FLASHBACK: The 1972 Pro Wrestling Illustrated (PWI), Rookie of the Year; Mike Graham

In 1972, Pro Wrestling Illustrated selected grappler Mike Graham as their first ever “Rookie of the Year”,  the Award being published in the 1972 Sports Revue Wrestling Annual and  the Sports Review Spring editions.

Graham, born Michael Gossett in Tampa Florida on September 22, 1951,  is better known in his wrestling career as Michael Graham, the son of wrestler and promoter Eddie Graham.

The 1972 ‘Rookie of the Year’ began following in his father’s footsteps at an early age that led to a Florida high school state championship in his senior year in 1969 for Robinson High School, in Tampa Florida.  Ironically, in the District finals, to qualify for state Gossett faced a sophomore, Richard Blood, defeating him by one point. Blood, would win the state title himself two years later and would go on to gain success and fame in profession wrestling as Ricky “the Dragon” Steamboat.

Three years after school Michael began his wrestling career working for his father’s Championship Wrestling from Florida, which at the time was a National Wrestling Alliance territory.

He left Florida in 1981 and began wrestling for the American Wrestling Association and is best known for his feud with Buck Zumhofe has they battled for the AWA Light Heavyweight Championship for the next two years.

Over the next few years, he would bounce back and forth from Florida and the AWA, winning the AWA Light Heavyweight Title again in 1988, before heading to Memphis to wrestle primarily as a tag team with Steve Keirn, before teaming up with Dusty Rhodes, “the American Dream” to wrestle in the newly named Florida Championship Wrestling.

By the 1990s, Graham’s wrestling career was winding down and he began working as a road agent for World Championship Wrestling and was a trainer for the WCW Power Plant.

In 1993, Michael had the honor of representing his father who was inducted into the WCW Hall of Fame and again later when his father was inducted into WWE Hall of Fame in 2008.

Graham didn’t enjoy the long term fame and success of Ricky “the Dragon” Steamboat, or the Rookies of the Years, that followed him in the 1970s, including; Bob Orton & Tony Garea (73); Larry Zbyszko (74); Ric Flair (75); Bob Backland (76); Ricky Steamboat (77) and Tommy Rich (78), but he did have a distinguished career winning the following titles;

Despite all his success in and out of the ring, on October 19, 2012, Graham was found dead by his wife of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head at their residence in Daytona Beach, Florida. His father and son had committed suicide in similar manners on January 21, 1985 and December 14, 2010, respectively.

 

 

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