Real-life brothers and Houston natives Booker and Lash Huffman went from the Texas independent wrestling circuit to the big stage of World Championship Wrestling in the 1990s, ultimately winning the WCW World Tag Team Championship a record ten times together.
Harlem Heat first split in 1998, with Stevie Ray continuing in the WCW and Booker T joining the World Wrestling Federation when WWF bought WCW in 2001. Booker T made his WWF (now the WWE) debut in the King of the Ring pay-per-view event that year. After winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, the WWE Intercontinental Championship, the WWE Hardcore Championship and three WWE tag team titles, Booker T left the WWE to join Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling. He made his TNA debut as Sting’s mystery partner in a tag team match against Kurt Angle and Kevin Nash for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.
Booker T returned to the WWE in 2011, first as a wrestler and later as commentator and executive, being named General Manager of the WWE’s Smackdown promotion. Following an illustrious career during the height of professional wrestling’s television success, Booker T and Stevie Ray appeared the night before Wrestlemania XXIX (in 2013), where Stevie Ray inducted Booker T into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Booker T sat ringside at WWE Raw in January 2015, stepping in for longtime ringside commentator Jerry Lawler. It was later announced that Booker would replace Lawler as the commentator for Raw.
One of the biggest wrestling duos of an era, and the biggest names in the sport to come out of Houston, the two opened the Booker T and Stevie Ray Pro Wrestling Academy in their home city in 2005.
That year, Booker T also developed an indie wrestling promotion that later became “Reality of Wrestling,” which featured pay-per-view events and appeared on local Houston television station KUBE-TV Channel 57. Since 2014, ROW has expanded to broadcast programming in several markets across the country through a partnership with Arkansas-based Soul of the South Network.
At a January 2015 ROW event, the pair announced that the record-holding tag team duo Harlem Heat would return to action for a ROW event on February 21, 2015 at Reality of Wrestling Live! at the Pasadena Convention Center in Pasadena, Texas.
The ONE Magazine’s wrestling writer Jason Cook sat down for an exclusive chat with one half of the legendary tag team duo to talk about about the state of the business and about the upcoming return of Harlem Heat:
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Jason Cook: “In TNA I’m looked at as the ally for female wrestling and I always support and protect it backstage, but much like female wrestling, do you feel tag team wrestling is making a comeback on the main stream level — aka WWE and TNA? Or do you think it’s being disrespected by the powers that be?”
Booker T: “Tag team wrestling will always have a spot in this sport just like women’s wrestling. The key to it is when you are given your time to shine, you need to step up and show the office and the fans that you’re money!”
JC: “What I like about Reality of Wrestling is the counter-culture production look of the show. It looks real and gritty, and I’m a big supporter of that look. Was that the goal of ROW or did it just happen to be that way based on budget and what you had to work with?
BT: ”From day one we wanted to give it a different look. I’m a big fan of that old ECW style and concept of work with what you have and hide the flaws. We knew going in that we weren’t going to have a huge budget at first, so (we) worked hard to use that to our advantage. Everything from the darker venue to the way we set the stage and lights is to make people feel like they came to something bigger than just an “Indie Show.”
JC: “At the moment, so many great and young talents are coming out of ROW and a few have even (eventually earned) spots on Raw and Smackdown. If you had to pick two stars that in your mind would get the call to WWE or TNA tomorrow, which wrestlers male or female would they be?”
BT: “That’s a hard one! So many of these guys are like my kids. When they go to WWE it’s hard for me to watch them because I get nervous for them. If I had to pick a few off hand our champion at the time, Mysterious Q, Rex Andrews & Ryan Davidson are all amazing talents in their own right. As for females, Kenzie Sykes and Miranda have really stepped up their game and are going to be players in this business.”
JC: “Do you think domestically another wrestling boom period will hit or do you think that time is over?”
BT: “Another one will hit for sure. It’s already starting with WWE, TNA, Ring of Honor, NJPW coming to PPV and now Lucha Underground. There is a lot of buzz going around these days.”
JC: “As of late ROW has done a lot of cross promotional events. As a result (that) has created many fantasy dream matches on the indie level. Is this a hard process to manage with all the different egos on the table? Or is it just another day in the office for you two?”
BT: “We have had some ups and downs with wrestlers and promotions, but we knew that would be the case and were prepared for it. So I guess overall you could say it’s another day at the office.”
JC: “Is ROW exclusive for developing talent for WWE? Let’s say one of your wrestlers was to get an offer from TNA, would that be allowed based on your WWE ties or would you welcome it?”
BT: “No, we don’t have any exclusive deals with any promotions and would be happy for any of our talent to go to any bigger promotions whether that’s WWE, TNA, Mexico or Japan. We encourage our talent to work bigger events to get more exposure.”
JC: “Back to the tag team topic at hand… Which current ROW tag team do you feel would have the best chance of hanging with the great Harlem Heat back in the day?”
BT: “Well of the 21st of February we are going to see if The Heavenly Bodies can hang with The Heat!!”
JC: “If you two could have one last tag match in the WWE against any team currently in the business who would it be and why?”
BT: “All the stars would have to align and everything be just right, but I think getting in the ring with my former students the Usos would be something special. Oh yeah… Can’t forget Goldust and Cody as well.”
JC: “Name three teams… Who are the three greatest tag teams of all time in your opinion?”
BT: “Steiners, Dudleys and Harlem Heat.”
JC: “What is the greatest thing as a team that you two feel was accomplished in your run as a tag team?”
BT: “You know, I couldn’t tell you what the greatest thing we did was because it was always just a job, but I can tell you the most fun and best memories were when we are beside Sister Sherry and running the roads. She was a huge part of Harlem Heat.”
JC: “In 1998 why was it decided to break up Harlem Heat?”
BT: “It had just run its course, and back then the only thing left was to get fed to the NWO, so we decided to both branch out and see what we could do on our own.”
JC: “Would you two like to talk about your opponents at the next ROW show? What should the fans expect?”
BT: “The Heavenly Bodies are two young kids (Justin and Mark Corino) from up north. (We) saw a lot in these guys while doing some shows up north. I flew them in to work some of my shows and showed them a new side of the business. We are looking forward to the 21st, and both my brother and myself are training hard because if this is it, we are going out with a bang!”
JC: “What advice would you two give the next generation of wrestlers that want to follow in your footsteps?”
BT: “This is a hard business and nothing is guaranteed to you, so if you want a half of a chance at making it go to a good school with a trainer who has been where you want to go. If they have never been in the main event how are they going to teach you how to get there?!”
JC: “Would you two like to say anything else before we end this?”
BT: “Just want to thank all the fans that have been coming out to support Reality of Wrestling and helping it grow every day. I get stopped in airports all over the US with people bringing up things they saw on Reality of Wrestling TV, and I’m (more) proud of that than almost anything I have done in the ring.”
JC: Thank you so much for your time and I hope both of you hit a home run next month when Harlem Heat reunites.
Editor’s Note: Jason Cook will interview former WCW and TNA female wrestler April Hunter in March, and Jason promises a few other surprises for the near future.