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