Wrestling legend and WWE Hall of Famer “Superstar” Billy Graham, real name Eldridge Wayne Coleman, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 79.
Coleman’s passing was first announced by Ric Flair on Twitter who stated that he was told Coleman had passed away this evening.
The Superstar Billy Graham Just Left Us 🙏🏻 THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR INFLUENCE On My Career! pic.twitter.com/YH0eT2NM4p— Ric Flair® (@RicFlairNatrBoy) May 18, 2023
Prior to his passing, Coleman had been dealing with serious health-related issues, most recently a bone infection on his skull that later lead to him being placed on life support.
Coleman’s career in wrestling spanned from 1970 and 1988 and included notable stints in American Wrestling Association, World Wide Wrestling Federation, National Wrestling Alliance, and WWF. Coleman was most known for his legendary “Superstar” Billy Graham character and his then WWE record of 296 day WWE Championship reign as a heel.
Among Coleman’s memorable career moments included his victory over Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF Heavyweight Championship on April 30, 1977 that saw the end of Sammartino’s second and smaller historic title reign in the company. As champion, Coleman was involved in a famous match in January of 1978 against NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion Harley Race in a Champion vs. Champion Unification match that ended in a one hour time limit draw. Coleman’s record setting WWWF title reign as a heel would eventually come to an end at the hands of Bob Backlund in title match between the two at Madison Square Garden on February 20, 1978.
In regards to Coleman’s legacy in the wrestling industry, many famous and legendary wrestlers, such as Ric Flair, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, and Jesse “The Body” Ventura, have credited Coleman’s looks and persona as “Superstar” Billy Graham as being very influential for their own careers.
Outside of the ring, Coleman was most known for being an advocate to youth about the dangers of taking steroids and his disputes with Vince McMahon during his time in the company over steroids-related issues that resulted in Coleman filing a lawsuit against McMahon as part of the infamous McMahon Steroid trial in 1994.