The history of professional wrestling is full of second-generation talent (and beyond) – so many that parenting someone who is a wrestler isn’t that special. After all, for every Cody Rhodes, Charlotte, or Ted DiBiase, there’s a David Sammartino, Greg Gagne, or a Ted DiBiase Jr..
Initially working in NWA territories before taking up employment with WCW, Mike Graham has a strange infamy for trashing Jeff Jarrett who fans have been quoting ever since he said so. Let’s take a look at the life and career of Mike Graham, both in the ring and behind the scenes.
10/10 Eddie Graham’s son
Mike Graham’s father is none other than Eddie Graham, who spent the 1950s and 1960s as a popular tag team specialist alongside his kayfabe brother, Dr. Jerry Graham. In the 1970s, he made huge strides as a promoter and booker, becoming the owner of Championship Wrestling From Florida and later becoming president of the National Wrestling Alliance in the mid to late 1970s. , one of the elder Graham’s enduring innovations is what has come to be known as “the Dusty finish”.
9/10 amateur background
Before following in his father’s footsteps into the professional wrestling world, however, Mike Graham was a successful amateur wrestler while attending high school in Tampa, Florida. Along with winning multiple championships, he also competed in the Junior Olympics, and in a notable amateur match, he even managed to defeat a young Ricky Steamboat. However, in the early 1970s, he decided to take up professional wrestling, dropping out of higher education at the University of Tampa to enter the family business.
8/10 Formed a father and son tag team
Before Dominik and Rey Mysterio, there was Eddie and Mike Graham. After making his in-ring debut in 1972, Mike Graham actually formed a tag team with his father. Before Eddie retired in 1980, the Grahams were a capable tag team, setting up fights with notable opponents against other parents — kayfabe and legit — the Andersons, Ortons, Briscoes and Funks.
The Grahams also managed to win gold during their collaboration, winning the NWA Georgia Tag Team Championship and the NWA Florida Tag Team Championship.
7/10 Team Specialist with Kevin Sullivan and Steve Keirn
However, Mike Graham didn’t just team up with his dad. His first unrelated tag team partner was future WCW booker and Dungeon of Doom leader Kevin Sullivan, with whom Graham won three NWA Tag Team Championships in Florida before Sullivan became a heel. Following this, Graham found an even more successful partner in Steve Keirn, later known in WWE as Skinner. Together, Graham and Keirn have held 15 titles during their time together, including 10 runs with the NWA Florida belts.
In 1985, tragedy struck Championship Wrestling From Florida and the Graham family as Eddie Graham committed suicide. At the time, the CWF was troubled territory thanks to the state of the business in the 1980s and wrestlers like Dusty Rhodes leaving for bigger opportunities, and the elder Graham was experiencing various personal issues in addition of his business problems. Mike Graham attempted to keep the CWF afloat, but the promotion struggled over the next two years, and Graham ended up selling the territory to Jim Crockett Promotions, which would later become WCW.
5/10 Became a road agent and trainer with WCW
The sale of CWF to JCP was only the beginning of Mike Graham’s relationship with WCW. In 1991, Graham joined the company as an in-ring performer, although he was rarely on television and often lost matches. His major appearances included his participation in the WCW Light Heavyweight Title Tournament and his participation in the Lethal Lottery Tournament at Starrcade ’91. In 1992, Graham wrestled his final match for WCW and played a behind-the-scenes role in the promotion, becoming a road agent as well as a trainer at the WCW Power Plant.
4/10 Trashed Jeff Jarrett on DVD
2009 saw the release of the WCW-produced documentary The Rise and Fall of WCW. Appearing alongside the likes of Ric Flair and Chris Jericho was also Mike Graham, who in the documentary made questionable claims, including taking credit for hiring Hulk Hogan into WCW. But it would be his comments about Jeff Jarrett that would fall into infamy.
When the documentary turned to WCW’s passing of Jeff Jarrett in the last two years of the business, Mike Graham dropped a record, saying Jeff Jarrett “broke 6,000 guitars and never fired for a while”. Jarrett at one point responded to the diss, saying Mike was jealous that his dad likes Jeff’s dad, fellow wrestler/promoter Jerry Jarrett.
3/10 Chased several wrestlers from WCW
Fans don’t usually hear much about most road cops, but Mike Graham was able to kick several wrestlers out of the business in one fell swoop. In late 2000, Graham’s buddy Kevin Sullivan was made head of WCW bookings, which annoyed members of The Revolution faction including Perry Saturn, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko. When they raised their concerns, Graham physically threatened Benoit, which Benoit reported to Human Resources. As a result, all four wrestlers were released and made their WWE debut as The Radicalz.
2/10 Sold the CWF Video Library to WWE
While Mike Graham sold the Florida territory to Jim Crockett Promotions, he still owned the tape library for Championship Wrestling From Florida. However, in the mid-2000s, WWE was working on a DVD documentary about Dusty Rhodes, and Graham ended up selling the tape library to WWE for the occasion. After the sale, Graham made appearances on WWE’s VOD service programming, WWE 24/7 Classics On Demand, as well as WWE’s developmental promotion Florida Championship Wrestling. He also appeared at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony in 2008 where his father Eddie was inducted.
1/10 His tragic death
Mike Graham made occasional in-ring returns in the 2000s, but his life outside the ring was full of tragedy and misfortune. Not only did Graham’s various business ventures – a restaurant and a real estate venture – fail, but his son ended up taking his own life in 2010. At his home in Daytona Beach, while inebriated, Mike Graham killed himself in October . from 2012 at the age of 61, with his method (self-inflicted gunshot wound) hauntingly resembling his father’s death.