“Pope” Elijah Burke talks Final Chris Benoit Match, Dixie Carter Getting a Bum Rap, more

Oct 8, 2020 - by James Walsh

Show: Wrestling Epicenter
Guest: Da Pope
Date: 10/06/2020
Your Host: James Walsh

Just hours before he returns to the ring in front of a national audience for UWN Primetime Live on PPV, “Da Pope” Elijah Burke steps into the Epicenter for the first time to talks about the PPV series, NWA Powerrr, Impact Wrestling, facing Chris Benoit in his final match, working with Dusty Rhodes, if Dixie Carter gets a raw deal, and more.

United Wrestling Network, paired with the NWA, Future Stars of Wrestling, and other promotions, presents Primetime Live every Tuesday night on traditional pay-per-view and FITE TV. Click here to check out the UWN’s official website.

To listen, visit www.WrestlingEpicenter.com.


On what his ring name is now officially:
“It is Da Pope but it is actually not D’Angelo Dinero, it is Elijah Burke. D’Angelo Dinero is a thing of the past. So, it is the former is the current. I am Elijah Burke. It is my birth right. So, you can choose either. But, nevertheless, Da Pope takes top billing.”

On appearing for United Wrestling Network Primetime Live on PPV tonight:
“We’re talking Primetime Live in association with Championship Wrestling’s Dave Marquez as well as the President of the National Wrestling Alliance, Billy Corgan. And, obviously, a continuation of what we have already been doing with NWA Powerrr. So, Pope is looking forward to coming. They wanted the Pope of old. They want Pope to dawn the tights and do what Pope has already been doing, getting in the ring with some talent and making everything a little more Popetacular, if you will.”

On if there are any nerves to step back into the ring on a national stage for the first time in years:
“Absolutely not. While Pope has not been doing it nationally, Pope has been getting in the ring on the independent circuit, just not on the national scene. No nerves, really. It is what it is. It is like riding a bicycle. Looking forward to it.”

On his match at the PPV:
“Familiar with Watts to a certain extent. I know he’s been reeking a little havoc out there, to a certain extent, in California and on Prime Time Live and Championship Wrestling as well. And, as it comes to Zicky Dice, I’ve had my run ins with Zicky that date all the way back to my debut on NWA Powerrr. I know with Zicky, things aren’t always what they seem to be. He feels Pope shafted him a little bit and overlooked him. So if Zicky wants to get Zicky, if you will, Pope is more than capable of putting him in his place. As far as his tag team partner goes, that is a mystery. That does throw a monkey wrench into how Pope can prepare. But, I’m prepared and I’m sure Watts is ready as well.”

On his time with NWA Powerrr:
“Yo know, if someone would have told me that studio wrestling was going to return and be done to the extent that NWA Powerrr was done, I would have said that was BS, they were crazy, I would have said there was no way. But, the way that team, with Billy Corgan the President of the National Wrestling Alliance, the way that show came together, it became Pope’s favorite weekly wrestling show period. Not only was it a throwback, it was a tie-in to what is current. When you can watch a show and even the commercials are entertaining, that is when they had me. It was only natural that Da Pope would align himself with the National Wrestling Alliance.”

On the future of NWA Powerr:
“NWA Powerrr, man, to lose that during these current times. I know it will be back. Billy Corgan has no thought process to that not coming back. So, look forward to that returning, certainly.”

On being different in that his TNA/Impact Wrestling run is remembered more than his WWE run:
“Well, again, that is why that name Da Pope takes precedence over Elijah Burke or any other name. Even to this day and back when I was with TNA, when I was in public, at the store, in restaurants… Sure, people said Elijah Burke. But, Pope became the thing, Pope became the man. Pope became who I am! Quite frankly, the reason that got over is because it is who I am. It is amped up. But, it is more natural for me to be Da Pope. Let me play from my background and be who I am. And, more importantly, there were no scripts in TNA. (laughs) You put a live mic in front of Pope, let me be Pope, and let me do my thing. It is natural. I had no muzzle, no scripts to follow, it was just natural. Vince Russo just said, “Pope! (pronounced Pope-A), what are we going to do today Pope?” I was like, “What do you mean?” “What are you going to say?” “What’s going on? What am I involved with”, you know? (laughs) That is the way it was, man. Every time I was given a mic, “Go be Pope.” And, that’s what I did. And, I think that is why Pope stood out.”

On if Dixie Carter is given a bum rap from past employees now:
“Certainly, she gets a bum rap and she doesn’t get enough credit for what she did do which was take a company that was going under and made it a national company and made it a somewhat profitable company. Sure, she was not the wrestling genius or wrestling master-mind, as so many other people have pointed out. But, when it came to the promotion and what needed to be to get Impact to a respectable number 2 at the time, she did that. She did that! Look at Impact now. Impact is trying to find its way again. Look at where Impact went, with all of the woes and the lows. Is she blameless in all of that? No, she’s not blameless. But, she doesn’t get enough credit for the good things. She gave us all, everyone that went through there, a second chance at making a decent living by doing what we love to do. For that, I’m forever grateful.”

On what it meant to work with Dusty Rhodes behind the scenes in WWE:
“It means absolutely the world! A young Elijah Burke walks in with his bag in tow and here comes The Dream walking up with his ostrich boots and slacks, I believe. I think they even made him switch over. But, he had his shirt on, I want to say jeans. But, nevertheless, I see this man walking up and I froze. When he got within about 6 feet, I went to stick out my hand and say “Hey Dream, my name is Elijah Burke.” He swiped my hand away, wrapped his arms around me and said, “I don’t need you to tell me who you are. I know all about you, boy. I’m the one that brought you here. We’re going to make a lot of money together. Go put your bags down and come back and find me.” (laughs) Dream, top billing, he’s the reason ther e is a Pope. He is the first one to take an actual script from the writers, gave it to me and said, “Read this real quick.” I read it, he said, “You got it?” Then, he snatched it from me, balled it up, and threw it behind him. He said, “You know what they want you to say. Now go out and say it the way you want to say it. Don’t you worry about Vince and Stephanie (McMahon). I’ll deal with them!””

On Cody’s promo from last week’s AEW Dynamite:
“It was a great promo. To convey emotion and, like Dusty, reach out through Televisionland beyond the arena and cause people to feel your anger, your pain, you’re emotions, that is something that Cody has done very well. He allows the audience to become invested in what he’s saying and he always builds. He builds his promos.”

On if Chris Benoit showed any signs of not being himself during his last match:
“No, not at all. One thing Chris was big on, and hindsight is 20/20 on this if I could say “Oh, that kind of makes sense” is just the fact that he said, “Talk to me out there. I might forget.” So, after everything that happened, when it came back that he had like the brain of an 80 year old with Alzheimer. That was like, “Hmm, that is interesting.” In this business, I was always taught that we should communicate in rings. So, I didn’t think anything of it. That could have been a sign. Chris Benoit asking me to talk to him? But, other than that, there was nothing that could have tipped me or anyone else off to the extent of the degeneration of his brain per the results of his test.”

On not being contacted for the Chris Benoit Dark Side of the Ring:
“I would have thought, myself, that they would have contacted me. I was contacted by a movie company when they were talking about doing a movie on him. Not saying that was the same company as did Dark Side of the Ring but, I spent that whole weekend with Chris Benoit wrestling him.”

On being an announcer with Impact during his last run:
“I loved it! I naturally adapted to it. Not to the extent of a Josh Mathews who wears many hats. But, once I got in my groove, I really wanted to put the guys over that were in the ring. I don’t want to talk about what is coming up, what is on ShopTNA.com. I don’t want to do that junk. You do that. Let me do, for example, “Mr. Pectacular” Jessie Godderz. I wanted to get characters over. So, I dubbed him the Modern Day Adonis. I started calling his Boston Crab the Adonis Lock. It allowed my creativity to come through and work for my brothers that were in the ring. I looked forward to it. It was fun. Sometimes, sitting there, a little stressful. But, I had a blast doing it. To have Matt Hardy or Gregory Helms hit me up and say, “Thanks, you guys killed it.” Man, I enjoyed telling those stories.”

On his charity:
“What we do is simple. My charity is called the Love-Alive charity, you can find ut at www.Love-Alive.org and you can read up on our charity and how we do what we do to love individuals while they are alive – hence the name. We simply try to take care, as best we can, of the homeless and disadvantaged communities in and around the Jacksonville, Florida area. We hold these events called Love Drives. We give to people as much as we can and we love on them in that moment. We feed them, we give them clothes, shoes, hygiene products, blankets for the people who are on the streets. We do whatever we can to provide for them. When it comes to the food, man, I take great pride in knowing that we have fed thousands and thousands of people. We had hundreds and hundreds of people in line for hours and we feed them directly out of Burger King. So, we feed them the things you and I could drop off the express way and go get because we’re hungry. So, we’ve partnered with Burger King and feed them out of Burger King – The stuff you and I take for granted.”

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