Flashback Friday: Superstar Billy Graham
With the saddened passing of Dusty Rhodes last week, it’s only fitting to have someone who was so close with him for this week’s Flashback Friday.
“The man of the hour, the man with the power, too sweet to be sour!”
Debuting in 1970, Superstar Billy Graham was a physical specimen. Hailing from Phoenix, Arizona, his bodybuilding background made him a perfect fit for the professional wrestling scene. Thanks in large part to the famous Stampede Wrestling Promotion and Stu Hart, this is where Graham would hone his craft.
Graham’s physic is what made him an instant classic. He was tall, muscular and lean, but also displayed gracefulness with quickness and agility that wasn’t too familiar in those days. In a way, Superstar Billy Graham modernized the look of a professional wrestler and shaped the mold in which almost every big wrestler today possesses.
Graham’s career went from Japan to American and back again. Starting with the NWA, he moved to the AWA, before leaving for Japan’s IWA Tour. After moving around again, Graham’s return to the WWWF in 1977 was where his career was most famous.
Graham defeated the great Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship and held it for 296 days. That was actually the longest reign of any heel for that belt in WWE history, which proves how great his character was and how much the WWWF believed in him.
After losing the belt to Bob Backlund in 1978, Graham’s famous feud with Dusty Rhodes would heat up. The American Dream was the kindest, happy-go-lucky babyface in the WWWF, while Graham was a monster bad guy with a viscous style of wrestling.
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Here are two of Dusty Rhodes and Billy Graham’s best matches.
The Texas Death Match is one of the most famous stipulations in all of professional wrestling. The two competitors go back and forth in an epic battle, fighting in and outside of the ring, bleeding profusely. There was no shortage of blood in this match and this was an instant classic.
Another great match between Graham and Rhodes took place at Madison Square Garden in a “Bullrope Match” stipulation. At a point during the match, it truly looks like one of these men are going to pass out. As per usual, this match was a bloody mess because any time Rhodes got into the ring, he was going to bleed. The image of Graham at the end of the match also covered in blood through his bleached blonde hair throwing around the bullrope is another iconic moment and puts a cap on how great these two competitors were in the ring together.
Graham would continue to wrestle for the next decade switching between the WWF, AWA and NWA. His wrestling career would come to an end in 1987 after battling some injuries, but he ended his long career as a fan favourite, despite being a heel for most of his career.
Here’s one last video of Superstar Billy Graham cutting a promo, with Dusty Rhodes following suit.
Graham’s great career was highlighted by his introduction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004, and his matches with the late great Dusty Rhodes. Overall, Graham is one of the most recognizable figures of the 1970s and 1980s in the world of professional wrestling.
What were your favourite Superstar Billy Graham moments?