Tonight at the Hall of Fame, Sammartino and Backlund get some respect back

So, this weekend, in the shadow of WrestleMania 29, two of the biggest omissions in the WWE Hall of Fame will be corrected.

Madison Square Garden has lost its luster as the “Mecca of professional wrestling,” as Gorilla Monsoon used to call it, but it is appropriate that Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund — each of whom headlined dozens of cards at the arena during their tenures as WWF Heavyweight Champion — will get their due tonight at MSG during the Hall of Fame induction.

As I’ve written many times on this blog, Sammartino’s absence in the Hall of Fame became a running joke. While kudos go to Triple H for making the Bruno entry happen, it is sad that Vince McMahon could not get it together on his own watch to get Sammartino in. It’s hard to imagine Vince McMahon, Sr., would have been happy with his son’s indiscretion if the elder Vince was still alive.

Backlund was the first WWF Heavyweight Champion many of you reading this blog grew up with. It wasn’t until years after Backlund had left that I truly appreciated his ring style and conditioning. With the right opponent (Magnificent Muraco, Ken Patera), Backlund could have an awesome match. With the wrong opponent (Ray Stevens in a match I saw at the old Boston Garden, for example), Backlund’s bouts were boring.

How did we go so long without either of these guys in? And their inductions will force the fans to look at other deserving candidates who have not been given the nod, in particular the late Randy “Macho Man” Savage, who really should have been among the first wrestlers honored in the Hall of Fame. Sure, Savage’s family is playing hardball, saying they’ll only allow Savage to be inducted if Angelo Poffo and Lanny Poffo also get spots. Does anyone really believe either of those two had anywhere near the career that Savage did?

Regardless, it’s a good weekend for long-time fans who have waited patiently for two of the great champions of the past to finally be recognized in the most appropriate arena possible.


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  3. J.Cee

    As I stated before, the reason for the delay for Bob & Bruno was because they worked for Vince’s dad and Vince Jr wanted to build his vision of the company on a different foundation with the likes of Hogan and the proliferation of network TV and PPV. The sentiments of Bruno & Bob also played a role in the delay in their induction in the HOF when they didn’t want to acquiesce to Vince’s change of approach. The notion of going into other territories was taboo prior to 1985, but Vince Jr didn’t care because he was determined to develop the brand in spite of what his dad promoted. Best wishes and good health to both Bob Backlund and Bruno Sammartino for their perseverence through the past 2 decades.

  4. Evan J Rodgers

    It is about time Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund are inducted. I became a fan in 1979 and have seen Backlund wrestle live many, many times. I didnt like him, I thought he was boring. But looking back at some of his matches on WWE Classics on demand, I have grown to really appreciate his wrestling ability!! Some of his manuevers were awesome and he really was a hook-shoot specialist. He could legitimately defeat many of his opponents easily at any time. I also read in an interview that he grew up very poor, with no electricity. He truly earned everything he got with a non stop work ethic. I think he got into college with a scholarship. All that being said, he did lose ALOT of matches by technicalitys like count-outs, etc., just barely scraping by with the belt and “special guest refferees like Gorilla Monsoon and Ivan Putski showed him undue favoritism. Johnny Rodz would have made a great champion, as would Jose Luis Rivera!! Backlunds reign went on unabated for so long, the people needed a change. Instead we got Hogan, who didnt wrestle very well. Sammartino is THE LEGEND and I am glad he is somewhat reconciled with the WWE. I agreed with alot of his argument against the WWE. It should be noted that Bruno Sammartinos first opponent was Swede Hanson!! Hopefully Swede Hanson will be inducted someday!! His 1979 title match against Bob Backlund in Madison Square Garden is legendary, he almost won the belt. His countless tag team titles with Rip Hawk is amazing. Hw wrestled occasionally for Capitol Wrestling in the 60’s and made a big impact in 1979- then came back to end his career in 1982-1985 in the WWF, still a star!! Bruno Sammartino is still in great shape and even in his advanced age he could knock out a 20 something year old man!! This 2013 Hall of Fame Induction is very special and very meaningful!! I am thrilled.

  5. Joe

    Yes it is fitting that tonight, two of the greatest WWF Champions get there Hall of Fame nod at the arena that made them famous. The late WWF Hall of Famer Gorilla Monsoon used to call New Yorks Madison Square Garden “The Mecca of Porfessional Wrestling.” And for good reason. This was the hot spot of the WWF in 70’s and 80’s. Both Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund could sell this arena out in seconds. I remember when the cable boom hit in the very early 80’s, USA Network used to televise the matches from MSG once a month. It was usually on a Tuesday night. One thing that stood out to me was the roar of the crowd when Bruno or Backlund made his way to the ring. The old microphones back then became all distorted from the feedback of the roar of the crowds. The popularity these two men garnered was amazing. They were the ones idolized by millions. It’s great to finally see them get their deserving inductions tonight into the WWE Hall of Fame.

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