After doing the Harvard step test, Backlund gets whipped by Slaughter

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.


  1. Chuck Mullen

    My biggest complaint with the product today is lack of patience. The “cycle” of PPV events makes it virtually IMPOSSIBLE to not rush and run and crash and burn (on purpose a run on sentence, like wrestling today!). Its really ironic, cause Cole vs Lawler was on the first long term “angles” done in ages, and it was so badly screwed up… in the pay off… the idea from the START was a MANIA payoff, no not $$$ but a conclusion.

    The thought process should be MANIA is the DEFINITE end or START not continuation… I understand the need to keep running it until it dies, but COME ON.

    I always thought that a lot of the older angles, like for example, Bruno and Larry, would work great with Cena and a “NEW GUY”… but you have to let this build… not rush it in 4 weeks. Last time someone got over on pure patience? Batista. Think about it. They could really benefit from doing 2 at the same time, on both brands and then, the COLLISION could be EPIC.

  2. Chuck Mullen

    I just could not get into the All American Bob Backlund, but no denying the man could of been called the late 70’s, and early 80’s version of John Cena, if you think about… the old, “we wont find him dead in some hotel room” type of deal. Sad to say, I hate saying it actually.

    He just was stiff and bland, though I DID thoroughly enjoy his heel turn, and there is NO DENYING what he did during his run. That is undeniable. But his selling and stuff, WOW… great angle though. Simple yet effective.

    • bostongardenbalcony

      I find myself often revisiting the idea of simple angles as I write this blog. Simple angles are great, as long as the payoffs are tangible, like winning a title or getting revenge. I think something similar to the Harvard step test angle could work in today’s WWE because it would be so unusual these days. I don’t know how many readers remember when Jay and Jules Strongbow refused to leave the ring after they lost the tag titles to Mr. Fuji and Mr. Saito. The Strongbows sat in the ring through one or two commercial breaks, and I always think that type of easy-to-understand plot twist would be awesome today on Monday Night Raw.

      • modew's manager

        WWE books like Dusty Rhodes and Vince Russo used to. Throw everything against the wall, and whatever sticks, sticks. Fans become hooked on the angles, not necessarily the product, and burn out.
        We remember the great angles on this site because they were one of a few, not one of 100. Why did Sammartino-Zybysko sell out Shea? (It wasn’t for Ivan Putski-Johnny Rodz. Dom DeNucci-Baron Mikel Scicluna, maybe.)
        A different vision: That wrestling is a quest to see who’s best. Titles matter. Emphasize the in-ring talent, and shoot a limited number of angles each year, so that the angles become important and memorable.
        People will watch.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s