June Byers: Queen of the Mat
by Kay Parker & Debra Nowaski
DeAlva Eyvonnie Sibley was born May 25, 1922 and passed away on July 20, 1998 at her home in Houston, Texas with family and friends close by her side.
June’s parents were Henry Arthur Sibley and Ruby Lee Cook Sibley. Her mother Ruby birthed 13 children. June, better known by her ring name June Byers, was an American female professional wrestler famous in the 1950s and early 1960s.
June’s interest was sparked in wrestling when she was around eight years of age. Her aunt and uncle would take her to the Houston City Auditorium then owned by the Sigel family. June’s aunt and uncle would meet up with family friends’ “Shorty” Ottaway and Bell Roberts to watch the wrestling matches.
After the matches, the friends would go to the Chinese Consulate Restaurant in the area. Here they would have great conversation with the wrestlers, announcers, and promoters. This led to a relationship between Morris Sigel and “Shorty” Roberts. Shorty was hired to take care of Morris Sigel’s ranch in New Waverly, Texas. Wrestlers began showing up in Houston on a regular basis to perform in weekly Friday night shows. Sigel approached Paul Boesch to work for his growing Texas organization. Boesch became an advisor to Sigel as well as a radio announcer and remained a fixture on Houston television for over 30 years airing on Channel 39. Due to the closeness of “Shorty” Robert, Morris Sigel, and Paul Boesch, June’s interest and desire to wrestle continued to grow. These men saw June’s potential and great desire to get into the ring. June asked the male wrestlers to start showing her some of their wrestling techniques. She was hooked!
June became a mother of 2 children at a young age. June’s first husband and father of Jewel, Allie Parr, was not in favor of her wrestling and they divorced. June then married Henry Thomas Byers and had a son, William Henry Byers. As June continued to train, her husband Henry Byers died in a gas explosion leaving her widowed with two children. At that time, June adopted her wrestling name by honoring her deceased husband and her childhood nickname … June Byers.
“Shorty” and Bell Roberts could not have children and June allowed them to adopt her daughter Jewel Faye. June took her son “Billy” on the road with her so she could train full time and get acknowledged and invited to wrestle with the female wrestlers. June was gaining notoriety and was asked by William “Billy” Harrison Wolfe the wrestling promotor to join his circuit of women wrestlers. At age 22, June started her professional wrestling career. Late 1949, Wolfe joined the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) making his 30 trained female wrestlers available to all promoters. Wolf married several times which caused rivalry between the women wrestlers. There have been many stories read throughout the years about June Byers vs Mildred Burke, one of Wolfe’s wives.
There have been rumors, lies, and unfounded truths concerning June’s personal and professional life printed over the years.
The truth is...
The truth is, June did marry Billy Wolfe, Jr.
The truth is, June did defeat Billy Wolfe, Sr’s girlfriend Nell Stewart, in Chicago in 1953 for the U.S. Title.
The truth is, on August 20, 1954, Mildred Burke, while involved in a law-suit with Wolfe, Sr. (Burke’s exhusband) wrestled June Byers (Wolfe, Sr’s. daughter in-law) in Baltimore, MD.
The truth is: The PRESS, The REFEREE, THE LOCAL COMMISSION were all in agreement June WON.
The truth is, in 1960 the NWA considered Byers to be the NWA reigning champion.
The truth is, in the wrestling data there are 1,401 matches fought by June Byers: 865 Wins/303 Losses. Fifty-two different wrestlers teamed with June and 85 fought against her.
It was an honor to go to June’s home in Houston and see her belts, her boots, and all her memorabilia and know THE TRUTH.
June participated as an independent wrestler. Not only “one-on-one,” but also in “tag-team” matches. She never was involved in a “free-for-all” match. June Byers’ career as a professional wrestler lasted from 1944 to 1964.
June Byers was a beautiful, intelligent, and well-dressed woman. She always loved a verbal banter with eloquent speech and deemed cussing as uneducated and left cuss words out of her vocabulary. She was a true lady and QUEEN OF THE MAT.
June would tell her family stories about being on the road, traveling to matches, and being a disciplined athlete. She would ask the driver to pull over (her preferred mode of transportation being in a Rolls Royce), get out, jog beside the car, jump rope, and work out. She was known to drink a lot of orange juice and said her perspiration smelled like orange blossoms. She loved sharing stories of her life in and out of the ring.
June traveled the World. Wrestling took her across the U.S.A., Canada, Mexico, Japan, etc.
Although under paid and over worked, the female wrestlers had many battles to win in and out of the ring as most men did not acknowledge them as true athletes. Years later, June won the
respect of both men and women and had the opportunity to show Ted DeBiase a few winning moves in his early years of training. It had to be proved to the International Wrestler’s Commission Board that the women were true professional wrestlers and not some carnival sideshow. Although it was a competition of athletics and strategy, it was also an excruciating and painful profession. The attacks were real and it took full dedication to train for the blows, the falls, and the acrobatics. June was an exceptional athlete and was able to counteract many moves that her opponents offered. June was never disqualified for using illegal maneuvers such as biting, punching with a fist, or attacking an opponent’s eyes. June never “threw in the towel” even though her pelvis was fractured and looked like a road map. Her success in pinning opponents’ shoulders to the mat, knocking them out by incapacitating the opponent to submit, dropping them or throwing them, and then using her signature submission technique the “BYERS’ BRIDGE” for the win contributed to her success. She would win 2 out of 3 falls or have the best score points 3 out of 5. Usually a match would last 15 – 25 minutes and June would have the best score or points to determine the win.
She was an unstoppable force and a constant champion. June held the Women’s World Championship for 10 years and is an overall 3-time Women’s World Champion.
While being promoted, June was asked to be on the TV Show “What’s My Line” and “I’ve Got a Secret.” She was interviewed by newspapers, magazines, and numerous television hosts.
In the twenty years as a professional wrestler, June gained her first GOLD WIN in 1952 partnering with Millie Stafford and winning the tag team title. June continued to hone her skills and on June 14, 1953, won a 13-women tournament in Baltimore to claim the belt.
August 20, 1954, in Atlanta Georgia, Byers’ won the title as NWA World Women’s Champion Wrestler.
The wrestling audience always thought the wrestlers were invincible. June was hit with chairs to her back and head. She was also pulled out of the ring by spectators that stomped her on the ground.
On January 1, 1964, she was recognized as an undefeated TWO-TIME Women’s World Champion.
At age 41, still an active wrestler, June was forced to retire due to an injury from a spectator hitting her with a coke bottle to the temple and causing an eye injury that led to vision problems and a car wreck.
June Byers' granddaughters Kay Parker & Debra Nowaski with June's hall of fame plaque.
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