It seems to me that when the WWE started its Hall of Fame, the top five or 10 longest reigning WWF Heavyweight champions should have automatically been inducted in the initial years. As we know, that has not happened, but a big step in the right direction occurred on Monday Night Raw this week with the news that Bob Backlund was going into the hall’s 2013 class.
Backlund is technically a three-time former WWF champion, although I believe the official record books still say two-time. That’s because in 1979, Backlund did a quickie title exchange in Japan with Antonio Inoki that was not publicly acknowledged at the time (and still isn’t talked about often).
Taking the brief Inoki run out of the picture, Backlund held the belt from February 1978 until December 1983, nearly six years. Take that, CM Punk.
As was the case back in those days, Backlund as the babyface champ faced a wide array of challengers, so you have to respect Backlund’s working ability to adapt to different styles. As I mentioned in a prior post, at the old Boston Garden in 1982 alone, he wrestled nine challengers — from the high-flying Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka to more technical foes like Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and Adrian Adonis.
Although Bruno Sammartino (another maligned former WWF Heavyweight champion who isn’t in the WWE Hall of Fame) was the king of wrestling in Madison Square Garden, Backlund has plenty of bragging rights in that building, too.
“When Backlund was a babyface, he sold out Madison Square Garden more than 40 times as a main eventer, something only Bruno Sammartino, who was on top a lot longer, was able to do,” the Wrestling Observer noted recently.
Some of Backlund’s matches in MSG were awesome: Beating Snuka in a cage match after Snuka missed the Superfly splash off the top rope, his bloody feud with Superstar Billy Graham after Graham ripped the title strap apart, and his spectacular Texas Death match with Ken Patera, during which you’ll see far more chair shots than you’d ever witness in a WWE ring today.
Congratulations to Backlund for finally getting a nod into the Hall of Fame.