Much like every other business under the sun, Reality of Wrestling has been hit hard by the global pandemic. Given the promotion's inability to produce shows and normal operations for so long got longtime owners Booker T. and his wife Sharmell Huffman thinking about what the future holds.
" When COVID broke out we've been struggling more than anything," he said. "We've had conversations with each other if we are going to make it one month to the next. A lot of stressful days as far as being a small business and staying in operation. But somehow we have done it so far. We hope we are able to continue because we have a lot of young kids who aspire to be something and aspire to be part of something. And that is exactly what Reality of Wrestling is."
ROW has been a labor of love for the famed duo since opening its doors in Texas 15 years ago. The school aspect welcomes students from beginning all the way up to advanced training. They also produce television shows out of their own venue, aptly titled the Booker T. World Gym Arena. The pair got married in close proximity to when their business venture got off the ground. Sharmell, who had an impressive evolution from Nitro Girl to performer and SmackDown "Queen," enjoys working with her two-time WWE Hall of Fame husband.
"Not only do we love each other, but we have to like each other. Luckily, we do because we live and work together," she said. "That means 24/7 we're around each other. Reality of Wrestling with Booker T puts his heart and soul and passion into sports entertainment and training the next generation of superstars. We work together very well. It has been a mom and pop organization built from the ground up. We're still growing. We're making some great strides. I just can't wait to see what the future holds."
"In 2005 we started this thing and put in a lot of work," Booker T added. "My wife does her part, and I do my part and my students do their part. Just go out there and do that part and you'll have a great product and a great show. Sharmell has the books , and I make sure to do the heavy lifting as far as making sure the guys are on point. Together we meet in the middle. Hopefully, at the end of the day we're teaching our kids how to work together. Knowing exactly what it takes to make it to the next level. We've put together a great team. That's what we are."
And if anyone knows tag teams it's the successful veteran, one-half of one of the most decorated duos of all-time Harlem Heat. As for if we will ever see King Booker and Queen Sharmell back on the throne again, they are content with their in-ring accomplishments. For them, it's time to help the next generation to realize their dreams.
"We had so much fun doing what we did. I don't think there is anything left for me to do in the business other than give back and help the young guys," Booker T said. "Hopefully, they can do it the same way I did and even bigger. That's what we are about, giving back because we know the more we give back the more prosperous we really are.
"We get so much out of helping our kids make it to the next level. The thing is they may think we're helping them, but they are helping us. They don't realize what they're doing to keep us alive to do what we love to do."
At the end of the day Booker T. remains a fan who still enjoys talking about the hot topics of the day on his ESPN radio show. Up until a few months ago he had another outlet to do just that on "WWE Backstage on FS1, which he hosted with Renee Young and other rotating panelists and contributors including CM Punk. With it off the air, Booker T. misses it, especially the "Promo School" segment that saw him often square off with celebrity guests.
"Promo school was definitely the best part of 'WWE Backstage' for me because it was always on the fly," he said. "It was always on the cuff. For me, it was great. For my opponent, not so much. I tell you about working with Renee Young and CM Punk; we had great chemistry. Ember Moon coming in too.
"We had a great chemistry. COVID was a really big reason for everything going awry the way it did. Hopefully, there will be some sort of comeback and we'll be back entertaining and bring the fans what they want to see as far as wrestling goes. I miss it a whole lot. Hopefully, we'll get back in gear pretty soon."
Along with in-ring fundamentals, ROW provides other tools to succeed in today's landscape including helping build brands. That includes gaining a social media presence. With WWE and its control over third-party dealings of superstars in the headlines, Booker gives his viewpoint on the situation from an entrepreneur's perspective.
"One thing about the business and working in the business for 30 years, there has always been a protocol," he said. "There has always been a route to go for stuff like that. Back in my day we didn't have Tik-Tok, Twitter, Cameo. I'm sure this generation is going to have to figure out how to make stuff like that work for truly going into business and making it work for themselves. It's a touch-and-go situation they are going to have to work out."
With ROW starting to adapt to the unheard of environment, Booker T and Sharmell keep focused on the task at hand. They've run drive-in events including one that has drawn attention to the importance of voting like "Swing Vote." The gathering welcomed upwards of 500 cars to draw awareness to the cause in partnership with the "Be Woke." Vote initiative.
"Our goal is to be the flagship for Texas wrestling," he said. "We want to be able to independently run Texas in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, surrounding areas. We want to keep it a Texas based company that we can filter WWE, AEW, New Japan with talent," he said.
"Being this AAA for wrestling in the world. That is our goal with Reality of Wrestling. I think we are on a really good track. COVID slowed us down a whole lot as far as our big plans for 2020 were concerned. But hopefully 2021 will be the year and Reality of Wrestling will go on to be the biggest thing going in Texas as far as independent wrestling."
Booker T and Sharmell's full interview aired as part of today's episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it's released Monday - Friday afternoon by clicking here.