Stats 101: Bob Backlund in Amarillo, 1974

This month on Stats 101, we will look at Bob Backlund's 1974 run in the Amarillo territory using the statistics we have developed to measure a wrestlers' role in the territorial era. Backlund was still a rookie when he went to Amarillo in early 1974 to wrestle for the Funks. In his first week there, he beat Terry Funk to win the Western States Heavyweight title. It might seem like Backlund was in for a big push. The reality, however, was slightly different.

The SPOT Rating measures a wrestlers' average position on the card, and basically serves to place wrestlers in a "depth chart" based on who was most frequently in the main events, who was most often in preliminary bouts, and who was somewhere in between those two levels. SPOT Rating is expressed as a two-digit decimal between 0 and 1, with a SPOT of 1.00 meaning the wrestlers was ALWAYS in the main event of cards he was advertised on in a given time period.

I looked at all of the wrestlers who were "regular" members of the Amarillo roster during the 30-week period of time Backlund was there in 1974 (which includes a few-week period where Backlund was wrestling in Japan before coming back to finish his run here). They are as follows:

MAIN EVENTERS (SPOT Rating between .80 and 1.00)
Dick Murdoch, Dory Funk Jr., Jim Dillon, King Curtis Iaukea, Mark Lewin, Ricky Romero, and Terry Funk

UPPER MID-CARDERS (SPOT Rating between .60 and 1.00)
Ciclon Negro, Karl Von Steiger, Killer Karl Kox, Kung Fu Lee (Shinya Kojika), Lord Alfred Hayes, Mike Dubois (Alexis Smirnoff), and Sieg Stanke

MID-CARDERS (SPOT Rating between .40 and .60)
Alex Perez, The Beast (Yvon Cormier), Ben Justice, Bob Backlund, Gorgeous George Jr., Nick Kozak, Patriot #1 & Patriot #2 (Bob Griffin and Bobby Hart)

Akio Sato, Greg Watson (Phil Watson aka Whipper Watson Jr.), Mr. Wrestling (Gordon Nelson), Stan Hansen, and Victor Varga

Here is a chart showing the crew and their week-by-week SPOT Ratings. You may need to click on it or download it to make it large enough to read:

As you can see, by any measure, Backlund was slotted as a Mid-Carder during his time in Amarillo, despite holding the Western States Heavyweight title for about half the time he was there. As I discussed on last month's Stats 101 podcast, the Western States Heavyweight title was one of three singles titles defended regularly in the territory at the time, and was probably the #3 belt (with the NWA International title and the Rocky Mountain Heavyweight title being positioned ahead of it).

While some of the wrestlers in the chart above were only in the territory for a brief period of time while Backlund was there (King Curtis, Lewin, Hayes, among others), there were still a good number of wrestlers positioned ahead of Backlund the entire time he was there.

Looking at Backlund's week-by-week SPOT Rating, the highest it got was a .65 in late March. From there, it sort of hovered between a .57 and a .62 for a couple of months during his first run as Western States Heavyweight champion, After dropping the belt to Karl Von Steiger, he was moved down the cards, with his SPOT Rating dropping down as low as .42 before he left for Japan. When he came back, he won the Western States Heavyweight title for a second time, this time beating Sieg Stanke, but only held onto it for a few weeks before dropping it to Killer Karl Kox. His SPOT Rating hovered between a .48 and a .60 his last 9 weeks in the territory.

It is very possible that after initial plans to push Backlund hard, the Funks recognized that his ability just wasn't quite there yet. And for that reason, while they kept the title on him for much of his time there, they never really pushed him above a certain level. The level of a wrestlers' push was usually not pre-ordained; their abiilties in the ring, not just wrestling-related but charisma-related too, would dictate how far up the cards they went.

Below is a list of all of Backlund's advertised matches in the regular weekly towns, but instead of listing all of them chronologically, they are split up by city. This allows us to see the progression of Backlund's opponents in each of the weekly markets (minor note: sometimes during this period Mr. Wrestling was working unmasked as Gordon Nelson; to keep things simple, he is listed below as Mr. Wrestling regardless of how he was advertised). We will also list his SPOT Rating in each city to see if perhaps there were some places he was pushed harder than others. Stipulations are noted where available, but keep in mind that the newspaper ads didn't always list the stipulations.

EL PASO (.54 SPOT Rating)
3/4 vs Mr. Wrestling
3/11 vs The Beast
3/18 vs Kung Fu Lee
3/25 vs Killer Karl Kox
4/1 vs Mike Paidousis
4/8 vs Tomomi Tsuruta
4/15 vs Patriot #1 & Patriot #2 (w/Nick Kozak)
4/22 vs Jim Dillon & Kung Fu Lee (w/Dick Murdoch)
4/29 vs Akio Sato
5/6 vs Karl Von Steiger
5/13 vs Bad News Jackson
5/20 vs Jim Dillon
5/27 vs Nick Kozak
6/10 vs Kung Fu Lee
6/24 vs Patriot #1
7/29 vs Ben Justice
8/5 vs Ben Justice & Jim Dillon (w/Nick Kozak)
8/12 vs Mike Dubois
8/19 vs Karl Von Steiger & Sieg Stanke (w/Ricky Romero)
8/26 vs Karl Von Steiger
9/2 vs Greg Watson
9/9 vs Jim Dillon

ODESSA (.54 SPOT Rating)
3/5 vs Stan Hansen
3/19 vs The Beast
4/2 vs Mike Paidousis
4/9 vs Killer Karl Kox
4/16 vs Ciclon Negro
4/23 vs Patriot #2
4/30 vs Patriot #1 & Patriot #2 (w/Akio Sato)
5/21 vs Patriot #2 (Western States Heavyweight title match)
6/11 vs Akio Sato
6/18 vs Alex Perez
6/25 vs Alex Perez
7/30 vs Ben Justice
8/6 vs Ben Justice & Jim Dillon & Karl Von Steiger (w/Akio Sato & Nick Kozak)
8/20 vs Ben Justice & Jim Dillon (w/Akio Sato)
8/27 vs Ben Justice
9/3 vs Sieg Stanke (Western States Heavyweight title match)
9/10 vs Killer Karl Kox
9/17 vs Mr. Wrestling

LUBBOCK (.51 SPOT Rating)
3/6 vs Mr. Wrestling
3/13 vs The Beast
3/20 vs Kung Fu Lee
3/27 vs Patriot #2
4/3 vs Chris Taylor
4/10 vs Jerry Kozak
4/17 vs Patriot #2 (Western States Heavyweight title vs 500 silver dollars)
4/24 vs Patriot #2 (Western States Heavyweight title vs 1000 silver dollars)
5/1 vs Patriot #1 & Patriot #2 (w/ Ricky Romero)
5/8 vs Patriot #2 (the other Patriot to be locked in a steel cage)
5/22 vs Stan Hansen
5/29 vs Patriot #1 & Patriot #2 (w/ Ricky Romero)
6/12 vs Kung Fu Lee
6/19 vs Patriot #1
7/31 vs Jim Dillon
8/7 vs Patriot #1
8/21 vs Ben Justice
8/28 vs Mr. Wrestling & Sieg Stanke (w/Akio Sato)
9/4 vs Jim Dillon (Western States Heavyweight title match)
9/11 vs Ben Justice (Western States Heavyweight title match)
9/18 vs Nick Kozak

AMARILLO (.60 SPOT Rating)
3/7 vs The Beast
3/14 vs Jerry Brisco
3/21 vs Killer Karl Kox (Western States Heavyweight title match)
3/28 vs Killer Karl Kox (Western States Heavyweight title match)
4/4 vs Patriot #1 & Patriot #2 (w/ Ricky Romero)
4/11 vs Patriot #1 & Patriot #2 (w/ Ricky Romero; masks vs 1,000 silver dollars)
4/18 vs Patriot #1 (Western States Heavyweight title vs 1,000 silver dollars)
5/2 vs Pat O'Connor (Western States Heavyweight title match)
5/9 vs Sputnik Monroe (Western States Heavyweight title match)
5/16 vs Ciclon Negro (NWA International title match)
5/23 vs Karl Von Steiger (Western States Heavyweight title match)
5/30 vs Akio Sato
6/6 vs Karl Von Steiger
6/13 vs Kung Fu Lee
6/20 vs Akio Sato
6/27 vs Victor Varga
8/1 vs Patriot #1 & Patriot #2 (w/Akio Sato)
8/8 vs Jim Dillon
8/15 vs Ben Justice & Jim Dillon (w/ Akio Sato)
8/22 vs Karl Von Steiger
8/29 vs Jim Dillon & Karl Von Steiger & Sieg Stanke (w/Mark Lewin & Nick Kozak; elimination match)
9/5 vs Karl Von Steiger & Sieg Stanke (w/ Ricky Romero)
9/12 vs Terry Funk (Western States Heavyweight title match)
9/19 vs Mr. Wrestling

ABILENE (.59 SPOT Rating)
3/9 vs Terry Funk (Western States Heavyweight title match)
3/15 vs The Beast (Western States Heavyweight title match)
3/22 vs Kung Fu Lee (Western States Heavyweight title match)
3/29 vs Patriot #1 & Patriot #2 (w/Nick Kozak)
4/12 vs Patriot #1 (Western States Heavyweight title match)
4/26 vs Patriot #2 (Western States Heavyweight title vs mask)
5/10 vs Jim Dillon (Western States Heavyweight title match)
5/17 vs Ciclon Negro (NWA International title match)
5/24 vs Patriot #1 & Patriot #2 (w/The Lawman)
5/31 vs Karl Von Steiger
6/14 vs Kung Fu Lee
6/28 vs Patriot #1
8/2 vs Jim Dillon
8/9 vs Akio Sato
8/16 vs Akio Sato
8/30 vs Sieg Stanke (Western States Heavyweight title match)
9/6 vs Karl Von Steiger (Western States Heavyweight title match)
9/20 vs Karl Von Steiger

HEREFORD (.60 SPOT Rating)
3/2 vs Tom Johnson
3/30 vs The Beast
5/11 vs Patriot #1 & Patriot #2 (w/Jerry Kozak)
5/18 vs Ciclon Negro
6/22 vs Patriot #1
8/10 vs Jim Dillon
8/24 vs Mike Dubois
8/31 vs Mike Dubois
9/7 vs Ben Justice
9/21 vs Rick Renaldo

3/3 vs Jerry Kozak
3/10 vs The Beast
4/7 vs Mike Paidousis
4/14 vs Mr. Wrestling
4/21 vs Patriot #1
5/12 vs The Grappler
5/26 vs The Grappler & The Hood (w/Jerry Kozak)
6/9 vs Inca Peru
8/11 vs King Curtis Iaukea
9/15 vs Greg Watson
9/22 vs Mr. Wrestling

CLOVIS (.70 SPOT Rating)
3/17 vs The Beast
3/24 vs Patriot #2 (Western States Heavyweight title match)
3/31 vs Dory Funk Jr.
4/28 vs Kung Fu Lee (Western States Heavyweight title match)
5/5 vs The Hood
5/19 vs Jim Dillon (Western States Heavyweight title match)
6/2 vs Patriot #1 & Patriot #2 (w/Nick Kozak)
6/16 vs Alex Perez
6/23 vs Alex Perez
6/30 vs Alex Perez (Lumberjack match)
7/28 vs Karl Von Steiger
8/4 vs Patriot #2
8/18 vs Mike Dubois
8/25 vs Sieg Stanke (Western States Heavyweight title match)
9/1 vs Ben Justice (Western States Heavyweight title match)
9/8 vs Nick Kozak (Western States Heavyweight title match)

Looking at each town, there wasn't much difference in his SPOT Rating amongst them (with two exceptions):
SPOT   City
.59        Abilene TX
.41        Albuquerque NM
.60        Amarillo TX
.70        Clovis NM
.54        El Paso TX
.60        Hereford TX
.51        Lubbock TX
.54        Odessa TX

As you can see, his SPOT Rating in the 6 weekly towns in Texas were all between .51 and .60. In the two New Mexico towns, however, there was a big difference in his SPOT Rating. His SPOT in Clovis was a .70 and in Albuquerque it was a .41. The most likely explanation for this is that Albuquerque would be classified as what many people call an "A" town while Clovis could be considered a "B" town. When territories ran multiple cities on the same night with a split crew, they would often send a "stronger" lineup to one of the towns (usually the one with the higher population, the larger arena, and/or the one that historically drew more fans). So when Backlund would appear in Clovis, he would often be higher up on the cards, since a good number of the Main Eventers and Upper Mid-Carders would be booked in Albuquerque. Conversely, when Backlund was booked in Albuquerque, a lot of the other Mid-Carders and Preliminary Wrestlers would be booked in the 'weaker' town of Clovis, meaning Backlund's match would be placed lower on the card.

One thing you'll notice is that in many towns, he's not engaged in what appears to be a "feud". He is just wrestling against a variety of opponents from week to week. He does seem to be wrestling against the Patriots regularly in April and May, but these matches are a combination of singles matches with Bob facing one of them and tag bouts with Bob teaming up with one of a few different partners to take on both of them. In Clovis, it does look like he has a 3-week program with Alex Perez culminating in a lumberjack match.

Let's take a closer look at the different opponents Bob faced during his time here. Here is a list of the opponents Bob faced most often during his run here (this includes singles matches as well as tags and six-man tags):
1: The Patriot #2 (22 matches)
2: The Patriot #1 (21 matches)
3: Jim Dillon (16 matches)
4: Karl Von Steiger (13 matches)
5 (tie): Ben Justice (11 matches)
5 (tie); Kung Fu Lee (11 matches)
7: The Beast (10 matches)

Of the 7 wrestlers listed above, only one of them (Dillon) was considered a Main Eventer in the territory at the time based on SPOT Rating. Two others (Von Steiger and Kung Fu Lee) were considered Upper Mid-Carders, while the other four (both Patriots, Ben Justice, and the Beast) were Mid-Carders. So not only is Backlund slotted as a Mid-Carder, he is also wrestling most frequently against other Mid-Carders.

We also have a way of "measuring" feuds at Charting the Territories, using the statistic called FLW, which stands for Feud Length in Weeks and is an attempt to approximate the "length" of a feud. It takes into consideration how often a specific match occurs, where on the cards those matches take place, and how spread out those matches are over time. Since Backlund is usually wrestling in the middle of the cards, this will definitely impact the FLW Score of his matches, as they are going to be a lot lower than if they had taken place in main events. In fact, the highest FLW Score for Backlund here was a .92 against The Beast. All of the matches between the two happened in a 4-week period, whereas Backlund's matches against the Patriots, Dillon, and Von Steiger were spread out over a much longer period of time.

Highest FLW Scores for Bob Backlund during this run in Amarillo
.92     vs The Beast
.56     vs Karl Von Steiger
.50     vs Patriot #2
.40     vs Ben Justice

As a broad general rule of thumb, a match needs to have an FLW of 3.00 or higher to really be considered a "feud" in a territory, so none of Backlund's opponents came close to being considered a feud.

After leaving Amarillo, Backlund would go on to Florida in the fall, and then Georgia in the spring of 1975. He would also make occasional appearances in the AWA and worked a couple of shows in Mid-Atlantic. In 1975 he did 2 more tours of Japan and made his first appearance for Sam Muchnick in St. Louis. He became a regular for Muchnick in 1976 and debuted for the WWWF in December of that year. He would work mainly TV tapings for the WWWF (while also working in Florida, Georgia, and the AWA) for several more months before starting with them full-time in September 1977. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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