Can you dig it, suckaaaaaaaaaa?!?!?!?!
One of the greatest joys I’ve ever experienced growing up was going to live wrestling events. Brother, let me tell you. We were live in Huntsville, AL! Wooooooooooo!!!!!
Hey, yo. If you’re gonna be judgmental about pro wrestling then don’t even bother reading.
“It’s fake! It’s scripted!”
Blah blah blah.
Folk live tweet Scandal and TiVo The Walking Dead and they’re both scripted. So is most “reality TV.” Oh, it’s true. It’s true. Wrestling was reality TV before reality TV.
Folks who use the “it’s fake” rejoinder when critiquing wrasslin’ will never understand. Roody Poo Jabronies… Wrestling is ritualized, athletic drama for the masses. And that’s the bottom line cuz…
At some point, I will write an article or two devoted to my love and appreciation of wrestling circa 1984-2007… I’ll even have some critical words for it too, especially some of its blatant racist and sexist overtones… but that’s not this post.
This post is about the time that Booker T gave me and my homeboys the “Black Man Head Nod…”
October 23rd, 1995… WCW Monday Nitro came to Huntsville’s Von Braun Civic Center (it was the Civic Center back then). And the card featured Harlem Heat vs. Sting and Lex Luger. If you don’t believe me, click here.
Sting and Lex Luger were entrenched and classic (baby)faces (good guys) and Harlem Heat had been heels (bad guys) for years. Sting personified WCW. He and the incomparable Ric Flair were the flagship face and heel superstars of WCW since the late 80s (though briefly interrupted by Flair’s short stint in the then WWF). Sting had an assortment of moves from the Stinger Splash to the Scorpion Deadlock. Dude was mad athletic. Lex Luger was mad… uhm… Muscular… That’s about all I can say. He couldn’t really wrestle and he oversold everything. But for some reason, he had a following and WCW management was pushing him. The “Total Package” he was called.
(The Man Called) Sting and Luger were way over with the crowd. They could do no wrong. Whenever they mounted offense the crowd would chant and yell for them. Except for this drunk guy who hated Lex Luger for some reason…
Sean, TJ, and Chad were with me. We rode together in the Gray Goose. Those were my friends, homeboys, and fellow wrestling fans. Some details are blurry. It was almost 21 years ago. Lawd…. 21 years…
I think we were still evangelizing and trying to sell TJ on wrestling as a whole. If I recall, he didn’t worship at the Altar of Suplex and Powerbomb quite like we did. Sean, me, and another great homeboy, Tim, had formed a stable named and patterned after “The Coporation.” (I was the manager.) And me and Chad had been talking and watching wrestling together for years.
But here is what all of us had in common. We were ever the contrarians (though none greater than Chad!) and loved us some Harlem Heat. The Tag Team duo was comprised of two brothers, Booker T and Stevie Ray, and managed by Sister Sherri.
Now non-wrasslin folk might be asking, “Were those brothers really from Harlem?” Siiiiiigh. Man, naw. They said they were from Harlem, but them brothas are from Houston, so maybe they were from Harlem Street in Houston. But hometowns in wrestling are symbolic. For instance, the Undertaker was from Death Valley, CA. These brothers were from 1990s Harlem before gentrification. These brothers were the 2nd coming of Doom, bringing a Harlem Renaissance of @$$ whipping in the spirit of Ron Simmons and Butch Reed. These brothers (oh, they’re siblings) wore kufis made of flame… Of flaaaaaaaaame…
Lawd, I loved me some Harlem Heat.
Their finishing move, the Harlem Hangover was the truth. A top rope flip into a leg drop. And Booker T’s scissor kick was a thing of beauty, especially when he was in his prime.
So that night, we had somehow procured coveted floor seats on the side of the ring that faced the main ring camera, which meant, we were gonna be on TV. And we made sure to represent. Harlem Heat got no love from the floor seats, except from us. I mean, no matter what they did, we screamed, howled, wooooooed, and clapped. The folks around us were a little taken aback, but we ain’t care.
As was their custom, Booker T and Stevie Ray would call out “HUUNH?” after laying the smack down in order to draw heat from the crowd.
The crowd would boo or respond in apathy…
But we “HUUNHED” back. Loudly.
After the second or third “Hunh” call and response, Booker T, in true pastoral form, noticed that he had an Amen Corner and that we were riding hard for them, even though they were supposed to be “bad guys.” And I’ll never forget what happened next.
The crowd was sitting, but we stood up, yelled, and flailed for Booker T. Four teenage dudes going crazy…
In response to the contrarian love we displayed, Booker T looked directly at us and did the fabled “Black Man Head Nod.” He was in character, so he had to do it so quick and subtle that the average person would miss it.
We didn’t miss it.
Booker T head nodded us and flashed a smirk. We knew what was up.
Harlem Heat lost that match, of course. And at the end of it the Giant (Big Show) bum-rushed the ring and chokeslammed Sting and Luger which brought out the Macho Man (RIP and i was such a mark for Savage) and none other than Hulk Hogan. The crowd went insane in the membrane. I got to see 2 all-time greats in the flesh. I suppose that shoulda been the highlight of my night.
But it wasn’t.
The head nod was the highlight… Oh the power of kinesthetics and symbolic gestures…
I recently watched that match on YouTube. I had forgotten about Savage, Hogan, Luger and Sting…
But I’ve never forgotten the head nod.
True story. But if you don’t believe me, YouTube it. Part 2 of the match. You’ll see a grainy TJ and crew jump up after Booker T says “Hunh!” (No HD and TVs were 4:3 back then)
Faith, hope, love… And scissor kicks…
© 2016 M. J. Sales