Elimination Chamber comes at an interesting juncture for the WWE. Having replaced it with Fastlane in February, they scrambled to bring it back to smooth over the unavoidably messy Intercontinental title situation and add value to the Network’s 9.99 monthly price tag. It also falls at an awkward time, with Payback only happening two weeks ago and Money in the Bank only a fortnight away.
As always, I’ll briefly mention the preshow, if only to justify sitting through a punishing hour of filler chat, replays of stuff we’ve already seen and shameless product shilling. Stardust took on Zack Ryder in a standard match that managed to be alright. I wish they’d do more with both of them. I know not every wrestler can be in contention for the big prizes, but WWE pumps out so much content they’ve got to be able to find space for these talented people.
Lana had a Twitter Q&A that revealed that the face turn is definitely still on and The Miz returned with his Miz TV segment where he interviewed Daniel Bryan. It was mostly “meh” stuff, only turning actively bad when Macho Mandow and Axelmania showed up. The important thing to take away from it was the fact that Daniel Bryan confirmed he is coming back at some point and his career’s not over. Phew.
So, the main show:
The New Day vs The Prime Time Players vs The Lucha Dragons vs Tyson Kidd and Cesaro vs Los Matadores vs The Ascension in a Tag Team Championship Elimination Chamber Match
First match was an all out brawl for the Tag Team belts. Looking at the card, this one had the biggest potential to become a complete clusterfuck. In reality, it was only half of one. The match had some great spots and high points, but the pacing and storytelling felt off. Things were slightly awkwardly done and I found myself not engaging with it as much as I should have. Part of this I put down to there being too many competitors in play. The Lucha Dragons’ Kalisto climbing the chainlink walls like Spider-Man was pretty awesome but the payoff was disappointing as it it was apparent that many people had to get into position for the move to work, throwing off the timing. I was a big fan of Sin Cara’s insane Swanton bomb from high up though as well as some of Cesaro’s awesome high risk moves. Some of the eliminations were questionable too. Not sure why the Lucha Dragons had to be eliminated so early. Not to damn with faint praise, but it was a slightly above average match with some cool spots and move sequences. The two teams that came out of the match strongest were surprisingly The Prime Time Players and The Ascension. Both teams have been treated as punchlines for a while and it was great to see them show off what they could do. The Ascension in particular were goddamn powerhouses and dominated the match for a stretch, Hopefully the momentum on both teams continues. The New Day retained and they added another reason to hate them to the ever-growing list. Those loveable bastards.
Paige vs Naomi vs Nikki Bella in a Triple Threat match for the Divas Championship
NXT fans have been spoiled recently with awesome womens’ action between Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch who put on an incredible match at NXT: Unstoppable. It raised the bar and as such put this WWE match under sharp scrutiny. It’s an unfair comparison, but when NXT is classed as a developmental program to get wrestlers ready for the WWE big time, it’s understandable to think that way. I don’t subscribe to that school of thought. It’s a focus problem. WWE are refusing to give the Divas enough time to shine. It leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy when their token matches are limited to a brief window due to lack of faith and the short time in which the Divas are allocated to wrestle in tempts them to try and do a thousand moves to gain focus, leading to sloppy and underwhelming fights. This Divas match was a prime example of this. It felt rushed and several big spots failed to connect as intended. I really liked how brutal it was though. Lots of harsh knees and mean-looking slams to deal with. Nikki picked up the win and retained her belt. I’m glad, but I really want more from the womens’ division. Perhaps calling up someone like Sasha Banks could garner the attention that the Divas division needs and inject some lifeblood into a roster which only seems to have 6 active wrestlers.
Kevin Owens vs John Cena
Most of the feud building blocks leading up to Elimination Chamber felt hastily assembled. Despite having only a few weeks to set up shop, this Owens vs Cena fight felt special. There was a palpable “big fight feel” to it all. The crowd woke up at this point and the atmosphere became electric. This may be my favourite fight of the year so far. Everything was on point. Cena was every bit the old pro and gave as good as he got and Owens was a beast. Some of the moves that Owens pulled out of the bag were awesome, especially an unexpected moonsault. This was a Kevin Owens showcase and he rose to the challenge magnificently. We can’t discount John Cena, however. The man has been putting on quality matches week after week and sold his guts out against Owens in this one. Best part was the fact that Owens won clean. There are very few bad guys that have beaten Cena legit. Although it can feel stakeless, perhaps this is why Cena winning all the time isn’t such a bad thing, especially now he’s not threatening the World Heavyweight Championship. Every time Cena loses, it feels special and it can be shocking. Brock Lesnar drew gasps from the crowd when he ragdolled Cena from post to post and dominated him. Same for Kevin Owens. This is the birth of a supervillain and I can’t wait until he starts shaking up the roster.
Neville vs. Bo Dallas
I’ve liked both Neville and Dallas for a while and I was glad to see Creative giving them a chance to have a proper storyline. Neville is getting popular and Bo Dallas is underrated. They put on a great show. Neville’s flipping about got massive cheers and Dallas’ pettiness and cheating drew heat from the crowd. The placement was the problem with this match. For some reason, they had this as the cooldown match after the crowd got hot for Owens/Cena. As a result, everything felt muted. I had to rewatch the match in order to do this write-up because I couldn’t remember much outside of Neville winning. It’s a shame as it’s a solid fight, but it was done no favours being sandwiched between the previous match and the next one as they became the talking points of the night. Hopefully they continue to develop Neville and Dallas’ rivalry and perhaps place the match in a better spot on the card next time.
Dolph Ziggler vs R-Truth vs Sheamus vs King Barrett vs Ryback vs Mark Henry in a Elimination Chamber Match for the Intercontinental Championship
Wow. Just wow. This may be one of the worst matches I’ve seen in a while. If you wanted to see 6 men standing around doing nothing and awkwardly grabbing each other, look no further. It was painful to watch. The match already shattered an ankle straight out the gate as Rusev injured his foot on a SmackDown taping and was unable to compete in this match. Obviously, that isn’t anybody’s fault, but it meant there was no new-purpose Rusev stomping about, ready to kill Dolph Ziggler for stealing his girl. There was a moment where Mark Henry’s pod broke and he shuffled in and out awkwardly until he was given the all clear, whilst the others stood around not knowing what to do. It affected the match so much, that what I can only assume was a planned spot in which Sheamus got some heel points for being a coward and jamming his pod door shut with his cross necklace. The match had been so shonky up until that point, it looked like yet another thing had gone wrong. Even commentary were confused with Jerry Lawler remarking that Sheamus had somehow picked the lock with the necklace. What a goddamn mess. Anyway, Ryback won and nobody cared. Next.
Dean Ambrose vs Seth Rollins for the World Heavyweight Championship
Shellshocked by the awfulness of the last match, we stumbled into the main event. Luckily, it was quality. I love Rollins and Ambrose. Their chemistry is great and they have a significant rivalry between them. It was an awesome battle. The turning point came when Ambrose leapt off the top rope and Rollins pulled the referee in the way. The ref was out of it and Ambrose hit Dirty Deeds and pinned the champ. There being no ref, Ambrose held it for about an eight count before another ref slid in (and what a slide it was) and counted the final three. We had a new champion! Except we didn’t. The refs talked and Ambrose was deemed the victor, but by Rollins’ disqualification, not the pinfall, meaning the belt stayed around Seth’s waist. Damn. I’m glad in one way. Rollins is an awesome champion, but it would have been worth Ambrose winning for the shock value. Anyway, it was a screwy finish that I could buy into- the best kind of screwy finish.
When I say Elimination Chamber was a mixed bag, I mean really mixed. The Owens/Cena fight is already on my matches of the year list and the main event was thoroughly entertaining. However, both actual Elimination Chamber matches missed their mark (some definitely more than others) and it dragged the show down.