In the mid-1990s Bret Hart became a trainer of young talent for the World Wrestling Federation in somewhat of a precursor to the company`s eventual developmental program. Bret hired Leo to be the head trainer at Bret’s house in Calgary. Leo trained wrestlers such as Ken Shamrock, Mark Henry, Andrew “Test” Martin, Glenn Kulka, Adam “Edge” Copeland and “Christian” Jay Reso. Henry has said in an interview that Leo was one of the best trainers he had and that Leo taught him about being a professional as well as the importance of longevity. While working as a trainer in Calgary, Leo worked with students such as Martin in Wild West Wrestling in 1997. Leo later trained Teddy Hart as well. During this time Leo was also working at a bar in Calgary. After finishing as a trainer for the then-World Wrestling Federation, Leo started working as a trainer for World Championship Wrestling.
In 1998 and 1999 Leo returned to the Maritimes to work in the now-revived Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling. The promotion had young talent such as Rene Dupre, Joe E. Legend and Chi Chi Cruz while also bringing in legends such as Burke and his brother The Beast. These tours were likely the last time Leo was able to team with his brother and likely the last time Leo wrestled as well. The CBC did a feature on Leo, putting over his long career and popularity in the Maritimes. It featured clips from a match, an interview with Leo and footage of Leo getting a loud reaction from the crowd.
Leo eventually said in an interview with Slam Wrestling that he did not know if he would do it all over again as he would rather have his health. Leo was experiencing difficulties with both knees at that time and said he had had eight knee operations. Leo did have surgery on his knees in 2006 and reported feeling better. After the knee surgery Leo was contacted by Henry who wanted to say thanks for all the help he had given him early in his career. Leo also came down with Septicemia in 2002. As a result, he spent a few days in the Intensive Care Unit of Foothills Hospital in Calgary but he did recover from this illness. Leo’s brother Rudy Kay died in 2008 and Yvon (The Beast) died in 2009. Leo and his brothers were honored at the Cauliflower Alley Club Reunion in 2009 and Leo’s son and daughter attended with him.
In 2010 Leo made guest appearances at events for UCW in Spryfield, Nova Scotia, Berwick, Nova Scotia and Summerside, Prince Edward Island. Leo said that to the crowd that he wished his knees were in better shape so he could wrestle on the shows. Leo talked about his brother The Beast being the toughest wrestler he ever faced. Leo also worked as guest referee in matches on the cards.
Bret Hart credits Leo Burke as an early influence in his career Bret Hart has said of Leo“He was privileged to wrestle so many of the greats and his special talent was his knack for gleaning the best from each of them and adapting it to his own style.” One thing that people seem to say most commonly about Leo is that he was one of the most underrated wrestlers of his generation. In writing this career retrospective of Leo, I have wanted to shed some light on how much the man accomplished in his career. While almost all of this information was able to found on the internet already, it is hopefully helpful to have it all in one place in order to appreciate such a great professional wrestler. Thanks Leo.
1) Vance Nevada’s Leo Burke match history at http://www.infinitecore.ca/superstar/index.php?threadid=246
2) Bret Hart comments on Leo at http://www.brethart.com/bio/columns/kurt-angle-and-best-wrestlers-20th-century`
3) Mark Henry comments on Leo at http://bleacherreport.com/articles/202663-mark-henry-talking-wresting-smack-classic-qa-part-1
4) General information on Maritime wrestling at http://www.infinitecore.ca/superstar/index.php?km_km_ict=f9b39869f70216be58a32f9c5104910b&forumid=5
5) Biographical history at http://www.canoe.ca/SlamWrestlingBios/burke_leo.html, http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Wrestling/2006/03/19/1495579.html, and http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Wrestling/2006/05/13/1578648.html, http://www.onlineworldofwrestling.com/profiles/l/leo-burke.html
6) Leo Burke profile on CBC http://archives.cbc.ca/sports/wrestling/clips/6850/