Monday, February 20, 2006

REVIEW: 20 Years Too Soon: The Superstar Billy Graham Story


IF IT wasn’t for Superstar Billy Graham, there’d be no Hulk Hogan or Jesse “The Body” Ventura. The two 80s WWE legends stole their physical appearance, outrageous outfits and interview style from the 70s pro wrestler.
In fact, if you believe this documentary, Superstar bridges the gap between old-school rasslin’ and today’s mega-bucks sports entertainment business.
WWE owner Vince McMahon once said Superstar was 20 years ahead of his time - if he’d come along in the mid-80s, he would’ve become a household name.
The flamboyant, arrogant bodybuilder arrived in the New York-based promotion (then known as the World Wide Wrestling Federation) in the mid-70s and won the world championship on April 30, 1977.
He couldn’t wrestle but, man, could he talk! And his body was phenomenal for its time (thanks to heavy steroid use). At first hated by the fans, Superstar packed arena after arena for his blood-drenched matches against the likes of Dusty Rhodes and Ivan Putski. Oddly enough, even though he was a bad guy, many fans started cheering him.
“The ladies’ pet, the men’s regret,” he’d boast, “where what you see is what you get…and what you don’t see, is better yet.”
However, the promoters decided to take the title off him and give it to clean-cut Bob Backlund. After a 10-month reign, the Superstar was champ no more.
His career went downhill from there and his drug abuse worsened, leading to overdoses, multiple surgeries (for steroid-related disorders) and, finally, a liver transplant.
Somehow, he survived with the help of his wife Valerie and his deep faith in God. The doco ends with Superstar triumphantly being inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2004. If you can ignore the doco’s heavy emphasis on religion, then you’ll find 20 Years Too Soon a fascinating and moving trip down memory lane. And the bonus matches and Superstar interviews are a blast!
Final word: “I’m the man of the hour, the man with the power, too sweet to be sour.” Yep, this is one sweet DVD.