Backlund in September 1998.
|Birth name||Robert Lee Backlund|
|Ring name(s)||Bob Backlund
|Billed height||6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)|
|Billed weight||241 lb (109 kg)|
August 14, 1949 |
|Billed from||Princeton, Minnesota|
|Trained by||Eddie Sharkey|
Robert Lee "Bob" Backlund (born August 14, 1949) is an American professional wrestler with an in-ring career that spanned over 30 years. Over that time, he was a two-time WWF Champion. Backlund holds the record for the second longest reign as WWE Champion in history, ahead of Hulk Hogan's first reign and behind Bruno Sammartino's first. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013.
Backlund was also an accomplished amateur wrestler, wrestling for the North Dakota State University Bison in the late 1960s to early 1970s. Backlund continues to work in the pro wrestling business in various capacities. In 2000, Backlund unsuccessfully ran for a Connecticut seat in Congress on a Republican ticket.
- 1 Career
- 1.1 Turning pro
- 1.2 World Wide Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Federation (1977–1984)
- 1.3 After the WWF and semi-retirement (1984-1992)
- 1.4 Return to the WWF (1992–1997)
- 1.5 Return to the WWF (2000)
- 1.6 Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2007)
- 1.7 World Wrestling Entertainment (2007, 2012-2013)
- 2 Books
- 3 Acting career
- 4 Personal life
- 5 In wrestling
- 6 Championships and accomplishments
- 7 References
- 8 External links
In 1969 during his freshman year, Backlund was an All-American in both football and wrestling (191 lbs finishing 3rd) while at Waldorf Junior College in Forest City, IA. During his sophomore campaign, Backlund focused on wrestling and once again earned All American Honors (190 lbs and National Runner Up). Backlund was an amateur wrestler at North Dakota State University, winning the Division II NCAA Championship at 190 pounds in 1971. In 1972 Backlund moved up to the Heavyweight class and finished 5th at the NCAA DII Nationals. Graduate of Princeton, MN High School where he was a state finalist in wrestling. He graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in physical education.
Backlund was trained for professional wrestling by renowned trainer Eddie Sharkey and made his debut for the American Wrestling Association in 1973. Backlund's clean cut look and technical approach made him a natural face, and he quickly got over with the fans. After leaving the AWA, Backlund traveled the United States, working for the National Wrestling Alliance in its various territories. In 1974, Backlund wrestled in Texas, for Dory Funk, Jr. and Terry Funk's Amarillo promotion. In March, he defeated Terry Funk for the NWA Western States Heavyweight Championship (the promotion's top title). Backlund held it for two months, before losing it to Karl Von Steiger in May.
In mid-1975, Backlund started working for Georgia Championship Wrestling. He teamed with Jerry Brisco to win the NWA Georgia Tag Team Championship from Toru Tanaka & Mr. Fuji in October 1975. They held the belts for two months before losing to Les Thornton and Tony Charles. In 1976, Backlund left Georgia for Championship Wrestling from Florida (NWA Florida). Here he teamed with Steve Keirn to defeat Bob Orton, Jr. and Bob Roop for the NWA Florida Tag Team Championship. Backlund and Keirn lost the title to The Hollywood Blonds (Buddy Roberts and Jerry Brown) in October 1976. While working for NWA Florida, Backlund also wrestled in St. Louis, Missouri, for Sam Muchnick’s St. Louis Wrestling Club. He defeated Harley Race to win the NWA Missouri Heavyweight Championship on April 23, 1976. He lost the title to Jack Brisco on November 26.
World Wide Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Federation (1977–1984)
In early 1977, Backlund joined Vincent J. McMahon’s World Wide Wrestling Federation. He was managed by “The Golden Boy” Arnold Skaaland. Less than 4 months into his WWWF run, Backlund received his first shot at the WWWF Championship, against "Superstar" Billy Graham. He lost by countout. Through 1977, Backlund received additional shots at the champion, and his fortunes started to change; the two went to a double countout in one match, then Backlund defeated Graham, but by countout (the title can only change hands via pinfall or submission). On February 20, 1978, at Madison Square Garden, Backlund finally scored a pinfall victory over Graham and won the title, despite Graham’s leg being on the rope during the pinfall.
He also challenged for the WWF World Tag Team Championship with Peter Maivia, but Maivia turned on and attacked him and Skaaland. This led the usually even-tempered Backlund to go berserk in the post-match interview, screaming to interviewer Vince McMahon that he was going to "kill that son of a bitch!".
Three days after winning the WWWF Title, Backlund clashed with the NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race in a rare “WWWF vs. NWA” title match. Both titles were on the line, but neither changed hands as the two fought to a 60-minute time limit draw. Defending against other champions became a recurring theme in Backlund’s run with the title. He faced the AWA World Heavyweight Champion (Nick Bockwinkel) and two NWA World Heavyweight Champions (Harley Race four times and Ric Flair once) in highly publicized matches. He engaged in a series of scientific matches against NWF World Champion Antonio Inoki. He defeated the Florida Champion Don Muraco. In 1982, he battled "International Champion" Billy Robinson to a 63-minute curfew draw in Montreal.
On August 9, 1980, Backlund teamed with Pedro Morales to capture the WWF World Tag Team Championship from The Wild Samoans at Showdown at Shea. Backlund and Morales were forced to vacate the title due to a then-extant WWF rule stating that no one can hold two championships at the same time. Backlund had more tag team success when he (along with Antonio Inoki) won the "1980 MSG Tag Team League Tournament", last defeating Hulk Hogan and Stan Hansen on December 10 in Osaka, Japan. Backlund and Inoki finished the tournament with seven wins and two double-countout decisions.
It is claimed by some[who?] that when Backlund’s WWF Title was held up after a match in New York City against Greg Valentine on October 19, 1981, after a dazed referee "accidentally" gave the title belt to Valentine (storyline), it constituted an interruption of Backlund’s title reign. However, Backlund was billed as the WWF Champion in other cities in the days following the controversy. In the early part of the 1980s, when no promotion held nationally televised events, it was not uncommon practice to “hold up” the title in one area (to build interest in a rematch the "former" champion would win) while ignoring the situation in other parts of the territory. On November 23, Backlund pinned Valentine for the "Vacant in New York Only" WWF title.
End of an era
After having been popular with the fans from early on, in the final months of his title reign, Backlund changed his image, cutting his moppish hair into a crewcut, wearing amateur wrestling singlets and losing muscle mass and definition. Fans seemingly grew weary of this "Howdy Doody" character (as The Grand Wizard had dubbed him). In 1983, he was voted The Wrestling Observer Newsletter's Most Overrated Wrestler. Vincent K. McMahon (who had bought the WWF from his father), wanted to put the title on the more charismatic and muscular Hulk Hogan. McMahon initially suggested Backlund turn heel and lose to Hogan but, when Backlund refused, a transitional champion became necessary between Backlund and Hogan. On December 26, 1983, Backlund (recently "injured" in a TV angle in which The Iron Sheik assaulted him with his Persian clubs) lost the title to The Iron Sheik. Backlund's manager, Arnold Skaaland, threw in the towel while Backlund was locked in the Camel Clutch. Because Backlund was declared "injured", he was denied an automatic rematch. Instead, Hulk Hogan was given a title shot, and became the new WWF Champion. Backlund continued to work for the WWF for a while after the title change, but did not receive another shot at the belt. On August 4, 1984, Backlund defeated Salvatore Bellomo in his last WWF match for 8 years.
After the WWF and semi-retirement (1984-1992)
After leaving the WWF, Backlund had a run in the short-lived Pro Wrestling USA, a joint promotion of the NWA and the American Wrestling Association (AWA), meant to combat the national expansion of the WWF. In Pro Wrestling USA, Backlund unsuccessfully challenged AWA Champion Rick Martel. He soon dropped out of the pro wrestling scene. He made a surprise return in 1991 for Herb Abrams' short-lived UWF. At "Beach Brawl" (the UWF’s only pay-per-view event), he defeated Ivan Koloff. Backlund also wrestled for Newborn UWF and UWF International in Japan, in a series of matches with Nobuhiko Takada. During his time away from the ring, he coached amateur wrestling at Bacon Academy and Rocky Hill High School in Connecticut.
Return to the WWF (1992–1997)
In 1992, Backlund returned to the WWF. During his absence, the WWF had expanded into an international wrestling promotion, due in part to the colorful characters of the "Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection Era", which Hulk Hogan helped to kickstart eight years prior. Backlund, whose persona remained the same as it was in his heyday, seemed to be out of step with the evolution of the WWF. Many fans did not remember him, as he had left just prior to Vince McMahon's national expansion. His initial period in the WWF was largely uneventful and he mainly wrestled mid-card matches. However, at the 1993 Royal Rumble, he lasted sixty-one minutes and ten seconds, a duration record that would not be broken until 2004 (by Chris Benoit). Backlund's first appearance at a WrestleMania event (WrestleMania IX) was a losing effort in a match with Razor Ramon.
On the July 28, 1994 episode of Superstars, Backlund wrestled what was billed as an "Old Generation vs. New Generation" match with Bret Hart, with Hart's WWF Championship on the line. Over the preceding weeks, the WWF aired vignettes of Backlund training for this match. Hart won the match, capitalizing after Backlund mistakenly believed he had won and helped Hart to his feet. Backlund "snapped" after Hart repeatedly tried to offer a sportsmanlike handshake following the match. He slapped Hart in the face and locked him in the crossface chickenwing submission hold, while screaming hysterically. After finally releasing the hold, Backlund stared at his hands in apparent shock. Backlund then started to regularly "snap" in similar fashion during his matches, viciously attacking his opponent with the crossface chickenwing and refusing to release it after the opponent submitted. He would then seemingly snap back to normal and appear horrified by what he had done.
On an episode of Monday Night Raw shortly after his match with Hart, Backlund claimed that he should still be considered the legitimate WWF Champion, as he had not been pinned by The Iron Sheik, nor submitted to the camel clutch. Backlund continued wrestling under the new gimmick of an out of touch and highly volatile eccentric, out to teach "The New Generation" a lesson. He dressed in business suits, had a hyperactive personality and used (and often misused, for comic effect) large words during his interviews. He demanded that he be addressed as Mr. Backlund. He would only sign autographs for wrestling fans if they could recite the names of all of the U.S. Presidents in chronological order. On several instances, he assaulted wrestlers and other WWF employees and placed them in the crossface chickenwing. These victims include Jim Ross, Duke "The Dumpster" Droese, WWF Magazine writer Lou Gianfriddo, and his former manager Arnold Skaaland, who he blamed for costing him the WWF Title in 1983.
On November 23, 1994, at the Survivor Series pay-per-view in San Antonio, Texas, Backlund faced Bret Hart in a "Throw in the Towel" submission match for the WWF Championship. Bret's brother Owen Hart in Backlund's corner (carrying what Backlund claimed to be the same towel Skaaland threw into the ring in 1983) and Davey Boy Smith in Hart's. The object of the match was to place the opponent in a submission hold and make his cornerman throw in the towel. Late in the match, Smith chased Owen (who had interfered behind the referee's back to break a submission), but missed him and hit the ringside stairs head first. When Bret turned around to argue with his brother, Backlund took advantage and locked the crossface chickenwing on the champion. Hart fought the hold for an unprecedented eight-and-a-half minutes, but refused to give up. With Bulldog incapacitated, Owen, feigning concern for his brother, walked over to his parents (Stu and Helen) seated at ringside and pleaded with them to throw the towel in to save Bret from injury. He handed the towel to his mother. After several minutes (during which Stu Hart argued with Helen against Owen's plea, and ripped the towel from her hands), Helen Hart threw in the towel, giving the 35-minute match and the WWF Championship to Backlund.
Backlund's second reign as WWF Champion would be short lived. He lost the title three days later to Diesel at a non-televised show in Madison Square Garden, the site of many of Backlund's victories in the 1970s and 1980s. Diesel kicked Backlund in the stomach, hit him with a Jackknife Powerbomb and pinned him in eight seconds. For weeks afterwards, fans jeered Backlund with chants of "Eight seconds! Eight seconds!" In a 2005 interview for the Pro Wrestling Torch, Kevin Nash (AKA Diesel) recalled how Backlund sold his Jackknife Powerbomb by crawling up the aisleway, back to the dressing room area of the Garden. Nash said, "He couldn't have put me over any stronger." This match was the last time the WWF Championship changed hands at a non-televised event. For nearly 19 years, this match was also the shortest WWF Title match ever; it would be tied by Randy Orton cashing in his Money in the Bank contract on Daniel Bryan at the 2013 SummerSlam.
After the title loss, Backlund wrestled progressively less often, never again reaching main event status. One of his final WWF matches was an "I Quit" match against Bret Hart at WrestleMania XI on April 2, 1995. He lost, though he never actually said "I quit", instead screaming unintelligibly into the microphone, which special guest referee Roddy Piper seemed to interpret as "I quit."
Following WrestleMania, the WWF ran an angle in which Backlund declared his candidacy for President of the United States. Several vignettes aired, featuring Backlund preaching socially conservative values. One showed him campaigning at a beach. Backlund also confronted a Bill Clinton impersonator who was seated at ringside at the 1995 Survivor Series. This angle was quietly dropped before it reached a conclusion.
From late 1996 to early 1997, Backlund joined forces with his old nemesis, The Iron Sheik, to manage The Sultan in the WWF. He left the WWF shortly after In Your House 14: Revenge of the 'Taker on April 20, where he managed The Sultan in his win over Flash Funk.
Return to the WWF (2000)
He returned to the WWF in the 2000 Royal Rumble. After that, he briefly managed Intercontinental and European Champion Kurt Angle. He taught his crossface chickenwing submission hold to Angle. Later on, Angle fired Backlund and locked him in that move, after discovering Backlund had booked him in a two-fall Triple Threat match against Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho (with both of his titles on the line) at WrestleMania 2000.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2007)
After many references to Bob Backlund were made by Kevin Nash, he officially debuted in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling in January 2007, at the Final Resolution pay-per-view, judging the finals of the Paparazzi Championship Series (PCS) between Alex Shelley and Austin Starr. Given the tie breaking vote, Backlund launched a long explanation before declaring his decision a draw, and the match was restarted by PCS director Kevin Nash. After Shelley won the match, Starr pie-faced Backlund because he believed Backlund had cost him the match. Backlund responded by putting Starr in the crossface chickenwing.
Backlund then began to make regular appearances on TNA Impact! During this time, he was described as crazy and weird by commentators Don West and Mike Tenay, somewhat similar to the "Mr. Backlund" gimmick of his second WWF tenure.
Backlund made his in-ring return at Slammiversary, defeating Alex Shelley. He then teamed with Jerry Lynn to lose to Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin (managed by Kevin Nash) at Victory Road. When TNA redesigned their website, Backlund's profile was removed, signaling the end of his run with the company.
World Wrestling Entertainment (2007, 2012-2013)
On the 15th Anniversary episode of Raw on December 10, 2007, Backlund participated in the "15th Anniversary Battle Royal", along with 14 other wrestlers from Raw's 15 year history. Backlund was eliminated from the match by Skinner.
On the July 9, 2012 episode of WWE Raw, Backlund attacked Heath Slater after Slater's match with Sin Cara as part of a weekly series of Legend appearances. He later appeared at Raw 1000 with all of the other Legends who had faced Slater over the weeks, helping chase Slater back into the ring when he tried to run away from Lita and the APA.
He made an appearance on the October 7, 2013 episode of WWE Raw, unsuccessfully attempting to canvass votes in order to become the special guest referee for the WWE Championship match at Hell In A Cell. Shawn Michaels later won a public vote and was named as the special guest referee. However, Backlund did appear in a segment at Hell In A Cell together with Darren Young and Titus O'Neil, where they played WWE 2K14.
Backlund's autobiography, "The All-American Boy: Lessons and Stories on Life from Wrestling Legend Bob Backlund", is scheduled for release on July 1, 2014. The 352-page story, contributed to by Robert H. Miller, includes interviews with Roddy Piper, Ric Flair, The Iron Sheik and Vince McMahon.
Backlund was a guest on MTV's Singled Out, where he acted in sketches with hosts Jenny McCarthy and Chris Hardwick. The work caught the eye of director Keven Undergaro and producer Maria Menounos. He was subsequently cast to play the role of "Friar Chuck", alongside Menounos and John Waters, in the feature film comedy In the Land of Merry Misfits. The film played at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival, where Backlund appeared and signed autographs.
- Finishing moves
Championships and accomplishments
- Championship Wrestling from Florida
- Northeast Wrestling Federation
- NEWF Heavyweight Championship (1 time, first)
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI Match of the Year (1978) vs. Billy Graham on February 20
- PWI Match of the Year (1982) vs. Jimmy Snuka in a cage match on June 28
- PWI Most Hated Wrestler of the Year (1994)
- PWI Most Inspirational Wrestler of the Year (1977)
- PWI Most Inspirational Wrestler of the Year (1981)
- PWI Rookie of the Year (1976)
- PWI Wrestler of the Year (1980)
- PWI Wrestler of the Year (1982)
- PWI ranked him # 7 of the 500 best singles wrestlers of the "PWI Years" in 2003.
- World Wide Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Federation/WWE
- Wrestle Association R
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
- Brian Shields (2006). Main event – WWE in the raging 80s (4th ed.). Pocket Books. pp. 106–108. ISBN 978-1-4165-3257-6.
- Born in 1949 per Intelius check of "Robert L. Backlund" giving age of 60 as of September 23, 2009
- Wwf Characters - Hall Of Champions
- "Bob Backlund announced as WWE Hall of Fame 2013 inductee".
- Royal Duncan & Gary Will (2006). Wrestling Title Histories (4th ed.). Archeus Communications. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
- "WWWF Show Results 1977". February 8, 1977. "Bob Backlund & Tony Garea defeated Jose Estrada & Pete Doherty (first result listed for Backlund in the WWWF)"
- "WWF Show Results 1977". "WWWF World Champion Superstar Billy Graham fought Bob Backlund to a double count-out"
- "WWF Show Results 1977". "Bob Backlund defeated WWWF World Champion Superstar Billy Graham via count-out"
- "WWF Show Results 1978". "Bob Backlund pinned WWWF World Champion Superstar Billy Graham to win the title at 15:51 with the atomic drop, even though the champion's foot was on the bottom rope during the pinfall."
- "WWF Show Results 1978". February 23, 1978. "WWWF World Champion Bob Backlund fought NWA World Champion Harley Race to a draw"
- "WWF Show Results 1979". "WWW World Champion Bob Backlund fought AWA World Champion Nick Bockwinkel to a double count-out at 39:10 when both men began brawling on the floor"
- Brian Shields (2006). Main event – WWE in the raging 80s (4th ed.). Pocket Books. pp. 3–4. ISBN 978-1-4165-3257-6.
- Brian Shields (2006). Main event – WWE in the raging 80s (4th ed.). Pocket Books. p. 3. ISBN 978-1-4165-3257-6.
- Brian Shields (2006). Main event – WWE in the raging 80s (4th ed.). Pocket Books. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-4165-3257-6.
- Brian Shields (2006). Main event – WWE in the raging 80s (4th ed.). Pocket Books. p. 201. ISBN 978-1-4165-3257-6.
- "WWF Show Results 1981". October 19, 1981. "WWF World Champion Bob Backlund pinned Greg Valentine at 19:32; the title was held up after the battle when the dazed referee accidentally gave the title to Valentine; the title controversy was only a factor in NYC as Backlund continued to defend the title until the following month's rematch"
- "WWF Show Results 1981". October 20, 1981. "WWF World Champion Bob Backlund fought WWF IC Champion Don Muraco to a draw"
- "WWF Show Results 1981". "Bob Backlund (w/ Arnold Skaaland) pinned Greg Valentine to win the vacant WWF World Heavyweight title at 15:36 with a German suplex into a bridge after avoiding a punch; in a move that was only recognized in the NYC area, the championship was vacated the previous month when the referee accidentally handed Valentine the title following his loss to Backlund"
- Shaun Assael and Mike Mooneyham (2004). Sex, Lies, and Headlocks: The Real Story of Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment (Reprint ed.). Three Rivers Press;. pp. 33–34. ISBN 978-1-4000-5143-4.
- Brian Shields (2006). Main event – WWE in the raging 80s (4th ed.). Pocket Books. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-4165-3257-6.
- "UWF Beach Brawl Results".
- > "Forget Venture: Connecticut Pro Wrestler Hopes To Take Down Congressman Larson", by David Daley, Hartford Courant
- "WWF Show Results 1992". "Bob Backlund pinned Skinner (Backlund's return after 8 years)"
- prowrestlinghistory.com. "WWF Royal Rumble Statistics".
- "WWF WrestleMania Results (IX))".
- "WWF WrestleMania Results (XI)".
- "TNA Final Resolution 2007 Results". 2001-01-15. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. "After the long list, Backlund had decided that the contest would be ruled as a draw."
- CALDWELL'S WWE WRESTLEMANIA 29 PPV RESULTS, from PWTorch.com
- "The All-American Boy: Lessons and Stories on Life from Wrestling Legend Bob Backlund", at Amazon.com
- Mr. Backlund's wife, Corki, is a high school physical education teacher. Previously, she worked for a small Commodity Hedge Fund. They have been married 25 years and met while they were attending North Dakota State University. (His resume erroneously says South Dakota State.) They have a 21-year-old daughter, Carrie, who is a junior at the University of Rhode Island, studying marine biology.
- Florida Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- NWA Georgia Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- NWA Western States Heavyweight Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated (March 1979). "PWI 1978 Match of the Year Award". PWI 1978 Reader Awards (London Publishing Co.).
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated (March 1983). "PWI 1982 Match of the Year Award". PWI 1982 Reader Awards (London Publishing Co.).
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated (March 1995). "PWI 1994 Most hated Wrestler of the Year Award". PWI 1994 Reader Awards (London Publishing Co.).
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated (March 1978). "PWI 1977 Inspirational Wrestler of the Year Award". PWI 1977 Reader Awards (London Publishing Co.).
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated (March 1982). "PWI 1981 Inspirational Wrestler of the Year Award". PWI 1981 Reader Awards (London Publishing Co.).
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated (March 1977). "PWI 1976 Rookie of the Year Award". PWI 1976 Reader Awards (London Publishing Co.).
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated (March 1981). "PWI 1980 Wrestler of the Year Award". PWI 1980 Reader Awards (London Publishing Co.).
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated (March 1983). "PWI 1982 Wrestler of the Year Award". PWI 1982 Reader Awards (London Publishing Co.).
- Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum Inductees At wrestling-titles.com
- NWA Missouri Heavyweight Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- WWWF/WWF/WWE World Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- WWWF/WWF/WWE World Heavyweight Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- WAR World 6-Man Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- Professional Wrestling Online Museum: Spotlight on Bob Backlund
- Bob Backlund at the Internet Movie Database
- Bob Backlund's profile on WWE.com
- Bob Backlund Interview