This is a great read for fans of professional wrestling. The story of Superstar Billy Graham is one that tells the tale of the wrestling world from the 1960s through the early 1980s – a time overlooked by many of today’s wrestling fans. Did you ever wonder how those black and white grappling-fests that you see starting off WWE programs transformed into the entertainment phenomenon that we watch each Monday night? Well, the transformation was one that was carried, in large part, on the backs of the wrestlers themselves. And of those wrestlers who changed the industry, Superstar Billy Graham might have been the most influential.
Any guy who can say that he’s influenced Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Jesse Ventura, and Dusty Rhodes (among others) is someone who deserves a second look. Any guy who can say he influenced these luminaries AND was the professional wrestler who brought the business into the “entertainment” era is someone of legend. Billy Graham is that – a true living legend in the wrestling business.
Looking at him now, one might say, “Eh, he looks like a mix between Ventura and Hogan.” You may say this because his look is very reminiscent of what Ventura looked like in his heyday and because Graham might be pointing at his “22-inch pythons, brother!” Well, hell, that sounds like Hulk Hogan, doesn’t it?
Nope – that’s Hulk Hogan borrowing material from the original and Ventura admittedly dressing like the Superstar.
That is the story of Billy Graham – he was “the first.” He was the first to break kayfabe outside of the ring. He was the first to be a muscle-head at heart and still win over wrestling fans. He was among the first to get the “Austin Heel Heat” where he was so good at being bad, the fans loved him for it. He was the first one to ignite the microphone throwing out raps that were literally taken from the boxing world’s Muhammad Ali.
Superstar Billy Graham was even the first one to bring a major lawsuit against Vince McMahon, Jr. which prompted the federal steroid investigation against the promoter. Billy Graham has done it all.
This book is a great chronicle of his life and times as a professional wrestler both in and out of the ring. It follows him from birth through his time as an evangelical preacher then to his time as a bouncer and ultimately to his time as the first “superstar” in professional wrestling. The Superstar is very candid about his drug use and how it almost killed him just as he’s very candid about the ladies in his life and how he missed out on some special moments with his young children. To their credit, they speak openly in this book about how his divorce from their mother hurt them. Again – this book pulls no punches in telling Billy Graham’s real-life story.
I enjoyed reading about Superstar’s induction into the WWE Hall of Fame and the story about him coming back to a WWE locker room for the first time in a decade is also touching. It must also be noted that Vince and company give away some of their thought processes towards the end of the book in terms of how Vince views the WWE Hall of Fame and how Jean Paul Levesque views himself as a member of the McMahon clan. Interesting stuff…
Much like his DVD, this is a book for true wrestling fans. It’s not a long read, but it is a very interesting one. I give Tangled Ropes the highest of recommendations – go for it!