A car ride on the Atlanta roadway after a big show at the Omni led to a turning point in Bob Backlund’s professional wrestling career.
“I was in a car with three wrestlers, and two of them [top tier wrestlers] wanted me to smoke marijuana with them,” Backlund said. “I wouldn’t.”
The incident occurred during the early days of his career while working for Georgia Championship Wrestling in the NWA.
Back in the day, to decline anything from a veteran wrestler, was a show of disrespect, but Backlund stuck to his principles.
Never miss a local story.
“I tried rolling down the window, and they wouldn’t have that,” he recalled. “I ended up walking home that night...It took almost all night.”
Serving an an important moment in his professional career, it paved the way to bigger and better.
Backlund said: “Promoters heard about that, and when Vince McMahon Sr. was looking for an All-American boy, they told him about me.”
And that is when this true babyface -- in and out of the ring -- reached the top of the mountain.
Bob Backlund became WWWF Champion.
In the press box with WWE Hall of Famer Bob Backlund
From the clean cut, All-American boy who became WWF champion to the psychotic heel character Mr. Backlund who regained the title 11 years later, Bob Backlund is a man of principle.
Because of that principle, his career took off.
WWE Hall of Famers Bob Backlund and Sgt. Slaughter visited the press box, welcoming media during WWE WrestleMania 33 at Camping World Stadium (formerly Orlando Citrus Bowl).
Backlund, 67, mentioned his autobiography, covering 66 years of personal and professional life. The book is available at www.BobBacllundNOW.com as well as the suspenders and the poster. Backlund emails the person when he will send it and them signs it and mails it personally.
Born in Princeton, Minn., Backlund was a state finalist in wrestling for Princeton High School. He made All-American in football and wrestling at Waldorf Junior College in Forest City, Iowa. During his sophomore season, he focused on wrestling and once again earned All American honors, placing second at nationals.
Backlund then became an amateur wrestler at North Dakota State University, winning the NCAA Division II Championship at 190 pounds in 1971. He moved up to Heavyweight and finished fifth at the 1972 NCAA Division II Nationals. He graduated from North Dakota State with a degree in physical education.
A member of the Waldorf Junior College Hall of Fame, he also played football at North Dakota State for Ron Erhardt, who later coached the New England Patriots.
A man of many hats, Backlund is a pro wrestling champion, a wrestling manager, a college graduate, a coach, a bail bondsman. He worked for a dry wall business, carrying pales of cement for a plasterer, which helped develop his strength. A mentor, a speaker, a political candidate, physically fit. He still sports a bow tie and suspenders. He is a husband, a father and a grandfather.
Legends Harley Race, the Funks, Eddie Graham respected Backlund.
A true babyface, Backlund won the WWWF title in 1978, beating Superstar Billy Graham. He lost the WWF title to the Iron Sheik in 1983, when his manager Golden Boy Arnold Skaaland threw in the towel. That served as the springboard for the arrival of Hulk Hogan, and the birth of Hulk-A-Mania.
Backlund returned to WWF in 1992. By 1994, he reinvented himself with the changing times. He transformed into a psychotic persona, snapping at any moment. Mr. Backlund a heel. He began dressing in suits and wearing bow ties, offered a large vocabulary (sometimes misused), and chastised the younger generation of fans and wrestlers.
It worked. Involved in an angle with Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith, Mr. Backlund beat Bret The Hitman Hart for the belt in November 1994. Albeit a very short title reign, it marked his second title run. Eleven years apart.
Also remarkable, always in a great shape, he is a workout machine.
Proof. How about these recent numbers.
WrestleMania 33 Weekend in Orlando, he did 600 squats in 30 minutes on Friday, 500 squats on Saturday and 550 squats on Sunday
“I was walking with my daughter, and I did pull-ups Saturday on a tree,” he noted. “I could exercise in the closet, if I have to.”
Backlund could bench press 502 pounds and dead lift 550.
Quite the feat for someone who overcame so much as a child.
“I didn’t move for two years when I was born,’ he said. “I didn’t play with the other kids.”
Physically, he couldn’t.
“Now I have fun with the people.”
He sure does.
School was another challenge for him as a youth, but he found an outlet.
“I flunked third grade in Princeton, Minn.,” he said. “It was embarrassing. It was downing.
“I was very comfortable being alone. I didn’t have many friends. My dad was a drinker. My mom was busy trying to keep the family together. My ability in school was poor. I started, wanted to do sports. I wanted to work hard and get stronger.”
Carpe diem is an important mantra. For Backlund, “Never capitulate.”
Who needs the drama and the negativity. Backlund focuses on the positive.
“PMA – Positive Mental Attitude.”
All of that and more is covered in his life story, a very interesting journey.
“Backlund: From All-American Boy to Professional Wrestling’s World Champion”
The autobiography is available at:
- Pro Wrestling On The Web
YouTube jim varsallone (jimmyv3 channel)