Pro wrestling legend “Superstar” Billy Graham died Wednesday at 79. No cause was given, but he had been battling ill health for some time and had been hospitalized in the ICU on life support.
Graham, real name Eldridge Wayne Coleman, was a three-time former world champion professional wrestler, including a 1977-78 title run in the WWWF, which eventually became the WWE. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.
His wife, Valerie, posted Monday morning on Graham’s Facebook account that she had refused to remove his life support.
His colleagues mourned his loss, but saluted his legacy.
“The Superstar Billy Graham Just Left US,” wrestling colleague Ric Flair tweeted. “THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR INFLUENCE on My Career!”
“SUPERSTAR BILLY GRAHAM. ONE OF MY FIRST TEACHERS OF THE HEAT,” the Iron Shiek tweeted. “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.”
Graham got into pro wrestling in the late 1960s. He wrestled until 1987, when injuries and health issues ended his career. He became a TV commenter after leaving the ring.
Graham won the WWWF championship from Bruno Samartino in April 1977, but lost it to Bob Backlund in February 1978.
Graham was considered an influence on such noted wrestlers as Hulk Hogan, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Scott Steiner and Ric Flair, among others.
He is survived by his wife and two children.