Written by: ‘Duke’ Kieran Burns, retired 20 year Pro Wrestling Ring Announcer.
Photos: Duke with friend Paul Beekmeyer at the Meadowlands Arena for Wrestlemania 35, WXWc4 Tribute to Salvatore Bellomo show poster, courtesy of WXWc4
One More Time ? (Part 3), read part 2 here.
Upon arriving at The Meadowlands Arena and being in awe of the scope and size of not just the carpark setup but the Arena itself, I set upon finding Paul in the mass of of fans that were there to enjoy the spectacle and festivities. Paul was already sitting at the seats that he’d acquired online for us so I made my way to the top of the stands where he was to find our seats. Although we were way back up in the stands, it allowed us to have perfect view of the stage, the ring and the many big screens they had set up for viewing. Without going into detail of every match on the card that day (you can all look up online the outcome of each match) , what we did get to see was simply the greatest show I’d ever been witness to.
The sheer size of the Arena, the over the top production values, the very palpable energy emanating from the audience and the deafening noise from the pyro and fire works was unimaginable and so impressive to behold. I’d been to many big events in Australia before. I’d been to sporting events at stadiums in Philadelphia and experienced the ultra fandom on display that we just don’t see Down Under. But nothing I’d seen before or since could even possibly come close to what I experienced that day.
Both Paul and I were treated to the very spectacle we had only hoped to see and so much more. After an exhausting 7 hrs sitting in our seats, we left the Arena to catch our shuttle bus back to New York for much needed rest and still excited discussion about what we were just witnessed to. Dream fulfilled and bucket list ticked off …. The next day after thanking Paul for his hospitality and taking in the fact these two Aussies were standing in New York, the biggest city in the world and a world away from our humble Western Sydney beginnings, I left to go meet again with Lance and Jacob for our road trip back to Allentown Pennsylvania and get ready for the WXWc4 Tribute Show for Salvatore Bellomo that evening.
We arrived at the Mountainville Recreation Centre where the show was to be and I happily got to be reunited with not only some of the WXWc4 roster that I knew well but some of the fans waiting in attendance I’d come to know so well over the years and many of whom had been at my retirement show only a year earlier. I also was introduced to the Bellomo Family which was an honour as well as Salvatore’s students were there to wrestle . While getting ready for what I thought was to be my one match guest announcement, Lance came and informed me that their booked ring announcer for the rest of the show could not get there and wouldn’t be coming. I was asked if I could ring announce the entire show. Now I had retired the previous year due to no longer having the energy to get through an entire show due to my diagnosis of Gullian Barre Syndrome that left me fatigued. But I knew not only of the importance of the evenings events but how much faith Samu had put in me and the opportunities he’d given me over the years, so I heartedly accepted.
Not more than 10 minutes later I was informed that one of the booked ringside colour commentators was also not able to get there and was asked if I could double duty as ring announcer AND colour commentator. This was going to take all the energy I had and then some but I simply had to do. I wanted to do it but feared I’d run out of energy and not be able to perform my duties to the best of my abilities and what I expected of and for myself and such an important show. Thankfully the show went off without a hitch and we were able to present a show to the fans and the Bellomo Family that was fitting to the memory of a man that meant so much to so many and also representative of how the Anoa’i Family revered Salvatore and their many years of friendship.
I was proud that I could get through the show and helping my friend Samu when he needed me most. It was worth coming out of retirement for friend who’d opened up his family and home to me and given me so much in my career. It was paying back what I hoped could be at least a portion of what they he’d given me. A professional and personal obligation that was not only important but a necessary gesture.
Samu sincerely thanked me for giving so much and Salvtores family were grateful for my involvement which meant the world to me. Quite simply, it was an evening that was everything that is good about what we do in Pro Wrestling. An honour and a privilege…
The following evening, I went with Samu and Family to meet up with Samu’s cousin, former tag team partner and WWE Hall of Famer Rikishi and his brother and Jacobs Dad, WWE Legend The Tonga Kid for a night of drinks, food, pool, playing and fun. The next day, we all had a great BBQ back at Samus where we were joined by extended family and friends.
This trip was ending but in the best way possible, with friends who’d become family in an industry I loved and worked so many years at and that I’d finally come full circle to enjoy as a fan, Pro Wrestling ..