Written by: ‘Duke’ Kieran Burns, retired 20 year Pro Wrestling Ring Announcer.
I returned home to Australia with a new found sense of confidence and accomplishment. I continued to work AWF live events for my my home fed and friend TNT as well as working Supanova Comic Con events around Australia featuring not only AWF wrestlers but some of the best wrestlers from varied companies in each state, all coming under the AWF banner to showcase Australian wrestling to new and old fans.
I was even taking over duties for these events for TNT, utilising what I’d now learnt from over a decade of announcing in Australia but also from my trip to the USA. I realised I had gained a level of respect from certain young wrestlers and established Australian talent. They were all keen to hear stories from my USA adventure and I hoped my travels could help influence their own future adventure in breaking down doors for Aussie Wrestlers.
I was so keen to return to the USA and take up Samu’s offer to take that road trip to work for his Dad , Afa ‘The Wild Samoan’ at his WXW promotion in Florida. I started an online friendship with Afa’s daughter Vale in preparation for my trip. We had a lot in common in terms of mutual interests and she helped prepare me for what working for her Dad would be like. I continued my online conversations with Samu to get ready for it as I worked my ass off to earn some much needed money for my return and living expenses.
When I finally got back to Allentown, Samu had me announce an entire WXWc4 event by myself as well as get to know his roster and trainees better. Everyone was happy to have me back so soon and it dawned on me that it felt like home. The following weekend we hired an 18 seat Van that we would all travel down in. It would be me, several other wrestlers due to wrestle in the WXW Tag Team Tournament as well as Samu’s wife Melissa and kids Vanessa, Samantha and Leila. His son Lance would fly down and meet us there.
The road trip took us through Virginia where we picked up another wrestler and we continued on a further 20 hour trip through the Carolinas, Georgia and then onto Florida. We finally arrived and booked into a Motel so we could get some well needed rest. The next day we would head to a day at Afa’s house for a chilled day of BBQ food and time by the pool. We were met at the door by Afa’s wife Lynn and his daughter and my new found friend Vale. They made me feel welcome and treated me like family. Myself and the other wrestlers visiting the each made our way to the back to meet Afa.
This man was not only a legend in our industry but was revered by all who knew him and was held in such high regard by the WWE that he was now a Hall of Famer. I didn’t take it lightly that I was coming into this man’s home and that I’d grown up watching his family on TV. After a great day of eating Samoan Chicken by the pool and getting to know one another, we headed back to the motel for another much needed rest. The next day, we headed to the WXW venue in Minneola and got prepped for the show. I was immediately taken aback by the professionalism of how this show was being put together. I was approached by WXW’s long time ring side announcers and asked to give a demonstration of my announcing skills. I realised that they thought I was just a rookie and was only just starting out. They then soon realised that I not only had what it took to work their event but that upon learning my history, I was well seasoned enough and pulled off my audition perfectly.
Before the show started, I was asked to sit in on a WXW production meeting where again I noticed the professionalism of how they worked but I would also be taking on full ring announcing duties from the show while I sat under Afa’s learning tree. I met many Florida wrestlers, some of who had followed Afa from Pennsylvania when he moved just so they could continue working for him. This man commanded respect and I hoped to gain his respect. The Tag Team tournament went really well and I knew I’d done well. It was nice to receive praise for my work and have wrestlers and Afa’s family know that I’d done well.
After thanking Afa for the opportunity, we headed back to the motel. We relaxed in Florida for the next few days where I got to go to Disney World, fly from a 300ft Bungee Swing and just enjoy my time before we headed back on our road trip to Pennsylvania. Many memories were made on that trip and stories I can’t tell for fear of incriminating myself (laughs). I worked one more event for Samu before leaving for home and I knew in my heart I’d be back. I like to think that doing good business, being professional and making friends would allow me to return again some day. I had made friends that became family and had opened up doors for further opportunities there.
Little did I know, I’d end up returning to the USA many times over the next 8 yrs . WxWc4 and WXW had become my American wrestling home, the Anoa’i family had become my American family and it would continue to be a source of pride and accomplishment to to this day….