UPDATE: As previously reported, Bob Backlund had to deny rumors that he “cut a heel promo” during Verne Gagne’s funeral. Now, former AWA alumni Mick Karch, who was in attendance, posted a new thread on Facebook.
Karch, who was an announcer for the defunct promotion, responded to Backlund’s version of the events in a Facebook post. Karch said that Backlund made comments during Greg Gagne’s eulogy saying he was representing WWE, which was the same story that Backlund told. Other reports had suggested that Backlund screamed during Greg’s speech, as if he was cutting a promo. Here is what Karch said:
“If you weren’t there, it is pretty absurd to say it didn’t go down as reported, even if you’re a fan of Backlund (and there is nothing wrong with that). I will say one more time, Greg Gagne was wrapping up his eulogy for Verne when Backlund stood up, made some shouting references to representing WWE, and then told Greg, `Don’t talk back to me!’ He smiled and sat back down. Greg’s response was, `Who was that?’ Someone said, `Bob Backlund,’ and Greg responded, ‘Who let him in here.’ Backlund hadn’t just spoken the words, he was shouting as if he was cutting a promo from his Mr. Backlund days.”
ORIGINAL: A report has been floating around the internet claiming that Bob Backlund “cut a heel promo” during Verne Gagne’s funeral. The report claimed that Backlund cut the “promo” during Greg Gagne’s eulogy and that it felt “very out of place, to say the least.”
Backlund has denied doing such and Robert Miller, who co-wrote Backlund’s upcoming autobiography, posted a response from the WWE Hall of Famer to the Kayfabe Commentaries message board. You can read it in full below.
Okay folks, just got off the phone with Bob, and here’s the story straight from the horse’s mouth.
Bob DID NOT cut a heel promo, or anything resembling that, at Verne’s funeral. I’m not sure who came up with that story, but it is not accurate.
According to Bob, here’s what actually happened.
Bob and everyone else in attendance sat quietly through the solemn, ceremonial part of the service. When that was over, the ministers announced that the “church service” was over, but that Gene Okurlund and Greg Gagne were going to speak – and that others might speak also. Mean Gene went first, and apparently gave some pretty awesome remarks that had people in the crowd laughing and cheering. Apparently it ended with Gene making a ring announcement and the people rising in a standing ovation. So this was not the ordinary somber church experience that you and I know.
Anyway, then Greg got up and gave a “eulogy” that was more of the same. At one point, Greg was talking about the WWF/E and his father’s experiences with Vince Sr. and Vince Jr, and some of the stuff that he had read about that on the internet. At that point, Bob stood up, and said “Hey Greg – just wanted you to know that I’m here representing Vince McMahon and the WWE, and we all just wanted to pay our respects and express our condolences to you and to your family from everyone in the WWE.”
That was it.
Greg thanked Bob, Bob sat down, and then Greg continued. According to Bob, the whole thing lasted about 15 seconds, and was done because Greg’s remarks opened the door, and Bob wanted everyone in the building to understand that the WWE was paying its respects to Verne and the Gagne family.
When the service was over, Bob went up front, and he and Greg exchanged a hug and some pleasantries. There was no outrage, and no one was upset about what happened. While standing up and saying something in the middle of a church service might seem a little foreign to most of us, this was apparently not an ordinary church service, but a more loose and fun exchange, which, according to Bob, who had known Verne very well since all the way back to Bob’s high school days, was “just how Verne would have liked it.”
So anyway – it seems like someone has run a little fast and loose with things without understanding the full story. I wasn’t there, but the accounting above is Bob’s version of what happened – which he just shared with me on the phone. He was very concerned about anyone thinking that he had actually “disrupted” the funeral service of a man that he respected so much, and whose funeral he had traveled all the way back to Minnesota to attend.
You mileage may vary about whether or not Backlund was behaving appropriately even in his own version of the story. Regardless, he’s pretty insistent that he did not cut the type of ranting and raving “Mr. Backlund” promo that most people were imagining.