DETROIT – The Detroit History Podcast kicked off its sixth season telling the tale of The Sheik and Big Time Wrestling.

On Saturday afternoon, the Detroit History Podcast crew held a listening party and audience Q&A at the Detroit Historical Museum with podcast host Tim Kiska and Dave Burzynski, former manager of The Sheik, further enhanced with various historical items from the days of Big Time Wrestling, including The Sheik’s ring gear, issues of the Detroit promotion’s Body Press programs, and an oil painting of The Sheik painted by “Superstar” Billy Graham.

sheik painting

Painting of The Sheik by “Superstar” Billy Graham. Photo by Josh Olsen

It was an intimate yet professional affair attended by a respectful crowd of fans of Detroit wrestling, the Detroit History Podcast, and employees and supporters of the Detroit Historical Museum.

Podcast host Kiska welcomed everyone and then introduced the other individuals of the Detroit History Podcast crew leading to the podcast beginning. There was a brief disclaimer that the stereotypical depictions of professional wrestlers we were about to see wouldn’t be accepted by today’s audiences, but the podcast was shining a light on a specific time in the past, when racial stereotypes and caricatures in professional wrestling were an acceptable form of entertainment.

As advertised, the podcast focused on The Sheik and Big Time Wrestling, and the audio was enhanced by archival video and photographs, so it was more like a documentary screening than just a listening party. The video was credited to Bill Kubota, who did a wonderful job putting together the video portion of the podcast. Most of the narration was provided by Kiska, with the help of Brian R. Solomon, author of Blood and Fire: The Unbelievable Real-Life Story of Wrestling’s Original Sheik, and Dave Burzynski, Sheik’s friend and manager, who provided some images for the video as well as most of the historical items on display in the room, other than the original ring bell from “the air conditioned Cobo Arena,” which was from the Detroit Historical Museum collection.

the sheik ring gear

Ring gear worn by The Sheik and Dave Burzynski. Photo by Josh Olsen

The podcast ended with an original poem titled “Bobo Brazil” (published in an anthology I edited, Working Stiff), read by Detroit poet Mark James Andrews, which provided a nice epilogue to the episode.

After the podcast concluded, there was a nearly hour long Q&A with Kiska and Burzynski, who answered many questions from the audience, and probably could have gone on much longer, if there wasn’t a post-event reception in the lobby to follow. Lots of Detroit wrestling names were in attendance including N8 Mattson, Handsome Gary Kamensack and referee AT Huck.


Tim Kiska and Dave Burzynski answer questions from the audience. Photo by Josh Olsen

Overall, this was a great podcast/documentary, enhanced by the Q&A and the exhibit of Sheik ephemera and collectibles. The video portion was only available to the lucky folks at the listening party, but I highly recommend listening to this episode when it’s available on the Detroit History Podcast website, or your preferred streaming audio app.