It was the story of the year in wrestling. Vince Russo and Ed Ferrera, the WWF’s two lead writers, were defecting to rival WCW in an attempt to bring the promotion back to prominence. Russo claimed that he had been the unsung hero of the WWF’s meteoric rise, and would prove to his detractors that what he did for the WWF, he could do for WCW.
And so the tandem came into the promotion with much fanfare, chockful of new ideas of how to liven up the now mundane WCW product. They pushed new wrestlers. They emphasized T&A. And they took the one worker who seemingly had limitless potential and saddled him with a crappy military gimmick.
For many years, Booker T was simply known as half of Harlem Heat. Let’s restate that – for many years, Booker T was simply known as the GOOD half of Harlem Heat, carrying the dead weight of brother Stevie Ray to decent matches against all comers. After nearly 8 years in the promotion, the duo broke up and Booker T had the opportunity to showcase his skills on the singles circuit.
And he truly did excel, with a memorable series of matches against Chris Benoit among the highlights for WCW in the late 90’s. He had an incredible mix of skills – he was great in the ring, good on the stick, and knew how to work a crowd. In fact, he was getting so over that a World title run seemed to be the next logical step.
Leave it, therefore, to the new booking crew to throw that out the window and repackage Booker with a lame ass army gimmick that would have made Cpl. Kircshner blush.
Yes, for several weeks during the Russo-Ferrara-Bischoff era, Booker inexplicably became GI Bro. Now before I get a deluge of email telling me how that was his original gimmick, how that was who he was when he broke into the sport (as Booker, errr, GI Bro explains in this clip ), please, save it. I don’t care if Booker T himself came up with the idea (as has been rumored in the past). There is a reason why workers change gimmicks over the years, and reasons why they don’t revert to their original personas. I mean, The Rock started out as Flex Kavana, but I don’t think anyone would state that he should revert back to THAT persona.
So Booker donned the army fatigues and joined up with the fledgling so-not-over-they-may-as-well-have-been-under Misfits in Action, and he did so by cutting this promo, which is notable only for Gene Okerlund sounding like a total doofus at the end.
Even the nitwits running WCW at the time saw this angle was going nowhere, and shockingly, did the right thing and scrapped the whole thing. Booker T went back to being his old roof raising self, and finally snared the world title that many felt should have been his years earlier, at Bash at the Beach 2000 in an excellent match against Jeff Jarrett.
Maybe it was Russo’s way of paying Booker back for the GI Bro gimmick, but there are some who claim he was given the belt soley due to the fact that it would hurt a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by several former WCW workers.
Still, I believe it was indeed an apology not only for the GI Bro angle, but also for the time when Booker lost the letter “T” from his name…which is yet another WCW fiasco, coming soon to a WrestleCrap near you.
GI Bro: “Everybody been axin’ me why, GI Bro, why Booker T, have you gone back to GI Bro. Well, first of all, when I first got into this business, this is who I was and this is who I am now.”
GI Bro: “I don’t want to be called Booker T anymore. From this point on, you are to address me as GI Bro. Now can you copy that?”
Gene Okerlund (in doofus mode): “Loud and clear, GI Bro!”