“Superstar” Billy Graham was at least “20 Years Too Soon.”
The WWE Hall of Fame legend passed away last week after being taken off of life support, and in a new interview with Sports Illustrated, fellow pro wrestling icon Hulk Hogan spoke at length about “The Superstar.”
Featured below are some of the highlights.
On the influence “Superstar” Billy Graham had on the pro wrestling business: “He was decades ahead of his time. When I saw him, he was a bad guy, yet he drew you to him like a magnet. He looked like a superhero, but when the good guy put his fist up and acted like he was going to punch him in the face, Billy Graham would drop to his knees and start begging and pleading. I modeled ‘Hollywood’ Hogan after that. Watch Hogan-Sting from WCW, and you’ll see a lot of the way Billy Graham carried himself in the ring. Even as a babyface, I did that, too. He was really something special.”
On connecting with the physical aspect of “Superstar” Billy Graham’s overall presentation when first seeing him at age nine: “The first thing that connected with me about ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham was the physical aspect. I was eight or nine when my father started taking me to wrestling in Tampa. Years later, when I started playing in a rock-’n’-roll band and my dad had retired from working construction, I remember telling him, ‘You took me to the wrestling matches. Now I want to take you.’ We were so excited to see the matches in Tampa, which were in the [Fort Homer Hesterly] Armory. I still remember ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham standing on the second turnbuckle and doing the double bicep. That was the moment for me. I told my dad, ‘I want to be just like that guy.’ I was already a huge Dusty Rhodes fan, but ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham took it to a whole new level.”
On being extremely grateful for the fact that he became friends with “Superstar” Billy Graham later in life: “When I got into the wrestling business, I was there the night he had the bench-press contest against Jos LeDuc. I rode to the Bayfront Center, which was a venue in St. Petersburg, and I was in the car with Sir Oliver Humperdinck and Billy Graham. I was shaking like a leaf the whole time. Years later we became friends. We became close, though our friendship had its share of twists and turns over the years. We made peace after we both found God. He was a marvelous person, and I’m grateful I had the chance to know him.”
Check out the complete interview at SI.com.