WrestleWatch: WWE Elimination Chamber 2020
Here we go! Second last WrestleWatch review before my hiatus. Starting to get life in order, but I've got some goals I need to really attack. Anyways!
This year's instalment of the Elimination Chamber PPV went down yesterday. The final stop on the Road to Wrestlemania, as they call it. Bit of a strangely booked show. Given that the winners of the Royal Rumble matches have declared their intentions- men's winner Drew McIntyre choosing to face Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship, and women's winner Charlotte Flair electing to challenge Rhea Ripley for the NXT Championship, that leaves Smackdown's Universal Championship without a challenger- never mind, Roman Reigns just walked out, said "I'm next" and gets a title shot. Why bother with all those contender matches and Rumbles and Chambers when you can just walk up to the champ and say, "Gimme!"?
So the Chamber matches this year are for the No. 1 Contendership in the Raw women's division, which has been dominated over the past year by "The Man" Becky Lynch. The other is for Smackdown's Tag Team Championship. Tiny issue- Shayna Baszler has already started a feud with Lynch, making it blindly obvious who wins... you normally start the feud after the contender's match, booking 101, come on, guys. As for the tag Chamber... they tried it in 2015 and it was an absolute dumpster fire, combined with an equally awful Intercontinental Championship Chamber, it caused the whole Chamber concept to be scrapped in 2016 and re-designed the following year.
The card did get a last minute boost which heightened my hopes a little- on the Raw side, a No DQ match was made between Aleister Black and AJ Styles, and a couple of days before the show on Smackdown, Daniel Bryan challenged Drew Gulak to a match. Good times. Let's do this.
Kick-Off Match- Viking Raiders def. Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins (at 4:50)
Thoughts: Stevie Wonder could see where this one is going. The big guys throw Ryder & Hawkins around like crash test dummies, ending things in short order with the Viking Experience. Shit name, great finisher. The match was as pre-show as it gets, though. (**)
Match 1: Daniel Bryan def. Drew Gulak (at 14:20)
Thoughts: This actually did a great job of using the story built up on Smackdown over the past several weeks, of Gulak studying Bryan and knowing his weaknesses. Gulak was able to go hold-for-hold with Bryan in the early going, getting the better of the exchanges. Bryan got frustrated and starting laying in strikes to go away from the pure technical wrestling. Gulak retailiated by attacking the neck of Bryan, which included a couple of German suplex bumps that were genuinely frightening to watch. Ultimately, Bryan was able to counter into the Yes Lock for the submission victory, but he was in a war. Amazing opening match. (****1/4)
Backstage, Kayla Braxton interviews one of the teams in the Chamber tonight, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode. Roode gets in his contractually obligated "glorious" catchphrase- fun fact, his theme is my alarm tone. Kinda nice to wake up to a chorus of "GLORIOUS!" in the mornings. Dolph Ziggler, that slimeball, gives a shout-out to "his babe" Mandy Rose. Screw you, Captain Ziggle-pants. Screw you.
(For those that don't follow Smackdown, Ziggler pulled some shady shenanigans to stop an Otis/Mandy date on Valentine's Day. I live vicariously through the big man, so I was devastated for him.)
Match 2: United States Championship- Andrade def. Humberto Carrillo (at 12:20)
Thoughts: Great choice to follow the opener. On paper, another excellent match, but in a completely different style. I'm not invested in Humberto as a character, but he's very good in the ring, and off the ropes, onto the outside etc. Great lucha style action. Andrade tries to spike Humberto's head on the exposed concrete again, but is unable to. Humberto hits a super rana off the top for an incredibly close near fall. The champ retains by pulling the tights in a rapid-fire finishing sequence. And still champ, and still tranquilo AF. (***)
Backstage, Charly Caruso interviews AJ Styles. She asks about the no DQ stipulation, whether it can be a fair fight. AJ says no... Aleister Black is in there with the Phenomenal One, of course it's not fair. Brilliant!
Match 3: Smackdown Tag Team Championship- Elimination Chamber- Miz & Morrison def. Usos, New Day, Heavy Machinery, Ziggler & Roode and Lucha House Party (at 32:55)
Thoughts: Okay, this was wild. You might normally get one big spot in a Chamber match, this one had many. Lince Dorado of LHP hit a super duper rana from the top of a Chamber pod, then pulled himself up to the Chamber roof on the chains and did a swinging Shooting Star Press onto everyone. The Luchas were eliminated moments later, but damn they stood out. The super heavyweights decided to show their ability to fly, as Heavy Machinery's Tucker hit a flip dive from the top of a Chamber pod. Then Otis missed on an attempt at bulldozing Ziggler through the glass of the Chamber pod door, but missed and blasted right out of the Chamber! That's never been done! Once we had all of the jaw dropping spots out of the way, it was to the business end with the top tag teams- the Usos, who hit some nice dives off the pods too, New Day, who had some fresh gear, and the defending champs, Miz and Morrison, who executed a clever double team pin holding the ropes for the win. Hey, no DQ in a Chamber match. In the moment, this became my favourite Chamber match of all time, but objectively, taking away the cool "holy shit" spots, it was a very good match that elevated the SD tag division, with every team getting a chance to shine. (****1/2)
Ooh, Stone Cold Steve Austin is returning to Raw on 3:16 Day.... that's 16th of March for us normal folk. What's the bet he interacts with Kevin Owens, who's been using his Stunner A LOT lately?
Backstage interview with Natalya. She says words about winning. No one buys it.
Match 4: No Disqualification- Aleister Black def. AJ Styles (w/ The OC) (at 23:15)
Thoughts: Styles and Black were in a tough spot, following the spot-heavy Chamber, the live crowd was a little burnt out. So the match started out quiet and not very high energy, but being the pros that they are, they were able to suck the crowd into what they were doing after a while. I'm not sure why the OC just stood at ringside until near the finish... they could have gotten around it by having AJ tell Gallows and Anderson that he doesn't need their help and is going to do it on his own, only for them to run out later when he was really in trouble. Seems weird that they made a point of saying how unfair it was for AJ to have the OC in his corner, only for them to stand and watch for 20+ minutes. AJ had a smart strategy of working the legs of Black with a kendo stick, but the striking man from Amsterdam was still dangerous at points with his feet. The match really picked up when Styles caught a moonsault attempt in what looked like a Tombstone (AJ's had issues with Undertaker), but Aleister counters and rolls him up for a convincing 2 count. Big spot of the match is a meteora off the announce table through another table, and soon after, the OC attack. Of course, the lights go out, the gong sounds, and Taker appears in the ring to chokeslam the Good Brothers. He chokeslams Styles instead, the lights go out and everyone but Black and Styles is gone- Black Mass FTW. Started slow but picked up nicely, and although the Taker appearance was predictable, it was welcome to give this show a dose of star power. (***1/2)
An ad for Raw airs. I normally ignore these in reviews, but it was significant here for hyping the return of Edge, who we haven't seen since the night after the Royal Rumble. Edge was looking for revenge after Randy Orton RKOed his wife, Beth Pheonix... by the way, Beth's a wrestler who once entered the men's Royal Rumble, her taking an RKO shouldn't be the biggest deal in the world. People checked on her like she was having a near-death experience. Wrestling.
Match 5: Raw Tag Team Championship- Street Profits def. Seth Rollins & Murphy (at 18:30)
Thoughts: This was the first match on the show to really miss the mark, for me. It wasn't a bad match, but it dragged a little. Given that the Profits just won the titles, we were fairly sure that they weren't going to lose, and we could bet our life savings that Kevin Owens would get involved. So this match really dragged and couldn't hold my attention throughout the stretches of Murphy (no longer your Buddy) and Rollins beating down the rookie sensation tag team of Dawkins and Ford. A distraction from KO, munching popcorn, allowed Dawkins to smash the Monday Night Messiah into the barricade, and in the ring, Ford hit the Frog Splash for the victory on Murphy. Average match, not terrible but not that good either. (**1/2)
Match 6: Intercontinental Championship- Handicap Match- Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro def. Braun Strowman (at 8:30)
Thoughts: Zayn, who hasn't wrestled on a regular basis in seemingly a year, played the cat and mouse game avoiding Braun. Shin and Cesaro were able to beat him down, and then Zayn got involved. After Braun took a Kinshasha to the ring post, the challenger hit a triple team- Cesaro and Nak double suplexing while Zayn hits the Helluva Kick. 3 count follows, and Sami Zayn captures main roster gold for the first time... his first title since NXT in 2014. Damn, really shocking, which elevates it slightly. (**3/4)
Match 7: No. 1 Contenders- Elimination Chamber- Shayna Baszler def. Asuka, Natalya, Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan (at 21:00)
Thoughts: Well, this was certainly different. For the first time in Chamber history, one wrestler eliminated EVERYBODY. Seems like WWE were really doubling down on Shayna being the favourite here, and it was fascinating seeing her run through everyone in seemingly no time at all. One of the shortest Chamber matches ever and definitely the most one-sided. It got Shayna over as a monster, though, from swinging Liv head-first into her pod, to locking on the Kirafuda Clutch at every opportunity. Didn't make for the world's most exciting Chamber match, but it was certainly memorable, and established Shayna as a worthy threat to Becky at Wrestlemania. I applaud the balls to take a different approach here. (***)
Overall, this show exceeded my expectations. Pure wrestling, high flying, strikes, submissions, weapons, cages... basically every facet of violence in pro wrestling was represented on this show, and for the most part it was really fun to watch. Even the stuff that didn't quite land right was clearly done for a purpose, and that purpose is working towards the biggest show of the year in Wrestlemania. So job well done on some quality 'rasslin!
Overall Score: 7/10
Until next time, take care,