Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Elimination Chamber: Braun Strowman still had some forward momentum, Ronda Rousey was still murmuring through promos instead of speed-talking, and Sasha Banks betrayed Bayley Lion King-style.
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Elimination Chamber for February 17, 2019.
Best: It’s Murphin’ Time
First of all, there’s no way Buddy Murphy is 203 pounds. I know in pro wrestling “billed weights” aren’t a thing to get upset about, but shit, the only way he’s 203 pounds is if he’s three feet tall. The only way I could believe the President is 243 pounds is if Buddy Murphy actually weighs 203.
Second of all, when this match ended I tweeted out, “is there a chance this isn’t far and away the best match of the night?” And while that ended up being … spectacularly incorrect, the Traditional Cruiserweight Championship Kickoff Match was a straight-up banger and needs to be watched immediately by as many people as possible.
It’s going to be a shame if we never get a Buddy Murphy vs. Kenny Omega match, as yeah, he’s sort of the Great Value version of Kenny, but even the “Great Value Kenny Omega” makes him one of the best wrestlers in the company. Sometimes you actually get a great value with Great Value, don’t @ me. But yeah, Buddy’s been putting on incredible performance after incredible performance since grabbing the strap at Super Show-Down, and these pre-show title defenses keep getting better and better. Tozawa’s one of the most brutally underrated guys in the entire company, and watching him dive headfirst through the ropes into a goddamn vertical suplex on the floor is the kind of thing that makes you stop whatever else you’re doing and pay attention. And that’s not even mentioning the sky-high senton Tozawa hit with Murphy dangling in the ropes, or THIS thing:
It’s like they mashed up the Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Psicosis Bash at the Beach ’96 finish with the Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn 2-out-of-3 falls finish from NXT.
Really great stuff. Here’s hoping Murphy actually wrestles Mysterio at WrestleMania, and that Rey Mysterio having a WrestleMania match is enough to get it on the main show.
Best: Elimination Chamb-her
Similar to how we covered the Royal Rumble matches, I’m going to break this down into a list of notes to make sure I mention everything.
– No column of mine would be complete without rampant, unchecked IIconics fandom. I was really hoping they’d leave the Chamber as the first (modern) WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions, especially after Mark Henry put them over on the kickoff show, but I for-real think they were the MVPs of the match. Nia Jax and Tamina were there to be unstoppable heel powerhouses, Bayley and Sasha Banks were there to be the passionate fan favorites, and the rest of the teams were either expendable (most notable the Riott Squad, who might as well change their name to The Expendables) or not actual teams (Carmella and Naomi, aka “Team Bad Weekend”). The IIconics brought the comedy and GIF’able moments like they always do, but they also reminded everyone they’re a real team that can wrestle, and carried their end of the competition for a big chunk of the match. Shout-out to Billie Kay’s hilarious sell of Sasha’s knee. I’m an unrepentant IIconics homer, sure, but I thought they did great.
– I wasn’t expecting to feel this way, but I thought Nia Jax and Tamina were used really well here. They sit out most of the match, which is good, and are absolute HOUSES AFIRE when they get in. Watching them sling the IIconics back and forth into the chain wall was great, and aside from the ongoing scourge of Tamina’s Superfly Splash, they did what they needed to do. Having Jax accidentally go through the pod wall and leaving Tamina (the weak link) by herself to get blistered and pinned by the other four remaining women was perfect booking. If you were in a match against these two, wouldn’t your gameplan be, “isolate Tamina?”
– The announce team shouted about it a little too much, but I really enjoyed the callback to last year’s Chamber match and Sasha Banks’ “dueces, Mufasa” betrayal of Bayley. Last year, Sasha took the opportunity to boot Bayley in the face when they were supposed to be friends, because (1) the Sasha Banks character is not a good friend and (2) it was every woman for themselves. This year, they’ve worked through all their problems, gone through weird friendship therapy, inadvertently teased a romance angle, and came out on the other side as better partners. Plus, they’re fighting for the same goal now. The image mirrors itself, but Banks shows that she’s grown as a person and friend and helps her gullible, Sting-ass babyface friend up instead of knocking her down. It proves to be the difference between victory and defeat. Funny how that works, huh?
– Liv Morgan trying to do the Matrix dodge and still getting punched in the face is the most Liv Morgan moment of all time. It’s the Sin Cara falling on his head doing literally anything of the women’s division. Between this, Ruby’s performance in the Raw Women’s Championship match, and that brutally rehearsed backstage promo on the pre-show, it was a bad, bad night for the Riotts. Charlotte Flair wandering into that promo felt like a parent wandering into an auditorium halfway into their kid’s middle school play.
– The only thing I love more than selling on offense is desperation variant finishers, and the finish here gave me both. Sasha Banks has been injured over the past few weeks and fighting in the Chamber only made it worse, so she used her foot instead of her arm to lock in the Banks Statement and win the match. LOVE. IT.
– Finally there’s the post-match promo. While it’s not a “good promo” or whatever — and post-match interviews where the wrestlers are exhausted are rarely a great idea — it’s deeply emotional, and great to see the two workhorse NXT Horsewomen get their due. They’ve both gotten main roster Women’s Championship runs, but they’ve been pretty lackluster, and having them be the first Women’s Tag Team Champions feels really, truly important.
The crowd reaction was great, Beth Phoenix on commentary was getting me choked up, and I’m excited to see where the first reign goes. Even if we end up with Trish Stratus and Lita wrestling them at WrestleMania instead of people who actually work there. It’d be fun just to give Sasha and Bayley that dream match, since they’re never going to be able to tag against the Macho Man and Eddie Guerrero.
Best: The Smackdown Tag Team Division Gets Back On Track
Despite the reported drama of the weekend, The Usos — an actual tag team that puts on great matches all the damn time — were able to wrangle back the Smackdown Tag Team Championship from the Crown Jewel-flavored tag team of Shane McMahon and The Miz. Plus, per the backstage followup segment, it looks like we might be moving forward with whatever one-on-one beef The Miz and Shane are going to have heading into WrestleMania, since I think we’ve all come to peace with that happening.
I’m one of the first to make the, “I hope The Usos and The Revival get to wrestle each other for 30 minutes at WrestleMania in a Please Don’t Go To AEW Match” joke, but for real, I’m glad the belts are back on Uce and Additional Uce heading into the most important show of the year. The Usos have such a sketchy history with making it onto the Mania card, the last thing I want to see is them get stuck in a pre-show scramble or the Andre the Giant Battle Royal again.
As for the Elimination Chamber match, it was surprisingly good. I guess I shouldn’t say “surprisingly” since The Miz has gotten so good in the ring and Shane, for all the grief we give him, works hard to do whatever he can do, but I’m not sure a lot of us went into this expecting it to be as fun as it was. Everything from the Cruiserweight Championship match to the end of the Smackdown Tag Team Championship match was silver and gold, and if Elimination Chamber hadn’t turned into a bad episode of Raw for about an hour in the middle, it’d be one of the best pay-per-views I’ve seen in ages.
Additionally, bless the Miz for letting the power of love and family give him the Springboard Diver attribute. Even he’s surprised by it. I love that Miz has actually turned total babyface based solely on how his daughter changed his life and made him realize the importance of being loved. I also reserve the right to love it when he throws it all in the garbage and kicks Shane McMahon in his electric junk.
That Weird Hour In The Middle Where Elimination Chamber Becomes An Episode Of Raw
From our Elimination Chamber predictions:
I’m not sure what the thought process is in having Baron Corbin removed from a general manager position and still having his friend get 2-on-1 Intercontinental Championship defenses, but again, here we are. It seems like a match like this should only happen if the babyface is going to overcome the odds, doesn’t it? Maybe Finn pins Lio to win the match, Lashley gets mad that he lost the championship without actually getting pinned, and that sets up something for Fastlane. Or WrestleMania, either/or.
Stick with us, friend, it’s a two-parter!
This wasn’t nearly as much of a drag as I was anticipating, as they kept it under 10 minutes, put the right guy over for the right reasons, and stayed logical; Lashley thought he was getting an advantage by entering a 2-on-1 handicap match against Finn Bálor, but didn’t take into consideration that his little manager guy has about 25% the strength and HP as The All Mighty and is therefore way easier to defeat. Finn incapacitates Lashley long enough to toss Rush into the ring, stomp him in his guts, and win the Intercontinental Championship. Finn gets a championship heading into WrestleMania (which he rightly deserves), Lashley loses without really “losing,” Rush takes one for the team, and Lashely beats up Rush afterward to (presumably) sever that relationship. The Hype Man thing has already lost all its steam, so you might as well toss Lashley into that meandering Raw Heels group and let Rush make a name for himself on his own terms. Not a thrilling watch, but at least it seemed productive and made some sense.
Less engaging on every level (surprise!) is the no disqualification match between Braun Strowman and Baron Corbin, which goes on for about 10 boring minutes while we wonder what the hell happened to Braun, followed by the Raw Heels teaming up to Shield Bomb him through some tables.
It’s not notably horrible in any way, but it’s a straight-up character graveyard. None of these guys seem like they know what they’re doing. Corbin went from werewolf biker to evil waiter because he got put into a position of power, and now keeps wrestling in stretchy dress clothes even though he’s no longer in charge of anyone. Drew McIntyre is supposed to be the most unstoppable, violent monster on the show, but can never seem to win fights, even when he’s battling guys half (Ziggler) or 1/3 (Finn) his size. Bobby Lashley turned heel on his own heel manager, and despite being BOBBY LASHLEY is somehow the third most important guy on his team. They team up 3-on-1 to defeat a guy who went from The Next Hulk Hogan to The Next Matt Morgan thanks to a badly timed heel turn, a total nerfing of his confidence and momentum, and the devolution of his character from bad-ass big man to corny, contrived spot machine. It’s a bummer in every direction.
I think every single one of these guys can be salvaged, even Corbin, but I don’t see that happening for any of them in the immediate future.
The most disappointing match of the entire night was Ronda Rousey vs. Ruby Riott for the Raw Women’s Championship, which lasted a minute and 40 seconds. The worst part is that a minute twenty of that is Ruby stalling on the outside. As soon as they actually start wrestling, Ronda just throws her and arm-bars her, and that’s it. If they were going to job out Ruby this badly, they should’ve put Liv in the Ronda match and put Ruby in the Chamber. Ruby Riott is way too fucking good to be in a position that could’ve been performed just as well by Michael Cole.
Before we get to the post-match stuff, let’s talk about that crazy stint of pay-per-view dead air.
Make America Gait Again
After the Corbin/Strowman match, we get:
- a 2019 World Games commercial, followed by
- a replay from Earlier Tonight™, followed by
- a backstage argument between Shane McMahon and The Miz that goes nowhere, followed by
- Lacey Evans walking out, walking down the ramp, turning around, and walking back (?) followed by
- a WrestleMania commercial, followed by
- a WWE Shop commercial, followed by
- a Fastlane commercial
To recap, that’s a commercial into a replay into a nothing segment into an entrance for nothing into three more commercials. Brutal. And as far as Lacey goes, if they wanted her to show up just to leave, they could’ve at least done a Jimmy Garvin bit with her where she’s supposed to do something, but refuses because we’re all nontraditional “nasties,” or whatever.
Best: Crutch Gals
Before the Raw Women’s Championship match, Charlotte Flair shows up to cut a promo about how Becky Lynch sucks and got what she deserved. This would be good heel work if WWE hadn’t also had the entire pre-show panel spend an hour before Elimination Chamber going on and on about how Becky sucks and got what she deserved. To be the most popular character on the show right now and the selling point of your WrestleMania main event, there are an awful lot of people in WWE dedicated to reminding you of every reason you should boo Becky Lynch all day every day. Charlotte sticks around and sits quietly for 100 seconds while Rousey becomes the new Queen of Spades and buries the shit out of Ruby.
Anyway, when that’s done, Charlotte and Ronda try to have a staredown. Becky Lynch shows up to overshadow them both in a polarized Game of Death jumpsuit (which is also possibly an homage to New X-Men Jean Grey or Becky’s Anti-Ock costume) and beats the shit out of both of them with crutches.
Really all I want to point out here is (1) Becky Lynch’s sure isn’t missing many shows considering she’s “suspended indefinitely,” and that (2) this is so, so much better when it’s about the three biggest female stars in the company throwing hands at each other instead of adding in a bunch of sports-entertainment nonsense and smothering it with McMahons.
Also, bless Charlotte Flair for being able to pull off a studded overall bib crop-top. And if we’re going to dress our wrestlers like characters from Mortal Kombat, they should let Sonya Blade Ronda Rousey show up at WrestleMania with Tommaso Ciampa dressed like Kano in her corner. He’s perfect, as he’s already ripped out our hearts.
Best: And Finally, The Best Elimination Chamber Match Ever
Oh man, where to begin.
– I guess the first thing we need to talk about is what everyone else is talking about: Kofi Kingston. On Monday, Kofi as a main-event player who deserves a WWE Championship win at WrestleMania 35 was wacky fantasy booking at best. Then Mustafa Ali got hurt and got pulled from the Chamber match and the gauntlet on Smackdown. Kofi stepped in in his place, picked up the ball, and ran it 99 yards for a touchdown. The performance on Smackdown made an already popular guy into a main-event player with momentum, and he capitalized on that in every sense of the word at Elimination Chamber.
I can’t overstate how good the final portion of the match was between Daniel Bryan and Kingston. I haven’t hard a crowd react like that as consistently and for as long in forever, and the action was so exciting and well put-together that it made me feel like a little kid again, sitting on my living room floor watching wrestling. I’m the world’s biggest Daniel Bryan fan and think his new character and title belt are a work of art, and even I was praying for Kofi to win. When he kicks out of the first running knee, I actually found myself forgetting I was live blogging and moderating a massive comments section on a wrestling website and just clapped my hands. It transcended our dumb, self-destructive fandom and got to the heart of what makes pro wrestling so fucking good: pro wrestling.
To say this was a star-making moment for Kofi is technically incorrect, as he’s been a star for a long time (especially with New Day), but it’s fair to say it was a star-defining moment, and the kind of main event magic we’ll be talking about for years. It’s the best of the best, and as good as it gets. I don’t know if the reaction from everyone with a brain and eyes and a heart will push Kofi into a title match at Fastlane, or at WrestleMania, or give him the accolade he should earn before he’s about to retire and gets it as a participation trophy or whatever, but I hope it does. I really hope it does.
Other highlights from the match included:
- Orton eliminating Styles by countering a Phenomenal Forearm into the most Diamond Cutter-looking RKO we’ve seen in a long time. I’m not sure where these two fit heading into Mania, and while I’m never going to say I “want to see” a Randy Orton WrestleMania match, I’d be pretty into seeing if they could work together and top the Seth Rollins RKO moment from Mania 31
- Jeff Hardy draping Styles across the ropes in the corner and dropping a Swanton Bomb on him from the top of a pod, only to walk into a running knee from Bryan is a perfect sequence. A real “thinking outside the box” moment for a match where everyone’s inside a box
Not to mention this shot, which looks like it could be a comic book cover:
See? Even when I try to talk about the rest of the match, I come back to Kofi vs. Bryan. Everyone did a great job here, and I will be truly, sincerely shocked if any Elimination Chamber match tops this one. Especially the final 20 minutes or so. My only complaint, I guess, is that Samoa Joe is made to look like a total goober in these kinds of matches and always goes out early. See also Survivor Series.
Even with the giant Raw portion in the middle, Elimination Chamber far exceeded my expectations, and currently sits as the standard bearer for main-roster WWE pay-per-views in 2019. The shows are so much fun when they remember how easy it is for us to like these people and the characters they play, and how booking it with intent, passion, and logic, no matter what the end result is, makes the product better. I’m gonna raise a glass to Fastlane and hope it’s just as good, because if it is, we’re going to have a hell of a WrestleMania.
(Kofi Kingston for WWE Champion or we riot.)
(We will also think about rioting if he wins the belt and doesn’t decide to keep the hemp and wood variant, which looks way better)
(unless he covers it with unicorns and shit, that’d be fine too)
Best: Top 10 New Comments Section Comments Of The Night
Somehow Nia and Tamina are going to shoot injure the Chamber.
The Real Birdman
*Charly waiting at ringside* “Kofi, you lost the big one yet again. How does that feel?”
MARYSE: WE’RE HAVING ANOTHER BABY!
BUT CAN THEY COEXIST?
We keep one Bullet Club member in the Chamber, in case you’re pondering.
This cruiserweight match has been such straight fire, I expect Vince McMahon to suspend it for 60 days.
Carmella: so, uh
Carmella: your weekend okay?
Naomi: could be worse
Carmella: tell me about it
In the WWE Bible, he is Samoa Job
Jushin Thunder Bieber
Corbin is beating Strowman like he used a gift card and then calculated the tip based on the remaining balance, not the full bill.
Dolph Ziggler: “I’m sure they’ll follow up on this Kofi push”
Kevin Nash Booked This
Thank you Stephanie for creating Pro Wrestling and allowing this moment to happen.
That’s it for the Elimination Chamber. Wrestling is fun! Mostly!
As always, thanks for reading. Hopefully we’ll continue improving the new commenting system to improve some of the slowdown people experienced last night, but otherwise it seemed like it worked pretty well. Help us out by sharing this on social media — it sounds like a lame call to action, but it really is the difference between us succeeding and failing — and drop a comment below to let us know what you thought of the show. Lengthy sonnets to Kofi Kingston are also welcome.
See you at Fastlane, the pay-per-view that surely makes you lose your mind!