Bob Backlund Book: An Honest Take

With an in-ring career spanning nearly four decades and two world heavyweight championships under his belt, Bob Backlund has seen and done it all in the business of professional wrestling. However, his life wasn’t always smooth sailing, and there were many harsh challenges and triumphs along the way. At nearly 500 pages, he covers it all in his book, Backlund: From All-American Boy to Professional Wrestling’s World Champion. Though is his book worth the time investment with its notable flaws?

We dive into his book’s good, bad, and ugly, sharing our honest thoughts (warts and all)!

Pro Wrestling Stories reviews Bob Backlund: From All-American Boy to Professional Wrestling’s World Champion.
Pro Wrestling Stories reviews Bob Backlund: From All-American Boy to Professional Wrestling’s World Champion.

Bob Backlund Book Review

I was there live for the entire first WWWF run of Bob Backlund, seeing virtually all of his climb to the top, as well as his headlining championship matches at Madison Square Garden.

Frankly, though, he was a mixed bag.

You see, Bob Backlund was indeed excellent with the pure WRESTLERS- Ken Patera, Pat Patterson, Jimmy Snuka, Adrian Adonis, Greg Valentine, Harley Race, Bob Orton, Jr., Masked Superstar (Bill Eadie), Larry Zbyszko, Iron Sheik, Don Muraco, Sgt. Slaughter, and others.

But unlike a Ric Flair, he couldn’t carry the big, lumbering superheavyweight meat and potato old-school brawlers to a great match.

And his book, Backlund: From All-American Boy to Professional Wrestling’s World Champion, too, is a mixed blessing.

Bob Backlund's book is a mixed blessing.
Bob Backlund’s book is a mixed blessing. [Photo: Amazon.com]

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The Positives

On the (very) positive side, Bob Backlund wears his heart on his sleeve and pours his guts out.

He’s beyond honest about those he loves, loathes, and feels indebted to. He does not hold back whatsoever.

The man’s not looking for that next "WWE run" nor afraid to burn bridges.

By the time you finish this nearly 500-page tome, you’ll most certainly know just where you stand with Mr. Bob Backlund.

Nor is he ashamed to speak of a vicious father, very humble beginnings, and even being "homeless" living out of his car on the road at the start of his career.

And he puts you right in that ring with the legends of our youth, clearly explaining the psychology of matches already etched in our memory.

What were they saying to each other?

What was he thinking?

What was needed at that moment to elevate a certain match to greatness?

Why did they end the bout when they did?

Just how did they work that crowd into a frenzy?

He covers each above facet in wonderful detail.

The Champ: Bob Backlund in 1980.
The Champ: Bob Backlund in 1980. [Photo: Pinterest]

The Negatives

However, the issue with Bob Backlund’s book comes with its odd "rhythms."

The Champ makes the same point several times, circling back and covering the same matches and topics he previously discussed repeatedly.

For example, he says Larry Sharpe was a good hand, a good wrestler two or three times, and returns to discuss their match at MSG more than once. He does this with multiple opponents and bouts numerous times throughout the book.

It’s like this odd deja vu journey because you had just read the same exact thing a wee bit before.

And it happens throughout.

Ultimately a lot of points are made over and over ad nauseam.

As inspiring as Bob’s amazing physical conditioning is, the 37th time it’s addressed almost screams for an editor. It starts to feel like possibly it’s a huge interview being transcribed.

In the book, Harley Race and Terry Funk write about Bob being under consideration for NWA Champion, and they both say the same thing back-to-back.

Then there’s just some sloppiness that could have been easily avoided.

Bobby Duncum’s name is spelled wrong throughout the entire book.

There’s a quote from Ken Patera that ends mid-sentence, and suddenly Bruno Sammartino is talking.

Bob’s Madison Square Garden match with Executioner #2 (John Studd) is described in detail as being with Killer Kowalski.

Ray Stevens is mentioned as never having been in the territory prior to his feuds with both Bob and Snuka, although he did, in fact, have a run with former champ Pedro Morales earlier.

These are known facts that easily could have been corrected with the slightest bit of research.

From being homeless and sleeping in his car, eating tuna from a can, and having to defeat up to nine fans from the crowd before the matches each night to keep his spot on the card, Bob Backlund covers it all in his book.
From being homeless and sleeping in his car, eating tuna from a can, and having to defeat up to nine fans from the crowd before the matches each night to keep his spot on the card, Bob Backlund covers it all in his book.

Bob Backlund’s Book: Final Thoughts

In short, the man’s incredibly honest, open and I love him writing about all the guys I grew up on. And ultimately- despite itself- it’s a quality and enlightening wrestling book.

But, man, could this have ever used some editing.

At 485 pages it just feels a bit bloated.

I do, however, like that he wraps it all up with multiple motivational tips that could change people’s lives. He’s plainly saying there’s life beyond pro wrestling, and we can all evolve as well.

You walk away from this inspired by a man who always gave 110% in the ring, espouses clean living, loves his fans and family, gives back to the community, lives his life honestly and honorably, and is grateful for his blessings.

That it’s not the perfect wrestling book is easily forgiven.

Thank you, Champ.

Pick up a copy of "Bob Backlund: From All American Boy to Professional Wrestling’s World Champion" by Bob Backlund and Rob Miller, and let us know your thoughts!

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Evan Ginzburg is the Senior Editor for Pro Wrestling Stories and a contributing writer since 2017. He's a published author and was an Associate Producer on the Oscar-nominated movie "The Wrestler" and acclaimed wrestling documentary "350 Days." He is a 30-plus-year film, radio, and TV veteran and a voice-over actor on the radio drama Kings of the Ring. He can be reached on Twitter @evan_ginzburg or by e-mail at evan_ginzburg@yahoo.com.