On May 17, the wrestling community mourned the loss of a true legend, as the news of the passing of “Superstar” Billy Graham, a WWE Hall of Famer, spread throughout the world. In response, WWE released a heartfelt statement honoring the life and enduring legacy of this iconic Hall of Famer.
Billy Graham, a former WWE Champion, was known for his flashy fashion style, larger-than-life interviews, and impressive bodybuilder physique. Born in Arizona, Graham developed a passion for bodybuilding and began sculpting his physique using weights made of cement. His dedication and hard work paid off when he achieved a remarkable feat of bench pressing 605 pounds, just 11 pounds short of the world record. Graham’s journey to fame started when one of his photo shoots with Arnold Schwarzenegger was featured in Joe Weider’s prestigious “Muscle and Fitness” magazine.
In 1970, Eldridge Wayne Coleman, as he was known then, entered the world of sports-entertainment and adopted the name Billy Graham, paying homage to the evangelist. He added the nickname “Superstar” when he joined the AWA in 1972. With his exceptional in-ring skills and bodybuilder physique, Graham became a pioneer of his era. He also continued to compete in bodybuilding and strongman competitions, earning accolades for his chiseled and shredded 22-inch biceps.
Graham revolutionized interviews in wrestling, taking inspiration from boxing icon Muhammad Ali. He coined the iconic line, “I’m the man of the hour, the man with the power, too sweet to be sour!” Teaming up with his flamboyant manager, The Grand Wizard, Graham mesmerized audiences on a weekly basis, captivating them with his poetic prose and charisma. His captivating interviews and unique style made him a box-office attraction, selling out every arena he headlined.
To further stand out, Graham dyed his hair and goatee in various colors and developed a distinctive look that included eccentric earrings, form-fitting T-shirts, and long, vibrant tie-dyed tights. The WWE Hall of Famer’s combination of eye-catching style, sculpted physique, and in-ring dominance set the stage for future wrestling stars such as Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Jesse Ventura, Scott Steiner, and many more.
Graham’s crowning achievement in WWE came on April 30, 1977, when he accomplished the near-impossible task of dethroning Bruno Sammartino as the WWE Champion. Holding the title for nearly a year, Graham successfully defended the prestigious championship against icons like Dusty Rhodes, Gorilla Monsoon, and “High Chief” Peter Maivia before being controversially dethroned by Bob Backlund.
In 1987, at the age of 44, Graham retired from in-ring competition and transitioned to a managerial role, followed by a stint as a color commentator.
In 2004, “Superstar” Billy Graham was rightfully inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Triple H. Two years later, his inspiring story and profound influence on the sports-entertainment industry were featured in the WWE documentary titled “20 Years Too Soon: The ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham Story.”
WWE is saddened to learn that WWE Hall of Famer “Superstar” Billy Graham has passed away. A former WWE Champion, Graham’s flashy fashion style, over-the-top interviews and bodybuilder physique created the archetype for a generation of Superstars that followed in his footsteps. Born in Arizona, Graham grew a passion for the world of bodybuilding and created his own weights out of cement to begin building his physique. He trained so diligently that he was eventually able to bench press 605 pounds, just 11 pounds shy of the world record. Graham’s first taste of fame came when one of his photo shoots with Arnold Schwarzenegger was featured in Joe Weider’s “Muscle and Fitness” magazine. When the man born Eldridge Wayne Coleman entered the sports-entertainment industry in 1970, he changed his name to Billy Graham in reference to the evangelist. He added the nickname “Superstar” when he joined the AWA in 1972. With a combination of in-ring ability and a bodybuilder’s physique, he established himself as a pioneer of the genre. Graham also continued to compete in bodybuilding and strongman competitions and won accolades for his sculpted and shredded 22-inch biceps. Graham began emulating boxing icon Muhammad Ali in his interviews, coining the iconic line, “I’m the man of the hour, the man with the power, too sweet to be sour!” Alongside his equally outlandish manager, The Grand Wizard, Graham spouted that kind of poetic prose weekly on television, using his gift of gab to make himself a box-office attraction who would sell out every arena he main-evented. To make himself stand out even more, Graham dyed his hair and goatee different colors, and honed a distinctive look that featured outlandish earrings, skintight T-shirts, and long, colorful tie-dyed tights. The WWE Hall of Famer’s blend of standout style, sculpted body and in-ring dominance laid the foundation for future stars such as Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Jesse Ventura, Scott Steiner and more. Graham’s greatest WWE achievement came on April 30, 1977 when he accomplished the near-impossible feat of toppling Bruno Sammartino from his WWE Championship perch. Superstar held the title for nearly a year, successfully defending sports-entertainment’s richest prize against icons like Dusty Rhodes, Gorilla Monsoon and “High Chief” Peter Maivia before being dethroned by Bob Backlund in controversial fashion. In 1987, at 44 years old, Graham retired from the ring and transitioned to being a manager and then a color commentator. “Superstar” Billy Graham was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Triple H in 2004. Two years later, Graham’s inspirational story and influence on the sports-entertainment industry were featured in the WWE documentary, “20 Years Too Soon: The ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham Story.” WWE extends its condolences to Graham’s family, friends, and fans.
WWE extended its deepest condolences to Graham’s family, friends, and countless fans worldwide. The news of his passing has deeply saddened wrestling enthusiasts and fellow wrestlers alike, who admired his incredible contributions to the industry. From his flamboyant fashion sense to his captivating interviews and remarkable physique, “Superstar” Billy Graham has undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the wrestling world that will be cherished for generations to come.