With an introduction that warns of content featuring the topic of suicide, this week’s Dark Side of the Ring is about as fitting an episode for the show’s name as any they’ve produced. For those that know the tragic story of Eddie Graham, his son Mike, and others in the family, they’ll understand the trigger warning. For those that don’t, “Breaking the Cycle: The Graham Dynasty” will take you on a head-spinning ride.
The show opens with a look at Championship Wrestling from Florida in its heady days. A popular promotion doing huge business with, as series stalwart Jim Cornette describes, a Graham was either in the main event or running the show, or both, all the time.
The next person to chime in is Nicole Gossett, daughter of Mike (but oddly billed as “Granddaughter of Eddie Graham”), who remembers wrestling running her family’s life, and the funny memory of heading into the living room to see which wrestler had crashed on their couch on that night.
Kevin Sullivan chimes in about Eddie’s brilliance and his school of hard knocks youth, confirmed by Graham family friend Dotty Curtis, widow of Don Curtis. Cornette details the teaming of Eddie and Dr. Jerry Graham, after which Eddie stuck with the Graham name for his career. There’s a little side journey by Cornette explaining Jerry’s volatile behaviour, culminating with his assault of the hospital in which his mother had just died, taking her body with him as he left.
Eddie decided it was time to break off from Jerry, and he then bought Championship Wrestling and produced it to huge success. While his wrestling mind was lauded, everybody also acknowledged his dedication to protecting the business, with Brian Blair and Sullivan relaying stories of Eddie sending them into matches with orders to break bones or make people bleed in the name of kayfabe.
Blair details that Eddie had shady business dealings outside of the wrestling, along with marriage troubles, while Curtis recalls an ever-worsening dependency on alcohol, and after Eddie turned 55 he took his own life. In recorded footage, Mike explains how he and his mother had to make the decision in the hospital to take Eddie off of life support.
With Championship Wrestling from Florida suffering in its business and closing up shop, Mike tries to continue in WCW but starts following the same path of alcoholism as his father. What seems like the setting up of Mike as the next tragic end in the Graham family is interrupted by Nicole describing the discovery of her brother, whom she calls her best friend, having committed suicide.
Nicole urges Mike to take care of himself, that the cycle has to stop for the sake of Nicole’s daughter. Mike says she’s right, but within two years he had also killed himself. Blair reveals that Eddie’s father and and brother also killed themselves, making it a nearly unbelievable pattern in the family. Nicole wonders if some people see it happening within their family and see it as a viable option since the people they love chose it.
Nicole finds her inner peace by focusing hard on the good times, of which there were many, and the love. She pays tribute to those that have gone, and loves the family connections to wrestling to wrestling fans. Dotty calls Nicole the legacy of the family, as Nicole describes the work she’s done to support groups to help anyone in trouble and to honour her family.
At the end of an episode that featured very little in-ring wrestling content is a strong, positive coda to an overwhelmingly harrowing family story.
Stay with SlamWrestling.net for reviews of future episodes of Dark Side of the Ring.
- Oct. 20, 2012: Mike Graham dead at 61
- May 20, 2010: Mike Graham booker DVD more of a shoot
- Slam Wrestling’s Dark Side of the Ring story and review archive