A legendary 'Experience'
Sitting on a bench in the San Diego Sports Arena's locker room, ECW Superstar Elijah Burke had his head tilted down. Trickles of sweat dripped from his body as a look of anguish and frustration settled on his face -- a look most Superstars have after encountering WWE Hall of Fame-bound Ric Flair's Figure-Four Leglock. For Burke however, his emotions were mixed.
"Forget the fact that I tapped out to the Figure-Four," the "Guiding Light" said, as he wiped the sweat from his brow. "All that fails in comparison, because I was in the ring with a guy that I idolized as a kid," Burke uncannily admitted.
"Just being in the ring with Flair is an absolute honor. It's a privilege. It's a mark in my career that many Superstars before me haven't had," he continued, glaring off into the distance. "And Superstars that come after [Elijah Burke] would love to have that opportunity. I can say that I was in that ring with the greatest of all-time."
On ECW Tuesday night, the "Nature Boy" made a rare appearance in the Land of the Extreme, just one day after being named an inductee into the 2008 WWE Hall of Fame. Flair's induction is history in the making, as he will be the first active Superstar ever to get the call.
Burke, along with the self-proclaimed "Gold Standard" Shelton Benjamin, interrupted the "Naitch's" speech to ECW fanatics, thanking them for their support over the years -- but made sure they knew the "Nature Boy" had no intentions of retiring. Burke, for the first time ever, gave glory to another Superstar, and told the 16-time World Champion that he was his favorite competitor growing up. Then, in usual Burke fashion, the Jacksonville, Fla., native reminded Flair that it was time to step aside for the future of sports-entertainment -- Elijah Burke.
"What I said in that ring [that] night was legit. It was real," Burke confirmed, acknowledging that while Flair represents an incontestable legacy in sports-entertainment history, Burke is the future and the "Guiding Light" of WWE.
In the main event of ECW on Sci Fi, Burke and Benjamin teamed up against the Dirtiest Player in the Game and former ECW Champion CM Punk. During the tag team contest, Flair unleashed a series of chops to Burke so loud they could be heard across the Pacific Ocean. With every smack, the self-affirmed "Paragon of Virtue" reacted to the sting and felt the pain of the ring icon's blows -- but in usual Burke style, he claimed they did not faze him.
"By watching me on television you could look inside my eyes and tell that even though I was getting chopped, I loved every minute of it," Burke argued. The soreness Burke felt across his bare chest was bittersweet. As a young boy, Burke watched countless Superstars receive the same strikes for years. Now, he experienced them personally, against the legend.
Adding to the full Flair experience, the former New Breed leader failed in introducing his childhood idol to his signature move, the Elijah Express; instead, the 16-time World Champion let Elijah experience his Figure-Four. In mere seconds, a thick vein on Burke's forehead expanded while he grimaced in pain and the flailing Superstar slapped the mat continuously, screaming out at the referee. It was over; Burke tapped out.
Next for Flair is the 2008 WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at WrestleMania XXIV in Orlando, Fla. As for the Nature Boy's latest opponent, Burke assured that he will be in the Sunshine State to watch the historical occasion.
"Ric Flair has always been a ground breaker. He's always been one to defy the odds. Going into the WWE Hall of Fame as an active competitor just adds to the list of groundbreaking achievements that Flair has accomplished throughout his illustrious career," Burke said, expressing his admiration.
"Flair's one of the founding fathers, for me. When it comes to [sports-entertainment] he's paved the way," Burke said.
Then, as usual, Burke diverted attention back to himself by boasting and taking full credit for ushering in a new era in professional wrestling.
Burke, known for his overconfident strut to the ring and cocky demeanor, believes he will soon have a spot alongside Flair in the WWE Hall of Fame, and that the "Guiding Light" is next in line to achieve legendary status.
"I'm definitely ready, willing and able to carry the torch that Ric Flair leaves behind, if he is ever forced to retire. I will grab that torch and I will carry it. I want to run with it and I'll do whatever it takes," the ECW Superstar proclaimed.
How will Elijah get back on the fast track toward his ultimate goal? Stay tuned to ECW on Sci Fi every Tuesday at 10/9 CT