During his “Ain’t He Great!” live tour with Inside The Ropes, Jeff Jarrett gave his thoughts on the New Generation Era, Bob Backlund’s short-lived 1994 title reign, as well as a hilarious story about the Hall of Famer.
As Hulk Hogan departed the then-WWF in 1993, the company saw an opportunity to move away from more cartoonish characters – such as Doink The Clown, Repo Man and Giant Gonzalez – and head in a new direction. That new direction would see Superstars such as Brett Hart, Shawn Michaels, Lex Luger and Jeff Jarrett take centre stage, and eventually being referred to as the New Generation.
However, in the midst of building new stars and heavily promoting younger, fresher and edgier talent, WWE took the decision at Survivor Series 1994 to put the World Championship on veteran Bob Backlund – a man who had last held the world championship in 1983. A decision which dumfounded many within the company, as Jeff Jarrett explains:
“It came so out of left-field, because he was the maniacal, crazy Mr Backlund. That was the first run of that… And I can’t speak for anyone else, but I definitely thought, “This is odd.” This is a wrestler, here’s Bret, a wrestler’s wrestler, like I said, coming over here [the UK] and the reactions The Hitman was getting and all that, and I just seemed like we went fish out of water into that. And then pretty quickly out of that.”
Double J went on to say that the Bob Backlund experiment didn’t really work, as he quickly relinquished the championship, and that Backlund being champion “had nothing to do with the New Generation style.”
Ever the storyteller, Jarrett then followed up with a brilliantly funny story about Backlund, and his one nocturnal habit in particular.
“One night, we got in late, and a couple of us went out, and stayed out even later. When we lay down we had literally three hours to sleep. And I keep hearing this… [Rhythmic tapping] ..and it kept going over, and a knock and a knock…. Finally, I got up and I still heard it. ‘What the heck is going on?’ So I was fuzzy, and in and out of sleep… And the next morning, we were in a small English hotel and I opened the door, and Kevin opened the door across from me. And then a couple ones down. We’ve all got to meet on the bus at 8am and it’s 7.58, and we’re all walking out. And all of a sudden, boom! The next door opens up next to us and out pops Backlund. And he’s fresh as a daisy. ‘Morning guys!’ and I said, ‘Bob, that came from your room?’ ‘Oh, yeah, I was doing step-ups. I said ‘For two hours?!’”
It transpired that Mr Backlund had chosen to work on his legendary cardiovascular fitness using a chair up against the interconnecting door that lead to Jarrett’s room to do step-ups. Something which certainly does little to dampen Backlund’s reputation as an eccentric.
As Double J reflected “Bob’s unique. I love him to death. But he’s super unique!”
For more conversation and memories about The New Generation era, check out ITR’s Great Debate podcast with Kenny McIntosh and Dante Richardson, which is currently taking an in-depth look at what was a fascinating time in professional wrestling.
Part 1 is available now.