When Bill Anderson asked me to provide some words of introduction for his new book about pro wrestling I was both honored and daunted. Honored because the writer of the pages you are about to read is a man as big in heart and integrity as he is in stature, a good and loving friend of twenty five years as well as a fellow native of this city of Phoenix. As for being daunted by the task, who would not be a little nervous after being told that Big Bill Anderson Remembers His Fallen Friends of Wrestling is the title of this new publication?

Superstar Billy Graham’s wrote the foreword to Big Bill Anderson Remembers… His Fallen Friends of Wrestling.

It’s not just daunting to write about fellow wrestlers who have now left this earth and stepped out into eternity. If all of them had been like my old friends John Minton (Big John Studd), Peter Maivia and Ernie Ladd, who fell victim to cancer, the curse of the modern world, Big Bills book would be in the same class as other tributes to deceased celebrities. But the truth is that the sting of death has been so much sharper and crueler for many members of my former profession than for other members of society. I’ve simply lost count of the number of times a thick pall of gloom has blackened my day as I’ve learned of yet another pro wrestler whose life was snuffed out far too early by that terrible plague of our times: drug addiction.

And here sad to say I speak from bitter experience. Pro wrestling has not had a good press, and it’s easy to understand why. A profession still not far removed from its origins in carnival sideshows, a business built on the selling of illusion and on money grubbing of the crassest kind. Worst of all, to excel at their craft, professional wrestlers have to be perpetually in peak physical condition and since the Superstar Billy Graham revolution look like Greek gods, and the only way to turn yourself into a latter-day Hercules or Prometheus is to surrender to the powerful lure of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. As we all know, these drugs, like Satan himself, promise and duly deliver strength, superhuman energy and euphoria. What they don’t promise, but truly deliver for many, is death. Through the grace of God I have so far survived this holocaust, whereas others have succumbed, like my dear friend Eddie Guerrero whose heart literally exploded from the effects of human growth hormone. And here I think of so many other wrestlers I loved and respected who were prematurely snatched out of this world, men like Michael Hegstrand (the Road Warriors Hawk) and Louie Spicolli (Louis Mucciolo).

Since the death of kayfabe in the early 1990s the rehearsed nature of pro wrestling matches is no longer a trade secret. Yet it’s too much of a simplification of the facts to say that pro wrestling isn’t real: the pain, sprains, injuries, accidents and effects of drug abuse are only too real, and what could be more real than the tragedy of an untimely death?

Like Big Bill, I cherish the hope that each of the men and women honored in this book found the saving light of faith at least in their final moments on earth, whatever their personal shortcomings and the disastrous life choices they made. (But we all know that the flesh is weak, and what can be expected from decades in the murky world of pro wrestling which, believe me, is no school of virtue?). So please spare some kind thoughts and maybe a prayer or twofer the larger-than-life but now sadly departed characters celebrated in these pages. As you reach the last page, I’m sure you too will join me in paying tribute to Big Bill Anderson for his act of faith in the capacity of talented individuals to continue moving and inspiring us beyond the grave. As Bill himself has told me: Death is the end for many. Some are totally forgotten by the world. But I certainly have not forgotten my friends and others who touched my heart.

Yes, human life is fragile and precarious, death can visit us when we least expect it, and whether we want to believe it or not, we will all be judged for the good and the evil we’ve done during our stay on this planet: For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night (1 Thes. 5:2). The cornerstone of my friendship with Big Bill Anderson is the Christian faith we share, and these words of St Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians are never far from our minds. But you don’t need to be a confessing Christian to enjoy this book and maybe even be changed by it. For as Abraham Lincoln said: “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. And these men and women were nothing if not lively and life-loving.”