Leo Burke

Last updated
Leo Burke
Birth nameLeonce Cormier
Born (1948-06-29) June 29, 1948 (age 70) [1]
Dorchester, New Brunswick, Canada [1]
Residence Calgary, Alberta, Canada [1]
Family Cormier
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Leo Burke
Tommy Martin
Billed height5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) [2]
Billed weight230 lb (100 kg) [2]
Trained by Yvon Cormier
Rudy Kay [1]
Debut1966 [1]
Retired1992 [1]

Leonce Cormier (born June 29, 1948) is a Canadian retired professional wrestler. He was born in Dorchester, New Brunswick. He competed across Canada, in several American promotions, and wrestled internationally for both Puerto Rico's World Wrestling Council (WWC) and the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) in New Zealand. In Canada, where he spent the majority of his career, Cormier used the ring name Leo Burke. In the United States, however, he competed as Tommy Martin.

Canadians citizens of Canada

Canadians are people identified with the country of Canada. This connection may be residential, legal, historical or cultural. For most Canadians, several of these connections exist and are collectively the source of their being Canadian.

Professional wrestling entertainment form that mimics contact sports

Professional wrestling is a form of performance art and entertainment that combines athletics with theatrical performance. It takes the form of events, held by touring companies, that mimic a title-match combat sport. The unique form of sport portrayed is fundamentally based on classical and "catch" wrestling, with modern additions of striking attacks, strength-based holds and throws and acrobatic maneuvers. Much of these derive from the influence of various international martial arts. An additional aspect of combat with improvised weaponry is sometimes included to varying degrees.

Dorchester, New Brunswick Village in New Brunswick, Canada

Dorchester is a village and shire town in Westmorland County, New Brunswick, Canada. It is named for Guy Carleton, 1st Baron Dorchester, an 18th-century Governor-General of the old Province of Quebec.


Over the course of his career, Cormier held 46 wrestling championships. Several of his title victories came as part of a tag team with his brothers, three of whom were also professional wrestlers. He had long-term storyline feuds with such wrestlers as Cuban Assassin and Bret Hart, both of whom he later reconciled with and joined forces with to hold tag team championships. Since his retirement in 1992, he has also trained many wrestlers for both World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Cormier also competes in occasional wrestling matches and has been honored by both the Cauliflower Alley Club, a fraternal organization of professional wrestlers, and Stampede Wrestling, who inducted him into their hall of fame.

Tag team Team of multiple professional wrestlers

Tag team wrestling is a type of professional wrestling in which matches are contested between teams of multiple wrestlers. A tag team may be made up of wrestlers who normally wrestle in singles competition, but more commonly are made of established teams who wrestle regularly as a unit and have a team name and identity.

Ángel Acevedo is a Puerto Rican retired professional wrestler known by his ring name The Cuban Assassin and for his appearances with Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling, World Wrestling Council and Stampede Wrestling. Ángel Acevedo is a permanent resident of Canada and resides in Calgary, Alberta. Acevedo's son, Richie Acevedo, was also a wrestler for many years but retired in 2009. Acevedo allowed Fidel Sierra to use the Cuban Assassin name as well, as long as he did not use it in Japan, which has led to some mistakenly crediting Acevedo and Sierra with championships they did not win.

Bret Hart Canadian-American professional wrestler, writer, and actor

Bret Sergeant Hart is a Canadian-American retired professional wrestler, amateur wrestler, writer and actor. A member of the Hart wrestling family and a second-generation wrestler, he has an amateur wrestling background, wrestling at Ernest Manning High School and Mount Royal College. A major international draw within professional wrestling, he has been credited with changing the perception of mainstream North-American professional wrestling in the early 1990s by bringing technical in-ring performance to the fore. Hart is widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time; Sky Sports noted that his legacy is that of "one of, if not the greatest, to have ever graced the squared circle". For most of his career, he used the nickname "Hitman".


Growing up in a wrestling family, Leonce Cormier decided at age six that he wanted to become a professional wrestler. He followed in the footsteps of his older brothers Yvon and Jean-Louis, who trained him to compete. [1]

Yvon Cormier Canadian professional wrestler

Yvon Cormier was a Canadian professional wrestler. Competing primarily under the ring name The Beast, he and his three wrestling brothers made up the Cormier wrestling family. He wrestled in many countries but regularly returned to Canada, where he competed for the Eastern Sports Association (ESA) and the ESA-promoted International Wrestling (IW). He also competed in the Calgary, Alberta-based Stampede Wrestling for many years.

Rudy Kay Canadian professional wrestler

Jean-Louis Cormier was a Canadian professional wrestler, best known by his ring name Rudy Kay. Cormier competed primarily in Canada and often formed a tag team with his brothers; together, they are known as the Cormier wrestling family. He also worked behind the scenes, operating both the Eastern Sports Association (ESA) and its television program, International Wrestling. Kay held seven championships while wrestling for the ESA: five tag team titles while wrestling alongside his older brother Yvon; the short-lived Taped Fist Championship; as well as the promotion's most prestigious singles title, the North American Heavyweight Championship.


Cormier made his professional debut in 1966. Competing in Central States Wrestling, an affiliate of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), he used the ring name Tommy Martin. He won his first championship belt on October 11, 1968 by defeating Bob Brown for the NWA Central States Heavyweight Championship. [3] Later that month, he gained another title when he formed a tag team with his brother Romeo (who was competing under the ring name Terry Martin) to win the Central States version of the NWA North American Tag Team Championship from Brown and Bob Geigel. The reign as tag team champions lasted for seven days before the Martins dropped the belts in a match against The Texas Outlaws (Dick Murdoch and Dusty Rhodes). [4] [5] The following month, Martin also lost the heavyweight championship to Rhodes. [3]

National Wrestling Alliance professional wrestling governing body

The National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) is an American professional wrestling organization. Formed in 1948, it was for a time the most-recognized brand and largest governing body in professional wrestling. Under the control of the NWA Board of Directors, the organization acted as a governing body for the NWA's national territory system which recognized one world champion, participated in talent exchanges and collectively protected the territorial integrity of member promotions.

NWA Central States Heavyweight Championship

The NWA Central States Heavyweight Championship is a professional wrestling championship that currently serves as the main title for the National Wrestling Alliance promotion, NWA Central-States Championship Wrestling. For most of its existence, however, the title was defended in the NWA affiliate Central States Wrestling from 1950 to 1989.

The Heart of America Sports Attractions, or "NWA Central States" version of the NWA North American Tag Team Championship was a secondary Tag team championship promoted by the Heart of America Sports Attraction promotion, a National Wrestling Alliance territory based out of Kansas City, Missouri and was defended in Missouri, Kanasas and the surrounding states. The Championship was active from 1963 until 1973, originally designed to be a replacement for the NWA Central States Tag Team Championship and after 10 years was replaced with the Central States version of the NWA World Tag Team Championship. Because the championship was a professional wrestling championship, it was not won or lost competitively but instead by the decision of the bookers of a wrestling promotion. The championship was awarded after the chosen team "won" a match to maintain the illusion that professional wrestling is a competitive sport.


Cormier spent much of the early 1970s competing in the Maritimes for his brother Jean-Louis' Eastern Sports Association (ESA) (which owned International Wrestling, or IW) as both a singles and tag team wrestler. He did not want to use their name recognition to further his own career, so he took the last name of his friend, boxer Jackie Burke. [1] The four Cormier brothers all competed in the territory and often joined forces in feuds with the promotion's top heel (villain) wrestlers. [6] Burke won the IW North American Heavyweight Championship on June 22, 1971 by defeating Eric Pomeroy. The title reign lasted for three months; Gino Brito won the title from Burke during a match in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but Burke regained the championship five days later. [7] On August 8, 1972. Burke teamed with his brother Romeo again (who was now wrestling as Bobby Kay) to win the ESA International Tag Team Championship. They held the title until the following June, when they dropped it to Fred Sweetan and Kurt Von Steiger. [8] In August 1973, Burke became the first ESA Taped Fist Championship when the promotion awarded him the title. [9]

The Eastern Sports Association, often referred to in the business simply as "the Maritimes," was a Canadian professional wrestling promotion based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It ran during the spring and summer months from 1969 to 1976.

Feud (professional wrestling) staged rivalry between wrestlers in professional wrestling

In professional wrestling, a feud is a staged rivalry between multiple wrestlers or groups of wrestlers. They are integrated into ongoing storylines, particularly in events which are televised. Feuds may last for months or even years or be resolved with implausible speed, perhaps during the course of a single match. WWE's terminology discouraged the use of the term along with the word "war".

In professional wrestling, a heel is a wrestler who portrays a villain or a "bad guy" and acts as an antagonist to the faces, who are the heroic protagonist or "good guy" characters. Not everything a heel wrestler does must be villainous: heels need only to be booed by the audience to be effective characters.

Burke next competed in the NWA's Amarillo, Texas territory. He teamed with another brother, Yvon, who competed under the ring name The Beast. In January 1974, they defeated Don Fargo and Hank James to win the NWA Western States Tag Team Championship, which they held for two months until a loss to Ricky Romero and Dory Funk, Jr.. [10] Returning to the ESA, Burke had a short reign as IW North American Heavyweight Champion in May 1974, [7] which he followed in July with another reign with the ESA International Tag Team Championship. Holding the title with his brother The Beast, Burke held the championship for less than one month before dropping it to Geto Mongol and Great Kuma. [8] That month, he also dropped the Taped Fist Championship to Mongol but regained it in a rematch within days. [9] The following year, he held the North American Heavyweight Championship twice more, defeating Bolo Mongol and Bob Brown. For the second victory, Burke substituted for Killer Karl Krupp, who was unable to compete. Although Burke won the match, the title was later returned to Brown after Brown appealed the decision, claiming that a substitute wrestler should not be eligible to win a championship. [7] Burke also had one final reign with the Taped Fist Championship before vacating the title. [9]

Amarillo, Texas City in Texas, United States

Amarillo is the 14th-most populous city in the state of Texas, United States. It is also the largest city in the Texas Panhandle, and the seat of Potter County. A portion of the city extends into Randall County. The estimated population was 199,826 as of 2017. The Amarillo metropolitan area has an estimated population of 276,020 in four counties as of 2017. The metro population is projected to surpass 310,000 in 2020.

Donald Vincent Kalt, better known as Don Fargo was a German-American professional wrestler. During his career he held over 55 championships including 14 reigns as NWA World Tag Team Champion, most famously with Jackie Fargo as part of The Fabulous Fargos. He was a mainstay for various territories throughout the United States including NWA Mid-America, Georgia Championship Wrestling, Western States Sports and Big Time Wrestling. Gulf Coast wrestler Terry Lathan has called Fargo "one of the most colourful, fascinating personalities ever in wrestling".

NWA Western States Tag Team Championship Professional wrestling tag team championship

The NWA International Tag Team Championship is a professional wrestling title, originally created as the NWA Western States Tag Team Championship in the National Wrestling Alliance's Amarillo, Texas territory, Western States Sports. The title was in use from 1969, when it replaced Amarillo's version of the NWA North American Tag Team Championship, through the promotion's 1981 closure. The title was revived on July 15, 2014, by Vendetta Pro Wrestling when they joined the NWA. The Vendetta Pro Wrestling Tag Team Champions at the time, Shane and Shannon Ballard, were recognized as the NWA Western States Tag Team Champions, and since then, the Vendetta Pro Wrestling Tag Team title belts have represented the NWA Western States Tag Team Championship.

Burke continued to compete for Central States Wrestling, and he teamed with The Beast in a tournament for the vacant NWA Western States Tag Team Championship. The brothers defeated Silver Streak and Ricky Romero in the finals on February 20, 1976 to win the belts but lost them in a rematch one week later. [10] Returning from Texas to Nova Scotia, Burke became the only person ever to hold the ESA Maritimes Heavyweight Championship. He defeated The Brute to win the title; when the ESA closed in 1977, the title became part of Romeo Cormier (Bobby Kay)'s Trans-Canada Wrestling (TCW). TCW closed later the same year, and Burke's Maritimes Heavyweight Championship was retired. [11] [12] In 1976, Burke also defeated The Brute to begin another reign as IW North American Heavyweight Champion. He later dropped it to Michel Dubois but regained it by defeating Frenchy Martin on July 14, 1977. The title was also retired when TCW closed that month. [7] Prior to the promotion closing, Burke also had a short reign with Hubert Gallant with the ESA Maritimes Tag Team Championship. [13] While competing in Nova Scotia, Burke also challenged Terry Funk for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Burke controlled the majority of the encounter, but Funk intentionally got himself disqualified 55 minutes into the match. Because the title cannot change hands on a disqualification, Funk retained the belt. [14]

In 1977, Burke moved to Calgary, Alberta to compete for Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling. He teamed with Hart's son Keith to win the Stampede Wrestling International Tag Team Championship in early 1977 by defeating The Cuban Assassins. Although they dropped the belts to The Royal Kangaroos, Burke was able to regain the title in September 1977 while teaming with his brother Romeo (who was then competing as Bobby Burke). On December 10, however, they lost the belts to Michel Martel and Mr. Hito. [15] [16] In the new year, Leo Burke focused on competing as a singles wrestler and won the Stampede North American Heavyweight Championship on several occasions. He defeated Don Gagne (formerly known as Frenchy Martin) for the first title and Michel Martel for the second. He won it once more, by defeating Larry Lane, [17] [18] before leaving the area to compete briefly in New Zealand. Competing for the NWA territory there, he won the New Zealand version of the NWA British Commonwealth Heavyweight Championship. He soon vacated the title, however, and returned to Stampede Wrestling. [19]


Upon his return to Calgary in 1980, Burke teamed with Keith Hart once again to win the promotion's International Tag Team Championship. [15] [16] He also began feuding with Keith's brother Bret Hart around that time. [14] Burke defeated Mr. Sekigawa to win the North American Heavyweight Championship but lost it to Bret Hart later that year. He regained it in a rematch but dropped it to Hart once again. [17] [18] Burke returned to Canada's Atlantic Coast briefly to compete for Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling (AGPW) and won the promotion's North American Tag Team Championship with Hubert Gallant. They lost the belts to Cuban Assassin and Bobby Bass that summer, but Burke was able to regain the championship by teaming with Stephen Petitpas. [20] AGPW only promoted shows in the summer, [1] and Burke then returned to Calgary during AGPW's off-season; while there, he teamed with his brother Bobby Burke again to regain the International Tag Team Championship in December 1980. [15] [16] Two months later, he had another reign as North American Heavyweight Champion after defeating "Dr. D" David Schults (who later regained the title in a rematch). [17] [18] Another reign as NWA Central States Heavyweight Champion followed in November 1981, in which Cormier returned to his Tommy Martin ring name. [3]

Returning to Stampede Wrestling once again, Burke entered and won a tournament for the vacant North American Heavyweight Championship, defeating Duke Myers in the final match on March 21, 1982 to win the title. He dropped it back to Bret Hart three months later, however. [17] [18] He followed this with a brief return in August 1982 to AGPW, where he defeated Rick Valentine to win the AGPW United States Heavyweight Championship. [21] On November 19, 1982, Burke teamed with his longtime rival Bret Hart to win the Stampede Wrestling International Tag Team Championship. After losing the title the following month, [15] [16] the feud resumed, and Burke defeated Hart for the North American Heavyweight Championship on January 14, 1983; the men continued to face each other, and Hart regained the championship that May. [17] [18]

Around that time, Burke spent more of his time competing in Central and Eastern Canada. He wrestled for Maple Leaf Wrestling in Toronto, Ontario, where he feuded with Johnny Weaver. [14] In the summer of 1983, he held both the AGPW United States Heavyweight Championship and the AGPW International Heavyweight Championship. He was also credited with an additional reign as United States Heavyweight Champion because he regained the title in a rematch after it was vacated due to a controversial match against The Spoiler. [22] [23] In February 1986, Burke had one final title reign in Stampede Wrestling, holding the International Tag Team Championship with Ron Ritchie. [15] [16]

Back in AGPW, Burke continued to win championships. He held the International Heavyweight Championship three more times from 1986 to 1989, [23] and held the North American Tag Team Championship three times as well during that period. He won the tag team titles by reuniting with former partners Hubert Gallant and Stephen Petitpas; the third reign came with Cuban Assassin, a former enemy of the entire Cormier wrestling family. [20] [24]

In the late 1980s Burke he decided to compete in Puerto Rico's World Wrestling Council. He quickly won the promotion's top title, the WWC Universal Heavyweight Championship, by defeating Caribbean wrestling veteran Carlos Colón on December 17, 1989. [14] [25]


Burke held the WWC title until February 1990, when he dropped it to TNT. [25] This was followed by a return to AGPW, where he held the tag team championship with his brother Bobby Kay. [20] Back in Puerto Rico, Burke defeated Colón again on March 24, 1990, this time to win the WWC Television Championship. [26] Four days later, he also won the WWC Caribbean Tag Team Championship while teaming with Chicky Starr. They won the title from Invader #1 and Invader #4 but dropped it back to them in May. [27] Shortly after dropping the tag team title, Burke defeated Invader #1 in a singles match to win the WWC Caribbean Heavyweight Championship. [28] Burke's final title victory came in the summer of 1990, when he defeated Ron Starr to win the AGPW International Heavyweight Championship for a fifth time. [23]


After retiring from full-time wrestling, he went to Calgary in the early 1992. His old rival and real-life friend Bret Hart arranged a position for Cormier as a trainer for the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now World Wrestling Entertainment). Cormier helped train Ken Shamrock, Mark Henry, Adam Copeland (known as Edge in WWE), Jason Reso (known as Christian in WWE), and Andrew Martin (known as Test in WWE). [1] He also trained two former Canadian Football League players for their careers in professional wrestling: former Edmonton Eskimo Jeff Thomas, who later opened his own wrestling training school, [29] [30] and former Ottawa Rough Rider Glenn Kulka, who went on to compete for the WWF. [31]

When Cormier's contract expired, he began training wrestlers for WWF rival World Championship Wrestling. [1] In January 2002, he was hospitalized with sepsis and was put on life support before recovering. [2] [32] In November 2005, he underwent surgery to replace his right knee; this was followed by a left knee replacement in February 2006. [33] He has had eight operations on his knees altogether. [1] After his last surgery, WWE invited him back to resume training wrestlers, but Cormier declined. Since his retirement, he has worked in the now-closed bar at Calgary's Cecil Hotel and has also operated a mobile coffee and sandwich shop. [34]

Although Cormier considers himself retired from professional wrestling, he continues to compete from time to time. He was featured in a news video by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation during a return to the Maritimes for a match in 1998. [35] In June 2009, it was announced that he was participating in an Ultimate Championship Wrestling Legends Tribute Tour in Atlantic Canada alongside his former rival Cuban Assassin. [36] In 2010, Burke refereed a match at the final wrestling card ever promoted at the Berwick Arena in Nova Scotia. [37]

Cormier has been inducted into the Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame. [38] In 2009, the Cormier wrestling family was honored by the Cauliflower Alley Club in recognition of their contributions to the sport. [39] Bret Hart has described Burke as "one of the greatest Canadian wrestlers ever". [40] Les Thatcher, who competed against Cormier, said that he, "technically, is probably one of the most sound performers that ever stepped foot in a ring". [41] Michel Martel, who wrestled against Cormier for several championships, called him "a great worker" and "a professional in the ring and outside the ring". [42]

In 2013 Cormier appeared in the Victoria Pavilion, in Calgary, Alberta for the Hart Legacy Wrestling promotion. [43]

Championships and accomplishments

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