Burton enjoying new career
By Ray Pefferman
Burton isn't the type of guy to sit around the house and wait
for the phone to ring.
Burton had been a sports reporter and anchor for WTAE-TV for eight years when he was released due to budget cuts last December.
Little did he know that while one dream was being put on hold, another one would unexpectedly become reality.
Burton, 39, is now a beloved local professional wrestling personality.
At National Wrestling Alliance East shows in McKeesport, Burton flexes his muscles, flies through the air, and spouts insults into the microphone.
But in Butler's Far North Wrestling, he's more like the J.B. viewers warmly remember, doing the interviews, playing the straight man, taking a backseat to the mayhem.
"It has been a lot of fun, something I always wanted to try," Burton said 10 months into his new career. "So far, so good."
Burton's fascination with wrestling began at age 10, when he became a fan of Tony Atlas.
"I loved the entertainment and the storytelling aspects," he said. "I always had fun watching it."
Last year, local wrestler Sterling James Keenan spotted Burton wearing a John Cena T-shirt. Keenan, whose father Dan Polinsky promotes FNW, asked Burton to appear as a guest ring announcer. Burton was soon interjected into a feud with Bubba the Bulldog, the B-94 morning radio host who also moonlights as a pro wrestler.
After Burton accompanied Keenan to the ring in McKeesport, NWA East Promoter Jim Miller asked J.B. if he wanted to do more than talk. The former sportscaster began training in earnest with Keenan.
"He taught me the basics and got me ready in no time," Burton said
And when he debuted, he was an immediate crowd favorite, playing up his history in broadcasting.
"The angle went over pretty well, and it took on a life of its own," Burton said. "People were high-fiving me and hugging me. The crowd reaction is amazing; it's a rush."
When Jon Burton does anything, he always gives 100 percent.
"I don't just want to be a guest celebrity," he said. "I want to have a good match and tell a good story. I've been trying to improve my in-ring skills every day."
Sports reporting and sports-entertainment aren't as different as some think, Burton said.
"It's all about getting the message out," Burton explained. "You have to be able to start with nothing, and then come back with a story. The crowd and the viewers both have to understand the story you're trying to tell."
It looked like Burton's two passions might intersect this summer when he auditioned for a WWE announcing job.
"They said they liked me, but they were going in a different direction, but they left it open for the future," Burton said. "They liked that I would be able to take bumps."
In addition to wrestling, Burton is helping to promote local music artists, but Burton hopes to eventually return to his first love.
"I would love to get back to doing TV sports," he said. "I'm waiting to hear from someone."
But while Burton waits, his mistress is still there.
"If it becomes more like work, maybe I'll step away, but now I'm having too much fun. It's fulfilling a lifelong dream."