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Superstar Billy Graham Official Website




It is often said that one never gets a second chance to make a good first impression. That saying was never truer, for me, than when I saw Superstar Billy Graham wrestle on television for the first time in 1975. I immediately knew from Superstar’s very first appearance on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, that I was witnessing something very special.

Back in the autumn of 1975, Jim Crockett Promotions was reeling from the terrible plane crash in Wilmington, North Carolina that injured four of its top wrestlers. A number of top flight athletes were brought into the Mid-Atlantic area to try and fill that void. One of those newcomers was Wayne Coleman, known to wrestling fans as Superstar Billy Graham.

To say that Superstar Graham stood out from the rest would be, well, a monumental understatement! He possessed a physique that, in 1975, was simply not seen in professional wresting. With muscles stacked on top of muscles, he appeared invincible. And if you didn’t believe that by just looking at him, you surely did once you heard him talk! With a “rap” that conjured up comparisons with Muhammad Ali’s best work in front of a microphone, Graham would keep you glued to your seat to hear what sensationalism would come out of his mouth next. And he never disappointed.

Superstar wrestled the big Chief, Wahoo McDaniel, during most of his time in Jim Crockett Promotions at the end of 1975. As much as I loved Wahoo, I found it hard to root against Superstar Billy Graham during their matchups. And I wasn’t alone. After Graham left the territory at the end of 1975, except for an occasional guest shot here and there, Superstar didn’t appear back in the Mid-Atlantic states as a regular again until early 1985. By that time, wrestling’s landscape was changing dramatically…and the days of “Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling” as a regional territory were numbered.

Superstar Billy Graham achieved his biggest fame in the wrestling business in the Wide World Wrestling Federation (WWWF), capturing the World Title in 1977 beating the legendary Bruno Sammartino. But in actuality, Graham achieved fame everywhere he went. But that fame came with a very heavy price. As much as anything, Superstar Billy Graham’s recently released autobiography, “Tangled Ropes,” gives the reader a full picture of the life of one of wrestling’s greatest legends. The good, the bad and the ugly…it’s all there. It’s a read you won’t soon forget.

In this Gateway interview, Superstar talks candidly about “Tangled Ropes,” giving us insights about his book, professional wrestling and life in general. Billy also provides us his thoughts and feelings about the Mid-Atlantic area and Jim Crockett Promotions, commenting on such familiar names as Ric Flair, Wahoo McDaniel, Dusty Rhodes and Jim Crockett, Jr.

The Gateway would like to express our special thanks to several folks who made this interview happen. Superstar’s co-author, Keith Elliott Greenberg, has been a continuing friend of the Gateway for a number of years, and was instrumental in having this interview take place. Keith included the Gateway in his Acknowledgments section of “Tangled Ropes,” and we are truly honored to have been included. Thanks also to Erica Feldon of Simon and Schuster, Inc., who also assisted with the Gateway’s interview with Ric Flair in 2004. And thank you to Michael Smith of World Wrestling Entertainment, who ensured that the Gateway would be a part of WWE’s tour publicizing this book.

Thanks most of all to Superstar Billy Graham for being so gracious with his time to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway, and for sharing his life’s story with all of us through “Tangled Ropes.” Superstar, so many thrilling highs, and on the flip side, so many gut-wrenching lows. A roller coaster of a life, that’s been up and down constantly, with the extremes on each end of the spectrum seemingly being the norm. Thank you for taking me on this short spin down memory lane on that roller coaster of your life…it’s a ride with a true wrestling legend that I’ll always remember!

- David Chappell

February 2006



David Chappell: Superstar, it’s a real pleasure to have you in the Mid-Atlantic Gateway to talk about your recently released autobiography as part of the WWE Legends series, “Superstar Billy Graham—Tangled Ropes.”


Superstar Billy Graham: Good deal, buddy…happy to be here.


Chappell: Absolutely awesome book. You and your co-author Keith Elliott Greenberg must be extremely proud of the book. The Gateway is certainly proud to call Keith a good friend.


We’re hoping to help get the word out about the book to a lot of the Mid-Atlantic and Jim Crockett Promotions fans that visit our website. A lot of the Mid-Atlantic fans remember you to some degree, but unfortunately you weren’t around the Crockett territory nearly enough! I believe if we can give them just a small taste of the flavor of your book, they’ll without a doubt love it.


Graham: I appreciate that…I really do buddy.


Chappell: I sure wish we had seen more of you in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling!


Graham: (pauses) Yeah, I enjoyed it [in the Mid-Atlantic area]. I really did. Though, it was just a different deal with Crockett than the WWF at the time, you know.


Chappell: What were your impressions of Jim Crockett Promotions during the time you were in?


Graham: Well, it was really crowded with a lot of good talent!


Chappell: Without a doubt…


Graham: Just congested with a lot of talent…Dusty [Rhodes], Jimmy Valiant and it goes on and on. Just so much talent!


What happened, was that the format of the shows was so much different…there wasn’t as much time. And it was a hard adjustment for me…I wasn’t really ever able to adjust.


Chappell: (laughs) I think you did just fine down here, Superstar!


Graham: But the fans…I just really enjoyed the fans down in the Mid-Atlantic area tremendously.


Chappell: That’s great to hear. I assure you the feeling was mutual!


While you did some guest shots in the Mid-Atlantic area in 1975, 1976, and 1977 in the territory’s biggest arena, the Greensboro Coliseum, and you also wrestled in Starrcade’s 1984 and 1985, your two most memorable stints in Jim Crockett Promotions were about a decade apart…right after the Wilmington, North Carolina plane crash in 1975, and then in 1985 when wrestling’s national expansion was just getting underway.


Graham: That’s right.


Chappell: Both those appearances were very significant, particularly from a historical perspective. In October of 1975, Jim Crockett Promotions lost Ric Flair and Johnny Valentine to the plane crash…the area’s top two heels. You were brought into the Mid-Atlantic area, as the book says, you were “called into emergency service.” And you brought Steve Strong in with you.


What are your recollections of that time frame? I’m sure the Mid-Atlantic territory was in chaos when you came in?


Superstar Billy Graham poses in the ring at the

Charlotte Park Center during his first run in the Mid-Atlantic

area in 1975.


Graham: Oh yeah…it sure was. One of my big recollections is when they called me in to take Ric’s place in a lot of these towns. Steve Strong and I went over to Ric Flair’s house, and we walk in, and he’s laying on his couch with his back and everything in traction.


As soon as we walk in, Ric gets this big smile across his face…you know how he gets that big smile, and he says, ‘Superstar, I’ll be back, I’ll be back!’ (laughs)



Superstar Billy Graham's first interview in the Mid-Atlantic area!

Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, October 15, 1975, WRAL Studios in Raleigh NC.

Interview by Bob Caudle (501 KB, 1:25 MP3 format)


Chappell: (laughs) And thirty years later, Ric Flair is still going strong!


Graham: (laughs) And he’s still around, brother…that’s exactly right!


I told him back then, I said, ‘Don’t worry man, I KNOW you’ll be back…I know you will.’ Of course, you know, Ric and I had a real close beginning in Minneapolis, as I’m sure you’re aware.


Chappell: That’s right, and the book touches on that. You knew Ric at the very beginning of his getting into professional wrestling.


Graham: ‘Beginning’ meaning even before he had his first wrestling match…when he was in Verne Gagne’s training camp.


Chappell: Yes, there are some great stories in the book about you and Ric in the AWA in the 1972-73 time frame…when Ric was just first getting started in the business.


Graham: Oh yeah…he furnished me with a lot of home gym equipment when we were up there in Minneapolis together.


And, of course, he’d ride along with me and Ivan Koloff to the different towns. And sometimes when I’d get tired and get a little lazy, I’d stay over night at a motel and fly back, and Ric would drive the car back with Koloff and pick me up at the airport the next day.


Chappell: I have to say, it’s pretty amazing to think of Ric Flair picking ANYBODY up at the airport and driving them around…even someone the stature of Superstar Billy Graham!


Graham: Oh, Ric was the most humble guy you could imagine. He just wanted to be a professional wrestler…he knew that was his calling in life.


I’m just proud to be a part of his early, early beginnings in wrestling.


Chappell: I think it’s interesting that just a couple of years later in 1975 after the plane crash in the fall of that year, you came into the Crockett territory as a replacement for Ric Flair! ‘Replacement’ isn’t really the right word, but you know what I mean…


Graham: I surely did fill in a number of dates that Ric was slotted for.



Don't miss these special photos of Superstar Billy Graham and Andre the Giant!

Photos by Bill Janosik


© 2006 Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Graphics design and interview presentation by Dick Bourne