Has Booker T's Legacy Been Tarnished by TNA, or by Booker T?
The legacy one leaves behind when they leave school, a career, or even life itself can easily be affected in a positive or negative way by simple actions. Legacy can even be affected by the words we speak; it’s that sensitive.
Why am I bringing up “legacy” without mentioning the WWE stable mates under that name? Enter Booker T and the events of the past several weeks. Let’s look first at what Booker T has accomplished.
Booker T is probably best known for his tag team championships. Together with his “brother” Stevie Ray as “Harlem Heat,” they held the WCW tag belts 10 times. He also held the WWF/E Tag Team titles three times, once each with Test, Goldust, and Rob Van Dam.
Both in the WCW and in the WWE, he held the World Heavyweight Championship, holding it five times in WCW and once in the WWE. He also held the US Championship in both federations and also the WWE Intercontinental title.
Aside from some other mid-card status belts in both federations, he also won the 2006 King of the Ring and was considered Wrestling Observer’s 2002 “Most Underrated Wrestler”.
Booker’s championships in TNA were the Legends Title and the World Tag Team Titles that he and Scott Steiner lost at Bound for Glory.
The Legends Title was initially an unsanctioned belt that Booker T "awarded" to himself. He held it for 143 days until AJ Styles won it from him at Destination X, at which time the belt became officially sanctioned by TNA.
Simply put, Booker T had great athleticism and could perform at a very high level. He was rewarded for that ability by holding championship gold a number of times.
Over the past couple years, his skills have declined in the ring and he is not the athletic performer he once was, but he still has ability.
But perhaps that’s where the positives start to fade.
According to reports, Booker’s last days at WWE were spent complaining that the travel schedule was too demanding. There was also a link in 2007 to Signature Pharmacy, a company known for selling performance enhancing drugs.
Though Booker denied any use of drugs, he was suspended by the WWE for Wellness Policy violations. Subsequently he asked to be released from his and Sharmell’s contracts and the WWE granted that release.
He arrived in TNA with great enthusiasm and was looking forward to working with the younger talent, wanting to take TNA to a higher level. Since then, we’ve watched him become a member of the Main Event Mafia, a storyline that has played out over the past year.
In recent weeks, a lot of negative stories regarding Booker T and his strained relationship with TNA have surfaced from a variety of sources. Some of these incidents have been discussed at length already; however I will reference them for some context.
There was the "Swedish Riot" incident, where Booker T and Sharmell walked out on a main-event tag match with Kurt Angle and Scott Steiner.
As is established, Steiner tore up the Swiss flag, and the crowd began hurling trash at the ring. As a result, Booker T refused to work the match and Sheik Abdul Bashir took his place.
There was also the refusal to put Matt Morgan over at an iMPACT taping. Booker claimed he had no issue with Morgan and simply wanted to put Morgan over at a pay-per-view instead.
Booker's logic was that the pay-per-view profile is higher than a regular TV taping, yet it was received as that he did not want to put Morgan over at all.
Numerous reports that have been referenced in previous works here at B/R indicated that these incidents are telling of Booker T’s overall attitude toward TNA lately.
Reports online from a variety of sources say his attitude has been poor, and some have deemed him a “locker room cancer.” Booker has expressed the desire to leave at the end of his TNA contract.
Those sources also indicate that the disdain that Booker T has for TNA has been growing stronger recently. Booker has been so forthright as to say that his time in TNA has tarnished his legacy.
He has even gone on to say that he cannot wait for his contract to officially end so he can pursue other options.
Has his legacy been tarnished by TNA? I submit that it has not been, but instead that Booker has done it to himself.
First, it is my opinion that Booker T has a legacy of being a great tag-team wrestler. Thirteen total championships with two different federations and several different partners speak to that.
He never was a true “standout” singles competitor even though he had five major title runs in WCW and one in WWE, though he was good.
His run in TNA has been especially “less than memorable” in terms of singles competition, especially over the past year to 16 months.
It is also my opinion that Booker was outperformed by many of the other "aging" stars on the TNA roster, such as Sting and Kurt Angle.
Booker’s in-ring performance on a consistent basis did not warrant TNA giving him a championship run as a singles competitor.
Even on the mic, in TNA Booker T was a hollow shell of his past ability. Don’t mistake me here: Booker was never great on the mic like The Rock, Ric Flair, or a host of others, but in his past he could hold his own.
In TNA, guys like Mick Foley and Kevin Nash were putting Booker to shame on the stick, even if they can’t wrestle well anymore.
Ultimately, it comes down to a prime case of underperformance. Booker T still has the athletic ability to perform at a better level than he has shown in TNA.
Unless there are unreported injuries that render him less than 100 percent, it seems as if he is choosing NOT to perform at his best.
Next, if Booker became unhappy with TNA and how they were utilizing him, it’s certainly his business and right to feel that way.
However, as it is with any job in society, there are right ways to handle that displeasure. You don’t go out and publicly bash your employer every chance that you get.
Speaking from the viewpoint of working in corporate America, it is easy to polarize staff against you by speaking against the direction of a project or the direction of a company.
By publicly complaining about TNA to every ear that would listen, Booker successfully isolated himself from the locker room. In the process, he earned himself the reputation of being a malcontent, which is hard to shed.
For the other guys in the locker room, the dynamic is slightly different. Knowing one of your supposed top stars is talking to whatever outlets they have to say negative things about the organization does not do much for positive locker room morale.
I’m sure that letting go of talent like Petey Williams and Sonjay Dutt was not good for locker room morale in general. Having Booker go out and speak so negatively against the very organization writing the paychecks likely hurt even more.
Finally, Booker T had star power. This was, after all, the five-time WCW champion and a man who had a mildly successful run in the WWE.
He was a recognized name in the industry that could have helped to build a number of future stars and positively influence the locker room and company. From all appearances, he chose not to do that by his words and deeds.
At this past Sunday night’s “Bound for Glory” pay-per-view event, Booker T was carted out on a stretcher during the Full-Metal Mayhem Tag Team Championship match.
This angle was used to write him off of television. According to information reported by WrestleZone.com, Booker T will no longer be used in television or pay-per-view events going forward.
Being written off of television by leaving the largest pay-per-view event of your promotion’s year on a stretcher is probably not how anyone wants to be remembered.
In the case of Booker T, I believe he has bigger problems to concern himself with than that. Worse yet, I believe that he has no one to blame but himself for those problems.
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