Eldridge Wayne Coleman, also known as “Superstar,” Billy Graham, was a famous American professional wrestler. Superstar Billy Graham became well-known when he won the WWWF Heavyweight Championship from 1977 to 1978. He was a world champion three times in different wrestling promotions.
Besides wrestling, he was also a successful bodybuilder and was good friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Billy Graham is remembered for his unique interviews, which were influenced by boxer Muhammad Ali, and for his impressive physical appearance.
He had a charismatic style of performing in the wrestling ring. Some of the wrestlers Superstar Billy Graham mentored include Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura, Scott Steiner, and Ric Flair. Unfortunately, Billy Graham passed away on May 17, 2023.
Superstar Billy Graham Biography
Eldridge Wayne Coleman was born on June 7, 1943, in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. He sadly passed away at the age of 79 on May 17, 2023, in Phoenix, Arizona. Superstar Billy Graham was married to Valerie Coleman since 1979, and they had two children together. In his professional wrestling career, he went by the ring names Billy Graham, Wayne Coleman, and “Superstar” Billy Graham.
He was known for his tall height, standing at 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 meters), and his weight was billed at 275 pounds (125 kilograms). He was said to be from Paradise Valley, Arizona. Superstar Billy Graham was trained by Stu Hart and made his wrestling debut in 1970. He retired from wrestling in 1988.
Coleman was born in Phoenix, Arizona, on June 7, 1943. His family didn’t have a lot of money, and his father was from Mississippi, while his mother had Cherokee ancestry and was from Arkansas. When Coleman was in the fifth grade, he became interested in weightlifting.
He loved reading bodybuilding magazines and looked up to Steve Reeves and John Grimek. As a teenager, Coleman became a strong believer in Christianity. He would go to religious revivals and use his strength to impress people during his sermons.
In high school, Coleman excelled in shot put, a sport where you throw a heavy ball as far as you can. He also tried boxing, participating in the Golden Gloves competition in 1959.
When he was 26 years old, he tried out for the Calgary Stampeders, a team in the Canadian Football League. But he ended up playing only a few games before being traded to the Montreal Alouettes. In between football, Superstar Billy Graham worked as a bouncer to make a living.
In his autobiography titled “Tangled Ropes,” Billy Graham revealed that he and his wife Valerie, whom he married in 1978, were unable to have children together. However, Superstar Billy Graham had two children, Capella and Joey, from his previous marriage to Madelyn Miluso.
Capella, born on June 8, 1972, was named after a star Graham read about in the Atlas of the Universe. Joey, born on March 18, 1975, faced health complications at birth but received corrective surgery. Wrestler Dusty Rhodes served as Joey’s godfather.
Liver Transplant and Health Battles
In 2002, Graham underwent a life-saving liver transplant. The liver came from a 26-year-old woman who had tragically died in a car crash. Graham was diagnosed with cirrhosis at the time of the transplant. Over the years, Superstar Billy Graham faced numerous health challenges.
In 2006, he was hospitalized due to complications from a previous surgery, and in 2010, he faced liver problems that necessitated hospitalization. He expressed the need for another liver transplant, as he believed he had limited time left to live without it.
Declining Health and Hospitalizations
As time went on, Graham’s health continued to decline. By 2012, he was diagnosed with third-stage liver disease and cirrhosis. He experienced multiple hospitalizations, including for double pneumonia and liver complications. In 2016, Superstar Billy Graham was hospitalized for internal bleeding and underwent surgery to determine the cause.
Amputation and Further Health Issues
In August 2022, Graham underwent a toe amputation. This added to his ongoing health struggles. In January 2023, he was hospitalized again, this time for an ear and skull infection.
By April, his condition had worsened significantly. Superstar Billy Graham had lost 80 pounds and was receiving treatment for kidney, heart, and lung problems.
Despite medical efforts, Graham’s health continued to deteriorate. Ultimately, Superstar Billy Graham was placed on life support in May 2023. Sadly, on May 17, 2023, Billy Graham passed away, bringing an end to his battle with various health complications.
In 1961, Coleman won a bodybuilding contest called Mr. Teenage America in the West Coast division. He trained at Gold’s Gym in Santa Monica and worked out with famous bodybuilders like Dave Draper, Franco Columbu, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Superstar Billy Graham even took pictures with Schwarzenegger for a magazine.
Coleman was very strong and could lift a heavy weight of 605 lbs while bench pressing, which was close to the world record held by his friend Pat Casey. In 1975, he joined a bodybuilding competition called Pro. Mr. America and won first place for having the best developed arms, which were 22 inches big!
When Coleman became a professional wrestler, he continued to train and exercise to stay fit. In 1977, during his wrestling career, he weighed 275 lbs. Later on, Superstar Billy Graham gained more weight and participated in a competition called the World’s Strongest Man in 1980.
At that time, he weighed 325 lbs. Even though he got hurt during one of the events, he managed to finish seventh in the competition. In the same year, he hosted a powerlifting championship in Phoenix, Arizona.
Professional Career in Wrestling
In 1969, professional wrestler Bob Lueck encouraged Billy Coleman to train with Stu Hart for Stampede Wrestling. After training in Calgary, Coleman made his debut in January 1970. He later joined the National Wrestling Alliance’s Los Angeles promotion with Jerry Graham as a tag team.
American Wrestling Association (AWA) (1972-1975)
In 1972, Coleman joined Verne Gagne’s AWA promotion and adopted the ring name “Superstar” Billy Graham. He feuded with notable wrestlers like The Crusher, The Bruiser, and Wahoo McDaniel. During his time in the AWA, Graham incorporated arm wrestling contests, weightlifting challenges, and posing routines into his performances.
Worldwide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) and NWA (1975-1976)
In 1975, Graham made his debut in the WWWF and formed a tag team with Spiros Arion. He also had feuds with Ivan Putski and Polish muscleman Ivan Koloff. Graham briefly left the WWWF and wrestled in the NWA before returning in 1977.
Return to WWWF and Championship Reign (1977-1978)
Graham returned to the WWWF and defeated Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF Heavyweight Championship in April 1977. He held the title for nine and a half months, defending it against various challengers.
He also had a unification match with NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race. Graham eventually lost the title to Bob Backlund in February 1978.
Return to NWA and Hiatus (1978-1982)
Disappointed by losing the WWWF title, Graham left the promotion and joined Paul Boesch’s promotion in Houston. He continued wrestling in various NWA events until 1980.
Graham wrestled sporadically and even competed in the 1980 World’s Strongest Man competition. He took a hiatus from wrestling in 1981 and returned in 1982, incorporating martial arts into his repertoire.
Second Return to WWF (1982-1983)
Graham returned to the WWF in 1982 with a new look and attacked Bob Backlund, but was unable to win the WWF Championship. He left the promotion in 1983.
Return to AWA and Third Return to NWA (1983-1986)
Graham joined the AWA again in 1983 and later joined Championship Wrestling from Florida, feuding with Kevin Sullivan’s Army of Darkness. He then joined Jim Crockett Promotions in North Carolina, where he feuded with Jimmy Valiant.
Third Return to WWF (1986-1989)
Graham made another return to the WWF in 1986 as a fan favorite. He feuded with Harley Race and Butch Reed but was forced to retire after suffering injuries. Graham became a commentator for the WWF and retired from in-ring competition.
Fourth Return to WWE (2004-2009)
In 2004, Graham was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and made occasional appearances for WWE. He sold his Hall of Fame ring to support his medical expenses. Graham continued to make appearances and promote his book and DVD until parting ways with WWE in 2009.
Fifth Return to WWE (2015-2023)
In 2015, Graham signed a legends contract with WWE, making infrequent non-wrestling appearances. He renewed his contract in 2021, extending his association with the company.
Billy Graham had a significant impact on the world of professional wrestling. Wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer stated that the industry would be very different without Graham’s influence. His popularity with fans was attributed to his skill, strength, and colorful personality, despite bending the rules of the sport.
Graham’s unique look and style influenced many wrestlers who came after him. Wrestlers like Ric Flair, Austin Idol, Steve Austin, Scott Steiner, Triple H, Hulk Hogan, and Jesse “The Body” Ventura based their looks and wrestling styles on Graham.
Graham’s use of the word “brother” in his promos, which he picked up from his evangelical background, became popular and was adopted by many other wrestlers, most notably Hulk Hogan.
Educating on Steroid Dangers
Graham took the opportunity to lecture young athletes about the dangers of using steroids. He emphasized the negative effects and shared his own experiences to discourage their use.
Autobiography and DVD Releases
WWE released Graham’s autobiography, titled “Tangled Ropes,” in 2006. They also produced a DVD about his career called “20 Years Too Soon: The ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham Story.”
In 2013, Seriocity Productions released another DVD titled “Superstar” Billy Graham: Full Disclosure, which provided further insights into his life and career.
Billy Graham, a well-known pastor, had a lot of money when he died. His net worth was estimated to be around $25 million. According to TheRichest.com, he was one of the richest pastors in America.
People respected and looked up to him in the Christian community because he was famous for his powerful sermons on TV and radio.
He reached a lot of people through these broadcasts. Apart from being a pastor, Superstar Billy Graham also wrote books and worked in the media industry. His life had a big impact on many people.
Billy Graham played a significant role in promoting and supporting Christian evangelism throughout his career. He organized and funded large training conferences for evangelists. It is believed that his sermons reached an enormous audience of over 2.2 billion people through television and radio broadcasts.
Author and Media Ventures
In addition to his pastoral work, Billy Graham was also an author, writing books such as “Peace with God” and “The Reason for My Hope: Salvation.” He was involved in various media and publishing ventures as well.
His staff reported that more than 3.2 million people responded to the invitation to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior at Billy Graham Crusades.
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