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Wayne Coleman was born into a working-class family in Phoenix, Arizona on June 7, 1943. His father was from Mississippi, and his mother, of Cherokee ancestry, was from Arkansas. Coleman was attracted to weight lifting in the fifth grade. As a teenager he was an avid reader of bodybuilding magazines, his idols being Steve Reeves and John Grimek. As a teenager, he became a devout Christian and traveled to religious revivals where he incorporated feats of strength into his sermons.
Coleman was a shot put champion in high school. He also dabbled in amateur and professional boxing, participating in the 1959 Golden Gloves. At age 26, he tried out for the Canadian Football League's Calgary Stampeders but was traded to the Montreal Alouettes. He only played in a couple of games. In between football engagements, he worked as a bouncer in various nightclubs in Phoenix, New York and Los Angeles. After tearing his Achilles tendon, he decided to pursue a career in professional wrestling.
In 1961 Coleman was the winner of the West Coast division of the Mr. Teenage America bodybuilding contest (Frank Zane winning in the East Coast division), and his photo appeared soon after in Bob Hoffman's Strength and Fitness magazine. Coleman began to train intensively in 1968 at Gold's Gym in Santa Monica, where he worked out with Dave Draper, Franco Columbu and Arnold Schwarzenegger. At this time he was able to bench press 605 lbs (the current world record, held by his friend Pat Casey, was 616 lbs). One of Coleman's photo shoots with Schwarzenegger featured that year in Joe Weider's Muscle Fitness magazine.
When Coleman decided to become a professional wrestler two years later, he had the inspiration of marrying wrestling to bodybuilding. As a wrestler he weight-trained continuously, and in 1975 prepared for the World Bodybuilding Guild's Pro. Mr. America contest in New York, where his 22-inch biceps won first place in the Best Developed Arms division. At the peak of his wrestling career in 1977, Coleman weighed 275 lbs. From 1978 he gained more weight and in 1980, at 325 lbs, he took part in the World's Strongest Man competition in Great Gorge, New Jersey. He finished seventh in this contest in spite of injuring himself in one of the events. On December 6 of the same year Coleman hosted the U.S. Invitational Powerlifting Championship in Phoenix, Arizona.
In 1970, Coleman was encouraged by professional wrestler Bob Lueck to train with Stu Hart for the latter's Stampede Wrestling promotion. He trained under Hart in Calgary before debuting on January 16, 1970 in a match with Dan Kroffat. After wrestling briefly under his real name, Coleman traveled back to the United States in May, wrestling for a few months with Dr. Jerry Graham, Brick Darrow, Rick Cahill and Ron Pritchard in Arizona before he and Jerry Graham joined the National Wrestling Alliance's Los Angeles promotion (run by Mike LeBell) as a tag team the following August. He changed his ring name to Billy Graham, as a tribute to the famous evangelist of the same name. Later, while wrestling in Championship Wrestling from Florida, the name would serve both as his ring name and to make him the (kayfabe) youngest brother of Jerry and the other Graham Brothers (Eddie and Luke).
In late December 1970 Graham went north to join Roy Shire's NWA San Francisco promotion, working with Pat Patterson (his tag-team partner), Ray Stevens, Cyclone Negro, and Peter Maivia. Graham's nearly two-year run in central California included a stint wrestling in Hawaii in February and March 1972. It was during his Californian period that Graham developed a new aspect of his character; before a match he would stage an arm wrestling contest, encouraging public challenges to his title of "Arm Wrestling Champion of the World".
On October 2, 1972, Graham premiered in Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association (AWA) based in Minneapolis, where he took on the moniker "Superstar". As he toured the north-central states and adjacent areas of Canada, Graham feuded with Gagne, The Crusher, The Bruiser, Wahoo McDaniel, Billy Robinson, Ken Patera and Ivan Koloff, the latter becoming his tag-team partner. By this time, Graham was integrating into his performances not only arm wrestling contests but also weightlifting challenges (mainly involving ex-Olympian Ken Patera) and posing routines.
In September and October 1974 Graham took leave from the AWA to join the International Wrestling Alliance's "Super Wide Series" tour of Japan, where he fought such local stars as Mighty Inoue, Animal Hamaguchi and Rusher Kimura. Following his return from Japan, Graham formed a tag team with Dusty Rhodes. He left the AWA and returned to the NWA in May 1975, signing up with Red Bastien's Dallas-based promotion for five months and taking the local "Brass Knucks" title from Mad Dog Vachon on August 8. For most of October, Graham worked for the Mid Atlantic promotion in North Carolina, standing in for Ric Flair, who had just been injured in a plane crash.
Graham made his in–ring debut in the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) on October 25, 1975, in a tag-team match at the Boston Garden in which he and Spiros Arion defeated WWWF World Heavyweight Champion Bruno Sammartino and Dominic De Nucci. At this time The Grand Wizard became the Graham's manager. Another major feud at this time was with Polish muscleman Ivan Putski.
A brief contract with the NWA in Houston, Texas followed from June to August 1976, after which Graham went on his second tour of Japan, this time accompanied by Ivan Koloff. He feuded with Antonio Inoki during this Japanese run. After returning to America, Graham and Koloff made an unsuccessful attempt to launch their own wrestling promotion in Southern California. In November 1976, on the invitation of Dusty Rhodes, Graham joined the NWA promotion in Florida, beating Rhodes for the Florida heavyweight title on November 22 at the West Palm Beach Auditorium. His work in this period included occasional visits to St Louis, Missouri, where he took on NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race.
Graham returned to the WWWF in April 1977 after an agreement with promoter Vincent J. McMahon (Senior). Graham defeated Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF Heavyweight Championship on April 30, 1977, in Baltimore, Maryland. Graham held the title for nine and a half months.
During his reign, he wrestled across America and in Japan (February 1978), facing challengers such as former champion Bruno Sammartino, Jack Brisco, Dusty Rhodes, Pedro Morales, Don Muraco, Mil Mascaras, Strong Kobayashi and Riki Choshu. In 1977 in Miami, Florida at the Orange Bowl football stadium, Graham wrestled against then-NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race in a WWWF World Heavyweight Championship vs. NWA World Heavyweight Championship unification match which ended in a one-hour time-limit draw. Although a defeat by Bob Backlund, who was to embody the virtuous junior "all-American" wrestler, had been written into Graham's current contract with the WWWF, Graham suggested another outcome to McMahon: that Ivan Koloff should turn on him, thus starting a feud that would make Graham a fan favorite. McMahon refused because of the handshake deal to make Backlund the new fan favorite champion and he did not want to go back on his word. It was also unheard of for a counter-cultural character like Graham to be a fan favorite, because McMahon and many old promoters saw Graham as a confirmed heel and therefore a negative role model. Graham eventually "lost" the title to Backlund on February 20, 1978.
Another feud Graham had as champion was with Dusty Rhodes, which culminated in a Texas Bullrope match. His confrontations with Rhodes continued after Graham had been forced to drop the belt to Backlund. Rhodes himself, a long-time friend of Graham's, recalled these matches with Graham in 1978 as among the most exciting and memorable of his career.
Disillusioned by the premature loss of his belt, Graham left the WWWF in December 1978 and accepted an offer to join Paul Boesch's promotion in Houston, Texas, lending himself out for other NWA events in California and Florida as well. In April 1979 he embarked on his third IWA tour of Japan, where he wrestled the same men he had worked with in 1974. His following NWA engagements in Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Texas became fewer and rarer until he stopped wrestling in April 1980. Graham wrestled only two matches (one in Canada and one in Los Angeles) in the whole of 1981. He spent some time competing in Japan, where he added some martial arts techniques to his repertoire.
Graham returned to the now renamed World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in September 1982. He debuted in the promotion with entirely new look: lean, with a bald head and mustache, and sporting black karate pants. Graham later stated that he wanted to retire the "Superstar" character out of frustration with Vince McMahon Sr. for not letting him become a fan favorite. After his return, he attacked Backlund, destroying his championship belt. He challenged Backlund for the WWF Championship, but was unable to win the title. He left the promotion in April 1983.
Graham signed up with the AWA again in October 1983, wrestling mainly in the Mid West. By the following year he had regained his earlier body weight and in April 1984 he began his NWA run with Championship Wrestling from Florida, first as a member of Kevin Sullivan's Army of Darkness and later as the group's opponent after he tired of Sullivan's abuse of his valet Fallen Angel and stopped Sullivan from beating her at ringside. From November 1984 Graham joined Jim Crockett Promotions (Mid-Atlantic Wrestling) in North Carolina, working for Paul Jones in his feud against Jimmy Valiant. It was during this stint, in the summer of 1985, that that Graham bulked up further, and returned to his tie-dyed look, growing a full goatee and dyeing the mustache blond.
Graham returned to the WWF one more time in June 1986, now as a fan favorite. After a few appearances, it was diagnosed in August that he required a hip replacement. The footage of Graham's hip replacement surgery was shown on WWF TV on September 27 as a means of promoting his comeback. He returned in mid-1987 and worked a heavy schedule from mid July to late October, feuding with Harley Race and Butch Reed. However, the strain on his hip as well as his ankles also deteriorating proved to be too much. In Syracuse on October 27, the One Man Gang supposedly retired him from active competition permanently with a running splash on the concrete floor after Graham's win over Reed. In this incident, aired on the November 14, 1987 episode of Superstars, Don Muraco came to Graham's aid, and Graham subsequently became Muraco's manager. Graham's last wrestling match, also against Butch Reed and at 44 years of age, actually took place on November 7, 1987, in St Louis, Missouri. Over the next year, in between bouts of surgery, Graham worked for the WWF as a commentator.
On March 14, 2004, Graham was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, the night before WrestleMania XX, by then-World Heavyweight Champion Triple H, whom Graham had helped inspire to become a professional wrestler. Graham later sold his WWE Hall of Fame ring to purchase anti-rejection medications to help treat his liver transplant.
Several months later, Graham joined WWE on a swing of nine televised events where he was interviewed by Jonathan Coachman (on December 28) before performing a skit which ended with Coachman getting knocked out. On February 25, 2005, Graham appeared at another live event and was again interviewed by Coachman before knocking him out. Three days later, Graham appeared on Raw, where he encouraged Randy Orton to do something to make himself notable. On October 3 at WWE Homecoming, Graham participated in a Legends Ceremony with 24 other WWE legends. On the January 23, 2006 episode of Raw, he promoted his book and DVD. Graham parted ways with WWE in 2009.
it a veteran of wrestling this guy
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