Title belt or not, he's a crowd-pleaser

Booker T is coming to the arena for a Smackdown

July 14, 2005|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,SUN STAFF

In the locker room before a match, professional wrestler Booker T might be all beat up, bruised, battered and torn. But as soon as he slips on his trademark boots and gloves, he turns into a different person altogether.

"Once I put the gloves on, it's like Superman going in the phone booth," said Booker T, whose real name is Booker Huffman.

Huffman said he will never lose the boots or the gloves, for the same reason he said he will never shave his dreadlocks: They are the source of his power. He doesn't even know who he is wrestling Tuesday when Smackdown comes to 1st Mariner Arena because he doesn't care.

"It's really not gonna make a difference who I take on Tuesday," said Huffman, 40. "Somebody's just gonna get a beat-down the old-fashioned way -- the only way I know how."

Though Huffman acknowledges he is no stronger than he was when he debuted about 15 years ago, he has gotten a lot smarter in and out of the ring. He said he has also managed to keep the same level of intensity he brought to professional wrestling years ago. That's what keeps him in the ring.

"I think once that goes, I don't think I'll want to be around doing this," he said. "But right now, I've still got a fire that's burning, and I've still got a fire to go out there and be the best. I've got a fire to go out there and steal the show every night, and Tuesday night it's not going to be any different. I'm going to come out and steal the show like I always do."

When he is not touring with Smackdown, Huffman is training amateurs in the wrestling academy he opened last month in his hometown of Houston. He had a music store for a while, but he said he would rather teach something he knows instead of sell CDs. Now, he trains three up-and-comers at least twice a week at Booker T's Pro Wrestling Academy, he said.

"Right now, I'm just kinda letting them crawl before they can walk," he said.

Huffman said he is no longer angry over his trade last year to Smackdown from WWE's other division, Raw. Although he lost a bout with JBL last month, he still has hopes for a WWE title shot. But to him, a title and the belt that comes with it are not as important as pleasing fans.

"My career's always been about the fans -- going out and exciting the fans, giving them the ultimate show," he said. "When they leave, I want them to be saying, `Man, did you see what Booker T did? Man, I can't wait to come back and see Booker T.' "

Seeing Smackdown in person is much more intense than watching it on television, Huffman said. Live, you can feel the heat from the pyrotechnics and watch the sweat fly off pounds and pounds of muscle as Smackdown stars take each other on in the ring. Huffman said Tuesday's show will be one of the best Smackdowns you'll ever see.

"Make sure you bring your earplugs, because the pyro is going to be totally, totally loud," he said. "Enormously loud, especially when Booker T comes out. Just get ready for the show of a lifetime."

Smackdown hits 1st Mariner Arena, 201 W. Baltimore St., at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets are $20-40. Call 410-547-7328 or visit www.1stmariner arena.com.

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