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An Interview with SuperStar Billy Graham
by Marlon Ransom (Bfrstudio@aol.com)


The Man the Myth the Legend

I had the pleasure of interviewing ‘Superstar'Billy Graham extensively on Feb.16, 05. For newer wrestling fans, he was the Hulk Hogan of the seventies and early eighties. In my opinion he was way before his time, he had muscles before there were muscles in wrestling. He had the charisma and ring persona of the Icon Gorgeous George, only bigger. This is back when wrestling was ‘wrasling'and entire families could go to an event and be entertained. I began my conversation by totally ‘marking out', (something I had planned on not doing). I told him that I use to watch him as a teenager; I had made a series of scrapbooks with pictures of his accolades. I also let him know that I had a collection of old cassettes of his matches and interviews; back then there wasn't a VHS recorder yet, so I use to place my tape recorder by the TV and tape the sound. He was gracious, humble and genuinely moved by my statements. So let's begin the questioning.

MR: Had you ever heard of any fans that taped you with a tape recorder before, besides me?

SBG: As a matter of fact yes, I have. That would be Jessie Ventura. He told me that he use to study me; my interviews, wardrobe, you name it.

MR: How and where did you get started in wrestling?

SBG: It was 1970, I was bouncing in a Country and Western bar in Arizona and a friend of mine who had went up to Calgary, Alberta Canada to play football, called and told me to come join him. He said that there was easy money to be made wrestling, which is what he did in the off-season. At the time I was like number two or three in the states in the bench press, I was benching six hundred pounds. Then I had the absolute privilege of meeting Stu Hart and began my training soon after in the world-renowned dungeon. He stretched the hell out of me, beat me up pretty good. I had my first match around '72.

MR: Was there any animosity from the boys when you hit the scene, being that you were one of the first wrestlers with a bodybuilder's physique?

SBG: No, it was viewed as a gimmick; I never got any heat…at least not to my face.

Plus, I went out of my way to treat everyone with respect, I treated all the boys like my peers.

MR: How did you come up with your promos? And talk about your wardrobe, all the tie-dyed shirts and tights.

SBG: ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Nobody's as beautiful, and as powerful as me.'I patterned my mic work after Muhammad Ali. Who better to learn and copy from, than Ali? I got the idea for the tie-dyed look, back in the early seventies. It was the hippie era and I was tagging with Pat Patterson in San Francisco. That was where I saw just about everyone was wearing that stuff and it stuck with me.

MR: What do you miss most from your wrestling days?

SBG: I miss the boys, the camaraderie.

MR: What do you miss the least?

SBG: The road! All those hours on the road.

MR: Who was the stiffest worker you ever faced? (At first he stood by his recollection that nobody ever tried to shoot on him in the ring, but then he gave me the following answer)

SBG: Back in the AWA, there was a wrestler named Billy Robinson. He was a mean man, he use to hurt workers for no reason. He especially didn't like three types of people; football players, bodybuilders and bouncers. As you can tell I was like a mixture of all three, so I kept my distance from him. When we finally got booked to face each other I made a point to go by his dressing room before our match. I had tape around my fingers and I showed him where I had taped a razor blade with half the blade showing on one of my fingers. I told him that if he tried to hurt me in any way, I wouldn't hesitate to cut him. He was like a ghost in the ring; I don't think he ever worked as safe again, as he did in our match.

MR: Who was your favorite person to work with? (He answered this question before I could finish asking it)

SBG: Dusty Rhodes! He had the most natural charisma of any worker back then and even today. It was hard to keep from laughing; we use to have so much fun in the ring together.

MR: What injuries did you suffer in the ring during your career?

SBG: You saw me wrestle; I didn't do many high spots. I can't remember ever suffering any major injuries in the ring. Pretty much all my injuries were due to drug enhancement abuse; my joints and tendons were weak.

MR: Do you watch wrestling now? If so, what do you think of it?

(His answer told me a lot without discrediting his employer)

SBG: Well, I work for Vince. I work with certain talent, help them with their interviews and in ring work.

MR: So I see you can't really answer that question.

SBG: I'll give you a straight answer. Wrestling today…it is what it is. If I had had what they have, the pyro, entrance music, the graphics, mainstream coverage and the money they make. That would have been something truly special. But it's a different time; it's evolved and changed.

MR: What is your most memorable moment?

SBG: Taking the strap from Bruno, April 30, 1977 in Baltimore, Maryland. That belt wasn't leaving him unless he wanted it to. It was his call; he wanted to take time off the road and I was the choice to carry the belt.

MR: What was your least favorite memory?

(This question he answered quickly and with the most emotion I heard the entire conversation)

SBG: Passing the strap to Bobby Backlund in Madison Square Garden. It had all been laid out before hand, when I met with Vince Sr. prior to the match with Bruno, and I was told at that time I would be dropping the strap to Bobby later. What they didn't plan on was how much I would get over, what a draw I would become. I remember when I had my rematch with Bobby after he had won the strap. We're behind the curtain, and Bobby had on a long black robe. Vince asked him where the belt was and he said under the robe. He told him, "The belt, Bob, show the people the belt."Bobby said, "I like my robe."I think that says enough. He was always paranoid that someone was gonna double cross him in the ring.

MR: What are your thoughts about Ric Flair?

SBG: He's a great guy; you know he got his first hair bleach job at my house in '73. I actually took his place in a few matches when he was injured after the plane crash in '75.

I only regret that when we met in the ring, it wasn't the Superstar of old he met. I was doing the martial arts gimmick and was into a lot of heavy things at that time.

MR: I'd like to ask if you're familiar with and what are your thoughts about DDP?

SBG: I have always been a big fan of his. His in-ring work ethic reminds me of Ric Flair's. His Charisma, determination as a worker, I wish I had been that hard a worker. After I heard that he was a fan of mine, I told my wife I had to meet that guy. I couldn't make it to the Wrestle Reunion in Florida, but I found out that he'd be wrestling in Arizona, about ninety miles from my house, so I drove there. I met him and got reunited with my old friend Dusty. Dallas is vibrant, he's filled with energy, and he's positive man. I love the way he finishes his E-mails, ‘Live Life At 90%.'Honestly, I appreciate him being my friend.

MR: Thank you very much for allowing me the privilege of talking with one of the greatest sports entertainers of all time.

SBG: Thank you I appreciate you interviewing me.

Marlon Ransom is an Old School wrestling fan that books DDP as a speaker for corporations and schools. He can be reached at Bfrstudio@aol.com.