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Superstar Billy Graham Interview on Pro Wrestling Radio

Superstar Billy Graham Interview on Pro Wrestling Radio

>>Eric Gargiulo – What are your memories of
wrestling in Philadelphia?>>Superstar Billy Graham – Philadelphia thatís
one of my top three favorite towns along with Boston and New York. Philadelphia as far as
wrestling towns the fans there just canít beat, you just canít beat the east coast
fans for intensity anyway, you know? Those folks in Philadelphia thereís, just nothing
like it, itís been great you know?>>Eric ñ When you wrestled on the east coast
in your heyday in the mid-late 1970s, did your babyface opponents become frustrated
when you would wind up being cheered which was very rare for a heel back then?>>SG ñ Yeah it eventually you know the fans
started making those early posters, ìSuperstar Billy Grahamî and stuff like that, lots of
fans started making homemade t-shirts and stuff. Iíve got some great photos that have
been collected over the years by fans, now that we have the Internet itís great you
know? Fans can find stuff and email them to me so Iíve got a treasure-trove of photographs
from all of my babyface fans when I was heel champ. I think Eric the deal is that the east
coast fans are a different breed of fans, theyíre far more intense and they really
enjoyed being entertained. Philadelphia, I remember almost all of my matches there at
the Spectrum, especially that great cage match with Bruno.>>Eric ñ What do you remember about that
night that you and Bruno turned away thousands of fans at the doors here in Philadelphia
against Bruno Sammartino in the cage?>>SG ñ That was a great night, I remember
I was at the old Philadelphia hotel right there in the Philadelphia airport watching
the news and the five oíclock news in Philadelphia was coming on and they were saying that they
had 5-10,000 fans outside, out in front of the Spectrum, nobody could get in, donít
go there, itís sold out, we got all of these thousands of folks on the streets. That event,
that cage match with Bruno set the all-time attendance record for the Spectrum at a little
over 20,000 fans inside the Spectrum and I remember that they had put extra seats in,
and I remember that there was about two feet between the front-row seats and the ring.
It was just an awesome, awesome turnout and support of the fans, and of course I donít
think that we let the fans down. I think we gave them a real good match in that cage and
that stays with me as probably and other wrestling historians, like Dave Meltzer for instance
have said that, that event and my drawing power in the Philadelphia Spectrum, having
all of the sellouts that I had there was far more impressive than all of the sellouts that
I had in Madison Square Garden because of course of the population, you know 10-15 million
people in New York and you are going to draw a lot of folks. To sellout the Spectrum the
way we did was really in history far more important as far as historians go than selling
out the Madison Square Garden. Itís a great thing, itís a great compliment, you know?>>Eric ñ Bruno has mentioned on my show that
he was pressured back in the mid-80s because Hulk Hogan wasnít selling out the arenas
like you guys had in the 70s. Did you feel that you were brought back in the mid-late
1980s for the same reason?>>SG ñ I have never analyzed that question
Eric but that is great analysis by Bruno. I know that, take me out of the equation and
just leave Bruno in. He would be the man you go to when you need a guaranteed draw to fill
up the house. I know once I passed the torch over to Bob Backlund that many, many matches
Bruno and I were on the same cards in a supportive role of Backlund and his defense of his belt
at that time and it was obvious that Bruno was the one that really drew the house. It
was a ploy of Vince Sr. to really load the cards up when Backlund took over to make sure
there were people in that building, because there was a lot of disappointment when the
kid took it, you know?>>Eric ñ Was Backlund a difficult guy to
work with?>>SG ñ Yes to the extent that he was actually
petrified, literally frozen with fear at someone; referee, wrestlers double-crossing him and
getting a fast count, and getting that belt. He was absolutely paranoid because he knew,
sadly he was a loner there was something about his personality. The nicest guy in the world
but there was something about his personality, I think it was the fact that most of the boys
felt that he was not really deserving of getting that title, especially when guys like you,
well actually before you because of your age, were raised on Bruno Sammartino. There was
a big and this is an amazing thing, Vince Sr. actually asked Dusty Rhodes and myself
more than once how we can get this kid, Bob Backlund to get some sort of charisma. He
was lacking in real charisma, you know? Like Chris Jericho has great charisma, he is just
charismatic. Dusty and I told him you just canít manufacture real charisma and Vince,
Sr. knew that. He had been around all of the guys, the legends, you know? That was one
thing that I think hurt Bobby in his acceptance on a peer level was because that they felt
that he had not really paid his dues as far as years, and years, and years, and really
had proven himself because he was relatively just an unknown. There was a lot of disappointment
about Backlund taking the belt, as a matter of a fact the cage match with Bruno and I
in the Spectrum which was a Saturday before the Monday that I gave that belt to Backlund
in Madison Square Garden, Bruno was totally unaware that I was going to drop the belt
to Backlund two nights later in Madison Square Garden, he actually freaked out about it.
He said, ìHow could Vince make this mistake?î Itís very amazing because Bruno told me told
me to and I did fake an injury, a knee injury in our cage match, I would go into the match
in Madison Square Garden with my knee wrapped and limping as I went into the ring, to devalue
the title change because I had an injury.>>Eric ñ What are your thoughts and awareness
on the Iron Sheikís public struggles with addiction?>>SG ñ Oh yes I think all of us are aware,
you know I have been a subscriber to Dave Meltzerís newsletter since the 1990s you
know, and yes I am aware and itís a tragic deal and I have no idea why or how. I think
it was just his nature to begin with that he was going to go down that self-destructive
road, itís a horrible thing and we have no answers for it. It is one of the modern day
tragedies, you know?>>Eric ñ Have you had a chance to offer your
help to him?>>SG ñ No, I saw him and visited with him
in Los Angeles two years ago, now maybe three at the Hall of Fame and WrestleMania. We had
a great visit out there but I didnít feel that I was in a place to advise or council
him when I was still having all kinds of difficulties, even though I overcame everything.>>Eric ñ Can a successful full-time WWE wrestler
function at the current state without any kind of dependency?>>SG ñ I donít know about the personal level,
ability for the current guys to perform under the extensive traveling schedule. I know that
when I was champion, the year I had that belt just about a full year, I was the first wrestler
to take it out of the northeast as you probably recall going down to Florida with Dusty, stuff
like that. I wrestled around 330 times that year, it was absurd but I wanted to take advantage
of it. I had my dependencies, there was no way that I personally could have traveled,
could have trained, could have dieted, and could have done the exhausting scheduling
without chemical help. Because you know Eric you are going through different time-zones,
youíre jet lagged, and your system is so thrown off by jet lag and the irregularity
of your schedule, it just wreaks havoc on your physical body. Also a person like me had to throw in the
factor of training and hitting the gym every day. I was a bodybuilder and to keep my look
I had to get there, fly to a town, rent a car, get a hotel room, eat, go to the gym,
get a two-hour workout in, go to the arena, do your deal, get back, eat, go to bed, get
up early the next morning, and do the same thing. Itís a horrific, destructive thing
on your system.>>Eric ñ What are your thoughts on Ken Kennedy
publicly calling you out for being a hypocrite and then subsequently being suspended himself
for violating the WWEís Wellness Policy following the Benoit family tragedy?>>SG ñ That blindsided me Eric because I
have always taken the heat for my own steroid use and never blamed anyone except myself.
Except for a period of time when I did file a fictitious lawsuit against Vince McMahon
over the steroid issue. I was very saddened by Kennedyís remarks because I had actually
told him in person when I was having my book tour, one of the towns, he was coming off
of an injury that he was so talented that he should never consider using steroids to
enhance his physique because of his natural talking ability. I told him that I thought
he could be another Roddy Piper-type character, and my wife was sitting there with me when
we had this hour long discussion. It seemed like he did have a lot of respect for me and
I felt sad. I counseled with Jim Ross over that Kennedy reaction and Jim Ross told me
that he felt that Kennedy being the great guy that he is, ìjust needed more time under
the learning tree,î a young guy, had not really matured. I sent an email directly to
Kennedy through John Laurenitusí secretary and my first interview that I did, it was
on CBSí Katie Couric, national news on CBS and before I went on the air Linda McMahon
called me here in Phoenix from Stanford to thank me about going on the air and distancing
the Benoit tragedy from steroids. I did that in my first interview and I got a personal
phone-call from Linda McMahon and I reminded Ken Kennedy of that, and every interview that
I did I distanced Benoitís tragedy from the use of steroids. I was very disappointed in
Kennedy because he was such a nice guy to me and he probably still is a nice guy, but
then to make that stand and then to be exposed.>>Eric ñ What are your thoughts on TNA picking
up a lot of ex-WWE wrestlers a few years back who left the WWE after not complying with
their Wellness Policy?>>SG ñ Thatís a very good question and I
appreciate that. Personally I cannot speak as to the failures or non-failures of drug
policies in TNA. I can tell you that their stance evidently from all I have read, and
I go back to tell you that all I know is what I read in my friend Dave Meltzerís newsletter.
Weíre very close friends Dave and I, and I take his newsletter as gospel. Let me tell
you something Eric, it is absolutely the nature of the beast of pro wrestling to be dishonest,
to lie, to cheat, to steal, and to deceive. After all, back in the day when we were kayfabing
everybody our sole goal was deception to make the thing a reality. We lived that deception
you know the stories of the old-school man. Listen to me right now. There is nothing holy
there is nothing sacred about pro wrestling. So donít ever by anything you hear, by any
denial from any professional wrestling organization. It is the nature of the sinful, deceptive
beast of pro wrestling to deceive and continue to deceive. Let me throw this in about Bruno Sammartino.
In August 2007 I was at the big convention in New York out on Long Island. I was talking
to Terry Funk, my dear friend Terry Funk and we were talking about Bruno Sammartino. Terry
Funk as you may have heard or read at that convention turned out to be a complete mark
for Bruno Sammartino and his character. Let me tell you something. Bruno Sammartino, this
man has never caused one public nuisance, incident as a professional wrestler. This
man was a role model for fans and family to see how a professional wrestler can really
be. You see what Iím talking about? This guy never threw any furniture out of a hotel
room, never causes a disturbance, never got drunk in public, never did drugs, Iím just
telling you that it can be done. Bruno Sammartino is the gold standard as far as character in
professional wrestling and all sports.>>Eric ñ Terry Funk told me the same thing,
recalling a story about Bruno working for Baba against pressures from Vince McMahon,
Sr.>>SG ñ I committed a major era when I publicly
said that Bruno Sammartino was bitter and was treating his son David unfairly because
of Davidís alleged steroid use many years ago. I had misspoken and at this convention
in Long Island I personally went up to Bruno Sammartino and I apologized to him one man
to another man that I made a huge mistake by speaking publicly about peopleís private
lives. So I want to go on record and say that I have once again apologized to Bruno, he
has in fact accepted my apology and weíve moved on, because after all as I told Bruno,
it was him passing the torch to me that solidified my career and established me as a future WWE
Hall of Famer even though I was well on my way but it was that title, the gaining of
that title WWWF champion that solidified my career to make it possible that you and I are talking today.>>Eric ñ What are your thoughts on the government
taking a look at professional wrestling?>>SG ñ I think that Congress and
the government especially in light of Barry
Bonds being ushered into court as we all saw pleading not guilty to perjury, two counts
of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice as a legitimate professional baseball
player speaks volumes as to the culture that we live in. We expect professional wrestlers
to be deceptive and the public does too because they know we are just entertainers and we
arenít a legitimate sport. However when it goes to the level of a Barry Bonds deceiving the general public,
enhancing his performance and the government now with him, I think itís the good for all of humanity period to try and eliminate drugs
in professional sports.

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