Since leaving TNA in 2017, Elijah Burke (a.k.a D'Angelo Dinero or Da Pope) has laid low when it comes to national pro wrestling promotions. He worked some indies near his home in Florida, but he hadn't latched onto any of the bigger promotions until appearing at NWA Powerrr last December.
Now going by "Da Pope" as his wrestling moniker, he spoke about his time in NWA and why he decided to join them on The Wrestling Epicenter.
"You know, if someone would have told me that studio wrestling was going to return and be done to the extent that NWA Powerrr was done, I would have said that was BS and they were crazy. I would have said there was no way. But the way that team, with Billy Corgan, the President of the National Wrestling Alliance, the way that show came together, it became Pope's favorite weekly wrestling show. Period," stated Da Pope. "Not only was it a throwback, it was a tie-in to what is current. When you can watch a show and even the commercials are entertaining, that is when they had me. It was only natural that Da Pope would align himself with the National Wrestling Alliance."
NWA is one of the few wrestling promotions who has not returned in some form or fashion since the pandemic began. Its last tapings were in January, with its last episode airing in late May. Pope was asked about the future of NWA Powerrr and if fans can expect it to return.
"NWA Powerrr, man, to lose that during these current times – I know it will be back. Billy Corgan has no thought process to that not coming back. So, look forward to that returning, certainly," stated Pope.
Pope had two stints in TNA/Impact and both of those coincided with Dixie Carter's reign as president. Lots of people have criticized Carter for not having been wrestling savvy or just being difficult to work with, but Pope stuck up for her when asked if she's given a bad rap from former employees.
"Certainly, she gets a bum rap and she doesn't get enough credit for what she did do, which was take a company that was going under and made it a national company and made it a somewhat profitable company," stated Pope. "Sure, she was not the wrestling genius or wrestling mastermind, as so many other people have pointed out. But when it came to the promotion and what needed to be done to get Impact to a respectable No. 2 at the time, she did that. She did that!
"Look at Impact now; Impact is trying to find its way again. Look at where Impact went, with all of the woes and the lows. Is she blameless in all of that? No, she's not blameless. But she doesn't get enough credit for the good things. She gave us all, everyone that went through there, a second chance at making a decent living by doing what we love to do. For that, I'm forever grateful."
After spending some time in OVW, Pope made his WWE main roster debut in 2006 as Elijah Burke. One of his biggest backstage supporters at that time was Dusty Rhodes, who was a part of the creative team. Pope was asked what it meant to him to have "The American Dream" pulling for him behind the scenes.
"It means absolutely the world! A young Elijah Burke walks in with his bag in tow, and here comes 'The Dream', walking up with his ostrich boots and slacks, I believe. I think they even made him switch over. But he had his shirt on and I want to say jeans. But nevertheless, I see this man walking up and I froze," recalled Pope. "When he got within about 6 feet, I went to stick out my hand and say, 'Hey Dream, my name is Elijah Burke.' He swiped my hand away, wrapped his arms around me, and said, 'I don't need you to tell me who you are. I know all about you, boy. I'm the one that brought you here. We're going to make a lot of money together. Go put your bags down and come back and find me.'
"Dream... He's the reason there is a Pope. He is the first one to take an actual script from the writers, give it to me, and said, 'Read this real quick.' I read it and he said, 'You got it?' Then, he snatched it from me, balled it up, and threw it behind him. He said, 'You know what they want you to say. Now, go out and say it the way you want to say it. Don't you worry about Vince and Stephanie. I'll deal with them!'"
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit The Wrestling Epicenter with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.