Wrestling Heritage A - Z

Brian Burke

We remember Brian Burke. We didn’t realise it because of one of those quirks of wrestlers where they play footloose with their names. We knew Brian Burke in the 1960s but we just didn’t know the name. Confused? Read on.

Not many tough nuts make the transition from playing cornet in a brass band to knocking seven bells out of an opponent in the wrestling ring. A hard man and a skillful wrestler, taught by the master himself, Billy Riley in Wigan.

Born on 28th December, 1932 Brian was 24 years old, with seven years amateur experience, when he made his professional debut in 1956.

Within a couple of years, November of 1958, he was making his debut at the Royal Albert Hall against the British welterweight champion, Jack Dempsey. As both were members of the Riley gymnasium back in Lancashire it was a two hundred mile journey for the two friends to make, no doubt travelling together, along with Billy Joyce and Mel Riss on the same bill. By 1958 Brian was a busy worker who could hold his own with the likes of Jack Dempsey, Mel Riss and Jim Mellor, all frequent opponents. He was one of those gritty, tenacious wrestlers as would be expected with his Wigan heritage. Clashes with Dempsey, Foley and Mellor were known for their hard-hitting action.

Following the Royal Albert Hall match bookings by Dale Martin Promotions in the south of England became more frequent. Brian went full time professional for a while and could be seen all nights of the week travelling from Penzance to Aberdeen and working for all the Joint Promotion members.

In 1962 we came across a new name on the posters. Dave Newman was a regular on the independent circuit for a dozen years or so. The identity of Dave Newman, according to Stephen Greenfield in Billy Riley – the Man, the Legacy," was none other than Brian Burke. Brian and fellow Wigan wrestler, Tony Zale, had both moved to the independent promoters and were promoting their own shows. Cutting back on his wrestling commitments he opened a carpet shop known as Newman's carpets. Our last sighting of Brian (as Dave Newman) was an independent show in January, 1975. Brian Burke died on 27th August, 2011.

Page added 17/08/2021