by Lee Hazell
Following from last month’s feature on the Royal Rumble, this month’s PPV and the last stop on the Road to WrestleMania is The Elimination Chamber. The show is named for its main event, a six man war that takes place inside a terrifying iron edifice. Two men start, the other four are caged like animals within glass compartments that look like upright coffins. Every five minutes one of the glass pens opens at random and another superstar is released. It has a reputation, second only to the infamous Hell in a Cell, for brutality, blood and barbarism.
This year’s lucky contestants are the champion Randy Orton, The Celtic Warrior Seamus, the up and comer Antonio Cesaro, the returning veteran Christian, the fourteen time champ John Cena and the peoples favourite Daniel Bryan, who if you remember last month’s article, fans were tearing the roof off of the stadium calling for him to appear.
Other matches on the bill include Big E Langston vs. Jack Swagger for the Intercontinental title, tag team titles on the line with The New Age Outlaws vs. The Usos, a grudge match between Titus O’Neil and Darren Young and The Wyatts vs. The Sheild, a contest that is one of the most anticipated in recent memory, perhaps equal to the main event.
The build up to this years chamber has been pretty bloody brilliant. The Authority has taken some time off to allow the wrestlers to do the talking both in the ring and outside it. Now I’m not saying that the quality of WWE programming was directly improved by Triple H and Stephanie McMahon not being on it, but maybe with the success of this run of awesome wrestling WWE will focus more on the matches than the promos.
Jack Swagger looked to be on a role on the way to the event. His run of success mimicking that of his partner Cesaro. I thought he would walk out with the title as most of the attention seemed to be on him and his stable in the last few weeks, but after a fairly good big man matchup Big E remained champ. Not a bad contest at all, in a big man match like this its all about the impact of the moves, two huge bodies colliding with each other doing untold damage. Everything has to be big and stiff, the men have to look like two large trucks crashing into each other, demolition derby style. Most moves hit the mark but some were shaky, both men with multiple, noticeable mis-timings.
The match between the Uso’s and the Outlaws was very entertaining, both teams exhibiting the in ring charisma that has made them so popular with the WWE fans. Darren Young did an honourable job (wrestling slang for losing badly) against his former tag team partner Titus O’Neil. It seems WWE has made its mind up about which one of those two it’s going to back in the future and it isn’t stuttering about it.
Then we had the match of the night. The Sheild vs The Wyatts. The two top teams in WWE, both somehow the most dominant for ten years. The Shield are the best team of heels since Evolution and Bray Wyatt has the best character presence since The Undertaker. This had the potential to be a match of the year contender, and while Bray vs Bryan was better, this match did deliver on every conceivable level. The Wyatt’s proved their dominance, while Roman Reigns showed it took three men to bring him down. Look forward to The Shield imploding on TV in the near future. One side note though. Keep an eye on Luke Harper. He’s going to have a long and successful career, the guys who throw every ounce of their being into the character often do.
That match was a great pay off to weeks of teasing, the two teams so close to one another they could smell each other’s breath, but every time they get too close someone always backs up, “we’ll see you Sunday” they seem to say. It was an excellent lesson in building suspense.
In fact all the matches were well hyped up by WWE booking. All except one. Batista vs Alberto Del Rio had a couple of weak promos and one match to whet out appetites. This was two weeks before the event and since then Batista was nowhere to be seen since. Things were even worse once the match begun. The crowd instantly showed their bitterness towards Batista for winning a rumble they thought should go to Bryan, Reigns or anyone who has been around for the last four years. They started cheering for Del Rio, a guy whose moveset and persona were getting older than a surviving civil war veteran. Then they started cheering for people not even involved in the match. Daniel Bryan was understandable, and you could sort of see why they would chant for CM Punk and Brock Lesnar. But then things just got weird. Y2J and RVD chants? Those guys don’t even work for the company anymore.
It’s a taste of things to come in the now official Orton vs Batista match at WrestleMania. The event is often attended by the most loyal and hardcore wrestling fans. All of whom are going to hijack this one like a bunch of rowdy pirates. Its going to be car crash TV and everyone except WWE know it. Or maybe they do. Maybe they think in some bizarre, ironic way this is the best way to sell PPV’s to a disenchanted public.
Would Batista rise above the noise, pull out a show stopping performance and win the crowd over? No, he would not. The match was a disaster with or without the crowd. It started with Del Rio hobbling out on crutches only to blindside Batista and lay him out for over half the match. During this he looked weaker and weaker. When he started wrestling again you may have hoped he would just stay down. He looked unconvincing, his flow was off, his awareness was poor and his moves were sloppy. All of this just vindicated the fans belief that he was not the man to main event the biggest event of the year.
Anyway, next was the Chamber itself. The build up to this was fantastic, many, many great matches were made in its honour. Randy Orton had to run the gauntlet of all his opponents. The other competitors all had to face one another in some form. There was some great wrestling in the build-up and some extraordinary matches. The best of which were Antonio Cesaro’s. This guy has a future in this business and if he can brush up on his English there will be a lot of Gold in it.
Bryan’s matches were great too but the latter half were hobbled by a weak story element where Kane injured his shoulder. It was a fake injury and added nothing except for limiting his in ring style, which is Bryan’s best selling point. I like the fact that WWE now feel they have to make excuses for him losing matches, it shows they have more respect for him as a competitor, but this was just such an unconvincing way to handle it.
The match itself was a very worthy chamber match, there were some great spots, the best of which belonged to Seamus, Brogue-Kicking Orton through the glass. All six competitors put up a great show in some claustrophobic conditions. It was hard, brutal and for a few brief moments, unpredictable. The Wyatt’s made an appearance that unfortunately let Kane enter the chamber. After this you knew the fate of the match was sealed. They did a good job of making you think that perhaps despite this, Bryan would leave with the title. But alas WWE seem adamant that the biggest draw would still be, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, Orton and Batista.
A predictable ending and the match perhaps deserved better. But what really concerns me is WWE’s plans for Bryan during WrestleMania. Animosity between Bryan and Kane has been building for weeks now, so obviously this will see its climax in six weeks at the prestigious event. But on top of that being a rather dull and uninspired piece of booking, it also comes second hand. Punk was supposed to be facing The Authority at Mania. But that was put on hold after his impromptu sabbatical. Even then he was supposed to be facing Triple H. Now he’s left, Bryan has inherited his angle. It’s a hand me down of a hand me down. If this is the best creative can give the most popular star in WWE right now, creative might be in trouble.
Elimination Chamber convinced me that WWE has its best roster for ten years. With guys like Adrianne Neville, Sami Zayn and the Ascension coming through the ranks its only going to get better. WWE are at a cross roads. Create new stars or fall back on the easy nostalgia of old wrestlers. With them courting Sting, Kurt Angle and having Hulk Hogan already confirmed, I’m afraid they may be convinced the latter is the way to go.