Generic Pre-Review Wrestling Disclaimer: Long before my affinity for globetrotting documentaries, Martin Scorsese films and The Criterion Collection, I found a soft spot for professional wrestling. Don't ask me how this happened; it just did. Despite this declaration, I shower daily, all my teeth are accounted for, I have a college degree...and, most importantly, I have a wife with the same merits. I'm not alone, of course. The wrestling fans I know aren't slack-jawed yokels; they simply appreciate the spectacle and illusion that this genuine sport creates, in the same way movie lovers enjoy fast-paced fights and thrilling chase sequences. Long story short: we know this stuff is "fake", but we like it anyway. Give us a break.
As one the company's "minor" spectacles (at least compared to Wrestlemania or Royal Rumble, for example), Backlash typically feels like a slightly larger version of what fans can see on weekly WWE broadcasts...with a $40 price tag, of course. This pay-per-view began as part of the In Your House series; originally priced at $14.95 apiece, these affordable events gradually rose in price and stature as the years went by. The first installment of Backlash aired in April 1999, back when Nicole Bass, Droz, The Big Boss Man, Al Snow, Goldust and the late Owen Hart were still active wrestlers for the company. Ten years later, it appears that the WWE roster has changed quite a bit---but for the most part, is seems as if the company is in good hands.
Held on April 26 at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island, Backlash 2009 held a rare advantage for a "minor" WWE pay-per-view: it followed a much-hyped Wrestlemania that didn't quite live up to expectations. Though a four-week stretch is hardly ample time to set up proper feuds and build plenty of excitement, the three-hour event delivered on a moderate scale. There are no dominant spectacles here; nothing specifically steals the show, but there's also little in the way of filler and only one joke of a match. The worst that this event offers is a mild case of déjà vu: we've seen most of these main-events wrestle dozens of times before, but a few interesting developments help to keep things fresh. Let's take a look at the card:
Complete Match Listing
(7 matches on 1 single-sided DVD)
Christian vs. Jack Swagger [ECW Championship Match]
Chris Jericho vs. Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat
Kane vs. CM Punk
Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy ["I Quit" Match]
Santina Marella vs. Beth Phoenix ["Miss Wrestlemania" Match]
Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase vs. HHH, Batista and Shane McMahon [WWE Championship Match]
Edge vs. John Cena [World Heavyweight Championship Match]
Christian vs. Jack Swagger's ECW Championship match definitely makes a good impression: it runs a bit longer than 10 minutes, which is good news for an opening bout of this caliber. Both athletes work quite well together, especially the veteran Christian. Chris Jericho vs. Ricky Steamboat is a solid follow-up to the surprisingly good Wrestlemania match---and though most fans realize by now that Steamboat still shines in the ring, it's worth mentioning again. Matt & Jeff Hardy's match is as good as expected, with the brother-vs.-brother rivalry reaching a fever pitch; aside from some hammy acting near the climax, it delivers plenty of surprises. The twin main events (a six-man tag match and Edge vs. John Cena) are both impressive, especially the latter. Though there's something about Edge that makes me reluctant to watch his matches, this epic encounter is quite possibly the show's highlight.
Luckily, the less-impressive moments are few and far between. Kane vs. CM Punk is exactly what you'd expect under the circumstances, but it's rare that WWE pulls off "David and Goliath" matches successfully. It runs a bit long---even as the second-shortest match on the card---and Punk fans will undoubtedly not enjoy the outcome. The real low point, as you'd expect, is the joke match involving Santina Marella and Beth Phoenix: it runs much longer than it ought to, and it's not like many of the participants excel on the mic. All things considered, though, Backlash is one of WWE's better efforts this year.
On the technical side of things, this DVD is on par with recent WWE releases: production values are decent enough and all matches are free from edits. Unfortunately, only one bonus feature has been included. This is bad news for those who already spent $40 on the PPV the first time around, though new viewers probably won't mind as much.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and enhanced for 16x9 displays, Backlash 2009 looks to be on par with most current WWE releases...but that's not necessarily a free pass. Notable amounts of pixellation, edge enhancement and compression artifacts can be seen during many entrances and fast-moving sequences, which has been a long-standing problem we've undoubtedly become accustomed to. Colors are generally bold and bright, though reds pop out almost unnaturally at times. Certainly not a five-star presentation overall, but this is probably about as good as we'll get from WWE.
The audio is presented in a robust Dolby 5.1 Surround mix, which does a fine job of recreating the WWE live experience. Crowd noise and play-by-play commentary come through loud and clear, creating a satisfying soundstage overall. A Spanish 2.0 play-by-play track is also available, though it's not quite as dynamic overall. As expected, optional subtitles and Closed Captions have not been provided.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the plain-wrap menu designs are basic and easy to navigate. The 158-minute main feature has been divided into 10 chapters (one per match and significant "filler" event), while no obvious layer change was detected during playback. This one-disc release is housed in a standard black keepcase and includes no inserts of any kind.
Only one short extra has been included here, and it's exclusive to this release. "Aftermath of the Six-Man Tag Match" (1:58) shows a bit of behind-the-scenes footage from HHH's trip to the ambulance, but it's nothing to write home about. Like the event itself, this segment is presented in 16x9 format and does not include Closed Captions or subtitles. Unfortunately, the pre-show dark match between Kofi Kingston and Dolph Ziggler is not included here. Why does WWE continue to overlook these?
Most "minor" WWE pay-per-views are middle-of-the-road, but Backlash 2009 beats the curve by a modest margin. Most of the matches make the grade and some reach greater heights, with only a mild amount of filler to weigh things down. This DVD, on the other hand, is nearly identical to other WWE stand-alone releases: the technical presentation is decent, but a lack of substantial bonus features won't make it an attractive package for those who saw it on PPV already. Even so, Backlash 2009 will appeal to casual and rabid WWE fans alike---and all things considered, should only be ignored by those who don't need to see it more than once or twice. Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.