Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mike Graham [RF Video Shoot Interview]

The Good
I had never heard Mike Graham talk much more than the pieces on the Florida DVDs that were released years ago, but I just knew he'd be an excellent shoot interview. On those, he seemed laid back and personable with a good sense of humor that makes for an enjoyable shoot interview. I also had heard from many of his peers (Kevin Sullivan being most notable) that he was very smart about the business and so I expected he could get into some of the booking and psychology aspects as well. Moreover, Mike Graham grew up as a second-generation wrestler and his father, Eddie, is regarded as one of the best bookers in the business. Finally, the peak and fall of Championship Wrestling from Florida was something Mike lived through and was inarguably impacted by. All of these factor made this the definitive shoot interview about the peak and fall of pro-wrestling in Florida. Yes, I have heard many legends of Florida talk about it from Dusty Rhodes and Jack Brisco to Kevin Sullivan and Sir Oliver Humperdink, but Mike Graham just has that in-the-bubble mentality that provides for deep insight, passionate comments and an overarching view that those others lacked because of their extensive careers elsewhere. The angles, the booking, the characters, the hot periods, the cold periods and all the rest of it are covered here. Mike also peppers this with great road stories about Dick Slater, Terry Funk and other legendary characters who passed through Florida. This shoot interview reaches a climax of sorts when Eddie Graham's suicide is covered. People have attributed Eddie's decline to poor business decisions, the change of the pro-wrestling scene, the departure of Dusty Rhodes and many of his top stars, problems with a mistress and perhaps his own body breaking down, Mike gives credence to all of these to an extent. He gives an emotional remembrance, but also gives the details. While you may not have enjoyed Mike Graham as a performer and might find some his claims (see below) to be a bit much, one has to admit that he does a great job here and delivers one of the best shoot interviews I've ever experienced.

The Bad
Mike Graham grew up in and became a central figure in Florida like Greg Gagne, the Von Erichs, the Harts, the Fullers, Captain Ed George and many others did in their respective territories. Like many of those aforementioned talents, he never really left home until he had to. Now some people might see Mike Graham's claims as lofty. He credits himself for giving Eric Bischoff the formula that took WCW in a more successful direction in the mid-90s. He says he called out Sid Vicious, Chris Benoit and such, but they backed down. He seems to allude to some admittedly outrageous stories that he can't get into because it would hurt certain parties, which seem to be tales of pro-wrestling wild side. I suppose much of that could be true, but many of his more grandiose comments have never been told by others (that I've heard) and while he is generally well-regarded by his peers, I'm frustrated that many of his eyebrow-raising statements are being heard for the first time. I am not going to say that Mike Graham is a liar and is just focused on putting himself, his father and Championship Wrestling from Florida over, but his comments certainly do that.

The Rating: *****

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