Corey Graves welcomed WWE Hall of Famer Booker T on the After The Bell podcast for the first time where the two former broadcast partners reconnected for the first time in a while.
The Black Lives Matter movement was front and center in WWE with The New Day taking a knee before their match on SmackDown, and they wore armbands honoring those that have been spotlighted in the movement. Booker T told a story about an incident in the WWE locker room where a wrestler questioned the importance of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
“First-hand story in WWE, I’m not gonna say the person’s name,” Booker T prefaced. “It was Martin Luther King’s birthday. I was in the locker room with this one guy and a few other guys, and that’s why I always say, guys, if you see something, you say something. I can’t do it by myself. I need guys to step up behind me as well, and a lot of those guys in the business that I’ve been in, I’ve been the one percent.
“Most of those guys have been white, but I remember that day there was something on television about Martin Luther King’s birthday. He said, ‘what has he ever done? Who’s he? Why does he [have a holiday]?’ You know me. I’m pretty confrontational. My first mode is to throw hands. I reacted, and I wanted to throw hands.”
Instead of calling that person out on the spot, Booker T said he chose to bring it up after a meeting with all of the wrestlers and staff. He said that after the wrestler was called out for his comments about Martin Luther King Jr., that person was fired.
“I calmed myself down because sometimes you got to a moment,” Booker T said. “I always say when you have a moment, sometimes you may never get that moment back. So it’s what you do, which is very very important. So I said instead of fighting this guy, I knew we were having a meeting that day with all of the boys and all of the staff.
“We have the meeting, and at the end of the meeting they said, ‘does anyone have anything to say?’ And I said, ‘yes, I want that person to say in front of this whole room what he said in front of me in the locker room earlier today.’ He kind of backtracked, and one of my boys stepped up and said, ‘no, no, no. Say exactly what you said earlier today because I was there too.’ That guy happened to be a white guy. He ended up having to say what he what he said, and needless to say, that guy was fired the week later. We never saw him again ever in the business.”
Booker T admitted that he is never a shy person when it comes to racial issues. He said it’s always important to speak up no matter the consequences.
“For me, I’ve always been a guy to say something. I’ve never been passive as far as anything racial,” Booker T stated. “If it’s me, I can’t speak for other people, but anything that’s ever happened with me racial, I always handled it firsthand. I’ve always been very very well respected in the business because I have a saying, when your 99%, you keep your mouth shut, but when your 100%, you speak up 100% of time. No matter whether it’s gonna get you fired or not. You still speak up.”
Graves asked Booker T if being Black has ever hindered opportunities in his career. Booker T says it has not because of the white wrestlers that pushed him and helped him out.
“As far as wrestling goes, wrestling has always been easy for me,” Booker T admitted. “I’ve never had those barriers of being the Black guy that people were you trying to hold down and suppress. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for a lot of white guys. I got to say that because all of those guys pushed for me. All those guys wanted me at the next level.”
Booker T has credited Bruce Gasarch for helping him early in his career. He talked more about other white wrestlers that stood up for him and pushed him to be the best they knew he could be.
“I remember this guy ‘Maniac’ Mike Davis. He was like one of my biggest fans,” Booker T recalled. “He was like, ‘your gonna get there. Make sure you get there.’ Black Bart was one of those guys in my corner. He’s some redneck from the South. That guy was spitting knowledge to me every week and telling me how good I was.
“Ox Baker, another white guy, who said, ‘hey, kid, you got a lot of talent, but your gonna come up and get through lot of obstacles in this business.’ He said, ‘man, your talent is going to get you through that. With those obstacles, sometimes you got to figure a way over it, under it and around it. Last year’s issues that you were just talking about, sometimes you got to go straight through it.’ I had so many guys in my corner that was pushing for me to make it to that next level.”
Booker T talked about his talent and not being shy about voicing how talented he was. He said that attitude caused him to be hated by some wrestlers in WCW, but Booker T cites that he was young, and he was talented because of the skills he learned from other veterans.
“One thing I always believed in was my talent,” Booker T stated. “I was always better than all them suckers man whether they wanted to believe it or not. I would go out in the ring and perform and say top that. Go out there and see if you can top that, and those guys in WCW hated me because I was so braggadocious and so young and so raw as far as how good I was inside the squared circle because I have studied it very well.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit After The Bell with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.