Chrononaut Chronicles: WWE 24/7 Legends Of Wrestling – Backlund & Hogan

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The Chrononaut Chronicles – WWE 24/7: Legends Of Wrestling – Stars of the ’80s (Bob Backlund & Hulk Hogan)

– Your host is Jim Ross with Michael “PS” Hayes, Pat Patterson, Dusty Rhodes, & Mike Graham seated on the panel as JR welcomes us to the show and explains that they’ve selected 10 Superstars of the 1980s to discuss. The first subject is Bob Backlund.

– A video package puts over Bob Backlund as the best pure wrestler ever to hold the WWF Championship at the time.

– JR notes that many people today wonder how Backlund remained WWF Champion for so long despite having “no charisma”, but he believes that Backlund had a unique charisma of his own. Pat points out that Backlund had to follow charismatic performers like Bruno Sammartino, Superstar Graham, & Pedro Morales and calls Bob the “total package” when it came to wrestling, which causes JR to sarcastically namedrop “Total Package” Lex Luger as everybody trips over themselves to get in a shot at Luger. Poor Lex. Pat brags about headlining Madison Square Garden four consecutive months against Backlund and claims it’s never been done before or since, as Hayes hilariously asks if the building was sold out with fans hanging from the rafters to poke fun at the usual exaggerating done by old-timers. Patterson laughs but adds that Bob never beat him, so JR offers to call Backlund down to the studio and states that he’d be in great shape if he did show up. This leads to a discussion about Backlund’s phenomenal conditioning.

– From WWF Championship Wrestling on May 10, 1983, Backlund performs the Step Test at ringside while Arnold Skaaland times him and the Wild Samoans enter the ring for a squash match.

– Graham explains that Backlund was trained in Minnesota by Eddie Sharkey before coming to work in Florida as a WWE 24/7 popup informs us that Sharkey trained many superstars including the Road Warriors & Jesse Ventura. Graham puts over Backlund’s crazy training regimen and states that his dad Eddie loved Backlund because he always liked to have “real wrestlers” around in case anybody got out of line as he tells a story about Bob stretching Buzz Sawyer’s head and neck during a workout until he passed out. Graham explains that his dad sent Backlund to New York because Vince McMahon Sr. wanted a cleancut role-model champion he could send to schools and other public events, and says Backlund worked both NY & Florida for one year before finally winning the WW(W?)F Title. Dusty talks about Bob’s great ability to adapt to what Dusty was doing during a 60-minute “WWE vs. NWA” match they had in front of a sold-out crowd in Osaka, Japan, and then talks about Backlund’s first WWF Title defense in MSG on a supercard that also included Rhodes vs. Superstar Graham in a Bullrope Match and an appearance by Andre The Giant as we see clips of that night from August 28, 1978. JR brings up Backlund’s longtime manager Arnold Skaaland and Patterson jokes that Arnold’s role was to try to get Backlund drunk as they all agree that Bob could drink anybody under the table. I never knew that, I always figured Bob was one of those anti-alcohol health nuts so that’s as big a surprise as finding out that Kurt Angle chews tobacco backstage.

Pat says that Arnold was a great guide since Bob had never been in a major market like NY and explains that instead of using the back door at MSG like the rest of the crew, Backlund used to use the front door like the fans as Dusty notes that Backlund genuinely loved the fans. They all agree that Backlund was a humble respectful family man and we see some old footage of Bob playing with his young daughter in a swimming pool as JR talks about Bob’s political aspirations and the WWE 24/7 popup informs us that Backlund received 30% of the vote when he ran for a Connecticut Congressional seat in 2000. Patterson states that Bob still has the first dollar he ever made, but nobody cares because it’s such a cliche. Hayes wonders why Backlund left after losing the belt in ’83 and Pat suggests that Bob knew he couldn’t compete in the over-the-top “WrestleMania” atmosphere with guys like Hulk Hogan as Hayes & Dusty agree that a lot of guys couldn’t transition into the “sports-entertainment” era of larger-than-life personalities. Some of us still can’t transition, even though that’s what we grew up on. Dusty adds that Backlund showed a lot of personality and proved that he could laugh at himself during his fictitious run for President, which segues into…

– From the May 22, 1995, edition of RAW, we get the classic “Mr. Backlund For President” promo video as Bowtie Bob vows to make everyone get a job and buy a dictionary when he becomes President. Mr. Backlund wants everybody to read at least one classic American novel each week and advocates the abolition of spellcheck and calculators since the plebeians need to learn to use their minds as he states that a computerized society is a defunct society mentally. It’s scary how correct he turned out to be, actually. Backlund rants about the sad state of the US educational system and states that the Japanese have 100% literacy, so he plans to eliminate summer vacations and make kids go to school 12 months a year. I loved crazy heel Backlund with all his big words, but looking back now it’s funny how everything he said was pretty much true.

– Patterson states that Backlund definitely deserves to be in the WWE Hall Of Fame and JR tells the story of how Backlund was supposed to be inducted, but turned it down because he is still in great shape and feels like he has one more run left in him. JR adds that Bob wasn’t just talking about a comeback match here and there, but a full-time run at the top to work with anybody and contribute to the business. It’s incredible that WWE brings back guys like Tatanka & Viscera who were never entertaining at any point and uses out-of-shape legends like Piper & Rhodes, but they won’t even give Backlund a chance despite being in better condition and more talented on the mic. Tell me he wouldn’t be a perfect fit on SmackDown. Hell, I’d watch if he’s still that “crazy old man” character. The WWE 24/7 popup informs us that Bob’s title reign is the second-longest in WWE history behind Bruno’s 7.5-year run (two records that will likely never be broken unless the business changes drastically) as Dusty jokes about betting on wrestling and Hayes admits that he used to bet on roller derby. JR asks if we’ll see another Backlund/Patterson match if Bob gets his wish to return for one last run, but Pat claims he’s retired for good and we go to break. On an on-demand service.

– The break includes a commercial for the AWA DVD and a really wicked ad for December To Dismember featuring a cool growly death-metal version of “Jingle Bells” and Sandman caning Santa Claus. If there was a Slammy Award for “Best Ad/Worst PPV”, December To Dismember would win hands-down. Seriously, I’m going to tape the commercial and keep it.

– A video package on Hulk Hogan comes after the break. The rest of the Hulkster’s segment is taken from the Hogan episode I already recapped, so I’m just going to copy and paste from that with editing where needed.

– We begin with a clip of Hulk Hogan’s WWE Hall Of Fame induction speech on April 2, 2005, as he explains how his father used to take him to the wrestling matches as a kid, which is when he first saw “Superstar” Billy Graham and decided that he wanted to be just like him. Is Hogan really that much younger than the Superstar?

– JR believes that you can’t be a huge success in the business unless you grew up as a fan, and Michael Hayes talks about how kids today want to get into wrestling because they want to be TV stars. Mike Graham informs us that he, Dick Slater, & Steve Keirn graduated from the same high school the same year that Terry Bollea was a sophomore there and tells a story about how he introduced Hogan to Hiro Matsuda, who proceded to snap Hogan’s ankle in the first 30 seconds of the first workout, but Hogan came back “with a vengeance” and the rest is history. They all put Hogan over as having “paid his dues” and JR describes Hogan’s ascension “from the outhouse to the penthouse” between 1980 and 1985 as “magical”. Graham claims that the Hulkster is the most recognizable sports figure in the world today because pretty much everybody everywhere knows who he is as the WWE 24/7 popup reminds us that Hogan was on the cover of the 4/29/85 issue of Sports Illustrated, which was obviously a huge deal for pro wrestling. Dusty Rhodes points out that Hogan has transcended wrestling and Patterson calls him his “hero” because he did what none of them could do. Graham tries to say that Dusty was up there too, but Dusty calls Hogan a “national treasure”. Hayes notes that it was Hogan’s charisma and Vince McMahon’s vision that got him to that level, but that Hogan’s charisma was working in the AWA before Verne Gagne blew it by trying to take too much money on a merchandising deal. Hayes smacking his forehead repeatedly while talking about Verne is pretty funny.

– In a clip from the new Hogan DVD, Greg Gagne talks about coaxing Hogan’s charisma out of him and tells the story of the first time the t-shirt was ripped off, which became a Hulkster trademark. Greg claims that he and Jim Brunzell tore Hogan’s shirt off before a six-man tag in Chicago against Jerry Blackwell, Ray Stevens, & Nick Bockwinkel and the crowd went crazy.

– AWA World Heavyweight Title: Hulk Hogan vs. Nick Bockwinkel [champion]

April 24, 1983. Hogan (wearing red trunks, black kneepads, and white boots) tears off the t-shirt as Gene Okerlund is the ring announcer, Bobby Heenan is Bockwinkel’s manager, and Lord James Blears is the special referee. We clip forward right away to Bockwinkel mounting Hogan’s back to apply the Oriental Sleeper (which is actually an early version of the rear naked choke/Kokina Clutch), but Hogan charges back into the corner and Blears gets squashed. Bockwinkel goes for the Sleeper again, but Hogan dumps him over the top rope to the floor before checking on Blears and helping him up. Hogan suplexes Bockwinkel back in and crushes him with the legdrop for the three-count from Blears and we clip forward to Okerlund announcing that AWA President Stanley Blackburn decided Hogan threw Bockwinkel over the top rope, thereby earning a disqualification, and awards the DQ victory to Bockwinkel. The crowd boos and I can’t blame them. No wonder the AWA went out of business.

– JR compares Dusty to Hogan (other than the physique, they are pretty similar) and asks the American Dream if he’s ever met anybody with more charisma than the Hulkster. A clip is shown of Hogan bodyslamming Andre The Giant at WrestleMania III as Dusty talks about the “93,000” fans in the Silverdome and mentions that when he came to the WWF in 1989, he stood in the crowd because he wanted to hear the roar of the fans during Hogan’s entrance, comparing it to the Angle/Undertaker match at No Way Out ’06 in that it made him proud to be in the business. Hayes brings up the NWO’s WWF run and how Hogan was supposed to be the “bad guy” against the Rock, but the “Hogan” chants started in Chicago during RAW and by the time they got to Toronto for WrestleMania X8, the fans wanted to see Hogan win.

– We get a highlight package of the Hogan/Rock showdown at WMX8.

– Hayes talks about how the next night in Montreal on RAW, the ovation for Hogan lasted through a commercial break and had Hogan in tears. JR claims that Hogan cried because it brought back memories of WrestleMania VI as we see clips from the match against the Ultimate Warrior, which was my personal unforgettable childhood WrestleMania Moment. Patterson tells a story about he and Vince McMahon watching the WMVI match in the crowd to feel the reaction and says it choked him up as Graham claims that it choked him too, but for different reasons. Despite working for a “rival company” at the time, JR puts over the postmatch handshake since Hogan made Warrior famous, but Graham points out that he “made somebody who wasn’t worthy of the making” and how much it sucks when you sacrifice for someone who isn’t worthy. Dusty pulls out an “eeef yew weeill” and tells a story about walking down an airport hallway with Hogan and being amazed by the response since it was Hogan’s time and not Dusty’s as Graham pretends to cry. This guy is great. Hayes says they all wanted to give the fans their money’s worth just like Hogan and claims that’s why Hogan is still the man. Patterson talks about seeing Dusty live for the first time while working in Florida and that he couldn’t believe a babyface could be over so big, which Dusty appreciates and promises to buy the drinks afterwards.

Hayes throws out a great hypothetical question wondering what would have happened if Vince had used Dusty instead of Hulk in ’84, but Dusty gives in to Hogan. In a funny moment, Hayes asks if Rhodes is tapping out, but Dusty smiles and refuses to tap. Dusty does wish he had the opportunity to wrestle Hogan in their heyday, which is something I’ve always thought about too. Or even as a tag team; anybody know if Dusty & Hogan tagged at all during Dusty’s ’89-’91 WWF stint? Graham suggests that Dusty drew more fans over a longer period of time around the country because he wrestled every night while Hogan only worked the big cities 10 times a month, but Dusty isn’t sure and notes that it was a different era. They all agree that Hogan took the business to heights never dreamed of and JR tells a story about how when he first met Hogan, he thanked him because his contributions to the business allowed JR to make a great living. Unfortunately, Graham’s Brutus Beefcake joke is cut out here as JR ponders if it was Rocky III that really launched Hogan. Everybody agrees and Graham points out that Sylvester Stallone really put Hogan over because in the movie, Hogan threw Rocky into the crowd and Stallone never beat him. I never thought of it that way, but he’s right.

– From 2002, Hogan tells the story of how he was scheduled to film his scenes for Rocky III, but Vince McMahon Sr. had booked him in Greensboro for Jim Crockett Promotions and told him he was a wrestler, not an actor. They both held their ground and Vince Sr. warned him that he’d never work for him again, so Hogan thought he’d never be back. What a selfish prick. Just kidding, but imagine how different things might be if Hulk had given in and decided not to do the movie.

– JR asks the panel if Hogan “stayed too long”, but of course everybody says no and Hayes states that “used sparingly”, Hogan will still draw a house and pop a buyrate as we see clips from SummerSlam ’06 against Randy Orton. Graham & JR both claim that Hogan will always have a place in the business and Hayes notes that Hogan has never forgotten where he came from because he always comes back to wrestling. I think that’s more because his movie career never flourished like he hoped, but I guess we’ll never really know. Dusty calls Hogan a “great player of the game”, so JR questions if Hogan was a “manipulator” and everybody agrees, with Dusty saying he has to be and Hayes calling him a “HUGE manipulator”. Dusty namedrops Jim Barnett as a popup explains that Barnett “was a successful promoter, credited with creating the studio-based wrestling show”, but he says nobody really recognized what Hogan had until he came to the WWF. JR asks Patterson if Hogan made the “WWE” or if the “WWE” made Hogan, but Pat thinks it was 50/50 and Graham’s “chicken or the egg” analogy is cut out. We see clips of the first WrestleMania with Mr. T as Hayes says WMI was a “crapshoot” and Patterson claims that it was really just Vince rolling the dice. Interestingly, Graham’s comment about mysterious Japanese money making it happen is cut out. CONSPIRACY!

Graham brings up Vince buying “Jimmy’s slot” on TBS as a popup informs us that “WWE” replaced Georgia Championship Wrestling on WTBS on 7/14/84, a date that would live in infamy as “Black Saturday”, but admits that’s a story for a whole other show while Hayes states that everybody wanted to kill the Briscos because of it yet they’re still alive. Back on track, everybody agrees that Hogan is the greatest attraction of all time and Pat says he likes everything about “Terry” including the “ga-ga”, but Hayes mentions the “trouble they put us through at SummerSlam” and Pat claims he likes it. Dusty puts over Gorilla Monsoon’s line from WrestleMania VI after Hogan passed the torch to Warrior as one of the most powerful lines ever: “He’s just walked into immortality.” That was a good one. Pat notes that Hogan and Rock held each other’s hands up and cried after their match at WrestleMania X8 as we see a clip of it and Pat adds that it continued backstage. With a smile on his face, Dusty takes credit for drawing the WMVI crowd as we see clips of he and Sapphire dancing in all their polka-dot glory. Graham reiterates his point about Dusty drawing more money over a longer period of time and facetiously claims that everybody else at WMVI was just along for the ride as everyone laughs. Funny stuff, it’s nice to see Dusty poking fun at himself. JR thanks the panel for appearing and thanks us for watching.

– And that’s it, as Andre The Giant is advertised as the next subject of this ongoing series. I guess I missed the episode I heard about with Piper, Funk, and whoever else.

Afterthoughts: I’m not sure what the point was of the Premiere episode on Hogan a couple months back since most of the material was replayed here. Anyway, I still like that Graham is the only guy not completely kissing Hogan’s ass. The Backlund segment was very informative and it was nice to see him get the credit he deserves, but it made me long for the glory days of his entertaining heel run in ’94 and ’95. “I CAN’T HEAR WITHOUT MY SPECTACLES!” I seriously think WWE should consider giving Backlund that one final run though. It’s not like it could be any worse than what they’re already doing. Put him on SmackDown in the Benoit/Regal/Finlay mix and see how he does. The plebeians demand it!