Jerry Brisco, who later worked behind the scenes for WWE, said: “I am really saddened about it. It’s a tremendous loss for Florida Championship Wrestling.”
Jerry mentioned how Mike set a bench press record as a teenager in Florida.
“He was small, but the strength he had was phenomenal,” Jerry said. “Lifting 500 pounds, bench press, in the 1970s, that was amazing.”
Mike also had agility and speed, a good athlete.
“Competing against the big guys [in wrestling], his quickness helped him, but really it was his strength. He was as strong or stronger than some of the bigger guys we had on the [CWF] roster.”
Mike started in the business, working for his father, Eddie, who was the booker, owner, promoter.
“It helped Mike, and it hindered Mike,” Brisco said. “He was pigeon-holed because he was Eddie’s son. Eddie took care of him, but Mike earned the respect of the roster because of his strength and his ability in the ring. He was always battling that stereotype when new guys came in, but Mike just went out and earned it each time.
“Mike’s matches were always 100 percent. Eddie taught all the smaller guys [like Mike] to fight from the bottom as a babyface underdog. It was a great philosophy, and Mike had that philosophy in the ring, and he gained so much respect for that.”
Childhood friends, Mike Graham and Steve Keirn formed a successful, young tag team in Championship Wrestling from Florida.
“Mike Graham and Steve Keirn were a Top 10 tag team in Florida,” Jerry said. “Eddie was kind of a father figure for Steve when he was growing up, and Eddie took him into the business. It was a natural storyline for Mike and Steve to tag team. Two young, good looking guys, who grew up together.”
When Eddie shot himself in 1985, Mike tried to carry the CWF banner.
“When Eddie passed away, took his life, it was a very difficult time for Mike,” Jerry said. “Mike tried to take over [CWF] at a time when Vince [McMahon] was expanding. It was a tough time in the business. It was very hard on Mike. He was very disappointed. It was a time that was almost impossible for anyone to make it.”
During earlier, better times in CWF, the Brisco brothers worked a program with Mike Graham and Steve Keirn.
“That was a great time,” Jerry said. “They’re over. We’re over. Let’s have quality matches. Jack and I made a proposal to Eddie about doing that. Let us work with Steve and Mike. What actually started as a fundraiser show for the University of Florida wrestling program in Gainesville turned into a [CWF] program [good vs. good].
“Mike would battle you. He wasn’t cocky. He was confident in his abilities and himself. He would go out and try to wrestle Jack and I, but against us he would end up looking at the lights every night.”
That elicited fond memories between them.
“I was just on Mike’s radio show a few weeks ago,” Jerry said, “and he talked about how much of a learning experience that was for him and how he enjoyed it.”
• WWE Hall of Famer and former NWA champ Dory Funk Jr. said: “Eddie Graham was the owner and genius behind the success of the Florida territory. The foundation of his territory was built on wrestling and credibility of the wrestlers who worked for him. If you wanted to break into the wrestling business in Florida, you had to prove yourself as a wrestler first.