“Da Pope” Elijah Burke was interviewed on the Battleground podcast to talk about being the NWA TV Champion, his run in WWE, what happened with his role in Django and more.
Here are some highlights:
Pope’s favorite wrestler was Dusty Rhodes. He said he would love the opportunity to wrestle Dustin Rhodes:
“As soon as I win the 10 pounds of gold, if I have to welcome anyone to come through my door, or anyone that I would want to defend the NWA 10 pounds of gold against, it’s The Natural, Dustin Rhodes. It would be so fitting. He knows what he means to me. He knows what his dad has meant and means to me, and I think it would only be fitting that Dustin and Pope go at it for the 10 pounds of gold. Me and Dustin go way back to my arrival on the professional wrestling scene. We’ve only had nothing but respect for each other and nothing but love. So Tony Khan, I’m telling you now, go ahead and make it happen. When that time comes, Pope’s walking through that forbidden door, and I want Dustin Rhodes whether that’s under the AEW banner or headlining for the NWA. We’re going to get funky like a monkey.”
Pope said he was in OVW, he was offered a role with The Spirit Squad but turned it down:
“Vince McMahon brought me, Ken Doane, Nick Mitchell, and Dolph Ziggler, who was Nick Nemith at the time. He brought all four of us up. It wasn’t going to be five people, it was just four. He said, ‘Look, this is my idea. What brings heat?’ He was on his jet and he said he thought everybody hates male cheerleaders. We said we’re going to make a lot of money. He was very adamant. Vince said, ‘This is my idea. No writer came up with this. Nobody advised me. I came up with this, so I’m telling you we’re going to make a lot of money. It’s up to you guys. I’m not forcing anyone to do anything.’ I heard what he said. Of course he doesn’t want you to do it if you’re not going to effectively do it and do it right or if you’re uncomfortable. That was basically it. I took a moment after he got done talking. I always remember Ken Doane. He’s younger than me so he was just like, ‘Yes, let’s do it. I’m out of here. I’m done with OVW. Let’s go.’ There was a lot of excitement, but there was a lot of worry from my end because I wasn’t thinking right now and right then. I was thinking long-term. I was thinking about longevity. I was thinking, is this what I left the law enforcement industry for? Is this what I want my career to be and how much of an effect it is going to have? So a long story short. I went back in. I called Johnny Ace and I said, ‘Johnny, can I talk to you for a second.’ He came over and I said, ‘I want to go talk to Vince. I don’t think this is for me.’ He said, ‘Are you sure? You’re going to make a lot of money.’ I said, ‘Yea, I’m appreciative, but it’s just not for me.’ He said, ‘All right. Vince is going to respect that.’ We went back into Vince’s office. I told Vince. Vince said, ‘Well, I respect that. I’ll send you back down and we’ll bring you back later.’ That was it. I shook Vince’s hand and he said, ‘We’ll see you back in OVW.’ I got heat from a lot of the boys behind my back. When all the OVW developmental guys have to go to the shows when they (main roster) are around Louisville,Cincinnati, or Indianapolis, all the young guys line up to pay respect. We shake the hand of The Undertakers (and others), paying your dues. Everybody was shaking hands with one of ‘the guys’, but one of ‘those guys’, when my turn came to shake their hand, turned his head. He said, ‘You said no, and you’re still here.’ The rest you’ll have to read about in Pope’s book when it comes out.”