WrestleWatch- WWE Elimination Chamber 2023
By Mick Robson
Let's get it out there- for the most part, I hate gimmick PPVs. TLC, Hell In A Cell? Get in the bin.
But Elimination Chamber? I'm cool with that. It's found its place on the WWE calendar as the stop-gap between Royal Rumble and WrestleMania, and the titular match often serves as a "second chance" if you couldn't punch your ticket to Mania. So in that sense, the Chamber works as a scheduled event. Couldn't outlast 29 other men or women in the Rumble Match? Well, try your luck in the most dangerous match that WWE has.
Although we have two Chamber matches on this card, it's arguably not the best selling point on this card. No, that honour goes to the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship match between Roman Reigns & Sami Zayn. Roman has reigned atop the mountain for over 900 days. Sami Zayn is a man who was looking for acceptance within Roman's Bloodline faction as an Honorary Uce, despite all the mistreatment by the Tribal Chief. At the Royal Rumble, Zayn snapped and walloped Roman with a steel chair. He now gets a title match in his hometown of Montreal.
If you've got a spare hour, this YouTube video does a wonderful job chronicling the most intricate, layered storyline that WWE has presented to the public in decades. If you don't have a spare hour, well, just be aware that it's awesome. And it's tough to fully appreciate the brilliance in a 3 minute video package.
Elsewhere on the show, as I mentioned, we have the 2 Chamber matches. One for the US title, and the other to determine Raw Women's Champion Bianca Belair's opponent at WrestleMania. We also have Brock Lesnar vs. Bobby Lashley, and a duo of Hall of Famers, Edge & Beth Phoenix, taking on Finn Balor & Rhea Ripley of The Judgment Day.
Let's do this!
Match 1: Elimination Chamber Match- Asuka def. Liv Morgan, Raquel Rodriguez, Natalya, Nikki Cross & Carmella (at 19:30)
Thoughts: I'm not sure why WWE don't trust the women with longer Chamber matches. The intervals are meant to be 5 minutes (although I'll have to go back and see if they use the get out of jail free card of "regularly scheduled intervals"), meaning the Chamber should be a minimum of 20 minutes, even if the final entrant was rolled up and pinned the second they left their Chamber. That gripe aside, this was all-action and a lot of fun. Nikki got an early high spot, Carmella got a lot of shine, Raquel looked like a killer, Liv was a workhorse, and Asuka was as well en route to her victory. And Nattie was there. Nice reaction for her in her home country though. Really fun stuff, even if we blew through the final couple of eliminations in rapid fire fashion. Asuka vs. Bianca is a VERY interesting Mania match, particularly with the Empress' new darker persona.
Star Rating: ****
Match 2: Bobby Lashley def. Brock Lesnar (via DQ) (at 4:45)
Thoughts: Seen a few people on Twitter describe this as "the low point of the show", and look- I don't love a DQ finish. But prior to that? We had the kind of monster kill shot match that I absolutely loved between Lesnar and Goldberg at WM33, the kind that Goldberg has tried and largely failed to recapture since. But Bobby and Brock are young enough and athletic enough to keep up the pace with the Spears, suplexes, F5s and finally a Hurt Lock, with Brock couldn't break. So, he takes Bobby to Dick Kick City, presumably keeping their feud going until Mania... but curiously, Bray Wyatt sent a warning to both men on Smackdown last night, so how does he fit into this?
Anyway, I enjoyed this monster match far more than Twitter, so...
Star Rating: ***1/4
Post-match, Brock F5s Lashley. Then F5's him through the announce table. He also does the same to referee Chad Patton. Brock Smash. I love it!
Match 3: Edge & Beth Phoenix def. The Judgment Day (Finn Balor & Rhea Ripley) (w/ Dominik Mysterio) (at 13:50)
Thoughts: Montreal really brought their A-game for this one, elevating the whole match. They ADORED "The Grit Couple" (shit nickname, but they're legends, so I'll let it slide). And Judgment Day were showered with the appropriate amount of heat, especially Dominik. Corey Graves continues to be a riot selling the Prison Dom story on commentary. The action was fairly smooth throughout- Beth seemed a bit off early on, but found her groove, and the physicality of her and Rhea made interaction with the guys believable and fun. A double powerbomb spot with Beth and Rhea went down a treat, as did Edge & Beth ending the match with a Shatter Machine, called as such by Michael Cole. Edge is friends with The Revival/FTR in real life- could just be a cute nod to a friend, but also fuels the fire that Dax and Cash are heading back to WWE. In all honestly, this match delivered far more strongly than I was expecting.
Star Rating: ***3/4
Match 4: WWE United States Championship- Elimination Chamber Match- Austin Theory (c) def. Seth Rollins, Montez Ford, Johnny Gargano, Damian Priest & Bronson Reed (at 31:30)
Thoughts: Back to my point about the women's match with the timing on this one. But damn, these guys delivered! Every single man in this match delivered, and every one of them should come away a bigger star based on their performance. Bronson Reed was a wrecking ball until multiple finishers stopped him. Gargano went on a crazy fast run of offense before he was caught in a Razor's Edge by Priest. Ford pinned Priest after a mega Blockbuster. Theory pinned Ford after Rollins Stomped him on the outside, and Theory took out Rollins after some surprise Logan Paul interference (the Chamber was open for Ford to leave). Just brilliant, and even going into play by play mode there, I didn't scratch the surface of the amazing moves and moments in this match. A must-watch!
Star Rating: ****1/2
Match 5: Undisputed WWE Championship- Roman Reigns (c) def. Sami Zayn (at 32:20)
Thoughts: The Tribal Chief broke the hearts of everyone in Montreal. They were nuclear throughout this entire match, multiple chants of "Fuck you Roman", as we heard at the Rumble and Smackdown. When was the last time a heel was that truly hated? Masterful work by Reigns and Zayn, having the crowd fall silent on every Roman near fall, only to explode with joy when Sami was able to kick out. Then the moments Zayn was able to get a near fall and make the people believe! Then we had some ref bumps, then the surprise appearance of the Usos, who I didn't think were allowed in Canada, but that wasn't enough to beat Sami (plus Jey is still conflicted, although he ate a Sami Spear which may clear some of the conflict). Ultimately, after Sami scored a visual pin fall, Reigns went ape shit with a chair, then the ref came to, and the 3 count went down. And still.
Star Rating: ****1/2
Post-match, the beatdown continues, but the music of Kevin Owens hits! He Stunners Jimmy Uso and Paul Heyman, powerbombs Jimmy through the announce table, then sets up Roman for Sami to hit the Helluva Kick to end the show on a (somewhat) happy note.
WWE didn't give the people what they wanted tonight. But it's February. The big pay-offs generally happen at WrestleMania. Does that big pay-off happen for Sami Zayn, or do we just stick with the Cody thing? Despite some online discourse, I don't believe that Cody Rhodes is the new Batista. I think the people are behind him and his story, and creative have done a good job presenting him in a postiive light along with Zayn.
So what now for Sami? I think we're heading towards Owens/Zayn vs. Usos at Mania. Many think that's the direction, but there's a lot of negativity about the perceived demotion of Sami to the tag titles. We're a long way from the days where the tag titles are pre-show fodder. The Usos are a major act in WWE, and should that be the Mania match, WWE would successfully present it as a big deal in my opinion. Or maybe we do get a triple threat of Cody vs. Sami vs. Reigns. Totally re-do the Daniel Bryan thing.
The rest of the card was top-notch. 5 matches that all delivered, with a couple exceeding my expectations considerably. Maybe the best PPV under the Triple H regime? I know Clash at the Castle was loved by a lot of people and had the grand stadium setting, but this was more snappy. And importantly, didn't feature Sami Zayn singing karaoke after taking the biggest L of his career.
Also, Montreal was on fire. Was it because it was just a great crowd, or did the amazing story WWE told coming in bring that out of them? I'd say a mix of both. Love to see (and hear) it.
Overall Score: 9/10
Until next time, take care.