Traditionally, WWE holds Fan Axxess festivities on the days leading up to WrestleMania and Summerslam events. This weekend, the Royal Rumble in Phoenix will get the "Axxess" treatment, with a twist.
For the first time, WWE will host a series of "Straight Shooting" live round table featuring several WWE superstars and legends. The three topics are DX, The Montreal Screwjob, and WCW.
The latter will include WCW mainstays Kevin Nash, The Big Show and Booker T. The key word to describe these discussions is in the title - "shoot". During a conference call on Thursday, Booker T said he expects the gates to be kicked wide open, Including on one of the most controversial (and quoted) moments in his WCW career.
"There’s no rules, that tells you everything right there.", explained Booker. "I’m going to expect (someone to ask) what happened when I was doing a promo with Sherri and my brother and I said the N word, I know that’s going to come up. I'm going to be prepared to answer (that question) and I got a pretty good answer."
Booker expects there to be some heated debate among the panelists, given their positions in WCW and their views on how story lines and events unfolded.
"Open mic is really all about guys who let it all out and ask the questions that you really want to ask. Don’t hold back and we’re going to shoot right back and answer the question and don’t be surprised if we get a little bit hot between the panel because you know we all think different ways on a lot of situations on a lot of questions that are going to come up"
Booker feels that it won't just be questions about their respective careers - it will be about WCW's big moments, and not so big. The former "5 time, 5 time" WCW champion fully anticipates a question or two about The Shockmaster.
While on the conference call Booker took time to answer some questions about his career, which you can read fully transcribed below (thanks to Lindsay Braunsar). An interesting tidbit is that Booker is planning to write a second book; his first, "From Prison to Promise" was about his life growing up and in jail, and concluded when he got "the call" from WCW. The second book will include his career in WCW and WWE, but he made note that he will leave his time in TNA out of the book, as he doesn't look at that part of his career too fondly.
In one other newsworthy note, Booker noted that he will not be a surprise entrant in the Rumble match this year.
Panel tickets and information can be found on WWE's website: http://www.wwe.com/shows/royalRumble/2013/royal-Rumble-fan-events-are-coming-to-phoenix-26081966
Follow Arda Ocal on Twitter @arda_ocal
Booker T: It’s an honor to be here to answer all your questions. I’m looking forward to this weekend and a Royal Rumble is the biggest time of year next to Wrestlemania of course. I’m sorry I’m not going to be participating this year. Royal Rumble we normally have a special guest entry but this year I’m going to sit it out and do my duties as General Manager and see exactly how some of the big Smackdown entries play out and that’s what I’m looking forward to first and foremost. But I’m definitely looking forward to answering all your questions so shoot away I’m ready.
Mike Johnson: Hey Booker, how are you today sir?
Booker T: Doing good man. Doing really really good in heading to this Sunday.
Mike Johnson: Good to hear. The Royal Rumble panel discussion, is something new WWE has never done before, when you first heard about the concept and the idea of sitting down with some of the old WCW talents and kind of having the panel discussion about World Championship Wrestling, what were your thoughts and how do you feel about WWE kind of putting the spotlight back on WCW in the last couple of weeks and months with material on WWE.com and now the panel discussion?
Booker T: Definitely is great, as well as the NWO DVD as well you know, it’s great to actually go back in time so to speak. People always say, should there be another WCW reunion or maybe another WCW invasion. I don’t think we should go that far, but it’s worth sitting down and talking about what went down back then, from a realistic perspective. I think it’s going to be really good and it’s questions that the fans have been wanting to ask for so many years. And now they’re going to finally going to be able to get those answers. So I’m looking forward to actually sitting down, actually answering all the questions, I’m sure there’s going to be some crazy ones that are going to come up but I will be prepared and I’m sure it’s going to be a great time.
Mike Johnson: What aspect of WCW do you feel kind of gets overlooked with the passage of time?
Booker T: I really don’t think any parts are overlooked and one thing we got to think about, you know is we can’t dwell on the past you know WCW and the feud between WWE and WCW those days are over and they’re never coming back. Myself I’m just not one of those people who look in the past and live in the past. It’s all about the future and what we’re going to be looking forward to at this point and guys creating their own destiny, that’s what I’m thinking about right now.
Mike Johnson: All right, thank you for your time sir.
Scott Fishman: Hey Booker, with this being Royal Rumble weekend, I was just curious, so you have a favorite moment maybe where you were involved in? Or something that you saw as a fan that stands out for you, when you look back at past Royal Rumbles?
Booker T: You know only one Royal Rumble really stands out in my mind and that was a couple years ago when I finally made my return back to WWE. I really didn’t expect the ovation that I got from the fans and I was totally taken a back from it, but it really, you know, kind of put that stamp, you know as far as my career goes and what I’ve given to the fans, they gave it all back to me that night just from applause and ovation standpoint. They let me know that they appreciate what I’ve done over my 22-year career and that right there was the moment that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
Scott Fishman: All right, do you have a pick for who’s going to win this Sunday?
Booker T: You know , it’s really hard to pick a winner for the Rumble, it is an unpredictable match; anybody can win on any given occasion. It’s one of those nights that lucks got to play in your favor you know so whoever is in the right place at the right time that’s who’s going to win. But as far as picking a winner I just can’t call it.
Scott Fishman: Alright, and just lastly with this being the WCW panel, I was just curious on your thoughts on a possible Harlem Heat reunion? Do you ever see that happening somewhere down the line?
Booker T: You know , I do. I think people would want to see it. I know it was talked about reuniting Harlem Heat. You know as far as it being possible for Hall of Fame it would have been a great honor. But I’m looking forward to my brother and I coming back together and giving the fans that one last look at a team that was so great. And I think it’s something that we need to do more than something that we have to do.
Scott Fishman: All right, thank you very much.
Dan Gillstan: Hi Booker, what does it mean to the company to have Dwayne Johnson back and how do you think his return affects the company outside of the wrestling world? How does it affect the way WWE maybe perhaps is viewed by mainstream media, fans and other entertainment outlets?
Booker T: You know people can say what they want to say you know about The Rock being back you know but Rock means revenue. Rock means ratings and anytime we can have that you know it’s part of what we do as part of sports entertainment it’s great. The Rock is great, not just a great performer but he is a great ambassador for this business. He is one of the guys who has stepped out away from the game and still made his fame even bigger. Even though wrestling was the one thing that put him in the spotlight, he made us look good. I think it’s great The Rock being back, stepping right to the fire, stepping up with CM Punk it’s going to be great. He better be careful what he is wishing for because CM Punk he’s really no joke, he’s the guy who really believes in who he is and that is the best in the world and what he does and that is a very dangerous person right there so, but as far as The Rock being back I hope those young guys in the locker room are taking notes and realizing what it is to be a true superstar of the business and they can learn a whole lot.
Dan Gillstan: Just a quick follow up, what do you think it the big thing they can learn?
Booker T: man you look at the guy you know he says it more than anything that its important to have fun out there in the ring and not to take it so serious. I mean of course we have to take it serious to a certain degree but but being able to go out there and entertain those fans, make em laugh, make them feel, make them happy, make them have emotions, it’s something he does better than anybody. And these young guys could really learn and can take their note pads out and really really understand how Rock goes and creates his Shakespeare like Romeo and Juliet, his Phantom of the Opera and then go out there and hit someone in the mouth and make everyone believe that it’s the same time so they can learn a whole lot by watching a guy and learn from the best.
Dan Gillstan: Thank you.
Matthew Asher: Thank you Booker it’s good to talk to you, last time we spoke was Wrestlemania 27 when you were in Atlanta. What I’d like to ask is two parts. Nber one your Royal Rumble return back in 2011 I’m curious how far in advance did the WWE contact you about this? And the reason I’m asking is because like you said there’s always 1 or 2 surprise entrants and I’m curious about how far in advance this is planned? Was this a month in advance? A week?
Booker T: It was a couple of weeks that I realized that I was going to be coming back and being a part of the Rumble. It was almost a spur of the moment thing. It wasn’t something that was planned months in advance at all.
Matthew Asher: Ok. The other question is different, it’s on your autobiography, read it, enjoyed it. My question is, is there going to be a part 2 because obviously it kind of ends just as you get the call to go to WCW. Is there going to be a part 2 at the very least the WCW years, if not also the WWE and the TNA years?
Booker T: Well actually I’m getting ready to start my second book right now. You know we don’t have a name for it just yet, but I’m still working with getting it out there. I do think the fans deserve to hear that side of the career, you know the WCW side as well as the WWE part of my career and as far as TNA side I probably will leave that out because that part of my career bleak there wasn’t a whole lot happening. I just don’t want to leave the fans with a sour taste in their mouth. But we are getting ready to prepare to start it as we speak.
Matthew Asher: One more follow up on the book. I was just curious for those who haven’t picked the first one up whenever the second one comes out are you going to try to package it like a combo deal, you know what I mean? Kind of a box set essentially.
Booker T: You know definitely, I think it’s something because the 2 stories correlate, and it left off heading to Atlanta so definitely got to pick up the story and keep it going. I think there’s a lot of people that may not have read the “Booker T: From Prison to Promise” they have to read it, they may not understand what it’s about and , it’s like a movie sometimes a title may throw you off you know. You may not go and watch the movie but someone may tell you about it and you say wow I should’ve watched that a long time ago. So I’m hoping that’s what happens, and we can really push the book the “Prison to Promise” over the top because that right there is something special to me because I really try to help some kids save their lives you know what that book is for is , you know you can easily get in trouble and it’ll only take one time of your life away from you, that’s what that’s all about. Definitely that’s a really good idea and I’ll make sure to get on my publisher about it.
Matthew Asher: Thank you sir, I appreciate it.
Ryan Dilbert: Hey Booker, thanks for your time. I want to ask about the panel, I know you’re going to get a lot of questions from the audience, but do you guys have any topics or focuses that you’re going to open up with and talk to the fans first of all?
Booker T: Nah, it’s not scripted or anything like that. Kevin Nash you know he’s a character; he’s a guy that with a little (expletive) you know what I mean. The Big Show is a guy who has been in the trenches who saw it all; from a young, young kid to the man he is now. Even myself starting out in the early 90’s at the bottom of it you know to finish it off you know at the end and we got 3 different stories to tell from 3 different perspectives. I’m sure you’re going to get a whole lot of insight on what was going on. I’m sure every question that gets asked, we’re definitely going to give it to them you know from a realistic perspective. We’re not going to hold anything back and I’m sure like I said a lot of things are going to come up that people have been wanting to hear about for many, many years and we’re going to finally give it to them.
Ryan Dillbert: that sounds great. The other question I wanted to as was about your reality of wrestling promotion and are there any guys there that you’re seeing right now that have huge potential that the WWE might be interested in the future?
Booker T: You know I got a guy right now down in FCW and he’s doing really well. I got a guy who just did the thing and he’s trying to break his way into the business and I got a couple kids from Australia that really look promising. And it just, it’s mostly just giving these kids ready for when they’re not common and they get prepared for it more than anything it’s a rushed business it really is. And these guys really have to have the right frame of mind to know exactly what it takes. Most of it, you know sometimes you don’t know how to make it in the locker room you’re never going to make it in the ring you know so I’m just trying to make sure you know when it’s time they will be ready. A lot of them are young guys that still have a lot of growth and lots of maturity, lots of growth left in these young men so it’s a matter of getting them ready. But I’m definitely I got some kids that’s potentially ready to be there right now.
Ryan Dillbert: Anybody in particular?
Booker T: My kid Nicco (sp?). He’s been knocking the door, for some time, I got another kid like I said form Australia his name is Rob Barnes (sp?) he’s my ROW champion, if I could put 10 more pounds on this kid he’s going to be ready to jp into FCW and then because its always going to be a building block I don’t any of these guys these days will just be able to come out of a camp and jp right on television, they’re going to have to go through that FCW camp and be seen on television and own their craft a whole lot better but first and foremost like I said be prepared for when that , when that time comes.
Ryan Dillbert: Great, thanks Booker, I appreciate your time.
Booker T: Thank you.
Matthew Asher: Sorry Booker, I forgot to ask the other question , again with you being the surprise participant, if you had your say who would be your dream surprise entrant this year? Lets say 2 entrants for this year, who would you like to see?
Booker T: Wow surprise entries? Hahaha. Well that’s really, really a hard question …surprise entries, who would I want to see come in there and do something and wreck shop. Man …
Matthew Asher: If it helps I spoke to Kofi Kingston a couple weeks ago and for him he wanted to see KoKo B Ware because when he grew up he just loved the energy when he came into the ring so you know is there a favorite you had?
Booker T: I mean, I can only go for, like I said, you know if would have to be someone that I really love and the thing is, it’s not that many guys out there today that I had that kind of love for. If a guy, it could be a surprise entry for me you know that I would love to see, it would be Junkyard Dog, (laughs) if I could see Junkyard dog come back from the grave you know and be a part of the Rumble that would be great. but as far as current guys out there I never looked at the business that way and I never looked at it that way, I’ve had my childhood stars, everybody that I want to get in my era was my soul and I was trying to think of them as a superstar.
Matthew Asher: Ok, thanks sir.
Jason Powell: Booker before WCW was purchased by WWE did you hope to be a guy who spent his entire career in one company or was WWE always on your radar?
Booker T: Still WWE wasn’t on my radar just due to because they went to all the cold cities, all the cold countries. I don’t like being cold and so I remember I thought I was going to be a WCW guy for my career actually I thought I was going to retire there. That I was going to be a 20 year guy with WCW and be the 15 time heavyweight champion like Rick Flair you know but that didn’t happen but just like I always say I was prepared, I was prepared you know what was going to happen next so when the opportunity came you know it came by the doors being closed on WCW but the opportunity still came and I was ready for it when it came. I had to start all over when I got to the WWE and I had to leave all my accolades behind me, I had to prove to guys that I was ready for the task but did I think I was going to be in WCW forever? Yes, when the time came and it closed down I got prepared to go and continue the saga definitely I was.
Jason Powell: If it makes you feel any better, I don’t know where you’re at, but I’m in Minnesota and it’s about 10 below today.
Booker T: We’re in Houston right now it’s 75, sunny and clear and I’m doing this interview outside. (Laughs)
Jason Powell: I’m jealous, you know that in a past interview that you…or I’m sorry actually , ya you did talk in past interviews about how you were doing different accents during some of your TNA promos and you were kind of hopeful that someone in Hollywood might take note, so I know you pursued acting a little bit. Is that something you’re still pursuing seriously at this time?
Booker T: Actually I pursued voiceover, I didn’t pursue acting.
Jason Powell: I see
Booker T: Acting …myself I’m one of those guys who I’ve been in front of the camera for 20 years, over 20 years now I’ve been in front of that camera. I want to be one of those guys who work behind the scenes; I want to be heard if possible but not seen. , I want to be one of those guys that do the work behind the scenes and actually not know that I’m that guy behind you know the magic you know that’s what I want to do. My job in this business after wrestling is to produce the young guys, the young talent you know to pursue their dreams, become hall of famers, like I said and leave their legacy behind so that they can say “man I went out there and did it”. Hopefully some of them will say, “Man Booker T he was right there to help me.” guys like Sheamus, guys like Randy, guys like Ziggler I want to be in these guys corner and make sure I can make these guys better you know if I possibly can. Any given night I think my role really has become now and I’m totally embracing it, it’s a great time in my life right now.
Jason Powell: Well thanks for the time and stay warm.
Booker T: Definitely, thank you.
Mike Johnson: Hi Booker, I just got 2 quick follow ups and I’m jealous of the 75 degrees because it’s about 5 degrees in New York City right now. You mentioned your book “From Prison to Promise” that book is a very raw, gritty story of you growing up and I was curious how hard it was for you to be as honest as you were in the book about all of the obstacles you encountered in your life? And also what your family’s response was to you putting all that out there because there are members of your family that don’t always come off in the greatest light, and even you yourself at times don’t. So I was curious what the process was like for you when, you know how you felt during the process of getting it out there and what the reaction has been from your family?
Booker T: I’ll get the second part of that out first as far as my family goes. My family has been totally supportive you know we’re all still here, all my brothers and sisters are still here. We came up the hard way, you know, we’ve seen it all you know from so many different perspectives and I think , it was only right to put it out there from a raw perspective if I want to help somebody. I don’t want to sugar coat it and not really put it out there you know I really would have been lying to myself and that’s one thing I can’t do these days is look at myself in the mirror and lie to myself you know. That was the reason why I whole heartily had to put it out there from a raw perspective. I want kids to know when they read it first and foremost, Booker T has been in these situations and if he can come out of it, I can to you know. That sugar coated like I said wouldn’t of had the real message , but as far as me and my feelings putting it out there you know it was hard. I was easy for me to write it and put it down but it was hard for me to read it and go back in time you know and go through all of those errors and re-visit those moments you know what I mean. It really touched my heart from a certain perspective so, but as far as getting it out there and making sure that everybody got the real and true story of Booker T, I think the man upstairs is going to bless me for doing it. I think some kid is going to read it and think man I need to change my life and by me putting those words out there in that context, it’s worth it to me and I have no skeletons in my closet that anybody can go and find and pull out and say, well look at this Booker T used this, I put it all out there myself. I made sure everybody knew exactly who Booker T really is; you can trust Booker T because I have lied before and I make sure these days I walk a fine line. I want my kids to look up to me one day and say man that’s my dad. That right there is what I am working for these days. So any criticism I get from it, you know any backlash I get from it, from anybody it’s going to be totally worth it me because my mother always said you know if you’re 100% about something you speak up on it 100% of the time because if you’re 99% you keep your mouth shut, that’s why I did.
Mike Johnson: I got to tell you I thought it was one of the better wrestling books that have been released in the last couple of years. For most of the book you don’t get into wrestling, which is what I think made it more vibrant and all that more interesting. Bringing this conversation back to WCW, in a lot of ways we watched you grow up as a performer over the course of Nitro and Harlem Heat and the best of seven championship matches for the TV title and eventually your entrance into the WCW world title scene. Obviously there’s the new Nitro DVD coming out in the last couple of weeks, when you guys were in the trenches as loyalist WCW wrestlers during that era of the Monday night wars how much of that, of the competition between the WCW wrestlers and the WWE wrestlers was it something that the guys took to heart, was it the feeling that the boys are the boys and everybody’s a wrestler and everybody gets along, but that was really where like the strong territory and the strong borders were kind of divided even though guys were going back and forth between the 2 companies. So walk us through what it was like as a wrestler who started out as a tag team guy and the ascended all the way to the world championship during the height of that craziness of the Monday night wars and what it was like for you with your loyalties towards WCW?
Booker T: I tell you , it really was a war from a certain perspective, …in the beginning. It really was a war between WWE and WCW from a perspective in ring, from a perspective how big the budget was going to be, how much was going to be invested into the pay-per-views and as far as the look of it. It was truly a war but I can honestly say that when NWO came along you know the tide shifted, the land, the lay of the land totally shifted towards WCW and which was a good thing in the ways as far as the ratings go, as for t-shirts sales, as for the fan fare, but then again it was bittersweet at the same time because the NWO literally changed the landscape and the game as far as the way the rules were being played. But at that time like I said it was great being on top, the arenas were so loud at that time. But then you saw the wrestlers relaxing, you saw the wrestlers slacking. A lot of the guys were making a whole lot of money; a lot of the guys weren’t really caring about their performances anymore. Guys were just partying like …it was never going to stop. That’s where , I think the tide shifted back you know towards WWE and I think they took over and you know they never let the ratings go from that point on, but I tell you it was like being on a black stallion without a saddle you have to hold on tight. It was a great time, it was a fast time. But for myself I was in the mix, I was having fun and I saw everything happening around me, as far as the guys getting sauced, guys out slacking, that’s how I ascended to the championship just due to everybody’s lack of work, that’s exactly what happened and then on top of that when the company folded I was still ready and prepared to go that next leg, at the time I was ready to go around the track one more time you know. I wasn’t slacking when it was time for those other guys to go around the track, they weren’t prepared to go, all that slacking all the money that they made cause they were living off it at that time, it caught up with them. I mean they were getting fat and most of them couldn’t recover from it as you see most of them still at home right now sitting on the sofa wishing things were different so, but it was a great time, it was a great time for me and thank God you know I was prepared for the situation when it came.
Mike Johnson: One more question and I appreciate that question it’s great. When you went from WCW to WWE how hard was it to kind of grasp the mindset of the differences between the 2 companies and find your groove there because you always hear guys talk about even when they’ve worked all over the world, when they come to the WWE it’s a totally different animal both in the production, the way the things are structured and what not. Going from WCW to WWE there was a huge spotlight on you because you were the WCW champion at the time, how hard was if for you to find that groove and figure out the proper way and the proper nuances to work so you could succeed the WWE talent as opposed to a WCW talent?
Booker T: Well like I said first and foremost I knew I had to leave everything behind and think about me being WCW champion and you know me being tag team champion with my brother and you know doing all this stuff that I did there. I knew it was a totally different animal I knew I was coming into something that I wasn’t really a part of you know, I wasn’t WWE. I wasn’t born and bred WWE so I knew I was going to have to work a little harder just to make it there but then again I had WWE guys, you know guys like Taker, guys like Blackman guys like Pat Patterson, guys like the Hebners back then, that were helping me and pushing me on and saying man you are pretty talented, you could do this. Giving me advice as far as going out there and how to do certain things and then I had to take a step back and do things on my own as well because sometimes, if you do things you know other peoples way, you might get by their way, and myself I get by on my own so I was always willing to go with what I believed in and I was always willing to stand up for it. As far as coming in as champion and then you know losing the title and having to work my way back to it, I just knew it was something I was going to have to do. One thing I have always believed in this business since day one if my talent, I always knew my talent would get me to the next level. I always knew that one thing I could fall back on and no one could take that away from me you know so, as far as making it, it was different of course yes. But I just looked at it as a challenge and when I look at myself this many years later, 12, 13 years later, man I’m still there I’m still here doing my thing and the company is still blessing me to do what I do, I’m still making the fans happy from a certain perspective. If I could be an ambassador from this business for forever that’s what I want to be.
Mike Johnson: Awesome, thank you for your time today sir.
Arda Ocal: Hey Booker I just want to bring this back to the shooting straight panels, can you tell us a little bit about what you expect form the panels and I guess a selling feature is in the name, I guess it’s going to be a very open and honest conversation, where really there is no rules?
Booker T: Ya that’s right, there’s no rule, I mean that tells you everything right there. I’m going to expect you know everything, I’m going to expect you know, what happened when I was half doing the promo you know with Sherri and my brother and I said the N word, I know that’s going to come up. You know so I going to be prepared to answer and I got a pretty good answer to come back as well. And the things is all of that stuff is in the past, it’s nothing that , nothing that I should have to hide from or anything like that, like I said everything about my career has been open and I’m sure we’re going to get the shock master question, how did I feel when he fell out on the stage you know, I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of other questions that will be really really personal but you know that’s what this is about, that’s what this open mic thing is about it’s really all about this shoot. Open mic is really all about guys who let it all out and ask the questions that you really want to ask, don’t hold back, don’t hold anything back and a we’re going to be willing and shoot right back and answer the question and don’t be surprised if we get a little bit hot between the panel because you know we all think different ways on a lot of situations on a lot of questions that are going to come up.
Arda Ocal: Thank you.