Finally, Bob Backlund will enter the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013

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.

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10 comments

  1. Evan J Rodgers

    I used to go every other month to see live wrestling at the Baltimore Civic Center. I loved “bad guys” and was always hoping that Backlund would lose.He took on all kinds of monsters like Swede Hanson (in 1979), Blackjack Mulligan (early 80’s) and Afa the Wild Samoan, and Hulk Hogan. He defeated everyone!!! Looking back after all these years I appeciate Bob Backlund more now than I did then. This guy could really wrestle and he was in great condition.He was a physical fittness maniac, not a steroid freak. Also, his matches, in retrospect were so much better than Hulk Hogan’s during his reign!!! It’s about time that Backlund gets his due respect!!!

  2. modew's manager

    Backlund was a good champion who could draw big in his time. He redefined the championship, and the definition of a challenger. His usual opponent was someone in the 240-250 range who knew their way around. The first Pat Patterson series cemented his reputation, mostly because Patterson was a mechanic and genius at laying out matches. Add in guys like Adonis and Slaughter, who also showed with their dance shoes on. His worst defenses were against Bruno-type opponent, large and lumbering.

    • bostongardenbalcony

      I remember a match at the Boston Garden in December 1982 between Backlund and Ray Stevens that should have been good for the reasons you mention above, but instead was just terrible with a lousy count-out finish because Stevens was on the ring apron too long. Granted, Stevens was at the end of his career, but I remember being disappointed either way.

  3. Joe

    I recall All Star Wrestling showing Backlund losing and my phone rang off to hook. I taped it on my VCR in absolute shock. Of course it happened during Christmas school vacation and it made it more interesting…wow!! Such a significant moment in pro wrestling history.

  4. Joe

    I was not aware that media outlets, especially in Philly would mention something of this magnitude on its sports reports. The closest thing I recall is Channel 7 sports reporter Zip Rzeppa reporting and sometimes showing footage of the highlights of that nights Boston Garden matches. I wonder if we could find footage of any of these news reports???

  5. Joe

    It is great to finally see that the WWE and one of its most popular champions come to terms with the induction of “The Golden Boy from Princeton, MN” into the WWE Hall of Fame. From the time I turned on wrestling in 1980 this red headed kid was at the top of the business. Sell outs at Boston Garden were mainly for his feuds/matches. Whether it was his historic one hour time limit draws with Magnificent Muraco, or his cage matches with the likes of Stan Hansen, Pat Patterson, Sgt, Slaughter and of course Jimmy Snuka. Or his wild melees with George The Animal Steele, Ken Patera. Of course his most famous Texas Death Matches with Greg The Hammer Valentine were even more worthy of standing in line to get into the arena. Back in the day, this guy had it all. But one thing he had that no other champ has had since was the actual skill of scientific wrestling. Some of Backlund’s finishing moves were the most exciting in the day. Whether it was the sunset flip or the arched backflip they were always enjoyed by the crowds. My first match at the Garden as a fan was back in June of 1981. His battle against King Kong Mosca left me speechless. From the time he entered the ring up until his pinfall the crowd was in a frenzy. He made me the fan I am today. Of course his infamous matches with the Superfly Jimmy Snuka made me nervous, I like along with countless of others thought for sure this would be the challenge that Backlund couldn’t handle. But he did manage to narrowly escape the Superfly at MSG in the steel cage. One thing that did bother me was that Boston Garden did not get a steel cage affair between them two. I have had the privilege of meeting Bob Backlund at at RAW taping years ago. I introduced to him my son who was 12 at the time. My son asked me who he was and I said he was my childhood hero. My son looked at me and said “so it would be like me meeting Stone Cold Steve Austin.” I said “yeah, something like that but a little bit better.”

  6. Steve Viglio

    Well said. I was studying for my personal trainer exam and I had RAW on in the background last night. I heard the HOF video pop up and I assumed it was for Bundy until I heard Backlund’s name and I hopped out of my chair and went right for the tv. Backlund needs to be in there and I’m so happy he finally will be. Next up is Bruno and Macho, but I’m really not holding my breath on Bruno in his lifetime.

    • CT

      Much deserved honor for an often overlooked great champion. For a 10-year-old growing up in New England in the early 1980s, Bob Backlund was the WWF. His matches were fantastic. The first time I saw him at a house show was February 21, 1982 at the Hartford Civic Center in Connecticut. He beat Adrian Adonis in a fantastic 20 minute match. The arena was sold out and the crowd erupted when Backlund came down the isle. No music, no pyro, just a champ and his manager. Another great match I saw in person was his battle against the Masked Superstar at the Hartford Civic Center in October 1983. Although, the big match that night was Superfly Snuka vs Sgt. Slaughter in a cage match (one week after the historic MSG cage match against Muraco). That match was off the chats. Snuka and the Sarge were fantastic and the crowd was in a frenzy. True magic! I wish that match and Backlund’s was recorded that night. Again, no music, no fancy lights, just an overflow crowd cheering it’s heroes and hoping the villians got what was coming to them, Again, true magic. As a young wreslting fan in 1983, I can’t stress enough the SHOCK and I mean SHOCK when the Iron Shiek beat Backlund in MSG. No one thought Backlund would ever loose. Not to sound like a broken record, but this is when wrestling was truly magical to fans. Being in Connecticut, we were lucky to not only get house show line ups for Harford and New Haven, but got all the Boston Garden line ups on WLVI and MSG line ups on WWOR. It was fantastic seeing who Backlund would defend the title against every month. I know things have to change, but the early 1980s in New England was a great time to be a wrestling fan. Glad we have Youtube to relive these childhood memories. Thanks to Bob Backlund for his years of entertaining legions of fans.

      • Michael

        I recall the Backlund title loss in 1983 vividly. Here in Philly, I was watching “Automan” (sheesh, talk about a cheesy show) then during commercial, the pitch for the local news at 11pm came on and Howard Eskin (sports anchor who some of you may know) mentioned that Iron Sheik defeated Bob Backlund for the title at MSG. I immediately marked out and called a friend due to this shocking news…

      • bostongardenbalcony

        Wow, the comment about the sportscaster mentioning the Sheik’s title win is crazy. That was also an unreal moment for me. Hard for modern fans to understand that when you’ve watched someone as champ for three years (in my case, because I started watching in early 1981), to see him lose unexpectedly is kind of mind-blowing. It was the first world title change I had seen.

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