Former WCW Executive Vice President, Eric Bischoff, has given his opinion on the legendary Harlem Heat and how he wasn’t aware that the pairing were inspirational for the African American fanbase.
As Kole and Kane, Harlem Heat – the two men we would come to know and love as Booker T and Stevie Ray – made their World Championship Wrestling debut in 1993 teaming with Sid Vicious in an encouraging victory over Marcus Alexander Bagwell, Van Hammer and 2 Cold Scorpio.
However, just two months after their initial introduction, the brothers would be elevated into the main event scene when they teamed with Vader and Vicious at WCW Fall Brawl inside WarGames. The exposure cemented them as a duo to fear and invest in and following a name change to Booker T and Stevie Ray and the addition of Sister Sherri, the double act captured the WCW World Tag Team Championships – the first of ten reigns.
Now, Eric Bischoff has sat down on his 83 Weeks Podcast to talk about Harlem Heat and their enduring legacy. When asked if he realised how ground-breaking the team were for African American people, Bischoff admitted that he had no idea:
“I think the answer’s no. That’s the answer. but I’m not sure if it’s because I am colour-blind in a way. I mean I’m not, I’m aware, but when it comes to what I like and don’t like, respect and don’t respect I’m colour blind. And when I see something that’s really really good, when I see a talent I really really like I don’t think to myself, ‘Wow, that’s an African American talent I really like.’ It’s just a talent I really like. But at the same time I didn’t grow up black. I didn’t grow up feeling and experiencing the same things that young boys, young people grow experiencing in the African American community. So in a way, if I’m really being honest with myself it’s not so much that I’m colour-blind as I just haven’t had that experience and therefor, if I’m really being honest with myself I’m unaware. I’m in the truest sense of the word, ignorant.
I don’t know what it’s like to have a character that’s inspiring, that’s also black, so no I didn’t know. Not because I didn’t care or because it didn’t matter to me, it’s just because number one I don’t think about it, I don’t judge people based on their race but I feel a little bad that I’m not more aware because I should be. I should have, at that time, gone ‘Wow, this is important because…’ not that it would have changed anything. We did what we did in a positive way and constructive way and I wasn’t motivated to do so because of any other reason that it was talent driven opportunity. It was talent that worked. It was fun, the audience loved it and that’s the only pre-requisites that I ever had whether people were white, black, Asian didn’t matter.”
Harlem Heat would go on to feud with the likes of The Nasty Boys, The Stud Stable, The Steiner Brothers, The Road Warriors and the NWO before the brothers split after Booker T was forced to go it alone following an injury to his sibling.
Upon his return to the company, Ray attacked his bloodline and joined the New World Order which Booker was able to save him from in the long-run. However, in 1999, just when things looked like they were mending between the family at war and Harlem Heat reunited, Ray again betrayed Booker and new addition, Midnight.
With the battle lines drawn, Booker T went to war against Stevie Ray who reformed their old team firstly as Harlem Heat Inc. and then Harlem Heat 2000 with Big T – former WWF Intercontinental Champion, Ahmed Johnson – Kash and J. Briggs. To spite his brother, Stevie Ray claimed right to his entrance music and the ‘T’ in his name.
Credit for the interview: 83 Weeks Podcast