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HomeEntertainmentSuperstar Billy Graham, influential professional wrestler, dies at age 79

Superstar Billy Graham, influential professional wrestler, dies at age 79


Superstar Billy Graham, the professional wrestler whose larger-than-life ring persona and charismatic style had a huge influence on the likes of Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, Jesse Ventura and Ric Flair, has passed away. He turned 79.

In a tweet, Flair confirmed that Graham had passed away. “Superstar Billy Graham has just left us. Thank you for all your influence on my career!” Flair tweeted. No cause of death was given, but Graham had been suffering from ill health for several years and was hospitalized in February.

Born Eldridge Wayne Coleman in Phoenix, Arizona in 1943, Graham began bodybuilding at a young age. After dabbling in boxing and professional football, he first rose to prominence when he was seen in a Muscles and condition magazine distributed with then fellow bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In 1969, he decided to enter the world of professional wrestling and adopted the ring name Billy Graham, in homage to the famous evangelist of the same name. He first worked with Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling promotion and then adopted the nickname “Superstar” in 1972 and joined Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association.

Graham quickly became a standout talent with his bodybuilder physique, gaudy almost gaudy fashion sense, dyed hair and beard, and microphone charisma. Graham drew heavily on Muhammad Ali’s quick-witted style on the mic and became a must-see TV for his interviews and promos as well as his ring work.

By the late 1970s, Graham was one of the leading names in wrestling and his greatest success came with Vince McMahon Sr’s WWWF when he defeated Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF Heavyweight Championship on April 30, 1977. Graham held the title nine and one fixed for half a month. , beating the likes of Dusty Rhodes, Gorilla Monsoon and Dwayne Johnson’s grandfather “High Chief” Peter Maivia. He eventually lost the title to Bob Backlund.

Graham’s star began to wane in the 1980s as he reached his forties and a new generation of stars who had co-opted his style, ring persona and microphone work came to prominence. He retired from wrestling for good in 1987 and became a color commentator and manager on Vince McMahon Jr’s WWF.

He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004 by Triple H, one of many wrestlers inspired by Graham.

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