As the guy responsible for Smackdown coverage, Smackdown pay-per-views also fall in my wheelhouse. When I found out that Elimination Chamber would be a Smackdown pay-per-view, I did a little fist pump. Yeah, it’s 3 hours of staring at two screens, typing furiously on one while the other plays the show, but it’s Elimination Chamber, dammit.
So when I found out that my extended family was visiting this weekend instead of next, like I had originally thought, I got pretty bummed.
You see, Elimination Chamber, overall, is one of my favorite WWE gimmick matches. I love matches and tournaments that feature eliminations. I feel they can build suspense, intrigue, and really drive home the spirit of competition like no other. When you factor in the format of the Elimination Chamber match – 6 men, with 2 starting, and the other 4 locked in pods that open up on intervals – it becomes even more exciting for me. And, while we’re at it, let’s make it brutal. Steel chain everywhere, pods that can be jumped off of, and, of course, the steel grid that lays alongside the apron at ring-height.
WWE markets Hell in a Cell as their most vicious match, but far and away I feel Elimination Chamber is. While you may not be able to settle a one-on-one feud here properly, you sure can set up some feuds in this match.
Last night, WWE put on their 20th Elimination Chamber match, and debuted a brand new chamber, redesigned in some obvious ways, and made safer in others. No longer circular, the Chamber structure is now squared off, and seems a little more efficient at surrounding a ring. It also features raised platforms that look much safer for the talent to be thrown on, as the steel grates of Chambers past has been replaced with canvas, or rubber padding. I’m not entirely sure what it was, honestly.
John Cena walked into the Chamber as the incumbent champion. He took on AJ Styles, The Miz, Dean Ambrose, Baron Corbin, and Bray Wyatt, in an incredible match. But when all was said and done, John Cena walked out without the title.
This was a tremendous match, from start to finish. We got five minutes of John Cena vs. AJ Styles, uninterrupted, to open things up. Was it as good as their previous matches? No, but they do have amazing chemistry together and even for a moment it was fun to watch. And where Cena and styles wrestled for five minutes, once Ambrose came into the chamber as the third participant in the match, it turned into a brawl.
Bray Wyatt followed Ambrose, then Corbin, then The Miz. It wasn’t until The Miz was actually released into the pod as the final participant did we get our first elimination – as Dean Ambrose rolled Baron Corbin up and stole a pin. Corbin, who was busy staring down the startled Miz, took out his frustrations on Ambrose and beat the hell out of him before leaving the Chamber. And thus, The Miz ran in and stole a pin on Ambrose, eliminating him second.
Some more action took place, with Miz hitting a nasty Skull Crushing Finale on Wyatt on the platforms. But Cena caught Miz mid-air on an AA for a surprise pinfall out of nowhere. For a brief moment, it was 2-on-1, as Styles and Wyatt teamed up on Cena, but it didn’t last long, and quickly became every man for himself. And then, Cena went for an AA, but Bray Wyatt countered it, hit Sister Abigail, and pinned the champion.
With Wyatt and AJ Styles left, we were guaranteed a new champ.
Styles and Wyatt proceeded to tear it up in a fresh match for the next few minutes. The fans were into it from the beginning, and bit by bit, move by move, we were kept on the edge of our seats, until Bray Wyatt catches Styles in mid-air off of a Phenomenal Forearm attempt, hits him with Sister Abigail, and pins him.
Bray Wyatt is your new WWE Champion, folks.
And one might be shocked by this, if it weren’t kind of easy to see. Randy Orton became part of the Wyatt Family some time ago, choosing to join them since he couldn’t beat him. And while the storyline seemed like Orton was just infiltrating them, even after Harper left the group, Orton continued to stay by Bray’s side. Even now, I question if Orton is really, truly trying to work over Wyatt anymore.
But now, Orton – who won the Royal Rumble – is on a fast track to face off against Bray Wyatt at Wrestlemania for the WWE Title. Unless WWE swerves us and has Orton choose the Universal Title (they have been clever with their language and are saying he has a “guaranteed Wrestlemania Main Event”), Orton will face Bray Wyatt.
Time will tell. Or Tuesday. Tuesday will tell, too.
Let’s hit up the rest of the card, shall we?
- Becky Lynch defeated Mickie James in the opening match. Not a bad match – maybe the best match for James since her return to WWE. Lynch got the win on a roll-up, and keeps James protected for a rematch, which is likely.
- Apollo Crews & Kalisto vs. Dolph Ziggler was a waste of time. The match never should have happened, and never should have been booked. And though Ziggler attacked Kalisto prior to the match, and effectively eliminated him from most of the match, somehow Kalisto managed to make it back out to the ring to help get the win for his team. After the match, Ziggler got his heat back by attacking both men with a chair, much to the pleasure of the fans in attendance. In any case, there was no reason for this to be a handicap match. It should’ve just been Crews vs. Ziggler, and I don’t care about that match either. Whatever.
- The Tag Team Turmoil Match was next. It was a good match, overall, with American Alpha retaining their titles, but it started out with a solid run from Heath Slater and Rhyno, who defeated both Breezango and The Vaudevillains before being eliminated by The Usos. The Usos then took on the champs, American Alpha, and lost, but there was a post-match angle where The Usos attacked American Alpha in frustration. With The Ascension being the last team left, it seemed as if a title change was about to happen, but American Alpha pulled it off at the very end, retaining the tag titles in a hard-fought victory. Thumbs in the middle for this – the in-ring work was enjoyable, but the concept of the Tag Team Turmoil leaves something to be desired. Who draws the order of entry? Why should someone that’s barely been in the match have such an easy shot at winning?
- Next up, Nikki Bella vs. Natalya. This has been an enjoyable feud thus far, but this match seemed to drag quite a bit. Lots of drawn out rest holds, for no reason. When the action was fast, it was good, and seemed pretty personal. Eventually, the two began brawling outside of the ring, and it lead to a double count-out. After the match, Bella speared Natalya on the ramp, and later, Nattie would return the favor, when she attacked Bella during a backstage interview. They knocked over tables and even bumped into Maryse, which will probably set up a match for Wrestlemania.
- Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper was also a good match. A strong back and forth match, I feel that they did a good job of establishing Harper as a solid wrestler and someone that belongs facing top stars. Randy Orton won – and that’s the right call – but Harper walked away looking like a star and won over the fans in the process.
- Naomi defeated Alexa Bliss to become the Smackdown Women’s Champion. I’m not going to lie – I’m in love with Alexa Bliss, and I’m terribly disappointed she lost the title. That said, Naomi has been on fire lately, and I think this is an awesome opportunity for her to take it to the next level. She’s always been good in the ring, but I feel her mic work has really gone to another level once they let her be herself. She comes across as genuine and likeable and I think the fans can really get behind her. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have the Hometown Hero defending at Wrestlemania.
Overall, a really strong show. Not perfect, but thumbs up and absolutely worth watching. Even on delay. Wrestlemania is taking shape and this was a nice chapter in the build. I’m excited to see what happens on Tuesday, when Orton and Wyatt undoubtedly have an encounter, and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for AJ Styles, John Cena, The Miz, Baron Corbin, and Dean Ambrose.