Radiohead released their hit song ‘No Surprises’ back in 1997 and, at the time, believed it to be an accurate foretelling on the future of WWE’s creative process. In 2017, no more than 20 years later, it appears they were spot on with their prophecy. In fact, the line in the song, “A job that slowly kills you. Bruises that won’t heal” is said to be a direct reference to the SmackDown tag team division and the struggles of Tyler Breeze taking bumps every day in the vain hope that one day he will be thrusted into a meaningful storyline. In recent weeks the stories have gone staler than your bed sheets and have even made Thom Yorke reconsider his lyric choices… Welcome to the most must-see Vulture Hound weekly review in history; welcome to… The SmackDown Review (Elimination Chamber special).
The pre-show was nothing more than you’d expect. Curt Hawkins lasted more than 5 minutes in a match on the pre-show but ultimately lost his “who gives a s**t match” against Mojo Rawley when he succumbed to a tilt-a-whirl slam. There was some fun to be had on the kick off show as JBL fell flat on his arse as he attempted his Texas Two Step. Just search for it on Twitter. It’ll be there somewhere no doubt.
Despite her best efforts (and it really was her best), Mickie James just couldn’t beat Becky Lynch. Not even the ‘Mick Kick’ could keep Lynch down who, in the end, beat the former with a simple roll up for the victory. These two will no doubt have more matches in the run up to WrestleMania.
Dolph Ziggler ambushed Kalisto ahead of his handicap match with the Lucha Dragon and the baby-faced babyface, Apollo Crews. This did little to help Ziggles as the Mexican returned to do his “lucha thing” and teamed up with Crews to score an impressive victory. With the tag team division going dryer than your mum it could be worth a chance in putting Crews and Kalisto together to challenge for the Blue Brand’s tag team gold. That’s if the pair can recover from the post-match assault from Ziggler. He really does love a steel chair.
Speaking of the tag team division, American Alpha successfully defended their title in a turmoil match which serves to remind us all that, unsurprisingly, there’s no direction in the tag team division whatsoever. Heath Slater and Rhyno got the match underway against Breezango and for a little while it looked like the former champs were going all the way as they picked off the Fashion Police and the Vaudevillains in succession. This lasted until the Usos arrived and eliminated Heath ‘I’ve got kids’ Slater and his partner. The Usos’s would then go on to commence a vicious onslaught on American Alpha but a blind tag to Chad Gable allowed him to score a rollup and eliminate Jimmy and Jey. Not happy with their exclusion, the Usos, beat down American Alpha just in time for The Ascension to pick up the scraps. Realistically, the Fall of Man that followed should have been enough to secure the Cosmic Wastelanders’ first main roster championship, yet Gable was there to bring up the pin at the count of 2.9. The bigger men dominated until an overhead belly-to-belly allowed Jason Jordan to tag in Gable and hit the Grand Amplitude for the win. This is the closest anyone has come to dethroning Alpha and I don’t imagine they will give up the titles any time soon.
The match between Natalya and Nikki Bella ended in a double count-out and that’s just as much as this feud deserves. It’s 2017, do we really care that Nikki is never going to get married to John Cena? No. What we want to see is a well told story between two women that will stop at nothing to become the best in their division. That being said, the pair have come a long way since they began in the WWE, with Natalya demonstrating her technical expertise and Nikki equalling her rivals development in showing us she is more than just a glorified sports model. Realistically there needs to be an interesting storyline that allows people to understand that these two are, in truth, damn good wrestlers that have worked hard to get to where they are now. For that you may as well watch Charlotte every week on Raw. Congratulations, Elliot, you have the better viewing of Women’s wrestling.
A back and fourth match between Randy Orton and Luke Harper had every one eager to see who would provide the killer blow. Fans are now fully behind Harper as the obvious babyface in this feud but once again he failed in his attempts to beat the Viper. A few reversals of the RKO led to Harper hitting Orton with a thunderous sit-out powerbomb for another close near-fall. The pair again exchanged blows and, as Harper attempted the Discus Clothesline, Orton shoved him off, freeing himself to land an RKO for the win. With Harper successfully over as a scorned face maybe, just maybe, he will get a second run as Intercontinental Champion.
Naomi picked up her first ever Women’s Championship that was met with a chorus of “you deserve it chants” from the crowd. Admittedly, Naomi does indeed deserve this long overdue Women’s title but given the pace of her current push I’m left wondering why it hasn’t been delayed further. This would have achieved an even bigger pop in front of a WrestleMania home crowd in Orlando.
Given the quality of the main event it was no surprise that the undercard was rather lacklustre. All creative energy and hard work has gone in to creating a good story to be told in the Elimination Chamber match itself. Bray Wyatt, after many years of poor booking, has achieved what many of us deemed out of reach. They have portrayed a storyline filled with mind games along the way and looks set to culminate with a title match at the Granddaddy of them all. In this match, Corbin and Ambrose seem to have developed a new feud for the Intercontinental title whilst the Miz stood out individually as a man that can produce work of the highest quality when he really needs to. Ultimately these men didn’t make the final cut as it was Cena who disposed of the Miz. As the match drew to a close only Wyatt, Cena and Styles remained when suddenly the Eater of Worlds delivered a Sister Abigail to big match John and eliminated the Champion. The crowd (and myself included) marked out as not only was Bray now in serious contention but he was going toe to toe with AJ Styles. Wyatt scored his first championship when Styles twice went for a 450 splash with the second one having him caught into the Sister Abigail. Seriously, it’s difficult to put such an amazing match in to words so go and watch it (over and over again) on the WWE Network.
The night was largely focused on the pièce de résistance, The Elimination Chamber, so you would be forgiven if you drifted in and out of your REM cycle during the undercard on this PPV. Aside from the main event there was some ‘okay’ matches, however, it seems that a lot like Roadblock, Elimination Chamber has become yet another stopgap on the road to WrestleMania that provided very little in the way of non main-event storytelling. All time and energy has been exerted on the Wyatt angle so if there is not a huge pay off at WrestleMania you can expect Thom Yorke to turn in his grave.