A lot less time between blog posts this time, as it’s on to part 6 of the highlights of Bob Backlund’s 2015 autobiography.
“I’m going to kill that son of a bitch!” Oops.
The first hot angle with Backlund as champion was against “High Chief” Peter Maivia, the grandfather of The Rock. Maivia attacked Backlund’s manager Arnold Skaaland while teaming with Bob and it was a real shock and not just because it meant Skaaland actually did something other than go to the back and play cards. In the promo afterward, Backlund lost his way wondering if the whole world was against him, and declaring that he would “kill” Maivia, a real no no.
Antonio Inoki was here for that card as well, and was being billed as the “Martial Arts Champion,” as the front office was trying to figure out what to do with him to make him a draw in America, where he was still virtually unknown.
Inoki was a hero in Japan but never got any traction in the United States, which I chalk up to two things. First, the concept of a Japanese hero was something that hadn’t really been considered in U.S. wrestling, as they were usually the cliché foreign bad guys. Second, his working style was not something that was easy to digest for fans of American wrestling. Personally, I hate him for the Muhammad Ali fiasco because the joke of a match damaged Ali’s legs to the point where he was never the same athlete.
A tag-team match involving Ivan Putski always had to be about Ivan Putski. He just wouldn’t have it any other way.
I had heard that Putski was kind of an egomaniac, but it was rather surprising to see Backlund come at him with guns blazing in the book. At this point in reading, I went “ooooh” figuring there might be more juicy stuff like this to come.
The first of those matches was against an aging veteran named Dick “The Bulldog” Brower. Brower was one of the hardest guys I ever had to work with in the ring, and probably the least favorite man I ever had to wrestle for the WWF title.
Backlund was very proud of the fact that in general he could make decent lemonade when handed a lemo of an opponent. Brower was pretty old by the time he came in, well into his mid-40s and unable to keep up with Backlund who was still in his late 20s. They had a couple of matches after Brower’s arrival at the start of 1979. The first was at MSG on April 30, and the next one was in Philadelphia at the Spectrum on June 23 and promos for that one is on YouTube (for now).
Next time you watch a battle royal on YouTube, notice how quickly the eliminations happen once the first few people go out. That’s because every wrestler in there wanted to get out as soon as he could to avoid getting hurt.
So I guess this finally explains why Gorilla Monsoon would always say battle royals were so dangerous.
Many people have asked me over the years why during the early days of my title reign, I didn’t appear very often in Boston. First, the promoter for the Boston Garden was Abe Ford—and Ford was a Bruno guy. Boston was also a town with a very strong blue-collar Italian heritage, and that was Bruno’s sweet spot in terms of his drawing power.
This was a point I made in part 5. The city of Boston had a hard time moving past Bruno and fully accepting Backlund as their new #1 hero. Even during his mid-80s comeback, Bruno would be used in main events against Roddy Piper and Randy Savage for those months where Hulk Hogan was elsewhere.
Pat Patterson was the only man in the nearly six years that I held the WWF World Championship to get four consecutive world title match main events with me at Madison Square Garden. That speaks volumes about the kind of business we were doing.
I did a review series on Patterson’s book last year. The general rule of thumb was this for MSG series:
1 match: program was a relative failure, so it’s being aborted
2 matches: Program could have gone either way, but best to end after two matches
3 matches: Most common scenario, which would feature two screwy finishes before Backlund prevails in the blowoff.
In the Patterson series, they did the usual two screwy finishes to start then did a double knockout finish for the third bout. This led to a cage match in the fourth match, which Bob won by escaping the cage. Patterson was very proud as he recalled in his book about the program and the fact that he was never pinned by Backlund.
Next time: Bob’s thoughts on the Bruno-Larry feud, Backlund meets young Hulk Hogan, Sgt. Slaughter and Stan Hansen.