Heated Conversations with Booker T
Episode 182: Ariel Helwani Interview, Roman Reigns, Evolution, and Crown Jewel Controversy
Release Date: October 28th, 2018
Recap By: James Hayes
Booker T and Co-host Brad Gilmore welcome you to the show!
Booker sounds like he’s having a great day! So great that he scares Brad with his greeting.
UFC Fight Night is going on, as well as Evolution. They will also address the Crown Jewel controversy and Roman Reigns.
Oh, and apparently John Boehner, former Speaker of the House is now part of the show. (Not really. He likes to nick-name the new people.)
Somehow the guys end up discussing Ginsu knives. Booker loves them because you can cut the fish right off the bone. Brad is less of a fan, but part of his lack of enthusiasm comes from not understanding why people are cutting up Coke cans in the commercials. Booker says he’s seen Ginsu knives cut through bricks!
Here is proof these knives are legit!
It’s UFC Fight Night 138
They guys start talking about Anthony Smith vs. Volkan Oezdemir.
Smith thinks he could take out Jon Jones.
Did he just get lucky against Shogun Hua and Rashaad Evans? Booker says age doesn’t matter. These guys still have power. Look at Dan Henderson, ask Michael Moore who got put to sleep against a 45-year-old George Foreman. Booker says, “He made that man sees nothing but stars. Tweety birds.” Brad laughs and says, “Cut these gloves off me!” “Please, cut these gloves off me,” Booker requests.
Booker thinks Anthony Smith is the truth and will take this fight.
Anthony Smith won in round 3 by submission.
Michael Johnson vs. Artem Lobov
Brad thinks Lobov will win. Booker has Michael Johnson.
Booker was right. Again. Johnson took this fight in the 3rd round.
Roman Reigns, a personal friend of Booker’s, is leaving WWE to fight Leukemia again.
Booker says, “For him to come out and share that with the world shows you how big of a man he really is, and I tell you he’s a strong dude and my heart goes out to Roman and his family. Stay strong. Just stay strong bro. That’s all I can say about a situation like this. I can only imagine.”
Brad said it shocked everybody, “Sometimes you hear little rumors that something might be happening, but there was nothing like that. It came out of nowhere. I know he had it before but it went into remission.”
Booker continues, “He has been dealing with this for quite some time. People need to hear that this goes to show you how big WWE is. I’m sure they knew. And for them to say, ‘That was then, and this is this. You’re our guy. You’re the guy that’s going to represent this company.’ It shows a whole lot. Big ups to the company and I’m sure it’s going to continue. He will be a part of this family forever! But, I tell you Monday night the world was in shock. But, I tell you that family has nothing but warriors in it! He comes from a bloodline of nothing but warriors.”
Booker asks Brad to give him his pure, unadulterated, unfiltered feelings about the event.
Brad responds, “Obviously this started with the controversy over the journalist in Saudi Arabia (He was in Turkey). That’s what got this conversation started as to whether or not to cancel this show. Should WWE cancel it? I was always kind of “A Tale of Two Cities” on it, but I thought they should’ve gone forward with it as they did. It’s a weird situation. It’s a sticky situation. At the end of the day they are a company, they are out to give a show to their fans. Their fans around the world. I think they are making the right decision. They are going to take a lot of criticism and controversy because of it.
As you’ve seen. I think JBL said something that I thought was interesting and Randy Orton echoed the sentiment. Whether you agree with it or not it has some validity. I remember there was a song by J Cole called “Let Nas Down”, Nas was upset with J Cole, because he said J Cole went ‘pop and sugarcoated things’ and J Cole said, ‘I let Nas down, but I told him sometimes you got to play the game to change the game.’ And that’s kind of what I see with WWE. It’s got its flaws, Saudi Arabia does, compared to us, but just like WWE had a show in Abu Dhabi the crowd was chanting in English, ‘This is change!’ I think you have to sometimes go into these territories you don’t agree with, to try to effect change in any way possible.”
Booker agrees with Brad, “People will always talk and say things. Especially now that we have social media people can be so vocal. Their opinions can be heard at the drop of a hat. This is my take on this. Booker T, Five-time WCW Champ, 35 total Championships, Hall of Fame, King of Kings, the guy has done it all! This is a business decision. First and Foremost. When it’s your business you are going wonder what’s right for your company. This is not a political agenda. Let’s take that out of the equation. Let’s not tell someone else what to do with their company, unless you have been in that position, you don’t know what you’d do. If billions are on the line and no one is being hurt, it works for me. That’s how I look at it. I don’t think you can bring politics into professional wrestling. I’ve been to the Middle East since Trump was elected and they love me over there. Red Carpet, and Five Star hotels. I’ve seen it up close and personal. Are there flaws? Of course. If we held Germany accountable for what happened a hundred years ago… Move forward not backward.”
Brad says companies are in business to make money.
Booker then tells us how the WWE Universe is vast, “The show is already being reported as sold out. These are WWE fans. You’re saying we should punish the WWE fans for how the government treats people? I think this will bring about more change. I think this will bring more change than any government official will bring. And what the H**l was that journalist doing over there anyway, after his controversial comments?”
Brad tries to shut this down quickly.
Booker laughs, “I think wrestling is universal. We got to break away from the politics. Brad asks, “What do you say to people on Twitter who say your just a company man? Booker states, “I put my suit on every week. I go and do my job. On time. If that makes me a company man, then I’m a company man. I do my job well. This show, Heated Conversations, has nothing to do with WWE. People are just people. Let’s not deprive those fans.”
Ariel Helwani Interview
“Ariel interviewed me back in the day at a Bellator fight and the thing is when he interviewed me, he looked like he was a little nervous like I was gonna whip him or something,” Booker T, says with a laugh.
Booker: Ariel, what’s going on?
Ariel: What is going on, guys? Wow, it’s so cool to hear you say my name, Booker. I have been watching you for many years. I’m a big fan. I actually interviewed you once at a Strikeforce event in Houston back when Daniel Cormier was on the undercard. King Mo fought in the main event. You are the man, Booker. And Brad as well.
Booker: I remember. It was a rough night for King Mo that night.
Ariel: Yeah it was a rough night. Good memory.
Booker: I consider you an insider as far as MMA goes. How did you get your start?
Ariel: Well, I was always a big sports fan and I always wanted to be a reporter and when I got to Syracuse University in 2001, they have a great journalism school and I realized very quickly everyone there wanted to be the same thing. They all wanted to be a baseball, basketball, football guy and I was always a huge combat sports fans, in particular, huge MMA and Pro Wrestling fan, so I actually started my own Pro Wrestling/MMA radio show in college for 3 years, and had some pretty big names. I didn’t have the Booker T’s of the world, but I did have the late Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and I’ll never forget he gave me 90 minutes of his time, Dan Severn, Bruce Buffer, names from both worlds would come on the show. That’s how I first started to get my feet wet in this.
Booker: I listen to Joe Rogan talk all the time. It seems like he has spent time on the mat. Have you ever spent time on the mat yourself?
Ariel: So, I’m not a former fighter. I’ve said a few times that I don’t possess the DNA…
Booker starts laughing.
Ariel: …that these men and women possess. I think they are the most incredible human beings, I also think that they are the most insane human beings to walk into a cage and close the door, in nothing less than a cup, some shorts, and barefoot, willing to fight another human being. I don’t have those chromosomes in my body. That being said, I have done training, but never for fighting.
Booker: Dabble like I do with helicopters. I’m not a pilot or anything but I tinkle.
Booker: You’ve been very outspoken, very controversial at times. Let’s talk about it. You had a lifetime ban from UFC. Was that because you were so outspoken and speaking your voice?
Ariel: I think it was a little bit of both. I’m not necessarily controversial. I do like to have hot takes. I do love talking to fighters and I do like giving them a voice. I want to hear what they have to say. And I think because I’m a big sports fan I see how other athletes have a lot of rights, and the benefits of revenue sharing, and having a seat at the table plus a union. I think that is very important and they don’t have that in MMA. And I think free agency is important as well, and some of the previous owners of the UFC, before they sold the company, would get annoyed that I would talk about these things. They would be annoyed that I would break news before they wanted it out. They wanted to control the message, very much like pro wrestling. I understand that, but they also have to understand that it’s a byproduct of being successful and powerful, is that people are going to want to cover the sport. And not do it maliciously, but any sport has an insider or two and that’s just the job. And they just got annoyed when I reported that Brock Lesnar was coming back at UFC 200, it was the final straw in that little run. And they decided to ban me, thankfully for me, it turned into a really big story and the fans had my back, which I will never forget. It was the most surreal 48 hours of my life. They sort of spoke up and were very unhappy, and thankfully they relented and 48 hours later they unbanned me.
Booker: That’s the beauty in a lifetime suspension.
Brad: You can get unbanned.
Booker: Being an advocate for the fighter is something I talk about all the time. Those guys need someone talking for them. I believe in the Ali Act. (The Ali Act is a U.S. federal law that came to pass in 2000. It was brought to halt widespread abuse against licensed boxers by promoters.) These guys are true warriors. I appreciate you being that voice. Being a journalist you would want to be the one getting that scoop. That insider. You want to be the Cronkite. So, what do you think of the state of MMA and UFC?
Ariel: It’s funny that you just said, Cronkite. I was born after his time, so I never got to watch him, but to me, Walter Cronkite is the greatest journalist of our lifetime. I have so much respect for him my second son is actually named Walter.
Ariel: I appreciate you saying that. His moniker was: The Most Trusted Man in America. So, when a fan says, “I’ll only believe it if you report it.” that’s the greatest compliment someone could give me.
Booker: I’m of that era. When Cronkite said something you believed it.
Ariel: I think the sport is in a good place. It’s good that the UFC is going to ESPN, and I’m not just saying that because I work for ESPN. It’s where they always wanted to be. I think Bellator is having a down year as far as their ratings, but I would argue that the product has never been better. They are doing a good job with the older guys. ONE Championship just signed Eddie Alvarez. I think that’s a big get. There is a deal for a trade with Demetrius Johnson for Ben Askren. That’s a great deal. A win for both. PFL is having a solid first campaign. I think it’s a good time.
Booker: Do you support there being so many organizations?
Ariel: One million percent. If you ask the fans they don’t want more organizations. They want them all under one roof. It’s selfish. Take that selfish hat off. Free agency is what’s better for the fighters, and what’s best for the sport. More options.
Brad: I want to talk to you about working with Chael Sonnen. I think we can relate. I was a massive fan for years. The first event I ever attended King Booker was in the main event and now I find myself, for the last 6 years, working beside him, and the last couple of years on the radio show. You work with The Bad Guy. How is it?
Ariel: That’s a great analogy. We are lucky. I’ve been interviewing him for years so we already had a chemistry. He is the fighter and he sees it from that perspective. I see it from a journalistic one.
Booker: The Black Beast is getting a title shot. He deserves it. Is it fair for Derrick Lewis to get the title shot in less than one month from his last fight?
Ariel: Both guys are banged up. I want to see Daniel Cormier fight. They needed a main event. I don’t begrudge Daniel Cormier or Derrick Lewis. They are prizefighters.
Brad: Do you think DC is putting a big payday at risk by going against Derrick Lewis? He had that big Brock fight that he knows is going to be in the first quarter of the year. He is now saying that should be his last fight. We are assuming it’s for the championship. But, if the championship is not on the line, do you think that fight still happens? Do you think we’ll see Derrick Lewis vs Brock Lesnar?
Ariel: That’s a really interesting question. I think Daniel does not see Derrick as a threat and he’s getting paid nicely. He actually said, “I wouldn’t have fought Stipe Miocic in 4 weeks, but I think I match up well with Derrick.” I feel like he recognizes the payday the fight represents. I would actually argue that the Jones trilogy is actually bigger than the Brock fight at this point. I think Daniel feels he should get this payday then he can focus on Brock.
Booker: I think DC is pass Jon Jones. To lose 3 times in a row, even though there is an asterisk by the second, that’s just not something you want to end a career on.
Ariel: I have never met a more competitive person than Daniel Cormier. If you told him right now, that the chances are you are going to lose ten times to Jon Jones, but he might slip once, I think he would take it. He is obsessed with beating that man. He will not rest easy until he does.
Booker: I gotta take your word for it. You are closer than I am.
Brad: I wonder if Daniel is taking the Floyd Mayweather approach, “I’m gonna retire with, let’s say Brock Lesnar, and then once a bigger money offer comes, I come out of retirement to face Jon Jones.”
Booker: That could be.
Ariel: By the way, Daniel is the biggest wrestling mark of all time.
Booker: I was reading when this big deal happens with Fox, they actually want Daniel Cormier to be sitting in on Smackdown.
Ariel: How do you feel about that?
Booker: Daniel does his job well. And I’m sure if he gets behind the booth in the wrestling game he’s gonna study up. He will do his homework.
Booker: What is the buzz right now on Brock Lesnar making his return to the UFC?
Ariel: I think for the hardcore fans it’s like, “Let’s wait and see if he gets through this USADA thing.” Some fans feel this guy does not deserve a title fight. I’m all for Brock being there. It’s a spectacle when he’s there. It’s bigger. He’s a personality. But I don’t feel he deserves a title shot.
Booker: Who wins that fight?
Ariel: Brock Lesnar vs. Daniel Cormier is the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor fight for MMA. In the sense that it’s the biggest fight that DC could get. It’s also the easiest.
Ariel: I see no way that Brock Lesnar has any path to victory in that fight.
Booker: I know you’re busy. You got some journalistic work to do. Let the people know where they can find everything that Ariel Helwani is doing right now.
Ariel: On Twitter and Instagram my name is Ariel Helwani. You can catch me on ESPN. I have a show on Mondays on Twitter. I just want to say I am such a big mark for you. You and your brother. I remember when you debuted at the Meadowlands, King of the Ring 2000. I was so pumped for that! I’m touched and honored you had me on the show. Your questions were great. You are well versed. And I just want to say I didn’t think that match with Buff Bagwell was that bad. (Wow! Booker never saw that coming.)
Laughter all around.
Booker: That was the first time I ever got booed. It still affects me today.
Everyone’s still laughing.
Brad: Ariel, before you go give me your Mount Rushmore of wrestling.
Ariel: Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart, and I’m putting Booker up there!
Ariel explains why he got kicked out of UFC 199
Before the Final Bell:
Booker says these women have shattered the glass ceiling!
“We got ladies that are a blast from the past. We got Madusa coming back, Kelly Kelly, Tori Wilson, Lita, Ivory, Trish Stratusfaction! It’s gonna be good! I wonder if Jazz is coming back? Jazz used to put hands on them girls. Jazz come back, she could win that battle royal. Jazz is still active. Out of sight. Out of mind. Time is your worst enemy. I wonder what kind of ring rust these ladies will have.” Brad wonders when was Madusa’s last match. Booker rudely tells Brad that she wrestled last in 1928.
Brad informs him his demise is imminent.
Trying to clean it up Booker says, “I used to have a crush on her back in the day,” Brad laughs and warns him that now he is going to get it from Sharmell.
(Let’s end this before Booker gets in real trouble.)
Score: 8.0 out of 10
Booker was in a great mood and it was infectious. This was a feel-good episode, that also had some fascinating insight regarding today’s MMA scene, from Ariel Helwani. And of course, he and Brad did not shy away from the Saudi Arabia controversy. No sugar coating. Blunt honesty is always more appreciated.
See ya next week!
Based out of New York, James Hayes is an independent filmmaker and podcaster, currently working on a true crime series focused on African American crime. He has 27 years of loving the sport of pro wrestling. Here is a link to his film credits https://www.imdb.com/