Brandon C. Williams
IN REALITY, rest is something Booker Huffman has the luxury of doing in large, healthy doses.
Having achieved fame and wealth during a three-decade career as a professional wrestler that culminated with his induction into the World Wrestling Federation’s hall of fame in 2013, Huffman, better known by his in-ring name Booker T, has a wife, children and the opportunity to enjoy the rest of his life in a manner few retired wrestlers are capable of mastering.
But, rather than travel the world on a whim or reunite and revisit past duels with other grapplers who have also placed their boots into the closet, Booker T has a second act in wrestling – one that involves developing his own organization, the 10-year-old Reality Of Wrestling.
And the organization will take its biggest step this Saturday when it unveils its new home at Mall Of The Mainland, where it will record its events and conduct its daily operations, which include the company’s 21,000-square-foot wrestling school.
Body slams and drop kicks won’t be the only thing coming out of the building, as there will also be mixed martial-arts events and concerts among other activities when the wrestling mats aren’t in use.
“There’s always going be to be something going on there,” Booker T told The Post last week.
He said new Mall Of The Mainland owner Jerome Karam connected with him last year and the two immediately were able to get on the fast track to the deal to bring Reality Of Wrestling to Galveston County.
It’s a deal that will give the county’s southern area a huge shot in the arm in entertainment dollars in the wake of the closing of most of the stores in the mall along with the recent shutting-down of the nearby Gulf Greyhound Park.
“I thought it would be good for Reality Of Wrestling,” Booker T said. “Texas City has been a good wrestling town for years and, since we want to make Reality Of Wrestling bigger, this would be a good way to start.
“The area is growing a lot more, as there are more homes being built in the neighborhood, so I definitely thought this would be a great place for us.”
While Booker T still works with WWE as a pre-show analyst for that company’s pay-per-view events, he has devoted most of his time in the past few years in growing Reality Of Wrestling, which put on its first show in December 2006.
ROW took a significant leap forward last year when it moved from KUBE-TV, which aired its shows in the early hours on Sundays, to CW39, where the shows now air at 11:00am.
The decision to move to CW39 had meaning for Booker T, who was a fan of the iconic Houston Wrestling events that aired on the network for years when Paul Boesch was one of the most prominent regional promoters until current WWE owner Vince McMahon bought him out in 1987.
Referring to Boesch, Booker T said: “To be able to keep his dream and legacy alive in the Houston area is very personal. Houston Wrestling was something I grew up on. It’s really important to me because it helps out kids at the same time.”
He said: “Boesch saved a lot of kids through professional wrestling through Progressive Boxing Association and Boys And Girls Clubs. I thought his way of life was the right way, so I’m just trying to keep it going and have some fun at the same time and create a new utopia for wrestling in the city.”
The ex-wrestler, who donates proceeds from live shows to his Booker T Fights For Kids Foundation, said Reality Of Wrestling has staked its future on its young talent, almost all of whom are products from the company’s school.
Having experienced the mistakes made by some of the promoters he worked with during his time with WWE and former rival companies World Championship Wrestling and Impact Wrestling, he regards focusing on the need to cultivate talent from within instead of bringing in aging veterans from other wrestling outlets as a commandment.
ROW has had big-name stars like Rob Van Dam, who will be signing autographs during Saturday’s grand opening, along with former WWE standouts Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin appear with the company on a limited basis, but that’s a business move of the past, as Booker T is intent on making household names of his own.
His strategy is working. His list already includes current ROW champion Gino, tag-team champs the Heavenly Bodies, Ruthless Ryan Davidson and the Mysterious Q and, at the same time, he is working with WWE to open doors for his performers.
“Wrestling is a timing issue,” he said. “There are so many different variables that come with taking it to the next level and I want to give these guys the tools so they will be equipped for whatever task that may be in front of them.”
Some of those tasks could be quite exotic. As well as plans for tours across the state, doors will open internationally in May when Booker T takes six of his ROW stars to Qatar to pit them against six of that nation’s top stars.
“We have one common goal,” he said. “Everybody runs in the same direction at the same time. “If we do that, we will make our destination. It may not be in the timely fashion we may want it to but I think we’ll make it if we run at the same time.”