'Superstar' Billy Graham, WWE Hall of Famer, dies at 79

WWE Hall of Famer "Superstar" Billy Graham died Wednesday at age 79, WWE announced.

Graham, who was born Eldridge Wayne Coleman, ended Bruno Sammartino's second title run in 1977. He held the championship for nearly a year with defenses against Dusty Rhodes, Gorilla Monsoon and "High Chief" Peter Maivia before he dropped the title to Bob Backlund.

A pioneer of the over-the-top promos that came to define pro wrestling, Graham also possessed the sort of hulking physique that became the prototype for WWE champions.

The bodybuilder once shared the cover of "Muscle and Fitness" with Arnold Schwarzenegger and could bench press 605 pounds. He also competed in strongman contests.

As champion, Graham was a reliable attraction who could sell out arenas for the then-WWWF. Graham also helped popularize the outlandish wrestling look, often sporting tie-dyed tights along with gaudy earrings and dyeing his hair a different color than his trademark goatee.

"The Superstar Billy Graham just left us," WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair tweeted. "Thank you for all your influence on my career."

Graham battled health issues for years. He underwent a liver transplant in 2002 and was on life support leading up to his death as he dealt with organ failure, diabetes and other issues.

He retired from in-ring competition in 1987 at age 44 and became an on-screen manager.

Triple H inducted Graham into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.