Despite having a pretty much lifelong interest in wrestling, due to time differences and other availability issues, this year’s Elimination Chamber event is actually the first ever WWE event that I’ve been able to watch immediately, live – and in its entirety.
So how was it? Though it was fun and the Elimination Chamber matches (mostly) delivered on their chaotic promises, most of the matches in the event suffered from varying measures of predictability in their outcomes that made them feel a little pointless.
Up first was a pre-event warm-up match between veteran face Rey Mysterio and perennial heel The Miz that was actually pretty fun, with Mysterio able to team up with son Dominik to deliver some cathartic punishment directly to The Miz, even after the satisfying win.
Next – and, strictly speaking, the first match on the card – was the Universal Championship bout between current, longstanding title-holder Roman Reigns and the aging, returning superstar Goldberg. No one believed that Goldberg would be returning to wrestle or defend his title after this match, so the outcome was never really in doubt. Despite some satisfying action from both wrestlers, the surprises came from how quickly it wrapped up and that Reigns won by submission, retaining his belt and establishing full dominance over the legendary Goldberg.
The Women’s Elimination Chamber was next, with all entrants in costumes that covered as much exposed flesh as possible; though this was a touch that initially felt odd, it soon dawned on me that this was very likely due to the Saudi Arabian location. This was a fun match, with most entrants – the match consisting of Rhea Ripley, Bianca Belair, Doudrop, Liv Morgan, Nikki A.S.H. and Alexa Bliss – given a chance to shine. Some good use was made of prior rivalries, with Ripley’s psychotic grin – as she entered the match from her pod – really hitting home how much fun she was having in the fight. Belair – in her amazing rainbow hologram of an outfit – took down Ripley and Bliss to take the win.
Ronda Rousey – with one hand tied behind her back – and Naomi in the event’s best costume (a stunningly colourful, blacklight reactive catsuit) teamed up against Charlotte Flair and Sonya Deville, with Sonya revealing that she was faking her broken arm immediately, leaving Rousey the only participant with a single arm in the match. An unspectacular fight despite the ‘arm tied behind back’ stipulation, it would have been nice to see Naomi get more of a chance to unleash her spectacular moves – though where the opportunity presented itself, she did great.
The Falls Count Anywhere match between angry Scot Drew McIntyre and heel ‘comedian’ Madcap Moss gave us some proper carnage, with Madcap’s teammate Happy Corbin also getting involved in the fight against McIntyre due to there being ‘no disqualifications’. This was a great match, though it gave us a terrifying moment with a botched move that could have caused serious injury to Moss; thankfully, he was safe and the match continued – with McIntyre notching up a satisfying win.
The Raw Women’s Championship match between Becky Lynch and veteran Lita suffered from the same issue that Reigns vs Goldberg had: no one really thought that Lita would win, so it left the match feeling a little pointless. That said, Lita put up a fantastic fight and the drama was believably sold in a much more effective and satisfying way than in Reigns vs Goldberg, making this by far the better fight despite its obvious outcome. Lynch did of course win; Lita hung around for an emotional send off from the fans.
The tag team match between The Viking Raiders and The Usos didn’t even happen, with The Usos confusingly attacking the Vikings before they got to the ring and then just walking off with the belts; the Raiders not even given an opportunity to recover. Huge wasted opportunity and a baffling decision.
Lastly, the Men’s Elimination Chamber match. Bobby Lashley was defending his title here, but was taken out of the equation entirely thanks to his pod being broken by Seth Rollins hurling Austin Theory through it – and supposedly injuring Lashley in the process. Though this seemed far too convenient – and likely was, with the ‘injury’ all but confirmed as a work after the event – it meant that Lashley could ‘lose’ the belt without having to be unconvincingly pinned by any of the participants at least. It also gave us a geniuine wow moment, with Lashley’s pod activating during the ‘random’ selection moment without him in it, leaving a frustrated Brock Lesnar to physically smash his way out of his pod rather than waiting to be selected, which was apparently unplanned. Genuinely spectacular stuff. Lesnar went on to win after almost immediately – and unsatisfyingly quickly – eliminating Rollins, Riddle and AJ Styles, then chasing a terrified Austin Theory around the ring Benny Hill-style and taking him out after F-5ing him off the top of a pod. This was another scary moment, though didn’t look botched (and Theory seemed perfectly safe despite the massive drop, thankfully).
On the whole, a pretty fun event despite some obvious shortcomings, but it does leave Wrestlemania in a weird place, with Lesnar holding the WWE Championship, he’ll be challenging Reigns for the Universal Championship – with the winner taking both belts. Which will also leave the general storylines in a strange place for WWE going forwards, though those of us who don’t keep up with the action on a weekly basis and only tune in for these big events (yep, that’ll be me!) should get a lot of satisfaction from seeing Lesnar vs Reigns at least. It’s definitely not one for the regular fans, but filthy casuals like me should have some fun when it comes around.
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