Superstar Graham says end is near

By Mike Mooneyham
mooneyham@postandcourier.com
Sunday, December 5, 2010

  


Pro wrestling great Superstar Billy Graham, saying he is nearing the end of his “run on this earth,” is billing his next public appearance as his final one.

“This is officially my last-ever personal appearance at a wresting event in Los Angeles, or anywhere,” Graham said in statement released by his agent. Graham is scheduled to appear at the WrestleReunion event in Los Angeles on Jan. 29-31.

Graham, whose chiseled physique and unique gift of gab made him one of the most colorful personalities in the sport during the ‘70s and ‘80s, has suffered a number of health ailments over the past 25 years. He was on his deathbed eight years ago when he received a liver transplant from a 26-year-old woman who had died in a car crash.

The selfless act saved his life at that time. But now Graham, 67, is suffering from third stage liver disease, and the prognosis is bleak.

A liver biopsy earlier this year showed a major degree of cirrhosis, and a new medication that could have attempted to put his hepatitis C into remission isn’t expected to be approved by the FDA until at least late next year.

Graham, whose real name is Wayne Coleman, was hospitalized on Nov. 26 after his feet, ankles and calves became extremely swollen due to the scarring of his liver, the swelling of his spleen and an infection in one of his toes.

Graham says he already has made arrangements for a cemetery plot in Phoenix, close to that of longtime friend and former WWE champion Eddie Guerrero, who died in 2005 at the age of 38.

“I have chosen music and am selecting certain paintings of mine and photos that I will want displayed,” says Graham. “One of the ministers from my church, Joe Jackson, a dear friend, will be conducting the service. He is not the senior pastor but a traveling evangelist who played pro ball with the Jets and Vikings.”

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Provided

Superstar Billy Graham

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Provided

Jerry Lawler

Graham, who was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004, added that he harbored no grudges or resentment.

“This liver gave me an excellent additional eight-year run.”

Graham, who served as the prototype for such performers as Jesse Ventura and Hulk Hogan, noted at the conclusion of his 2006 autobiography, “Tangled Ropes,” that he had landed on solid ground after a lifetime of squandered probabilities.

“My story shows the power of the human spirit to triumph and rise like the Phoenix bird, out of the ashes and above the obstacles of life. The towering peaks and the hellish troughs of my life are proof that whatever a man sows, he will also reap.”

-- In case you haven’t noticed, a lot of things have changed in WWE.

New talent is the lifeblood of the wrestling industry, and WWE has done a good job in developing new stars over the past year.

Last Monday night’s three-hour Raw was a good example of how the company has made significant strides in pushing its new talent.

There would have been very few takers a year ago putting money on the chances of The Miz heading into 2011 as WWE heavyweight champion. But the 30-year-old former reality TV star, who embodies the WWE youth movement, has done just that. And he’s just one of a growing number of young performers in WWE making a considerable impact.

Daniel Bryan, the former Bryan Danielson of ROH fame, is the U.S. champ. Sheamus, who up until last year was unknown to the vast majority of WWE fans, is already a two-time WWW champ and the current King of the Ring.

Even the ultra-talented C.M. Punk, currently sidelined with an injury, is making the best of his hiatus by filling in as a more-than-capable commentator on WWE broadcasts.

Nexus, an unknown commodity a year ago, is arguably the hottest act in the company. The group and its leader, 30-year-old Wade Barrett, were all developmental talent when they were brought up to compete in the first season of WWE NXT earlier this year.

In the midst of this change, however, was 61-year-old Jerry “The King” Lawler headlining last week’s Raw against new champion The Miz. And, incredibly enough, it was Lawler’s first shot at the heavyweight crown since he joined the company 18 years ago.

Lawler, proving once again that the veterans of yesteryear can still teach a thing or two to this generation’s performers, delivered a masterpiece against a wrestler half his age — and in a TLC match no less.

Lawler also proved that main-event performers don’t have to crash and burn in order to get a pop or make fans care. It’s actually a very simple formula, one that Lawler, and others like him, used to perfection during the territory days.

Equally impressed was former Lawler sidekick Jim Ross.

“For any young wrestler or wannabe who wants to learn how to pace a match, tell a story, do less with more and to invest the audience, I strongly suggest that you re-watch the Jerry Lawler vs. Miz WWE title match from this past Monday’s Raw,” Ross said. “It was classic example of storytelling, and the 61-year-old King was amazing.”

The one drawback to the bout, however, was Michael Cole’s interference, preventing Lawler from gaining the victory and the title. It’s not that Lawler should have won the match, but for him to climb down the ladder and confront his broadcast partner when he was a reach or two away from grabbing the belt, made little sense in the context that it would have been a monumental moment in Lawler’s career.

But don’t blame Lawler for that finish from creative. It still was one of Raw’s better moments this year and a refreshing change of pace from the predictable routine.

-- The Miz, who began his television career in 2001 as a cast member on MTV’s Real World 10: Back to New York, told ESPN’s Bill Simmons last week that he wanted to be “the most unpredictable, most must-see champion” in WWE history.

“I want shock value,” said Miz, adding that his new goal was “to make WWE the biggest, most phenomenal it’s ever been.”

Miz (Mike Mizanin) also related a funny story that happened backstage immediately after winning the WWE title.

Miz, who was greeted by clapping and a standing ovation from his fellow performers, turned to former partner John Morrison and quipped, “I told you I wasn’t the Jannetty.”

-- MVP (Hassan Hamin Assad), who was dropped by WWE last week, claims he asked for the release.

“No need for alarm,” MVP said. “I did not get fired. I asked for and received my release. I felt it was time to go international and freshen things up.”

Look for the talented performer to make some noise in Japan in the near future.

-- WWE took another big step in its international expansion when it announced on Tuesday that the company signed a distribution deal with 2x2 that will lead to Raw being broadcast in more than 24 million homes in Russia.

“We are delighted to be bringing WWE Raw back to free TV in Russia and look forward to working with 2x2,” WWE VP Andrew Whitaker said in a press release. “We are confident that this partnership will be the first step in expanding the WWE brand in Russia.”

-- WWE has pushed back plans for its new network.

WWE Network, initially scheduled to launch in August 2011, is now tentatively scheduled to start up in the middle of 2012 or possibly as late as early 2013.

-- Mick Foley said in an interview last week that he’s most likely done with TNA once his contract runs out next year.

Foley compared TNA to WCW, saying it’s hard to figure who is in charge, and that there was room for only one non-wrestler (Hulk Hogan) to cut promos.

-- Jim Ross told the Monday Night Mayhem radio show last week that he’d be open to returning as “the voice of WWE” if asked by Vince McMahon.

“I’m open to doing anything for the company that has employed me since 1993 wants me to do,” said Ross. “I get e-mails almost everyday from people wondering if I even have a job or why did we take myself off the air, or why are refusing to go back on TV. Things are so misguided, and they’re so inaccurate. I am very happily employed by WWE. I’m very pleased to be with the company since ‘93, and obviously if I’m ‘out in the bullpen,’ and they need me to come in and play, I’ll be more than happy to come out of the bullpen and go work. And if there’s another area that the company needs for me to help in, I’ll be more than willing to do that.”

-- Sandlapper Magazine’s recently released winter edition features a nice piece on independent wrestling in South Carolina.

Titled “Tales from the Mat,” the article was written by Columbia novelist and Fabulous Moolah trainee Sam Morton.

-- Old School Championship Wrestling will present a show today at Omar Shrine Auditorium, 176 Patriots Point Road, Mount Pleasant.

Gregory Helms (WWE’s former Hurricane) will meet Asylum in the main event. Big Hoss, billed as “the world’s strongest wrestler,” also will appear on the show.

Bell time is 6 p.m. Doors open at 5. Adult admission is $10; kids 12 and under $5 (cash at door).

For more information, call 743-4800 or visit www.oscwonline.com.

-- A happy 56th birthday today to longtime fan and faithful column reader Morris Washington Jr.

Reach Mike Mooneyham at (843) 937-5517 or mooneyham@postandcourier.com.

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