The second inductee of the WWE Hall of Fame this year is Bob Backlund. I was not born yet when Backlund was in his prime so I don’t know much about him. If you asked me to name his top ten most famous matches, I would be lucky to name five without having to go on the internet. It seems like I’m not the only one who doesn’t know a lot about Backlund. I searched for Backlund’s greatest matches on Google and I couldn’t find any articles. Picking a match for this review wasn’t easy, but I do have a few Backlund matches on DVD. One of the DVDs I have is “Bloodbath: Wrestling’s Most Incredible Steel Cage Matches” and that DVD has a full-length Backlund match. It is a Madison Square Garden match and I thought that was an appropriate match to review because the Hall of Fame ceremony is in Madison Square Garden this year.

The Facts:

  • This match happened at a World Wrestling Federation event. The event was hosted by Madison Square Garden in New York. According to thehistoryofwwe.com, the attendance was 25,302.
  • This match was televised on the MSG Network with Vince McMahon on commentary.
  • This was a steel cage match with Backlund’s WWF Championship on the line.
  • This match happened during Backlund’s first WWF Championship reign that lasted for 2,135 days. It started on February 20, 1978 and ended on December 26, 1983. It is the second longest title reign in WWE history.
  • This was the third and final Backlund vs. Hansen match in MSG in 1981. The first match on February 16 ended as a draw because the referee thought both men were too bloody to continue. The second match on March 16 was won by Hansen via count-out.
  • Hansen is more well-known in Japan than he is in the United States.
  • Stan Hansen vs. Bruno Sammartino from June 25, 1976 was named Match of the Year by Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Hansen was PWI’s Most Hated Wrestler in that same year.
  • The Wrestling Observer Newsletter gave the Best Technical Wrestler award to Backlund in 1980. Three years later, they gave him the Most Overrated Wrestler award.
  • Backlund wrestled for the WWE in four different decades. He joined the World Wide Wrestling Federation in 1977 and he appeared in the WWF Royal Rumble in 2000.
  • On November 26, 1994, Diesel defeated Bob Backlund in eight seconds and won the WWF Championship at a non-televised show in MSG. It is believed to be the shortest WWE Championship match in history.
  • The time length of the match was 8:44.

The Match:

Before this match starts, the ring announcer Howard Finkel announces that the only way to win this steel cage match is by exiting through the door or out over the top of the cage.  Today, pinfalls and submissions count in WWE steel cage matches. That doesn’t bother me a lot, but I like it better when you can only win by escaping the cage.  The referee is outside of the cage for this match because this match can’t end in the cage. Backlund enters the cage and Hansen immediately attacks him. Hansen tries to whip Backlund off the ropes and into the cage, but Backlund reverses it and Hansen goes face first into the cage. Backlund picks Hansen up and shoves him into the cage again. Backlund whips Hansen to the turnbuckles and then again shoves Hansen into the cage. Nice use of the cage as a weapon so far. Backlund does some ground attacks on Hansen and then dragged Hansen’s face across the steel mesh of the cage. Hansen is in the corner, but he is able to fight off Backlund a little bit. Hansen starts to climb the cage, but Backlund quickly gets him down. Hansen attacks Backlund and shoves him face first in the cage. Hansen gets Backlund in the corner and attacks him there. Backlund fights out of the corner. Hansen grabs Backlund by the back of the head and shoves his face into the cage. Backlund reverses an irish whip and then shoves Hansen into the cage. The cage is being used a lot in this match. I’ve lost count of how many times someone has gone face first into the cage. Backlund hits Hansen with a piledriver. I think that’s the first wrestling move I have seen in this match. It has been mostly punches, kicks, and using the cage as a weapon.

Backlund tries to climb out of the cage, but Hansen stops him before Backlund can get close to escaping. Backlund is down on the mat and Hansen tries to hit him with an elbow drop, but Backlund moves out of the way. He avoided the elbow, but can’t avoid a punch to the face from Hansen. Backlund’s face is shoved into the cage twice. Hansen tries it a third time, but Backlund blocks it and is able to shove Hansen’s face into the cage. No one has been busted open yet surprisingly. Backlund shoves Hansen’s face into the cage again. I love seeing Backlund and Hansen continue to use the cage as a weapon. Backlund grinds Hansen’s face into the steel mesh of the cage. Hansen is in the corner, but he quickly fights out of it. Backlund hits Hansen with some punches and the fans watching at home can see that Hansen is now bleeding. It’s hard to see because Hansen’s hair is in the way. Hansen and Backlund go back-and-forth with punches. Backlund kicks Hansen in the groin. Vince McMahon on commentary reminds the TV viewers that there are no holds barred in this match. Backlund tries to leave the cage, but Hansen stops him. Hansen whips Backlund into the ropes and then hits Backlund with an elbow. Backlund falls down. Hansen goes for an elbow drop, but Backlund avoids it just like he did earlier in the match. Backlund does some ground attacks on Hansen. Backlund hits Hansen with a backdrop. Hansen gets up and fights back. Hansen slams Backlund and hits him with a knee drop. Hansen tries to exit through the door, but Backlund stops him. His head is out of the cage, but Backlund is grabbing Hansen’s leg. Hansen is back in the cage. Backlund tries to escape through the door, but Hansen holds on to him. Hansen brings Backlund back into the ring. Hansen punches Backlund a few times. Hansen starts to climb out of the cage, but Backlund stops him. Backlund pulls Hansen down by grabbing the tights. Backlund climbs the cage and Hansen climbs the cage too. They are fighting on the top rope. Headbutt by Backlund! Hansen falls off the ropes and onto the mat. Backlund is off the ropes too. Hansen gets up first and immediately tries to climb out of the cage. Backlund pulls Hansen’s leg and Hansen hits his head on the top turnbuckle. Hansen is down. Backlund walks out of the door and he is the winner!

Winner: Bob Backlund

Rating: ***1/4

This match was good, but I don’t think it was a great match. There weren’t many big bumps in this match, but I did like seeing Backlund and Hansen use the cage as a weapon. The match was less than ten minutes long, but I don’t think the short time length hurt the match. The action was fast-paced so they got in a lot of spots despite not having a long match. I like how they had a fight and not wrestling match. In today’s WWE, I often see too much wrestling in no holds barred matches. For example, I thought there was too much wrestling in the Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk street fight at WWE Extreme Rules last year. I know those guys are technical wrestlers and don’t like doing hardcore matches, but there shouldn’t be any technical wrestling in a street fight. Backlund and Hansen didn’t do a wrestling match…they did a steel cage match. There was very little technical wrestling. Street fights or steel cage matches are supposed to be violent fights. I don’t care what your wrestling style is. If you are in a steel cage, I want to see a brawl. I don’t want to see submission moves in a steel cage match. This wasn’t one of the most violent matches I have ever seen, but it was more physical than technical. I don’t know much about Backlund, but I did read that he was an amateur wrestler in college and he had a technical style of wrestling. Backlund probably was more comfortable having a technical match than a violent brawl, but I think Backlund knew fans were expecting a brawl in the steel cage. When you hear that there is going to be a steel cage match, you expect to see a fight and not a wrestling match. At the end of the match, the fans seemed to have enjoyed the match a lot so Backlund and Hansen did a good job. Getting a great crowd reaction after a match in Madison Square Garden is an impressive accomplishment. I can see why Backlund held the WWE Championship for 2,135 consecutive days. This match didn’t really show how great of a wrestler he was, but it did show me that he was a great performer who knew how to entertain a crowd.

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