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The Leo Burke Chronicles: 1980-1984

by on June 22, 2011

By Dave Musgrave

Leo Burke started the 1980s working in Calgary. In January 1980 Leo won the title from Mr. Sekigawa (later known as Mr. Pogo). Leo had several singles matches against Bret Hart between January and May of 1980. Other opponents included Bobby Bass, Cuban Assassin, Lynn Denton, and David Patterson. Leo closed out this run by losing the North American title to Bret Hart on May 2.

Leo returned to the Maritimes in May of 1980. On June 26 Leo and Hubert Gallant won the North American Tag Team Titles from The Cuban Assassin and Bobby Bass who subsequently regained the titles from Burke and Gallant. Leo Burke teamed with Big Stephen Petitpas in August of 1980 to win the tag titles. Leo wrestled International Heavyweight Champion Killer Karl Krupp on September 24 in Halifax. Leo also worked David Schultz in the Maritimes that summer who had been crowned as the territory’s first United States champion in June 1980. After Leo failed to defeat him for the title, Schultz refused to grant Burke another match. Schultz had a television match against the masked “Red Shadow”. Schultz complained to the referee that it was Burke but the referee said the match had to continue. The masked Burke won the match with a sleeper, earned a title match and then unmasked. I would guess that this might have played off of Leo’s gimmick of working as The Atomic in Japan but cannot know for sure. Leo did not win the title in the subsequent rematch with Schultz. During that summer, Schultz also teamed with Cuban Assassin against tag champions Burke and Petitpas.

In October of 1980 Leo returned to Calgary. On December 2 he and brother Bobby Burke teamed to win their second International Tag Team Title from Duke Myers and Bobby Bass in Creston, British Columbia. Leo also had a series of matches against Bret Hart through December of 1980. The Burke brothers had matches against J.J. Dillon and Kazuo Sakurada, also known as Kendo Nagasaki in North America and not to be confused with the Kendo Nagasaki who wrestled in England. Leo and Bobby also had a series of matches against Cuban Assassin and Mr. Hito prior to losing the titles on February 28, 1981 to Duke Myers and Mike Sharpe Jr. Leo also had singles matches and tag team matches against David Schultz, with Leo and Bret Hart facing Schultz and Dynamite Kid. Leo won the North American title from Schultz on February 21, 1981 with Schultz regaining the title on February 27. Leo spent the spring teaming with brother Bobby as well as well as Bret Hart against combinations of Duke Myers, Kerry Brown and David Schultz.

Leo did spend the summer of 1981 in the Maritimes. He and Big Stephen Petitpas were International Tag Team Champions at the beginning of the season. On July 18 they faced The Cuban Assassin and Mr. Hito in New Glascow, Nova Scotia. Burke and Petitpas may have lost the titles to Killer Karl Krupp and The Masked Destroyer/Super Destroyer during the summer as Krupp and Destroyer were billed in matches for the titles on September 3 and September 10, 1981. The September 3 match was against Leo and Hercules Cortez in Halifax.

Leo then had another run as Tommy Martin in the Central States territory in the fall of 1981. Results show him wrestling there as early as October 9 when he had a match against Terry Gibbs in Fort Scott, Kansas. He wrestled Ron McFarlane on November 17 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and December 2 in Hutchinson, Kansas. On November 19, 1981 he won the Central States Heavyweight title from Bob Sweetan in Kansas City, Kansas. Leo lost the title back to Sweetan on December 10 in Kansas.

Leo then returned to Calgary and was wrestling there as of January 1982. Leo teamed with both Hercules Ayala Cortez and Keith Hart in matches against the team of David Schultz and Kerry Brown as well as Duke Myers and Mike Shaw. In February 1982 Leo started teaming with David Schultz and had a series of matches against tag champs Duke Myers and Kerry Brown through February and March of 1982. In March the tag team titles were vacated when Brown and Myers were in a car accident. A tournament was held and Brown and Myers regained the titles in a tournament final match over Burke and Schultz on March 23, 1982 in Regina, Saskatchewan. The North American Heavyweight title was also vacated in March of 1982 when champion Mr. Hito was injured. Leo became North American Champion when he defeated Duke Myers in the tournament final on March 21, 1982 in Calgary. Leo had defeated the Cuban Assassin and Kerry Brown in earlier tournament matches that night. Leo retained the title until losing it to Bret Hart on June 26, 1982 in Edmonton.

Leo had already started his summer 1982 season in the Maritimes prior to losing the Stampede title in June. Leo spent the summer working against Killer Karl Krupp and Bulldog Bob Brown. In July Leo won the United States title from Rick Valentine (Kerry Brown) and he appears to have held the title through the end of the season.

In the fall of 1982 Leo split his time between Stampede in Calgary and Maple Leaf Wrestling in Toronto. In Calgary, Leo spent the fall of 1982 teaming with wrestlers such as Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart and Davey Boy Smith against different combinations of Gama Singh, Dynamite Kid, Duke Myers and Kerry Brown. On November 19 Leo Burke and Bret Hart defeated Duke Myers and Dynamite Kid in Calgary to win the International Tag Team Titles. They lost the titles to Duke Myers and Kerry Brown on December 8 in Edmonton.

Leo engaged in a feud with Johnny Weaver in Toronto through 1982 and 1983 with Leo being billed as North American Champion. Weaver was apparently the booker of the Toronto territory at this point and liked to bring in Leo as an opponent based on their friendship dating back to working together in the 1970s in the Maritimes and the Carolinas. Leo came into Toronto as a heel, being billed from Calgary, Alberta and insisting that the ring announcer let the fans know that he wanted to be referred to as “Ontario’s Dream”. Leo teamed with Weaver against Private (Tim) Nelson and Private (Don) Kernodle in Maple Leaf Gardens on October 3, 1982 with Burke and Weaver losing in 24:11. Leo subsequently wrestled Weaver in Maple Leaf Gardens on October 31, December 12 and December 26 and again on January 9, 1983.

Leo continued to split his time between Calgary and Toronto in the early months of 1983. Leo won the Stampede North American title from Bret Hart on January 14, 1983 in Calgary. Leo spent the next few months as champion having matches against wrestlers such as Bret Hart, Keith Hart, Jim Neidhart, Mr. Hito and Davey Boy Smith. He also teamed with Hubert Gallant against combinations of Bret Hart, Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith. In April he had a series of matches with Smith and defeated him in a match to determine who would face AWA World Champion Nick Bockwinkle for the title on April 22 in Calgary. Leo had started this stint in Calgary as a babyface but was a heel by the time he faced Smith in this match, cutting a promo in French after the match to boos from the Western Canadian crowd. In the match with Bockwinkle, Leo lost after interference from David Schultz. Leo subsequently lost the Stampede North American title to Bret Hart on May 3 in Regina. Leo finished out May 1982 in Calgary with matches against Hercules Ayala, a match teaming with Bad News Allen in Victoria, BC and going to a double disqualification against Bret Hart and Dynamite Kid.

Leo wrestled Tony Parisi in Maple Leaf Gardens on January 23 and February 20, 1983, going to a 20-minute time limit draw in January and a no-contest in February. Leo also had matches at the Gardens with Vinnie Valentino and Mike Rotundo prior to losing the North American title to Johnny Weaver on April 10, 1983. Weaver defended the title against burke on May 15, 1983 with a win in 18:52 and defeated Burke again on May 29. On June 12 Weaver defeated Burke in a Loser Leaves Town match at Maple Leaf Gardens just in time for Burke to return to the Maritimes.

During the summer 1983 Maritime wrestling season Leo had matches against U.S. Champion Rick Valentine and International Champion Frenchy Martin. Leo won the U.S. title from Valentine on July 21, 1983 in Halifax and won the International title from Martin on August 4, 1983. The United States title was held up after a match between Leo Burke and “The Spoiler” Don Jardine. A rematch took place on September 8 in Halifax with Leo becoming a three-time champion after defeating The Spoiler. Burke was the last U.S. champion as the title was vacated after this season. Leo also finished the season as International Champion, a title that was not active in the Maritimes in 1984 as Burke was working separately from Emile Dupre’s circuit at that time.

Leo returned to Maple Leaf Wrestling in October of 1983 having matches against “Bret Hart” (who was actually Barry Horowitz), Tito Santana, Hubert Gallant, and Johnny Weaver. Leo also teamed with The Destroyer (Dick Beyer), losing to Angelo Mosca and Jimmy Valiant at Maple Leaf Gardens on November 13. Leo’s brothers Rudy Kay and Terry Kay (Bobby) were also working in Toronto at this time and Bret Hart also came in as “Heartthrob” Buddy Hart. Leo teamed with his brothers as well as Don Kernodle and Kelly Kiniski in a stable known as “The Rat Pack.” Leo was also billed as North American Champion again and defended the title in matches against Buddy (Bret) Hart and Tito Santana. He lost to Buddy (Bret) Hart in the first round of a tournament for the Canadian Heavyweight Championship on April 29, 1984. After the match Leo attacked Hart, preventing him from being able to continue in the tournament. Leo also had matches against Roddy Piper and Pez Whatley at Maple Leaf Gardens. In July of 1984 the Toronto territory was taken over by the WWF, ending the previous Mid-Atlantic association with Maple Leaf Wrestling as well as Leo’s run in Toronto.

In October of 1983, while still travelling to Toronto, Leo started wrestling for the International Wrestling promotion in Montreal, Quebec which was associated with the American Wrestling Association. Leo came in as a babyface and the first record of his time in the territory has him defeating Louis Lawrence on October 10, 1983. He also teamed with Hubert Gallant in the territory. On December 26, 1983 Leo lost to Abdullah The Butcher. In January of 1984 he was the co-winner of a 14-man battle royal with Dino Bravo.

Around this time the Montreal promotion introduced a new T.V. title. The tournament to crown a champion saw Leo defeat fellow babyface Richard Charland in the finals. In response to this loss, Charland turned heel, destroying Leo’s trophy and leaving him bloody and then introducing Tarzan Tyler as his new manager. In February of 1984 Leo teamed with Rick Martel in a tournament to determine challengers for champions Pierre Lefebvre and Frenchy Martin. They defeated Gilles Poisson and Bob Boucher in the first round and Gino Brito Jr and Richard Charland in the second round. Leo was injured and could not continue after the second round so he was replaced by Antonio Ricco who, along with Martel, lost to Dino Bravo and Tony Parisi in the finals.

In Montreal Leo was a tag team partner of Rick Martel, including a match in which they lost to Ken Patera and Jerry Blackwell. On March 5 Leo wrestled Nick Bockwinkel in Montreal. Leo also teamed with The Destroyer against Patera and Blackwell with Patera and Blackwell winning in 12:24. During the winter of 1984 Leo also wrestled on AWA-affiliated cards in Winnipeg, Manitoba including matches against Buck Zumhofe and Johnny Weaver.

In the summer of 1984 Leo’s brothers started their own promotion called International Wrestling in the Maritimes. J.J. Dillon was brought in as the booker in May 1984 and Dillon was also the International Champion throughout the one season of the promotion. Leo came in as of July 1984. Leo had his last-ever World title match facing AWA World Champion Rick Martel on July 3, 1984 in Halifax in a two-out-of-three falls match. Leo earned this match after defeating J.J. Dillon in Halifax on June 26. In his AWA title match against Martel, Leo won the only fall with a sleeper over Martel at 45:00 of the match. After a series of near-falls, Burke again had Martel in the sleeper when the 60:00 time limit expired, meaning Martel kept the title. Interestingly, Emile Dupre brought in NWA World Champion Ric Flair for a tour with a reported five title matches against Big Stephen Petitpas in August of that summer in what appears to have been a promotional war.

In July 1984 Leo toured Japan with the Universal Wrestling Federation along with other wrestlers frequently seen in the Maritimes and Quebec. On July 23, 1984 Leo Burke lost to Pierre Martel (Frenchy Martin) by disqualification in 21:48 at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan. The next night, again at Korakuen Hall, Leo Burke and Bob Dellasara lost to Nobuhiko Takada and Yoshiaki Fujiwara in 15:15.

During the summer of 1984, Leo was billed in International Wrestling in the Maritimes as North American Champion and had matches against the Great Tio and Kendo Nagasaki. Leo feuded with The Stomper Archie Gouldie, with both of them being recognized as North American Champion. The Stomper had been touring Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling and was billed as North American champion in that promotion when he jumped to International Wrestling, when he showed up by surprise and attacked Burke on July 31. They wrestled in Halifax on August 8, 1984 with The Stomper using the ropes for leverage for a pinfall in a 25-minute match. This was pointed out to the referee and the decision was overturned and the title was still undecided. Burke and Stomper then had a bloody brawl and Burke challenged Stomper to a winner-take-all match. Stomper defeated Burke on August 14 in Halifax in 17:30 after using a low-blow behind the referee’s back. They wrestled for the title in Halifax on August 21 in a match with 10 wrestlers with leather straps outside the ring. The two had a steel cage match in Halifax on August 28 with Burke winning in 19:30.

Leo started working for South West Championship Wrestling in San Antonio, Texas in the fall of 1984. He started feuding with Jonathan Boyd and his Commonwealth Army and had a match on television against Juan Reynosa. In an interview with Burke, Boyd interrupted and said that because Burke was from Canada, a British Commonwealth country, he should be part of Boyd’s Commonwealth Army but Burke refused. Leo came in as a member of Joe Blanchard`s army to take on Boyd. In a match teaming with babyface Killer Brooks against The Sheepherders, Leo turned on Brooks and it was explained that he`d been a spy for Boyd and the Commonwealth Army. Leo also had a feud with Jerry Oski who defeated Burke in a Loser-Leaves-Town match on December 9, 1984 in San Antonio, Texas.

Leo then returned to Montreal, losing to International Heavyweight Champion King Tonga on December 10, 1984 in Montreal.

(To view an archive of the Leo Burke Chronicles, plus Dave’s sources, check out Wrestling Culture!)

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