Duke’s Adventures Part 1 – Getting Started At AWF

Written by: ‘Duke’ Kieran Burns, retired 20 year Pro Wrestling Ring Announcer

I’d always just wanted to be a part of the show.

Like many of us in the industry, I grew up watching the old WWF in the 80s. In fact, the first match I ever remember seeing was Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura vs ‘Polish Power’ Ivan Putski on Wide World Of Sports when they would occasionally feature Pro Wrestling. I bought Apter magazines and read intently on wrestlers I knew and discovered others I would get a chance to see until years later via VHS tape trading.

In the Hogan era, I grew to fall in love with wrestlers like Andre The Giant, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat. They were like real life superheroes and I was always taken in by the spectacle of a circus like event they’d put on. Hell, I remember having a dream that Hulk Hogan moved in across the road from me as a kid and decided to take me under his wing to train (laughs).

As I got older, I never lost my love for it and as a teen, I realised I wanted to be a part of the entertainment industry. I would audition for acting parts, do community theatre and get involved in live music events for young people just so I could learn more. Anything to just be a part of the show, whatever that show was. Around age 15, I met, through mutual friends, someone else who had a life long love of Pro Wrestling. His name was Greg Bownds and we had a passing friendship over the next few years, always chatting about Pro Wrestling and our love for it. Little did I know, in his late teens, Greg would not only go into training but would eventually become a wrestler gaining notoriety as a young high flyer under the name of The TNT Kid.

In 1999, we ran into each other at a party and once again resumed our conversations . It turns out that Greg was now going under the name TNT, had started his own company, Australian Wrestling Federation and would be having their first events. I knew very little of the Australian Pro Wrestling scene so I decided to pick his brain and offer any help in putting on the show, whatever he needed. This was a chance to be around something I’d only ever dreamed of and who knew , maybe I could see whether it was something I could do.

Getting involved never eventuated and I didn’t see Greg for about another 6 months. In that time, I’d started going to some Wrestling classes being held by a young wrestler, Pistol Pete Volante, at a local PCYC. I was never an athlete at school but wanted to see if I had the aptitude to at least try it. I realised quickly that this “school” was just Pistol Pete trying out high spots and all us us “students” sitting around talking pipe dreams and giving ourselves gimmicks for fun. I decided to take my Ex’s kids to an AWF show as I’d been talking up Wrestling to them and not only wanted them to see a live show but to also reconnect with TNT and inquire about training. The kids loved the show and I chatted with Greg about training which he invited me down for. Upon getting there, I not only soon realised that everyone else in the class was way more athletic than me but I realised that maybe being a wrestler wasn’t for me. But I did however enjoy being around the other trainees and liked the fun we had.

AWF promo shot – 2016

I thought that perhaps I could still remain a part if I trained to become a manager for wrestlers and continue on that way. I could still take part in training and possibly be a part of live events that way. I would soon come to learn that although I thought I could be a manager, my body was not built for the rigorous training as I fractured my ankle twice within a few months. I was helping out on live events doing entry music , setting up the ring and anything else I could when TNT approached and said the AWF would need a new Ring Announcer as the previous guy had left to go elsewhere. I thought that maybe I’d do it for a few shows until my body healed and just continue trying to become a manager. Those few shows as Ring Announcer would eventually become, in the end before I retired, just shy of 2 decades in the job.

It would initially take me right around Sydney, going regionally into New South Wales and eventually interstate working live events. I got to work with the AWF roster, visiting interstate wrestlers as well as overseas talent that we bought in to work shows who had wrestled for ECW, WCW, WWE, Dragon Gate as well as other varied, well known independent companies. With each show I was getting better at what I did but I realised that I never wanted to stop learning. I made many a mistake along the way and more than likely pissed a few wrestlers off as I learnt but I only fell in love with Pro Wrestling more. Greg TNT Bownds had not only been a good friend but he’d given me my chance to chase a childhood dream doing what I loved. He allowed me to be a touring entertainer and gave me the chances to get better while making friendships and memories along the way. Although I would go on to further my career in Pro Wrestling, I was finally getting to do what I’d always wanted.

To just be a part of the show….

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