To say that the talent at this year's Arnold classic was deep is an understatement. If the Olympia was a battle; this Arnold was a full-fledged war on the order of something Alexander the Great would have waged. The top six this year was so strong that you could have shuffled the order and no one could have complained.
The talk leading into the show mostly surrounded Victor Martinez and if, or how much, the knee injury that side-lined him at the Olympia had subverted a repeat victory at the Arnold this year. Then, the second favorite going into the show - Kai Greene - began adding drama to the equation with reports surfacing about his condition, his health, or if he would pull out of the show. In fact, this drama perpetuated right on up to the day of the show with FlexOnline.com reporting that Kai had been scratched.
When the dust settled, it was Victor who fulfilled the prophesy! He did make it back to the stage but his conditioning was not as sharp as he's brought in the past and his left leg didn't look as big as the right. . . and both of them, for that matter, seemed a bit deflated. The rest of him was pretty damn good-- his size, crazy conditioning, and deeply etched striated glutes that I'm sure made Steve Blechman stand up and yell "weeeeeeew!!" And his off-the-chain posing routine proved impossible to beat. In fact, he took home the best poser award! The 2007 Arnold Champ, Victor Martinez has to settle for second, because on this night Kai Green was crowned the 2009 Champion.
In third place, Branch Warren proved that you can recover from an injury and come back more than 100%. After falling down a flight of stairs and tearing his triceps, Branch came to the Arnold bringing perhaps the best overall combination of size and conditioning he's ever displayed in his career. For his hard work, he was rewarded with the Most Muscular Man award; his third in 3 years. Dave, Triple H, and I all thought he could have placed as high as second. This was an awesome showing for Branch; it proved that a torn muscle doesn't have to be the end of the world.
Toney Freeman had to settle for fourth place on this night despite a showing that could have easily seen him finish much higher. His routine was a polished, class-act, that showcased a phenomenal assemblage of high quality muscle and superb conditioning. While it could be said Toney could have been a tad drier in his glutes and hamstrings, that would be picking nits. Toney does need more size, but it can't be at the expense of conditioning. The X-Man is a big, tall, man who could easily carry more muscle, but if it doesn't come with razor-sharp conditioning it seems to do more harm than good.
In fifth place Silvio Samuel could easily be the star of the show. No one was harder, drier, more striated, more detailed, or more complete. He's just not big enough to win a show of this calliber. Adding more mass is not going to solve the problem. His structure is about maxed out. Silvio will win a slew of smaller pro shows, but I can't see him claiming an ASC or Olympia title. He's just not big enough.
Rounding out the top six, Moe Elmoussawi brought his best package to date. He was all the way on, and left nothing out. However, like Silvio, Moe simply lacks the size and freaky contours that make up today's champions. There is not a weak spot on him, but all the spots together just didn't add up on this night.