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And now, the Best and Worst Of WWE Elimination Chamber 2015
Best: Cesaro And El Torito
Worst: Everything Else
The worst part of Elimination Chamber was the Elimination Chamber. Is that weird?
There were two specifically great things about the show-opening tag team Chamber match. The first was Cesaro. We’ll give an approving nod in the direction of Tyson Kidd as well, but Cesaro was the jam. Whenever he was asked to do something, whether it be run up the ropes and European uppercut Kalisto on top of a pod or simply orchestrate giant suplexes, Cesaro had it locked down. The crowd is ready to be in love with him again. I don’t think it’s ridiculously smarky of me to say that Cesaro felt like a bigger and more important star than anyone else in the match, or that it felt like all the crowd wanted to see was him throw dudes and spin them in a circle.
The other was El Torito. Poor El Torito busted his ass to save this match. He was jumping off pods into headscissors takedowns, climbing the roof of the Chamber to do that John Morrison spot Michael Cole swears he’s never seen before, getting thrown around, the works. Torito does more work than Diego and Fernando combined.
The problem is… well, everything else. There’s no drama. The only real drama they had was continuing the K-Swiss/New Day beef, but they have Darren Young pin Cesaro out of nowhere and then limp to a finish trying to get the Prime Time Players over as a threat. The Ascension looked pretty good, but they were collapsed and lying around on the ground before a third team got in. The Lucha Dragons looked like they had no earthly idea what an Elimination Chamber match was supposed to be, with Kalisto just climbing to the tops of pods and hanging out until somebody punched him down. The stuff with The New Day holding Kalisto down by the legs was just weird for me. It didn’t work. You’re surrounded by glass and steel and your dramatic storytelling point is “oh no, these guys are holding me in place and neither of us can do anything.”
It’s just one of those matches WWE has now where they surround the ring with a stipulation, but it’d probably just be better as a regular tag. They could’ve done a big scramble match with everyone zipping in and out and accomplished more than surrounding Xavier Woods with some fake glass and half a minute of Who Wants to be a Millionaire lighting.
Best: The Totino’s Replay Screen Noise
Oh man, I loved this. Whenever WWE’d jump to a replay, the Totino’s logo and some cage graphics would pop up. They’d be accompanied by what I guess was a vague “cage noise,” but it sounded like crickets chirping. So you’d get these amazing moments where Darren Young’s pinning Cesaro and killing the crowd, and then crickets. Accidentally brilliant.
Best: The Divas Match Was Better Than The Elimination Chamber
Once the Chamber disappeared, things got a lot better.
Nikki Bella, Paige and Naomi aren’t having the kind of triple threat we’d be used to from the justifiably deified NXT crew, but they’re working hard and putting together stuff good enough for us to point it out. Not having Tamina in the ring helps a lot. The structure of the match was mostly that basic “there are three of us but oh no, one of us fell out of the ring for some reason so now it’s one-on-one, NOW SWITCH” thing, but it worked.
WWE was really into Tower Of Doom spots at this show, so the women do one immediately following the one in the tag Chamber. The “knocked down character on Family Guy” sell works wonders here, as pictured. Try showing that photo to someone who doesn’t understand wrestling or convoluted Towers Of Doom and ask them how these women got in these positions. Either that, or imagine you’re looking at a breakdancing competition.
The reverse rana from Naomi to Paige made me cringe, though. As a lifelong non-athlete I can’t say I understand the physics of a reverse hurricanrana anyway, but Naomi just kinda drifting back and Paige backflipping onto her dome in a completely separate motion was insane. Not the good insane.
Worst: Turn Down The Damn Microphones
The biggest problem of the night was Fiona from Mega Records or whoever installing the world’s loudest microphones under the ring, because we heard every word these people said to each other. Usually it’s just Cena and we can write him off as a loudmouth, but whoever was in charge of masking that shit needs to be fired. I know you want us to hear the ring make noise, but you can’t give everybody headsets and megaphones if you need clandestine conversations to be happening. Nikki counting down the Tower of Doom was especially bad, with her READY? 1, 2, 3! Hell, I’m pretty sure Cena was so loud we could hear his thoughts.
Worst: WWE’s Worst Couple
I don’t think I’ve ever seen two people with less on-screen chemistry than Lana and Dolph Ziggler. Like, I get that part of it is mark animosity over what happened between Lana and Rusev, but for real, Ziggler shoot looks like he’s never talked to another human being when she’s around. He just kinda closes his eyes, pulls his arms in close and murmurs stuff about stealing the show while she stands in the background and forces a smile. Lana is the kind of woman who could have sexual chemistry with a pot roast, but when she’s around Ziggler she looks, acts and sounds like a third grader. It’s not endearing. It’s like somebody’s grandpa trying to write romance.
I guess that explains it.
Best: So, Uh
Hey, remember that time Kevin Steen pinned John Cena clean on a WWE pay-per-view?
I don’t even know how to approach this beyond, “this happened.” WWE’s interest in John Cena as an “event” wrestler who isn’t really a professional wrestler but is more a conversation about the expectations of wins and losses is fascinating. “Kevin Owens beats his ass and pins him clean” is one of those predictions you make when you’re saying what you want to happen, but you never actually consider it. You think there’s gonna be a DQ or a double-countout or something, or maybe Sami Zayn or Samoa Joe or whoever will run out and cause a distraction, or (worst case scenario) Cena beats his ass and pins him clean. It’s not pessimism, really, it’s playing the odds. It’s expecting the expected. “CENA WINS LOL” is a meme, but Cena really does win all the damn time. If he loses, he wins three to make up for it. See Bray Wyatt or Rusev.
Owens is a different conversation. He’s a bunch of them. He’s an awful one about how wrestlers are supposed to look, and what they’re supposed to wear. He’s wrestling a guy in sneakers and jorts, but you’ll still read people ragging on him for wrestling in a Fat Shirt. We do that to people like Rey Mysterio or Tommy Dreamer all the time. It happens. Wrestling fans are judgmental jerks who want things to change, but react in abject horror when what they’re used to goes away. Even if they don’t like what they’re used to. If Cena wins for 10 years and it’s the worst but he selflessly loses once, the story becomes “Cena is great for doing that,” not “thank God Cena lost.” “Thank God Cena lost” will get you called names. People will accuse you of having an agenda. It’s SUPER WEIRD. And again, I say this as someone who totally does it too. I’m right there with you.
Outside of the conversations, this was just a great WWE-style match. You know the one, where there’s fun character stuff at the beginning but eventually it turns into a ton of finishers, finisher reversals and unexpected kickouts. Everybody’s kicking out of the AA now. It’s what WWE does well, and it works. Watching Owens in this environment is great, because he looks, sounds and wrestles like such an anomaly. He doesn’t do anything like he’s “supposed to,” so it feels rougher. Newer. Fresher. It’s not, really. It’s the same stuff that’s been working forever, it’s just the right kind of dude in the right kind of place and the right kind of anti-chemistry. You can take the story wherever you want in your head and have it represent the indies vs. the evil corporation or whatever, but it’s just different. In WWE, at least right now, different is the thing we need most.
God bless him, he just powerbombed John Cena and pinned him.
Worst: Announcing The Rematch Like 40 Seconds Later
Before we even have time to breathe, we find out that Owens and Cena are having a rematch in two weeks at Money in the Bank. This is a spectacularly stereotypical John Cena thing, from multiple perspectives.
From kayfabe perspective, it’s another young guy showing up with the task of proving himself by beating John Cena, him beating John Cena, then being handed the task of beating Cena again and again and again until Cena triumphs. CM Punk, I’m looking in YOUR direction. Owens had his debut main roster match against the most impossible to beat dude in modern WWE history and he BEAT HIM. He beat him clean. No cheating, no ref distractions, no kicks to the dick, no magical singing ghost children. He beat him and pinned him with his finisher in a straight-forward wrestling match. He’s the NXT Champion, and said that by beating Cena he’d prove that the NXT title meant more than Cena’s, so … this is the end of the story, right? He did it. He proved it. He won.
We couldn’t even let it sit until Monday night before the “welp, Cena’s getting his win back so this is meaningless” stuff kicked in. I know you don’t want to think that either, and I know how great Owens’ debut has been and how wonderfully protected he’s been. I just also watched Rusev win matches for a year straight only to lose three goofy matches to Cena and get beaten so bad his girlfriend and country abandoned him, so my brain sees Kevin Owens getting AA’d through the set and then getting AA’d through the roof of an ambulance and then getting AA’d into the ocean. It’s pessimism, sure, but it’s based on history, and it’ll make the reasons for optimism feel better if they happen. There is nothing I like more in wrestling than being proven wrong, and I have no idea how to explain that.
Best: Bo Dallas Forever
Of all the heel work on the show, poor Bo Dallas was the best. He was going for a total old school jerk thing, particularly the Ric Flair-style begging off on his knees. He and Neville got the death slot after Owens and Cena — the Divas battle royal after Lesnar/Undertaker, if you will — but I liked their match a lot. It made sense, told a nice story, and was low stress enough to cool everybody down for the super hot Intercontinental Championship standin’ around contest coming up next.
Bo’s great is what I’m trying to say. Bo is the money Rotunda kid. I hope they give him something to do when Neville’s jumping off ladders. LET THE BO DALLAS JOINS THE NEW DAY STORYLINE BEGIN.
Worst: We’ll Crown An Intercontinental Champion Eventually, We Promise
There’s a moment near the end of the match where Sheamus and Ryback are standing on the metal floor of the Elimination Chamber trying to slam each other where I might’ve forgotten wrestling was happening at all. It was like staring at an impressionist painting.
The Intercontinental Championship Elimination Chamber didn’t work for a lot of the same reasons the tag version was lame, but it just didn’t accomplish anything. It didn’t build to any response from the crowd. Listen to their reaction when Ryback pins Sheamus, becomes IC champ and holds his first-ever singles championship. It’s nothing. Absolutely nothing. They watched six guys who are ostensibly supposed to be the most important people besides whoever’s in the title match wrestle a lengthy, gimmicked cage match full of props and violence, culminating in a babyface defeating a dastardly heel and winning the title formerly held by the former most popular person in the company. Nothing. Silence. It could’ve been six Erick Rowans wrestling in a Stand Still match and it would’ve gotten the same reaction.
I think people just super don’t care. The story heading into the match with Ziggler vs. Rusev, but Rusev got hurt. We were left with WHOOPS, NO STORY. King Barrett is the most pathetic wrestler to ever earn a WWE contract, I guess, and loses to R-Truth, a guy every person aware of the show picked to go out first. Guys are hitting finishing moves and taunting instead of going for pins. People don’t seem to know it’s elimination despite it being called THE ELIMINATION CHAMBER, and break up pins. Mark Henry gets applauded for being smart enough to know how to wrestle the match, then forgets in the middle and starts breaking up pins too. That works in the tag version because you’ve got someone looking out for you, but Jesus, guys, can you at least ATTEMPT to understand how and why these matches work? I don’t need wrestling school and 15 years of experience in This Business to know “if I’m in an elimination match I should want the other guys to get eliminated.”
Cue the replay screen with the crickets.
Best: Shield Faces
Worst: The Dusty Finish, Daddy
Those are great faces, but yeah, the main event ends in the storied “Dusty Finish.” If you don’t know what that is, it’s a match finish perfected in the NWA of the 1980s, wherein a popular face (Dusty Rhodes) would pin a heel champion (Ric Flair) and win the championship. As he celebrated and the crowd went wild, it would be revealed that something shady had happened like a ref bump or someone seeing a foreign object or Suddenly Occurring Ole Anderson or whatever and the referee would reverse the decision. So you’d get that happy emotional payoff, but you’d immediately have it taken away. The NWA started using it so much that as a 5-year-old I would doubt title changes until we’d left the building. Sometimes even then.
Dean Ambrose wins the WWE World Heavyweight Championship from Seth Rollins, but after Rollins had shoved a referee. So Ambrose wins and celebrates, but the original official comes to and says OH NO I WAS PUSHED ONCE and calls for a DQ. Ambrose still wins, but Rollins is still champ. It’s a great tactic to use at house shows. It’s not necessarily the way you end a pay-per-view live special. Whatever.
Ambrose and THE BIG DOG beating up The Authority and simply taking the championship is another one of those crappy WWE babyface things I hate, but I guess it’s to set up something for Money in the Bank. Ambrose loves taking peoples’ stuff without earning it, which makes him … incredibly popular? And he’s got the world’s toughest Virgil backing him up. It’s weird. I’m going to cheer for the guys who are heels because they hold down adult jobs and make tough decisions.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Roman has been much more likeable as Dean’s best friend than anything else this year.
“When it comes crashing down and it hurts inside!”- Brock Lesnar describing diverticulitis
HOST: Mr. Cena, your word is “Sell.”
CENA: …Language of origin?
I suppose these Texas fans just love seeing an educated Black man locked up again.
If Paige wins would that make every other PPV an In Your House?
DO IT FOR YOUR SON, YOU PIECE OF SHIT
By beating John Cena in his debut, Kevin Owens has matched the career of Carlito
“Now let’s go to the celebration already in progress at The Odds house.”
Trips at 9:00pm: “Are you sure he’s far away from any device!?!?”
Steph: “Yes, Your plan to get rid of the app has worked, My father has no way of watching the Network for only $9.99 tonight”
Trips *pats Owens on the back*: “Guess who is going over clean tonight..”
Son of Mecha Mummy
If there isn’t a video of Sheamus stuck in his pod set to “Rock N’ Roll Creation” by Spinal Tap by the end of the night, the internet has failed.
Thanks, everybody. See you tonight for the famous “Raw after Elimination Chamber” episode of Raw!