WWE Hall of Famer, Devout Christian ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham Dies at 79

Professional wrestler and devout Christian ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham passed away Wednesday at 79 after battling a long illness.

The wrestler’s real name was Eldridge Wayne Coleman.

According to a video posted to Coleman’s Facebook page, the professional wrestler had been fighting multiple illnesses and had been in the hospital since December.

World Wrestling Entertainment, in which Coleman had been a champion and a main eventer in the 1970s, also confirmed the news of his death, The Christian Post reports.

“WWE is saddened to learn that WWE Hall of Famer “Superstar” Billy Graham has passed away,” WWE said in a statement. “WWE extends its condolences to Graham’s family, friends, and fans.”

In March, Coleman’s wife, Valerie, shared in a Facebook post that her husband was struggling with a severe illness and was “in the fight of his life.”

“I just had a call from the nursing facility, and Wayne has refused all of his meds today. … he’s dealing with a lot of confusion and depression,” she said.

“He’s still 100% deaf and has now lost 65 pounds. … It’s breaking my heart not being able to see him. This Friday will be 12 weeks since he’s been home.”

While things can “get very overwhelming,” Valerie said she knew “the Lord is with us, and He will provide. Thank you for your constant prayers.”

Born in Arizona in 1943, Coleman became a professional wrestler in 1970 using the ring name ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham, taken after the late evangelical preacher.

During his stint in the WWE, which at the time was World Wide Wrestling Federation, becoming changing to World Wrestling Federation, Graham was best known for his ring attire and over-the-top interviews. He was often cited as an inspiration to other famous wrestlers, including Hulk Hogan and Jesse “The Body” Ventura.

“Graham toppled Bruno Sammartino from his WWE Championship perch for the last time on April 30, 1977. He went on to hold the prize for nearly 10 months,” the WWE explained in an entry highlighting his career.

“Clad in tie-dye and feathered boas, ‘Superstar’ was a sign of things to come, boasting a chiseled, muscular physique that was very unique at the time.”

During the 1980s, Graham retired from in-ring competition due to alleged health damage associated with steroid use. He eventually was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/FOTOKITA

Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.