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HISTORY: THE MOST TASTELESS ANGLE EVER


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The Pro-Wrestling Chronicle will often investigate events that happened during various periods professional of wrestling history. All coverage is unique to The Pro-Wrestling Chronicle unless otherwise specified.

HISTORY: THE MOST TASTELESS ANGLE EVER

Eddie Graham was considered one of the brightest wrestling minds of all time. Once a wrestler, Graham parlayed his knowledge of the wrestling business into the promotional end and became one of the most influential men ever in the wrestling business. He was a wrestler, trainer and a very respected promoter, and in 1976 was elected President of the National Wrestling Alliance, making him the most powerful figure in the country when it came to promoting professional wrestling.

It was Graham's vision and excellence as a performer that took the Florida territory from just another wrestling stronghold to the centerpiece of the N.W.A. for a period, a position normally occupied by St. Louis. Graham's storylines were dynamic as he knew precisely how to manipulate his audience. Graham was heavily responsible for putting together what was the first ever N.W.A. and W.W.W.F. title unification match between Harley Race and then World-Wide Wrestling Federation Champion "Superstar" Billy Graham.

In the early 1970's, Eddie Graham brought his son --the small and relatively uncharismatic Mike Graham-- to the Southeast. The two would tag for several years, capturing tag team gold in Florida while amassing a huge following of fans who went wild for the local baby faces.

To fans in Florida, Eddie Graham was iconic. When he eventually stopped wrestling, he put his focus full time on promoting Championship Wrestling From Florida as well as the charitable work and involvement in amateur wrestling that made him such a beloved figure. In 1978, Graham made a $10,000 contribution to the University of Florida to construct an amatuer wrestling facility on campus. He also spent time bringing new talent into professional wrestling, and as a trainer of future talent, few have ever directly or indirectly played a part in breaking in so many future stars.

Unfortunately for Graham, business in Florida began to decline rather rapidly in the early 80's, and a rocky personal life, depression, a long standing history of alcoholism and severe financial problems began to take their toll. By his final months, Graham was said to have become a loner who pushed almost everyone away from him.

On the morning of January 20, 1985, Eddie Graham was discovered dead after taking his own life. It was a self inflicted gunshot wound, and at the age of 55, Florida had lost their hero. Fans in Florida --and really all over the country-- were in shock. Like Texas after the Von Erich tragedy, Florida Wrestling --already on life support-- died and never came back in any meaningful capacity.

Eddie Graham's son Mike attempted to pick up the pieces and take over Championship Wrestling from Florida where his father left off. Unfortunately, Mike never had the natural ability or talent of his father both in the ring and out of it. In an effort to pull Mike Graham up to the level of his now-deceased father, an angle was formulated that many consider to be the most tasteless of all time.

In late March of 1985, Mike Graham walked to the ring less than two months removed from the tragic and confusing suicide of his father, while the wounds were still fresh for the dwindling number of fans that still attended wrestling cards in Florida. Mike Graham, with tears in his eyes, spoke fondly about his father in the center of the ring as the appreciative fans looked on.

The Freebirds then walked to the ring. The Freebirds had been on a role as fan favorites in Championship Wrestling from Florida. They had just recently destroyed the Russians in the territory, and had been thus far silencing Percy Pringle's stable of heels in The Freebirds most recent feud. When they stepped into the ring, Mike Graham looked on sadly in remembrance of his father, and reacted as though he was ready to hear what kind words The Freebirds had about him. The fans looked on in the same way.

Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts instead said that it was their turn to talk, and talk they did. The most infamous remark was made by Buddy Roberts, who looked in Eddie Graham's sons eyes and shouted "Mike...face it...your father was a loser". Roberts continued to verbally destroy both Mike and his father Eddie with comments that hit very close to home, offending almost everyone who still watched the product. Mike Graham retaliated, passionately telling The Freebirds that they would not get away with talking about his family in that way.

There were two problems however. The first was that even in a state that held Eddie Graham so highly, no one cared about his son at best, and at worst the audience seemed disgusted that he was stooping to this level to get over. The other problem was that as Mike Graham shouted and flailed his arms around in the ring, the camera showed a razor blade taped to his finger in as much clarity and detail as a blade has ever appeared on wrestling television. Mike had no idea, and continued to wave it in front of the camera in the most obvious of manors for what seemed like minutes, before moments later being attacked by The Freebirds and using it to lacerate his own forehead to sell the beating. A bloody Mike Graham fought off The Freebirds that night to mostly shock, disgust and indifference, and went on to cut perhaps the best promo of his career afterwards. Unfortunately, his father was still dead and he was still Mike Graham.

Most at the time as well as today in retrospect were disgusted at Mike Graham for actually agreeing to use the confusing and tragic suicide of his father as a device to get an angle over. Fans of Championship Wrestling from Florida seemed disgusted too, as what was designed to be a huge angle resulted in more empty houses for the company. Mike worked singles matches with members of the Freebirds on Florida stops for a short time before they left the company in the middle of the feud due to differences with Wahoo McDaniel, who was booking Florida at the time.

Mike Graham fizzled, fans were still devastated over someone they admired and loved so much taking his own life, and business in Florida never recovered. In the end, disgracing the death of Eddie Graham never resulted in anything positive, and will be remembered as perhaps the most tasteless wrestling angle of all time.


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