Tangled Ropes by Billy Graham

July 5, 2019

One of the better WWE-authorised autobiographies, this appears to be a notably honest account, albeit one framed by the warm relationship Graham had with WWE at the time of its writing.

As with the Blassie and Lawler books, this stands out not so much for the writing, although that’s perfectly fine thanks to ghostwriter Keith Elliot Greenberg. Instead the key is Graham having had a deep and varied career in multiple territories and thus having unfamiliar stories to tell. It’s almost two-thirds in to the book before he even starts his WWWF title run.

The honesty covers both Graham’s extensive, almost pioneering drug use (and the accompanying medical consequences) and his assessment of his strengths and shortcomings as a performer.

He also details his frustration at dropping the title to Bob Backlund in 1978 — something planned a year earlier before Graham even won the belt — rather than Vince McMahon Sr changing plans to capitalize on his obvious drawing power and potential to turn babyface. Whether it’s simply his own approach or the guiding hand of Greenberg, Graham comes across as rational here, rather than sounding like he is motivated by bitterness.

The conclusion of the book deals with his involvement in the steroid scandals and the accusations he made about the promotion and then withdrew.  Here there definitely seems to be a company line in play as, in expressing his regret, Graham concentrates largely on the legal and factual issues of whether McMahon and company broke specific laws in specific circumstances and less about whether the culture of the company put unfair, if merely implicit, pressure on wrestlers to use steroids.

That notwithstanding, Tangled Ropes is most definitely worth your time and money whether you’re a Graham fan or somebody who is not familiar with his brief  but spectacular run on top.

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