Highlights of Bob Backlund’s Book: Part 5 (Early title reign edition)

After an even longer hiatus as I have focused more on the Greetings From Allentown podcast, it’s back to more highlights of Bob Backlund’s 2015 autobiography

Billy has also said over the years that he and Bruno talked on the night of their steel cage match in Philadelphia about pulling a last-minute screwjob over on the promoters.

I’m going to suggest that Graham is full of crap on this one. Bruno didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would participate in such a thing, especially since it would be putting the title back on him which is something the Living Legend was precisely trying to get away from so it makes zero sense. Losing the world title really screwed with Graham’s mind.

Billy’s face was blank and emotionless—quite a change from the usual. I could tell he was really struggling with it all.

Backlund making my previous point, and something that virtually everyone has pointed out. While it’s probable that Graham would have been a success as a babyface champion, the issue of his longevity wouldn’t have changed. His body was going to break down whether he was happy with wrestling or not.

The bell tolled several times to bring the noise level in the arena down as ring announcer Howard Finkel stepped to the microphone.

I love that trope from the MSG shows: the constant ringing of the bell during the announcements. “<ding ding ding> The next bout is schedule for one fall and is for the World Wrestling Federation championship. <ding….ding ding> Introducing first the manager, the Grand Wizard of wrestling! <ding….ding ding>” And so on.

It was my first real exposure to talking a lot on camera, and it just wasn’t my strength. I was a pretty shy, and I certainly never professed to have the ability like Graham or Dusty to talk people into the seats.

Backlund did get better as time went along, but as I said on one of the podcast episodes, Backlund comes off like a hockey player in his promos. Stuff like head down, clichés being spewed left and right, etc. However, he was authentic and that was greatly valued in the wrestling of the time.

It was interesting that I had never been booked in Philly during my run-up to winning the title, so the fans there hadn’t really warmed up to me at all other than what they saw of me on television. Philadelphia, with its large ethnic Italian population, was very much a Bruno town, and was definitely one of the places, along with Pittsburgh and Boston, where I had a harder time getting over.

Philadelphia has always been something of its own world, but he eventually won that city over but would never be on Bruno’s level. Backlund always seemed to have some issues in Boston and until Bruno’s retirement in 1981, the WWF was much more likely to send Sammartino to Boston than Backlund.

A lot of people don’t know this, but initially, [George] Steele played a hipster character that spoke on the microphone, called people “daddy-o,” and knew how to wrestle.

Steele was shifted into the incomprehensible Animal character which was something that made him much more memorable. He never used wrestling holds other than the flying hammerlock that was his finisher.

If you think about it, there is no need for you to throw a dropkick or use aerial moves if you can just use your immense strength and size to bully and overpower your opponents.

This is something I’d like to see more in today’s wrestling because I think it is something that is timeless and would work in any era. It is also much safer for the performer as well. When everyone does dives and does the same moves, the product is far less interesting.

I was in a bar with Andre one night where he drank 112 bottles of beer and remained coherent enough to line all of the empties up on the windowsills of the bar.

That must have been one hell of a wide window, but Andre drinking stories are always fun. I fear that with the passage of time we may have heard them all by now. A friend of mine’s mother had told me she met Andre in the mid-70s, but there was no associated drinking story so I was disappointed.

I got bloody noses very easily, and used to get them all the time in amateur wrestling—so oftentimes I would just give myself a bloody nose and let that bleed all over everything and get the job done without actually having to gig myself with a blade. Other times, I would cut the very tip off a razorblade and bury the “gig” sharp side up in a piece of athletic tape on the inside of my wrist or finger. Some guys even kept the gig in their mouths, although I could never understand how anyone did that without swallowing it or gashing the inside of their mouths during a high spot.

Ew, gross. There was a Steve Austin Show podcast with Jake Roberts where they earnestly discussed prepping their blade and all I could think is that there is no other business where this would happen. I’m with Backlund on one thing: the guys who put the blade in their mouth are insane. You would need incredible focus to not screw up and have it come loose or something.

Next time: Backlund messes up on a promo, thoughts on Antonio Inoki on a trip to Japan, and Bob takes a few of his least favorite partners/opponents to the woodshed.

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