Friday, May 8, 2009

Backlash 2009 Review

If you Compared professional wrestling to fine art, in particular painting then Backlash was a cross between a Salvador Dali and a Picasso (blue period). I don't know if there is such a thing as abstract wrestling. But I believe that what I saw live was the closest you'll ever get to it.

The event started strong with a very nice match between Christian and Jack Swagger for the ECW championship. The match was nice as ring veteran Christian was able to compensate for some of the lags and missed connects that Jack Swagger had. Jack Swagger possess a lot of potential and with a little more grit, experience and let's be honest, a speech therapist(I know I had to see one from Kindergarten to 2nd grade, nothing to be ashamed of), he can at least hold his own one day. The pace of the match was good; it didn't really leave moments that lagged on needlessly. The ebb and flow was actually done very well much to my shock. Swagger was able to help build a good amount of suspense with his end of the match pace. Christian is and will always be one of the most talented performers in the business. You can practically set time to his ring consistency and that night was no different. This was a very straight forward match that had a few unexpected bumps. There was a moment when both challenger and champ decided to remove the turnbuckle for added impact. Just something really enjoyable about watching them race to untie the turnbuckle first. And while the expectation was that Christian leave as champ there was enough tension to make you believe that perhaps he wouldn't. Much better match than I thought it would be from inception. Well played.

Jericho - Steamboat moved with an efficiency and energy that should be unheard of for someone Steamboat's age. Always when one gets the opportunity to view a legend live, reverence should be the first order of business, critiquing comes later. The Dragon is a man to be admired. Chris Jericho is formidable if you're good; Jericho is formidable if you're amazing. He just makes sure you have something to keep up with when you're in the ring with him. Together they worked a great match. Sympathy was high and used to its full effect. Jericho was a disgusting smarmy wretch that took too much pleasure in beating the Dragon to within an inch of his over 60 year old life. And Steamboat did what Steamboat does better than just about anyone else. He made you feel for him and made you believe in him. With that said, Steamboat delivered what is the absolute worst figure-four I'd ever seen. Other than that small moment that wouldn't have been so glaring had the rest of the match not been worked so well it was a class act right till Steamboat left the arena.

Let me preface with my own lack of ability to be objective in regard to one thing. I am not a CM punk fan. I find it very difficult to watch his work and see anything that I enjoy. In this avenue I am very narrow minded and can't seem to figure out a way not to be with this performer. Kane is one of my favorite people to watch. His spatial awareness and concept of in ring persona has always impressed me and I just find his character fascinating to watch no matter what he's doing. My only true irritation with this match was the idea that he didn't have a worthy opponent in CM Punk. But I've felt that way about everyone who has to try and make a match really work with the Punk. On the mic Punk is heads and shoulders better than he ever was, now if his ring work could catch up, we'd be golden.

The I Quit match was interesting. And historic. The very first "I quit" match was Ric Flair and Terry Funk. If you really pay attention to how this match was conducted you realize a few things that the Hardy boys tried to recreate and pay homage to. Within the confines of this match, the idea is to beat a man so badly that he quits. This is not a physical match psychology wise because the other man has to say the words. That makes it a mental match, that's where the match is won. This is a match built for one thing and one thing only, high drama. The match is supposed to horrify, it's supposed to leave a bad taste in your mouth. You should feel a little dirty when they're done if it's done right. The premise is breaking another human being's spirit, not beating a man into submission, that match came later. I don't know about you, but watching one man duct tape and tie down his actual brother in a twisted S&M fashion made me uncomfortable, listening to that man shamelessly pleading from his prone position trussed up Tess Trueheart style to a table added to that. So when people tell me they hated this match I have to wonder what is it they were looking for because I was suitably appalled and horrified.

The Beth Phoenix Santina thing should have already worn out its welcome. But my God Santino is hilarious. It was a welcome entry to get away from the horror of the Hardy brother-on-brother action we had just witnessed. Although the stripping of Santino quickly put us back into that place.

Quite possibly the most unsuccessful abstraction of the night was the plotting of the Orton, Rhodes, Dibiase versus Triple H, Batista and McMahon. Conceptually, Randy hanging back till the right time to strike, keeping Shane McMahon in the ring as the weak link, reads well on paper. It just makes sense for the character, the story, everything. However, the actuality of it is that you end up having your 3 strongest match participants out of one of the biggest matches of the night. In action it ends up having a horrible dynamic. What I've always enjoyed about Triple H Randy Orton matches is fluctuation. At any moment they can go from 0 to 60 and then back again. This is the dynamic that was so very appealing at last year's Backlash that only had 2 less participants in the match than this year's. Out of the 3 that maintained the most time in the match, truly only Cody is watchable for long stretches of time, then Ted and last Shane by default. My concern, since Triple H was taken out of action at the end of the night, is that there could be some unknown injury issue that forced the match to be mapped this way.

Nobody makes Cena look better than Edge. It's been true for a few years now and that dynamic has not changed. This match is the winner of the most abstract match of the night award. Most abstract match of the year pending. I hated this match about 1 minute in. I thought the pace was too slow, the spots unnatural and it seemed much too pleased to be utterly psychology free. And then I started to pay attention. Really pay attention. This is the match that had been being built. It wasn't supposed to be pretty, or make sense. It was supposed to have this wary wild animal feel to it. It was supposed to move like the nature channel. So the slow pacing, stalking as it were. Queues being taken from nature. I could be reading more into it than it was, but really that is the only thing that makes any sense. Well that and just getting back from a European tour. Could you have worse timing that that. The bumps were BIG bumps. The one into the crowd was absolutely insane. And I mean that literally. Speaking for myself, I would not let John 'I am freakshow strong' Cena throw steal steps at my head. I'm just saying. After this match got its legs under it, this became very enjoyable mostly because I did hate it when it started and grew to appreciate it after it was over. I remember thinking I may have just watched the best Last Man Standing match ever and not even known it. How Odd.

And that sums up Backlash for me. I left with an overwhelming sense of I either just watched the most awful Pay Per View in the world, or I just saw the professional wrestling version of Avant Garde art. Until the DVD comes out the jury will remain out.