SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath-the-surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Booker T knows exactly how Drew McIntyre is feeling right now
The wrestling industry will be graced with the return of the legendary Booker T this Saturday.
The WWE Hall of Famer steps into the ring for his Reality of Wrestling promotion, captaining a team of his students against “Ruthless” Ryan Davidson and the Renegades, who are all homegrown talent from Booker’s wrestling school.
Making the moment even more unique is that Booker is reprising his old G.I. Bro character, a persona he first developed in 1989, for the match at the Booker T World Gym Arena in Texas City, Texas.
“Reality of Wrestling is my baby, it’s my passion,” said Booker Huffman. “I have one of the youngest rosters in the wrestling business—they start at 15, 16 years old in our fantasy camp, then join our Reality of Wrestling school. The youngest kid in the Renegades is 17 years old. This is all about showing guys the right way to do things, and I hope that I can pass on even more knowledge to my students in the ring on Saturday night.
“Ryan Davidson is one of my teachers, and he’s teaching all those guys what I taught him. I want him to be the best, so I’ve been very hard on him. I remember once he asked me, ‘Book, why do you hate me so much?’ And I said, ‘Man, I love you. I want you to be the best.’ Now he’s leading the Renegades, and it’s so awesome to see him begin to reach his potential. This is just what Chris Jericho and I always spoke about—it’s Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet or Phantom of the Opera up close and personal.”
Part of WWE’s Backstage studio show that airs every Tuesday night on Fox, Huffman remains a fixture in the company. He was part of the broadcast team that called the men’s Royal Rumble match, and he is among those who believe that the WWE title match pitting Brock Lesnar against Rumble winner Drew McIntyre should close out WrestleMania 36.
“McIntyre-Lesnar is a built-in story,” said Huffman. “Drew paid his dues. He’s a guy that got fired, had to go out there and find himself, then work his way back up. Drew is a guy that was once labeled ‘The Chosen One,’ and then all of that fell through. To see him back, it’s only fitting to close WrestleMania with that match.”
Huffman relates to McIntyre through their shared work ethic. He was also hardworking but underappreciated before he was finally rewarded with his first world title run in WCW at Bash at the Beach in 2000.
“I was that guy once upon a time, so I know exactly how Drew feels right now,” said Huffman. “It will be one of those stories where the guy who worked his ass off gets rewarded, and it will be awesome.”
A return this Saturday inside a Reality of Wrestling ring is unlikely to bring Huffman back to wrestling full-time, despite the fact that a return to WWE would be wildly successful.
“I don’t wish to ever wrestle a WWE schedule again,” said Huffman, 54. “Those days are far past me. My body feels good, but I don’t have anything to prove in the wrestling ring, unlike Edge, who just came back. Edge didn’t leave on his own terms. He left because of a neck injury, which wasn’t the way he wanted to go out. We want to go out the way we want to go out.
“I pretty much did everything I possibly could for the WWE and every other organization I could possibly be a part of. I’m still having so much fun in this current wave, working for Fox, working for ESPN, working for WWE, and having my own wrestling company. Life is great, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Huffman started his career in Houston, and he is proud to carry on the tradition that the late Paul Boesch brought to the territory while he was booking there for over three decades.
“Paul Boesch would be happy,” said Huffman. “He’s looking down on us saying, ‘You’re keeping my dream alive.’ I’m not going to be here forever, but the work that I put in while I’m here is extremely important to me. It’s going to be a great night on Saturday night.”
Briscoe Brothers remain a constant in ROH
The Briscoe Brothers reupped with Ring of Honor, ensuring that ROH’s signature tag team will remain in the company and won’t test free agency.
Jay and Mark Briscoe would have been an asset to a number of companies, providing depth to AEW and a top attraction for the NWA, but the 11-time ROH tag champs will remain with the company where they became stars.
“We’ve spent 18 years helping to build this house and we have no desire to move out,” said Jay Briscoe, who is also a former two-time ROH world champion. “This is home for us.
“ROH has always given us the liberty to perform how we want to. The competition that happens in the ring has always been our main focus and our roster is more diverse than ever. We pride ourselves on being able to match up with any style.”
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and despite initial thoughts of working elsewhere, Mark Briscoe admitted that his full intention was to stay in ROH.
“Personally, I thought about the other options,” said Mark Briscoe. “However, with the recent signings and moves that have been made in ROH, I feel that we are in the best position moving forward—and that this is the place to be in wrestling.
“When Ring of Honor first formed in 2002, we were there from the beginning. It was something special from the very first show. ROH influenced and changed the game perhaps more than any other promotion in wrestling history. In the ring, bell to bell. That’s what we’re about—in the ring, bell to bell.”
Though they’re staying with ROH, the Briscoes still have their sights set on a few of the top tag teams in the world. Asked which opponents they’d most like to wrestle in Ring of Honor, the brothers were on the same page.
“I’d want the Usos,” Jay said. “Or Revival.”
“Usos or Revival,” Mark agreed. “Or the Lucha Bros.”
The Briscoes are set to wrestle Bandido and Flamita this Sunday at ROH’s Free Enterprise show, which will be held at the UMBC Event Center in Baltimore and is open to the public free of charge. The show will also be broadcast live on the HonorClub streaming service. The tag match features the Briscoes against spectacular luchadores Bandido and Flamita in what should be a hard-hitting, dynamic tag team encounter that adds a lot of excitement to the card.
“That’s all we know,” said Mark. “Go hard or go home. It just couldn’t possibly be any other way.”
“We’re born competitors,” added Jay. “If we’re not competing, then we’re not doing what we were born to do.”
The Briscoes grew up on a chicken farm in Sandy Fork, Del. While their success and travel occasionally keeps them away from the farm, they are both still proud to call themselves chicken farmers. They now seek a record-setting 12th reign with the ROH tag titles, which are currently held by the team of Jay Lethal and Jonathan Gresham.
“It is truly an honor every time we win the ROH tag team titles,” said Jay Briscoe. “When you look at the history of the titles, the lineage, I feel like they are the most prestigious tag team titles in the game. Look at the past champions. Every time we win them it is an honor.”
“I don’t feel right without the titles,” added Mark Briscoe. “I wake up in the morning, get dressed, and still feel naked. It’s like that. When we’re 12-time champs, it means I can get back to normal, everyday life. It’s just weird not being champs. It ain’t right, man. It just ain’t right.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- Randy Orton got his wish for a marquee WrestleMania match, as his program with Edge is building perfectly toward WWE’s signature event.
- John Cena delivered high praise of Brock Lesnar, telling SI’s Jimmy Traina that Lesnar is “one of the most giving performers in the WWE and that is the mark of a true craftsman and a true professional. … my jaw dropped when I watched the Rumble.”
- The Super Bowl was inundated with pro wrestling connections.
The Rock kicked things off with Fox’s broadcast intro.
- Triple H and Stephanie McMahon (and Mojo Rawley) were in the house at Gronk’s pregame beach party.
- Cody and Brandi Rhodes had some of the best seats in the house.
- AEW’s Scorpio Sky was also in the building, sitting right by Law & Order’s Mariska Hargitay.
- John Cena starred in a Super Bowl commercial.
- George Kittle dropped Pentagon Jr.’s “Cero Miedo” sign a few times in the biggest sporting event of the year.
- WWE gifted the champion Chiefs with a custom title, and Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes looked like a natural with it on his shoulder.
- Baron Corbin may have lost to Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble, but his Chiefs got the best of Roman’s 49ers on Super Bowl Sunday.
- It is certainly time to move on from the Reigns-Corbin program, but for those out there who were fans of Hook, this was a fun spot on SmackDown.
- Along with the vastly talented Timothy Thatcher, Killer Kross, who was profiled here last week, is headed to WWE.
- AEW’s first intergender match aired Tuesday night on AEW DARK, with Kenny Omega teaming with Riho against Kip Sabian and Penelope Ford.
- Charlotte Flair will respond to Rhea Ripley’s WrestleMania challenge tonight on NXT… and wouldn’t a Ripley win over Charlotte at ’Mania cement her place in the company?
- Bret Hart encouraged people to get screened for skin cancer after doctors discovered a basal cell carcinoma on his shoulder.
- WWE’s dismissal of George Barrios and Michelle Wilson reflected a dismal week with the company’s stock suffering. This tweet added some humor to the situation, though likely not for WWE.
- Congratulations to Maria Kanellis and Mike Bennett on the birth of their second child.
Tracy Smothers in the Fight of His Life Battling Cancer
Kross Fire Wrestling is holding a benefit show this Friday for longtime talent Tracy Smothers.
The 57-year-old Smothers wrestled in WWE, WCW, Smoky Mountain Wrestling and ECW. He is now battling Stage 4 lymphoma, and every dollar raised from the show will go directly to his fight, along with the donations from his GoFundMe page.
“Tommy Henry and Kross Fire Wrestling wanted to come up with a benefit, and that means a lot,” said Smothers. “I’m looking forward to it.”
The show takes place this Friday at the River Plantation RV Resort in Sevierville, Tenn., and features Ricky Morton from the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express. Smothers originally intended to be on the card, but he was hit with the sobering news that he has a fast-growing lymphoma tumor between his colon and pancreas.
“Cancer is a dirty, ugly, deadly disease,” said Smothers, who noted that the side effects of chemo have been brutal. “I go every three weeks to chemo for five days straight. I have a slightly blocked artery, so the chemo has to be on me 24-7.
“It’s a heavyweight fight. I have so much respect for people fighting this disease. It’s a battle.”
Smothers has been hospitalized eight times since the middle of November, and he is set to begin his next round of chemotherapy on Feb. 17, which will last until Feb. 22.
“That’s supposed to be the last chemo treatment,” said Smothers. “There will be a CAT scan after that, and I am praying to avoid a trip to the cancer center at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee.”
Reflecting back on his career, Smothers said it was impossible to pick out one highlight from his career, which started in 1983.
“I loved it all,” said Smothers. “I loved working for USWA, ECW, WWE, Smoky Mountain, overseas, all of it. I worked for six or seven Japanese offices and did 23 tours of Japan. I traveled all over the world and I had a blast. It brought me places where I’d never gone, and I’m itching to get back in the ring.
“I’m trying to get on WrestleCon in April, and I’ll know more at the end of February as to when I can get in there. I’m getting better, but I’ve got a ways to go.”
The father of three sons, Smothers extended his gratitude for those who have sent him well-wishes. He added that anyone who wants to send him a note can do so through Facebook.
“So many people have reached out already,” said Smothers. “I’ve been blown away by it.
“In life, you think you’re invincible. In wrestling, the show must go on. But this is the toughest thing I’ve ever gone through in my life. I pray for anyone who ever had it, has it, or experienced it with their family members. It tests your will to live.”
Conrad Thompson Previews This Week’s Edition of Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard
Something to Wrestle With Bruce Prichard returns this Friday with a new episode, as Prichard and cohost Conrad Thompson look at the brilliant career of “Sensational” Sherri Martel.
“We’ve been looking forward to this one for a long time,” said Thompson. “In honor of her birthday on Feb. 8, we decided to celebrate the life and times of Sherri Martel.”
Martel started in the World Wrestling Federation as a wrestler, and she held the Women’s Championship for nearly three months in 1987. But the lasting memory of her run in professional wrestling is her work as a heel manager. She was paired with Randy Savage in 1989. Savage dumped the beloved Miss Elizabeth to team up with Sherri, igniting a memorable stretch where she managed the Macho King. Sherri was also an important piece of the Savage–Ultimate Warrior program that ended in a retirement match at WrestleMania VII, and perfectly set up Elizabeth’s return and Savage’s babyface turn.
“Sherri was an innovator in the WWF,” said Thompson. “She really stood out as that female heel manager. I don’t think it’s ever been done as well as it was by Sherri.
“I want to know from Bruce why Vince was willing to go with her in that role. At the time, the landscape was littered with men managers. To go with a woman was a different presentation.”
Martel worked with a variety of wrestlers, ranging from “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase to a young “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels to Ric Flair and Harlem Heat in WCW. She passed away in 2007 at the age of 49, but her influence and success still hold a place in pro wrestling.
“What an impact she had,” said Thompson. “Those little nuances she did so well, those old school fundamentals. We grew up on her, and she affected so many lives in the WWF’s golden era. She and Randy Savage were magic together, and she was the darkness to Elizabeth’s light.”
Tweet of the week
With all due respect to R Ryan, pro wrestling is far more realistic than politics.