'Superstar' Billy Graham hospitalized: 'In the fight of his life'
A devout Christian professional wrestler who adopted a stage name in homage to the famous evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham has been hospitalized and is battling serious illness.
The official Facebook page for “Superstar” Billy Graham announced Tuesday evening that the retired pro-wrestler has been dealing with serious medical issues for the past few months and is “in the fight of his life.”
“Between the hospital, and the rehab facilities, he has been away from home for three months now. Very heart-wrenching to hear what they are going through,” noted the Facebook post.
Born Eldridge Wayne Coleman of Paradise Valley, Arizona, the 79-year-old Graham was a notable wrestler with the World Wrestling Federation (now known as World Wrestling Entertainment) back in the 1970s.
The announcement included a statement from Graham’s wife, Valerie, who said her husband's situation was “horribly difficult” and “Wayne is struggling and still not home.”
“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.”
Valerie added that things can “get very overwhelming but I know the Lord is with us and He will provide. Thank you for your constant prayers.”
Because Graham is struggling to pay his medical bills, the Facebook page linked to a gofundme page to help with his expenses, which as of Wednesday afternoon has raised over $8,200 from more than 210 separate donations.
“He is dealing with a myriad of very serious health issues: a major infection in his ears and skull that may take six months of intravenous IVs, congestive heart failure, diabetes, hearing loss as a result of the infection, and the list goes on,” explained the gofundme page.
“He is facing a long period of rehab, and his insurance will only pay a portion of this. He is facing at least two months in a skilled nursing facility, once he is stabilized and released from the Mayo hospital.”
In 2004, Graham was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame for his career, with the major pro-wrestling organization crediting him with inspiring later wrestlers such as 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,” noted the WWE.
“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.”
After his in-ring career, Graham was known to occasionally criticize decisions by the WWE, such as the pro-wrestling organization’s decision to include more sensual and violent content in their programming during the late 1990s.
Graham also denounced the WWE’s decision in 2011 to induct Abdullah the Butcher (real name Larry Shreve) into their Hall of Fame, believing that Shreve had put other wrestlers in unnecessary danger.