Booker T and Sharmell Huffman discuss holding drive-in events with Reality of Wrestling, partnering with Be Woke.Vote, why Booker dislikes doing commentary, and more in an exclusive interview with Daily DDT.
Who knew that drive-in events would be the way of the future for the world of wrestling?
Two-time WWE Hall of Famer Booker T and his wife, the illustrious Sharmell Huffman, sure didn’t. But then pandemic happened, causing all of their plans for the expanded growth of their promotion Reality of Wrestling to change dramatically.
Now that they’ve adapted to the current conditions, the former King and Queen of WWE will be holding a free drive-in event (limited to the first 500 people) this Saturday, October 10th at Booker T’s World Gym Arena in Texas City, Texas with a bell time of 8 p.m.
With Election Day right around the corner, the promotion has partnered with Be Woke.Vote as part of their “Rep Your City” tour to center this specific show around voter engagement and education. Reality of Wrestling’s very own pseudo-politician Abel Andrew Jackson, whose character has been running for office for the last decade, will be holding a “State of the Union” address and R.O.W. champion Ryan Davidson will also be in action.
“It’s a fun way to bring awareness to the community with all the changes that are going on and letting them know about how, when and where to vote,” Sharmell told Daily DDT in an exclusive interview conducted over the phone earlier this week.
Huffman added that she had seen the great work Be Woke.Vote had been doing in the community with their “Rep Your City” tour and decided it was an organization they wanted to be involved in and collaborate with in order to give people all the information they need to know about the voting process in the Texas area come Election Day.
“Here in Texas, it’s very hard for people to know where to vote, how to vote, and when to vote,” said Booker T. “We just want to be part of that structure. As far as making sure they get the information they need, we’re going to be there to be able to give it to them.”
Even in the midst of a pandemic, Reality of Wrestling is determined to deliver entertainment (as safely as possible) at a time people could desperately use it. The company has historically put on shows that served as distractions from the everyday stresses of the world, including Hurricane Harvey after it devastated Texas in 2017.
“There’s so much going on right now, and wrestling has always served as a reprieve from just the everyday stresses of life, so we definitely wanted to come back and do a free event and partner with Be Woke.Vote so we keep that educational component because we know how important it is to vote given all the different things and hardships that are going on right now,” Sharmell said.
Booker T believes that, more than anything, it’s all about giving back. With wrestlers often questioning why they do what they do, he says partaking in a great cause such as one is the answer.
“At the end of the day, it’s not just about us. It’s about bringing people together and bringing people up at the same time instead of keeping them down,” he said. “Reality of Wrestling, for 15 years, has flourished just because it hasn’t been about anything but creating something people can be a part of. This show on Saturday is going to be the same thing.
“Partnering with Be Woke.Vote has just given us a platform for people to be a part of something, come out and have some fun on that one night under one roof which is going to be the stars and the moon shining above,” he continued. “At the end of the night, everybody’s going to walk away saying, ‘Man, we had such a good time.’ No matter what their background is, no matter where they came from, no matter what party they represent. They’re going to realize we can live together and I think that’s the message more than anything.”
Sharmell admits that they were inspired to do drive-in wrestling events after getting wind of a promotion in San Diego that did it first. Much like other small business owners, their biggest challenge during the pandemic has been trying to figure out how to adapt to the current circumstances and reinvent themselves.
After their first drive-in event a few months ago went exceptionally well all things considered, they opted to continue the concept, though that initial event wasn’t without its hiccups.
“Nothing is smooth sailing,” Booker T said. “It’s always going to be a monkey in the wrench, you just have to fix it as you go. That’s something we’ve always been really, really good at with Reality of Wrestling. I’ve got an awesome crew of young people making sure they’re on top of just about everything and we definitely learned a lot from the first time. The second time, we had a big rainstorm come in, so we have to prepare for everything in doing shows like this. At the end of the day, it’s cool we get the chance to do it.”
Sharmell praised R.O.W.’s passionate audience saying, “The best part about it is that the fans are so gracious. They know we put on a great product. They’re just here for it. They understand things happen, but they just love it and they give us all the support in the world.”
Fans of the six-time world champion haven’t seen too much of him in recent years on WWE TV except for pay-per-view pre-show panels. He joined SmackDown’s commentary team in February 2011 and did announcing for both brands on and off through January 2018.
Booker T also served as an analyst on WWE Backstage on FS1 up until the show’s cancellation this past summer. He confirmed that, while he is still under contract to WWE and continues to make the monthly appearances on the pay-per-view pre-show panels, his days as an active competitor are over as he instead sets his sights on elevating the talent of tomorrow from outside the ring.
“I do all the pay-per-views, so I’ll be back. But as far as getting back in the ring or being on mainstream TV on a regular basis or anything like that, I’ve had my fun,” he said. “I’ve been on television now for 30 years straight. I get so much pleasure out of watching the young guys go out there and do it and me being able to talk about and pump them up and give them what they need to make it to the next level. I’m always rooting for the young guys out there right now because this is their time.
“As far as the way they leave it, it’s going to be all up to them,” he continued. “I had my era, so now I’m just like the biggest cheerleader and I’m having so much fun being in this position, being at this stage of my life to where I can still do that and be a part of it and create something on this side with Reality of Wrestling and take that to the next level as well. We still have so much work yet to be done.”
At Saturday’s Reality of Wrestling show, Booker T will be doing commentary for the show alongside his Hall of Fame podcast co-host Brad Gilmore that can be heard through car radios or smartphones. However, he revealed that he actually isn’t enamored with being behind the booth and that he’d rather be a supporter from the sidelines for the up-and-comers of R.O.W.
“I don’t like it. I don’t like doing the commentary, to be honest,” he said. “I’d rather one of my young guys take that position. I’m going to be working with Santino Marella, he’s going to be doing commentary for me as well with my guy Brad Gilmore. The only reason I did the first night is because we needed someone in that position, whereas with Reality of Wrestling, I try to take myself out of the equation. I try to think about my young guys and my young guys only. I never want to be the guy where the focus is on me. That’s why it’s not called Booker T’s Reality of Wrestling. That’s why it’s just Reality of Wrestling or R.O.W. Just because it’s not about me, it’s about those young guys going out there and putting the work in every week and we’ve got to cheer for them.”
As noted, Reality of Wrestling’s number one politician Abel Andrew Jackson will be holding a “State of the Union” address at Saturday’s event, which Booker T finds himself most looking forward to of anything else on the card. “That’s probably going to be the best part of the show,” he said.
Sharmell agreed that Jackson is always entertaining and that he should be the highlight of the night. She’s also excited about Be Woke.Vote and other organizations coming out to talk about the early voting process.
“They’re going to be disseminating information about early voting and the sentence being extended,” she said. “Just being able to provide some valuable knowledge to the community about voting is what’s really exciting for me.”