WWE Elimination Chamber Review: Starless Night

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WWE’s Elimination Chamber pay-per-view took place Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The show was main-evented by the women’s Elimination Chamber match with the prize being an opportunity to face Becky Lynch for the RAW Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 36. Elsewhere, we had another Elimination Chamber match on the card featured six teams fighting for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships. On the RAW side, the Street Profits had their first defense of their newly won RAW Tag Team Championships against the former champions of Seth Rollins and Murphy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryznO4DrGN4

Daniel Bryan vs. Drew Gulak

Philadelphia’s own Drew Gulak vs. one of the most popular babyfaces of the last decade in Daniel Bryan: Kick-off this pay-per-view with two of the most popular wrestlers with this Philly crowd. Brilliant decision. Gulak hit a fireman’s carry takedown to start the match, which was punctuated by dozens of displays of chain-wrestling by these two veterans. There aren’t too many wrestlers on the roster who can go move-for-move in chain-wrestling from one man’s half-Boston crab to another man’s half-Boston crab. Seeing as though he underestimated his opponent, Bryan rolled out of the ring to assess his situation in a very non-face-like move. Whether you’re a fan of this kind of mat-wrestling or not, you have to tip your cap to the bravery of some of the moves these men took. Anybody who attempts a suplex over the top rope to the floor outside the ring is a braver man than I. Bryan was spiked on the top of his head quite a few times in this match, most notably with a release German suplex that looked especially nasty and made him play up his history of concussion and neck injuries in his career. After Gulak failed to lock on a Dragon Sleeper, Bryan was able to roll up the 205 Live original into a Yes Lock which caused Gulak to pass out. Between the excellent in-ring action and the great story of Gulak trying (and almost succeeding) in exposing Bryan’s weaknesses, this was well worth the watch.

Winner: Daniel Bryan Time: 14:20     Rating: 3.5 Stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfQy-1xLVKA

Andrade (C) vs. Humberto Carrillo

Andrade nailed a spinning back elbow right out of the gate to get an early two-count. I’ve kind of leveled out on Humberto at the moment, mostly because he hasn’t showed me any progression between his feuds with Andrade and Garza or his team-ups with Rey Mysterio. He gets wicked air on his springboards and top-rope offensive maneuvers, but I really hope he starts showing a new side of his personality/move-set in the coming weeks. In the middle of the match, Andrade began unraveling the floor mats outside the ring, but was promptly stopped by a Carrillo big boot. But the newcomer’s momentum was brief, as Andrade was soon back on-top in the ring, executing a nasty looking arm-bar with added emphasis via Andrade’s free arm pressing on Humberto’s left arm joint. I just couldn’t get into this match. Both of these men are solid in the ring (Andrade especially so for his part in one of my favorite NXT matches of all-time which happened in this very arena two years ago). But the fact that these two have been fighting each other now for nearly three months has dragged out all the moves and secrets they can possibly pull out of their back pockets. Not even Zelina Vega could save this match. Good action, but more of the same story we’ve been seeing for weeks.

Winner: Andrade        Time: 12:20     Rating: 2 Stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvGCbX9hRFE

SmackDown Tag Team Championship Elimination Chamber Match 

The New Day and the Usos were the last ones in the chamber and the first to start off this match. I really dug the New Day’s white, paint-by-numbers ring gear in honor of their missing compatriot in Xavier Woods. The first team out of the pods was the Lucha House Party, who put on a dazzling display of high-flying offense. These tag team Chamber matches can be a little clustered with the amount of bodies running around, but when you have guys like Dorado and Metalik climbing to the top of a pod to execute a flying crossbody, you can relax for a second and focus all of your attention on them. The champs in Miz and Morrison were the next team out and immediately took control by focusing a number of shots and moves on the LHP. Shout-out to Gran Metalik on a running hurricanrana off the top rope (with a running start from on-top of Miz and Morrison’s own pod) that looked incredible with every replay.

You could hear notable chants of “Otis! Otis! Otis!” in the Wells Fargo Center throughout this match, especially before Heavy Machinery entered the fight. The young man is over and his recent love angle with Mandy Rose has been working in getting more support for the popular Heavy Machinery member. Oh my God, Lince Dorado has no fear climbing to the top of the top of the Chamber and dropping down in a Shooting Star Press formation onto the rest of the participants. Unfortunately, a Compactor would spell the end for Gran Metalik and the rest of LHP, making them the first eliminated team. Much to the joy of the WWE Universe, Otis finally got his hands on Dolph Ziggler for ruining his dream date with Mandy Rose. But it seemed like a light punishment as the Superior, Wisconsin native just bounced Ziggler’s neck off the ropes and gave him a stiff right hand. He tried to do more, but Otis’ focus got the better of him and he crashed through the plexiglass pod outside the Chamber. Seeing his best friend incapacitated on the outside was enough to give Tucker a mean streak big enough to take on both members of the Ziggler-Roode alliance. Unfortunately, Tucker would get all turned around and eat a Glorious DDT for his efforts. One quick note on Tucker: He nailed a top-of-the-pod cannonball on the Usos and New Day in an eye-opening move. You don’t normally see a guy Tucker’s size executing that kind of move from that kind of height. He’s really been showing off his skills in the ring the last few weeks. For the first time in quite some time, Dolph Ziggler is getting the crowd to actively boo his heel tactics, which led to the Philly crowd popping big when the Usos nailed dual splashes off the top of the pods to eliminate him and Roode late in the match. After a very fun few minutes of action between Miz and Morrison and the Usos, a dual pin attempt by the champions (coupled with some rope leverage) gave them the final pinfall they needed to leave the Chamber with their tag team gold in tow. Storyline advancements, death-defying moves, and back-and-forth action. This Chamber match had nearly everything. Very fun match. 

Winner: The Miz and John Morrison Time: 32:55     Rating: 3.5 Stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Is6pMaowOG8

Aleister Black vs. AJ Styles

Even with the creeping presence of Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows at ringside, seeing these two counterparts share the ring with one another was a dream match come to life. AJ spent the beginning of this match focusing on Black’s left leg in an attempt to render a majority of Black’s knee-based strikes useless. After several Dragon Screws, chop blocks, and kicks to the knee, AJ held total control in the early stages of this match. Adding more injury to injury, Styles swiped a kendo stick (or is it a Singapore Cane in Philadelphia?) from beneath the ring and continued his assault on Black’s knee. Fortunately for Aleister, his right knee was able to give him a few minutes of rest after a knee strike to counter a Phenomenal Forearm outside the ring. Once AJ got his wits about him again, Styles put everything he had into a chair shot to Black’s tattooed back. Minutes later, Styles locked in a Calf Crusher and kept rearing back on Aleister’s left knee like he was about to rip it out of its socket. At the last second, Black was able to get his hands on the kendo stick and broke it over AJ’s body after a number of shots. He would try to keep the momentum up with an immediate big knee strike that would send AJ over the top rope. Filled with fury on his slipping grasp on the match, AJ would tackle Aleister over the German announce table. Unfortunately for AJ, that wasn’t enough to put Black away and the leader of the O.C. was hit with an immediate Meteora by the Dutch Destroyer through a nearby table. Just as Black was about one Black Mass away from victory, the Good Brothers interfered and made the match a 3-on-1 beatdown. Right as it seemed AJ had the match won setting up a Phenomenal Forearm, we heard the gong. In one of the biggest pops of the night, the Undertaker laid out AJ with a chokeslam again and left as quickly as he came. Add in one more Black Mass kick and Aleister locked up arguably the biggest win of his career. Great match.

Winner: Aleister Black           Time: 23:15     Rating: 3.5 Stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8K7MkRHfYE

Street Profits (C) vs. Seth Rollins and Murphy 

Dawkins and Rollins are the first ones out. Dawkins was able to get the crowd to chant along to “We Want the Smoke” while executing an arm-bar on Murphy early on. Between his back-and-forth with the crowd and his charisma in the ring, I’m becoming more and more of a fan of Montez Ford every time I see him on TV. He still needs a little more ring time, but whenever he flips or kips up, I’m completely glued to the TV to see his next move. The Viking Raiders made an appearance halfway through the match to resume their feud with the AOP, sending the four of them brawling to the back. This match was almost exclusively controlled by Murphy and Rollins, but the balance of power was shifted when Kevin Owens came strolling down the Wells Fargo Center steps to ringside, popcorn bag in hand. His appearance distracted the Monday Night Messiah long enough for the latter to eat a shoulder block from Dawkins. With the former Universal Champion out of the picture, the Street Profits would double-team Murphy until Ford would execute a sky-high Frog Splash to end the match. Champs retain. Fine match.

Winner: Street Profits Time: 18:30     Rating: 2.5 Stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXs79oBa5YA

Braun Strowman (C) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Cesaro, and Sami Zayn

Sami shadow-boxed around Braun at the beginning of this match before retreating to his corner and tagging in Nakamura. Between Shinsuke’s strikes and Cesaro’s strength, Braun was knocked to his knees a number of times in this match, leading to either man tagging in Zayn to kick the IC champion while he was down. I really wish we were seeing a 2014 NXT-era Sami Zayn again where he would put on competitive matches regardless if he picked up the win or not. However, I will say Zayn does a great job playing the small trash-talker who chickens out when it’s time to eat his words. After Braun missed a spear and ran into the ringpost, Nakamura nailed Braun’s head with a Kinshasa and rang it back into the ringpost. With Braun temporarily knocked loopy, the two henchmen would lift up the 300+ pounder in a suplex formation and put him right in the sightlines of a Helluva Kick. And with that, Sami Zayn wins his first championship while a member of the main roster. I was shocked by the decision to go with Zayn as the winner here the way they did. Why would Cesaro and Nakamura let Zayn take the pin? Do they not care about the belt? Do they care about Sami’s happiness more? That irked me about this finish to an otherwise fine story. But again, big fan of Zayn, so seeing him finally hold a championship in WWE puts a smile on my face.

Winner: Sami Zayn     Time: 8:30       Rating: 2 Stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npyMYY_CQ4s

Women’s Elimination Chamber Match

Realistically, only Shayna and Asuka had a shot in hell of winning this match. Sarah Logan? Liv Morgan? Not exactly fan-favorites or on-the-rise heels. This shaped up to be one of the most predictable Elimination Chamber matches since the last one featuring Roman Reigns. Ruby Riott and Natalya started the match to a near silent crowd (minus a brief “CM Punk” chant). Logan was the first to emerge from a pod and immediately ran at Natalya, slamming the latter’s head into a pod with a running double knees strike. Up next out of the pods was the Grim Reaper dressed as the Queen of Spades. Baszler made a beeline for Logan and locked her in a sleeper hold, causing an immediate tapout. Less than 30 seconds later, Baszler made her way to Riott and locked in the Kirafuda, causing a near immediate tap out. Natalya at least put up a little bit more of a fight, at least until Baszler threw her into a pod and began repeatedly slamming the door on Neidhart’s body. Another Kirafuda, another tapout. I have to say one positive thing about this booking: It made Shayna look like an absolute genocidal threat. She now looks like the biggest monster Becky Lynch has ever gone up against (arguably more so than Ronda Rousey or Charlotte Flair). The only problem was, with the eliminations happening so close together, this left plenty of awkward downtime in-between the next pod opening. Baszler, Asuka, and Morgan did their best to yell at each other, but this became very boring, very fast. I can only imagine how this looked to the Philadelphia crowd in the arena. Morgan was the second-to-last person to come out and was immediately mauled by Baszler. She was first thrown into the cage wall and then thrown head-first into the pod, creating a sickening-yet-amazing visual and sound. Props to Morgan for taking a bump like that. Shayna would pick up Morgan in a chokehold right in front of Asuka’s pod and choked out Morgan for her fourth elimination in a clear and direct message to the Empress of Tomorrow. Again, way too much downtime in between pods opening up. Shayna should have time to gloat, but this match dragged like a flat tire at times. Asuka went back-and-forth with Shayna once the former was released from her pod (she even scored an Asuka Lock that woke up the crowd for a brief second!) But, she was no match for Baszler, who focused on Asuka’s left wrist and wrapped her up in a Kirafuda for a fifth and final elimination. This was the most dominant performance of any superstar within an Elimination Chamber match that I can remember, but it wasn’t enough to save this dreadfully boring match. If it weren’t for Shayna’s dominating performance, this match would have received zero stars.

Winner: Shayna Baszler         Time: 21:00     Rating: 1 Star

Overall Thoughts: This pay-per-view went from start to finish with no live backstage appearances from:

  • Brock Lesnar
  • Drew McIntyre
  • Goldberg
  • Roman Reigns
  • Or any of the Four Horsewomen (minus Becky Lynch)

That lack of star-power was heavily felt on this show, especially during the main event (my least favorite match of the night). I really want to say Gulak-Bryan was my pick of the night, but I think I’m going to go with Styles-Black. I thought they told a very coherent in-ring story that featured a fun surprise near the end of the match. I’ll see you all in Tampa!

Final Elimination Chamber Rating: 2 Stars