In singles action, Mike won the Florida title, Florida TV title, NWA Southeast United States Junior Heavyweight title, AWA World Light Heavyweight title and the NWA International Junior title.
Mike competed on indie shows for many years after he stepped away from a regular schedule.
I recall Mike working an FOW show — actually a huge indie show with more than 3,000 fans — at the (South Florida) Davie Bergeron Rodeo Arena in 2002. He wrestled Chris Charger, a young talent. (Charger is currently the football coach at Coconut Creek-Monarch High School). Graham was gracious enough to give some insight on the business.
Mike said young wrestlers like Charger would approach him backstage before the match to go over their match. Mike would say to them, “Do you know how to do an armbar?” They would answer, “Yes.” Then Mike would add, “All right. You know a headlock?” Without hesitation, they again responded, feeling more confident, “Yes.” Mike would then pat them on the shoulder and say, “OK kid, see you out there.”
Old school wrestlers like Mike wouldn’t choreograph a match backstage, move for move. They did their magic in the ring with the bad guy (heel) or veteran grappler leading the match, communicating in the ring without the crowd knowing. It’s an art form.
As a wrestler, Mike spoke to younger talent after matches.
Behind the scenes, he often lent his knowledge to others, working as a road agent for WCW, training up-n-comers at WCW’s Power Plant, appearing on WWE DVDs and serving as guest panelist on WWE’s 24/7 Legends of Wrestling series. He also hosted classic episodes of Championship Wrestling from Florida on WWE 24/7 Classics. Most recently, he co-hosted an Internet (IHeart Radio) and Central Florida radio show (WHNZ 1250 AM), based in Tampa, focusing on CWF’s history.
A resident of Indian Rocks Beach near Clearwater, Mike was very hard on himself, after he tried to follow in his father’s footsteps behind the scenes in Florida.
Mike took over the business from his father, who committed suicide in 1985. Times were changing then with the lucrative territories dissolving as Verne Gagne’s AWA, Jim Crockett’s NWA and Vince McMahon’s WWF went national. The territories phased out. The AWA attempted to merge with World Class and Memphis, before disbanding. The NWA faded away, and Ted Turner’s WCW emerged, before WWF won the war as the sole survivor.
Mike’s father, who generously supported charities like the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch and AAU wrestling (amateur, high school, college), battled some demons. Mike was there through it all -- the good and not so good.
Mike not only dealt with the death of his father but also his son, Steven, who also committed suicide. That’s tough for anyone.
Mike was a good son, husband and father and a good wrestler. As a fan watching Championship Wrestling from Florida, you rooted for Mike, an underdog able to capture the hearts of fans. Whether it was the Miami Beach Convention Center, Fort Lauderdale National Guard Armory, West Palm Beach Auditorium or Tampa’s Fort Hesterly Amory among other Florida venues, Mike Graham gave his all each time, and fans and wrestlers remember.
• Jack and Jerry Brisco, the Brisco brothers, lived in Florida and loved wrestling there. WWE Hall of Famers, the Brisco brothers were outstanding in singles and tag team action especially during the years, working for Eddie Graham in Championship Wrestling from Florida.