WrestleWatch: Elimination Chamber 2019
Welcome back to another WrestleWatch review! At the time of writing this, Wrestlemania 35 is 15 days away. That means we are well on the Road To Wrestlemania, with the only pit stops remaining being a couple of episodes of Raw and Smackdown. I’m awake ridiculously early on a Sunday- had a big day drinking sesh all day yesterday, and that results in one of two outcomes- either I sleep for a ridiculously long time, or a stupendously short time. Up and fully awake at 3:30am. Silver lining- I’ve got some free time to write about wrestling. Some of my friends mention how they love being night owls (as opposed to any other type of owls? Haha) and being awake during the early morning hours, because no one expects anything of you in those hours. Really seeing the beauty in that now. Even if I’m 100% going to feel like shit later.
Anyway, back to the wrestling. A little context for those who need it...
Coming off an amazing Royal Rumble event- I gave a condensed review of it on my Facebook, I may do a more in-depth one on here at some stage if there's sufficient demand for it- WWE are firing on all cylinders, pretty much. One of the best Rumble events in many years, because they kept it simple. Instead of trying to "swerve" the audience, they looked at fan reactions and gave the big wins to the most popular wrestlers they have right now- Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch. Rollins and Lynch are this year's Rumble winners, and they are set to have headlining matches at Mania 35. All is right with the world.
Buttttt... Elimination Chamber is a customary detour on the road to Wrestlemania. And, Vince McMahon has taken it upon himself to throw a spanner in the works. Becky Lynch finds herself suspended and ejected from the Wrestlemania main event with Ronda Rousey, replaced by Charlotte Flair- who in Vince's words "is more deserving" and "knows her place". Charlotte will be ringside for Rousey's PPV title defence against Ruby Riott.
The Rousey/Becky/Charlotte storyline isn't the only major happening in WWE's women's division. On the Christmas edition of Monday Night Raw, Vince- dressed as Santa Claus- announced that we would have new Women's Tag Team Championships, for the first time since the Glamour Girls in 1989. The new champs would be crowned in an Elimination Chamber match, pitting 3 Raw teams vs. 3 Smackdown teams.
And in the PPV main event, WWE Champion, the eco-friendly NEW Daniel Bryan, puts up his championship against 5 of the best challengers Smackdown has to offer. Originally, one of those challengers was to be Mustafa Ali. Unfortunately, Ali suffered a concussion and would not be medically cleared in time for the Chamber PPV. This opened the door for the New Day's Kofi Kingston to get a shot, after 11 long years of being in WWE but never winning "the big one". On the episode of Smackdown before the Chamber PPV, all 6 Chamber competitors faced off in a Gauntlet Match. Kofi lasted 55 minutes in a performance that no one saw coming, launching the unexpected phenomenon of Kofi-mania. On to the show!
Pre-Show: WWE Cruiserweight Championship- Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Akira Tozawa
This match merits mentioning because it was honestly better than half the matches on the PPV. It's damn near criminal that the cruisers always get buried on the Kick-Off. Buddy Murphy is a national treasure. The intensity behind his strikes, and the air he gets on his flip dive is outstanding. Tozawa, a perennial favourite on 205 Live, did a good job re-establishing himself as a serious threat. In a sick spot that showed incredible strength, Buddy caught Tozawa in a dive attempt and suplexed him on the floor. Tozawa would later fire back with a top rope 'rana. Murphy looks to be in trouble stuck in Tozawa's octopus submission, but The Juggernaut is able to power out and hit Murphy's Law- a beautiful pumphandle driver, one of the best finishers in WWE today- for the 3 count.
Winner: Buddy Murphy (***1/2) This did its job perfectly of amping the crowd up. If fans didn't know who Murphy and Tozawa were, they sure as hell learnt here.
Match 1: WWE Women's Tag Team Championship- Elimination Chamber Match- Bayley & Sasha vs. The Riott Squad vs. Nia & Tamina vs. The IIconics vs. Naomi & Carmella vs. Sonya Deville & Mandy Rose
We kick off PPV proceedings with an important historical step in the women's division. Beth Phoenix is the special guest commentator. Raw's Bayley & Sasha start the match against Smackdown's Mandy & Sonya. Interestingly, we're crowning the first tag champs in a match that requires no tagging. Fast-paced action and both teams waste little time going to the outside area. Probably for the best that they made the change from the steel grate to the mats on the outer part of the Chamber structure- the change annoyed me at first, but if it causes wrestlers to be more comfortable using the structure and allow for more creativity, I'm on board.
Liv & Sarah of the Riott Squad were the first team released from their pod, and they waste little time making the match chaotic and wiping everyone out, upping the intensity level. Next team up are my girls from PWA, the Australian duo of Peyton Royce & Billie Kay, the IIconics. They take over the match and establish dominance, but slow down the pace a bit. They do execute a few cool tandem moves though, such as Kay bulldogging an opponent onto the knee of Royce. Peyton also nails Sasha with a nice spin kick. IIconics try and get covers on everyone to no avail.
Naomi & Carmella enter and pick up the pace, especially Naomi with her flashy style and high flying. Corey Graves is a little quiet on commentary regarding Carmella- a couple of days earlier, Corey's separate wife revealed that he and Carmella were seeing each other. Mella takes the opposition to a Superkick Party. Naomi hits Mandy Rose with the Rear View, but the IIconics execute a slick double team roll up to get the first elimination *NAOMI & CARMELLA ARE ELIMINATED*
Nia and Tamina enter the fray and immediately use their size and power to run through everyone. The IIconics try and hide in a pod, but are soon caught. Stereo Samoan Drops end the night of the Aussies. *THE IICONICS ARE ELIMINATED* The Riott Squad climb up the pods and hit cool dives from there. They are unable to retain an advantage, however, and fall victim to Tamina's Superfly Splash. *THE RIOTT SQUAD ARE ELIMINATED*
Nia charges at Bayley on the outside, but Bayley moves, and Nia absolutely crashes through the pod, taking herself out of the equation. This leaves Tamina by herself. Bayley hits the Macho Man elbow drop, and the heavy favourites are out. *NIA & TAMINA ARE ELIMINATED*
After all that action, we're down to the two teams that started the match. Rose & Deville climb up the Chamber and across to the pods- they don't want none of the Boss & Hug Connection (ugh). With Sasha on a pod and Bayley trying to clmb up, commentary play up that Sasha kicked her down in a similar spot last year, and played on the idea of that happening again. Which makes no sense because they were opponents then and partners trying to become tag champions this year. So, of course, Sasha helps Bayley up and they put a beating on the Smackdown team. Back in the ring, Sasha puts Mandy in a modified Banks Statement using her legs and Mandy taps out!
Winners: Bayley & Sasha Banks at 33:00 (***1/2). Nice way to set the tone, but not in danger of overshadowing the main event. The commentators and Bayley & Sasha played up the importance of becoming the first tag champions really well.
Match 2: Smackdown Tag Team Championship- The Miz & Shane McMahon vs. The Usos
Pre-match, Miz brings Maryse out for a special announcement. Maryse is pregnant. Good job, Miz.
Miz and Shane show good chemistry early taking it to the more experienced tag team, The Usos. Shane manages to hit a Coast To Coast on one Uso, but gets greedy and goes for a second, only to get caught mid-air with a superkick. Awesome near fall.
Miz gets tagged in and gains the advantage. Close 2 count with a DDT. Miz then clears the announce table at ringside and eggs Shane on to do the top rope elbow. As weary as Shane is, he obliges and nails it. Nice sequence follows with Miz going for the Skull Crushing Finale, Uso counters with a roll up, Uso goes for a splash, knees up, inside cradle by Miz. Miz hits the Skull Crushing Finale for 2, then gets rolled up by Uso for the 3. New tag champs!
Winners: The Usos at 14:00 (**1/4) Not as fun as the match at the Rumble, but still pretty cool. Shane O Mac might not be the most refined wrestler, but his ability to fly around like he does, especially at his age, is damn impressive. Miz had his working boots on too, even doing a springboard move at one stage. And The Usos were the Usos. Always quality.
Match 3: Intercontinental Championship- Handicap Match- Bobby Lashley (c) & Lio Rush vs. Finn Balor
PPV title match, and no Demon paint for Finn. Will we ever see the Demon again? Lio has been presented as the weak link in the build, but Graves defends Rush by citing his 205 Live work. That's important to give him a little credibility- people that only watch Raw may not know that he is more than just a little loudmouth. The cool thing about this format is that it allows Balor to work two styles at once- David vs. Goliath with Lashley, and high speed flashiness opposite Rush. Balor isolates Rush with Lashley detained. Shotgun dropkick, followed by the Coup De Grace. Another new champ!
Winner: Finn Balor at 9:00 (**) Didn't really get out of first gear, but Lashley was protected here with Rush taking the fall. A nice moment for Balor, but clearly this is one part of a bigger story that is set to continue.
Match 4: Raw Women's Championship- Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Ruby Riott
Charlotte cuts a promo pre-match, solidifying her heel status in the feud. She took a seat in front of the announce table to watch the match. Rousey makes her entrance wearing Sonya Blade inspired gear (she is the voice actor for Sonya in the new Mortal Kombat game). Say what you will about Ronda, she has some cool attires for PPVs. The makeup was toned down too, thankfully. In moments, Rousey hits her Piper's Pit slam, followed by the armbar for the uber-quick win.
Winner: Ronda Rousey at 2:00 (1/4*). Yeah, that was some bullshit. Riott got owned. Some Ultimate Warrior on Triple H levels of burying there.
It was all about the post-match angle though. The crowd explodes as the suspended Becky Lynch makes her way through the crowd on crutches, selling the knee injury from the Royal Rumble. Lynch blasted Charlotte and Rousey with her crutches. She really laid it in too- both ladies had welts and a stray shot caught Ronda in the head, busting her open. Intense and dramatic.
Match 5: No DQ- Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin
We start things with the standard issue weapon for WWE gimmick matches- a kendo stick. Corbin wedges it in the turnbuckle and tries to launch Strowman throat first into it. Braun breaks the stick and yells that he doesn't need it to kick Corbin's ass. Corbin threw an office chair at Strowman. Points for creativity there. A table is introduced later and Braun powerslams the Lone Wolf through it.
Lashley & McIntyre join proceedings to help their buddy Corbin out. The numbers game overwhelms the Monster and he gets powerbombed through stacked tables.
Winner: Baron Corbin at 10:30 (**). Nothing great, nothing terrible. Braun Strowman apparently has no friends. Nicholas was probably busy doing his homework.
Lacey Evans walks out and then leaves. Still a bombshell, still hasn't done anything of importance. Yet to have a match in WWE besides her Rumble appearance.
Match 6: WWE Championship- Elimination Chamber- Daniel Bryan (c) vs. AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton vs. Samoa Joe vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Kofi Kingston
Bryan and Joe start off. There's a big time quality match that hasn't been fully explored in WWE yet. They trade kicks and submissions, MMA style. Kofi is the first to be released from his pod and takes the fight to Samoa Joe. He does a nice trust fall drop off the side of the Chamber onto Bryan and Joe. Once again, good that they changed the floor to allow for such high risk moves without severe injury.
AJ Styles is the next man in. Bryan tries to escape Styles by climbing the chains, and AJ hits him with a Phenomenal Forearm to the back of the neck that drops him. Joe goes for the Coquina Clutch on Kofi, who counters with a roll up. Styles takes the opportunity to "third-party" and nail Joe with the Phenomenal Forearm. *SAMOA JOE IS ELIMINATED*
Jeff Hardy enters the fray. He used Kofi's back to launch himself at Bryan, Hardyz style. Jeff goes for a Twist of Fate on AJ, but gets countered with a Pele Kick. The action continues, as Styles is positioned laying across the top rope, Hardy scales to the top of the pod and hits a Swanton. Insane spot- one wrong move and Jeff could have snapped his neck on the ring post. Before Hardy can capitalise, Bryan blasts him with a running knee. *JEFF HARDY IS ELIMINATED*
Randy Orton enters. Orton, AJ and Kofi trade offense. Styles nails Kofi with an innovative backbreaker. He sets up for another Phenomenal Forearm, but Orton catches him in mid-air with the RKO. *AJ STYLES IS ELIMINATED*
Kofi tries to get a quick roll up on Orton. No luck. Flashes of their 2009 feud as they go one on one, with Bryan keeping himself out of trouble. Hangman's DDT by Orton on Kofi. The Viper sets up for the RKO, but Kofi counters and hits Trouble In Paradise! *RANDY ORTON IS ELIMINATED*
Down to Bryan and Kofi, and the crowd is red-hot! The arena is shaking, huge chants of "Kofi!" They trade kick attempts in an awesome sequence, including attempts at the Trouble In Paradise and the Yes Kicks. SOS from Kofi gets 2.99. Damn. Bryan picks up speed with some running dropkicks, then Kofi catches him with a double stomp.
They roll to the outside area and use the Chamber structure. Kofi rams Bryan into the chains. Bryan launches Kofi into the side of the pod. Back in the ring, Bryan lands the running knee. Kofi sells it with a full flip, but kicks out at 2 and 3/4! A frustrated Bryan holds Kofi's arm and delivers multiple curb stomps- a call back to Bryan's initial heel turn on AJ. Near fall, Kofi fights on. Bryan sets up for a running knee, but Kofi counters with Trouble In Paradise! As close a 2 count as humanly possible. It's amazing the difference a week can make- Kofi was a career midcarder, but this match is forcing everyone to buy into him as a possible new WWE Champion. They battle on the top of the pod and a superplex attempt is blocked. Kofi kicks Bryan down into the ring. He goes for everything with the big splash from the top of the pod! He misses, and Bryan follows up with the running knee. It's over!
Winner: Daniel Bryan at 36:00 (****1/2). This show was the epitome of a one match card, but what a match it was. Even in defeat, every competitor got their moments to shine. Kofi Kingston was elevated to true main event status with his performance- whether he can maintain it is another thing, but here he looked like he belonged. And most importantly, Daniel Bryan got a clean, big time victory, something the WWE Champion desperately needed after dropping a couple too many non-title losses on Smackdown.
Overall Score: 7/10. Not a great PPV, but the main event is a must-watch. The women's tag team Chamber was pretty good too, and historically important. Would have loved to see the IIconics win it- Bayley and Sasha have plenty of accolades already, but I can't have it all, I guess.
Next weekend, the WrestleWatch review of WWE Fastlane 2019! And before Wrestlemania 35, keep an eye out for me going into the vault to watch the last Mania to emanate from New Jersey's Metlife Stadium, Wrestlemania 29! It's all going down!
Until next time, take care,