Story: “Superstar” Billy Graham was one of the more influential performers of his era, with his chiseled look and wild, colorful visual presence. He was best known for his work on the microphone however, lighting up entertaining promos and making the crowds go nuts, whether they hated him or loved to hate him. Graham even took the world championship from the legendary Bruno Sammartino, so he seems like a good host for this two year span of WWE history. Of course, after his career ended, Graham became one of the more controversial figures in the business, lying under oath during the steroid trial, loving WWE when he was getting paid, then turning on them once the cash dried up, and making all kinds of wild, often false claims and accusations. In this episode of Timeline, Graham shares his memories and thoughts from this time period and while he is likely not always truthful, Superstar is always an entertaining subject to interview.
Entertainment Value: I have to admit, I assumed Billy Graham would be bitter and dishonest here, since he often is when he talks about the wrestling business. But I think he seems pretty candid here and keeps his opinions fairly grounded, especially by his usual standard and while he is fun to listen to, he keeps the tone informative rather than scandalous. I appreciated hearing his stories of working with the various good guys he cycled through, especially the Bruno stories of course, but learning a little about his other feuds was insightful. He tends to keep his answers short and focused, but he is engaged here and doesn’t rush through or seem disinterested at all. He is not a ray of sunshine, but his takes skew positive for the most part, though he isn’t shy when he disliked someone. I always like hearing workers discuss Mil Mascaras and Graham has some fun comments on the masked legend, most of which mirror the usual responses about Mascaras.
In addition to sharing his thoughts on his peers of the era, he also talks about what the crowds were like, his memories of certain arenas, and a lot of old school backstage talk, which is fun to hear since he was right there as it all unfolded. The territory days would require some workers to shift their in ring style or interview approach, a topic I love to listen to in these interviews and Superstar proves some insight into how he handled the changes in audience expectations. He is also quite candid that his strengths were in his look and promo skills, rather than technical wrestling abilities and relates a little on how that impacted his territory stops. I liked this interview a lot, as I appreciated Graham being more open and candid, though I wish Sean Oliver would have been able to follow up more. Some topics get skimmed over and I understand that is inevitable given the breadth of subjects touched upon, but I would have loved more depth from some answers. Even so, this Timeline is a fun, informative watch and for fans of old school wrestling, is well recommended.
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