Guest Author - Vance Rowe
June Byers Mini-bio
June Byers, born DeAlva Sibley, was arguably one of the women professional wrestlers of our time. She was born in Houston Texas in 1918 and became a professional wrestler in the 1940’s and was trained by Mae Young. Initially, she was trained at a young age by her uncle, a lightweight wrestler named Onoway Roberts. Later she married a wrestler and a promoter by the name of Sam Menacker. However, it was Mildred Burke’s husband Billy Wolfe that saw the potential in Byers and helped her break into the business. She would preliminary matches but would always lose to women like Burke and Mae Young.
If Mildred Burke can be considered the pioneer of professional, then June Byers would have to be known as her successor. June was tough combined mat techniques with sound ring psychology and knew how to draw heat from the fans when she was a heel. She would do things like choke her opponents when the ref’s back was turned and this would draw the ire of the fans. She debuted in 1944 but didn’t win any gold until 1952 when she won the tag team titles with Millie Stafford, taking the titles from Mae Young and her partner, Ella Waldek.
That same year, Mildred Burke had a falling out with husband, Wolfe, and left his promotion leaving the World title vacant. Although she was still relatively unknown, June won a thirteen woman tournament to capture the coveted gold belt in 1953. She quickly became a popular fan favorite and even appeared on game shows like “I’ve Got a Secret” and “What’s My Line”. However, a lot of people said that she wasn’t a true World champion because she never defeated Mildred Burke and that match finally happened in 1954.
Still considered today as one of the best matches in the history of Women’s wrestling, June Byers won the first fall of a two out of three falls match. The match lasted over an hour and the second fall never happened because Mildred Burke aggravated a knee injury and left the ring never to come back. Despite the inconclusive finish, the Atlanta Athletic Commission awarded the match to Byers. Byers then angrily returned to her own promotion, the World’s Women Wrestling Association where she held the title there and called it the World championship. The Byers-Burke match was considered a shoot on many levels by historians because the women disliked each other and at times tried to hurt each other during the match.
In 1964, Byers was in a car accident and had to retire from wrestling and in 1998, she passed away. Pound for pound, Byers was considered by wrestlers and fans as one of the best women ever to grace a wrestling ring.