By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
Graham attempted another comeback in 1986. But he hurt his hip before returning to WWF. Instead of letting the company know, he planned to keep his injury hidden until he was popular again, then ask the company to pay for an operation. That plan dissolved when he blew out his hip as he executed a simple bear hug in his first match back.
WWF decided to keep him on the payroll, paying for his surgery while easing him into non-wrestling roles. Graham's role within the company dwindled, however, and in 1989, WWF released him.
Hulk Hogan was a household name at this point, which infuriated Graham, who was broke and in substantial pain; his hip was falling apart because of avascular necrosis brought on by his steroid abuse.
In 1990, Pennsylvania physician George Zahorian was indicted for illegally distributing steroids to wrestlers. His trial brought much negative publicity to World Wrestling Federation and eventually led to steroid-distribution charges against McMahon Jr. in federal court, where he was acquitted. While the feds were investigating the wrestling industry, Graham offered his services to the government, making phone calls to wrestlers in search of information he could flip to the feds. And Graham was just getting started.
He filed a lawsuit against Dr. Zahorian and WWF, alleging that they made him sick by forcing him to take steroids to maintain his position. Graham lost the suit, partly because he had been abusing steroids for a decade before entering WWF.
These events coincided with what was called the "ring boys" scandal, in which former WWF employees alleged that they had been sexually harassed by company officials. Tom Cole accused WWF ring announcer Mel Phillips of hiring him and other children from broken homes into the company so he could prey on them, then claimed that ex-wrestler Terry Garvin and Pat Patterson had harassed him, too. Phil Donahue invited Vince McMahon Jr. and several wrestling journalists onto his show to discuss the crisis. Graham heard about the program and invited himself onto the broadcast.
"I saw, on one occasion, in I believe New Haven, Connecticut, Pat Patterson actually grab one of these children in the crotch while putting up the ring," Graham charged on the show, to an incredulous look from McMahon. "I came to the arena, came a little bit early, and walking by the ring to the locker room, I saw Pat Patterson with his left arm on the kid's shoulder and his right hand in his crotch."
McMahon said the incident did not happen, that Graham had never brought such an incident to his attention. Graham has since admitted making up the story in an attempt to extort hush money from WWF.
All that his imagination earned him was a long exile from the only business that ever supported him. Graham wrote McMahon apologizing for his lies in the late 1990s, messages that went unanswered until Vince called Graham in the hospital just before his liver transplant.
Vince McMahon inducted Billy Graham into what was by then the World Wrestling Entertainment (the company went from WWF to WWE in 2002) Hall of Fame in March 2004, at Wrestlemania 20 in New York City. Graham attended Wrestlemania 21 with his two children in L.A., but by the time Wrestlemania 26 came to Phoenix in March 2010, Graham was no longer welcome.
In 2008, Graham got into a dispute with WWE over royalties from his autobiography, published by the company. Feeling shortchanged by the McMahons over the book, Graham sold his Hall of Fame ring on eBay in 2009 for $12,000, something he says "really pissed [McMahon] off."
"I needed some money," Graham says.
WWE ended its relationship with Graham in spring 2009. At this time, Linda McMahon was running for U.S. Senate as a Connecticut Republican. That summer, Graham limped into a Starbucks on Long Island and told a Hartford Courant reporter, "I am disgruntled. I am bitter. I am mad at Vince McMahon for not having healthcare. Absolutely print that. Absolutely, I'm bitter to the core."
Graham told the Courant that the McMahons' hands were "bloody" and claimed that he would make a T-shirt depicting Vince's wife with a razor blade taped to her finger and the slogan "Linda McMahon is a scam and is made out of spam."
He attacked WWE for shifting its television rating to TV-PG, which he claimed was designed to make Linda McMahon a more appealing candidate, or at least a less embarrassing one.
"I've never done this before," Graham told the newspaper. "There's passion in this one. There's a real issue of hypocrisy."
The truth, from WWE's perspective, was that Graham had a history of lying.
The Courant quoted a WWE representative saying Graham had a history of making false statements about the company while off the payroll and released records showing that Graham had just been removed from the payroll after a five-year stint. WWE attorney Jerry McDevitt said the company had "kept him on the payroll when he wasn't really doing anything to earn [his money]."
Months after the Courant article was published, Graham, incredibly, reached out to WWE to offer his services as a McMahon campaign spokesman. He offered privately to go out to schools and "be a representative of Linda in a professional way and as a beloved person in the wrestling community." He claimed he had changed his mind about Linda's being a "scam" once he found out the "seriousness" of his liver condition.