Wrestling legend Superstar Billy Graham has been dealing with health issues of increasing severity for years, with the news about his condition over the past several months sounding increasingly dire. Our most recent update earlier this week was that his doctors suggested removing him from life support.
Given that, the news that Graham has died at age 79 isn’t surprising — not that that necessarily makes it any easier for his family, friends & loved ones.
Graham was born Eldridge Wayne Coleman on June 7, 1943. He started bodybuilding in his 20s, and embarked on a wrestling career in Calgary, training in Stu Hart’s Dungeon and working for Hart’s Stampede Wrestling promotion. In 1970 he made his way to the NWA’s San Francisco territory, where he teamed with Pat Patterson while working the West Coast and Hawaii.
He spent the rest of the decade working in various NWA promotions, Vern Gagne’s AWA, and the then-WWWF. It was there he ended Bruno Sammartino’s nearly ten year run as Vince McMahon Sr.’s champion in 1977, holding the World title until Bob Backlund beat him for it eight months later. He would spend most of the rest of his career with the WWF, retiring in 1987 when he was 44.
An outspoken man, Graham had issues with Vincent Kennedy McMahon, including suing the WWF for allegedly encouraging him to use steroids during the same period when McMahon was put on trial for steroid distribution. He later apologized to McMahon, and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013. He also sought to educate young athletes on the dangers of steroids, which he believed contributed to his failing health.
His legacy includes influencing wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura, Ric Flair, Triple H & others.
The Superstar Billy Graham Just Left Us THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR INFLUENCE On My Career! pic.twitter.com/YH0eT2NM4p— Ric Flair® (@RicFlairNatrBoy) May 18, 2023
He’s survived by his wife Valerie, and two children. May he rest in peace.