Superstar Graham rips apart Bob Backlund’s WWF belt

In 1978, Bob Backlund defeated Superstar Billy Graham for the WWWF World Title. Soon after, Graham left the federation.

When he returned in 1982, he had shaved off his trademark bleached-blond hair, grown a mustache, and assumed a martial arts gimmick. But his return was big enough that even five years later, he immediately was put into the WWF World Title picture to chase Backlund, who still had the belt (save for a brief title switch from Backlund to Antonio Inoki, back to Backlund in 1979).

Those of us watching pro wrestling in 1982 will remember well the angle in which Graham destroyed the WWF strap, smashing it on the ground and ripping the gold plates off. Backlund was occupied in the ring with Swede Hanson when Graham stole the belt from ringside, telling announcer Vince McMahon, “If I can’t it, nobody can have it!”

Backlund, who played a straight-laced character, got emotional when he finally reached to his damaged belt on the concrete floor, grunting and groaning on the ground as McMahon and Backlund’s manager, Arnold Skaaland, looked on.

Backlund was nearly crying as he yelled, “Why!” over and over again. It was not the Backlund many of us were used to.

The angle led to a successful series of matches between Graham and Backlund, including a steel cage bout in Boston in November 1982, which Backlund won.  The most memorable matches in the series occurred in Madison Square Garden, where Graham and Backlund had a bloody feud that culminated with a lumberjack match with Hanson as special referee in December 1982. After Backlund was victorious with the crossface chickenwing, Graham and Hanson had words, which led to a match between the two in early 1983 at MSG, which Graham won.

The angle also led to the WWF commissioning a new belt design: the ugly green strap that Backlund, Iron Sheik, and Hulk Hogan all wore.


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  2. Anonymous

    Backlund why don’t you open to the public and show the wwwf belt or what is left of it. If you still have it the plates and strap you can have some one like dave millican cast this beautiful belt that bruno held superstar and yourself bring it back to life and have it on display on the wwe hall of fame wall. This is or was the best belt made for the wwwf the 7 plate 3-D eagle red strap belt. please dont just trash it in your home. NWA has theres so should the wwwf bruno belt have it too.

  3. Anonymous

    Backlund shouls bring the wwwf belt and show what he has left of the belt that superstar destroyed. show it Bob on u-tube.

  4. Evan J Rodgers

    I remember watching this on TV. It says above that Backlund was “nearly crying” while shouting “Why?!” I recall he was not nearly crying but TOTALLY CRYING. The old belt did look much better than the later green belt. What I remember was how dissapointing it was that Backlund defeated Swede Hanson with such ease!!! This seemed wrong to me, because in 1979 Swede Hanson nearly defeated Backlund for the title in Madison Square Garden!!! Swede Hanson was a main event caliber wrestler and it really hurt to see his stature diminish.Nonetheless, he was still a star. Even fans who were too young or too unaware to know his legendary history seemed to sense his toughness and chasrisma.Alot of people really respected Swede Hanson during that last run. I also remember that I was expecting a title change. It really seemed like Graham was going to win back the title. Backlund certainly had his fans but alot of people were getting tired of him. He had great wrestling ability and real talent but to me he seemed boring and whiny. He lost alot of matches by count-out and other technicalities-still keeping his title. I appreciate him now and I’m glad he is being inducted into the Hall of Fame. It really was time for him to go. It’s too bad that he didnt resurface in the NWA or AWA- he had the talent to win alot of titles in many regions. Yet what he acomplished in the WWF/WWWF is historic. He made history- for that matter so did Swede Hanson and Superstar Billy Graham. I tip my hat to all three of them.

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  6. Joe Lowry

    Just flipping through the archives this day the remnants of this classic WWF belt remain in Bob Backlunds attic in a box.

  7. bostongardenbalcony

    I also remember as a kid kind of turning on Backlund when he got the crew cut and started wearing his singlet for his matches. There was something about all the changes he did in a short period, including the whining interview after Graham ripped the belt up, that made him seem worse. After six years as champ, people were getting tired of him, too.

  8. modew's manager

    This totally buried Backlund, who came across as weak. His fall after this was amazingly quick for someone who had headlined MSG for years.

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