July 25, 2005
WWF World Championship
Bob Backlund © vs. Dusty Rhodes
May 27, 1980
Usually, even the best matches require patience, because there's a feeling out period where they're building toward something better and more fulfilling as the match progresses. Here, that patience isn't really necessary because it's clear from the opening bell where they're going and that they are out to put on a great match. Backlund showing up Dusty on the mat at the beginning is one of the most awesome things I've ever seen, with Backlund totally outclassing him and showing him up. Even stuff like armbar reversals is fun, because they know how to get the most out of the least, but what puts this over the top is that they know how to get the most out of the most as well. That may seem like kind of a "Duh!" statement, but I can't tell you how many times I've seen wrestlers do something really cool and not put the move over, or sell it properly, but here, little is left behind. Backlund knows how to wrestle like a World Champion so well, with the established dominance every step of the way. As much as I like the Inoki match, this one does a far better job of making the champ look just as important as the challenger, and the goal here seems to be to get the match over, whereas the goal in the Inoki match seemed to be to get Inoki over. That had its high points, admittedly, but they take it to another level here in that regard, as even when Dusty is being dominated, he still looks credible. He's able to at least grab holds and lock them in for a short time, but he's still being one-upped every step of the way. He's given teases without being given a free ride.
Dusty's tenacity works against him at times, as Bob has a way of making Dusty's advantage a disadvantage, even using some of the same holds Dusty used on him. Dusty sells it like he means it in this match, not only through screaming out in pain when Backlund works in some wacky leg submission, but by also hobbing during a criss-cross sequence; the attention to detail here is what makes this match work so well. Backlund is no slouch in the selling department either, as he's later too weak to bodyslam Dusty, despite his strength playing a major part in previous title defenses in the company; he even putting over the boxing shuffle punches in strong fashion. He also gives Dusty the chance to heel it up, and he comes off more aggressive than he did against Inoki on 11/08, taking the low route by going to Backlund's eyes, being the first to strike an actual blow in the form of the elbow drop and starting in with his trademark punches. He works a chinlock, putting sympathy on Backlund without totally making it seem like he's out of his league, and it gets really good heat, considering it's Love American Style, with Backlund pumping his fists to signify his comeback and the crowd responding appropriately, along with the double TKO leading into the false finishes. That love becomes hate at times, admittedly, specifically when the ref gets bumped when Dusty shoves him down, but the post-match brawl is just as energetic and worthwhile as the match itself.