WWE Elimination Chamber
February 12 2017
This PPV snuck up on me. I haven’t seen much WWE programming this week, or hardly at all since the Rumble. Therefore this whole show is going to be surprising for me. I don’t know who’s in the main event, the Elimination Chamber, and I have no idea what the undercard is. I know it’s a SmackDown PPV so it should be good but beyond that we’re in for a surprise.
We’re in Phoenix. Arizona. Hosts are Mauro Ranallo, JBL, David Otunga and Tom Phillips.
Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James
Becky has new gear. Mickie gets a decent reaction because she was always a big fan favourite in her original run. The current vs. past gimmick wields huge intensity right from the collar and elbow tie up. Otunga’s idiotic suggestion that Mickie would have ring rust, because she’s been gone for seven years, draws a wry smile from this reviewer. If it’s not WWE it doesn’t exist, eh? Unless you want to hype up a new comer. It’s a stupid thing to say. JBL is the voice of common sense, correcting the stupidity of Otunga. When JBL is the voice of reason you’re a shit commentator. Mickie works the arm and the match becomes a heatless affair. Phoenix is a pretty bad town for crowd noise.
Mickie dominates the match. As someone who’s been away for a while she probably needs that. It doesn’t make the match particularly interesting though it’s a procession of heat not the competitive match they’re capable of. The finish, where Becky counters James into a pin, is the best part of the match by a mile. I look forward to a second match that’s better structured than this.
Final Rating: **1/4
Video Control takes us up to the Sky Box where James Ellsworth and Carmella are chilling, eating popcorn. Blinged out heel Ellsworth might be a decent final run for him. I’m amazed he’s lasted this long.
Apollo Crews & Kalisto vs. Dolph Ziggler
Putting the heel in a match where it’s two on one against him is bizarre so Ziggler immediately sorts that out by introducing Kalisto to the screens on the stage. That’s him done. Again the crowd is dead. Although it’s no surprise with poor Apollo. There’s no reason to support the smiling babyface. What’s his character anyway? What are his dreams? Ziggler was getting decent reactions until he turned but the crowd don’t care about him here either. Part of this is Phoenix being a dead town for crowd reactions and part of it is people just not caring about the match. Kalisto finally hitting the ring perks things up a bit. Ziggler gets double teamed and the Toss Powerbomb finishes. This was not good.
Final Rating: *3/4
Post Match: Ziggler beats the piss out of both faces and the crowd finally erupt. That about sums up the booking here. People just want to see some goddamn aggression. The crowd chant “thank you Ziggler” after he Pillmanises Apollo’s ankle. Poor Apollo.
Tag Team Turmoil
SmackDown Tag Team Championship
Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. Breezango
Breezango should just change their name to the Fashion Police as that’s become the main part of their gimmick. Rhyno gets the nostalgia pop, with the crowd chanting “ECW”. That about sums the crowd up. Fandango takes the Gore and Beauty & The Manbeast advance.
Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. The Vaudevillains
The newcomers don’t last long and Slater gets the win with an elevated DDT.
Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. The Usos
The action picks up a touch and the Usos look strong with better continuity than the previous heels and a blind tag sets up a superkick and Slater is pinned.
The Usos vs. American Alpha (c)
This is the meat of the whole thing. Everything before this was filler. The pace notably slows due to the importance of this encounter. The slow pace doesn’t benefit American Alpha, the same way Becky taking heat didn’t impress anyone in the opener. Usos are far less capable of running heat than the Revival but that’s the style of match they go for, isolating Gable. Jordan cleans house but it’s Gable that gets the roll up pin. Usos are gone but not before adding a further beating on Gable.
American Alpha (c) vs. The Ascension
American Alpha are out before the Ascension get here so logically the Ascension should just hit the finish and win. Fall of Man on Jordan but Gable makes the desperation save. That about sums up the Ascension. They can’t beat a beaten team. To be fair to the Ascension they’ve been working on their look and Konnor looks enormous. Gable gets a sneaky tag in and Grand Amplitude gets the job done. Alpha survive. This was long and almost entirely filler to get bodies out here on the PPV.
Final Rating: **
Natalya vs. Nikki Bella
Nikki is a holdover from the old days of ‘divas’. The difference between her and the majority of women’s wrestlers from that era is that Nikki learned how to perform on the kind of level that the upstart new generation are at. Natalya brings the heat by associating Nikki with John Cena, who is well known to be her boyfriend if you watch Total Divas. It’s rarely been addressed in WWE itself but now that’s come to the forefront of this storyline. Natalya has been quite good at weaving the reality era stuff into a traditional feud. There’s a secondary deal where Natalya thinks she’s a far better wrestler and Nikki is out to prove her wrong.
Nikki’s tactical approach is a fascinating mixture of technical stuff, explosive strikes and Cena-esque taunting. I’m fairly certain that Cena had a hand in this. I’m sure they chat about matches and angles and he’s a good ideas guy. Nikki outright steals an assortment of Cena spots from the taunt to the shoulderblock to the Struggle Snuggle.
Nikki’s sheer array of moves in this match is incredibly impressive. Whether it’s the spinebuster or the springboard Enzuigiri there’s a lot of thought that’s gone in to expanding the move set. Natalya sticks to tried and tested favourites like the Sharpshooter but Nikki has been working on counters for those too. It’s a solid game plan from someone much maligned for her wrestling skill. The match spills out to the floor and both women get counted out. An unfortunate ending to a very solid match. The no-finish means this feud must continue.
Final Rating: ***
Luke Harper vs. Randy Orton
Having secured his WrestleMania spot Orton now has the secondary business of battling his colleague in the Wyatt Family; Luke Harper. Randy has broken up the Wyatt Family from within and has never taken on the look of the group. Harper has been underutilised in WWE. He had a streak of good matches as part of the Wyatt Family but has become a second tier character since that angle peaked. Considering Orton’s dickish behaviour he should be the heel but Arizona decide he’s their guy, possibly for nostalgia purposes and cheer him instead. Orton isn’t pleased with the reactions and slows it down, working a boring chinlock and posing like a dickhead. It’s a good read of the crowd but it doesn’t make for a good match. The crowd seem to get into it, which is a good sign for the angle. Harper is the one to benefit from this as he’s going it alone and taking abuse alone. JBL rather drubs the point into the ground by repeating it but WWE has never been big on subtlety. RKO out of nowhere finishes but Harper was the guy who looked like a star during the contest. Whether he was making comebacks and hitting offence. He looked like he belonged.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Video Control takes us backstage where Natalya beats up Nikki again. Poor Maryse has makeup spilled all over her as part of the fight.
SmackDown Women’s Championship
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Naomi
Naomi has gotten a couple of pins on Alexa of late and Naomi is from Orlando, where WrestleMania is being held. However Alexa has been overachieving as champion and I’m sure WWE are keen for her to carry the belt into ‘Mania. Her matches haven’t been great but her promos have and she’s felt like a big deal.
Alexa’s heel work is clinical and almost a throwback. The way she works Naomi’s hair is especially entertaining. “You’re on her hair” shouts the ref. “I know” yells Bliss in response. She told you ref! Naomi is a decent wrestler and she ensures the pace doesn’t die down, intending to stand out on a show with three women’s matches. Naomi’s performance is probably the best of any woman on the show, routinely impressing with an array of offensive moves. It takes two to tango and Alexa hangs in there until Naomi murders her with double knees to block the Sparkle Splash and a moonsault finishes. New champion! That was unexpected. The great thing about the SmackDown women’s division is it’s an open field. Pretty much anyone could win the title. Like Naomi did here. Probably Alexa’s best showing as champion and Naomi’s emotional reaction is a high point for the show. This is her first title since winning the Divas title in developmental back in 2010.
Final Rating: ***1/4
John Cena (c) vs. AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz vs. Baron Corbin vs. Bray Wyatt
It’s a new look Elimination Chamber, having undergone a redesign to make it look more SmackDown brand specific. There’s subtle hints of blue. We have 45 minutes left on the show as we begin. WWE make an interesting decision to start with Cena vs. AJ, which was the money match for them last year and a huge ****1/2 showstealer at the Rumble. Obviously both of them are capable of lasting the required 45 minutes to go from start to finish.
Starting with the stars creates an electric big fight atmosphere too. As per usual they do good work and make sure the opening segment doesn’t feel like filler, which is sometimes a major Elimination Chamber issue. Next man in is Ambrose. This is again a good choice as he’s the next most over guy and it helps the crowd to forget that the crux of the match is some way off. As the camera pans around inside the Chamber it becomes apparent they’ve softened the area between the ring and the chainlink fence. In the past that was steel grating. Now it’s covered. The boys immediately look happier to take spots on it.
Wyatt comes in hot as the fourth man. He’s gained a little traction of late after losing his way for the last two years. WWE have flip-flopped on what Bray is to them. From the next Undertaker to a cult leader to a guy that loses all his big matches. It feels like they don’t know what to do with him. Dean enjoys the Chamber and utilises the environment extremely capably, coming off a pod twice. Baron Corbin enters next for his Chamber debut. He’s easily the biggest man in this match and all the beaten down opponents are easy pickings for Big Banter. Corbin does some sensational positional work in hitting End of Days and then getting missile dropkicked. Everything he does is making sense. Last man in is the Miz. Having completely dominated Corbin is first out, rolled up by Dean.
That doesn’t go down well, due to his dominance, and he murders Dean on his way out. Miz scuttles in, once he’s sure Corbin is gone, to pin Dean’s corpse.
The storyline remains that Corbin wore down everyone and Miz is fresh. Super Cena has words with him for that. One AA later and Miz is done.
Miz easily looked the weakest man in the match with that tame elimination and the fact he took virtually no moves beforehand. The heels union get together briefly before Wyatt proves you can’t trust a cult leader unless you’re in his cult. AJ proves he’s more important than Miz by kicking out of the AA but Cena also survives the Styles Clash. Sister Abigail however puts Cena out. My God, it’s three years too late but Bray has finally got a decisive pinfall win over John Cena and ended his record 16th title run inside a month.
AJ looks shocked, perhaps mentally prepared to face Cena at the end of this. The chemistry isn’t quite there between Bray and AJ and it doesn’t help that they’re both heels. A babyface AJ would have been better. He still fires off impressive moves like the springboard 450 Splash. The Phenomenal Forearm is caught though and Bray hits Sister Abigail to win his first WWE title.
Final Rating: ****
One of the WWE’s weakest PPV efforts of late with drudgery galore on the undercard but the Chamber match worked from start to finish. It helped to elevate Corbin and Wyatt. Chamber match aside the only other major occurrence was Naomi’s women’s title win. The first two hours of the show were largely unimportant.