Billy Graham, a WWE Hall of Famer and former Heavyweight Champion, has sadly passed away at the age of 79. Known for his powerful physique, vibrant fashion sense, and larger-than-life persona, Graham has left an indelible mark on the world of professional wrestling. His style and charisma have inspired a generation of wrestling superstars who succeeded him.
The WWE confirmed his death in a statement: “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.”
For the past few months, Graham had been hospitalized due to a severe infection affecting his ears, skull, and sinus cavity. Despite the doctors’ recommendations to remove life support on Monday, his wife had refused.
“Superstar” Billy Graham, born as Eldridge Wayne Coleman on June 7, 1943, in Phoenix, Arizona, passed away on May 17th. His wife, Valerie, had shared in her statement that even though Graham’s body was failing, his will was strong, and their faith was their solace. Despite battling a severe infection, he remained a fighter until his last days.
Before his professional wrestling career, Graham was a bodybuilder and was closely associated with Arnold Schwarzenegger, who would later become a renowned movie star. As a wrestler, he adopted the charismatic and flamboyant persona of “Superstar” Billy Graham, which brought him fame and recognition in the wrestling world.
Graham was distinguished by his unique and unforgettable style. His imposing bodybuilder physique, flashy costumes, and signature handlebar mustache made him an immediate standout.
WWE is saddened to learn that WWE Hall of Famer “Superstar” Billy Graham has passed away. We extend our condolences to Graham’s family, friends, and fans.https://t.co/Qpykpjv616
— WWE (@WWE) May 18, 2023
Indeed, “Superstar” Billy Graham was a force to be reckoned with in the late 1970s in the WWWF, now known as the WWE. He established his heavyweight status when he triumphed over Bruno Sammartino in 1977, securing the federation’s Heavyweight Champion title, which he held for an impressive nine months.
Graham was not only celebrated for his formidable wrestling skills but also his larger-than-life personality, both inside and outside the ring. His interviews were legendary, brimming with vibrant trash talk, catchy phrases, and an engaging charisma that endeared him to fans worldwide.
Perhaps one of Graham’s most significant contributions to the world of professional wrestling was his pioneering use of flamboyance and personal showmanship, which set the standard for future wrestlers. He is famously remembered for incorporating the term “brother” into his promos, a colloquialism that has since been adopted by many wrestlers, including the iconic Hulk Hogan.
SUPERSTAR BILLY GRAHAM. ONE OF MY FIRST TEACHERS OF THE HEAT. THE REAL LEGEND BUBBA. HE LOVE ME I LOVE HIM. TOGETHER WE HIT THE GYM AND SHOCK THE EARTH. I LOVE YOU FOREVER BROTHER. RIP pic.twitter.com/0UEIy2HNgt
— The Iron Sheik (@the_ironsheik) May 18, 2023
Dave Meltzer, a commentator from Wrestling Observer Newsletter, recently acknowledged the vast influence of Billy Graham on the wrestling industry. Graham, whose persona and charisma set a new standard for wrestling superstars, has been instrumental in shaping the sport. Notably, renowned wrestling figures such as Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, Jesse Ventura, and Ric Flair are among those who have been influenced by Graham.
However, Graham’s dedicated career in professional wrestling was not without its physical toll. He underwent a hip replacement, and eventually retired in 1987 due to health concerns. Despite retiring, Graham’s contributions were acknowledged when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2015, he made a comeback to the WWE, albeit in a different capacity, under a Legends Contract.
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. https://t.co/xr48yzf20G
— Dave Meltzer (@davemeltzerWON) May 18, 2023
Billy Graham, over the course of his professional wrestling career, had numerous disagreements with WWE executive chairman Vince McMahon, and actively advised other wrestlers on the hazards of steroid use. Following his demise, the pro wrestling community poured out condolences, reflecting on Graham’s legendary status and the impact he had on subsequent generations in the industry.
Among those sharing their grief and gratitude was Vic Flair, who posted, “The Superstar Billy Graham Just Left Us. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR INFLUENCE On My Career!” Similarly, wrestling reporter Dave Meltzer expressed his sorrow, stating, “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.” Meltzer also sent a heartfelt message to Valerie, presumably a close family member of Graham’s. The passing of the iconic Superstar Billy Graham has left a deep void in the wrestling world, signifying the end of an era and a monumental influence. Rest in Peace.