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 - Bill Camp

When someone says the word "champion," various images come to everyone’s mind. One image that should be in everyone’s head, sooner or later, is that of Bob Backlund. He is a man that to me personifies the word, "wrestling champion" and this month is his profile. The information in this profile is taken from his official website and from being a plain old fan.

He grew up in Princeton, Minn. where he wrestled in high school, and played a little football. Although they often portrayed him on television as a scholar from Princeton University who wrestled in college, he actually went to North Dakota State University for two years, but did excel at wrestling. Later he was trained for the ring by the legendary Verne Gagne at a time when nearly everyone in the business was trained by either Gagne or Stu Hart.

Then he set out on the NWA promotions where he was seen often in Missouri and Georgia. He gained some acclaim in Florida where he twice won the regional tag team titles, once with Jerry Brisco and once with Steve Keirn. Then his life and career changed when he received a phone call from Vince McMahon, Sr.

He wasn’t around the World Wide Wrestling Federation long before being given an off hand chance at the WWWF title against then-champion "Superstar" Billy Graham on February 20, 1978. Since young Bobby was such an underdog they had to have him win in controversial fashion, so at the pinfall Graham had his foot draped over the bottom rope, but the ref failed to see it and gave the belt to Backlund. My own theory on why they gave the title to Bobby was that they were trying to have the youngest ever World Champion (really it was a world title in every way except for name, and that was only for political reasons as an NWA member) so they had to have him beat Lou Thesz’s record. Shortly after, NWA Georgia had Tommy Rich break the record for youngest champion (although I believe that in both cases Thesz was still legitimately younger). Once he got the title, the WWWF built the promotion around him, and even gave him Bruno Sammartino’s old manager Arnold Skaaland, who at that time owned part of the company.  More...

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