Name: June Byers
Year Inducted: 2006
Induction Category: Lady Wrestler

June Byers

De Alva Evonne Sibley was born in Houston, Texas in 1922. She began her wrestling career in 1944 due to the influence of her uncle "Shorty" Roberts, who was involved with wrestling. She changed her name to June Byers and, like many women wrestlers, it was poverty that inspired her desire to be a successful athlete.

Throughout her career, she always dressed and behaved in a professional manner. As Penny Banner has said, “She WAS a LADY!” She learned to play the organ and she learned to fly an airplane.

June suffered many defeats in the ring in the early years of her career. The women wrestlers of her era were perhaps the toughest of any female athletes in history. They shared low pay, cheap motel rooms, long car trips and a hardy existence.

After years of learning her craft, June teamed with Mille Stafford to win the 1952 Women’s Tag Team Championship in Mexico City. She was responsible for opening Milwaukee, Indianapolis and St. Louis for women to wrestle, proving to the commissioners that women wrestlers were ladies and athletes - not a lewd carnival sideshow.

When Mildred Burke left Billy Wolfe in 1952, the women’s title was vacated. Billy contacted the Maryland State Wrestling Commission and obtained a sanctioned tournament match in Baltimore in 1953. June Byers narrowly defeated Nell Stewart for the new Women’s World Champion.

Mildred Burke was considered by many to be the best wrestler Byers ever faced. June said Mildred worked out every day, was always in fantastic shape, quick, extremely strong, slippery (could counter almost any move) and had tremendous ring presence. Billy made sure that only highly skilled women wrestlers obtained a championship match against her.

Mildred hurt her knee early in 1954 but thought it would be fully healed by August 20th, when she had a championship match in Atlanta against June Byers. Burke did not realize the vigorous training and workouts Byers was undertaking and she may have miscalculated June’s deep desire to take the NWA title from her. The match was scheduled to be 2-out-of-3 falls with a one-hour time limit. June won the only fall in approximately thirteen minutes into the match but Mildred’s knee was hurt again. Mildred never returned to the ring and there was never a second or third fall. Wolfe had June declared the champion because of Mildred's default. Mildred was understandably miffed but gave up the belt and went to California to start over. Thus, in 1954 the ten-year reign of this PWHF Inductee began.

June said her toughest opponents following Mildred were Lilly Bitter, Cora Combs and Penny Banner. She said "Penny was a good wrestler, always in shape and her strengths were much like Mildred but not to the same extent".

June was involved in a serious car accident in 1964 with injuries that terminated her twenty-year wrestling career. She retired undefeated with the Woman’s NWA Championship and later went into real estate sales. She had two children, Billy and Jewel. Her son died tragically after he was accidentally electrocuted in the kitchen. Some believe that June never really recovered from that loss.

June Byers died of pneumonia on July 20th 1998, but will be remembered as a champion every time wrestling fans recall her name.

- Norman Roy with assistance from Penny Banner

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