On the latest episode of the Hall of Fame podcast, Booker T spoke about AEW recently signing Sting, Christian Cage and Paul Wight and how adding older wrestlers could hurt them. Booker was critical of AEW for bringing in older wrestlers, saying they are copying a lot of the things WCW did when he was with the company, which took away the spotlight from some of the younger talent. It’s unclear whether or not that will be the case with AEW, but Christian Cage did go face-to-face with Kenny Omega on last week’s AEW Dynamite foreshadowing a future title match.
“Right now it seems like they’re pulling a revamp of WCW,” Booker T said. “As far as signing veteran talent, guys well past their better years of their careers. Guys that young guys could take either one of two ways, either these guys are here to help us or these guys are here to take our spot.
“I was one of the young guys on the [WCW] roster back then, I was coming up. I must say, a few of those guys came in, [Curt] Hennig, Bret Hart, I got a chance to work with them and they gave me some good feedback and I felt a lot of energy from a few guys that came over. But, the majority of those guys that came over from the WWF, man they were just coming to get a check, they were coming to get paid.”
After spending years with WWE as one of their top stars, Booker T left the company to join TNA. The move was believed by many to be a cash grab as the company was signing many former WWE stars like Mick Foley and Ric Flair. Booker admitted that when he first got the company he was all about trying to help the young talent, but as things went sideways, he took his paycheck and left.
“If it’s a company and they’re opening and they’re writing big checks, we better get in on this because this thing might not last too long,” Booker said. “I remember when I left WWE and I went home and then TNA called, I can remember feeling resentment in the locker room [towards me], you could cut it with a knife. It was that big, I could tell these young guys didn’t trust me, I could sense it. I called a meeting with the guys and I gave those guys a little talking and said ‘Hey man, I know there’s a lot of guys that have come here and say they were here to help. Honestly, actually, I’m here to help you. I’m not one of those guys that comes in here, put myself over. I want to bring you guys to my level and surpass it.’
“After a while in TNA, maybe two months, I saw what direction they were going in and for the next 20 months, I came to pick up my check. I didn’t care what those guys did. I thought about continuing on to just keep getting the check, but I said let me bounce off this because now my legacy is in jeopardy at the same time. I’m sure a lot of these guys may be thinking the exact same way.”
Booker also talked about former WCW president Eric Bischoff, who made comments about AEW bringing in older wrestlers and how they can make them work. As recently as last year in WWE, a 50-year old Goldberg was holding a top title heading into WrestleMania. The two-time WWE Hall of Famer said it’s tough when wrestlers in their 50s are winning titles and young talents in their 20s aren’t able to attain that level of success.
“Sting is an anomaly, anybody you’re ever going to deal with in the wrestling business who can keep their equity as long as they have because Sting changed with the times,” Booker said. “As far as having the older guys in the ring performer and the younger generation watching them, I said this and I’ll say it a thousand times, it’s hard for a 21 year old kid to aspire to be 56. It’s just hard. To see a 56 year old with the title, that’s unattainable for that young kid. That young kid goes I gotta wait till I’m 56 years old to get this kind of rub? I got to wait that long to be a part of this game? I’m not willing to wait that long.
“I’m not willing to pay those kinds of dues. I believe in respecting your elders but my new slogan is respect your young people. They are the future, they’re the ones that are going to do the big shows at 30-35 and hopefully they have that knowledge to be in that position and be able to hold that. My thing is, you invest in the young talent, you bring the young guys up and you give the young guys the rub. The ones that figure it out, they get it, the ones that don’t you push them to the side and keep rolling. I’m not tryna build my company from an in-ring perspective with guys that I know can throw a hip, blow out a quad walking to the ring, I’m just not going to do it. That’s my personal opinion.”
Booker spoke about his time in WCW, being a young talent and witnessing superstar such as “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan and others take the spotlight. He said WCW never really garnered as much long-term success from the big signings they made and in the long run, they ruined the company.
“How many great matches do you remember Hogan having when he came to WCW?” Booker said. “How many [matches] do you remember Hogan having period, when he came to WCW? What we gave and what we got in return, did Hogan save WCW? Those guys came in with contracts where they had creative control, they were getting paid more money than all us guys that had been there all of those years, they jobbed everybody out, they had it in their contracts that they couldn’t lose. I don’t think the return we got was worth bringing in all of that talent.”
Booker said he thought that when Tony Khan decided to start a wrestling company, it was going to be different than the ones we’ve seen for many years. After a very successful first year of existence that included showcasing young talent like Darby Allin and MJF, Booker fears AEW will become the new WCW.
“I don’t know what’s going on with AEW or anything like that but my thing is this: when AEW first started, I thought we were going to see something new,” Booker mentioned. “I didn’t think we were getting ready to see a revamp of WCW and I’m not knocking them, but I thought we were ready to see The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega and the group of these young guys that felt like they knew a whole lot more about the business than the older guys. They were going to create something that these old guys had never seen before in their life and now we’re seeing everything the old guys have seen for the last 30 years.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Hall of Fame Podcast with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.