Duke’s Adventures Part 6 – Road to Retirement…

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

Cartoon courtesy of Mr J.

Road to Retirement…

After getting sick with the rare auto immune condition GBS in 2015 and pushing myself to come back, to prove to myself that I could continue on ring announcing, I would continue with AWF albeit with some help. I would work shows over the next year knowing I had a back up if I started to feel weak or couldn’t finish a show. TNT had started using a guy named Matt Svenson to fill in for me on shows I had missed and was also using him on shows as a commissioner.

There were shows I’d get through 3/4 of the night and have to go back stage and rest. At Supanova Comicon events, I had a team of people working with us that could back me up as well as Supanova staff that would allow me to rest away from the ever increasing crowds. I would head into 2016 constantly over tired from pushing myself. I’d never truly given myself proper recovery time and allowing my body and mind to heal.

I kept on convincing myself that ring announcing was all I had and I couldn’t let it go. A couple of incidents would end up showing me I’d pushed too far. One time at a show, I fell off the stage behind the ring in full view of the fans after getting weak in my legs. This was embarrassing to say the least but yet, I kept on pushing. The next set back was rapidly losing weight and getting so gaunt that I looked a shell of my former self. My announcing and hosting was suffering and I was looking bad in front of a crowd but too blind with commitment to honestly admit it .

TNT had to finally sit me down at the end of 2016 and say to me what I couldn’t say to myself. I was looking bad in front of a crowd and my announcing was not up to par. Anyone else might think that was a cruel thing to point out but it took a real friend with real concern to finally present me with the truth. It was what I needed to hear.

I would step back and take 2017 away from Pro Wrestling to finally get better. The break was doing me well and I finally started to get stronger and put on weight. My colour came back and I realised it’s what I should have done. To prepare myself to come back, I got back in touch with my good friend Headshrinker Samu in the USA to help me get ready for a return by taking part in a few shows . By his good graces, I could once again prove myself and to crowd I could work shows.

They went off without a problem and I felt ready to make a return with confidence on home turf. AWF accepted me back into the fold and I even accepted to do a big event for World Series Wrestling, working with some of the best from around Australia and also some of the best independent wrestlers at the time not signed to WWE. I flew to the event and was getting prepped when I started to feel dizzy and weak again. Was it nerves ? Was it the heat ? All I knew was I couldn’t let anyone or myself down, this was too big an event.

I’m being kind by saying that I made a barely passable effort to finish as it was all the effort and energy I had. I knew in my heart of hearts that I’d not done as well as expected and that I could no longer give the energy required of a live event ring announcer. It was a crushing blow that put me in tears. I confessed after the show to my good friend Giant Kyote that I felt like I was done.

I returned home knowing that heading into 2018, it would be my final year. I would bite the bullet and finally retire. Was this really happening? Had I finally said what I thought I’d never say ? Was this the end…

After letting family, friends, TNT and the AWF roster plus Samu and my American Wrestling family know of my plans, I started to make plans for my final year of shows. I would work a few shows until mid year, have a small break, then head back to the USA for my retirement shows there which I needed to do. I’d then return home and do my final show with AWF, finishing where it had all began.

I just had to make it there….

I arrived in the USA in October of 2018 with a plan to not only finish up in Pennsylvania but also to work one last event in Florida for Afa The Wild Samoan. Knowing that Samu and family would be heading there, I enquired with Samu’s sister and Afa’s daughter, my dear friend Vale, if I could take part in WXW’s 22 year Anniversary show. She said it wouldn’t likely be a problem but to contact Afa himself. I emailed Afa and told him that I was retiring and that if he wanted my services for one last show, I’d be honoured if he’d have me.

He emailed back and with all the graciousness of a man of his stature could provide, he not only expressed his sadness of my retirement but also agreed to have me on his show. I’d always felt so at home in Allentown and with my WXWc4 family well as in Florida with Afa, his family and WXW.. Always welcomed with open arms and always made to feel like family.

It felt so good to be able to sign off there but deep inside there was an overwhelming sadness. “Just get through” I’d say to myself. Samu had a great show planned culminating in a tag team main event inside a cage. I would co announce with a ring announcer I enjoyed working with James Titus. To have him, Xavier Cross, who was the first announcer I worked with there, Salamander Jones who’d I’d commentated with on my first big event there and also Alex Lascala, my MicsUnite brothers ( a term I coined for us stick men), it would mean the world.

After the main event finished, I was inside the cage signing off when I noticed Samu had gotten the entire c4 roster to come out from backstage to surround the ring. My emotions started to well as they then entered the ring as the crowd stood in unison, cheering for this Aussie ring announcer who would forever try to return the love. I would be embraced by each wrestler, some of whom I’d just met and some of who I’d known for years. Then Samu, my friend, mentor and member of the esteemed and legendary Samoan Dynasty made a speech to the audience and to me, thanking me for all I’d done. He then embraced me and my tears could now finally flow. I was done at WXWc4 and I’d been celebrated and sent off just the same way my good friend and the reason I was even in America, Mana The Polynesian was.

It felt good, I was exhausted. I could exhale with pride… Now with one more event to complete I was now about to make my way to Florida for one last ring announcement in America…

Duke and Samu Anoa’i – photo courtesy of Pinhat Photography
Duke with the WXWc4 roster, Mountainville Recreation Centre, Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania – photo courtesy of Pinhat Photography

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