The man I would like to talk about today may not be someone many of you recognize. It is a man that you do not hear talked about much on Bleacher Report.He is an important man, though; if not for this man, we may have never seen champs like HBK, Bret Hart or Jeff Hardy. The man I am referring to today is none other than Bob Backlund. While many credit wrestlers like HBK or Bret Hart for breaking in smaller champions, it was in fact Bob Backlund who accomplished this feat.He is also credited for breaking the ground for more technically skilled wrestlers. In Backlund's heyday he would go on to hold the belt for five years. This title run would be longer than Hogan’s best, and second only to Bruno Sammartino.I would like to share with you the history of this great grappler. He not only deserves the respect of his peers, but the respect of all of us fans. I hope you enjoy my tribute to one of wrestling’s true greats.Bob Backlund was born in 1949 in Minnesota. He would grow up to be a great natural athlete in many different sports. His abilities in football, track, and wrestling would land him a full scholarship to North Dakota State University.After he finished college, he would later try to pursue a career in pro football. He would be signed to a minor league team, but it paid so little that he would also be forced to sell encyclopedias door-to-door during the offseason. He would soon realize that he was never going to make it in football. He would quit the team and try to pursue other careers.“I was working out in a gym in Minneapolis and I met this guy named Eddie Sharkey,” Backlund recalls of his chance encounter with the noted wrestling trainer. “He had a school there where wrestlers like Red Bastien, Billy Red Lyons, and Mad Dog Vachon were working out. Those were some very interesting characters, but they were all good athletes, so I joined.”Backlund would go through intense training and would excel quickly. Although he was praised for his abilities in the ring, he found it very hard to find work at first.“Bret Hart’s father, Stu, was the first promoter that I called,” Backlund remembers. “I was on a payphone in Minnesota, and I called to ask if I could come there and wrestle for him, but Stu’s discourse came out very slow. I ran out of money before I got to ask him!”He would finally catch a break when promoter Bill Watts would give young Backlund a chance to wrestle for him in Oklahoma City in 1968. It was then that he would learn that wrestling was a hard and often underpaid career choice.“I thought I was going to do pretty good, so I made a reservation at the Sheraton,” Backlund reveals. “Then I wrestled, got paid five dollars and ended up sleeping in the trunk of my car.”He struggled, working the territories for some time, often questioning if he made the right choice pursuing wrestling. More times than not the pay-offs were barely enough for him to survive. He would stick with wrestling, though, and work twice as hard to prove he had what it took to succeed.Word would start to get around at how good Backlund was, and soon he would be booked countrywide. He would go on to compete with the top wrestlers all over the territories, guys like Terry Funk, Harley Race, and Jack Briscoe just to name a few.During his time in the territories, he would slowly build up a strong following of fans. With his solid mat skills and boyish charm, he would soon become a household name all over the US. He would soon start to get his recognition by making a name for himself in the AWA and NWA.It was during this time he would also receive his first taste of gold. Backlund would go on to become a multi-time tag team and multi-time heavyweight champion. It wasn’t long before he was being watched by the promoter who would catapult his career, Vince McMahon Sr.Bob Backlund would sign with the WWWF in 1977. Within a year’s time he would be pushed all the way to the top, and in 1978 he would become the heavyweight champion of the world.“It was nerve-wracking, because I came from a town of 2,000 people and there was going to be 27,000 people in MSG. When I won the championship, my whole life changed. I was known all over the world.”Backlund would go on to hold this title for five years. He, not only, defended it in the WWWF, but he would also go on to defend it overseas during cross-promotions with the NWA and AWA. The list of competitors Backlund would beat is second to none. During his five-year run he defended his title, beating the likes of Nick Bockwinkel, Verne Gagne, Harley Race, Roddy Piper, and Dusty Rhodes.His five-year run wouldn’t go with out any controversy, though. It is highly noted that on at least two occasions Bob Backlund had his shoulders pinned for the three count.The first time he would taste defeat was against Antonio Inoki in Japan. Inoki had his hands raised and for the first-time ever an NWA champ was recognized as the WWWF champion. Inoki would refuse to accept the belt and it was returned to Backlund. Still, to this day, the WWE refuses to acknowledge this title change.The other time would come against Greg Valentine; a dazed ref would award Valentine the belt during one of their matches. The title would be declared vacant and Backlund would win it a short time later in New York.As Backlund's run as champ entered its final years, people would grow stale of his "good boy" act. Heels would often refer to Backlund as Howdy Doody. In order to try to keep Backlund fresh, Vince wanted him to go heel.Backlund would turn down Vince’s idea; it was a move that would cost him his title. A short time later he would drop the title to the Iron Sheik in a match where he was never pinned or forced to submit. He lost it after his manager would throw in the towel while Backlund was in the camel clutch.“I think that toward the end of my time as a champion, it was probably right thing to do,” Backlund candidly admits. “It was probably one of the greatest business decisions.”Still a popular draw, Backlund would continue his success with the WWWF. He would later team up with another top face, Pedro Morales. Their run as champs were short-lived, though, when they were forced to vacate the belts. Bob Backlund would leave the WWF a short time later.For the next decade or so Backlund would wrestle part-time. He would often make appearances all around the Indies. The only other shot he would ever get at another major title at that time was against Rick Martel for the AWA Title, a match he would go on to lose.He would shock the world though in 1993 when he would return to the WWF. Sadly, it was this run that fans remember the most. He would come back as Mr. Backlund, a self-centered know-it-all who would look down on everyone.At first he was mainly used as a mid-carder, often beating jobbers or losing to top stars. Vince would strike gold, though, when he tried a new take on Backlund.After a match with Bret Hart, he would snap in the middle of the ring and lock in his Cross-Face Chicken Wing. This brief moment would be the birth of crazy Bob Backlund. While many found this gimmick offensive, considering his history as a fan favorite, it was this new gimmick that would reinvent Backlund's career.This gimmick would also bring Backlund heavyweight gold one last time. He would go on to beat Bret Hart in 1994 in a Throw in the Towel Match. His run would be short-lived though. He would lose the title to Diesel three days later, making it one of the WWF’s shortest runs as champion.“Bret Hart was very kind to do that, because I was 45,” Backlund says. “I would’ve liked to hold it for longer, but three days later, I lost it to Diesel.”After his short-lived run, he would fall back into mediocrity. He would have a couple more decent feuds with Hart. Other than that, he was mainly used for popcorn matches. In 1997 Backlund would once again retire from the WWF.Bob Backlund has made a few appearances here and there in wrestling: once in 2000 with the WWF, and another one with TNA. He now mainly focuses his time with his family and politics. He has run for Congress and governor. Both times he would be unsuccessful. He now runs his own business and is happy with where he is with his life.Whether Backlund was wrestling, running for office, or running his own business. He has always done so with passion, heart, and the will to succeed. It is this passion that will always make Backlund special in the hearts of wrestling historians.