Remembering the Legend of Superstar Billy Graham
The great Superstar Billy Graham is in worsening condition at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona.
Many people forget about how great he was in his prime. His career was fairly short when thinking of the longevity of careers such as Sting, Ric Flair, and Hulk Hogan. The effects of steroids deteriorated his liver, and he needed a transplant.
Let's take a moment to remember the greatness that was the Superstar.
Before the cool bad guys of the Attitude Era such as Stone Cold and the Rock, there was the Superstar.
He was one of the few bad guys in the early WWF who would hear cheers from the audience. His gift on the microphone paved the way for future generations.
When any fan sees Triple H, Hollywood Hogan, Big Poppa Pump, and Jesse Ventura, the fan can see the influence Graham had on these wrestlers—not only in ring style, but in appearance and mic skills as well.
Another Stu Hart product
In 1969 Superstar Graham made his debut in the Stampede promotion.
He took the name in order to become a fourth Graham brother along with Eddie, Jerry, and Luke in the Florida promotion.
Some reports state Superstar took the name Billy Graham as a tribute to the evangelist.
Superstar eventually made his way to the AWA in 1972. During his tenure, Graham would rise to stardom during his feud with champion Verne Gagne.
The debut in the then World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) was met with success. The flamboyant one took on the extremely flamboyant manager, the Grand Wizard.
First World Title
In one of the most anticipated title match-ups in recent WWWF memory, two powerhouses and the two most over wrestlers matched up for the world title.
In Baltimore, Superstar finally won the world title.
Not a transitional champion
The cocky and arrogant champion became the longest reigning bad guy wrestler to that point. The 296-day reign is still the longest in history. Only Yokozuna and JBL came close to breaking the record.
Arrogance personified, fans becoming more accepting
In an age when it was taboo to cheer the bad guys, Superstar Graham started hearing more cheers than jeers. He tried to be even more ruthless in the ring and more arrogant on the mic, but fans continued to cheer him.
Here are a few quotes:
"I am the man of the hour, the one with the power, too sweet to be sour..."
"The men's threat and the lady's pet, where what you see is what you get, but what you don't see is even better yet."
"I look good and feel even better...I make a burlap sack look like a cashmere sweater."
During his WWWF title run, Graham would face the likes of Dusty Rhodes, Bruno Sammartino, Mil Mascaras, the Original Rock Don Muraco, and Pedro Morales.
He even ventured outside the Northeast to battle NWA world champion Harley Race in a classic down at Miami's Orange Bowl.
Billy Graham's battles with Dusty Rhodes set new heights for brutality and hardcore wrestling.
Graham suggested to WWWF heads that they have Ivan Koloff turn on the Superstar, thus making Billy an instance fan favorite.
The WWWF thought of the idea but shot it down for two reasons: Many promoters saw Superstar as a bad guy, and Bob Backlund was given a handshake deal to become the next WWWF champion.
Had this actually happened, Graham perhaps would have held the title for the next five years.
In those days it was extremely rare to have two fan favorites face off against each other, so the WWWF heads saw no other way to get the belt to Backlund.
Superstar left the WWWF for a few years after the title loss.
He came back to the promotion in 1982 sporting an entirely new look. Gone were the long blonde hair, blonde mustache, boas, and tie-dyed shirts and pants, which were replaced by a bald head, bare feet, and karate-style pants.
Also more noticeable was the leaner look. Superstar looked smaller but still had a chiseled physique. His wrestling style changed from a powerhouse brawler to that of an karate-judo-karate hybrid style.
New title belt
When Superstar was unable to take the belt from Backlund, he quickly stated, "If I cannot have the belt, no one will."
The belt was replaced by the "Globe Belt."
Superstar, unable to win the belt back, soon left for the Sunshine State.
JCP and FCW
After the second WWF tenure, the Superstar debuted in Florida as a part of the Army of Darkness, a satanic group led by Kevin Sullivan. He eventually turned fan favorite when the Army turned on him.
He also appeared in Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) in the Mid-Atlantic region. He was the hired hand of Paul Jones. The mission was to take out the Boogie Woogie man, Jimmy Valiant.
In 1986, the Superstar returned to the WWF for a final run. He came back with his traditional tie-dyed shirts, blonde-black hybrid goatee, bald, and looking bigger and more muscular than ever.
The returning Graham was a fan favorite.
The run was short-lived, as the Superstar required a hip replacement. He recovered and had a short-run feud with Butch Reed. During this feud, Superstar was retired by a huge splash from the One Man Gang.
Hall of Famer
In 2004, Graham was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by HHH.
The title says it all. Superstar Billy Graham was a wrestling star 20 years too soon.
Let's hope he makes a recovery and is able to return to teaching the young about the dangers of steroids.
His legacy lives on through wrestlers such as Randy Orton, Batista, and HHH.
Fans can see the legend every time a new cool bad guy comes into the ring.