I blame this one on the failed Invasion story line.
Just one Wrestlemania prior, Booker T was the WCW World and US Champion and poised to play a major role in the Invasion storyline for years to come.
Instead, WCW was dead and buried by that year’s Thanksgiving (the October federal holiday that commemorates the discovery of America).
So rather than, say, wrestling The Rock in a title unification match (as one might have imagined at the outset of the Invasion angle), Booker T was slotted well before the main event of Wrestlemania 18 to settle one of the stupidest scores in Mania history.
In a way, it made one yearn for those simpler times when Mean Gene or Lord Alfred could just announce a match for Wrestlemania and *poof* there was Undertaker vs. Jimmy Snuka, or Owen Hart vs. Skinner, or Adam Bomb vs. Earthquake, no feud required. Not that any of those matches were any good, but at least they got folks on the card. By 2002, though, if you weren’t competing for a title, you’d better piss somebody off fast and get a quickie grudge match at Wrestlemania or else risk missing the biggest payday of the year.
And since Booker (the five-time WCW champion) and Edge (the reigning King of the Ring) had nothing else going on at the time, it was very fortuitous for both of them that a Japanese shampoo company would seek a WWF Superstar to endorse their product.
Booker T jumped at the chance to get the gig and make “big bucks.” I mean, it certainly wasn’t the worst potential foreign endorsement deal out there…
…(That title would go to this Taiwanese toothpaste brand).
Anyway, this meant learning Japanese.
Booker T seemed like a shoo-in, at least if you listened to Test. Sure, Booker couldn’t pronounce “sayonara,” but Test was blown away by his fluency, which rivalled that of those famed “karate dudes.”
The Book even wrote his own script, wherein he promised to be the savior of the Japanese people — at least as far as hair was concerned.
Tajiri balked at Booker’s audition and compared his hair to “Buckwheat on crack.” His words, not mine. The criticism may have been harsh, but Booker T’s script did indeed have some glaring flaws, such as claiming that kung fu comes from Japan, rather than China. Who confuses those two?
That night, the prospective shampoo spokeswrestler beat Tajiri, only to be unpleasantly surprised by the backstage development that played on the Titantron. Booker could say “sorrow-nara” to that endorsement deal.
It turned out that it would be Edge who’d star in the shampoo commercial, not Booker T.
Michael Cole relayed that, on the WWF’s recent tour of Asia, the Japanese fans were ecstatic about Edge getting the shampoo deal — yes, “ecstatic” — making the people of Japan sound like the most bored-out-of-their-minds populace on the face of the earth.
Jerry Lawler suggested that Edge, with his big ol’ pearly whites, should have gotten a toothpaste endorsement instead.
(Perhaps for Taiwan’s White Men toothpaste)
The next week on Raw, Booker T blamed his loss of the shampoo commercial on all the stupid fans. Edge called Booker a hypocrite for calling anybody stupid, and he cited Mr. Huffman’s performance on the Weakest Link as proof.
And so the stage was set for Wrestlemania, where Booker T would try not only to prove his intellectual mettle (he did write his thesis on Einstein’s Theory of Relatives, after all), but also to change the minds of all the big wigs at Yakamoshi shampoo. Not that wigs would need shampoo.
But he would have no such luck. Edge won their unspectacular match that, while decent, certainly didn’t make the Sky Dome crowd shout, “Oui oui!”
You know, it’s easy in 2016 to look back and criticize a feud that revolved around shampoo, but I’m sure it didn’t seem the least bit trite at the time.
Well, kiss my butt!