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Joseph Baucum

TEXAS CITY — Galveston County residents with designs to one day compete in WrestleMania are in luck. Booker Huffman, former WCW and WWE Champion better known by his ring name Booker T, will bring his Reality of Wrestling Main Headquarters to Mall of the Mainland, 10000 Emmett F Lowry Expressway. The wrestling academy will open October 15, Huffman said.

He announced his company’s intentions at a press conference in the mall’s World Gym. Decked in a charcoal, pinstripe suit, Huffman was joined by his wife, Sharmell, and business partner, Bruce Prichard. Almost 50 of Huffman’s current protégés flanked the trio on both sides.

Huffman said his school’s training, a two-year course, encompasses all facets of professional wrestling. Besides teaching techniques and moves, he also noted the entertainment aspect of the sport. Lessons on how to develop intriguing character personas will be imparted.

“It’s an academy. It’s not like junior high or high school where they make you do the work,” he said. “You have to come in and actually have to put the work in to make it to the next level.”

Huffman’s current training facility, Wrestling Xercise Fitness, resides in Houston in a 4,000 sq. ft. building. The new center, which will replace WXF, will spread over 21,000 sq. ft. in the old Palais Royal building.

Aside from the increase in space, another leading factor for the move boiled down to cost effectiveness, Huffman explained. While declining to reveal the exact figure, he said Mall of the Mainland Owner Jerome Karam extended an offer too good to pass up.

“He’s like Tony Montana (Al Pacino’s character in Scarface,)” Huffman said about Karam.

In addition to the training, the academy also acts as a professional wrestling show, where the students showcase their abilities in a similar vein to WWE. After announcing the school’s new location, he declared that the TV show will be moving Sept. 20 to Houston’s CW39. Huffman also hosts a wrestling-centric radio show in the Houston area.

Karam believes the presence of the center will help draw attention to Texas City. He also was not shy in his hopes that Huffman’s academy will raise the stature of the mall.

“It’s going to heighten the awareness of wrestling, of Texas City, as well as Mall of the Mainland,” Karam said.