"Da Pope" Elijah Burke Interview: NWA, Charity Work, IMPACT Stint, WWE/AEW, More

You've been such the perfect fit for the NWA since you joined given your style, presence and everything else. What was it about the product that drew you in?

Pope: I was sitting back watching, and I remember when the first season of Powerrr kicked off, I had no real desire per se to go to the NWA, but when I was watching it, of all the wrestling on each week, I could sit through NWA Powerrr, which is just an hour of your time, that was the only program I could sit and watch 100 percent all the way through. Even the commercials were entertaining! I sat back and saw myself entertained and mesmerized. It's wrestling that's presented not only the way it used to be but also presented in a way that it should be. It's an old school presentation with new school feel and the guys are able to go out there and just wrestle, work and tell a story.

That podium where we cut the promos and whatnot, that is one of the most important parts of Powerrr, of the NWA. It was then and still is to this day because even to this day, when you stand in front of that podium, you're there for a purpose. Not just to further your story or your character but you're there to sell tickets and make people want to see what's coming up. That's why that podium to me is like the Holy Grail of the NWA in my opinion.

Why you do think your promo style compliments the NWA so well and who were some of your inspirations for your promos?

Pope: Talking has never been an issue for Pope. However, being in that situation, sitting at home and watching those boys tear it up, my mouth began to water. When I got the call from Lagana to go to Powerrr at the time and he asked if I'd be interested, I said, “Let's work something out.” They said they wanted me to talk, and then to do commentary, then to be someone's mouthpiece, and then they want me to wrestle. They always drive me back into the ring. As far as inspirations for promo deliveries and talking, it's a known that Ric Flair [inspired me] and to a lesser extent, but the be-all, end-all for me in professional wrestling, Dusty Rhodes.

When I went into my Pope swag, that's really when I tapped into my Dusty. He's someone who drew me into the business and is the reason why I'm in the business, one of the guys that allowed me to build that confidence while working with him. I ended up working with Dusty and it was a dream come true. I never thought that would happen. One of the first most amazing things that happened to me when I got to WWE, I was standing in the hallway and all of a sudden I see those orange and brown ostrich boots. I see this figure with these jeans on with a black shirt and I said, “Oh my god, here comes Dusty.” And I froze. I stood there and I didn't know what I was going to do.

I'm standing there and as he got closer, I went out to shake his hand and he slapped my hand away and throws his hands around me and pulled me in. He said, “Boy, put your hand down, I already know all about you. Now put your stuff away and come find me. You and me are going to make a lot of money together.” He was one of the guys that wanted me up from OVW and wanted to handle me and he did.


Since 2008, Graham has been a diehard pro wrestling fan and, in 2010, he combined his passions for WWE and writing when he joined Bleacher Report. Equipped with a master's in journalism, Graham has contributed to WhatCulture, FanSided's Daily DDT, Sports Betting Dime, and GateHouse Media. Along the way, he has conducted interviews with wrestling superstars like Chris Jericho, Edge, Goldberg, Christian, Diamond Dallas Page, Jim Ross, Adam Cole, Tessa Blanchard, Ryback, and Nick Aldis among others.