The “Road to Wrestlemania” is well underway and one of the last stops along the route is the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view (PPV). The Elimination Chamber itself is an ingenious structure, serving as a destructive mash-up of a Hell in a Cell, Royal Rumble, and No Disqualification match, with the results usually suitably enjoyable. This year had yet another milestone for the triumphant female superstars, as they were granted their first ever Elimination Chamber match and that’s right where the action begins, so without further ado let’s jump into the match and see how it stacked up.
Match 1 – Women’s Elimination Chamber Match for the RAW Women’s Championship
Six female superstars were scheduled for this historic match-up and as usual, the promo package was excellently delivered and set the scene perfectly. In-ring masters Sasha Banks and Bayley were selected to participate along with veteran Mickie James to give the match the necessary talent to carry it to a good place and guide relative newbies, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. The quintuplet was joined by reigning, defending, UNDISPUTED UNIVER…sorry, not Brock Lesnar but Alexa Bliss. (Would have been funny to see Lesnar though, wouldn’t it?)
As such, it was our champion who entered the ring first and as usual, Alexa’s facials and nuances were perfect. She has her character absolutely nailed down and throughout the bout, I got Kurt Angle Hell in a Cell vibes from Armageddon 2000. Wisely, Bayley began the matchup against Sonya (who was very impressive throughout) and this was a great platform for Bayley to remind us all of her abilities in- ring. Her selling was great, her offense crisp and the baby-face fire comeback against both Sonya and Mandy (who would be the third woman to enter the ring) was fantastic. Sonya and Bayley had nice exchanges where being thrown into the side of the structure was teased, the payoff being Sonya taking the bump. The former MMA competitor retaliated later on and hit a brutal spear on Bayley which rocked the pioneer of Hug Life and further raised my estimation of Deville.
Sasha was next to enter and her intensity was on point (as you would expect) and predictably, Mandy Rose ate the first pin, but credit to her, she more than held her own. Mickie James came in and although her time was short, boy was she hot. She really made sure to get her stuff in and even managed to get a pinfall on Sonya with a leaping move from the pod, which looked effective and brutal. The in-ring story progressed with Alexa now having to face friends Sasha and Bayley alone. Bliss played her part wonderfully well, first slamming her pod door closed after it opened and then attempting to scurry away, which led to…
Sasha turning on Bayley. The seeds for a ‘Mania feud have been quietly sewn in the background and this match served to further accentuate the tension. This time, however, Bayley didn’t take it lightly and got Sasha back, landing a blockbuster finisher from the top rope, which Bliss capitalized on, scoring a surprise roll-up pin on The Hugger. The finale then was Sasha and Bliss going at it, with great aggression and despite a slight botch (Twisted Bliss from the pod into Bank Statement wasn’t quite as crisp as they would have hoped), the duo held my investment right until the climax. At the end of the match, the victorious Bliss was interviewed by the ever impressive Renee and quite frankly, I was worked. Her acting here was phenomenal, I truly believed she was turning face and even noted “weird promo for a heel, but the emotion must have been extreme, can’t blame her” and then she proceeded to revert to the the nasty heel we all know and love, causing me to laugh and scrub out my notes. Well done, Alexa, you got me. Overall, another feather in the cap for the women’s division and a further example of their in-ring ability and storytelling being very much on the money.
Match 2 – The BAR vs. Titus Worldwide for the RAW Tag Team Championships
Honestly, there’s not a lot to say about this match. It just screamed “filler” and quite frankly, The Bar could do with going to Smackdown in order to have some fresh matchups. Apollo again proved how great of an athlete he is and by contrast, Titus reminded us all of how clumsy and out of sorts he looks in a ring. Titus Worldwide needs more members if only to keep Titus in the managerial role, which suits him perfectly. A fun moment was Sheamus botching his ascension to the top rope, to which he responded to the crowd directly and it actually served a story purpose; his indulgence of the fans caused him to be caught out by Titus and I felt this was a seamless recovery for an obvious mistake, so well done to the Great White for that moment of improv. This match won’t live long in the memory by any stretch, so let’s move on to the next contest.
Match 3 – Nia Jax vs Asuka
The stipulation for this match was that should Nia be successful and defeat The Empress of Tomorrow, Nia would be added into the title match at Wrestlemania, making it a triple threat. Much was made of Asuka’s impressive undefeated streak in the opening promo package and it actually got me questioning the outcome of the match; could Nia really win? WWE have done crazier things, like having Charlotte lose her undefeated PPV streak to Bayley on a random “B-PPV” (i.e. not a memorable or milestone PPV like ‘Mania or Survivor Series).
Nia is really starting to get over. She gets good crowd reactions, her moves look vicious and she’s upped her intensity and mean streak. Her power moves always look devastating and she has shades of Braun in that her ability to crush opponents will always be a fun time. Asuka came out all guns blazing which was expected, but she was soon shut down. Tenaciously, she continued to attempt to work various body parts of Nia, however, the former was swatted away like a fly off of a lion and Nia was really asserting her dominance.
In the end, the wily Asuka showed exactly why she’s undefeated; she’s intelligent as well as a fierce competitor and stole the victory, rolling up an unsuspecting Nia for the three. The irresistible force was not best pleased with this and proceeded to beat down on the Empress and blasted her through the guardrail, a spot which I’ll never get tired of seeing. I’m not sure where this leaves Nia and I’m still hoping Asuka will challenge Charlotte, as I think that’s the better match than Asuka vs Alexa Bliss. To conclude then, it was an awesome match and Nia continues to impress, it won’t be long until she’s wearing gold.
Match 4 – Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt
I was immediately laughing the second Matt Hardy appeared on my screen for the promo. Recent weeks have seen me cool on the gimmick, the overused laugh has been driven deep into the ground, but I was right back on board. The crowd seemed to be inline with my thinking, as Hardy received a good ovation and in general, played along with the usual “DELETE” chants. The mind games began early, with Bray appearing in the middle of the ring as he tends to, the spooky bugger, but low and behold, the Woken one was nowhere to be found. Instead, he chastised Bray on the mic, while an ever increasingly angry Bray searched for him. It’s here that I must diverge briefly and mention my love for Bray. He’s simply an amazing talent. His move set is lethal and one of the best in the entire roster, his character is unique and interesting and he has it locked down. It’s baffling then, why he continues to be booked like trash and suffers from such an appalling win/loss ratio.
So with that said, you can already guess the outcome of this match, right? Before Bray ate the pin, I was enjoying the match a lot, despite the crowd being distracted by something, which I’m led to believe was a beach ball (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). This is another opportunity to segway; I get so annoyed when lackluster crowds have the cheek to turn their attention away from the ring and try and get themselves over instead. This wasn’t even a bad match and you could tell Bray was legitimately annoyed, and rightly so. The performers are in there putting on their best efforts and people are not even bothering to pay attention? It’s disrespectful and annoying and even manages to spoil the viewing experience at home.
Ronda Rousey Contract Signing
A brief interlude before the main event was the Ronda Rousey contract signing. Again I’m going to rag on the crowd and ask, why on earth does Ronda get boos? She’s literally living her dream, is a phenomenal athlete and has a presence that will get more eyes on the product. Are people booing her because she “didn’t come up the right way?” I really hope not, as that’s quite ridiculous, but it wouldn’t shock me.
Anyway, to the segment itself and it was great to see HHH stroll out alongside Steph and play to the crowd. The rumored match at Wrestlemania is Steph and HHH vs. Ronda and Kurt and the seeds were firmly planted here. Not only was it announced Ronda would compete at Wrestlemania, it was plainly stated it wouldn’t be a title match. The emotional and seemingly nervous Ronda took to the mic and gave the usual “happy to be here” schtick, which was expected, but things got interesting when Kurt Angle began to spill the beans.
Kurt insinuated that Steph and HHH finally had Ronda and could exert their power over her, which led HHH to escort Kurt out like a naughty child, which in itself was funny. As events unfolded, Ronda cemented herself in one moment by staring down HHH and it was honestly amazing to see. The icing on the cake came when she planted the Cerebral Assassin through the table, and an incensed Steph proceeded to slap the former UFC champ. It’s bubbling away nicely for the Mania showdown and by the end, Ronda had the crowd and I believe she’s going to thrive in the WWE.
Match 5 – Men’s Elimination Chamber to Decide Who Faces Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania
The main event was another first; the first time the Elimination Chamber was needlessly overpopulated with Superstars. It didn’t need seven participants, and as much as I like Miz, he really didn’t need to be here, he felt like the odd man out. Having said that, his entrance alone was probably worthy of his inclusion, mocking superstars who were in their pods before being scared out of his skin by the caged Monster Among Men, Braun Strowman. The match had great pacing throughout, which is expected when you have such a cast of amazing talent. Seth Rollins and Finn Balor carried the early portion of the match until the entry of The Big Dog (screamed by Michael Cole).
Roman Reigns is a polarizing figure, to say the least. His introduction here was in my opinion, spot on. His striking, presence and authority was clear to see and he’s truly come on leaps and bounds. Back to the Miz, and his beloved “Miz Kicks”. Great use of the crowd to tease who would be on the receiving end of his strikes and of course, Roman received the brunt of them. But then the game changed. Enter, Braun.
He is one of the most over superstars on the roster and it’s so easy to see why. His dominance is similar to that of Kane in his early iteration, but with added charisma and even humor. Braun wrecked everyone here and it was a joy to see. Especially memorable was his athleticism to chase Miz up the cage, again showcasing what a truly frightening prospect he is.However, as you would expect, the other wrestlers ganged up on him and even subjected him to a quadruple powerbomb, in the same vein as the Shield Bomb. I expected this to be the end of his night, but he kicked out with authority at two. Big Match John then landed a powerful AA to the monster who kicked out at one and this made me audibly gasp. What followed was an amazing destructive sequence before Braun eventually began picking off opponents one by one, scoring pinfall after pinfall.
Finn Balor had an amazing sequence against Braun, getting lighting quick offense in and looking very similar to a certain AJ Styles. The Irishman was soon dispatched by Braun, but again showed why he’s a true main eventer. As the contest climbed to its crescendo, we were left with Braun against two-thirds of the Shield. The hounds of justice teamed up well, but Seth decided to throw that out of the window and attack Reigns at one point, which in the end backfired, as Braun (yes, Braun pinned everyone) claimed another victim.
The final act saw the much-loved rivalry of Roman vs. Braun rekindled and as expected, it was a joyous conclusion. Braun going through a pod was a highlight, I was nervous we wouldn’t see it, but thankfully I wasn’t disappointed. Of course, in the end, Roman prevailed and set up the match that’s been years in the making at Wrestlemania. I can’t say I’m too disappointed with this, as I do believe Roman and Brock will have another great bout, but it’s just a shame it was so predictable.
The Elimination Chamber served its purpose; it furthered storylines and finally confirmed what we all knew for months; Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title at Wrestlemania. Outstanding performers for me were Mickie James, Braun Strowman, Finn Balor and Seth Rollins. There was enough here to be suitably sports entertained for one evening, so overall I’m happy with how things went. Onwards now to Fastline and then the granddaddy of them all soon after…