February 2, 2006
Graham DVD a deep look at Superstar
By JON WALDMAN - SLAM! Wrestling
Like many "older" wrestling fans, I was introduced to the mat wars during the career of Billy Graham. I saw the larger-than-life biceps. I witnessed the sharp wit of his promos. In short, I saw the "Superstar."
Unlike many, however, I didn't see the bleach-blond heel; rather, I saw the Graham who returned to the WWF from the NWA a man on a road back to the spotlight.
I say without exaggeration that one of the most vivid memories of my early wrestling viewing was watching Graham, not really knowing who he was, get carted out on a gurney with "The Rock" Don Muraco by his side as he held his leg in obvious pain, after being savagely attacked by Greg "The Hammer" Valentine and kept in the figure-four leg lock for what seemed like an eternity.
This was my memory of the Superstar.
Until I saw WWE's bio-DVD, 20 Years to Soon: Superstar Billy Graham, I can say in all honesty that I didn't know much of Graham's story. Yeah, I knew about his long title reign, I knew that he had inspired the likes of Hulk Hogan and Scott Steiner; but I didn't really know much about the man who was "too sweet to be sour."
Having watched the documentary, I can say, like I'm sure many others now can, that Graham is unlike any other person in wrestling history. As he says himself during the recording, Superstar really did change the scope of wrestling. He was an Adonis among the generally portly wrestlers of the era. He had the charisma that few have ever had.
Don't believe me? How about all the testimonials from those in the video. Vince McMahon, Dusty Rhodes, Triple H, John Cena and Hogan all put Graham on a pedestal here, as Graham's career from beginning to (tragic) end is detailed completely.
The most intriguing comments, however, are not from any of the wrestlers, but Graham's third wife, Valerie. "Mrs. Graham" was with the Superstar through all the highs, and as we see for much of the doc, the lows. In a business where we often hear about this divorce or that separation, Valerie stuck by her man.
As mentioned, the documentary includes some of the not-so-good times in Graham's life, including his problems with drugs and the various injuries he has faced through his life. Particularly detailed is the recent liver transplant, which includes some of the most heartfelt moments I've seen on any WWE DVDoc.
Ultimately, whenever a wrestling fan purchases one of the Fed's biovids, they're buying it either for the documentary or the extras. The bonus features here are highlighted by some of Graham's best promos and also include some highlight matches, which unfortunately will not get much play with today's wrestling fans being more accustomed to short, spotty matches with elaborate finishing moves.
However, there is a companion autobiography, Tangled Ropes, released at the same time as the DVD, which allows one to dive further into Superstar's life.
Overall, if you are a fan of the Superstar you will undoubtedly be adding this gem to your DVD collection. If, however, you're like me and do not know a lot about Graham, you'll definitely want to get a hold of it for what is one of the most intriguing stories in pro wrestling.
Jon Waldman has been with SLAM! since 2000.