The wrestling world is paying tribute to "Superstar" Billy Graham in the wake of his passing.
Graham was one of most influential performers in the history of the industry. The list of wrestlers who emulated Graham's persona include Hulk Hogan, Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, Jesse "The Body" Ventura and many more.
Since news of his death was first reported, Ventura, Paul Heyman, WWE and others have posted their thoughts about Graham to social media.
Paul Heyman wrote:
Before Billy Graham, performers in WWWF / WWF/ WWE were known as professional wrestlers. After Billy Graham left his mark, Vincent Kennedy McMahon decided everyone would be a WWE Superstar. A most heartfelt RIP to the man of the hour, the man with the power, too sweet to be sour
There wouldn't be a Jesse "The Body" Ventura without the in-ring success and trailblazing showmanship of Superstar Billy Graham. One of my proudest wrestling memories was having the honor of being inducted into the same WWE Hall of Fame class as Graham. Rest In Power Superstar.
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A former WWE Champion, Graham’s flashy fashion style, over-the-top interviews and bodybuilder physique created the archetype for a generation of Superstars that followed in his footsteps.
The article continues:
To make himself stand out even more, Graham dyed his hair and goatee different colors, and honed a distinctive look that featured outlandish earrings, skintight T-shirts, and long, colorful tie-dyed tights. The WWE Hall of Famer’s blend of standout style, sculpted body and in-ring dominance laid the foundation for future stars such as Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Jesse Ventura, Scott Steiner and more.
Our own Dave Meltzer wrote about Graham:
I am so sad. My entire life, and tons of others from Flair to Hogan to Jesse to tons you wouldn't know and tons you would changed because of him. Valerie, I just wish you the best, you're a saint and more people than you know are aware of it.
Meltzer also spoke to the LA Times about Graham's career and legacy.
“Billy was the most influential wrestler of the 1970s,” wrestling journalist and historian Dave Meltzer, author of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, said. “Obviously, he was the prototype of the Hulk Hogan character, the Jesse Ventura character, but so many others like Dusty Rhodes copied his interview style and colorful dress, and they were the guys who carried the business. Even Chael Sonnen in MMA would directly copy his interviews.”
“He was a prototype of what Vince McMahon saw as a top wrestling attraction going forward,” Meltzer continued. “Billy was neither the first wrestler to use steroids nor the biggest abuser of them, but he was as associated with them as [much as] almost anyone, and later became a very vocal speaker against their use, and sometimes that wavered as he went through different periods of life.”
Ric Flair posted:
Nick Aldis wrote:
Quite possibly the biggest game-changer of all time. Because of Billy Graham, we got Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, not to mention countless others who made fortunes borrowing from this man. Say his name and remember him.
Sean Waltman referred to Graham as the "most copied man ever in pro wrestling."
The Cauliflower Alley Club wrote:
It's with great sadness we hear the passing of one of professional wrestling's most iconic and influential performers of all time in Superstar Billy Graham at the age of 79. We send our sincerest condolences to his family, friends and fans the world over. R.I.P. Superstar.
Graham was voted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame Class of 1996. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2004.