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Bob Backlund vs. Iron Sheik


Guest Bruiser Chong
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Guest Bruiser Chong

Bob Backlund vs. Iron Sheik (WWF Title Match/MSG/12.26.83):

 

A match that many non-fans of the era are familiar with. Backlund had held the title for several years at this point, but the stage was being set for the Hulk Hogan era and Backlund's dated clean-cut act didn't fit. Of course, fans weren't aware of this, so this is just another title defense for the champ. Except it isn't.

 

Although promoted as the main event of the card, the match took place mid-way through the show, which wasn't a good sign for those hoping to see Backlund retain. Fans hate Sheik and Blassie, who just eats it up, milking the gimmick for all its worth. Going into this match, Backlund had been on the receiving end of one of the Sheik's Persian clubs. Because of that, he's playing up an injured shoulder and neck, which plays a huge role in the match.

 

From the get-go, it's clear Backlund's in pain. Before they even lock up, he's grimmacing. The average viewer probably assumed that this would be one of those matches where the champ fought through the pain and won the match, anyway. That would've been a large feat, since Bobby's barely able to pull off an offensive move without pulling away in pain. A clothesline with the non-injured arm even hurts him.

 

The action is slow-paced and places an emphasis on Backlund's injury. Sheik works on the areas with various wear down moves and is drenched in sweat just minutes into the contest. I guess I wasn't the only one who noticed it, since both Pat Patterson and Gorilla Monsoon make note of it, too.

 

Sheik leads most of the match and is quick to put an end to any sort of momentum Backlund manages to create. In the rare instances where he pulls off a move, he's in too much pain to capitalize on it, which leads to a full circle routine of the Sheik getting back in the driver's seat.

 

This is one of the few instances that I can recall being able to hear the manager dictate what happens in the match. You get the impression that Sheik is merely the muscle and without Blassie, is clueless as what to do. On many occassions, he stands there, seemingly unsure of what to do, but then Blassie commands what Sheik does next. It's interesting, because even in the heyday of managers, you never really got to hear them lead their guys on. For whatever reason, everything Blassie yells out can be clearly heard, so you realize that the manager really is the brains behind the brawn.

 

The finish comes after Backlund tries a roll-up pinning combination, but can't secure the pinfall. He's in too much pain to get back to his feet afterwards and the Sheik hovers over him so he can apply the Camel Clutch. Even when he gets it locked on, you've gotta imagine few people thought it'd be over. Of course, Backlund doesn't submit to end the match, but instead, his manager tosses in the towell to signify submission. The announcers are stunned and the crowd is livid. Sheik celebrates by putting on the belt upside down. Not that he'd have the belt long enough to master the art of putting the belt on correctly, anyway.

 

Final Thoughts: More people focus on the match that took place the following month in the Garden (Hogan vs. Sheik), but this is the match that made it possible. The Sheik was a transitional champ if there ever was one, but the finish was still a shocker at the time. While the wrestling isn't anything special, the emphasis on the injury was allowed the match to build around something. This is a case where something that took place in the buildup and working on a particular area of the body mattered in the finish of the actual match.

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Although promoted as the main event of the card, the match took place mid-way through the show, which wasn't a good sign for those hoping to see Backlund retain. Fans hate Sheik and Blassie, who just eats it up, milking the gimmick for all its worth. Going into this match, Backlund had been on the receiving end of one of the Sheik's Persian clubs. Because of that, he's playing up an injured shoulder and neck, which plays a huge role in the match.

Wasn't this common so that promoters could book a controversial finish and announce a rematch after intermission? I've heard of it done before.

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Guest Bruiser Chong

Occassionally, but it seems like most of Backlund's title defenses were close to the end, if not the last match on the card.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Guest cawthon777

Was it ever proven if this was a legit screwjob? I always heard Bob didn't want to job so they did had his manager throw in the towel in a sort of proto-Montreal.

Backlund hand-picked Sheik to lose it to because of Sheik's amateur background. Another option at the time was to have Bob lose it to the Masked Superstar.
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