Induction: Bob Backlund for President – Nation of Exacerbation

29 Submitted by on Thu, 12 November 2020, 20:00

The results are in, and over 60% of voters on Twitter agreed that Bob Backlund’s presidential candidacy belonged in the hallowed halls of WrestleCrap. Don’t blame me – I’m just carrying out the will of the people.

WWF, 1995

Mr. Backlund, the delusional moral crusader and purveyor of malapropisms, was easily one of the best characters of the New Generation era of the WWF. Not only was he never fallacious in his attempts to boon the plebeians’ lives, but the Mr. Backlund character resulted in two unreasonably good matches with Bret Hart, culminating in a shocking title victory.

Backlund’s luck soon ran out though, losing the title to Diesel in seconds, then putting on an incomprehensibly bad I Quit match with The Hitman at Wrestlemania XI. That’s where our story begins.

To wrap up a bout featuring nothing but submission holds, Bret Hart locked Bob Backlund in his own crossface chickenwing hold and made him say he quit (or more specifically, “Yahhhh! Oh-Ugh! Eugh!”)

Post-match, Backlund uttered his first intelligible words of the evening, claiming to have seen a light. For weeks after, WWF announcers teased a big announcement from Mr. Backlund.

Vince McMahon speculated that Backlund would announce that he was Duckman.

The real announcement turned out to make even less sense than that, with Bob Backlund claiming to have observed a “scintillation” at Wrestlemania that had only grown in the ensuing weeks. His announcement promised to be historic, like the first Olympics in 1776 DC, or “December 22nd, 1983 when John F Kennedy was shot” (which was, if you know your Federation history, actually the day Backlund lost his title to the Iron Sheik).

It was, it turned out, a very long and confusing announcement that left Bob gasping for air, but before Vince could finite the former WWF Champion, Mr. Backlund announced that he was considering a run for President of the United States.

Cue the pyrotechnics and a high school marching band playing “Hail to the Chief” in a loop.

Even Vince McMahon, who had suggested that Backlund was secretly a cartoon character, was bewildered by this bizarre development.

1995, after all, was not an election year, and to carry this storyline through to the next presidential election would take an 18-month commitment. That’s unreasonably long for a wrestling angle, though par for the course for American elections at the time, a trend that has only gotten worse since then. For example, the US is currently in a permanent presidential election season that began nearly six years ago and that, like a modern Wrestlemania, shows no signs of ending any time soon.

Immediately after Backlund’s announcement, arenas were flooded with complimentary Backlund For President buttons.

For every WWF t-shirt order, Barry Didinsky would throw in a Backlund lapel pin for free, just to sweeten the deal. The WWF probably realized a little late that the buttons would cost far more to ship than they could ever get away with charging for them. Either that, or they didn’t want to have to report button sales as campaign contributions.

I kid; if they’d been worried about election laws, they wouldn’t have aired these Backlund campaign commercials. Somebody call Irwin R Schyster’s cousin, Ferguson E. Campaña.

Backlund’s absurd platform read like that of a villain from a cancelled Footloose sequel. President Backlund would ban not only rock and roll, but calculators and spellcheck. Maybe Bob was just 25 years ahead of his time on that last one – a ban on autocorrect nowadays would be pretty ducking popular.

Backlund’s education plan also called for the abolishment of summer vacation for children (until the United States achieved 100% literacy) and weekly required reading for every adult, possibly with book reports. But it wasn’t just evil principal s**t that Backlund espoused; one of his other big issues was the economy. Under a Backlund presidency, everyone would be able (or perhaps required) to get a job and earn enough money to afford –

– wait for it –

– a dictionary.

Backlund began holding rallies at WWF events before captive audiences of fans waiting for the arena doors to open.

These rallies stretched into the night, with Backlund, aided by a flashlight and undeterred by his total lack of audience, continuing to rant.

Mr. Backlund’s campaign criss-crossed the USA, from Daytona Beach (where he made sure the cameraman focused on his UV-protected nose and not on the nearby girls in bikinis)…

…to Philadelphia. Backlund scrutinized the historic city (and site of the 1995 King of the Ring) – but not before admonishing you, the viewer, for littering.

(I bet you also threw that trash at King Mabel, too. Admit it.)

Speaking with the plebeians, Backlund found a black man named Washington and asked if he was related to George Washington. It’s possible, but I kind of hope not, the more I think about it.

Crazy Bob even bought a famous Philly cheese steak, but admonished local vendors to put a giant carrot right in the middle (for the beta carotene and Vitamin E).

The so-called Apter mags had a field day with the angle, if “field day” is the right term. Publications like Pro Wrestling Illustrated and Inside Wrestling used the angle, which was played consistently for laughs on WWF television, as fuel for serious columns analyzing Backlund’s candidacy and platform.

The Wrestler even put the would-be president on the cover… sort of. In reality, the graphics department pasted an oversized Bob Backlund head onto another man’s body. The real cover model in Uncle Sam garb?

Paul Heyman, who had been photographed for the magazine years earlier and whose trademark cell phone had been cleverly edited out of the new cover.

The cover story included a number of exclusive photos from the campaign trail. Imagine being this kid, getting handed a sign on the way in, then ending up in a magazine that implies that you want Bob Backlund to abolish summer vacation. He must have had hell to pay once school came back in session (from teachers and students).

The article itself centered around a fictional political analyst who critiqued Backlund’s platform, predicted the ex-champion’s popularity among disaffected voters, and forecasted a Ross Perot-like third party run (garnering, say, 19% of the popular vote).

As for Backlund’s running mate? Dr. Ewald Adler predicted Sting for VP, for a “balanced ticket” of rulebreaker and fan favorite.

Carlos Cabrera, on the other hand, saw a Backlund/Vega ticket as a winning campaign (although Article 1, Section 9 would have precluded Savio becoming King of the Ring while in office).

Speaking of Cabrera, the Spanish announce team certainly had a rough time making sense out of Backlund’s campaign, especially when he delivered his insane stump speeches live on pay-per-view.

At the September In Your House, for example, Bob arrived with his prized Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and ranted for several minutes to a paying global audience.  It would have been a challenge to translate his patented sesquipedalian vocabulary even if Backlund were to use it correctly, which of course he did not.

Try not to exacerbate me!” opened Backlund. Hugo Savinovich translated this for the Spanish-speaking audience as: “Try not to consume much oxygen here in the Coliseum.”

When Backlund berated fans and asked, “Where’s your lexicon?”, viewers watching in Spanish got this exchange:

Carlos Cabrera: “He’s telling the people to mind their lexicon.”
Hugo: “That’s beyond Colombia and Ecuador, right?”
Carlos: “No, and it’s not an avenue in New York, either. He says Lexington [sic]. Language, he says.”

Thus, through an English to Backlundese to Spanish translation, “Where’s your dictionary?” became “Watch your language!” (or possibly, “Where is Mexico?”)

At Survivor Series in November, Backlund was a guest of “The President”, who encouraged him to run against him as the Republican nominee. Obviously, Backlund wasn’t about to pal around with Slick Willie, scolding the president for enjoying a WWF event during a government shutdown.

Backlund’s candidacy was quietly dropped by year’s end. After Bill Clinton won re-election the following November, a bitter Backlund chomped on a prop cigar and vowed to set a world record for marijuana-eating so he could be president, too. He should have chewed, but not swallowed.

By now, you might be wondering what the point of this angle was (besides demonstrating Backlund’s appetite for edibles). Did it sell merchandise? No, the campaign paraphernalia was all free, and the WWF never put out an official Backlund dictionary.

Did it create any new stars? No, but Bob did once act as Dean Douglas’s cornerman. The Dean was presumably Backlund’s pick for Secretary of Education.

Did it lead to any high-profile matches? No. Excluding Royal Rumble appearances, Backlund never again wrestled on WWF pay-per-view.

Did it spark any feuds? What wrestler could possibly feud over a phony presidential campaign?

That’s right, Man Mountain Rock! He’s not just a WrestleCrap meme, you know, but an actual character from 1995 WWF.

In Rock’s one and only feud in the World Wrestling Federation, Bob Backlund took exception to the kind of “mean, evil things” that came out of Man Mountain Rock’s “so-called piece of machine”. In a backstage incident, Backlund knocked over Rock’s second-favorite guitar…

(WWF obviously wouldn’t risk this baby)

…handled it like a used Kleenex…

…and dumped a crate on it before stumbling to the ground in a fit of righteous anger.

My brothers and I taped the Monday Night Raws that summer and re-watched them ad nauseam; at seven years old, I had this hilarious diatribe practically memorized, even if I didn’t know what “laymen” were (my guess: people who were lame).

Later that night, an inconsolable Man Mountain Rock cut a heartbreaking promo. “I can’t believe he broke it”, he cried. “It was an accident!” chimed in an unsympathetic Jerry Lawler.

The next week, Rock vowed revenge. “What you did to my guitar? That’s my soul, man!” Dah-dah-dah duh-dah-dah-duh-dah!

While Backlund would dominate a short series of house show matches that summer, the two never met on television (literally; they were never even involved in the same segment). Given that Rock’s matches rarely lasted longer than two minutes, and that the matches they had off television consisted almost entirely of stalling…

…it was probably for the best that the feud was dropped before they ever squared off on Superstars, Raw, or, heaven forbid, pay-per-view.

Still, that didn’t prevent perhaps the crappiest moment of this entire angle, when, before their feud had even debuted on TV, Backlund wrestled Man Mountain Rock at Madison Square Garden. In the same arena he had headlined every month for six years as champion, Bob Backlund lost to Man Mountain Rock after one (1) amateur takedown and one (1) schoolboy rollup off a distraction.

If Backlund for President was such a pointless waste of time that didn’t make a dime for the WWF, though, why did nearly 40% of respondents say it wasn’t WrestleCrap?

Probably because:

1. Bob Backlund’s rants were often hilarious, and

2. What else was Monday Night Raw going to do with all that TV time in 1995?

Air another Tekno Team 2000 match (the one they had to re-shoot)?

Make another visit to the dental office of Dr. Isaac Yankem, DDS?

Indulge Jerry Lawler’s foot fetish for a few minutes more?

Just to prove that truth is stranger than WrestleCrap, Bob Backlund would indeed seek federal office in 2000, running for the US House of Representatives in Connecticut’s First District. On Election Day, Mr. Backlund sought to achieve two things: win a seat in Congress and break the record for the Harvard Step Test, and he achieved one of those things.

Will Mr. Backlund ever go to Washington? At 71 years of age, Backlund is younger than the president, the president-elect, the House speaker, and the Senate majority leader. In other words, 2024 could be his year!

Written by

A wrestling fan ever since the days of Wrestlemania IX, Art graduated from college in the same building where Art Donovan called King of the Ring 1994. He also runs the "How Much Does This Guy Weigh?" blog, where he reviews New Generation-Era Monday Night Raws. Follow him on Twitter @Art0Donnell. Email at: art@wrestlecrap.com
29 Responses to "Induction: Bob Backlund for President – Nation of Exacerbation"
  1. Tony says:

    Bob Backlund would’ve had a better shot at the presidency if his campaign slogan had been “What the hell are YOU staring at?!”

  2. Sean Bateman says:

    Art, don’t you dare insult the Apter Mags. Mr. Apter is a friend of the site.

  3. Mr. Boing says:

    Bob Backlund should have ran for Congress in Texas.. Here they’ll vote in a rock with a painted face on it so as long as it has an “R” beside the name.

  4. Big Bad Booty Stepdaddy says:

    A WWE hall of famer whose best days were in the 1980s, thrusts himself onto the public by running for president, throwing tantrums and saying crazy things, turning himself into an endless source of comedic material.

    Congratulations, you just inducted Donald Trump’s entire presidential career.

    • C Boz says:

      Every fan of the USFL, anyone that ever thought Trump Shuttle would be a profitable business, and people who know the casino business would state that even the 1980s were not that good for The Donald either.

  5. Christopher Haydu says:

    Great induction. I don’t know why they had Bob Backlund do this angle, but it brings to mind when Hogan did the exact same thing in 1998. Do you think the reason for that angle was that Hogan was just mocking Bob? It was about three years too late, but I could see Hogan doing that. The way Hogan wrote about him in his book, how he wouldn’t drop the title to him and that was the whole reason Iron Sheik won it, it aounds like Hogan really doesn’t like Bob Backlund. I can see Hogan wanting to get back at him for that. Not that I blame Bob Backlund, mind you. In real life, Bob probably is appalled by a lot of the things Hogan was doing back then: all the drugs, etc. I like Hulk, but I definitely think Bob Backlund was the better man.

    • Chris says:

      I thought Hogan really expected that he was going to end up as a nominee fit one of the two major parties during the next election.
      I thought that was why Hulk Hogan did it.
      It never played out as an angle on WCW TV, did it? I remember Hogan making the announcement and turning the NWO over to Scott Steiner. Then, he disappeared off TV for a bit (making a movie?) only to return and not mention his presidential campaign again.
      I might be forgetting though, because I was watching WWF a lot more by that point.

      Had Jesse Ventura announced he was running for governor at that time?
      I always thought Ventura’s campaign had something to do with Hogan’s announcement, far more than Backlund’s fake campaign from four years earlier.
      I would expect that Hogan thought that if an ex-wrestler the caliber of Ventura could run for governor, than the biggest icon in wrestling should be able to get a nomination to run for president.

      • CP says:

        The WCW storyline was in response to Ventura’s election. So Jesse had already been campaigning and won the election by the time the Hogan for President story came about.

    • Christopher J Fraracci says:

      It’s funny if you watch the old WWF shows from 1980 with heel Hogan managed by Blassie, Bruno just rips him apart on commentary. Bruno says he’s just a big ape, non wrestler, brawler, etc. Wonder if Bob felt the same way watching Hogan in the ring?

      Check out my blog as I recap the 1980s wrestling shows via the Network chronologically at
      http://nala310.wordpress.com/

  6. Autrach Sejanoz says:

    The Ross Perot mention reminded of an article Mad Magazine once did called Pro Wrestling By The Numbers:
    “How many states gave a plurality of votes to Mister Bob Backlund in the 1996 Presidential Election: 0
    How many states gave a plurality to H. Ross Perot: 0
    How much more money it cost Perot to accomplish exactly as much as Backlund: $23,765,950”

  7. Jerry says:

    And now, let’s imagine a feud with Henry Godwinn, who may have insisted to keep school holidays while making harvesting help mandatory for the children again…

    Tiny nitpick: Going deep enough into family trees, pretty much everybody should be related to George Washinton. Just not necessarily as a direct descendant.

  8. #OPC says:

    When Bob talks in a normal tone I don’t even recognize him.

  9. Larry says:

    Wow. Hogan went 4 months & only defended the title once? Imagine what the Apter mags thought of Brock Lesnar!

  10. Mav says:

    Very well said, Mr. Boring and Big Bad Booty Stepdaddy. Yeehaw!

    Maybe this wasn’t Wreslecrap because it got over. Though it never really went anywhere so maybe it was.

    This era of the WWF just wasn’t my cup of tea.

  11. Unknown says:

    How about this: The Fiend for President in 2024 (Bray Wyatt would be 36-37 at this time, so he just BARELY qualifies).

    The Fiend’s campaign slogan: Let Me In The White House!

  12. Levrikon says:

    The one and only time I was absolutely starstruck in the face of a ‘celebrity’ was a chance meeting with Bob Backlund standing in like at Wrestlemania 30. I grew up watching the New Gen and, for reasons unknown, absolutely adored Mr. Backlund when I was like 10 or 11. Meeting him in 2015 I could barely speak and I think I stumbled out something dumb about loving him when I was a kid.

    I’ve met a few wrestlers in my time. Becky Lynch? New Day? No problem. But Bob Backlund? I could barely string together a sentence in front of him.

  13. Anthony says:

    To me this is not wrestlecrap at all, but thanks for recapping!

  14. Peter says:

    I’m just confused that the magazine defended King of the Ring 1995. Seriously?

  15. Thomas Moffatt says:

    I’ve just had a premonition of crap to come – President Corbin. Boring Baron doesn’t think he is respected enough as ‘king’ so he decides to run for president and like so many others mld the WWE in his own image…

  16. Cornholio says:

    What is funny is King Lawler’s burial of Beavis & Butthead and Ren & Stimpy.. Two very iconic
    90’s era cartoons that are to return to Comedy Central next year..

    I totally forgot as do most people that Duckman ever existed.. Duck Man is probably featured in whatever the counterpart to Wrestlecrap is.. TelevisionCrap?

    • Felicity says:

      “Duckman” wasn’t crap! It had some very smart comedy. It wasn’t as well known as “Beavis and Butt-Head” or “Ren & Stimpy,” I’ll give you that.

  17. Injured Machine says:

    Backlund for President is *much* more Wacky Fun than Crap.

    However, that’s true of plenty of things on the site.

    The name’s kind of misleading.

  18. Acolyte Of Glorious La Parka~ says:

    Duckman RULED~.

  19. The Global Times says:

    Duckman’s comedy is smart.

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