Superstar Billy Graham Collectibles – Collecting The Psychedelic Prophet of Professional Wrestling – We were saddened to hear of the recent passing of “Superstar” Billy Graham on May 17, 2023. As a wrestling enthusiast who began watching WWF in the late 1980s, I had just missed the era of Billy Graham’s active in-ring career. Even though his name echoed in the wrestling community, I hadn’t had the chance to witness his matches first hand. I was a big fan of Dusty Rhodes and this initially led me to delve into some classic wrestling matches, and that’s where I discovered the electrifying presence of Superstar Billy Graham. His persona and charisma were truly ahead of his time. This feature will take a look at the life and career of Superstar Billy Graham, the psychedelic prophet of professional wrestling, with a special focus on the collectibles and memorabilia associated with him.
Billy Graham, known in the wrestling world as “Superstar” Billy Graham, is a true legend and pioneer, having left an indelible mark on professional wrestling with his charismatic performances and electrifying persona. The roots of the modern ‘charismatic superstar’ in wrestling can be traced back to him.
Superstar Billy Graham was born as Eldridge Wayne Coleman on September 10, 1943, in Phoenix, Arizona. He was the youngest of four children, with a childhood filled with hardship and struggle. Graham was an avid weightlifter, winning multiple competitions before transitioning into professional wrestling in 1969.
His journey in professional wrestling began under the guidance of Dr. Jerry Graham. Interestingly, the relationship with Dr. Graham was so close that Billy decided to adopt Graham’s kayfabe surname as an homage to his mentor. Hence, Eldridge Coleman became Superstar Billy Graham, the name that would later resonate in the annals of wrestling history.
His career spanned multiple territories, from the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) to the American Wrestling Association (AWA) and the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF, now WWE). His eclectic style of dressing, inspired by the 70’s psychedelic culture, and his unprecedented promos instantly set him apart from his contemporaries. In the late 70’s, he hit his career peak in WWWF. He feuded with the most popular faces of the time, eventually winning the WWWF Heavyweight Championship from Bruno Sammartino in 1977, a victory that cemented his position as one of the era’s leading heels.
The decline of Graham’s career came in the 80s due to a combination of health issues and drug abuse problems. However, he continued to influence the wrestling industry by inspiring the likes of Hulk Hogan, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, and Scott Steiner with his dynamic personality and mic skills. On the eve of WrestleMania XX, March 14, 2004, Superstar Billy Graham was honoured with an induction into the illustrious WWE Hall of Fame class of 2004. His induction was fittingly conducted by the reigning World Heavyweight Champion of the time, Triple H. As a testament to Graham’s influence, Triple H was one of the many professional wrestlers who found inspiration in Graham’s trailblazing career.
Graham was not just a champion but a trendsetter. He was the first heel (villain) character to fully embrace and highlight his villainous persona, a sharp contrast from the traditional wrestling villains who typically denied their heel status. He was flamboyant, charismatic, and unapologetically boastful, which mesmerized the audience, often leading to cheers despite his heel status.
SUPERSTAR WAS THE MAN OF THE HOUR, THE MAN WITH THE POWER, TOO SWEET TO BE SOUR
Classic Matches and Feuds
- Bruno Sammartino vs. Superstar Billy Graham: The match where Graham dethroned Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF Heavyweight Championship was a game-changer. Graham used the underhanded tactic of using the ropes for leverage during the pin, which marked a significant shift in the portrayal of heels in wrestling.
- Dusty Rhodes vs. Superstar Billy Graham: This was a classic rivalry filled with charismatic promos and gripping storylines. Their Texas Death Match at Madison Square Garden in 1978 is widely remembered as one of wrestling’s great spectacles.
- Bob Backlund vs. Superstar Billy Graham: This feud started in 1978 when Backlund, an All-American boy character, challenged Graham for the title. Their series of matches culminated in Backlund taking the championship, despite Graham’s numerous attempts to regain it
Superstar Billy Graham in Popular Culture
Billy Graham’s flamboyant personality and inimitable charisma didn’t confine him to the wrestling ring; they opened doors into popular culture, notably television and movies. His charismatic persona and physical presence caught the eye of casting directors, leading to appearances in various films and television shows. In 1974, Graham made his first notable appearance in a movie called “The Wrestler,” where he starred as himself alongside Ed Asner and Verne Gagne. The movie, focusing on the life of a professional wrestler, used Graham’s real-life persona to lend authenticity to the narrative.
Superstar Billy Graham made a notable appearance in the television world in 1987 on the popular show “The A-Team.” In an episode called “Body Slam,” Graham appeared as himself, further establishing his larger-than-life persona in the mainstream consciousness.
Graham’s life and career have also been documented extensively in the media. In 2006, the WWE released a DVD set titled “20 Years Too Soon: Superstar Billy Graham,” focusing on his illustrious wrestling career and the trials and tribulations he faced during and after it. In this documentary, several modern wrestling stars expressed their admiration for Graham and discussed his influence on their own careers.
Graham has also appeared in various wrestling documentaries, such as “The Unreal Story of Professional Wrestling” and “The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA,” where he has been recognized as a key figure in shaping modern professional wrestling. His candid interviews, sharing insights into the industry and its history, have been widely appreciated by fans and critics alike.
Superstar Billy Graham Collectibles and Memorabilia
Among the most popular items are action figures, reproducing Graham’s flamboyant style with precise detailing. Most of the figures have been produced in the past twenty years so sadly there are no Hasbro and LJN classic wrestling figures. Although there are some excellent custom Hasbro style Billy Graham figures created.
Trading cards featuring Graham, especially those from his peak era in the 1970s, are sought after by both wrestling fans and card collectors alike. Autographed items, including photos and ring gear, also hold significant value, offering a tangible connection to the Superstar. Vintage Wrestling Magazines are always popular and additionally, limited-edition merchandise like commemorative T-shirts and posters have become treasured keepsakes.
Superstar Billy Graham’s legacy transcends his in-ring performances and titles. He set the blueprint for the charismatic, boastful, and flamboyant wrestling character. Even after his retirement, he continued to contribute to wrestling, offering wisdom and guidance to the next generations of superstars.
Superstar Billy Graham items on ebay
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