Re: Forgotten Legends16: Bob Backlund
Backlund is one of those guys that they trusted with the belt because he was such an outstanding worker. He really was a technical wizard in there4. I actually watched a match he had with HULK HOGAN of all people and got a very good 30 minute somewhat technical match out of him.
However, there wasn't much to him beyond that. He was just a pasty white guy that could work, and that's it. Not a whole lot of charisma or likeability beyond that. It felt like he only got the belt because Bruno left and they didn't know what else to do besides give it to a guy that could work. One could argue that guys like Bret Hart were sort of the same thing in that Bret only got the belt because he was the best worker and all the big guns (Hogan, Warrior, Savage, Piper) had left, but Bret put a lot more into his presentation than Backlund did as champion.
I first saw Backlund when he came back in 1992 and I thought "This guy was champion for six years?". He just didn't look like a main eventer, talk like one, or act like one. He was just a guy that wrestled and that's it.
Now the flip side of all of this is that Backlund's heel turn in 1994 was ONE OF THE BEST CHARACTER CHANGES EVER!!! It was a story that I understood and bought into INSTANTLY! So much so that it almost felt like it was planned from the moment Backlund lost the title to The Iron Sheik the way he did. He lost the title without actually submitting (his manager Arnold Skaaland threw in the towel when he was in the Camel Clutch) and when he snapped and turned on Bret, I totally believed that his loss at the hands of The Sheik had slowly driven him to insanity. It just made perfect sense that a loss like that would eat away at even the purest of souls and when Bret beat him in a match on Superstars, he fucking lost it and when he became this psycho that locked in The Crossface Chicken Wing to anyone within arm's length, they had a dangerous psycho heel on their hands!
His promos? Awesome. He totally sounded like a psychopath. They actually took a guy in his 40s and had his big 6 year run over a decade earlier and made him one of the most compelling characters in wrestling. It was unbelievable. And then, much to my shock, they actually had him win the title! And I was OK with it! He was the best heel and he got the belt. It was a great move in my book. And now, Backlund had a strong character to mix in with his great technical skills, which resulted in one of my personal favorite matches of all time, the match where he defeated Bret Hart at Survivor Series 1994. That match had EVERYTHING from drama, to technical expertise, to emotional tension, and a great ending. It was Pro Wrestling at its finest.
So OK, they have this major hot heel. What do they do with him? Oh, they just have him drop the belt to a completely unprepared Diesel at a house show in a match that only lasted 7 seconds.....FUCK THIS COMPANY!!!