Billy Graham dead at 79: WWE Hall-of-Famer dies ‘surrounded by family’ after being taken off life support
FORMER WWWF Heavyweight Champion “Superstar” Billy Graham died on Wednesday at age 79 after a months-long health battle.
Sixteen-time world champion Ric Fair tweeted that Graham – real name, Eldridge Wayne Coleman – had “left us.”
Former World Wide Wrestling Federation Heavyweight Champion ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham has died at age 79
His family confirmed that he was taken off life support after a long health battle
GettyFor years, Graham’s has been in and out of the hospital[/caption]
“THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR INFLUENCE On My Career!” Flair wrote.
Graham’s family told TMZ that he died after being taken off life support with his wife and daughter by his side.
Following the news of Graham’s death, fans and fellow wrestlers shared tributes to the star’s career.
Two-time WWE Hall of Fame inductee, X-Pac shared a photo of a much-younger Graham.
“This is the version of Superstar Billy Graham I got to see in FL,” he wrote. “He would come out to Kung Fu Fighting & I loved it! RIP to the most copied man ever in Pro Wrestling.”
Fellow hall of fame, The Iron Sheik shared a photo of him and Graham on Twitter, writing: “SUPERSTAR BILLY GRAHAM. ONE OF MY FIRST TEACHERS OF THE HEAT. THE REAL LEGEND BUBBA. HE LOVE ME I LOVE HIM. TOGETHER WE HIT THE GYM AND SHOCK THE EARTH. I LOVE YOU FOREVER BROTHER. RIP.”
“Superstar” Billy Graham started out as a bodybuilder, winning competitions as a teenager before training under iconic wrestler and trainer, Stu Hart.
He appeared in Hart’s promotion, Stampede Wrestling on January 16, 1970, in a match against Dan Kroffat.
At first, he performed under his real name but soon adopted the name Billy Graham – modeled after the famous evangelist of the same name.
Over time, he crafted his flamboyant persona which he became known for, becoming a fan favorite with his entertaining interviews.
Graham made his in-ring debut for the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), now known as World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), in October 1975 in a tag-team match with Spiros Arion.
Together, the duo defeated then-WWWF Heavyweight Champion Bruno Sammartino and Dominic De Nucci.
Pro Wrestling Illustrated named him the Most Hated Wrestler of 1973, before giving him Match of the Year accolades for his bouts with Sammartino and Bob Backlund.
His career served as an inspiration to several wrestlers, many who he trained including Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Scott Steiner, and Jesse Ventura.
In 2004, Graham was inducted into the 2004 WWE Hall of Fame by Ventura.
Over the years, Graham’s body dealt with major health issues, starting in 2002 when he received a liver transplant after being diagnosed with cirrhosis.
Again, he was diagnosed with liver issues in 2010 and was told he would only have a year to live without another transplant.
At this time, Graham famously reserved a burial spot at the Green Acres Cemetery in Scottsdale, Arizona, next to the late Eddie Guerrero.
By 2012, Graham was diagnosed with third-stage liver disease and cirrhosis and spent several years in and out of the hospital.
Earlier this year, in January, Graham was hospitalized after being diagnosed with an ear and skull infection.
He sold his WWE Hall of Fame ring to pay for medicine after he had a liver transplant.
He is survived by his wife, Valerie, whom he married in 1978.
Graham also had two children from a previous marriage, daughter Capella and son Joey, whose godfather was wrestler, Dusty Rhodes.
Before his death, Graham’s wife revealed that doctors recommended pulling the plug but she refused.
She asked his fans for “urgent prayers” amid his deteriorating health, writing on Facebook: “Please urgent prayers needed for my husband.
“The doctors wanted to remove him from life support tonight. I refused.
“He’s a fighter and his will is strong even if his body isn’t. God is our hope.”
At the time, Flair wrote about the impact that Graham had on him and several other wrestlers.
“So Sad To Hear About Billy Graham’s Health!! Make No Mistake- Talk About The Influence He Made On ME And So Many Others! Hulk, Dusty Etc,” he wrote.
“You’re Beautiful. Bonnie Dyed My Hair In 1972!! Stay Strong My Mentor! FYI- You And Dusty Rhodes Were My Heroes! You Made Me!”
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