spinerooniemaneuver 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?

Continue reading on CultureMap to learn about Booker T's favorite wrestlers growing up.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome