Professional wrestling legend “Superstar” Billy Graham has died at age 79.
Since January of this year Billy Graham had been facing serious health issues. In January he was hospitalized due to an ear infection which had spread to his skull. His condition continued to worsen and developed kidney, heart and lung problems. Doctors wanted to remove him from life support days prior to his death, but his wife refused.
Graham’s death was first announced by Ric Flair via his Twitter and later confirmed by WWE and Dave Meltzer, Meltzer had this to say about the legend.
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“I am so sad. My entire life, and tons of others from Flair to Hogan to Jesse to tons you wouldn’t know and tons you would changed because of him. Valerie, I just wish you the best, you’re a saint and more people than you know are aware of it.”– Dave Meltzer –
Billy Graham Brought a Unique And Colorful Look At Modern Pro Wrestling
Billy Graham isn’t the household name like some of his peers. However, his impact is seen every time we watch wrestling. Prior to Graham making it big in the early ‘70s wrestling was far less colorful. Wrestlers were amateur wrestling shooters or others who had pro sports backgrounds facing other shooters. Wrestling was very straight forward back then. Good guys facing bad guys.
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Graham’s background was in Strongman competitions and bodybuilding. This different background from his peers gave him an original perspective on wrestling. He had a unique persona as an over-the-top self promoter with his tie-dye ring gear, bleached blonde hair and huge physique. He stood out next to his peers because of this. Billy Graham is regarded as the first Sports Entertainer in wrestling. Promos back then were also a lot more simple, but Graham changed that.
Superb Mic Skills For The Time
Graham took a page out of the playbook of one of the most popular boxers of all-time, Muhammad Ali. His interviews had a lot of personality and was poetry on the mic which was not common back then. The way we now think of modern pro wrestlers is in large part because of Graham. He was the model for Hall of Famers who would come later like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Jesse Ventura and Scott Steiner.
Billy Graham Beats One Of The Greatest Of All Time
One of Graham’s greatest accomplishments was defeating the man who held the WWWF Championship, which later became the WWE Championship, Bruno Sammartino. In 1977 Graham defeated the champion, Sammartino, for the WWWF Championship. Sammartino had held the championship for 1,237 days, or for over three years, which is the fourth longest reign of all time. Graham would hold the championship for 296 and lose it to Bob Backlund who has the second longest run as champion ever.
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In 1987 Billy Graham retired from in-ring competition and became a commentator and manager. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.
Vince Sr. Drops The Ball Jr. Wishes He Had
On Thursday’s episode on Busted Open Radio, Billy Graham’s memoir co-author Keith Elliott Greenberg was a guest. He told a story about how Graham was reluctant to lose his championship and asked Vince McMahon Sr. to let him keep it longer and turn him into a baby face. McMahon Sr. denied his request which led Graham into a depression.
However, Greenberg told a story about how Vince McMahon Jr. once said he would have done things differently if he was running WWWF at the time.
“Vince McMahon Jr. had told me that had he been in charge and not his father in 1978, he would have acquiesced to Superstar Billy Graham’s demand,” Greenberg said, “And in Vince McMahon Jr.’s words, ‘He would’ve been my Hulk Hogan.’ So it was that close.”– H/T To Wrestling Inc. For Transcription –
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This is a sad week for pro wrestling as a true pioneer of modern pro wrestling has died. Graham’s impact on modern pro wrestling may be the greatest of the modern era and can never be fully known. He influenced the wrestlers who have influenced modern wrestlers. Flair, Hogan, Randy Savage are some of the most important and influential wrestlers of all time, but Graham influenced them.
We here at The Illuminerdi would like to share our deepest condolences to Billy Graham’s family, friends and fans. His impact on wrestling will never be forgotten.
Were you able to ever watch any classic Billy Graham matches? Which would you recommend? Do you think he is the most influential wrestler of the modern era? Let us know what you think of first when you hear the name “Superstar” Billy Graham over on social media.
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SOURCE: WWE.com, Wrestling Inc., Busted Open Radio, Ric Flair, WWE, Dave Meltzer, Wrestling Inc.