WWE Retro Perspective: Triple H vs. Booker T at WrestleMania XIX
Last week, I wrote a pretty controversial article on why Triple H constantly inserts himself into top WWE feuds and has used politics to insert himself into top angles. While most of you disagreed with me, there are massive amounts of wrestling fans who do agree.
And if you did not agree with the last article, there's no way you can disagree with this one.
It was 2003, and Triple H had held the World Heavyweight Championship for the majority of the time since it had been inserted back into play.
WWE usually does a great job at creating memorable moments at WrestleMania.
The moment when Triple H pinned Booker T's shoulders to the mat at WrestleMania XIX is a moment that we all wish to forget...
On September 2, 2002, Triple H was handed the World Heavyweight Championship on a silver platter by Eric Bischoff. Within the context of the story, Triple H did nothing to become champion. It was a dual effort to get both Bischoff and Triple H over as villainous heels.
Triple H began his "reign of terror" by enlisting the services of the legendary Ric Flair as his manager and decimating future stars of WWE.
While guys like Rob Van Dam, Kane, Chris Jericho and Booker T were in the definitive primes of their careers, an aging, injury-prone Triple H ran rough-shot over all of them leading into Survivor Series 2002 at Madison Square Garden.
Rather than creating a career-defining moment for a future star of the business, Triple H walked into the first Elimination Chamber match at Survivor Series 2002 with the intention of dropping the World Heavyweight Championship to his best friend—Shawn Michaels.
Shawn Michaels was hot off of his comeback to the squared circle. It could have been smart for Shawn Michaels to give the rub to a future star by passing the World Heavyweight Championship to them at a major pay-per-view, but Triple H and his head of creative wife, Stephanie McMahon, didn't think that would be such a great idea.
Michaels dropped the World Heavyweight Championship back to Triple H at Armageddon 2002 in a brutal "3 Stages of Hell" match. Rather than Michaels helping to create a new star, he helped to define the legacy of Triple H.
Triple H, once again World Heavyweight Champion, entered an entertaining feud with Scott Steiner. Although the matches between the two were far from great, the feud contained arm wrestling contests, pose downs and other creative ways to build to the match.
Triple H retained the World Heavyweight Championship over Scott Steiner at Royal Rumble 2003 by getting himself disqualified and at No Way Out 2003 by defeating Steiner via pinfall. The night after No Way Out 2003 is the night that Booker T was officially inserted into the picture.
Booker T won a 20-man over the top rope battle royal on the February 24, 2003, edition of Raw by last eliminating The Rock to become the No. 1 contender to Triple H's World Heavyweight Championship.
The match was set. Triple H would defend the World Heavyweight Championship against Booker T at WrestleMania XIX. This feud got off to a hot start.
This was something new at the time. New in wrestling is usually always good. Triple H and Booker T have never had a program together. At the time, Booker T was becoming a huge star within the world of WWE.
WWE booked this match in the way where there should only be one winner. Booker T was on the brink of superstardom, and this was the match to get him there. If booked properly, Booker T and Triple H could have had a multiple pay-per-view run with fantastic matches for the World Heavyweight Championship.
As an 18-year-old diehard wrestling fan, I remember my reaction to this very well. It reminded me of a time where Ron Simmons was getting set to challenge Vader for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
During the build-up to this match, Harley Race [Vader's manager] cut an extremely racist promo on Ron Simmons. He told Simmons, "I was 7 times World Champion and I had a boy like you carry my bags."
Simmons beat the hell out of Race. He then went on to defeat Vader for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship and became the first black World Champion in professional wrestling history.
When I saw how this Booker T and Triple H rivalry was going down, I immediately thought of Ron Simmons and Harley Race. I knew Booker T would get his revenge on Triple H.
However, during the whole process of building to this WrestleMania main event, the cart went off the track. Triple H cut a seething promo on Booker T. This was the type of promo that hadn't been heard in a WWE ring in quite some time.
Triple H hit Booker T hard with a few racist remarks.
After reviewing this promo, Booker T started it off hot. The crowd was on fire for him. Not even a minute into it, Triple H makes his way down to the ring with Ric Flair by his side.
Triple H told Booker T that he was "confused about his role in life." He let Booker T know that "Somebody like you…doesn't get to be a world champion. People like you don't deserve it."
Triple H then told Booker, "You're not a competitor, you're an entertainer." and "You're here to make people like me laugh." Triple H also made a comment about Booker T's "nappy hair." Triple H also ridiculed the past accomplishments of Booker T.
I realize this was a wrestling storyline, and what happens in that ring is for storyline benefits. It was obvious that WWE was doing just that. Michael Cole even asked Triple H at the WrestleMania press conference if he "intentionally cut a racist promo." Triple H claimed it was not the case, and he was just referring to Booker T's past.
However, it does not make it right.
The next week on Raw, Booker T attempted to turn this racist promo into something positive. He explained to the crowd what had transpired in his past. He told Triple H that he didn't know anything about him. Booker had the crowd in the palm of his hands.
Ric Flair then made his way to the ring. He started to refer to successful black athletes like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods telling Booker that he was nothing like them. Flair told Booker that he has been "dealt a card, but the card doesn't say World Heavyweight Champion."
Flair also gave Booker T the option of being Triple H and Ric Flair's limo driver the next week at Raw and carrying their bags into the building. After Booker knocks out Flair with a vicious right hand, he heads backstage to confront Triple H.
Triple H is in the midst of washing his hands when Booker approached. Booker asked Triple H if he had something to say to him. Triple H pulled out a $1 bill, flicked it at Booker and said, "Yeah, give me a towel."
The feud continued to gain steam heading into WrestleMania. Booker had shed light on his past, and Triple H continued to make controversial remarks to the challenger.
When the match took place, Booker T was ready to achieve his dream. Sadly, Triple H would prevail in a hard-fought contest. Booker hit Triple H with every finishing move he had. He gave the Seattle crowd a performance of a lifetime. Triple H hit one pedigree, and the match was over just like that.
Jamahl Reynolds of www.ProWrestlingPowerhouse.com wrote an article on this controversial topic. Here is an excerpt from that article:
"Instead of being a dignified heroic black wrestler, defeating the racist snobbish white wrestler in the biggest match of his career, Booker T loses. Years later, he becomes a joke of a heel under the gimmick, King Booker! Now, if you remember HHH's promo, HHH called Booker T an entertainer and himself a competitor and that he (Booker T) doesn't deserve the World title. Guess what? Booker T became just that! An entertainer to win the world title, so in context, HHH was right!"
After WrestleMania XIX, the conflict between Triple H and Booker T was over, and Kevin Nash was inserted into the World Heavyweight Championship picture. Kevin Nash received multiple title shots during the summer of 2003.
Booker T fell back into the midcard. In retrospect, if Booker T defeated Triple H for the championship at WrestleMania, they could have worked for months. Even if Triple H regained the championship at the end, Booker T would have been a made star in the eyes of WWE fans.
This was quite possibly the biggest mistake that WWE has made on the huge scale of WrestleMania. They added controversy and racial issues into a feud where it just wasn't needed, and there was no payoff. Booker T didn't get his revenge.
In a way, I get it. I get why WWE went where they went for this feud. Booker T showed just how professional he is by going with it. The story is that Booker T was booked to win the championship up until the day of WrestleMania. Whether that story is true or not, I'm really not sure.
Both men would go on to have fantastic careers in WWE. Triple H continued to hold talent down and work with his friends, and Booker T won numerous midcard titles before finally becoming World Heavyweight Champion in 2006 as King Booker.
Did you like what I had to say about Triple H defeating Booker T at WrestleMania XIX? Whether you agree or disagree, make sure you comment below and let your voice be heard. Also, please visit www.prowrestlingpowerhouse.com and get involved in our community. Join us at our Facebook Group Argue with me here, there or wherever.
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