Backlund: From All-American Boy To Professional Wrestling’s World Champion: Foreword By: Roddy Piper
Roddy Piper was only 20-years old when Bob Backlund came to LA after a tour of New Japan. Promoter Mike LaBell asked if Backlund could defend the WWWF Heavyweight Championship against America’s Champion and Vince McMahon Sr. agreed to allow it. It just so happened that Piper was the America’s Champion. The hype for the match was incredible and the building was sold out. They even had to turn people away because of fire codes.
The time limit was an hour and they went fifty-nine minutes. They had never worked a match against each other anywhere prior to this encounter. Piper credits Backlund for traveling from Japan to LA working fifty-nine minutes and still making Piper look good in the process. Backlund wasn’t the kind of guy to enter the ring and work fifteen minutes getting his stuff in and leaving. He’d wrestled the way the fans wanted it. So, whether it was working forty-five minutes or an hour. Backlund was going to work it for the fans and make his opponent look good.
Backlund’s style didn’t include a lot of rest holds or stalling. They worked their asses off for nearly an hour working mat wrestling holds leading into the next high spot. The fans were digging everything they were doing. Piper notes that the match taught him how to get over with the fans and stay over with them. He considers the match to be one of his better pieces of work from artistic and technical point of view.
The match with Backlund was a showcase of sorts for Piper to get himself over with promoters and prove that he can go in the ring. Even though Backlund pinned him in the match, Piper was left more over with the crowd then he was prior. Piper credits Backlund’s storytelling for allowing that to happen.
Sometime after the match Backlund sent Backlund a wheel, which is something Backlund used to workout. Some thirty years later Piper and his son Colt Toombs still used the wheel. The wheel is impossible to wear out, which is metaphor to use for Backlund. Piper had to remind Backlund that it was an honor to write something for the book. Backlund approached politely and in a humble way.
Backlund worked his way though a lot of competition in the business to become the World Champion and stay that way for six years. Six years in wrestling is like a lifetime. Piper notes that wrestling isn’t a team sport and that Backlund was able to reach the top on his own. Backlund got there, and stayed healthy while doing it. Backlund had everything that was needed to get people into the biggest arenas for the biggest territory. The fans believed in Bob Backlund.
Piper also says that Backlund was able to keep a strong legacy and remained liked by everyone. Backlund did what a World Champion was supposed to do. The way he lived, his diet, work ethic, how he carried himself as a man, his interaction with people and promoters and how he acted in the dressing room. That’s why Backlund is so well respected.
Backlund was a shy guy, but he’d be the first person to approach someone he didn’t know. He’d be more than willing to give advice on training or health. Piper would compare Backlund to Lou Thesz. Piper has never forgotten what Backlund did for him in Los Angeles. Piper believes Backlund was the epitome of what a World Champion should be and he had a heart of gold.
Introduction coming soon…