Back when Bob Backlund was WWF Champion in the early 1980s, he was often pushed as someone who had freakish conditioning. At times he demonstrated his cardiovascular prowess with some unusual exercises.
I remember him doing a routine where he knelt on the floor and used a wheel with a bar through the middle of the wheel, and he would roll the wheel with his hands, extending out from his chest and stretching the wheel on the floor well past his head.
And then there was the Harvard step test, which was a simple exercise where you placed a small set of steps in front of you, and then you climbed up a step and back down to the floor over and over and over.
In 1983, Sgt. Slaughter, who claimed to have set a Harvard step test record during his fictitious days as a drill sergeant, challenged Backlund to beat his record. So, the next week during a broadcast of Championship Wrestling, Backlund came out and performed the step test for the majority of the program. Of course, Slaughter had a match late in the show, and when he came out, he berated Backlund while the champion continued the test.
Backlund’s manager, Arnold Skaaland, got in Slaughter’s face, so Slaughter threw Skaaland to the ground. Backlund stopped the test, helped Skaaland up, and then got in the ring to confront Slaughter. Slaughter got the better of him and began to whip Backlund with a riding crop, which legitimately left Backlund’s back all cut up.
I don’t think Backlund and Slaughter had a huge feud from this (they fought just once after the attack at the old Boston Garden, and fought twice at Madison Square Garden). But it was an angle that I remember well.
Slaughter was a menacing heel, in large part due to his promos. Ironically, about year after the Backlund angle, Slaughter became one of the biggest babyfaces in wrestling during his feud with the Iron Sheik.