The Best And Worst Of WWE Elimination Chamber 2020

Previously on the Best and Worst of Elimination Chamber: Revisit a time when the IIconics and the Women’s Tag Team Championship were both things that felt important, Lacey Evans was still a glorified runway model, Shane McMahon was still the “best in the world,” and Ruby Riott was getting unceremoniously choked out by an MMA fighter. Well, at least that last one hasn’t changed.

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Here’s the Best And Worst Of WWE Elimination Chamber, originally aired on March 8, 2020.

Best: The ROH Pure Championship

I considered making this section just [chef kiss].

Over the past few weeks, Daniel Bryan and Drew Gulak have been working through the only story on Friday Night Smackdown that actually requires wrestling matches to happen: Gulak believes he’s zeroed in on all of Daniel Bryan’s weaknesses, has coached some of Bryan’s weekly opponents to mild success, and now has to put his grappling where his mouth is and face Bryan himself. Incredibly, this pays off the way it should, with Gulak actually exploiting Bryan’s weaknesses enough to legitimately kick his ass and come close to victory multiple times, and with Bryan showing that it’s not his scientific wrestling acumen that made him a Superstar, it’s how he applies heart to that acumen.

Gulak wrestles such a smart match here. He knows Bryan’s only ACTUAL weakness is his neck, so he tries to counter and reverse a lot of Bryan’s signature move animations and keep him off his game until he’s able to throw bombs and destroy it. The biggest one comes in the form of a release German suplex that made me cover my mouth with both hands and furrow my brow so hard it made my brain ovular.

WWE Network

Be careful with Daniel Bryan’s neck and brains, please.

With Bryan shook and almost getting counted out, Gulak’s able to maintain control and build to a big inverted suplex off the ropes and transition into a Dragon Sleeper. Having become complacent that he’s technically dominated Bryan enough to dishearten him, Gulak gets too confident for just a second and Bryan flips that in-ring brilliance on him with a swank counter into the Yes Lock. Gulak gets put to sleep, Daniel Bryan shows why he’s more than just technical know-how, and it ends with Gulak losing, but earning the respect of the guy he at least motivated enough to approach his limit.

For additional context, make sure you watch the Exclusive (again posted on their YouTube page, which is not where Bryan puts over Gulak hard and says “blood and guts” enough times you’ve got to think it was on purpose. Love this quote, though: “As crazy as it sounds, I feel alive. This is what I love about this, is that I don’t ever want to go through the motions.” That’s why we love you, D-Bry.

Mostly Best: Humberto Carrillo Can’t Counter Being Squatted On

Humberto Carrillo versus Andrade for the United States Championship was also a lot of fun, in the way it usually is, and in ways that made it just as engaging as the opener, but for different reasons. Ideally you’d build an entire wrestling card out of things that were good, but not all the same, and validate that “something for everybody” claim. WWE apologists will sometimes use one good thing happening as validation that all of WWE is actually good and purposeful because if they can make this one good thing, how could they be bad? I think it’s fun to watch them come up with and change plans on the fly and put it together well enough in the end that they can retroactively pretend every step they took to get there was on purpose. It’s like the episodic combat sports equivalent of improv comedy. It’s its own skill, you know? I wish they meticulously plotting this shit out with a clear end goal and had enough confidence in themselves and their audience to make decisions without half-assing live TV focus groups for months at a time too, but creating a fictional universe operated by chaos theory is a pretty admirable accomplishment in itself.

Anyway, we’ve seen this match or a variation of it several times before, and it’s always pretty good. I think the United States Championship division should be more than these four awesome Latino wrestlers (Andrade, Carrillo, Mysterio, and Garza) so they could keep it fresh and show how great they are against a wider field of competition, but at least the wrestling stays consistently good while they keep wrestling each other on loop.

That said, I was pretty disappointed in the finish here. In case you missed it, they get into a pinfall counter exchange, Carrillo goes for a victory roll, and Andrade ends up on top of him with a handful of tights to win. Way, way back on February 24, this is exactly how Carrillo vs. Garza ended. Pinfall exchange, Carrillo goes for a victory roll, Garza ends up on top of him with a handful of tights to win. Even the camera angles are the same:

WWE Network

If they were doing it as a purposeful callback, they should’ve had somebody, anybody on commentary bring it up. When the talking point is just, “aw, Andrade bent the rules,” you’re telling us even you don’t remember what happened on Raw 13 days ago. Or you’re trusting we’ll be ignorant of forgetful enough to not notice.

Speaking Of Things Commentary Could’ve Said To Help The Matches

Last night on social media there was a lot of talk about why AJ Styles and The O.C. would go into a no disqualification match without Gallows and Anderson just staying in the ring the whole time and wrestling it like a handicap match. It’s not against the rules, so why wouldn’t they just START at 3-on-1? My rationale was that Styles is arrogant enough that he’d want to prove he could beat Aleister Black by himself, especially after that impromptu gauntlet match on Raw where they’d all worked together to soften Black up and humiliate him, and that when Styles truly got in trouble that’s when he’d say fuck it and call for the interference. Of course, nobody on commentary seems compelled to explain that, and it’s entirely based on assumption, my understanding of the characters, and head-canon. WWE could really stand to have the announcers actually observe and tell the stories of the matches, instead of just shit-talking or emptily praising everyone based on alignment until it’s time to create a “moment.”

So, here’s where we’re at. Once again, AJ Styles vs. Aleister Black felt underwhelming. And once again, I think that was on purpose. The Raw match that got announced and turned into a bullshit gauntlet was designed to get Styles booed for either cheating and being a bastard to a character we cheer, or commit the evil act of depriving us something that would’ve been super entertaining, depending on how you watch the show. At Elimination Chamber, it was less about Styles versus Black and more about the hard sell for Styles being a reductive asshole heading into a WrestleMania match against a popular legend so we boo him hard and don’t notice him doing 100% of the heavy lifting. Styles vs. Undertaker one-on-one at WrestleMania would be like Kota Ibushi wrestling a blow up doll. Taker just needs to be there and make some scary faces, Styles is good enough to wrestle for two. I mean, he already got tasked with carrying a visibly dying man and having to do everything himself at WrestleMania 33.

If you didn’t see it, Styles failed to put Black away and called in his assist trophies to help. That brought out The Undertaker, player, who teleported into the ring to choke Gallows and Anderson into unconsciousness like he’s Zeus in No Holds Barred and hit Styles with the Saudi Arabia One Chokeslam Special to drain his HP to 1. Undertaker picking you up by the neck, lifting you about waist high and then pushing you into the ground is the Heartless Angel of WWE. Taker teleports away, as he does, and Aleister masses blackly to win the match.

I’m kinda sad that Undertaker and Aleister Black were in the same segment and didn’t even make eye contact, but at this point are we building to Styles vs. Taker at WrestleMania, or the entire O.C. against Taker and Black? Aleister needs something to do, Styles has already been shown to be completely out of his depth with Undertaker multiple times now, and Undertaker should not ever be expected to anchor a marquee singles match that goes longer than five minutes ever again. Even the ones in the ballpark of five go really, really badly. Why not team them up — hell, add Kane in there too if you want to really pass the torch, both puns intended — and let Black do the lion’s share of the work? Show-opening six-man tags are what The Undertaker should be doing at this point in his career anyway, New Japan-style. WWE would be a lot easier to take if we could enjoy seeing the legends show up and get their shit in without still having to be champions and the most important people on the show.

Relative Worst: Kevin Ambrose

The Raw Tag Team Championship match was a letdown for me as well, because it could’ve been really good and a nice followup to Raw to establish the Street Profits as the legitimate tag team champions. On Raw, Rollins tried to get the AOP to interfere but they got caught, which distracted the ref and allowed Kevin Owens to sneak in and hit him with a Stunner. That’s why the Profits won the tag titles. So on pay-per-view, you have the Profits actually defeat the bad guys on their own to prove they can stand on their own two feet, right?

Except nope, this one ends with The Viking Raiders doing the AOP coverage, and Kevin Owens just meandering out through the crowd with a box of popcorn (in that WWE-style popcorn box nobody uses unless they need to communicate “POPCORN” to viewers at home) and interferes. He throws popcorn in Rollins’ face, and then Angelo Dawkins attacks Rollins from behind so the Profits can have a 2-on-1 advantage on Murphy. They put him away and retain the championship. So that’s two straight instances of the Profits not being able to win on their own, and needing their opponent to be concerned with a more important feud. Really doing them a disservice. And sadly we’re in a time when saying that will get a lot of people responding with, “THEY’RE THE TAG CHAMPS HOW IS THAT DOING THEM A DISSERVICE,” as though holding a WWE championship erases weeks of a character looking like a hopeless dipshit or that being the best tag team on a main roster show is currently that grand an accomplishment.

I mostly just don’t like Kevin Owens suddenly being Dean Ambrose. Even Dean Ambrose sucked when he was being Dean Ambrose. Vince McMahon’s obsession with the popular characters being weird heartless Bugs Bunny-style tricksters will never stop being bizarre. As for Owens himself, you live by the popcorn goof, you die by the popcorn goof, I guess.

WWE Network
WWE Network

I look forward to tomorrow night on Raw when Owens rigs the Money in the Bank briefcase to spew green slime in Rollins’ face and then attacks everyone with ketchup and mustard.

Quick note for clarification: While I didn’t like some of the things that happened on this show, I want to make sure I say how much I appreciate that they at least had this stuff happen in and around wrestling matches. I will take 100 “I don’t like how that match ended” worsts over one “oh my God nothing on Raw and Smackdown makes sense and we haven’t had a match for 45 minutes.”

Best: The Topes Win A Game

Two good things here:

  • the team with a 3-on-1 advantage actually won the match, and
  • we can officially retire the “Sami Zayn has never won a main roster championship” observation forever. Sami Zayn is now tied with Riddick Moss, Fox Sports’ Rob Stone, and 10-year old child of a referee Nicholas Cone for most main roster championship wins

Seriously though, I don’t have much to say about this other than how happy I am Sami Zayn finally gets to be a wrestler again and do something. And hey, it means he’ll probably have a match on the WrestleMania card now, even if it’s on the Kickoff Show and/or is just 15-minutes of stalling followed by Strowman powerslamming and pinning him in five seconds. It’s better than being a manager who stands outside of the battle royal. Bonus points if they bring back Nicholas to “even the odds” and Cesaro finally gets to mangle him with a European uppercut. I want to see how long he could UFO a 12-year old. Is it forever?

Best/Worst: The Elimination Chamber Versus Time Management

I think most people preferred the Smackdown Tag Team Championship Elimination Chamber match to the number one contender version that main-evented, but I think they were both matches that worked really well on paper and had some structural problems in practice, mostly centered around time management.

To touch on the tag team version first, I applaud them for taking a match concept with the most embarrassingly impotent build ever — the Tag Team Champions won in Saudi Arabia and have done nothing but get pinned every week since, the Chamber got filled up with teams that aren’t even on the show most weeks (read: Lucha House Party), The Revival couldn’t even make that, and the only creative decision in months with any momentum is Otis and Mandy Rose having a restaurant-based misunderstanding on Valentine’s Day — and realizing they should just use it as an excuse to do a bunch of goofy spots. There’s SO MUCH happening here. Lucha House Party jumping off the pods, Kofi Kingston jumping off the pods, the Usos jumping off the pods, TUCKY jumping off the pods. Otis going THROUGH a pod and to all the way to the floor. Lince Dorado doing THIS:

WWE Network

In a highlight video, this match will look INSANE. In practice, it was a 33-minute match that went a little off the rails in the middle and felt disjointed throughout, like everyone was just trying to remember and set up the next spot. Heavy Machinery walking around in circles yelling LINCE, LINCE while he set up for his spot comes to mind. It’s very much like a modern WWE ladder match; you’re here for the spots, and that’s fine, and they aren’t going to do anything to keep you engaged between them. So it’s great in its own way and certainly entertaining, but it doesn’t feel like there’s anything under the surface. People who hit their big spots are almost immediately eliminated afterward, Royal Rumble-style, because they’ve outlived their usefulness. The Tag Team Champions lose every week on TV but retain on pay-per-view, setting up another month of them losing on TV to set up another win on pay-per-view. The same old puzzle pieces we’ve been trying to put together for years now.

So ultimately, what does that mean? As I understand it, I suppose it means that they’re putting together pieces of a WrestleMania video package and care more about getting the right shots and moments than creating substance and nurturing fan interest. AND SPEAKING OF THAT, DOT DOT DOT

Finally there’s the main event, which I’d call “divisive” if that came anywhere close to explaining it. It felt like WWE’s attempt to create one of those NXT-style “event” matches that hit a big melodramatic plot point and work because the audience is so familiar with the characters and engaged in the action. If you ran Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa from TakeOver New Orleans in front of a WWE main roster crowd without anything but a vampire bite and a bad Raw match to build it, it’d fall flat, too. So much of pro wrestling is how it connects with its audience, and even great ideas can come out like wet farts if you don’t do the work to set it up and create the right environment for it to thrive.

Even that’s too broad an analysis, though. We’re still somehow expecting all of these shows to matter, and to exist on their own merits and try to accomplish something within their own parameters. WWE is 100% treating Elimination Chamber like a Raw plus Smackdown super show where they can get more eyes on some important shit going down in the WrestleMania build. Take Shayna Baszler here, for example. In the context of Elimination Chamber, Shayna pulled a Brock Lesnar and dominated the entire Raw roster, including Asuka, without “earning it” or being entertaining enough for us to get behind her and chant things like “you deserve it.” In the context of WrestleMania, Becky Lynch’s character is brimming with the same kind of comical self-importance that turned most of us against Seth Rollins, and a good way to keep her from getting a “mixed reaction” or whatever at WrestleMania is to make her opponent absolutely abysmal to smart fans. It worked when they paired her against the two most entitled and assumptive people in women’s division history — Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair — and it’ll work pairing her against what’s ostensibly a functional pro wrestling version of Rousey. And like Baron Corbin has taught us, the only way to really get booed and hated for real these days is to rob the fans of their entertainment value. It’s why people like Kevin Owens go from workhorse pro wrestling bad-asses to dorky cartoon characters when they’re supposed to be the crowd favorites. It’s not about anything but, “are you entertained?” And WWE’s interpretation of “entertained,” and the definition they’ve beaten into the skulls of the WWE Universe, is about stimulus response and “giving people what they want.”

What I’m getting at is that the story works, and I think it worked brilliantly, but it’s also not particularly fun to watch. Seeing someone you hate just maul an entire division and choke out Asuka with the same effort it took to beat Liv Morgan feels TERRIBLE. We don’t want to feel terrible, so we don’t like it. And whether that actually translates into us giving a shit about the followup match or not, in WWE’s head it confirms to them that they’ve done their job, made the match ruiner a person nobody wants to cheer or see, and are now able to pair up all that negative energy with someone willing to change it for us. We don’t cheer WWE stars because of their moral relativity or passion anymore. We boo the people who we feel “make the shows bad,” and cheer the people we believe can make them better. At least, that’s what the Internet’s understanding of pro wrestling under a WWE monopoly has turned into over the past 20 years.

So yeah, I didn’t “like” this match either. I think a lot of it has to do with time management, and the fact that they didn’t kayfabe the time or just empty another pod to keep the ring from being empty and inactive for minutes at a time. Shayna standing there doing nothing didn’t seem to help anything, or make the energy better, or the rivalries more heated. They could’ve had Shayna enter fifth and choke out everybody between her entry and Asuka’s, right? And Shayna’s offense isn’t showy enough to make a crowd feel justified, win or lose, when that’s the payoff to waiting around. At least Brock Lesnar’s got big scary German suplexes and an F-5. Shayna’s running the same type of character here, except the payoff is a mean-mugging sleeper. Again, it’s not that it’s bad, it’s just not “entertaining.” Although it feels like popping for a logical match structure and followups on concepts like “the cage fighter is better at cage fights” should go hand-in-hand with enjoying Gulak and Bryan rolling around in a knee bar kicking at each other. I guess that difference, like the Undertaker thing, is about its place on the card and what that does for your expectations.

It’s a complex conversation to have, and I’m not sure I can find all the words here. But I think Shayna vs. Becky at WrestleMania could really work if they stay ambitious with it, even if the individual pieces don’t all work, and trust the performers to tie it all together and bring the crowds around. It’s hard to go into these things with good faith if you’ve spent years hoping for the best and have almost never gotten it — see also World Championship Wrestling — but I’m confident they understand the second step in a WrestleMania story is worth sacrificing the main event of a B-show they barely put together in the first place.

Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week


Cesaro and Hangman Page: two different tales about what happens when you leave the Bar.


Vince McMahon: I’m not sold on Shayna Baszler

Also Vince McMahon after booking the match to have no one in the ring for 3 + minutes multiple times: Listen to the crowd booing, they don’t like her either. Bury her

Clay Quartermain

Owens’ popcorn is salted by the tears of betrayed partners

Daniel Valentin

The crowd was hotter on STARDOM’s last show.


Sami wins a title belt, Kevin Owens attacks him on instinct.


My Network feed is messing up again. It shows Sami Zayn as Intercontinental Champion.


People who want to assassinate the Pope are calling up Otis.

AJ Dusman

Dolph Ziggler is like if you Xeorxed Shawn Michaels over and over again and kept all the errors in.


You could almost say Humberto is Wrestling With Shadows right now


After that Main Event, I’m going to go watch Grave of the Fireflies to cheer up.

WWE Network

dance, too much booty in the pod

That’s it for this year’s Best and Worst of Elimination Chamber column. All things considered, it was a better show than we expected where even the bad stuff created some interesting discussion.

As always, thanks for spending time with us in our open thread and reading what we thought. We appreciate you, as well as your comments in our comments section below, and your social media shares. Join us on Monday and Friday for the fallout from the Chamber, like the town below an airplane’s toilet, and on Wednesday as well as all three shows combine forces to send us into WrestleMania. See you then!