I recently spoke with WWE Hall of Famer and SmackDown General Manager Booker T. In the first part of the interview below, Booker discussed his early career, his book, signing with WCW, winning the WCW World title, WCW folding, signing with WWE, facing Triple H at WrestleMania and more.

Make sure to check back tomorrow for the second part of our interview, where Booker discussed his backstage fight with Batista and who came out on top, if there is still any heat with Batista, coming up with King Booker, his run with TNA, working for Vince McMahon vs. Dixie Carter, Eric Bischoff, if he was going to return to TNA to re-form the Main Event Mafia, returning to WWE, when he was approached about being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, his other projects and much more.

You can follow him on Twitter @BookerT5x, and you can purchase his book From Prison to Promise: Life Before the Squared Circle at Amazon.com by clicking here. You can also watch Booker T's wrestling promotion, Reality of Wrestling, at Youtube.com/BookerTROW.

WrestlingINC: You used the G.I. Bro character very early in your career, which you brought back in WCW. Was that something that you came up with?

Booker T: Actually, when I first got into wrestling, I was working at this warehouse and I was cleaning out one of the storage units and I found this army hat. I liked it and it fit me, and I had it on one night when I went to wrestling school. My trainer, Scott Casey, he saw me with it on and he said, 'Now, you're going to be G.I. Bro.'

So, I was like, 'Alright, I'll be G.I. Bro.' I started doing the character and it was actually pretty fun. It was something I did way before I ever got into the big time. Then, I got a chance to do it in WCW which was really cool. A lot of people thought I was crazy at that time, wondering what I was doing and why I was doing it. But, I was just paying homage to my mentor and my trainer.

WrestlingINC: You were actually pretty new to the business when you signed with WCW. Wasn't it only a couple of years?

Booker T: When I signed with WCW, I hadn't been in the business for two years.

WrestlingINC: So, what was your reaction when you and your brother were signed?

Booker T: Well, I really didn't know you could make that kind of money doing wrestling to be honest. I was just doing it as a hobby. It was something I was dreaming about, to be in WCW or WWE. At that time, it was an escape for me, out of the norm from being a neighborhood kid. I was getting a chance to do other things and meet other people. So, it was secondary to me.

Then, when I found out you could make money doing this, I was like, 'Wow.' My first contract with WCW was like $70,000 a year. I didn't know you could make that kind of money doing this. I was like, 'Wow. I think I'm going to stick around for a long time.' [Laughs.] That's what I did. I started planning, motivating myself and putting myself in the right positions to go for the long haul.

WrestlingINC: You mentioned in your book book From Prison to Promise: Life Before the Squared Circle (purchase at Amazon.com) that your parents passed at a young age and your brother took care of you and your siblings. What was your family's reaction to you and Stevie Ray signing with WCW?

Booker T: The family was really proud of us. Of course, people started asking for money. [Laughs.] But, it was something: the two brothers in the family made it. So, it was a happy moment, especially when my brother and I got to wrestle in front of my family in Dallas, Texas. Back in the day in Global (Championship Wrestling), half of my family lived in Dallas.

So, they got a chance to come to the shows and see our matches and see us in a different light, from a different perspective. But, I don't think even then they thought we were going to go as far as we actually did. No one did except for my brother and I probably.

WrestlingINC: You guys actually found success pretty early on. You were paired with Sensational Sherri a year after you debuted. How did that end up happening?

Booker T: They tried out a lot of different people at that time and Sherri wasn't even really on the radar. I think Hogan was one of the guys that was instrumental in giving us our big push and putting Sherri with us at the same time.

It was a great pairing and for things to turn out the way they did because we knew being with Sherri was going to catapult us into a different light. Sherri had been with nothing but champions and great superstars. She always enhanced who she was with. So, we knew we had a chip in the game when we finally got paired up with Sherri Martel.

WrestlingINC: It was definitely a springboard. What were your thoughts when WCW started transitioning you into a singles career?

Booker T: Well, it was only an evolution, something that was going to happen sooner or later. My brother actually got hurt and that's when I started doing more singles wrestling. He tore a muscle in the bottom of his foot and he was sidelined for a while. So, I got a chance to do singles wrestling and I turned out to be pretty good and they saw they could really do something with me at that time.

My brother and I had ten tag team championships by that time, so it was only fitting for me to move on and see how far I could go. My brother blessed me to go for it and that's what I did. Not thinking about titles or nothing like that, but just wanting to go out there and be the best singles wrestlers I could possibly be.

WrestlingINC: You were definitely one of the biggest stars during the boom period of the business with the Monday Night Wars and everything. How competitive was it with WWF when you were over there in WCW?

Booker T: It was very competitive. It wasn't just competitive with WWE at the time, it was competitive for me with the guys in the locker room. Being better than those guys was my main, primary objective. I wasn't thinking about WWE or anything like that. I was just thinking about being the best on my roster and moving up the ladder in that department and proving I belonged. So, I was in a battle with myself more than anything.

WrestlingINC: It was so star-studded back then that you and Bill Goldberg were really the only two that rose up the ranks of that loaded roster. What do you credit for being able to make it to the top?

Booker T: You've got to be able to think on your own, you've got to be creative. You can't be willing to take a backseat. The guys who have been popular and have made a name for themselves in this business have always been, first and foremost, talent. They studied their craft, they knew exactly what it took to go out there and be the best in the ring.

I tell a lot of these young guys that the only luck you're ever going to have is how prepared you are. If you're not prepared to go out and steal the show every night, your job is going to be much more on the line on a regular basis. If you can master that, that's something that you never really have to worry about.

So, learning your craft and knowing your craft to the best of your abilities -- and looking at the guy next to you and knowing if you're better than him or not.

WrestlingINC: And there were a lot of stories about the night you won the World title at Bash At The Beach in 2000 when you beat Jeff Jarrett. How far in advance did you know you were going to be winning the World title that night? What was the backstage atmosphere like?

Booker T: The backstage atmosphere was chaos pretty much. Not with myself, I really didn't care. It wasn't my ball, so to speak, I was just playing in the game. The beef was with Russo and Hogan and creative control Hogan had in his contract -- I'm not sure exactly what that was. But, I knew that Hogan wanted to win the title that night.

I'm not sure if he was trying to step on my grave or throw a monkey wrench into me winning the championship; it was just something that he felt was owed to him at that time. So, I let everything play out. I found out maybe 5, maybe 6 or 7 minutes before I went out that I was going to win the title and that I was going to be champ that night.

WrestlingINC: How did you react when you were told?

Booker T: Well, I found out that they were planning to do it. Then, when everything got thrown up into the air, I thought I wasn't going to be winning it. Then, they told me to stick around because I was going to be winning it. Man, I just wanted to get it over with. They had their [questions] and I had my questions as well.

My questions were: are the fans going to even want me to be the champion? [Laughs.] Those were my thoughts. I didn't care what they were thinking. So, I just let everything play out and then when it was time to come out and win, all my questions were answered.

Those fans went crazy, everybody raised the roof, everybody was happy that I won -- even after the controversial night. Everybody was still partying at the end of the night and happy that Booker T had finally crashed the glass ceiling.

WrestlingINC: During those last years of WCW, there were guys coming and going for a while, but you were consistent. What were those last couple of years like?

Booker T: The last couple of years were really easy, we had a lot of time off. Guys were making good money, I was making really good money and I had time off and I was in a great position. I got my knee scoped right around that last year, maybe a year and four months.

I was sitting on the bench and they were like, 'Just sit it out.' I was like, 'Nah, I got to get back to work.' Ric Flair told me a long time ago that a wrestler's worst enemy is time off. That was something I thought about all the time. I made sure I was ready to perform all the time. Out of sight was out of mind for me. So, being in the game all the time was very important to me just to keep my household name status. That's what I was worried about more than anything.

But, for those good times, those easy times for those last few years, I was out on my boat fishing a whole lot. It was good times.

WrestlingINC: Did you ever think about jumping over to WWF at that time?

Booker T: No, I never thought about making the switch because I never really liked working in cold cities. In WCW, they worked the south all the time. They went to cold cities every now and then but it wasn't primarily a world-wide company even though we were World Championship Wrestling.

I wasn't looking forward to going to WWE because I knew they hit every place on the map and I really didn't know if I was ready for it. Then, if it ever happened, I wanted to be prepared for it.

WrestlingINC: What were your thoughts on the final Nitro and finding out that WWF had bought WCW?

Booker T: Man, I knew it was going to happen. I mean, we all knew it was coming. For me, it was just another day at work to be honest. I never really worried about my spot or anything. I never really worried about how talented I was or if I could get in or anything like that. A lot of guys were worried about what was next for them but I knew what was next for me.

I knew that WWE was coming-a-calling and it was time to me to go and prove how good I really thought I was. So, I was willing to do that. I was willing to step right in, leave all my accolades behind and start all over from the bottom and prove that I belonged. So, it was just another day at the office for me.

WrestlingINC: When you signed with WWF, were you still under contract with WCW and you decided to get out of your contract or had your contract expired?

Booker T: Yeah, I was still under contract, I still had like a year left on my contract. I still had a lot of money coming to me, I could have just sat at home and collected money for a whole year and do nothing. But, I chose to take a 50% buy-out just to fly with WWE just so I could get to working. I didn't want to be out of sight, out of mind.

I had so much momentum going; I was the Heavyweight champion, I was United States champ -- I was dual champion, undisputed. So, it was time for me to move on. I thought that sitting out and collecting that money would have been a bad move when I thought that if I just got back into the game, I'd make that money back in no time.

WrestlingINC: When they were doing the WCW revival, it didn't seem planned out that well. How much did you know about what they planned to do with WCW when you signed?

Booker T: No, not at all. I never delved into that part of the business. I never cared about what the company was going to be doing with who or what -- storylines, angles, none of that stuff. I never got involved in that stuff when I was active because it just wasn't important to me. The only thing that was important to be was what my role was that night and that was it. Then, I would go out at do that, make sure I concentrated on getting that done. The rest of it pretty much just fell into place.

WrestlingINC: That year, you headlined SummerSlam against The Rock. It was the only time the WCW Heavyweight title was defended in the main event of a WWF pay-per-view. You've been involved in so many landmark moments. In WCW, you were the last ever U.S. champion/Heavyweight champion, headlined SummerSlam with The Rock. How do you keep your head on straight with all of those accolades, all the titles and all the success that you've had?

Booker T: A lot of times, everybody remembers that stuff. I don't remember a lot of it. I remember winning the World title against Jeff Jarrett and against Rey Mysterio. The rest of it I don't even remember. With the Tag Team championship, I remember winning them the first time with my brother, maybe against the Nasty Boys or something like that.

But, I don't remember that stuff because I didn't wrestle for the memories for me. I wrestled for the fans' memories, and for them to enjoy, look back on and say, 'Wow, I remember where I was...' For me, it was always just a job for me. I don't have an ego or anything like that, thinking, Man, I've won all these titles, or anything like that.

I've been privileged to be the guy to represent the company in those times, winning those titles just due to the work being put in. That's what I try to stress to guys: if you're good at what you do, the title just comes along with it. If you're good at what you do, you don't have to worry about a check coming in the mail. Just go out and do your job. Do that and everything else falls into place.

If you start getting caught up in your own clippings, start believing in your own hype, look in the mirror and actually think that you're that person on television, you can really lose focus of who you really are. I just never wanted to do that. I just always enjoyed being just who I am. And on television, just try to make people happy and try to give them fond memories for many, many years.

WrestlingINC: I spoke with Dustin Runnels recently and he said that teaming with you was one of the funnest times of his career. You guys obviously had some great chemistry. Why do you think that was cut short or do you remember much of it?

Booker T: Oh, yeah. I remember all of that. [Laughs.] I remember the good stuff, the fun stuff with me and Goldie. I think it was cut short because they needed me in a more serious role. I think they needed me as a wrestler, not as an entertainer. Me and Goldie, we were entertaining for quite some time. I think it was cut short because of that.

We had our little run as Tag Team champions and I don't think it was something that was meant to last as long as it did. I don't think Booker T and Goldust were picked to last more than a month or so. But, with the chemistry we had, they just went with it. We just kept rolling with it and we just kept having fun.

That's the key to success right there if you just go out there and you have fun. No matter what you're doing. Booker T could have an ego with being paired up with Goldust after being the World champion and this and that. That's why I say you gotta take whatever the script is, take it and make it the best you can possibly make it. It might turn out to be the best stuff you've ever done.

WrestlingINC: During that time, you also got the singles push and you challenged Triple H for the title at WrestleMania 19. It seemed like for a point there that you were going to win the belt until Kurt Angle was able to face Brock Lesnar. Did you hear anything about you going over and then those planned changed?

Booker T: You know, I'm sure there was talk. You know, I have no control over that. I know a lot of people wanted me to go over, a lot of people thought I should have gone over because of the way the angle was being played out. As far as him saying that he was better than me and people like me shouldn't be in that position.

But, for me, it was a platform to talk about my background and put my real life out there. And to help some people out with my book and whatnot. That was just the beginning of it, winning was a state of mind. I thought I won because I was on the main stage in WrestleMania and I got paid a lot of money to do it. [Laughs.]

So, a lot of people say I should have won. But, I think if I would have won, when I finally did win as King Booker, it wouldn't have been the same. For me, I think everything has happened for a reason. And it always seemed to have happened at the right time.

Make sure to check back tomorrow for the second part of our interview, where Booker discussed his backstage fight with Batista and who came out on top, if there is still any heat with Batista, coming up with King Booker, his run with TNA, working for Vince McMahon vs. Dixie Carter, Eric Bischoff, if he was going to return to TNA to re-form the Main Event Mafia, returning to WWE, when he was approached about being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, his other projects and much more.

You can follow Booker on Twitter @BookerT5x, and you can purchase his book From Prison to Promise: Life Before the Squared Circle at Amazon.com by clicking here. You can also watch Booker T's wrestling promotion, Reality of Wrestling, at Youtube.com/BookerTROW.

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