Wrestler of the Day – August 2: Bob Backlund

We’re going old school today with a man I met three times over Wrestlemania weekend: Bob Backlund.

Backlund started in 1973 but we’ll pick things up on August 28, 1978 in MSG. Backlund is already WWF World Champion (only clips of the win exist) and defending against one of the top guys of the 1970s.

WWF World Title: Bob Backlund vs. Ivan Koloff

Bob is defending and Ivan has Captain Lou Albano, an old heel manager with him. Backlund has only been champion about six months at this point. The name graphic leaves the A out of Backlund’s name. Backlund backdrops him to start as the crowd goes very silent for some reason. A headscissors puts Ivan down and Backlund holds on with a leg vice around Ivan’s head. They go to the mat and Backlund bridges up in a nice power display.

Ivan puts him on the top rope but gets kicked away. Off to another standoff and it’s test of strength time. Backlund goes down but comes back with a top wristlock, only to get caught in a headscissors. This goes on for a few minutes until Bob does a reverse nipup to escape. He dropkicks Ivan down and hooks a headscissors of his own as this is getting repetitive. Then again this is the way a lot of these matches went back then so this would be considered a big deal back then.

Backlund takes him back down again but gets caught in headscissors #4 of the match so far. Backlund finally gets out of that one as well and works on the knee a bit. Somehow we’re over fifteen minutes into this despite almost nothing happening other than headscissors so far. Bob stays on the leg and hooks a hold on for a few minutes. That’s another sign of the times: holds stay on FOREVER. I mean this one has been on for nearly four minutes at this point.

It finally gets broken up and Ivan suplexes him down for two. The idea of selling an injury must not have been invented yet. Or maybe it just doesn’t translate into Russian. Ivan hooks a short arm scissors but Bob shows off his surprising strength by lifting Ivan up into the air and over his head, slamming him down onto the mat back first to break the hold.

Bob puts him on the top rope to counter and hooks something like a spinning toehold. Thankfully this one lasts less than the usual two hours with Ivan kicking him in the ribs. Ivan sends him into the ropes but they ram heads, sending Bob to the floor. Koloff is smart and breaks up the count so he can still win the title. Backlund gets rammed into the post and a backbreaker gets two.

Ivan goes up top for the biggest pop from the crowd(and possibly the only one so far) of the match but his top rope knee drop misses. Backlund sends him in but gets kicked down again, this time back to the floor again. Koloff breaks up the count again, this time by going up top and jumping down onto the apron, kicking Bob in the head on the way down. That would be considered a big spot back then.

Backlund is busted open and we have to have the doctor look at it. That doesn’t work so the fight continues. Backlund goes off as he is known to do and Ivan is in trouble. A backdrop puts the challenger down…and the match is stopped because of the cut. Trash fills the ring and I can’t quite say I blame them for that.

Rating: C-. The ending was stupid but it had more to do with the athletic commission rather than the booking or anything. That being said, it made no sense to say Backlund can’t continue when he was beating the tar out of Koloff but whatever. Also, this match was fairly boring as I was looking for things to talk about during those rest holds which went on forever. I know it’s a different era, but that doesn’t make it any less dull.

Backlund wants to keep going but Ivan walks away. The title doesn’t change hands for some reason even though Ivan wins.

Against the first Intercontinental Champion in a cage on September 24, 1979 in MSG.

WWF World Title: Bob Backlund vs. Pat Patterson

This is from September of 79 apparently. Patterson is the IC Champion here and is a cage match expert but Backlund has never been in one. Patterson was more or less the top heel in the company by default here. They start off fast as Backlund is all fired up here. Patterson tries to get out early and that goes nowhere.

Both guys get incredibly close but can’t get all the way out. Patterson almost gets out with Backlund literally dragging him back over the top by a single leg. They keep fighting to try to get out as this is definitely more about winning than violence which is fine. We clip the match to them being on the mat and Patterson hammers away on a cut on Backlund’s head. From what I can find only about three minutes out of 16 total were clipped so we get the vast majority here.

Patterson is busted too. Vince calls the WWF Champion a gallant lad. That’s sweet. Patterson goes into the cage and Backlund goes for the kill. He winds up going into the cage though so forget about that I guess. Backlund gets the atomic drop which was one of his signature moves at the time. I guess Lombardi will have to be gentle tonight.

Patterson finds some brass knuckles and they go up. Pat can’t get a shot with them and both guys go down. And then Backlund kicks Patterson in the head and the force of the kick launches Backlund backwards through the cage door and out to the floor. Patterson FREAKS in the ring after that even though he did nothing but lose cleanly. I guess that’s why he’s a heel.

Rating: B. Very solid match here with both guys beating the tar out of each other. Backlund was at this best at the end of a feud where he had to go off to beat someone and that’s what he did here. This was either their fourth or fifth match against each other and Patterson had beaten him before. This was fun stuff though and it worked very well.

Time for an assortment of Backlund defenses, most of which will be in MSG. From December 17, 1979.

WWF World Title: Bob Backlund vs. Bobby Duncum

This is a Texas death match but I’m not sure if we’re going by what that traditionally means or if it’s just a No DQ match. In a traditional match you pin the guy and they have ten seconds to get up. Think last man standing but you have to pin to get a count started. The President of the WWF, Hisashi Shinma, holds up the title. This is where things get confusing: the WWF didn’t acknowledge the title ever leaving Backlund so the fans have no idea what is going on.

It appears that this is just a No DQ match. LONG feeling out period to start as we just wait around for something substantial to happen. Backlund gets a headlock and holds onto that for awhile. So DEADLY. This is a regular match so far as we hit the headlock one more time for fun. Backlund is put together which is really surprising considering how basic he would be known for looking like.

He CRANKS on that thing though and it looks painful if nothing else. The problem is that it’s just a headlock. Backlund goes over the top and over the rail as this picks up some much needed steam. No count outs either here. And then a sunset flip ends this. WHAT THE HECK? That’s it??? The crowd pops like crazy but I have no idea why as this was REALLY boring.

Rating: D-. As a regular match this was pretty good but as a death match this is about as close to a failure as you can get without being one. The pop of the crowd is the only reason I popped it up a bit. The big spot was a backdrop over the top rope. I have no idea why this was supposed to be a big deal but it just didn’t work at all. If it was a regular match it would have been decent but as a death match match it was horrible.

Still in New York on May 19, 1980.

WWF World Title: Bob Backlund vs. Ken Patera

Pater is defending Intercontinental Champion and this is officially a death match, which means anything goes. Patera allows his manager, the Grand Wizard, to remove his warmup gear. Backlund is immediately sent to the floor and stomped down as Patera stands tall. The champion (only Backlund will be referred to as champion for the sake of simplicity) comes right back and sends Patera out to the floor before pounding him on the way back in. Backlund punches him in the head and chokes away with the ropes a bit.

Ken comes back with a front facelock which he transitions into a chinlock to keep control. Backlund fight up but has his shoulder sent into the post to stop the comeback dead in its tracks. Paters tries to send the shoulder in again but gets sent face first into the buckle instead. A backdrop puts Bob on the floor and the champion is in trouble. Back in and Patera drops a top rope double ax handle for two.

Off to a bearhug by Ken who is a very strong man in his own right. Backlund finally escapes with a right hand and the atomic drop to send Patera into the ropes. A jumping piledriver gets a close two count on Patera and a suplex gets the same. Backlund is whipped into the Tree of Woe (hanging upside down in the corner) where Patera chokes away. The champion is dropped throat first on the top rope for two but he comes back with a fast rollup for two.

A suplex by Patera gets a delayed one count and both guys are exhausted. Backlund avoids a charge in the corner and hooks an abdominal stretch. The hold stays on for awhile but Patera makes the rope. It doesn’t matter in this kind of a match though so Ken hip tosses Backlund up and over to the floor. Once outside Patera hits Backlund in the head with the title belt to knock the champion silly. The champion is busted open and after he gets back in, Patera pounds him right back to the floor.

Back in once again and Backlund gets in a kick to the chest to put both guys down. The champion is back up first and is all fired up. He throws Ken out to the floor and sends him into the steel barricade and then into the post. Now Patera is busted open and Backlund pounds away at the cut. The challenger comes back with a low blow to get himself a breather and now it’s Backlund in trouble. Patera goes up top but gets slammed back down to the mat. A middle rope punch by Backlund gets two but Patera sends him back to the floor.

Backlund gets hit in the face with a chair and we head back inside, only for Patera to miss a chair shot in the corner. Now Backlund gets the chair and smashes it over Ken’s head twice in a row, but THAT only gets two. Bob goes up to the top rope again and a high cross body is FINALLY enough to keep Patera down and retain the title.

Rating: A. Yeah it was just the other opponents. This was a GREAT match with two guys beating the tar out of each other for over twenty minutes. The weapons used made the No DQ rule mean something which is what the previous death match was lacking. Backlund was pushed to the limit here and when he snapped, Patera was trying to survive rather than win, which made for a good story. The match won Match of the Year in the prestigious Wrestling Observer Newsletter and it’s not hard to see why.

Post match Patera calls Backlund a cheater and gets dropkicked to the floor as a result.

Here’s a fairly well known match from MSG on October 19, 1981.

WWF World Title: Bob Backlund vs. Greg Valentine

The Grand Wizard has yet another new client in Greg Valentine. Backlund has Arnold Skaaland with him, who has managed both Sammartino as well as the current champion. This is a regular one on one match rather than the death matches we’ve been looking at. It’s a feeling out process to start with Valentine hooking a quick armdrag for not much effect. A slam puts Backlund down again and Bob isn’t sure what to do. Backlund comes back with an armdrag and hip toss of his own to stagger Valentine and Greg wants a breather.

Greg comes back with some right hands to the ribs in the corner but it results in a standoff instead of an advantage. A quick shoulder to the ribs of Valentine staggers him a bit so they try a test of strength. Valentine fires off some shots to the ribs to take over before going to work on the champion’s knee. There’s a half crab from Valentine and Backlund is in some trouble. Backlund fights up and escapes the hold via a monkey flip but Greg gets in a shot to the back of the head to take over again.

The challenger goes back to the leg by cranking on the ankle before shifting over to the ribs via an abdominal stretch. Bob reverses into one of his own but Valentine goes back to the knee to take control once again. Valentine cranks on a leg lock before dropping some elbows on the bad leg. A spinning toe hold works on the leg even more but Bob kicks him away. They trade forearms to the face but both guys collapse down to the mat.

Backlund is up first but a slam attempt fails, giving Valentine a two count. Greg hits him in the knee again but still can’t put on the Figure Four Leg Lock. Instead Valentine kicks him to the floor before pounding away at Backlund on the ring apron. Back in again and Bob is getting fired up as the blows from Greg are having less effect each time. The champion starts hammering away on Valentine’s leg now, wrapping it up in the ropes and kicking at the inner thigh.

Bob knocks him down again but can only get two. A suplex gets the same for Valentine but Backlund comes back with one of his own for a delayed two count. A cross body gets two for the champion but Valentine chokes him down with the ring rope. Greg goes for the leg again and hooks the Figure Four but it’s not on that well. Backlund is easily able to roll into the ropes to break the hold but some damage has been done. Bob comes back with a piledriver out of nowhere and Valentine is in trouble.

Greg gets into the ropes to avoid being covered before going back to the knee. Backlund fights out of another Figure Four attempt but can’t avoid the shots to the knee in the corner. A middle rope elbow drop misses Backlund though and the champion has an opening. They trade headbutts from their knees before Backlund hooks a belly to back suplex to put both guys down again. Valentine gets back up and puts Backlund in an airplane spin during which the referee is accidentally kicked in the head by the champion. Greg is dizzy from spinning Backlund around though and Bob falls on top of him for the pin to retain the title.

Rating: B. This was another good match as Backlund is starting to find his rhythm as champion a mere four years into his title reign. The idea here of Valentine trying to get the Figure Four time after time but never being able to hook it properly was a good story throughout the match but the fact that it didn’t play into the finish hurt things a bit. The finish however is the most important part of the match for reasons yet to be explained.

Time for a little change of scenery. From Philadelphia on February 22, 1982.

WWF World Title: Bob Backlund vs. Bob Orton Jr.

This is Orton’s return it seems. This is called the main event despite three more matches after this. Backlund outmoves him to start and trips Orton easily. Orton, a very good scientific wrestler in his own right, can’t keep up with Backlund at all and almost gets sent to the floor because he can’t even stand up when Backlund goes after him. There’s an abdominal stretch by the champ but Orton escapes.

Backlund hooks a top wristlock so Orton braces against the referee to backflip out of it. The champ trips him immediately but it was a cool visual. We get a test of strength and Backlund monkey flips him over but maintains the grip. Off to a bodyscissors as this is all Backlund so far but he’s not doing much damage. Instead he’s getting in Orton’s head which is a lot more interesting.

Backlund fakes him out on two monkey flips so Orton tries an elbow. Backlund avoids THAT and Orton is ticked off so he heads to the outside to cool off a bit. Backlund looks awesome so far. Orton tries an armdrag and is IMMEDIATELY taken into a headscissors. Backlund is so fast. I just realized they’re both named Bob so I had to go back and edit that name out. Pinfall reversal sequence results in a backslide for two for Backlund.

Orton wants a handshake and actually doesn’t sucker Backlund in. They go to the ropes and Backlund gives him a clean break but the Cowboy doesn’t, smashing Backlund with an elbow. Out to the floor and Backlund goes into the steel as Orton takes over. Backlund gets whipped over the railing and may have hurt his back. Somehow he’s not counted out so Orton stomps on him some more.

Here comes the superplex which is Orton’s finisher. Why can’t more people use basic moves like that and have them be built up as finishers? Anyway Backlund breaks that up and hits a middle rope forearm to knock Orton into the corner. Backlund hooks a suplex and pounds on Orton. Orton is in big trouble and rolls to the floor. Back inside and Backlund hits a not that great piledriver for two.

Orton comes back with a belly to back suplex and both guys are down. They slug it out from their knees and Orton gets his knee up in the corner to take Backlund down. Orton goes lucha and tries a Vader Bomb but it gets knees. Backlund knocks him to the floor which doesn’t last long as Backlund knees him in the head and dropkicks him right back to the floor. Now Orton is running which is where we get to the interesting part of Backlund which I’ll get to later. Out to the floor and Orton finds a rope from somewhere to choke Backlund with and the champ misses the count, giving Orton the win.

Rating: B. This was a very fun match as Backlund was the guy who was rather uninteresting until he was pushed to the edge when he would blow everyone away like he did here with Orton. He’s a fun guy to watch and would be even better in stuff like Texas Death Matches where his back was to the wall and he had to fight for everything he had, which he could do quite well. Fun match and by far the best of the night so far.

Back to MSG one more time on October 17, 1983.

WWF World Title: Bob Backlund vs. Masked Superstar

Masked Superstar is Ax of Demolition so there’s a chance I’ll call him Ax from time to time. They go to the mat quickly and Backlund is more than fine with that. Backlund takes him back down again with a headlock. Superstar runs him over and tries another headlock on the mat but Bob breaks that up with ease. We hear about Eddie Gilbert being injured by Superstar, which is a show I’ve actually seen.

The champion controls with a headscissors on the mat to frustrate the big guy. Now it’s an armbar as Backlund is picking him apart with whatever body part he cares to work on at the moment. For some reason Superstar keeps trying amateur stuff on Backlund and it fails more and more each time.

Backlund runs over the bigger guy and we get a botched sequence as Superstar tries what looked like a cross body but Backlund didn’t drop at first. It looked like Superstar was trying a jumping tornado DDT but since the regular version didn’t exist yet, he fell on Backlund after spinning around a bit. Really bad looking move but it’s more on Backlund than Superstar, which is rare to see from him.

They slug it out a bit and Backlund goes right back to the arm to keep control. This time it’s a hammerlock so at least he’s mixing things up somewhat. We’re almost ten minutes into this and about six of those have been arm work. Superstar knocks him to the floor to get his first I guess you would say advantage of the match. Backlund finally gets back in and a high knee to the shoulder (supposed to be the face) gets two.

Time for a chinlock as Superstar isn’t much for offense I guess. Backlund fights out of it with punches as this becomes a slugout. Flying headbutt gets two for Superstar. Another attempt at it hits the mat though and Backlund is getting all fired up. He pounds on the arm and tries the chickenwing but Superstar makes the rope very quickly. A clothesline sets up Superstar’s neckbreaker finisher but he won’t cover. Instead he takes Backlund outside and hits the neckbreaker out there which gives him the countout win.

Rating: C. This was basically a Backlund squash for the first ten minutes and then a pretty uninteresting match for the remaining five minutes. Superstar didn’t really do anything until the end with the neckbreaker, which goes to show you how devastating any move can be if it’s sold right. Why he wouldn’t go for the cover is beyond me but whatever.

Backlund would disappear from mainstream wrestling for about for about ten years, only appearing in the indies. He would return to the WWF in late 1992 for one last run. From December 21, 1992 on Prime Time.

Bob Backlund vs. Skinner

Feeling out process to start as Gorilla starts talking about the Bushwhackers. Backlund easily counters a headlock into a drop toehold to send Skinner outside. Back in and Skinner wins a test of strength before trying a rollup, only to have Backlund reverse into one of his own for the pin.

Rating: D. This was actually kind of horrible with almost no chemistry and both guys looking on completely different pages. Skinner was nothing special around this point and had long since past his peak. To be fair this was one of Backlund’s first matches in a good while so you have to cut him some slack.

Backlund would get back into the swing of things at the Royal Rumble. I don’t usually do this but he was in this one for awhile. From the 1993 Royal Rumble.

Royal Rumble

Ric Flair is #1 and Bob Backlund, going through a career resurgence at the time, is #2. Backlund drops Flair with a shoulder and does his little dance. Flair pounds him into the corner but Bob backdrops him down. Papa Shango is #3 and is dumped out by Flair in less than thirty seconds. Backlund it sent to the apron and Flair stomps away. They chop it out until Ted DiBiase, I believe half of the tag champions here, is #4.

Heenan makes fun of Backlund as the double teaming ensues, prompting Gorilla to threaten to knock Bobby out. Backlund is beaten on even more until Brian Knobs is #5. The Nasties are good guys at this point and happen to be feuding with Money Inc. Guess who he starts swinging at. Knobs almost dumps Flair but only gets him to the apron. Things slow down for a bit until Virgil is #6. The faces team up to fight the heels as not a lot is going on at this point.

DiBiase tosses out Knobs and we’re down to four in the ring again. Here’s the pretty new Jerry Lawler at #7 in a HUGE cape. I think he’s a heel here but Flair grabs him for some chops almost immediately. Flair goes to the floor through the middle ropes so Virgil goes after Lawler. Flair gets back in and Jerry immediately goes after him. Oh never mind as Heenan is praising Lawler. He’s a heel alright.

Max Moon (presumably played by Konnan) is #8. He hits a few moves and is dumped by Lawler before anyone else shows up. Lawler’s attire is really intricate here with lots of writing on it instead of the usual two color design. I kind of like it for a change. Japanese legend Genichiro Tenryu is #9 and he starts a chop-off with Flair as you would expect them to do.

Things slow down a bit until Mr. Perfect is #9 at a full sprint. Heenan: “OH NO! OH DEAR GOD NO!!!” Perfect immediately goes after Flair so Ric goes to the top. There’s the slam off the top and the Hennig Neck Snap as Heenan is having a heart attack. We hear about the loser leaves the WWF match tomorrow on Raw between the two of them, which is a very rare match for some reason.

Skinner is #11 and he does nothing before Perfect shoves Flair out to a HUGE pop. Lawler (looking very different here for some reason that I can’t place) pounds away on Hennig as we’re back down to six people in there. That’s usually the right amount so thankfully they’ve gotten through the first third without things getting too hectic. Koko B. Ware and those big green pants of his are #12. Heenan: “Koko B. Ware could go to Wrestlemania to face Bret Hart. Gorilla: “What’s wrong with that?” Heenan: “IT SHOULD BE RIC FLAIR!!!”

Perfect dropkicks Skinner out and not a lot is going on again. Here’s Samu at #13, giving us a group of Backlund, DiBiase, Tenryu, Virgil, Perfect, DiBiase, Lawler and Ware. Lawler and Perfect keep going at it in a feud that could have been AMAZING in Memphis. Berzerker is #14 as we need to get rid of some people in there. Lawler misses a charging punch on Perfect and there he goes. With Perfect distracted, DiBiase and Ware team up (you’ll NEVER hear that again) to kick him out with an assist from Lawler. Virgil was thrown out during that melee, getting us down to just six again.

The Undertaker is #15 to a BIG pop. Gorilla calls him the odds on favorite. I’m not sure I’d go that far but whatever. Berzerker goes to the floor and beats up Backlund (not eliminated) with a chair. Taker puts Samu out and no sells a lot of Tenryu’s stuff before dumping him as well. We’ve got Backlund (mostly dead on the floor), Taker, Berzerker, DiBiase and Ware in at the moment. Terry Taylor (he still had a job at this point?) is in at #16 and he’s gone in less than thirty seconds thanks to DiBiase, as is Ware.

There’s a chokeslam to DiBiase and Taker dumps him, leaving Berzerker against Taker. In one of the biggest “oh great it’s this guy” moments ever, Giant Gonzales debuts as Taker dumps Berzerker. Gonzales, a legit 7’7 tall, stares down at Taker as Damien Demento (don’t ask) is #17. Gonzales chops Taker out for an illegal elimination. In case you’re not familiar, Gonzales is a monster who makes Great Khali look like Lou Thesz. Speaking of Khali, he was literally the same character as Gonzales in a repeat of the same exact story the Undertaker was involved in in 1992. In short, both of them sucked and were really tall.

Gonzales destroys Taker for a bit as Demento still won’t get in. IRS is #18 as the Giant is still beating up Taker. It’s IRS, Backlund and Demento at the moment with Taker out cold in the corner. Tatanka is #19 as Paul Bearer uses the Urn to revive Taker. This of course is all the fans focus on, making the match in the ring look even less interesting than it already is, which is saying a lot when you think about it. Lots of choking ensues until Jerry Sags is #20.

There is NOTHING going on here and I don’t think Typhoon at #21 is going to help things at all. Fatu is #22 and my goodness I have never heard more silence for an entrance. NOTHING is going on here and Earthquake is #23. He immediately goes after….Typhoon, his partner. They have a fat man brawl for a bit until Quake dumps him out. Carlos Colon, aged 44 and called a youngster by Monsoon is #24.

Colon dumps Demento as the eliminations are keeping the crowd on life support. Quake can’t put Backlund out as Tito Santana is #25. Fatu misses a charge at Backlund and eliminates himself. We’ve got Quake, Backlund, Santana, IRS, Tatanka, Colon and Sags in there at the moment. Rick Martel is #26 who is STILL feuding with Santana. Why did they never have a big match to blow off that feud? It went on for like four years or so.

Earthquake dumps IRS and now we get to the first interesting part of the match in WAY too long: Backlund is sent to the apron and the crowd collectively gasps until he gets back in. Gorilla actually swears at how big the reaction is. Yokozuna is #27 and it’s time to clear some space. Yoko and Tatanka chop it out and there goes the guy with red hair (figure out which is which).

Colon is out and it’s time for the fat man showdown with Quake vs. Yoko. They collide a few times and no one moves so Quake pounds him into the corner. Owen Hart is #28. Quake splashes Yoko in the corner but the second attempt misses. Yoko suplexes Quake out and that more or less seals the winner. Repo Man is #29 and is immediately dropped by Yoko. Everybody gangs up on Yoko and it doesn’t work at all.

Randy Savage is #30, giving us a final group of Savage, Yokozuna, Repo Man, Owen, Martel, Santana, Sags and Backlund. They’re not even trying to hide the winner at this point. Yoko dumps Tito as Owen dropkicks Sags out. Owen skins the cat to save himself before being dumped by Yoko and possibly injuring his knee. Repo is out and we’re down to four. Backlund actually picks up Martel to sit him on top and punches him out. The place is WAY into Backlund here, so he goes after Yoko. A pair of dropkick put Yoko against the ropes but Backlund charges into the elimination, drawing a standing ovation.

So it’s Savage vs. Yoko and the beating of the small man begins. Yoko flattens him over and over again until Savage fires off a bunch of kicks out of the corner. The fans are trying to get behind Savage and there’s a top rope ax handle. One to the back gets Yoko down to one knee. Uh…why would you want to knock a guy this big DOWN in a battle royal?

Either way he superkicks Savage to knock him down again and there’s the belly to belly. The legdrop crushes Savage but the Banzai Drop misses. In one of the STUPIDEST endings ever to the Rumble, Savage hits the elbow and COVERS, getting launched over the top rope on the kickout to send Yoko to Las Vegas for the title shot.

Rating: D. This was one of the worst Rumbles of all time. The main problem here is the period after Taker, the only guy you could actually see eliminating Yoko, was eliminated. From then until the time Backlund got close to the longevity record (which he got), there’s NOTHING. It’s a bunch of lame midcarders standing around lifting each others’ legs in the air. Why would I want to see that at all? Anyway, nothing to see here and a BAD Rumble.

Backlund’s roll would continue on Raw, March 15, 1994.

Bob Backlund vs. Papa Shango

Backlund trips him up a few times as I have to listen to the horrible Rob Bartlett on commentary. He was a comedian who was given this spot for no explained reason. Shango takes over with a test of strength but Bob grabs the arm and drives an elbow into the nose. Papa comes back with a backbreaker as Rob goes into a horrible Vince impression. Papa chokes with a boot in the corner, making Backlund look shocked that someone would cheat. We hit the chinlock for a LONG stretch as Gorilla wants to beat up Heenan and Bartlett. A slam gets two on Backlund but he grabs a small package for a surprise pin.

Rating: D. That chinlock just would not end. Shango is the kind of guy that was a nice contrast to Backlund but it didn’t work here. Interesting bit of trivia: Shango was rumored to be brought back and be revealed as the reason Backlund went nuts in 1994. Thankfully this didn’t happen and was never mentioned at all but it would have been different.

Eventually Backlund would go insane and insist on being called Mr. Bob Backlund. This new insane character would get a WWF Title shot at Survivor Series 1994 against Bret Hart. The idea is someone has to throw in the towel to end the match.

WWF World Title: Bob Backlund vs. Bret Hart

Bret is defending and this is a submission match. This is a special kind of submission match though as both guys have seconds and you have to throw in the towel to end the match. Bret has British Bulldog and Backlund has Owen Hart. Backlund was making a comeback in his 40s and was a plucky face before going completely insane and claiming that he was still champion from when his reign ended in 1983 because his manager threw in the towel and he never gave up. Bret and Owen’s parents are in the crowd. Remember that.

Backlund charges at Bret but gets hipblocked down a few times. Bret headbutts him to the floor and elbowed upon return. Hart hits something like an elevated bulldog (think Orton’s hanging DDT) to take over on the mat. Off to a chinlock which evolves into a headlock. Gorilla talks about how Bulldog beat Bret for the IC Title in 92 to try to draw in some tension. Backlund tries to take him to the mat but Bret puts the headlock back on. Bob tries to get the chickenwing on but Bret suplexes him down.

Sharpshooter doesn’t work so Bret goes with a front facelock instead. Off to an abdominal stretch by the Hitman but Bob escapes and goes after the left arm. The chickenwing is escaped again (Backlund’s finisher is a Cross Face Chicken Wing) so Bob bends the arm around the ropes. Off to an armbar on the mat but Bret nips up. Backlund drills Bret to the floor but Hart gets the advantage out there.

Back in and Backlund puts the arm on as the fans all chant LET’S GO BRET. The armbar stays on for a good while (as in like five minutes) before Bret escapes with an atomic drop. He can’t get the Sharpshooter but he settles for the Figure Four. This hold stays on for awhile also and Bob gives up but Owen has to throw in the towel. Backlund tells Owen to throw it in but Owen won’t do it.

Backlund finally turns it over and Owen tells Bulldog to throw it in. Bret reverses it back but Backlund gets to a rope. Bret stays on the leg but can’t get the Sharpshooter. Backlund grabs a piledriver out of nowhere and momentum shifts again. Bob goes for the Chicken Wing but Bret gets to the ropes. We’re about twenty minutes into this and it feels like about half of that. The fans are WAY behind Bret here still too which is a good sign.

Back to the arm but Backlund misses a charge and goes shoulder first into the post. Bret blocks another piledriver attempt but hooks a sleeper, which is broken pretty fast because it’s not really a submission move. They hit head to head and both guys go down. For a guy who was about 45 at this point, Backlund has looked great. Now Bret piledrives Bob and hits a bulldog to take over.

The Five Moves Of Doom culminate with the Sharpshooter but Owen runs in to deck his brother and break up the hold. Now we get to the turning point of the match as Davey charges at Owen but misses and rams his own head into the steps. He’s out cold and there’s no one to throw in Bret’s towel. Owen panics and the distraction lets Backlund put on the full Chicken Wing even though Bret had his hand on the rope at the beginning of the hold and a rope break was used earlier in the match but I digress.

Backlund has the hold on in the middle of the ring as Owen begins to get concerned about Bret. He says he’s sorry and Backlund takes Bret down to the mat with the hold. Smith still hasn’t moved and Bret is trying to fight up. Bret gets to his feet but can’t get the rope as Backlund pulls him down and puts on the bodyscissors along with the hold. Owen starts crying which Vince declares the TRUE Owen.

Vince says you can lose if you say you quit, which goes against what we saw earlier with Backlund but it’s the WWF so you can’t count on continuity. We go split screen to look at Bret’s parents as Bret has been in this hold for over four minutes. Owen goes over to plead to his mom (not Stu because Stu is smarter than this) as Bret is in agony. Bret taps but that doesn’t mean anything yet. The hold has now been on for six straight minutes and the fans are still behind Bret. The maniacal look on Bob’s face is great.

Owen begs his mom for help again and opens the barricade to bring his parents to ringside. Stu still doesn’t seem to buy anything Owen is saying. Owen picks up Bret’s towel and says for Helen to throw it in but Stu says no way. Owen gets the fans to cheer for Helen to throw in the towel and after nine and a half minutes in the hold, Helen takes the towel from Stu and throws it in, giving Backlund the title and STUNNING the fans. Owen throws his arms in the air and celebrates, sprinting to the back in triumph, because it was a SWERVE.

Rating: A. This match definitely isn’t for everyone, but if you’re a fan of old school matches and psychology, you’re going to love this match. The whole thing is a massive story with the execution being done perfectly (or with excellence if you like plays on catchphrases). Bret and Backlund are both master technicians so the in ring stuff is as close to flawless as you’re going to get. The stuff with Owen is great too and the whole match is almost perfect. It runs about thirty five minutes though and if you’re not a fan of mat stuff and building to a big finish, you’re going to hate this.

One other thing: I’d like to point out that Davey Boy Smith has been out cold for almost eleven minutes now, hasn’t moved an inch, and is likely clinically dead yet hasn’t received any attention at all. Owen stepped over him about four times in the whole sequence.

The rematch, also a submission match, from Wrestlemania XI.

Bret Hart vs. Bob Backlund

This is an I Quit match with Roddy Piper as guest referee. They had a previous I Quit match at Survivor Series which wound up being pretty awesome as an old school style match that ran about thirty five minutes. Thanks to Owen cheating, Backlund won the title and shocked the world, so tonight is about revenge for Hart. Piper is here for no apparent reason whatsoever.

Bret pounds away to start and sends Backlund hard into the corner. An early Sharpshooter attempt is blocked so Bret drops an elbow. Bret keeps pounding on him and Piper asks if Backlund quits way too often. Another Sharpshooter attempt doesn’t work so here’s a Figure Four by Bret instead. Backlund turns it over but Bret lets go before it goes badly for him.

Off to a leg lock by Hart as the match slows down a bit. We hear about Bret hating Japanese people which was an angle that didn’t go anywhere. Backlund grabs at Bret’s face to escape before finally just kicking Hart in the face. Bob starts going after the arm but Bret avoids the chickenwing. Instead it’s a Fujiwara Armbar and the fans are getting restless. Bob pounds on the arm even more with an armbar as Piper asks Bret if he gives up for about the dozenth time.

Bret finally fights back and hits the backbreaker and middle rope elbow. The Sharpshooter doesn’t work but Bret misses a charge into the corner, going shoulder first into the post. Bob hooks the chickenwing but Bret reverses into one of his own. Backlund yells incoherently which apparently counts as a submission, giving Bret the win.

Rating: D+. I love the original version of this but the rematch didn’t work at all. For one thing, a match about making someone quit with guys of this caliber should probably be longer than ten minutes. On top of that, it was really dull stuff. This didn’t work at all and even Bret has said it’s one of his least favorite matches ever.

After retiring and actually running for Congress, Backlund would be referenced over and over again in Kevin Nash’s Paparazzi Championship Series in TNA, which is still one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. I have no idea what it was supposed to do or mean but it cracked me up. Anyway, Backlund actually appeared and wrestled some matches, including this one at Slammiversary 2007.

Bob Backlund vs. Alex Shelley

Backlund is one of those cases where I have no idea what they were thinking when they brought him in. We hear the stories of Backlund not signing autographs unless you can recite all of the presidents in order. Backlund takes him down with ease and the fans are mostly on Shelley’s side. They slug it out a bit and Backlund takes him into a short armed scissors. Backlund uses the British Bulldog/Shawn Michaels counter (which should be called the Backlund counter but whatever).

Backlund hits a gorgeous butterfly suplex and then an atomic drop which used to be Backlund’s finisher. Sabin runs in to trip him up but gets crotched on the top. Shelley gets dropped into Sabin’s balls and a bridging O’Connor Roll beats Shelley clean. Yes, Bob Backlund just destroyed the Motor City Machineguns by himself in less than four minutes.

Rating: C-. The match was fine but this is a great example of “what were they thinking”. I mean don’t get me wrong, Backlund is a legend, but this is the year 2007. Who are they really appealing to with him? This one isn’t about me being mad about him being there, but more of genuine confusion. I don’t get this one at all.

And one more from Victory Road 2007.

Motor City Machine Guns vs. Jerry Lynn/Bob Backlund

The Guns have Nash with them. This is another of those bizarre angles that only happens in a company like TNA. For a 57 year old guy, Backlund is in great shape. Apparently Backlund was a problem for TNA as he disappeared from his hotel on the morning of the PPV. The reason: he walked the five miles from the hotel to the Impact Zone and left earlier than everyone else.

He’s an odd one, but if I can look like that at his age I’ll be happy. It’s weird seeing Sabin just getting out wrestled by Backlund. Both guys tag and we get dueling geriatric/LET’S GO JERRY chants. Shelley does all these flips and twists and Lynn just stands there and watches him until he stops so he can throw a hold on him. That was hilarious. I love when people do that.

One of my favorite moments ever was just after Joe debuted he was fighting Puma and Puma went up top for this big flip and Joe just took a step to the side and let him crash. Why over complicate things? This has been more or less ALL old guys so far. Shelley spits water in his face to take over. West declares that you can’t prance. Good to know.

Heat grabbing 101 (missed tag) allows more beatings on Lynn. Backlund storms the ring and just beats the tar out of everyone in sight. And then Nash comes in to kick Backlund in the head to set up the AS/CS Rush for the pin on Jerry. Now remember boys and girls, as good as they are, they’re not allowed to win the tag titles.

Rating: C-. Entertaining, but again I ask, so what? This put the focus on Nash more than anything else. I just do not get the point in doing this ending other than to protect the old guys and let the new guys say they won. It’s either really basic or really stupid and I’m leaning towards the second given the track record here.

Bob Backlund is one of the most interesting wrestlers in history. The guy could get on a mat with anyone but he’s also borderline insane. The problem was he didn’t have the right kind of charisma to work in the new generation, but he was perfect for the transitional period between Sammartino and Hogan. His Mr. Backlund period was a completely different side to him and while winning the title was too far, he would have been great as an Intercontinental Champion around that time. He’s very entertaining though and as skilled on the mat as almost anyone you’ll ever find.

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