Dr. Jerry Graham
Birth nameJerry Martin Matthews
Born(1928-12-16)December 16, 1928
Woodward, Oklahoma, U.S.
DiedJanuary 24, 1997(1997-01-24) (aged 68)
Glendale, California, U.S.
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Dr. Jerry Graham
Jerry Graham
Dr. Zombie[1]
Billed height5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Billed weight245 lb (111 kg)
Trained bySelf-trained at the YMCA
Debut1947[2]
Retired1981

Jerry Martin Graham (born Jerry Martin Matthews,[3] December 16, 1928 – January 24, 1997) was an American professional wrestler. He is best known for his time spent in the World Wide Wrestling Federation and as the founder of the Graham wrestling family.

Early life

Graham was adopted by his stepfather Harold Graham and his name was legally changed.[3] He was raised in Arizona and falsified his age to enlist in World War II, serving with the 82nd Airborne Division Paratroopers.[4][1] After the war, he attended Phoenix College and Arizona State University.[1]

Professional wrestling career

Graham began wrestling at the age of 14 in his hometown of Phoenix,[1] and won his first major title, the NWA Southern Heavyweight Championship, in December 1956.[5] He was the founder of the storyline Graham wrestling family,[1] which included Eddie Graham (Edward Gossett), "Crazy" Luke Graham (James Grady Johnson), "Superstar" Billy Graham (Wayne Coleman), Mike Graham (Mike Gossett), Jerry Graham Jr., Crazy Luke Graham Jr. (Donald J Jolly) and Mad Dog Steele Graham (Tom Hankins), Gerry Chubby Graham ( M Gerald Sadler).[4][6] Along with Eddie, Jerry sold out Madison Square Garden many times in the 1950s and late 1960s, when they were known as The Golden Grahams. After his tag team success, Dr. Graham brought "Crazy" Luke Graham and "Superstar" Billy Graham into the Graham family.[7][8] He engaged in a feud with Buddy Rogers in 1956, predominantly in New York.[9]

On November 19, 1957, Graham and Dick the Bruiser wrestled Antonio Rocca and Edouard Carpentier at Madison Square Garden.[1] During the match, a major riot exploded and many fans were arrested, with eight police officers being injured from chairs that were thrown by fans.[1] All of the wrestlers during the match were fined, and Dick the Bruiser was banned for life from wrestling in New York.[1][10] He was a top contender for Bruno Sammartino's World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) World Heavyweight Championship, wrestling him in three bouts at Madison Square Garden.[6] The arena was so packed that more than 10,000 fans were turned away.[1]

Despite coming up short in winning the world title, Graham held the WWWF United States Tag Team Championship six times; his first reign with Eddie Graham began in September 1958, when they defeated Mark Lewin and Don Curtis.[6] They won the titles again in May 1959 until it was vacated due to Jerry suffering an injury.[11] He also held it in November with Johnny Valentine until Eddie took his place the following year.[11] This also included a reign with "brother" Crazy Luke Graham in March 1964.[11] Graham also won the NWA Canadian Tag Team Championship with Abdullah the Butcher in October 1967.[9]

He spent the 1970s training other wrestlers and occasionally wrestling himself.[12] Graham unsuccessfully attempted a comeback to the now WWF in 1984, and spent the rest of his career as a manager on the independent circuit.[6][4] Throughout his career, he suffered from injuries which included a broken nose, dislocated hip, back pain, and at least 300 stitches to his back.[13]

Personal life

Graham suffered from alcoholism and depression.[1] In August 1969, when his mother died, he grabbed a shotgun from the back of his car and took his mother's corpse out of the Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix.[3][14] After the incident, he spent time in the Arizona State Mental Hospital.[4]

In "Superstar" Billy Graham's book Tangled Ropes, he speaks about the real life hatred that Graham had for Freddie Blassie.[14]

Death and legacy

Graham suffered from failing health in the mid-90s, causing him to enter a nursing home.[4] On January 24, 1997, Graham died in Glendale at the age of 68, due to complications from a stroke six weeks earlier.[1][9]

He was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a part of the Legacy wing on March 31, 2017.[15]

Championships and accomplishments

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Mooneyham, Mike (February 9, 1997). "Dr. Jerry Graham Tortured Soul". The Wrestling Gospel. Archived from the original on November 13, 2008. Retrieved June 23, 2019.
  2. ^ Solomon, Brian (2010). WWE Legends. Simon and Schuster. p. 176. ISBN 978-1451604504.
  3. ^ a b c "Jerry Graham profile". Online World of Wrestling. Archived from the original on November 22, 2012. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e Johnson, Steven; Oliver, Greg (2010). Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels. ECW Press. pp. 297–301. ISBN 978-1-55490-284-2.
  5. ^ a b "Southern Heavyweight Title (Georgia)". Wrestling-Titles.com. Archived from the original on February 9, 2023. Retrieved May 22, 2023.
  6. ^ a b c d Solomon, Brian (2010). WWE Legends. Simon and Schuster. pp. 177–179. ISBN 978-1451604504.
  7. ^ Wirtz, Billy C. (September 1, 2012). Red Headed Geek. Tickling Keys, Inc. ISBN 978-1-61547-014-3.
  8. ^ Oliver, Greg; Johnson, Steven (2019). The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Storytellers (From the Terrible Turk to Twitter). ECW Press. p. 241. ISBN 978-1-77305-421-6.
  9. ^ a b c Harris M. Lentz III (2003). Biographical Dictionary of Professional Wrestling (2nd ed.). McFarland. pp. 132–133. ISBN 978-0-7864-1754-4.
  10. ^ White, Gordon S. (November 20, 1957). "Wrestling Ends in Riot at Garden: 2 Policemen Hurt as Fans Storm Ring and Throw Chairs and Bottles". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 22, 2023. Retrieved May 22, 2023.
  11. ^ a b c d e "United States Tag Team Title (Capitol/WWWF)". Wrestling-Titles.com. Archived from the original on April 4, 2023. Retrieved May 22, 2023.
  12. ^ Kaelberer, Angie Peterson (July 2003). The McMahons: Vince McMahon and Family. Capstone. ISBN 978-0-7368-2143-8.
  13. ^ "Local wrestlers say proposal poses dangers". Toledo Blade. August 2, 1986. p. 18.
  14. ^ a b Graham, Billy (2010). WWE Legends – Superstar Billy Graham: Tangled Ropes. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1439121795.
  15. ^ a b Burdick, Michael (March 31, 2017). "Congratulations to the 2017 WWE Hall of Fame Legacy inductees". WWE. Archived from the original on October 30, 2020. Retrieved March 31, 2017.
  16. ^ "NWA Gulf Coast Heavyweight Title". Wrestling-Titles.com. Archived from the original on December 6, 2022. Retrieved May 22, 2023.
  17. ^ "International Tag Team Title (Ontario)". Wrestling-Titles.com. Archived from the original on April 6, 2023. Retrieved May 22, 2023.
  18. ^ "NWA World Tag Team Title (Georgia)". Wrestling-Titles.com. Archived from the original on December 1, 2022. Retrieved May 22, 2023.
  19. ^ "NWA Canadian Tag Team Title (British Columbia)". Wrestling-Titles.com. Archived from the original on February 7, 2022. Retrieved May 22, 2023.
  20. ^ "World/International Tag Team Title (British Columbia)". Wrestling-Titles.com. Archived from the original on February 7, 2022. Retrieved May 22, 2023.
  21. ^ "Stampede International Tag Team Title (Alberta & Saskatchewan)". Wrestling-Titles.com. Archived from the original on April 3, 2022. Retrieved May 22, 2023.
  22. ^ "WWA World Tag Team Title (Indiana)". Wrestling-Titles.com. Archived from the original on June 5, 2022. Retrieved May 22, 2023.