When there were multiple wrestling organizations on television including the WWF, WCW, GWF, AWA, UWF & WCCW, it was easy to tell who was going to emerge at the top. I can remember watching GWF and seeing the Ebony Experience for the first time. Compared to the other stars of the GWF, they looked like a million bucks. Stevie Ray and Booker T were giants. It was easy to see that, somewhere down the line, they’d be competing for WCW or the WWF. As Harlem Heat, they dominated the tag-team division of WCW for years, winning the tag titles a whopping ten times.
Booker became a 5x WCW Champion, held over 30 titles, and wrestled in some of the most iconic matches of modern times. Many people associate WCW with Sting, not me. When I think WCW I think Booker T. From his series of matches with Chris Benoit to his classic promo about Lex Luger and Hulk Hogan he was always a consistent reason to tune in before the n.W.o. made its presence known and long after they became passé!
What was a little ironic was that in the past, WCW had a long history of showcasing tag-team wrestlers in singles matches without splitting up the team. That didn’t happen much for Harlem Heat, but it was obvious that Booker T was a main event caliber singles wrestler. Eventually someone in the booking department wised up and gave Booker T the spotlight. It’s a shame that it took far too long for this to happen. But, with a great entrance theme, a strong chiseled look, great in-ring skills, and the one and only Spinaroonie, Booker T overcame a lot of obstacles to reach the top level of a business where getting the top spot, and holding it, is an extremely difficult task.
His new book, “From Prison to Promise, Life Before The Squared Circle” is hitting stores this September and it is a very in-depth look at the 5x WCW champ before he became the superstar you know today. At the same time, it will most likely change your opinion of Booker. He made some very poor decisions. But the book details what the man is made of internally, to be able to turn things around and have the success he enjoys to this day.
Medallion Press, who has also given us books from UFC Referee John McCarthy and Joe “Road Warrior Animal” Laurinatis, published this autobiography by Booker and Andrew William Wright. After just a few pages you’ll feel like you were on the opposite end of a Harlem Hangover. From never knowing a father that died when he was less than a year old, to a loving mother that was taken away from him by a freak accident when he was just 13, his childhood innocence was stripped away far too soon. He went from having stability to having nothing. After his mother’s untimely passing, his family became torn apart with infighting and dissention. Left alone to fend for themselves, Booker and his sister Bonita were left in dark -- sometimes without food, sometimes without water, but never without hope.
Booker’s story is incredible. You’ve heard the term “from rags to riches?” Booker had less than rags. He was brought up in a world full of bad luck, misfortune, crime, drugs and inconsistency. His daily routine consisted of being shifted around from relative to relative, people involved in everything from drug dealing to prostitution. Booker’s lack of parenting and instability lead him to a life of crime, following in the footsteps of the only role models he was privy to.
His hardships and mistakes earned him a term in the Harris County Jail and then the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville as a member of the crew known as the Wendy’s Bandits. Along the way, he became a father to a son, and the mother of his son succumbed to the hard life of drugs. Using a memory of his mother’s words as a focal point to make the changes necessary to turn his life around, he got his GED, became a model prisoner, got early parole and took the steps necessary to gain custody of and raise his son.
Only the early stages of Booker’s wrestling career are covered here. And you know what? That’s a refreshing change. Most wrestling books are the same. A quick rundown of their childhood and then the story of how they became a wrestler, followed by their accomplishments, and a few road stories. There is hardly a mention of his WCW and WWE days. That’s left for a follow-up book, or two which I hope may be in progress. You will learn about Booker’s putz of a mentor and how it was Cowboy Scott Casey that actually helped shape the Booker T you know and love.
You’ll also learn who the famous WCW/WWF former world champion that brought Booker and his brother to WCW in Atlanta was. There are also tales of his first wrestling persona – GI Bro. I am sure that Booker has a thousand tales to tell about life on the road, working with other wrestlers and becoming a champion, but there is no question he needed to tell this all-important story of how he championed his own life before entering the squared-circle.
Now Can You Dig That Suckas? (This, by the way would make an excellent title for a From Prison to Promise Sequel.)
Watch for Booker T to discuss From Prison To Promise on the Cardboard Connection Radio Show.