Elimination Chamber Thoughts- Release The Buzzards!
Gone are the days I can review shows the day of, apparently, got this one coming in hot about a week late. I had exactly enough spare time on Monday evening to watch the Chamber match itself, but didn't get to the rest of the card until the weekend. Pretty fun show from the blue brand overall. Smackdown has often being criticised for lack of roster depth. While this may be true, to an extent, the Elimination Chamber PPV masked this well by putting every roster member on the card (with the exception of Jack Swagger, who was missed terribly). In the words of Sami Zayn's theme song, "Whoa whoa whoa, let's go!"
-We kicked off with Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James. Three women's matches on the card, and they chose the best workers of the lot to be the opener. Becky lifts Bret Hart's gimmick by taking off her goggles and giving them to a young fan. The boy is stoked, and I'm just trying to figure out if she's done that before. Also trying to figure out what score Bitter Bret would give her out of 10. Probably a 4. Mickie comes out to a few boos, but overall, a respectful ovation for the veteran.
-Nice chain wrestling to kick things off. I give JBL a lot of shit, so it's only fair I give credit where it's due- he cuts off the other commentators' attempts to portray Mickie as a relic of year's past, pointing out that she's wrestled "all over the world"" (code for TNA) since her WWE departure. Slick counter to the Pumphandle Slam late in the match, to a beautiful Mick Kick. Shortly after, Becky gets a quick jackknife cover for the 3. With apologies to Randy Orton, that was "outta nowhere", and it seems like this feud will continue. Nice opener. No big spots, but well wrestled and gave both ladies a spotlight.
-Ellsworth in the skybox playing the loyal boyfriend (total sycophant) to Carmella, who for her part seems totally disinterested in Pretty Jimmy. She's basically the Khalessi to his Jorah Mormont.
-The whole SD midcard (minus Jack Swagger) features in the next one, and I lose interest. Ziggler takes on Kalisto and Apollo Crews in a handicap match. Crews is the ultimate CAW, and Ziggler has been basically the same since turning heel, with a touch more bitterness about him. Crews with the sit out powerbomb for the win (I had to look that up because I was busy playing on my phone during the match), and Ziggler snaps, giving Crews a 4 then shattering his ankle with a steel chair. Thank you chants to Ziggler from the crowd for taking out Waterboy Charisma (as opposed to Captain Charisma).
-Tag Team Turmoil! Okay, my care factor is back up. One of the most underrated gimmicks of the 2000s, I feel. The SD tag division hasn't been handled all too well (playing second fiddle to the Wyatts and being relegated to PPV pre-shows) but each team puts in an effort here, being given time to show they should be spotlighted. Slater and Rhyno get a brief time to show why they were the first SD Tag Champs- including a wicked Rhyno Gore on Simon Gotch- then American Alpha and Usos get the centre stage. Quick roll up by Gable eliminates the Usos, who launch a savage beatdown on Alpha. Somewhere, Ziggler is suing for copyright infringement and giving the Usos a 4. This attack makes American Alpha easy pickings for the Ascension, who get the first believable nearfalls of their WWE careers. American Alpha rally and retain as Chad Gable runs into the ring at the perfect moment to catch Viktor with Grand Amplitude for the win. Fun match and good way to fill 20 minutes of a PPV that has six main eventers in the one match. I'm impressed by the way AA are experimenting with their finisher lately, finding different ways to hit it beyond the usual corner set up.
-Very good video package highlighting the Nikki Bella/Natalya feud. The way the video highlights Natalya's jealousy of Nikki's looks, I'm having big flashbacks to Trish and Victoria's 2002 feud. They get a lot of time and do a lot of technical wrestling, playing into the story that "Nikki can't wrestle". Tell you what, Nikki applies the STF, or as she calls it, the Fearless Lock, way better than Cena could ever dream of. That shit is on tight! Double count out here. Damn February PPVs. Real lack of definitive finishes on this card, as some of the feuds might work their way to Mania, or at least fill up a chunk of TV time until Mania hype really kicks in. Very good match though, probably one of Nikki's better ones, to be honest.
-Time for the battle of the (former) Wyatt Family members as Luke Harper faces Randy Orton. They start fittingly with a brawl, and just as the broadcast team talks up Harper's agility for a big man, he hits a dropkick. It appears that Orton is heel here and Harper is the face- I mean, Harper was the one who was betrayed- and they are wrestling to those roles, but since Harper hasn't had the time invested in his character yet and Orton is something of a legacy star now, they're not getting the reactions they're after. So Orton takes Harper to Chinlock City for a bit and poses arrogantly a few times so the crowd gets with the program. Harper hits the senton atomico (Eddie's slingshot flip) and the tope suicida (suicide dive) to pump up the crowd. These two pros have taken us all on a ride, and when Harper absolutely nails Orton with consecutive big boots, we buy in. However, Orton lives on, and soon counters a discus clothesline attempt into the RKO to successfully continue his Road to Wrestlemania. Best match of the card so far, excellent effort.
-Natalya ambushes Nikki backstage during a post-match interview. The ladies brawl and crash into Maryse while she's getting her makeup done, sending powder flying everywhere, including over Maryse's dress. Hmm. First sign of the rumoured Cena/Nikki vs. Miz/Maryse match for Wrestlemania.
-Women's Championship on the line here as Naomi takes on Alexa Bliss. Both women look stunning (best booties in WWE IMO), but the wrestling moves do not, at least from Naomi's end. She's flying around looking flashy, but all the kicks, lariats and elbows are clearly missing Alexa by a mile, and she's having to sell them anyway. Pretty one-sided here, and Naomi counters an attempt at Twisted Bliss into a split legged moonsault. Naomi didn't check to see where Alexa was, and she wasn't ready in position for the move, knees crashing awkwardly into Alexa's ribs. That looked SO painful. Find a middle ground, Naomi! Naomi wins and heads home to Mania in Orlando as champ. It would have meant more if they built the hometown angle longer than a week, but I digress. This was supposed to be a showcase for Naomi and it was honestly... pretty bad. I don't want to go as far as terrible, because the structure of the match and the concept of the spots was solid, but the execution of it was a big miss.
-The Elimination Chamber! The redesigned Chamber is in view, and I fucking knew it. They've taken out the steel floor and replaced it with wood and padding, in what amounts to an extension of the ring. It's more safe, but takes away a big element of danger in the match. It's almost like putting padded sections on a steel cage. Sigh. On the plus side, the Chamber is much taller, and the pods have solid roofs. Quite clearly designed for some cool high spots, so let's give this a chance.
-Cena and AJ begin, which helps set a big time tone. Then Ambrose in, which allows those 3 to play off their previous feuds with each other. Big elbow drop off the pod onto Cena on the outside of the ring. Okay, new Chamber, I'm beginning to see your value. Shortly after, Cena and AJ climb up the chain fence, and Cena takes a big fall onto the padded wood. Okay, I got it. The changes weren't to sanitise the match, they were to create opportunites to make the match look more dangerous but not actually be more dangerous. That big fall by Cena looked awesome, but it would have hurt less than the slams on the steel grate from year's past.
-Wyatt's entry into the match allowed for a sick Tower of Doom like spot with Ambrose and Styles. AJ took a massive flip bump and made it look like death. Corbin cleaned house once he entered, looking strong as all hell. End of Days for all. Miz's entry into the match as the final entrant distracted Corbin, enabling Ambrose to score a quick roll up to eliminate the Lone Wolf. An enraged Corbin destroys Ambrose before leaving, sending him through a pod (yes!) enabling Miz to pick the bones.
-That's all the big spots of the match outside of the finish. Final 3 is Cena, AJ, and Wyatt. Wyatt first hits Sister Abigail on Cena and pins him clean, guaranteeing a new champion. Then, Wyatt counters the Phenomenal Forearm into an especially vicious looking Sister Abigail for the win and the title! Bray Wyatt, after all the big losses in big matches over the years, has finally done it, and won the WWE Title by pinning Cena and AJ clean in the space of 5 minutes. Some have compared it to Chris Jericho beating The Rock and Stone Cold in the same night, and I tend to agree that this is the modern day equivalent.
Excellent Chamber match, despite my early misgivings about the new structure, I was wrong. Very good PPV overall, the only low point was really Alexa and Naomi, and at least I got to enjoy the eye candy while they had a train wreck of a wrestling match. Just Fastlane as the last stop now before we hit Mania. The blue brand did their part and the wheels are in motion, let's hope Raw can follow suit.
Until next time, take care,