With the recent onslaught of releases of the “Triple H Regime” of NXT over the past few years, with names like William Regal, Sarah Stock, Samoa Joe, “Road Dogg” Brian Armstrong, Scotty 2 Hotty, and others either leaving or being released, it’s apparent that WWE has lost all faith in Triple H‘s vision of making the formerly yellow-and-gold brand a “super indie” and are now looking to create new stars in the vein of past iterations of the WWE/F (color scheme-wise, that appears to be The New Generation). With only Shawn Michaels, Matt Bloom, Terry Taylor, Jeremy Borash, and Sara Del Rey still seemingly in the management/training capacity, NXT is in need of some new blood in the guidance area, even if WWE has remained mum on exactly how much influence Paul Levesque will retain when he returns from his health issues. But WWE just may have a personality that has more experience in building characters, training a new crop of talents, a WWE loyalist mentality, and is a two-time, two-time, TWO-TIME WWE Hall of Famer that could fill the role as the brand’s new head – that of former 5x WCW World Heavyweight Champion and WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Booker T.
Listen. I am not usually one for op-ed pieces. Wrestling history and indie wrestling are more my bag. But the more I think about it, it seems like Booker T could be the best man suited for the job of taking over NXT 2.0 and making it the promotion that Vince McMahon and Nick Khan ultimately want, more so than what arrived from the decade long experiment of son-in-law Paul. And this goes beyond the overall redemption of Booker T over Triple H and the infamous booking of WrestleMania 19 when Triple H allegedly power played his way out of dropping the WWE Championship to Booker T (although it would align nicely in a literary way with Julie Hart (Bret Hart‘s then-wife)’s 1997 curse as captured in Wrestling With Shadows following the Montreal Screwjob also seemingly kicking in 25 years later). Let’s take a look at Booker’s, er, pedigree.
Understanding of Characters
Let’s be honest: Booker T is a legendary wrestler in the industry. A 5x WCW World Champion, WWE World Heavyweight Champion, 11x WCW World Tag Team Champion, 4x WCW/WWE United States Champion, 3x WWE Tag Team Champion, WWE Intercontinental Champion, and 6x WCW World Television Champion. But Booker T is not a legend because he wrestles like Dean Malenko, Bret Hart, 2 Cold Scorpio, or Arn Anderson. Booker T is a showman. He can wrestle with the best of them, no doubt – his series with Chris Benoit in WCW over the WCW TV title is proof of that – but Booker’s strength has always been about his connection to the audience as a personality more than his technical ability in the ring. And in pro-wrestling, that’s a commodity worth having. After all, John Cena made more money for WWE than Kurt Angle. Booker has gone from being the military hero G.I. Bro, to various incarnations of Harlem Heat, to King Booker, to his African-speaking variant in TNA. And he’s made it work and has been a top star in every promotion he’s been a part of. NXT 2.0 is clearly more geared towards character work over in-ring work, so someone with that mindset and ability to do so is key in directing a promotion that wants to adhere to that philosophy.
Experience as a Teacher
In 2006, as his initial WWE run was winding down, Booker T established Pro Wrestling Alliance (PWA) in Houston, Texas, his hometown. It was a training ground and promotion that filled a void since Paul Boesch‘s Houston Wrestling (a wrestling territory from the 1920s to the late 1980s), that imparted Booker’s wisdom for decades with WCW and WWE. In 2012, he re-branded the promotion as Reality of Wrestling (ROW), which continues to be one of the top indie promotions in the U.S., building new stars that have excelled beyond the regional territory of Houston. ROW/PWA alumni include Ring of Honor Women’s Champion Rok-C, Kylie Rae, Hyan, Alex Gracia, AQA, Major League Wrestling (MLW)‘s Gino Medina, Bryan Keith, and many, many more. Booker T has created stars for multiple promotions, from major to top indie, so he knows how to create and help produce talents that can compete on any level. Particularly with women and minorities, something WWE has been lacking in.
Experience as a Developmental with Television
Booker T also has decades of experience working in televised pro wrestling. As many indie wrestlers who make the jump to any kind of television can tell you, working TV is vastly different from working indie shows. Camera angles, hard camera, promos, etc., there’s so much more taking place. Booker T has worked with some of the biggest TV companies in the world, from his time in WCW, WWE, and TNA, and his own promotion, Reality of Wrestling, produces its own televised content. They have a YouTube channel to watch their events on, as well as PPVs, plus television coverage in multiple U.S. markets. Last fall, Booker T announced that ROW was going to be available in 50 television markets in the U.S. Booker T knows how to work and handle television wrestling, as both a performer and promoter.
WWE Loyalist & Lineage
While in most professions, the first three qualifications would be enough to land the gig, it’s the last one that could be the tipping point, and that is that Booker T is a WWE loyalist with a strong pedigree (er, sorry again) within the WWE Universe. He’s one of only four men to be two-time WWE Hall of Famers, inducted as a singles performer and as part of Harlem Heat. Only Ric Flair (singles, Four Horsemen), Bret “Hitman” Hart (singles, Hart Foundation), and Shawn Michaels (singles, D-Generation X) can boast that claim. Combine his long list of championship gold, and he’s a shoo-in. But Booker T is also a strong advocate for the WWE style – he has repeatedly downplayed achievements from AEW and wrestlers who chose to go there, while over-selling WWE in the process. He is a WWE loyalist that has zero qualms about putting the worldwide leader in sports-entertainment over.
In the end, this is all just hypothetical psychobabble from myself. While I disagree with many of his WWE loyalist perspectives of late, Booker T is still undeniably a hugely important wrestling figure of the past 30 years, both as an in-ring performer and trainer of future stars. If the WWE continues to dismantle Triple H’s intended squad for taking over the main roster, they may as well overhaul the whole brand’s power structure and start anew. There’s probably no one more qualified to assume the throne than King Booker – but he would do well to study the history of past Kings in WWE who have held authority over NXT, particularly those who swore complete fealty to Emperor McMahon. Even the most loyal can still find themselves on the chopping block, no matter how Regal.
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