Elijah Samuel Burke (May 24, 1978) is an American professional wrestler and color commentator. He has previously worked for World Wrestling Entertainment, on its SmackDown, ECW brands, and for Impact Wrestling under the name of "The Pope" D'Angelo Dinero.
Law enforcement and boxing career
Burke is a former officer for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office in Florida who would become an amateur boxer in Jacksonville's Club 5 and Club Plush where he claims to have had a 98–1 win/loss record. According to his WWE.com profile, Burke has a record of 103–1 with 102 knockouts in his amateur career. Both of these records are unsubstantiated. Still, according to WWE, the only loss he sustained was a disqualification, after he knocked his opponent out and refused to back down to his corner. Before each of his matches he writes the phrase "4-Up" on his wrist tape, and in an interview with WWE Magazine, Burke stated that this came from the phrase "I'm going to give you five upside your head," used by comedians such as Redd Foxx. However, when you punch somebody, it's more accurately four upside the head. On the "Right After Wrestling" program on Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 98, Burke told hosts Arda Ocal and Jimmy Korderas that early in his pro wrestling career, he never threw "worked" punches due to having difficulty pulling his punches.
World Wrestling Entertainment
Developmental territories (2004–2006)
After signing with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), he was sent to their developmental territory, Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW). There, he won the OVW Heavyweight Championship on December 8, 2004, by defeating Chad Toland. On April 14 Burke lost the Championship to Matt Morgan. Burke was offered a spot in the Spirit Squad by the WWE Creative Team, but turned it down, forcing him to stay in Ohio Valley Wrestling on a longer stint before moving to SmackDown! with Sylvester Terkay.
Alliance with Terkay (2006–2007)
Burke would be brought up to the main roster of SmackDown! on July 28, 2006 working a mixed martial arts cornerman gimmick with the also debuting former MMA fighter Sylvester Terkay. His first WWE match saw him defeating Scott Wright and he would also break Vito's four month winning streak while on SmackDown!, albeit with Terkay's assistance.
On November 7, 2006, Burke and Terkay debuted on the ECW brand by cutting a backstage promo. The following week, Burke replaced Tazz, who had knee surgery, as color commentator alongside play-by-play announcer Joey Styles. Two weeks later, Burke returned to the ring; he and Terkay lost to The Hardys. At the ECW brand's December to Dismember pay-per-view, Burke and Terkay defeated the Full Blooded Italians. The pair were later dubbed The Knock-Out/Tap-Out Connection, in reference to Burke's amateur boxing career and Terkay's Mixed martial arts background. On January 18, 2007, Terkay was released from WWE.
New Breed (2007)
Following this, Burke usually wrestled in singles matches, and appeared in a segment where WWE owner Vince McMahon showed disdain for members of the original ECW and called Burke to the ring, naming him "The Future of ECW". Burke was then attacked by Tommy Dreamer, Rob Van Dam, Sabu, and The Sandman, who would later form the ECW Originals stable. Burke then became the official leader of the "New Breed", a group of new ECW stars including Matt Striker, Marcus Cor Von and Kevin Thorn, who proceeded to feud with the ECW Originals. At WrestleMania 23, the New Breed faced off against the ECW Originals but were ultimately defeated.
After several weeks of trying to recruit fellow roster mate and new ECW superstar CM Punk, Burke and the New Breed were successful on April 10. Just two weeks later, however, CM Punk betrayed the New Breed, attacking Burke after a match. The next week, Kevin Thorn quit the New Breed due to lack of interference in his match with CM Punk. The same night, Matt Striker and Marcus Cor Von were defeated by the Major Brothers, a debuting tag team. After being pinned, Burke screamed at Striker creating tension between the two. The New Breed would then feud with the ECW Originals, CM Punk and the Major Brothers at the same time. At Judgment Day, Burke was defeated by CM Punk. Then, at One Night Stand, Burke, Marcus Cor Von and Matt Striker were defeated by Tommy Dreamer, The Sandman and CM Punk in a tables match, ending the New Breed stable.
Singles competition (2007–2008)
On June 19, 2007, Burke lost to Chris Benoit (which would be Benoit's last match before his death) in a match that would decide who would face either CM Punk or Marcus Cor Von for the vacant ECW World Championship at Vengeance: Night of Champions. Burke then lost to Punk in a two out of three falls match, which would see the winner becoming the number one contender to Johnny Nitro's ECW Championship. On July 10, Burke rebounded with a decisive victory over Balls Mahoney. He was then named the number one contender for the ECW Championship and went on to face CM Punk at the Unforgiven pay-per-view where he was beaten after Punk cleanly pinned him.
Two days later on ECW, an elimination chase was set up by ECW General Manager Armando Estrada. This challenge was to determine the number one contender to CM Punk's ECW Championship in order to compete for the title at No Mercy 2007. Estrada pitted four ECW wrestlers (Burke, Kevin Thorn, Tommy Dreamer and Stevie Richards) against each other in a fatal four-way that night, which Burke won, removing the loser of the match, Richards, from contention. The following week Thorn was eliminated and the in the final match of the elimination chase, Burke was eliminated by Dreamer.
Towards the end of 2007, Burke had a short feud with then-World Heavyweight Champion Batista after Batista claimed his upcoming match with Burke was the last thing on his mind, thus disrespecting him and leading to two singles matches against Batista with Burke on the losing end of both. On the November 20 edition of ECW, Burke introduced and formed an alliance with the newest member of the ECW roster, Shelton Benjamin, who jumped over from the Raw brand. Burke was then taken off television for several months but he later reappeared by participating in the 2008 Royal Rumble, entering as the 28th entrant but was eliminated by Triple H after having Mick Foley pushed into him, after which both Foley and Burke were eliminated.
He later participated in a 24-man battle royal at WrestleMania XXIV to determine who would face ECW Champion Chavo Guerrero. Burke was eliminated early in the match (shortly after he himself eliminated Stevie Richards) by Kane. Burke then reappeared again in a tag team match on SmackDown where he and Shelton Benjamin faced Kofi Kingston and then-United States Champion Matt Hardy in a losing effort. Burke faced Hardy the following week in what would be his final televised match, but was unsuccessful. Burke later resurfaced once again in 2008 with a new "Black Pope" gimmick defeating Stevie Richards, Kung Fu Naki and Jamie Noble in dark matches.
On November 10, 2008, Burke was released from his WWE contract after being absent from television since May 2008.
Independent circuit (2008–2009)
On November 16, 2008, One Pro Wrestling based in England announced that Burke would be appearing on their "Friday the 13th" show in February 2009, but was canceled. Burke appeared at the World Wrestling Council show, "LockOut" on December 13, losing a hardcore three-way dance match, also involving Steve Corino, to Sabu. Later in January on an event named Euphoria he teamed with Armando Alejandro Estrada to unsuccessfully challenge Thunder and Lightning for the WWC World Tag Team Championship. Burke appeared at the Blue Collar Wrestling Alliance (BCWA) show "Superslam 7" in Detroit, Michigan on April 12, 2009, winning in a singles match against local indy wrestler "The Reason" Black Velvet. In February 2009 he wrestled for Xtreme Valley Wrestling in a 6-man tag match.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2009-2013)
Debut and feud with Suicide (2009)
On May 27, 2009, Burke defeated Shawn Spears in a tryout dark match for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) at their TNA Impact! television tapings. On July 29, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter reported that Burke had signed a contract with TNA. On the August 6 edition of Impact! a vignette was aired that announced that Burke would be debuting under the ring name D'Angelo Dinero at Hard Justice. Burke made his debut as a heel on August 16 in the Steel Asylum match, which was won by Daniels. On August 20, 2009, he made his Impact! debut and defeated Consequences Creed before he was attacked by Suicide, who had lost the Steel Asylum match because of Dinero's interference. On the September 17 edition of Impact!, Dinero defeated Suicide. At No Surrender, Dinero defeated Suicide once again, this time in a Falls Count Anywhere match. The following week on Impact! Suicide finally defeated Dinero, by pinning him in a street fight.
Face turn (2009–2010)
Burke was slated to take part in the Ultimate X match at Bound for Glory, but ended up missing the event due to a "family emergency". Dinero returned on the November 12 edition of Impact!, aligning himself with Matt Morgan and Hernandez against Team 3D and Rhino, which turned him face as a result.
Three days later, on November 15, 2009, Dixie Carter announced on her Twitter account that Burke had signed a new long term deal with the company.
At Turning Point Rhino and Team 3D defeated Dinero, Morgan and Hernandez. On the following Impact! Rhino and Team 3D won the rematch as well, when Jesse Neal turned heel and joined them. On the December 3 edition Impact! Suicide accepted Dinero's offer for peace and joined him, Morgan and Hernandez in their war with Rhino, Team 3D and Neal. At Final Resolution Morgan, Hernandez, Dinero and Suicide defeated Neal, Team 3D and Rhino in an eight-man elimination tag team match.
On the January 4, 2010, special live three-hour Monday night edition of Impact! Dinero picked up his at that point arguably biggest TNA victory, by defeating Desmond Wolfe. Two weeks later at Genesis, however, Wolfe avenged his loss and defeated Dinero in a rematch. On the February 4 edition of Impact!, Dinero scored a non-title victory over the TNA World Heavyweight Champion, A.J. Styles. At Against All Odds Dinero defeated Desmond Wolfe, Matt Morgan and Mr. Anderson, despite being attacked by Scott Hall and Syxx-Pac prior to the match, to win the 8 Card Stud Tournament and earn himself a shot at Styles' World Heavyweight Championship at Lockdown. Two months later, at Lockdown, Dinero failed in his attempt to win the World Heavyweight Championship from Styles. During the match Burke suffered ligament damage in his shoulder, which would sideline him for over two months. In storyline Dinero's absence was attributed to Mr. Anderson attacking him backstage on the May 3 edition of Impact!. Dinero returned on the July 1 edition of Impact! and was immediately challenged to a match by Kurt Angle, who had vowed to go through TNA's top ten wrestlers in the Championship Committee's rankings and had now arrived to the man ranked number eight. At Victory Road Dinero was defeated by Angle in his return match. Afterwards Dinero started a storyline with Mr. Anderson, who had recently turned face and wanted to prove his change to the man he had injured two months earlier by saving him from Matt Morgan. On the August 19 edition of Impact! the TNA World Heavyweight Championship was vacated and Dinero was entered into an eight-man tournament for it. In his first round match he defeated Morgan to set up a semifinal match against Anderson. At No Surrender Anderson defeated Dinero to eliminate him from the tournament.
Heel turn, Face turn and various storylines (2010–2013)
On the September 16 edition of Impact!, and the Reaction following it, Dinero turned heel by aligning himself with Kevin Nash and Sting, who had been feuding with Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff and Jeff Jarrett for months over the way TNA was run. His heel run was cut short after the emergance of Immortal(with Hogan, Bischoff and Jarrett leading) and Nash & Sting departing from the company. After months of only appearing on Xplosion, Pope would continue his heel run in a feud with Samoa Joe. In mid-2011 Pope would turn face once again siding with Brother Devon against Mexicana Americana.
Return to OVW (2013-2015)
On September 11, 2013, Burke returned to Ohio Valley Wrestling and defeated Flash Flanagan to win the Television Championship. After defeating Flanagan to retain the OVW Television Championship in a rematch the following week, Burke successfully defended his title twice against Raul LaMotta and Rockstar Spud before losing the title to Shiloh Jonze on October 5 at the OVW Saturday Night Special. On October 9, 2013, Burke teamed with Eddie Diamond to defeat The Marauders (Joe Coleman & Shiloh Jonze), then made a challenged to Jonze for a title rematch. On October 16, Burke faced Shiloh Jonze in a Steel Cage match for the Television Championship but was unsuccessful.
On September 16, 2015, Burke made his return under the ring name General Pope, teaming with Private Anthony defeating Adam Revolver and Reverend Stuart Miles in a number one contenders match for an opportunity at the Southern Tag Team Championship. On December 5, The Band of Brothaz (General Pope and Private Anthony) defeated The Van Zandt Family Circus (Dapper Dan Van Zandt and The Ringmaster) to win the Southern Tag Team Championship. With this victory, Burke became the sixteenth triple crown champion in OVW history.
Return to TNA (2015–2017)
Burke returned to TNA on the June 3, 2015 episode of Impact Wrestling alongside Josh Mathews on commentary under the ring name D'Angelo Dinero. On October 4, 2015, at Bound For Glory, Pope entered in a twelve-man Bound For Gold Gauntlet match which was won by Tyrus. On the March 15 episode of Impact Wrestling, Pope saved Josh Mathews from an attack by Lashley only to be attacked himself. The following week, Pope cost Lashley a shot at the TNA World Heavyweight Championship when he interfered in a gauntlet match he was competing in and then fighting him to the backstage area. On the April 5 episode of Impact Wrestling, Pope was defeated by Lashley in a street fight.
Burke was a guest on Sci Fi Channel's Ghost Hunters, on the October 31, 2007 Halloween live special episode. He would become the second WWE wrestler to appear on Ghost Hunters, with the first being CM Punk.He also had a journal on WWE.com called the Elijah Experience, where he discussed the happenings on ECW on Sci-Fi.
- Finishing moves
- As D'Angelo Dinero
- As Elijah Burke
- Signature moves
- 4-Up (Punching combination to the opponent's midsection followed by a high-impact uppercut)
- Coronation (Leapfrog body guillotine to an opponent draped over the second rope) – TNA
- Flying forearm smash
- German suplex
- Lifting sitout spinebuster
- Outer Limitz Elbow (Turnbuckle handstand transitioned into a low-angle diving elbow drop to an opponent lying underneath the bottom turnbuckle)
- Pimp Slap (Backhand slap to the opponent's face) – TNA
- Teams and stables
Championships and accomplishments
- Combat Revolution Wrestling
- CRW Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Jeremy Prophet
- Ohio Valley Wrestling
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated