Triple H, who has a reputation for burying superstars, has lost more than anyone at WrestleMania, as covered in our recent WWE records piece. This is a surprising stat. Ironically, one of the most infamous Triple H "burials" was at a WrestleMania versus Booker T at WrestleMania 19.
Booker T’s loss is seen as unforgivable by a large contingent of fans, and no matter how many Triple H losses he has had at Mania, it won’t make up for the conclusion of that match.
Booker T was hugely popular at the time in 2003. The then "FIVE TIME! FIVE TIME! FIVE TIME! FIVE TIME! FIVE TIME!" world champion was seeking a sixth world championship against Triple H at WrestleMania.
Triple H retaining on paper, the act of him simply winning the match, isn’t what outraged fans. It was the way the feud was built up in connection with the result of the match. The promos by Triple H were incredibly racially motivated. The build-up was incredulous and was built up in such a way that anything other than a Booker T victory would be shameful.
Triple H and His Controversial Promo Against Booker T
One particular promo Triple H cut in the weeks before his match against Booker T stands out and still leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
"I think you’re a little bit confused about your role in life here," Triple H began. "You’re going to get to go to WrestleMania, but the fact is, Booker, somebody like you doesn’t get to be a world champion. People like you don’t deserve it. That’s reserved for people like me. That’s where the confusion is."
Triple H continued, "You’re not here to be a competitor. You’re here to be an entertainer. That’s what you do. You entertain people. Hell, you entertain me all the time. Go ahead, do a little dance for me. Go ahead. Give me one of those Spinaroonies. Entertain me. That’s your job. Don’t be embarrassed. You’re here to make people like me laugh. With your nappy hair and your ‘suckas.’ Hell, I was laughing all week long after you won that battle royal."
This kind of racial vilifying went on all the way until WrestleMania, with Triple H doing things like throwing money Booker’s way and asking him to bring a towel, saying he should be his limo driver or baggage handler.
It’s silly to build a feud up like this in the first place, but there has to be a comeuppance for the vilifier if you do. But, there wasn’t. Triple H won, essentially stating to the viewers that he was right all along.
There was a massive case for Booker T winning the title for his fan support alone, then you add this into the mix, and it’s often looked upon as his biggest burial of all. Not only that, but the finish of the match was nothing short of absurd. Triple H pedigreed Booker T, followed by both of them laying there for thirty whole seconds before Triple H covers him for the win.
It is often seen as one of the worst booking decisions in WWE of all time.
There’s no question that things have changed drastically in the years since this feud took place in the business of wrestling and life—some of it for the worse, some for the better.
With the PG programming that WWE is restricted to today, along with the general wave of sensitivity that has been bestowed upon the world, there is no chance this direction of a feud would happen in today’s environment.
This is a very good thing, and for the better. If Triple H went out there and said the things he said about Booker in today’s social landscape, there would be consequences and a massive fallback.
In 2003, it was controversial enough, but ultimately WWE didn’t care. Of course, there are times where pushing the envelope and creating gritty television angles can be done in a classy fashion, and this is greatly missed from today’s WWE.
Newer fans who may be looking back on the archives of wrestling who stumble upon the Booker T burial portion of history may gain the impression that the reason it was a burial was because of the delayed pinfall finish alone. But that was merely a factor.
The feud, the story, and the lack of retribution are what made it the burial. It wasn’t those thirty seconds at WrestleMania that made this so controversial; it was the weeks building up to it.
WATCH: The promo which made Triple H’s victory over Booker T at WrestleMania 19 controversial
Triple H fans: Did they agree with how things went down with Booker T?
This begs the question: Did Triple H fans even disagree with this outcome? Across the board, it seems there is mutual agreement that this feud was done distastefully and had the wrong outcome. If you were to specifically focus that energy on Triple H fans rather than across the board, it’s interesting to see what the favorable opinions were.
Not long ago, a thread on Reddit popped up, showing a clip of the finish to the Triple H and Booker T WrestleMania 19 match. The top comment by a large number of votes, hundreds of votes even, was from a Triple H fan.
“I really like HHH. As a booker and a wrestler. I don’t really dislike him just because he’s a mark for himself, and I don’t resent him any more than any other political wrestler. I certainly don’t think he’s perfect, but I don’t think he’s the devil either,” the now-deleted Reddit user said. He continued, “But this feud I can’t excuse. It was fucked up from build to end, and Booker T should have 100% won.”
The same sentiments were repeated on other platforms, with a big Triple H fan in a YouTube comment section also disagreeing with how the feud played out.
“Even though I am a huge HHH fan, I’m still pissed that Booker didn’t go over. At least Booker got him in that bathroom, though,” Triple H fan Elijah Clarke said.
It says a lot when passionate Triple H fans are openly angry that Booker T didn’t come out on top. Finding this opinion from Triple H fans were not hard to find, so it’s safe to say the majority of Triple H fans even knew this wasn’t right. You’d have to do a ton of digging, through many pages, if you really wanted to find a Triple H fan that was happy about it.
Booker T Shares His Feelings About The Feud
With fans across the board being extremely unhappy with the feud, one would assume Booker T himself would have some strong opinions on the matter. It’s a difficult one for Booker to comment on, however.
Booker T has been on the WWE payroll since he defected from WCW in 2001, aside from a four-year hiatus from 2007-2011, where he spent time in TNA. During that hiatus, he was busy with TNA, so commenting on WWE and his views on the infamous feud with Triple H wasn’t something that popped up during that time.
It has since popped up recently, but some speculate Booker could be holding back his true feelings on the matter due to his professionalism and being tied to WWE.
In the buildup to Kofi Kingston’s historic WWE Championship victory at WrestleMania 35, naturally, Booker T was asked about his feud with Triple H and his close call with a huge WrestleMania moment. He discussed it on his Reality of Wrestling podcast:
“I tell people all the time that I don’t lose any sleep over it or anything like that. It’s not something I go to bed wishing, ‘Man, ‘mania 19… that night… ahh, I wish I had it back!’ or anything like that, but it was the night that literally could have changed my life in so many different ways. It could’ve shed up all of the critics and the naysayers who said it would never happen.”
It wasn’t just fans that were felt the outcome should have been different. Booker T even revealed on his podcast that “office guys” felt he should’ve won.
“Man, I’ve always been a team player,” Booker T continued.
“I’ve always been one of those guys who just wanted to go out and do my job and be a part of the team. I never thought about it being about the title or anything like that. I just wanted to perform and make you guys [the fans] happy. At the end of the day, you guys were not happy when I didn’t win at WrestleMania 19, so I felt like I let you guys down in so many different ways.
“So many people, race all across the board, say, ‘You should’ve won!'”
The ultimate professional. Team player is the right way to describe him, and he’s been a very handy talent for WWE despite not being used as well as WWE could have used him. A worthy Hall of Famer.
WATCH: Booker T talks about his feud with Triple H on his podcast
The Aftermath for Booker T Following His Loss to Triple H
This was the win that should have catapulted Booker T straight to the very top. Everything was aligned perfectly, and it made great sense for him to become a world champion at WrestleMania 19. That didn’t happen, as we know. So, where did this leave Booker T?
Triple H infamously and was well-documented to go on and remain in the main event picture for a few more years. Fans name this timeline (from 2002-2005) the Triple H “Reign of Terror.”
On the other hand, Booker T would feud with Triple H for one more month in a team capacity alongside Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash against Triple H, Ric Flair, and Chris Jericho. This feud was only used as a catalyst to move onto a Triple H and Kevin Nash feud.
Following that, Booker T did capture championship gold, albeit not the gold fans were hoping for just a short time earlier. Booker T won the Intercontinental Championship on a July 2003 episode of RAW against champion Christian.
This was the first and only time he captured that championship in his career. He would drop it a month later back to Christian at a house show due to a back injury.
Related recommended read: House Show Title Changes That Were Memorable and Never Seen on TV.
In the few years after that, Booker T was mainly involved with the United States Championship, capturing it three times. But FINALLY, four years after the WrestleMania 19 controversy, Booker T won the World Heavyweight Championship at the 2007 Great American Bash pay-per-view, capturing it from Rey Mysterio.
By this time, Booker T was one of the company’s top heels and certainly one of the most entertaining as “King Booker.” Booker T had a very memorable run as a king after winning the King of the Ring tournament in 2006 on SmackDown.
Whilst the reign was entertaining, it is no way justice for what happened at WrestleMania four years earlier. A babyface Booker T on top of the WWE landscape would have inspired so many folks. This reign didn’t have the prestige or romanticism that the 2003 reign would and should have had.
Booker T would lose the world title to Batista at Survivor Series of that year. They not only feuded on screen but in real life during this time, too, as documented on our site. You can read that story here!
Booker T can look back on that portion of his career and be immensely proud of that time. It’s a popular opinion among fans that Booker was the greatest ever King of the Ring. In fact, Booker T himself said this on his own podcast!
“Honestly, I’m gonna go on record and say it now; I don’t think there will ever be a king as great as King Booker.”
Touché, Booker. Touché.
There will always be an element of “what could’ve been” with Booker T, but he still goes down as one of the greatest of all time.
The evolution of Booker T. Thank you to u/sylvester_terkay on Reddit for this epic montage!
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- The Real-Life Brawl Between DAVE BAUTISTA and BOOKER T
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- Black Champions and Wrestling Legends
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