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Wrestling / "Superstar" Billy Graham

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Eldrige Wayne Coleman (June 7, 1943 - May 17, 2023) was an American Professional Wrestler from Phoenix, Arizona who competed from 1970 to 1987 as "Superstar" Billy Graham. He debuted as Wayne Coleman in 1970 in the Stampede Wrestling promotion after training under Stu Hart. He would go on to compete for the AWA, New Japan Pro-Wrestling, various National Wrestling Alliance territories, and, most famously, for WWE, then the WWWF. He is best known for introducing a heavily muscled appearance, from his bodybuilding career, that had not previously existed in wrestling, colorful clothes and an over-the-top personality with rhyming promos. Unfortunately, the same steroids that helped give him his impressive physique ultimately wrecked his health, leading to his retirement in 1987. Among his in-ring achievements, he was a former WWE World Heavyweight Champion, a former CWA (Memphis) World Heavyweight Champion, and a 2x NWA Florida Heavyweight Champion. He was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 1996 and into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.

On May 17th, 2023, Ric Flair announced on Twitter that Graham had passed away.

Not to be confused with the evangelist and occasional presidential adviser Billy Graham.

"These are the tropes of the hour, the tropes with the power, too sweet to be sour":

  • Dented Iron: From the late 80's to his dying day, his body was a wreck. Graham is the earliest example of what doing drugsnote  can do to a person.
  • Expy: Jesse Ventura, Hulk Hogan and Scott Steiner all drew from him. After Scott's nWo heel turn in February 1998, he (Scott) dyed his hair white and first called himself "White Thunder" before changing to "Superstar", and then "Big Poppa Pump".
  • Finishing Move: Bear Hug
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: Would wear boas to the ring.
  • Hidden Depths: He had artistic ability going back to his childhood but lacked the opportunity to study it due to coming from a poor background. In retirement, his paintings sold very well.
  • Hoax Hogan: An Ur-Example. Being the mentor and inspiration for Hulk Hogan, for those ones who don't know him before, he could be considered as a Hogan expy for them.
  • The Mentor: Became one for a now-face Don Muraco in 1988.
  • Muscles Are Meaningful: He had been a decorated bodybuilder and worked out with a then-obscure fellow who would go on to make a nice little career for himself in Hollywood. And in California politics. Who, you ask? Oh just this guy from Austria named... Arnold Schwarzenegger.
  • Power Stable:
  • Red Baron: "Superstar"
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Graham was a devout Christian, having taken the name of the famous preacher Billy Graham as his stage name, and spent his early career performing strong man feats to draw crowds to revival meetings.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: After losing the title in the late 70s, Graham took a hiatus from wrestling due to depression & drug issues, and rumor started to spread that he had died; it caught on enough that Gorilla Monsoon reported on in in a magazine he was writing for at the time. So many people believed it that when he came back, having drastically changed his look & gimmick, many people didn't believe he was the real Billy Graham.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: "The man of the hour/The man with the power/Too sweet to be sour"
    • "I'm the ladies' pet and the men's regret"
  • Shout-Out: Took his ring name in honor of the preacher.
  • Tag Team: The Golden Grahams, with his Unrelated Brothers Dr. Jerry Graham, Eddie Graham and "Crazy" Luke Graham.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Despite being a towering mountain of muscle, Billy had a surprisingly high-pitched and nasal voice.