Linda McMahon, in her campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, has repeatedly distanced herself from the business that made her rich and propelled her aspiring political career - professional wrestling.

In TV commercials and campaign brochures, McMahon mentions that she operated a highly successful business with her husband that had once gone bankrupt. But the commercials never mention wrestling.

Now, one of the best-known champion wrestlers of the 1970s and '80s is bursting from behind the curtain, vaulting the ropes and trying to disrupt the match in progress - an annoyance and political distraction that McMahon does not need.

Superstar Billy Graham is speaking out against the woman he says made millions from the violence, sexual exploitation, blood and excesses of professional wrestling. What outrages him particularly, he says, are recent attempts to sanitize the wrestling mega-enterprise whose sexy women wrestlers once performed in "lingerie matches" and were still posing nude in Playboy as recently as 2008. He views this toning down as a huge act of hypocrisy - an attempt to graft a family-friendly face onto a business that has been anything but.

After operating the highly successful World Wrestling Entertainment empire for years with her husband, Vince, Linda McMahon has resigned as chief executive officer and is campaigning full time against four fellow Republicans for the right to face Dodd in November 2010.

Graham makes no bones about his love-hate relationship with the McMahons, which started years before Linda McMahon emerged as a candidate for public office. The WWE, an attorney for Vince McMahon and Linda McMahon's campaign all denounce Graham as a bitter former employee with zero credibility.

Nonetheless, his promise to dog her campaign threatens to keep the gritty and, to many, unsavory aspects of professional wrestling's past a part of McMahon's run for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

GRAPPLING WITH MCMAHON

Graham, now 66, limped slowly on the short walk toward the front door at a local Starbucks on Long Island, clearly favoring his left leg.

Only seconds after Graham stepped out of his car, a middle-aged woman recognized him and said hello - a common occurrence for the former wrestling champion who signs autographs regularly despite retiring two decades ago. He was staying on Long Island recently at the home of his agent during a New York-area tour that included several autograph- signing sessions for fans.

Known for his charisma, Graham was a close friend of Hall-of-Famer Andre the Giant and grappled against most of the best-known wrestlers of his era: Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund, Gorilla Monsoon, Haystacks Calhoun, Chief Jay Strongbow and many others.

He still accepts the adulation of rabid fans, but the praise for the wrestling legend came at a price - six hip replacements and five hip dislocations he attributes to taking massive amounts of steroids that built his body to super-human proportions and allowed him to bench-press 600 pounds. Graham is lucky to be alive after receiving a liver transplant that he needed, he said, because he contracted hepatitis C from the blood of another wrestler.

Graham is furious about having no pension and no continuing health care from his wrestling career, an anger that fuels his campaign against McMahon's candidacy.

"She may look like a Sunday school teacher," Graham said, but he insists nothing could be further from the truth. "Linda McMahon's hands are as bloody as her husband's because she is aware of every move in the ring," he said.

The WWE, Vince McMahon's attorney and the campaign all dismissed Graham as a loose cannon who is firing in multiple directions and is not credible. They say he is a former employee who has become disgruntled and bitter regarding the McMahons. Her campaign spokesman, Ed Patru, said, "That rhetoric is so over the top and so outrageous that it's not credible and not believable."

Graham admits that he is disgruntled and bitter. But he is also beside himself, watching as Linda McMahon sells herself to a Connecticut electorate with little mention of her professional wrestling past. He said he feels compelled to call her out on behalf of Connecticut voters - and he plans to do so by traveling to the state next summer on a regular basis.

It is not just the candidate who is changing her colors, Graham said.

Since McMahon, 61, announced her campaign in mid-September, Graham said, there have been three immediate, major changes in the professional wrestling business.

First, in a sport where bleeding was once commonplace, blood has been virtually banished from the ring. Graham said he cut himself with a razor blade 300 to 400 times in his decadeslong career. Said Graham: "She has had no problem with grown men - myself included - cutting their head with a razor blade. All of a sudden, why aren't these guys bleeding anymore? Because Linda is running for the Senate."