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And now, the Best and Worst of the All-New Elimination Chamber.
Worst: “What If We Did A Post-Match Attack?” As Your Only Booking Idea
Unlike most pay-per-views (or whatever we’re calling these now), Elimination Chamber — sorry, the “All-New, All-Different Elimination Chamber®” — was defined, at least for me, by one major positive and one major negative.
The negative is that Smackdown Creative had a great idea to have a heel lose a match and respond by sticking around after the bell to beat up the face. They liked this idea so much they did it four times on the same show, and even three times in a row. I’m going to recap all of them really quickly, so keep in mind that yeah, not all of the actual beatdowns were bad, I’m just giving it a Worst because they are so goddamn many of them.
– First is Dolph Ziggler vs. Apollo Crews and Kalisto, which had a metric shit-ton of problems we’ll get to in a minute. Ziggler loses the match, so he yanks Kalisto off the apron to the floor and attacks Crews with a chair, trying to Pillmanize him. This is the first post-match beatdown of the night, which gets the crowd chanting “thank you Ziggler” for the heel. You’d think they’d listen to that and say, “hey, maybe we shouldn’t end EVERYTHING ELSE like this tonight,” but nope!
– Later in the show, Natalya versus Nikki Bella ends in a double count-out — again, we’ll get to this shortly — which causes Natalya to stick around after the bell and beat up Nikki. Nikki ends up recovering, because the Power Of Cena Compels Her, and they post-match brawl so much it extends to a backstage interview.
– The first of two post-fall beatdowns in multi-fall matches (again, on the same show) happens during Tag Team Turmoil, when American Alpha pins the Usos. The Ascension hadn’t shown up yet, so the Usos stuck around after the bell to brutally beat down Alpha, trying to convince somebody somewhere that the Ascension might be able to pull off a miracle and win a wrestling match. It wasn’t every effective!
– Then, at the end of the night, Baron Corbin gets surprisingly eliminated from the Elimination Chamber by Dean Ambrose and sticks around to beat Ambrose up. This allows Miz to sneak in and pin Ambrose, eliminating him. Of all the post-fall beatdowns of the night, this is the only one that introduced something new.
I guess this kind of 50/50 “sorry, nothing’s actually happening” strategy has to happen when you’ve booked a show-exclusive pay-per-view two weeks after the cross-promotional Royal Rumble but seven weeks before WrestleMania and need to keep literally everything on your show moving the same speed. But man, WWE’s obsession with choosing one finish and doing it over and over on the same episode of programming is bizarre. One time per show, guys. Preferably with lots of time between the shows.
Best: A Great Night For Long-suffering NXT Originals
The major positive of the night is that it saw the first singles championship wins (no, seriously) for two of WWE’s most talented and overlooked NXT originals. And when I say “NXT originals,” I mean Game Show NXT, which was less a class of talent and more a nightmarish hellscape of embarrassment, creative brick walls and, somehow worst of all, Matt Striker condescension.
– The first was Naomi, who defeated Alexa Bliss to become Smackdown Women’s Champion. Naomi was one of the favorites to win NXT season 3 way the hell back in 2010, and probably would’ve if (1) WWE’s approach to employing and booking women had changed any earlier, and (2) she hadn’t sounded like Bubba from Forrest Gump when she cut promos. She’s gotten much better. She also probably should’ve been Divas and/or Women’s Champion as far back as 2011, instead of getting stuck as the Shawn Michaels of a two-lady space dinosaur-themed dance and pom-pom squad featuring history’s worst Marty Jannetty.
– The second, of course, was Bray Wyatt, who has come a long way from being the “tank with a Ferrari engine” Husky Harris on NXT season 2. A tank with a Ferrari engine wouldn’t move any faster or even drive the tank at all, per how engines work. He pinned both John Cena (finally) and AJ Styles to win the WWE Championship in the Elimination Chamber right before WrestleMania, which is absolutely the polar opposite of being the fifth best kisser in a “kiss the fat lady” competition.
For those of us whose geeky NXT fandom began long before Full Sail with a “hey, Bryan Danielson’s gonna be on WWE TV,” this was a long time coming and a weirdly positive end to a show, especially when one of the characters is a day-glo Demon Bálor and the other’s a cultist swampbilly with dreads.
All right, let’s touch on everything else.
Best: Mickie James!
Not counting the Zack Ryder Tag Team Partner Megapowers Explode pre-show match, Elimination Chamber started with Becky Lynch taking on Mickie James. One of the best stories of the past few months is Mickie James returning from seven years of “not wrestling” (thanks, announce team!) and also being murdered by the Hogwarts Express to take on Asuka at NXT TakeOver: Toronto, get her WWE main roster gig back and become a regular, veteran, heel presence in the Smackdown women’s division.
The match with Becky wasn’t mind-blowing, but it was a nicely-wrestled affair that got the crowd behind Becky (a little) and separated itself a bit from the show’s two other women’s matches. Mickie hasn’t really lost a step, and it’s nice to see Becky get a strong win over a high-class opponent using her brain and wrestling skill instead of just grabbing an armbar out of oblivion. I thought the finishing sequence was especially well done.
One small complaint, though.
Worst: Dulce Lynch
Let’s hope Becky doesn’t find any spiders in her locker on Tuesday.
I already touched on it a little in the beatdown portion of the writeup, but good lord, I can’t think of a recent match with worse foresight and booking than Dolph Ziggler vs. Apollo Crews and Kalisto. Like, don’t even take into consideration that Ziggler is a wrestler with charisma that crowds like, especially when he’s acting like a heel and not like a dippy babyface. And don’t consider that Apollo Crews and Kalisto are talented wrestlers, but connect with WWE audiences like a bug connects with a speeding car. Especially Crews, who won’t ever stop smiling and would actually be improved as a personality if he was a Real Doll.
Instead, think about how they booked a heel to be down a man in a handicap match. And how they had him wear U.S. flag tights. In Arizona. The guy gets rabid cheers for jumping Kalisto from behind before the match, and the crowd’s chanting ZIGG-LER ZIGG-LER as Crews is walking down. The faces win, because they had a two on one advantage, which doesn’t help them, especially since Crews was getting his ass beat before Kalisto recovered. After the match, Ziggler’s attacking Crews with a chair and trying to break his leg, and the crowd is chanting “thank you Ziggler.” I’m not sure what you wanted to accomplish by this. Did you want to get Ziggler over as a beloved heel? Because he’s already over. People want to like him, he’s easy to love as a heel, and he’s up against two less-than-face-Ziggler faces. And he loses, but wins? The fuck, guys. Do better.
Eh: Tag Team Turmoil
The saddest part of Tag Team Turmoil is the realization that American Alpha isn’t really over, which should get everyone in charge of booking the tag division demoted. Making people like American Alpha seems like the easiest thing in the world, but they’re getting polite applause for their weird hold music entrance theme, substantially less of a pop and reaction than Heath Slater and Rhyno, and even less of a pop than The Ascension. That’s … not good. Are The Revival just miracle workers or something? I know that’s a dumb question. Yes, of course they are.
The match (like almost every match on the show) was fine, but didn’t do anything to get anyone in the tag division over. The Usos lost the exact same way they just lost, and did the same post-match attack they just did. And it didn’t even work, as Alpha recovered and beat the garbage Ascension. Everything before that was a holding pattern that hurt the premise of the match, which was that everyone in the tag team division challenged Alpha, so Alpha had to face everyone. Except they didn’t. They only faced the Usos on the Ascension. Breezeango, Slater and Rhyno and the Vaudevillains just fought amongst themselves for nothing. But honestly it wouldn’t have been any better to have Alpha start the match and roll through everyone, because then you’re just disqualifying every other tag team in your division as contenders. Man, I don’t know how Smackdown can be so well put-together and their pay-per-views be so disjointed and regressive.
Worst: Smackdown’s Most Personal Feud!
Nikki Bella and Natalya hate each other because they each know famous male wrestlers. Shrug. This manifested itself in a series of physical attacks starting at Survivor Series and extending through most Smackdowns since then, and this was supposed to be the big blowoff. Instead, the brawling and hatred is followed by slaps into headlock takedowns, and builds to both women getting counted out and nothing being resolved. Even the post-match attack isn’t one-sided. Natalya jumps Nikki after the match, so Nikki recovers and jumps Natalya on the ramp. And then they argue backstage, and fight until Maryse accidentally gets dirty and even more accidentally gets a WrestleMania program. Natalya gets what, beaten on Smackdown?
The worst part of every women’s match is that when it’s over, they send it up to Dasha Fuentes in the VIP box so she can get Carmella and James Ellsworth’s opinions. Carmella basically only ever adds, “can you believe that?” and Ellsworth says whatever she said. It’s not particularly funny or constructive in any way, and they do it three times.
On the plus side, at least Carmella’s got a better spot on the show than Enzo Amore, who is just here to reiterate how much he wants to fuck a bucket of chicken.
Best: Randy Orton, Somehow
The best match of the night in a walk goes to Randy Orton and Luke Harper, or more accurately, “Luke Harper doing the work of five men to try to get the crowd AND Randy Orton interested in this Randy Orton match.” Harper is sort of Smackdown’s under-the-radar Cesaro, down to the “surprisingly large guy from Chikara” backstory, and the lasting positive of Elimination Chamber will be anyone with eyeballs and an attention span realizing he’s the shit. He’s been the shit for a while, but sometimes WWE audiences need a main-event style WWE match and the announcers going WE JUST NOTICED HOW GOOD THIS GUY IS to notice how good a guy is.
Orton wins, of course, which doesn’t seem like the best decision, but I get it. You want to keep him strong for his main-event — sorry, “headlining” — match at WrestleMania. But it’s Randy Orton, you know? Is he going to ever be more or less over than he is now? He’s always exactly Randy Orton. The crowd will “boo” his side of a “boo-yay” exchange and then pop like crazy when he hits the RKO, because nobody gives a shit about Randy Orton and everyone loves the RKO. That’s just how it works. You could’ve easily put Harper over here, had Orton go into WrestleMania with some doubt, maybe even put Harper back in Bray Wyatt’s corner for some “will he or won’t he help” intrigue, something. Instead, we get WWE’s favorite way of telling you you should like someone for being talented, which is watching them lose to guys you’re less interested in.
Luke Harper for 2017 Cruiserweight Classic winner, though. Or the winner of the Whatever This Is For ladder match at WrestleMania.
Worst: STOP ROLLING
I loved the fact that Naomi won the Smackdown Women’s Championship — she better have custom side-plates that light up — but she won it in the least attractive way imaginable.
Apparently Alexa Bliss doesn’t understand what it means to “roll out of the way” of something. The first time Naomi goes for a split-legged moonsault, Alexa’s supposed to roll into the corner to avoid it. Instead, she just rolls forward a little, and Naomi splashes her on her butt. And like, sure, if you work out your butt it’s in theory the place you’d most like to take a splash, because it’s all muscle and Naomi should bounce off it like a trampoline. Sorta like when people would try to stomp Rick Rude’s abs. But then Naomi goes for it again, and I guess Alexa thinks she’s too far out and needs to roll in to take it, and ends up taking a pair of knees to the pelvis. It’s horrible looking all around, which is a shame, because the rest of what they were doing wasn’t bad.
And hey, a huge Supplemental Best to the Phoenix crowd for the “you deserve it” chant for Naomi. Not a huge fan of that chant, but she really did deserve it. Her sincerely touched reaction was amazing. I hope she makes it to Orlando as champ, even if the Smackdown Women’s Championship is destined for “first match on the pre-show” status.
Also hoping her opponent is Cameron in a mech suit.
Worst: Drink Every Time They Say “The All-New Elimination Chamber®”
Don’t, unless you want to die from alcohol poisoning.
I don’t have much to say about the ALL NEW structure aside from the fact that it looks like a blue Steel Asylum and that they should lower a WWE Crash Cage® into that big hole in the middle. Also, I kinda want to use it to make juice.
Best: The Same Old Elimination Chamber®
The Elimination Chamber itself was pretty fun, but hurt tremendously by it being WrestleMania Season and everything being by-the-numbers obvious. Cena and Styles open the match, because of course they do. Nobody gets eliminated until Baron Corbin somehow falls for a distraction roll-up in the middle of a damn Elimination Chamber. That leads to a post-match attack, which gets Ambrose eliminated. And that’s bad, because we’d already seen three post-fall attacks, but good because The Miz got to look like an opportunistic scumbag. And then The Miz hits a Skull-crushing Finale on Wyatt and instead of trying to pin him, goes up top and jumps into an Attitude Adjustment. Because every good turn deserves a bad one, and everybody’s just turning in place.
Bray Wyatt was obviously the bright spot here, putting on one of the best performances of his career, especially during the final bit with Styles. Wyatt vs. Styles in a lengthy WWE Championship match is something I’d like to see right now, please and thank you. I also appreciate that Wyatt finally got to pin John Cena about three years too late. At least he got to prove Cena’s “nobody’s on the level of me and Styles, which I can say now because I won the most recent match against Styles” speech wrong. Now Cena’s gonna want to pin him again before he admits that Wyatt’s on his level, too.
Wyatt was the winner was a foregone conclusion given Orton’s Rumble win, but hey, at least we got here. Is there any way we can have Orton put up his WrestleMania spot against Styles, so we can trade in two matches we don’t want to see for one we do?
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
4 miles of plastic, 1/4 of a tonne of foam, it’s the EliminaFUN Chamber!
Beige Lunatics, King of String Style
My money’s on Saturn and Kronus winning this thing.
“This is the Elimination Chamber? This is nothing, you people wouldn’t believe some of the stupid gimmick matches I’ve been in.” – AJ Styles
Baron Von Raschke
ALRIGHT! NAOMI! You get to defend that title in your hometown at our biggest show!!! Good thing nothing bad ever happens to hometown heroes in this company.
“You’re almost never the same after calling that match” – Ziggler
NAOMI HAS PINNED THE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S CHAMPION!
“Cash her outside?” – Mauro, aged 47
“How bout dah!” – David, 36, Harvard graduate
That one Uso looks like he’s eating for Twosos.
“Dolph is enjoying this” – JBL
Well… at least one of us is.
as far as I can tell the promos for elimination chamber are essentiallly, these are the five people you meet in heaven.
That’s it for the Best and Worst of Elimination Chamber. Thanks tremendously for reading. Be sure to drop down into our comments section to let us know what you thought of the show, click those social share buttons to support the site and the column, and be back here in a couple of weeks for FASTLANE: END OF THE LINE, or whatever.