The big news coming out of the WWE Hall of Fame 2013 ceremony was Bob Backlund. The former WWF champion delivered a memorable speech for all of the wrong reasons and was mocked. I couldn’t help think that the former champ deserved much better than to be characterized as the joke of the ceremony.
Backlund certainly wasn’t the flashiest champion. By today’s standards, Backlund would probably be considered as vanilla of a character as they come. Yet this is another area that Backlund doesn’t get credit for. Backlund played the humble, gritty, heroic, modest world champion who was so “vanilla” that he drew big crowds for five years in WWWF and WWF main-events around the territory. Isn’t that the end game here?
But the thing that Backlund doesn’t get nearly enough credit for is the quality of his matches. Even I didn’t appreciate them until years later after I came across a six-hour Backlund compilation tape at a convention about 20 years ago. Thankfully you can just go to YouTube now and find those matches, but the thing I came away with after watching that tape was just how highly underrated he still is for his excellence inside of the ring.
Say what you will about Backlund but for a guy that is often disregarded today for his title reign, he had more charisma in his title matches than most WWE champions ever had. Watch his matches with Magnificent Muraco, Greg Valentine, Ken Patera, Superstar Graham, Jimmy Snuka, Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura, Stan Hansen, Pat Patterson, and Sgt. Slaughter and you will see some of the most thrilling championship matches in pro wrestling history.
Take a hard look at that list. Sure you have some real work horses in there like Muraco, Hansen, Patterson, Valentine, and Slaughter. Are Ventura, Hogan, Snuka, Graham, Patera what you’d call work horses? No disrespect to those guys but they are hardly known for their propensity for consistently great wrestling matches. Yet Backlund was able to not only get great matches out of all of those guys on a nightly basis.
Ric Flair is often regarded as the greatest worker of all-time. Flair receives his accolades for his consistent record of fantastic matches with different opponents throughout the early 1980s. Yet Backlund is rarely even considered in Flair’s class. Now did Backlund do it as long as Flair did? Not at all, but for those five years I could put some of Backlund’s best M.S.G. bouts against Flair’s best matches. Of course you are talking about two different styles so it is a matter of taste.
Backlund certainly did himself no favor with his Hall of Fame speech. Backlund quickly turned himself from a historic world champion into a crazy delusional man. Let’s call a spade a spade here. Backlund was hardly shown the respect he deserved before his crazy speech. A man who held the title as long as he did and drew as much money as he did during his reign should have been given higher status. He was barely on the USA Network broadcast.
Do yourself a favor. Go out to YouTube and search out some of Backlund’s WWF title matches against Muraco, Patera, and Snuka. You’ll be glad you did and you’ll learn to appreciate his place in wrestling history the way us older wrestling fans do.
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