After bouncing around various leagues, including the AWA and NWA, Backlund joined the then-WWWF in 1977. Playing the part of a clean-cut Face with impressive technical ability, Backlund quickly got over with wrestling fans, and would win the WWF Championship from "Superstar" Billy Graham in 1978. Backlund would remain champion for the next five years (though would semi-officially lose and quickly regain the belt during a Japanese tour, and, in 1981, an angle was played where Greg Valentine, after losing by pinfall, would be "accidentally" given the belt by a kayfabe "dazed" referee. The title was supposedly "held-up" until the next month when easily Backlund won the rematch). While Backlund would defend his championship against a veritable who's who of the early 1980s wrestling scene, eventually fans grew tired of the squeaky-clean Backlund's domination, especially with the more muscular and charismatic Hulk Hogan waiting in the wings.
The natural angle at this point would be for Backlund to make a Face–Heel Turn leading up to a confrontation with Hogan. However, Backlund refused to change his character and so would end up losing the belt to a transitional champion Foreign Wrestling Heel The Iron Sheik in 1983. (Sheik would drop the belt to Hogan one month later.) Backlund would bounce around the mid-card before entering a semi-retirement in 1984.
Backlund returned to the WWF in 1992, and although at first he was the same face character as before (but now trying to mentor younger stars), he would eventually portray a gimmick that crossed his Badass Grandpa credentials with a Crazy Old Man tendency to "snap" without provocation. Feuding with WWF Bret Hart in 1994, Backlund would defeat him in a Throw In The Towel match at that year's Survivor Series, thus beginning a second official reign of championship. Three days later, Diesel would win the title from him in a Squash Match in an oddly non-televised show.
Since then, Backlund has made sporadic appearances on WWE programming and pay-per-view events (most notably as a Joke Character entry in the 2000 Royal Rumble), and made a brief run in TNA during 2007. He also showed up on WWE again in 2012 in the lead-up to the 1000th episode of RAW when a furious and humiliated Heath Slater, fresh off a loss to Sin Cara, challenged any former champion in the back to throw down with him and Backland answered the call, submitting Slater with his crossface chicken wing.
"These tropes are associated with MR. Backlund, you plebeians! And I want you to make MR. Backlund great again!":
- Acceptable Professional Targets: Normally during his original WWF run, Backlund greatly respected the officials and never touched them. But during one match at New York City's Madison Square Garden in 1983, after he got disqualified in a match against George Steele (he had gotten Steele's foreign object, a dull blade of some sort, away from him and began hitting him with it repeatedly), he went crazy, shoving down the referee.
- In Backlund's biography, he and Steele both recalled their series of matches, remarking how they wanted to put on a morality-play-of-sorts and have the fan empathize with the good guy (Backlund) who got the raw end of the deal by a referee making a bad call. In the matches they planned, Steele would jab Backlund with the blade several times in the neck, all without trying to actually wrestle, before the referee took his bump, Backlund landed a blow to cause Steele to drop the object, Backlund hitting Steele several times with the object before the referee comes to and, seeing Backlund use the blade and disqualifies him.
- The All-American Boy: Well, duh. It was only his Red Baron as a Face.
- All-American Face
- Badass Grandpa: Just ask Heath Slater. Or the fans who chanted "He's still got it!" during a July 2012 episode of Raw.
- Beware the Nice Ones: While this applies to his 1994 Face–Heel Turn, it also was evident during Backlund's original run as World Wrestling Federation champion when a heel wrestler got him angry enough. "Superstar" Billy Graham found this out firsthand during their feud in late 1982-early 1983, when Graham – during a feud that played up Graham's pent-up rage from his title loss nearly five years earlier – destroyed Backlund's title belt. Backlund picked up the pieces of the belt, looked at it and began screaming like a lunatic, "WHY?!" Backlund, who usually used mat and scientific wrestling in his matches, also proved he was an excellent brawler when pushed by his heel opponents.
- But actually, the psychopathic side of Backlund's personality – one who becomes irrational and unpredictable when really angered – was first seen in the fall of 1978, when his close friend, "High Chief" Peter Maivia, attacked Backlund's manager, Arnold Skaaland, during a tag-team match; Maivia then turned his attention onto Backlund. After Maivia was separated from Backlund and hustled back to the locker room, Backlund screamed out, "I'll KILL that SON-OF-A-BITCH!!!!" (Maivia, meanwhile, later interview claimed he was sick and tired of Backlund supposedly ducking him and not offering him a title shot. Needless to say, Maivia was not successful in his quest to win the title.)
- Canon Discontinuity: According to the "official" WWE title history, Bob Backlund defeated "Superstar" Billy Graham for the World Wide Wrestling Federation Championship in February of 1978, and lost it to The Iron Sheik in December of 1983. However, in November of 1979, at a cross-promotional show in Japan, Antonio Inoki defeated Backlund cleanly for the title, and was announced and promoted at NWF (National Wrestling Federation, a subsidiary of the NWA) shows as being the WWF Champion. He lost it back to Backlund a week later in December. Since the WWF never authorized this title change, they never acknowledged Inoki as being their first (and, discounting the Pacific-Island-Billed-As-Japanese Yokozuna, only) Asian world champion.
- Captain Ersatz: In the Gameboy and Gameboy Advance versions of Fire Pro Wrestling.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Good lord, yes....
- Curb-Stomp Battle: O hai, Diesel.
- Darker and Edgier: Averted. Backlund was given the opportunity to have a Face–Heel Turn in The '80s, but he refused, and left the WWF once Hulk Hogan was champion. When he finally did turn during his second run in 1994, it was instead a subversion of his All-American Face status.
- Demoted to Extra: After Hulk Hogan made his presence felt in the WWF, it was downhill for Backlund, who'd had his day, and just couldn't compete with a charismatic, larger than life character like Hogan.
- Determinator: His sixty-one minute performance at Royal Rumble 1993. It was a record that stood for eleven years and was then passed by both Chris Benoit (61 minutes, 30 seconds in 2004) and Rey Mysterio (62 minutes, 12 seconds in 2006).
- Et Tu, Brute?: In his heel turn in 1994, Backlund took this stance toward his former manager, Arnold Skaaland, who threw in the towel and caused Backlund to lose the title to The Iron Sheik. Backlund would get his revenge on an early episode of WWE RAW.
- Face–Heel Turn: When Backlund lost a scientific match to Bret "Hitman" Hart in 1994. On the surface, it appeared as though Backlund was just disappointed he lost a match to one of his contemporaries, but instead it brought up years of frustration of being considered "old style" and uncharismatic (never mind the fact that Hart also was a successful scientific wrestler who, while more charismatic than Backlund, never had to rely on his persona to get him over).
- During his face run in the 1970s and 1980s, he was the victim of this several times, most notably "High Chief" Peter Maivia in 1978-1979. This was usually due to a so-called friend secretly wanting the title and frustrated that Backlund didn't think to grant him a title shot.
- Finishing Move: The crossface chicken wing, which, at the time of his 1994 heel run, was put over as one of the most dangerous holds in wrestling. Heck, it was dangerous when he used it (as a face) in the 1980s.
- Backlund's other favorite finishing moves included the "bridge" (where, by the leverage of his arched back, he could pin his opponent's shoulders to the mat) and the atomic drop.
- A God Am I: "BECAUSE I FEEL LIKE GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!!!"
- Handshake Refusal: Standard procedure during most of his face matches; he would extend his hand to his opponent at the opening bell, and if refused (which was most of the time) would act terribly hurt.
- Is This What Anger Feels Like?: During his 1990s run, Backlund went from a nice guy/mentor to the up-and-coming stars to heel-gone-mad over what he perceived as unjustly losing the WWF Championship in 1983 to The Iron Sheik, attacking friends old (Arnold Skaaland) and new (Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith).
- It Makes Sense in Context: In his autobiography, Backlund said that his "Mr. Backlund" character made more sense in 1994 than 1984. Apparently, Vince McMahon wanted him to play a similar character — an embittered/jealous heel upset that someone better, flashier, etc., was now getting the cheers he once did — shortly after Hulk Hogan was hired back to become its new star, and that was to be the catalyst for Hogan winning the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. (Of course, Backlund refused, but did agree to lose to The Iron Sheik.) The 1994 heel turn, then, allowed the WWF to refine the character they had in mind — 10 years had passed since the Hogan era began (and Hogan had been gone from the WWF a year), whereas in 1984 the Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection was just starting to pick up steam — and allowed Backlund, who knew well how to draw negative heat, to play the character to perfection. His matches with Bret Hart also gave the WWF some of its best mid-1990s matches, and given that the crossface chickenwing (Backlund's submission hold) worked better on smaller wrestlers (like Hart and Shawn Michaels) than large, steroid-sized monsters that were common during the era, this allowed him to use the move to greater effect.
- Then again, Backlund's agreeing to be booked as the loser of his match to the Iron Sheik made the title transition to Hogan make sense. After all, who wanted an all-American boy, the standard-bearer for nearly six years and one of the most popular babyfaces of the era, to face the new American champion? Fans wanted America vs. one of its most hated enemies ... and the 22,000-plus fans that saw Hogan crush the Iron Sheik (and in effect, America getting a decisive win over Iran) that January 1984 night was exactly what they got.
- Large Ham: As Crazy Bob...and apparently has twisted the knob right off and gone to eleven permanently as Darren Young's manager.
- Never Learned to Read: Until he was 42.
- Precision F-Strike: When his partner Peter Maivia turned on him during a tag match, an enraged Backlund vowed "to kill the son of a bitch".
- Red Baron: "New York no Teioh" ("Emperor of New York").
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: His mid-'90s Face–Heel Turn was characterized by his speaking with words from the unabridged dictionary; notably, calling the fans "plebians".
- Squash Match: Losing the title to Diesel in just 8 seconds.
- Still Got It: And don't make him prove it.
- They Call Me MISTER Bob Backlund
- Villain Team-Up: In 1996, Backlund and The Iron Sheik teamed up to manage The Sultan note .