Professional Wrestling Flashback: Bob Backlund and the Chicken Wing

The year was 1979. MTV did not yet exist. Space Invaders was the video game of choice and Pac-Man was about to make its debut. My Sharona, by The Knack, was the #1 song on the radio. The internet was not yet a twinkle in Al Gore’s eye. And Bob Backlund was the WWE (then known as WWF) Heavyweight Champion of the World. Long before wings were served outside of Buffalo, Bob Backlund ruled professional wrestling with the chicken wing. The chicken wing was a devastating maneuver that would force opponents to submit, or forfeit, before they were pinned. The chicken wing probably would not fly today, because of fear that children mimicking the maneuver would break their friends’ arms. However, back in the day, the chicken wing was one of the most feared moves inside the ropes. Bob Backlund was the master of the chicken wing.

The WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) was once called the WWF (World Wrestling Federation), before the World Wildlife Fund disputed the WWF moniker. Back when it was the WWF, many legendary professional wrestlers were in their prime. Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, The Iron Sheik, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, The Samoans, and Mr. Fuji and Mr. Saito all graced the ring of the WWF. However, back in 1979, Bob Backlund was arguably the most popular of all wrestlers. He first won his championship title in 1978 and successfully defended it for over five years. Finally, in 1983, he lost a title match, and his reign on top came to an end.

Before Wrestlemania existed and the WWE went rock and roll, Bob Backlund was the face of professional wrestling. A former collegiate wrestler, Bob Backlund played the role of the ultimate good guy. He did not wear costumes or have wild tactics like many of the professional wrestlers of today. He simply looked like the boy next door and was often called the All-American boy. For over five years, Bob Backlund defended his title by fighting off one villain after another. Perhaps his most memorable match was the 1982 steel cage match against Jimmy Snuka in Madison Square Garden. The Superfly jumped off the top of the steel cage in an attempt to win the match, but wound up missing Backlund. After the miss, Backlund pinned Jimmy Snuka to end the match.

By the end of his title reign, Bob Backlund’s good guy image eventually grew old with the fans. Not long after losing his professional wrestling championship to the Iron Sheik in 1983, Bob Backlund disappeared from the ring. Nearly a decade later, he made a return to professional wrestling in the early 1990’s. He took on a bad guy persona and even regained his championship. This time around, his title reign was extremely brief, lasting only a few days.

Once Bob Backlund finally left the wrestling ring, he decided to throw his hat into the political ring. In the year 2000, he ran for a Connecticut seat in the United States Congress. His bid for Congress was unsuccessful, but Backlund’s hard work on the campaign trail managed to secure him 30% of the votes.

So, the next time you find yourself eating chicken wings, remember Bob Backlund. The chicken wing was not always a tasty appetizer; it was once a feared and devastating wrestling move. Do not forget that Bob Backlund served up the chicken wing better than any sports bar in town.

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