The Career of Wrestler Dr. Jerry Graham

Dr. Jerry Graham, born Jerry Martin Matthews on December 16, 1928, in Woodward, Oklahoma, was a prominent figure in the world of professional wrestling. His career spanned from the late 1940s to the early 1980s, during which he became known for his time in the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) and as the founder of the Graham wrestling family.

Early Life and Military Service

Graham’s early life was marked by a significant event when he was adopted by his stepfather, Harold Graham, leading to a legal name change. Raised in Arizona, he demonstrated an early penchant for boldness by falsifying his age to enlist in World War II, where he served with the 82nd Airborne Division Paratroopers. Following his military service, Graham pursued education at Phoenix College and Arizona State University.

Wrestling Beginnings

Graham’s wrestling career began at the tender age of 14 in Phoenix. He was self-trained at the YMCA and quickly made a name for himself, capturing his first major title, the NWA Southern Heavyweight Championship, in December 1956. He was instrumental in creating the storyline Graham wrestling family, which included notable names such as Eddie Graham, “Crazy” Luke Graham, and “Superstar” Billy Graham, among others.

Rise to Fame

The 1950s and 1960s saw Graham, alongside his kayfabe brother Eddie, become a major attraction in the wrestling world. Known as The Golden Grahams, they sold out Madison Square Garden numerous times. Graham’s in-ring persona was larger than life, often inciting riots with his antics, such as the infamous riot at Madison Square Garden in 1957 during a match with Dick the Bruiser against Antonio Rocca and Edouard Carpentier.

Championships and Feuds

Throughout his career, Dr. Jerry Graham was a five-time United States Tag Team Champion, winning the titles with both Eddie and “Crazy” Luke Graham. His feuds with wrestling legends like Buddy Rogers and Bruno Sammartino were legendary, often resulting in sold-out events and frenzied crowds.

Personal Struggles and Influence

Despite his success in the ring, Graham’s personal life was tumultuous, marked by struggles with alcoholism and depression. His behavior outside the ring was as wild as his character within it, leading to a series of controversial incidents, including a breakdown following his mother’s death.

Legacy and WWE Hall of Fame

Dr. Jerry Graham’s influence extended beyond the ring. He was a childhood idol of Vince McMahon, who later became the Chairman of WWE. McMahon’s own persona and approach to wrestling entertainment were arguably shaped by the flamboyant and rebellious spirit of Graham.

In recognition of his contributions to the sport and his impact on one of the most influential figures in wrestling history, Dr. Jerry Graham was posthumously honored as a 2017 Legacy Inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Dr. Jerry Graham passed away on January 24, 1997, at the age of 68, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most colorful and influential characters in the history of professional wrestling. His career, marked by both remarkable achievements and personal demons, remains a captivating chapter in the annals of wrestling lore.

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