Posted by James Tee
Hello everybody and welcome to WrestlingNews.net. This feature will give you, the readers, the chance to take a look at the legacy left by the soon-to-be 2013 class WWE Hall of Famers. We will attempt to do so by summarizing the most important matches, moments or periods in their respective careers. This week’s edition will retrace the career of the wrestler with the second longest WWE Championship run in history, Bob Backlund.
General Statistics (Limited to WWE, WCW, NWA, AWA, TNA & ECW)
- World Titles: 2x WWE Champion (1x WWWF Champion, 1x WWF Champion)
- Tag Titles: 1x WWF Tag Team Champion
- Regional Titles: 3x NWA Western States Heavyweight Champion, 1x NWA Missouri Heavyweight Champion, 1x NWA Florida Tag Team Champion, 1x NWA Georgia Tag Team Champion
- Awards: PWHF Hall of Famer (class of 2008), 2x PWI Wrestler of the Year (1980, 1982), PWI #7 best singles wrestler of the PWI Years
Career & Notable Gimmicks
Coming off as a former Division II NCAA Champion in amateur wrestling, Bob Backlund climbed the ranks as a fan-favorite as soon as he started his career in 1973. In fact, Backlund gained a lot of support thanks to his technical background as well as his friendly look that earned him the nickname Howdy Doody. After competing in the AWA and NWA regional territories, Backlund joined the WWWF where he was managed by Arnold Skaaland, the same manager who backed Bruno Sammartino. His first major rivalry with the cocky “Superstar” Billy Graham earned him tremendous support and, later on, his long run with the WWWF Championship. By the early 80s, however, his reign grew superCena-stale and started drawing negative reactions until he lost the title.
Backlund left in 1984 and returned to a more evolved version of the WWF in 1992 where he seemed out of touch. This would culminate in a heel turn in 1994 when he regained some momentum but lost in controversial fashion to Bret Hart in a title match. He thus switched his old babyface gimmick to a very unstable character that often lost control of himself only to be shocked for attacking his opponents. His feud with Bret Hart culminated in a second WWF Championship reign late in 1994 at Survivor Series. Three days later, he lost it to Kevin Nash in the shortest WWF/WWE Championship match ever (Toe kick, Jacknife Powerbomb, 1-2-3).
Second Longest WWWF/WWF/WWE Champion
It is a secret to no one that big wrestling promotions did not hold as many events as today. Consequently, long title reigns could last for months or even years, and Bob Backlund is just one of many wrestlers who have reached this milestone in pro wrestling. Bob Backlund’s first title reign came in 1978 at the expense of Billy Graham after a year of “unfair” losses and draws. It lasted 2135 days, but it should be noted that a title change occurred by the end of 1979 in Japan as Antonio Inoki defeated Backlund before vacating the title.
As previously mentioned, Backlund’s near six year title run resulted in heat from the fans and received the award for “most overrated wrestler” by The Wrestling Observer in 1983. Meanwhile, the WWF was pushing Hulk Hogan to strap him. As a result, they asked Backlund to turn heel and lose to Hogan in a passing of the torch. When Backlund refused the heel turn, he lost to The Iron Sheik who served as a transitional champion to Hogan. Hulkamania was born, and the rest is history.
Marathon Inter-Promotional Matches
During his reign as WWWF/WWF Champion, Bob Backlund had the chance to face several other world champions from other organizations. The first one was against Harley Race, then the NWA World Heavyweight Champion, in what was perceived as a rare superfight. The match ended in a 60-minute draw so that both wrestlers could keep their respective titles. Unfortunately, as no company was willing to let their champion lose to the champion of a rival promotion, all of these inter-promotional matches ended with no winner in a way or another. Notable matches include his fight against AWA World Heavyweight Champion Nick Bockwinkel, NWF Champion Antonio Inoki, NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair, and a total of four battles against another NWA champion Harley Race.
His Legendary Matches
1978 PWI Match of the Year – Bob Backlund vs “Superstar” Billy Graham (February 20th)
1982 PWI Match of the Year – Bob Backlund vs Jimmy Snuka – Cage Match (June 28th)
Bob Backlund vs Iron Sheik – WWF Championship (December 26th, 1983)
Bob Backlund vs Bret Hart – I Quit Match (WrestleMania XI)
Bob Backlund vs Bret Hart – “Throw in the towel” Submission Match for the WWF Championship (Survivor Series 1994)
All in all, he may not have had the most sophisticated gimmicks in pro wrestling, but his in-ring performances and crowd support definitely plays in his favor. Congratulations to Bob Backlund for yet another achievement. As for you the readers, we will meet next week with a piece about the most successful WWE Woman’s Champion of all time, Trish Stratus.
Ilyass Garara, for WrestlingNews.net
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