Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic

Just when it seemed Booker T was never going to get respect from WWE’s creative department, Teddy Long resurrected the King of the Ring tournament.

After defeating Bobby Lashley in the tournament final at the Judgment Day ppv on May 21st, Booker T was crowned the new King of the Ring.

TODAY’S ISSUE: Your Imperial Majesty, King Booker!

When Booker T faced HHH at WrestleMania XIX in the unofficial “Kiss of Death” match, it seemed clear that secondary and tag team titles were his destiny in WWE. I always hoped the former 5-time WCW Champion would wear WWE heavyweight gold at least once before the end of his run. That has seemed less and less likely over the past few years, and I accepted the fact that Booker T would simply serve out his time, and quietly fade away.

After all, Booker suffered an unmemorable feud against Kenzo Suzuki, and was then relegated to a dark match battle royal at WrestleMania 21, not even appearing on the actual ppv card. When his goofy program with the even goofier Boogeyman began, I feared I was witnessing the end of the line for Booker T, but the light at the end of the tunnel was his royal coronation

Booker’s delicious over-playing of the gimmick is pure genius. Not only is his new attitude a welcome change in his character, but it seems to have reinvigorated the performer as well. Booker’s words, body language, and even his facial expressions allow the viewer to think he really believes he has suddenly achieved the status of royalty.

He glides across the floor slowly, in a regal manor, in contrast to his former mean-street shuffle. He smiles graciously at his “adoring subjects” in the arena, supplanting his usual scowl. He rests on his throne like a leader of men instead of jumping in the air to kick-start his old entrance pyro. Even his new theme music is fit for a king, replacing his familiar Harlem Heat song. Of course, he never graces his public without his signature cape and crown, the true trappings of majesty. In many ways, Booker T has embraced his new position as the King of the Ring

Whenever a heel wins the KOTR, he must, according to Pro Wrestling Logic 101 go way overboard and act like he’s now above everyone else. King Harley Race feuded with the ultimate representative of the “common man” at the time, the late Junkyard Dog. Race often attempted to make JYD bow before the King. The Macho King Randy Savage decreed that his manager, WWE Hall of Famer Sherri Martel was now The Sensational Queen, simply by virtue of her association with the reigning king. They too faced a “common man” foe in Dusty Rhoades. It just goes with the territory.

I even scoffed that Booker would do a similar shtick, yet I find myself amused by his royal antics and his newfound direction, as opposed to finding it rehashed and tired. With his queen at his side and his Knights of the Squared-Circle (Regal and Finlay) solidly behind him, the sky is the limit for the King of the Ring.

It all came together for me when King Booker faced KOTR runner-up Bobby Lashley on the June 2nd SmackDown! in the main event. After the match, Finlay and Regal came rushing to the King’s aid, pummeling the “peasant” into submission. Again and again they pounded on Lashley’s massive physique, but again and again he rose to his knees to defend himself with vicious intensity.

Finally, after a seemingly endless onslaught, the United States Champion was out of gas, and barely conscious. Only then did His Highness mandate that Lashley not only bow before him (both forced down and held up at the same time by Booker’s men), but kiss his royal feet as well.

This is a very simple, old-fashioned professional wrestling storyline that needs nothing else. A bully of questionable moral fiber cheated his way to the coveted spot, aided by his fellow ne’er-do-wells. In pursuit is the righteous, upstanding young crusader, who only seeks a fair and level playing field in which to vanquish his foe and claim what is rightfully his. It’s elegant and straightforward, it makes sense, and it doesn’t offend the intelligence of the viewers or make us want to change the channel.

A simple storyline like King Booker against Bobby Lashley could last for months, varying the means with which Booker escapes Lashley’s vengeance until the crowning (pun intended) moment for Lashley, when he finally defeats the underhanded King. Not only has this simple yet effective storyline given Booker T a great gimmick and obviously added some fuel to his performance tank, it’s also a perfect plot for the young stud to make his bones (especially with the opportunities for him to wrestle and learn from wrestling greats Finlay and Regal within the confines of the storyline arc).

On top of that, I enjoy the angle, and now look forward to watching SmackDown!, which hasn’t always been the case in the past year or so.

“All hail king Booker!” indeed.

For more on SmackDown!, check out Troy Hepple’s (Early) SmackDown Report.

Inside Pulse also provides you with an exclusive, comprehensive Transaction History, a run-down of WWE’s brand activity.

Oh, and just in case you haven’t heard (you know, because WWE can be SO very subtle when it comes to getting the word out about this sort of thing), it seems ECW held a little ppv on Sunday, 11 June, 2006. Read all about One Night Stand here.

Could this be the beginning of the next pro wrestling boom? RAW, SmackDown, ECW, and TNA are all on national television weeknights, starting tonight. Speaking of TNA, check out The NeelDown iMPACT Zone, brought to you by Mark Neeley.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.

p.s. – Why do we say somebody is IN a movie, but ON television?