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Wrestling / Bob Backlund

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Robert Louis Backlund (born August 14, 1949) is, officially, a two time WWE World Heavyweight Champion, and holds the record for second longest individual possession of the title.

A Ring Oldie who has been wrestling since 1973, 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 won the WWF Championship from "Superstar" Billy Graham in 1978. Backlund remained champion for the next five years (though semi-officially lost and quickly regained the belt to Antonio Inoki during a Japanese tour, and, in 1981, an angle was played where Greg Valentine, after losing by pinfall, was "accidentally" given the belt by a kayfabe "dazed" referee; the title was supposedly "held-up" until the next month when Backlund easily won the rematch). While Backlund defended 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 ended 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 bounced 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 eventually portrayed a gimmick that crossed his current credentials with a Crazy Old Man tendency to "snap" without provocation. Feuding with WWF Bret Hart in 1994, Backlund defeated him in a Throw In The Towel match at that year's Survivor Series, thus beginning a second official championship reign. Three days later, Diesel won 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 Bob answered the call, submitting Slater with his treadmark Finishing Move.

Backlund is also known for a failed attempt in 2000 to run for a Connecticut representative seat in Congress, and for guest-starring in a Memetic Mutation worthy episode of Singled Out.


  • The Ace/Technician vs. Performer: Closer to an all-arounder, much more than the promotion's big names back in the day such as Bruno Sammartino or Pedro Morales. As a matter of fact, he was a sort of a Composite Character of them both: A performer who can play as the brawler or the powerhouse, and who happens to be a true grapplin' master!
  • All-American Face: One of the best examples of Incorruptible Pure Pureness in pro wrestling up to 1994. Then he turned into a hellish "Morality Crusader".
    • Played on the fact that he was also a true "All-American" in Wrestling and Football back in his college days.
  • Alliterative Name: Bob Backlund.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: While this applies to his 1994 Face–Heel Turn, it was also evident during Backlund's original run as WWF 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 – during a feud that played up his pent-up rage from his title loss nearly five years earlier – he destroyed Backlund's title belt. Bob picked up the pieces of the belt, looked at it and began screaming "WHY?" like a lunatic. Backlund, who usually used mat and scientific wrestling in his matches, also proved he was an excellent brawler when pushed by heel opponents.
    • But actually, the psychopathic side of his personality – one who becomes irrational and unpredictable when really angered – was first seen in the fall of 1978, when a close friend, "High Chief" Peter Maivia, attacked his dear manager Arnold Skaaland during a tag-team match, to then turn 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.)
  • Blasphemous Boast: The sign that we have completely lost him.
  • Call-Back: A very lengthy one for Pro Wrestling. He attacked Arnold Skaaland for throwing in the towel during Backlund's WWF Championship loss to the Iron Sheik, which happened over ten years earlier.
  • 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 as "Shamrock" Moss McLand.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Watch closely the page image. You see what's on his shoulders, right? Well... it was the very same towel Arnold Skaaland threw in to save Bob for being further injured by The Iron Sheik.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Good Lord, yes....!!!
  • Consistent Clothing Style: His attire reflected his Good Old Ways status, being as basic as ankle-long boots, kneepads, trunks, a short bathrobe, his towel and nothing more. Incidentally, he wore this same set in many colors, favoring the blue and the red ones but extending to olive green, light purple, pink, brown and even black.
    • This also extended to his civvies, being basically working shoes, khaquis with suspenders, a white long-sleeved shirt and his trademark red bowtie.
  • 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.
  • Defeating the Undefeatable: His overwhelming victory against Graham was seen as this in a time Super Star was considered the WWWF's hottest propiety. Bob was pitted against wrestling top of the tops back in the day to defend his championship, having dessisive victories against them all.
    • An aversion was his defence against a pre-Hulkamania Hogan. Considered one of The Hulkster's best matches ever for it was a rarity showing a very mat-savvy Hogan defeating Backlund, albeit by count-out.
  • 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.
    • Happened again after he dropped the WWF title to Diesel. His feud with Bret culminated in an unmemorable WrestleMania match, and he was given a "Running for President" gimmick that was abandoned.
  • Determinator: His sixty-one minutes and ten seconds 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).
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Managed to invoke this in Jerry Lawler, who was fresh off his feud with Hart. Even The King thought Bob lost it when he started randomly putting people in that dreaded chickenwing of his.
  • 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.
  • Fiery Redhead: Quite a dynamic, merry lad as a face and a completely insane middle-age man as a heel.
  • Finishing Move: The Crossface Chickenwing, which was considered a devastating move when he used it as a face, at the time of his 1994 heel run, was put over as "...possibly the most dangerous hold in wrestling."
    • Backlund's other favorite finishing move was to pin by "The Bridge" right after a German Suplex or an O'Connor Roll (where, by the leverage of his arched back, pinned his opponent's shoulders flat to the mat).
      • Bob's other OTHER finishing move, back during his first babyface run, was the "Atomic knee drop". Which, despite what the name my lead you to believe, was not a top rope knee of any kind, but actually little more than a Running Atomic Drop. People might scoff now, but he defeated "Superstar" Billy Graham with that very technique.
  • The Grappler: Arguably the best example of this on an american promotion outside of the AWA, 10 years prior to the arrival of the likes of The Hitman and Mr. Perfect. Being this the only trait he carried on with once he turned heel.
  • 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.
  • Hidden Depths/Meaningful Name: Both him and Mrs. Backlund are Real Life P.E. Teachers, so there is a very good reason you better start to call him MISTER, plebian!
  • 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, he said that his "Mr. Backlund" character made more sense in 1994 than 1984. Apparently, 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 Hogan was hired back to become its new star, and that was to be the catalyst for Hogan winning the WWF World Heavyweight Championship.
    • The 1994 heel turn allowed the WWF to refine the character they had in mind, ten years had passed since the days when Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection was just starting to pick up steam (Hogan had been gone from the WWF a year) 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 shows, and given that Backlund's submission hold works 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 The All-American Boy, the standard-bearer for nearly six years and one of the most popular babyfaces of the era, to face the new "Real American" World Heavyweight Champ? 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.
    • When trying to educate the audience, you can be damn sure he lost it once he started to rise his voice up, ending his phrases in a "hissing squeal" pitch.
  • Never Learned to Read: Until he was 42 (In Kayfabe, of course). Played upon his "innocent lad" persona.note 
  • Older Is Better: His character's stained view of nowadays world is an echo to his own old school wrestling style.
    • To those old (Or savvy) enough, you may remember him as the clean-cut little town lad who was the "never-cheating do-good hero" back in his day, but since he wasn't able to roll on with the changes, it was a natural Character Development to turn him into the Fallen Hero.
  • 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:
    • "The All-American Boy" as WWWF Champ.
    • "New York no Tenou" (ニューヨークの天応 "Emperor of New York") during his brief stints in Japan.
  • Ring Oldies: Just ask Heath Slater. Or the fans who chanted "He's still got it!" during a July 2012 episode of Raw.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: His mid-'90s Face–Heel Turn was characterized by his speaking with words from the unabridged dictionary; notably, calling the fans "plebeians".
  • Signature Move: Not just EVERY hold and lock on legs, arms, head and waist you could possibly imagine but also their counters. Besides of this, there were lots of throws, but favouring the Atomic Drop over them all.
  • Spiritual Successor:
  • 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 Tibbs!: That's Mr. Backlund to you, unless you want to get stretched.
  • Villain Team-Up: In 1996, Backlund and The Iron Sheik teamed up to manage The Sultan note .
  • When Elders Attack: Backlund's often played the role of a dangerous, mean old guy who hates whippersnappers and goes after them. Instead of a cane, though, his "weapon" of choice is his feared and revered finisher.
  • Wrestling Psychology: Having to face one of the greatest names in the business, a former world heavyweight champion for almost six years who not only was his own generation's best technician, but also sturdy enough to face the likes of Hogan and Sgt. Slaughter on their own terms can be demoralizing.
    • Case in point: Wrestling-wise, the purpose of applying a seemingly simple maneuver like a Colar-and-elbow or a Front waist lock is to keep your opponent completely immobilized, and that's before you do something that really hurts!

"... these tropes didn't change, YOU CHANGED! And now you have been educated I want you to make MISTER Backlund GREAT AGAIN!"