This week marks the return of Vice Studios’ critically acclaimed wrestling documentary Dark Side of the Ring. For the third episode of the fourth season. The Graham Dynasty and all the struggles and tribulations that the family went through during their time in wrestling, as well as behind the scenes, were the focus of the series. Here’s what we took away from the episode.
The mention of suicide in this episode of “Dark Side of the Ring” prompted a content warning.
Championship Wrestling from Florida was a National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) member and a highly successful region. The firm hosted enormous shows and drew a significant number of spectators who came to watch the organization’s best players compete. Many of those top talents were members of the Graham family, who worked for the organization in various positions as both promoters and performers over the years.
Eddie Graham expected everyone to be tough
Jim Cornette begins the broadcast by discussing the Graham family’s influence and legacy, beginning with Eddie Graham. Eddie was a Florida legend, a dynamic wrestler, and a leader. He was a tough guy who valued kayfabe and expected his wrestlers to preserve the business and always demonstrate their toughness, including breaking people’s bones during matches when required.
Eddie Graham was named after Dr. Jerry Graham, who played Eddie’s kayfabe brother in a successful tag team. They would then proceed to the big event, Madison Square Garden.
Dr. Jerry was possessed by Demons
Dr. Jerry Graham, according to Cornette, “got in a lot of trouble and caused a lot of trouble.” He also battled alcoholism and mental problems. When Jerry’s mother died in the hospital, he arrived armed with pistols and knives, fired at the doctor, and dragged her body out of the facility.
Eddie Graham essentially seized control of the state of Florida
Eddie Graham later left the partnership with Dr. Jerry and traveled to Florida, eventually taking over the region and turning it into a big success. He was not only successful as a promoter, but he was also respected by other promoters. As a result, he was elected President of the NWA twice.
According to Kevin Sullivan, “Eddie was involved in everything.” Some of these actions landed him in hot water, including some potentially unethical business dealings.
He also had a major drinking problem. As his ring career ended and his celebrity waned, his demeanor altered, his drunkenness worsened, and he eventually committed suicide.
In Several Ways, Mike Graham Followed in His Father’s Footsteps
Eddie’s son, Mike Graham, looked up to his father and held him to high standards. He expected a lot from him in the ring, and while Mike was a superb worker, he wasn’t the promotion’s top guy, though Cornette speculates that Mike didn’t want to be the top guy because he was the promoter’s son.
Mike took over the Florida territory after Eddie died, but the task grew more difficult when Dusty Rhodes left for Jim Crockett Promotions, Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) began to develop, and the territories began to perish. The Florida territory would soon be bankrupt. Mike Graham went on to wrestle for World Championship Wrestling (WCW), but had little success there.
Mike Grahan not only followed in his father’s footsteps into wrestling, but he also inherited many of his father’s terrible traits. For example, both Grahams kept their emotions to themselves, which had tragic results. Mike did the same thing Eddie did: he bottled up his emotions. He, like his father, struggled with alcohol.
Unfortunately, tragic suicides ran in the family
Mike’s son, Steven, tragically, struggled with his own troubles and committed suicide in 2010. As is often the case with mental illness and suicide, no one in the episode knows or understands what happened, but Steven’s sister Nicole theorized that when one family member considers suicide, it remains on the minds of other family members as well.
Naturally, Mike battled with his kid’s loss, blaming himself and being extremely critical of himself for the deaths of both his father and his son. He would die in the same manner as his father and son: by suicide.
The family was caught in a horrible cycle of grief that no one could manage to break. Eddie’s father and brother both committed suicide. Four generations and five males, all of whom committed suicide.