Harlem Heat, the legendary WCW tag team comprised of WWE Hall of Famer and five-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion Booker T and his brother Stevie Ray, announced at a live ROW (Reality of Wrestling) event last night that the duo will lace up their boots and compete side by side in active competition next month for the first time in over fifteen years, according to Wrestlezone.
Harlem Heat last competed as a team in 1999 during what would become the dying days of World Championship Wrestling, the then Ted Turner-owned professional wrestling organization that challenged Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment, then World Wrestling Federation, in a ratings war that saw WCW beat WWE by significant margins for nearly a year and a half, nearly bankrupting McMahon and putting the WWE out of business. During their tenure, Harlem Heat won the WCW Tag Team Championships a staggering ten times during what some would call a “glory era” for tag team wrestling, in which Harlem Heat competed against some of the industry’s all time best, including the Steiner Brothers, the Nasty Boys, and the Road Warriors.
Upon McMahon’s purchase of WCW in 2001, Stevie Ray wrestled only a handful of times before officially retiring from the ring, even though Ray had been in “semi-retirement” for over a year while becoming a color commentator. Booker T would be one of only a handful of WCW carry overs that would compete in WWE, and could arguably said to have been the most successful to do so, engaging in storylines with top stars such as Triple H and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, winning several championships as well as the King of the Ring tournament, and ultimately becoming a figure head character and eventual analyst. Stevie Ray inducted Booker T into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2013.
In the years following WCW’s closure, fans have clamored to see the reunion of Harlem Heat. Fans long imagined dream matches involving Harlem Heat wrestling the Dudley Boys, or Harlem Heat against the Hardys. When Booker signed with Total Nonstop Action in 2007, it seemed almost a certainty that Harlem Heat would reunite. Stevie, however, had retired from the industry completely, returning only as a trainer when Booker founded the ROW training school for professional wrestlers. Booker, just two months shy of 50-years-old, has seen in-ring competition competing in TNA and occasionally returns for guest appearances. Stevie, however, is 56-years-old, and even though Harlem Heat will reunite to take on a much smaller, less experienced team in the New Heavenly Bodies, one has to wonder how much ring rust will be on a near 60-year-old who, once the powerhouse of Harlem Heat, hasn’t been an active in-ring competitor for a decade and a half. Regardless, Harlem Heat is one of the few great tag teams that never got a proper farewell, and though many would hope that it could have taken place on a bigger stage, and perhaps five to ten years earlier, there are sure to be many fans happy to see them in the ring together one last time.