Saturday, December 1, 2007

WWE Superstar King Booker

Above all else, King Booker is a survivor. Raised only by his mother, then parentless since age 14, the youngest of eight children did what residents from the notorious South Park section of Houston, Texas often do: adapt to life on the streets or become one of its victims. (“I’ve seen people shot and stabbed, who got killed right before my eyes,” he explains. “I didn’t grow up in the best part of town.”) While many students at Jack Yates High School turned to sports, Booker, a natural athlete, preferred entertaining people as a drum major and performing on stage—“telling a story,” as he puts it. To him, it was “a way out” of an otherwise harsh existence.

Unfortunately, one doesn’t become a survivor without making mistakes, then paying for them. Booker’s biggest misstep—committing aggravated armed robbery at several fast-food establishments (including one where he worked at)—cost a particularly steep price: a five-year prison sentence, of which he’d serve 19 months. The experience taught him what he considers today his most valuable lesson: “Breathing fresh air is important. Don’t waste one day being bitter.”

Becoming a single parent himself, Booker took whatever jobs he could to make ends meet, including renting out U-Hauls and holding space in a Houston-based storage facility. When his brother Stevie Ray suggested that they enroll in a new wrestling school opened by WWE Hall of Famer Ivan Putski, he borrowed the $3,000 lesson fee from his boss at the storage facility (to whom he is still grateful). While developing his mat skills under trainer Scott Casey, Booker didn’t see a wrestling career as a golden opportunity to attain some lifelong dream of becoming a Champion of Champions. He just saw it as another—and hopefully better—way to survive.

Since then, King Booker has tasted nothing but success, and settled for nothing less than gold around his waist. He ranks high among World Wrestling Entertainment’s top Superstars, and thinks it’s “pretty cool” that he can share his spotlight in the squared circle with his wife, Queen Sharmell. When he’s not owning opponents inside a Raw ring, he’s training potential future grapplers with his brother at the Booker T & Stevie Ray Wrestling Academy in Houston. “Putting the academy in the vicinity of a place not far from where I grew up means a lot,” he says.

What means most to King Booker, however, is remembering who he is beneath the wealth and fame that accompanies a WWE Superstar of his magnitude. He still sees himself as a survivor, and it’s that sense of self-preservation that makes him so dangerous.

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