Matt’s Last Look: Elimination Chamber 2014

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Elimination Chamber
February 23, 2014
Target Center, Minneapolis, MN

Well here we are, PPV number two of the 2014 calendar, the last PPV stop on the road to WrestleMania. That of course means that I am talking about the February tradition known as the Elimination Chamber, a show where once over, historically it has been possible to get a clearer glimpse of the upcoming WrestleMania card. This year was no exception, as following the PPV (and subsequent episode of Raw) we can now see where the WWE is heading towards WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans. That said, there is still some uncertainty in the air. But anyway, lets just jump right into things with the show at hand.

On the pre-show, Cody Rhodes & Goldust defeated Ryback & Curtis Axel. Axel was accompanied to the ring by Minnesota born legend, his grandfather, Larry ‘the Axe’ Hennig in a cool cameo. As far as the match went, it was nothing spectacular. It was there to get the live crowd ready for the PPV as these pre-show matches tend to be. There were no signs of dissension between the Rhodes Brothers by the way so I don’t think we’ll be getting that Cody/Goldust match at Mania. Its more likely that they are added to a multi-team Tag Team Championship match on that show.

Anyway, we move on to the actual PPV. The opening video package was all about the Elimination Chamber as you would expect. Typically strong opening. After the opening pyro we were welcomed to the show by our usual announce team of Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler & John Bradshaw Layfield. From there it was right to our opening match.

WWE Intercontinental Championship:
Big E (c) vs Jack Swagger w/Zeb Colter
My pick heading in: Big E
Winner: Big E with the Big Ending at 11:46.
I was surprised that this match opened the show, but I am happy to say that this match surpassed my expectations. It was a very solid power based match that had plenty of back and forth action. I didn’t think there was any doubt that Big E was going to drop the title to Swagger here, as I saw this as a run of the mill title defence heading in, so I was a bit shocked to hear a lot of people were expecting a win for the Real American here. I think Big E has had a solid reign as I.C Champion so far taking on a variety of opponents, so it makes sense to keep the title on him here. I don’t really see them having huge plans for Swagger in the future after all. That’s not a knock on him though, as I have always thought he can bring it when given the chance and this was no exception. One spot from the match stuck out for me – Big E charging at Swagger on the apron and should tackling, sending both men hard to the floor. That was great! Anyway, the end of the match saw Swagger attempt to lock in the Patriot lock, but Big E fought out of the hold and came back with the Big Ending for the win. Zeb was his usual great self at ringside as well. Obviously Big E’s reign as I.C Champion continues from here and I think its likely he’ll enter a program with Cesaro over the title going forward into Mania, with the other member of Colter’s faction possibly being able to do what Swagger failed to. Anyway, this match was really solid and a good start to the night.
Grade: ***

Immediately after the match, Bad News Barrett popped up on his podium. His bad news was that Russia had won more gold medals than the US in the winter Olympics. Can I just say how much I love Barrett’s character at the moment?

Following this we got hype for Hulk Hogan’s return the following night on Raw as the host of WrestleMania XXX. Great to see the Hulkster making his homecoming. Hogan’s glory days had passed by the time I got into wrestling, but anyone who is a true fan can tell just what it means to have him back with the company where he started it all.

We then went to footage of Kane attacking Bryan on both Raw and Smackdown the week before the PPV. Byron Saxton followed up with a word from Daniel Bryan. Bryan said despite the pain he was going to do whatever it took to win the Chamber tonight before leading the crowd in YES chants.

WWE Tag Team Championship:
New Age Outlaws (c) vs The Usos
My pick heading in: The Usos via count-out
Winners: New Age Outlaws when Billy Gunn rolled up Jimmy Uso at 8:19
Our next match was for the WWE Tag Team Championship, the titles won by the Outlaws at the pre-show of last month’s PPV from Cody Rhodes & Goldust. I did not expect a title change here, but I was quite shocked that the Outlaws got the pinfall victory over the challengers – I thought we would get the heels walk out to retain finish they so often love to do. The match was decent enough though, albeit nothing spectacular. The Outlaws have not really look out of place in the ring despite their age since returning, although they did struggle a little bit to keep up with the dynamic offence of the Usos here. In the end, Road Dogg got up on the apron whilst Jimmy and Billy were going at it. The distraction allowed Billy to roll up the Uso with his hands on the tights for the cheap pin. It was strange that the announcers didn’t really play up the tights though. Regardless, I think its more a matter of when than if the Usos take the titles from the Outlaws in the future. I think its highly likely thats the direction they are going based on them getting one over the champs the next night on Raw. Its likely to be in that multi-team match I mentioned earlier at Mania.
Grade: **

Right after that match, we were interrupted once more by the awesomeness of Bad News Barrett. The bad news was that Daniel Bryan would not win the WWE title tonight, which drew some heat from the crowd. Barrett’s podium broke by the way so he wasn’t able to get all the way up.

We then went to the WrestleMania countdown. 42 days from the show and even less at the time of writing. I will be in New Orleans for the Mania weekend experience and it will also be my first time in mainland U.S. I cannot wait! We followed this up with a plug of the WWE Network and a reminder of how I am unable to get it for months.

Darren Young vs Titus O’Neil
My pick heading in: Titus O’Neil
Winner: Titus O’Neil with the Clash of the Titus at 6:29.
The whole idea of this match just screamed filler from the moment it was announced. Most of the build was barely acknowledged on Raw heading in as well so that didn’t help. Hence the crowd was pretty dead for this. I’m not sure why they felt the need to split to Prime Time Players. Yes, they were a lower rung team of the face side of the division with teams like the Usos and the Rhodes Brothers ahead in the pecking order, but I really think they are going to get lost in the shuffle heading forward. Darren Young in particular. Titus at least is a big guy they like who also has a ton of charisma. We’ll see how he goes as a heel but I think he’s the kind of guy people want to cheer. This whole thing seemed similar to the split of Cryme Tyme for me – a solid team prematurely split for the big guy to go heel – and we saw how that turned out. A fairly disappointing match here considering the chemistry you would expect these two to have together going back to their NXT Redemption days. Titus won with the Clash of the Titus but he wasn’t on Raw at all the next night. Not a great sign for him or Darren.
Grade: *

At this point, broken podium Barrett showed up once again. He acknowledged the broken podium and blamed the electricians of Minnesota before making comments about Hogan. Usual awesome Barrett, but I was wondering where this was going by this point. We then got a video package highlighting the incredible build to the Shield/Wyatts match.

The Shield vs Wyatt Family
My pick heading in: Wyatt Family
Winner: Wyatt Family after Bray Wyatt pinned Roman Reigns at 22:37.
My thoughts heading into this match – this is going to be awesome. My thoughts looking back on it – yes, this was awesome! Hell, the crowd even got a “This is awesome” chant going as soon as the entrances were complete. That’s a credit to how well this match was built up and how much the crowd wanted to see these two strong factions go at it. It made sense that the Wyatt Family would go over here as they’ll be sticking around for a while, whilst we have been seeing dissension in the Shield for a while now. The match started out as a wild brawl around the ring before the bell even rung, with the Shield getting the early advantage, and the crowd was eating this thing up big time! Things were finally calmed down and the match began officially as a regular tag match. The pacing was just fine, but things really kicked into the next gear when the action just broke down into an absolute war throughout the arena. The story of the match amongst all the craziness was the Wyatts working to take out the Shield one by one, a tactic the Hounds of Justice had used for the past year on their adversaries. Ambrose and Wyatt ended up brawling through the crowd towards the end of the match, but Ambrose never returned. It was a little weird, but obviously its a plot point they are using to forward the Shield split in the coming weeks or months. All six of these guys looked incredible, but I think Seth Rollins was the star, despite often being the overlooked member of the Shield. Man that guy does incredible stuff in the ring and tonight was no exception. In the end, he was taken out by the Wyatts putting him through the Spanish announce table which brought the match down to Roman Reigns against the entire Wyatt Family. In an awesome spot, Bray attempted to hit him with Sister Abigail, only for Reigns to use his strength to break free before it could connect. He made a nice come back, spearing Harper in the process, but in the end the numbers were too much to overcome, and Bray put Reigns away with a successful Sister Abigail shortly afterwards. Incredible match, and I’d say the match of the year at this point. Prior to this it was Bray/Bryan last month at the Rumble, so Bray Wyatt can now say he’s been in the two best matches of the year so far. He’s ready for this push. I think we’ll see a rematch between these guys, which is great news. It will likely be on Raw with the Shield split coming there.
Grade: ****3/4

After more WWE Network hype, the lovely Renee Young was backstage with Christian. Christian said his recent setbacks would mean nothing after he won the title tonight in the Chamber. Lots of people were expecting him to be jumped by Lesnar here although I didn’t think it would happen. You can’t exactly put the title on Brock when he’s facing Taker at Mania.

WWE Diva’s Championship:
AJ Lee (c) w/Tamina Snuka vs Cameron
My pick heading in (or rather as the match started): AJ Lee
Winner: Cameron via DQ at 3:52
This match was not announced before the show, but AJ got on the mic beforehand and said she was forced to defend her Diva’s Championship. She bragged about Naomi being out of action with her eye injury before being interrupted by her opponent, the less talented of the Funkadactyls – Cameron. Now I’ll admit, Cameron has improved a fair bit lately, but there is still room for improvement on her end. Then again, this was a way to fill four minutes so its not like there was much to expect in this one. AJ retained the title when Tamina attacked Cameron out of the ring, getting the champion disqualified. There was a spot in the match that saw Tamina accidentally hit AJ with a superkick, but I’m not sure they are planning on doing a Tamina face turn just yet. It could be a back up if Naomi is unable to go for WrestleMania, but I think she’ll be challenging AJ there.
Grade: 1/2*

We now got the final appearance of the night for Bad News Barrett. Yes, the podium was still broken. He plugged the WWE Network before delivering the bad news that with all the content available to subscribers, there personal lives were going to suffer.

We then went to a comedy segment backstage that saw Santino, Emma, Great Khali, Los Matadores and El Torito playing with the WWE Lego set. I wish Barrett showed up to kick it over again like on Raw. That was hilarious. This segment was not.

Batista vs Alberto Del Rio
My pick heading in: Batista
Winner: Batista via the Batista Bomb at 8:00.
I’ll make a full disclaimer right now – as soon as Batista made his entrance I took my bathroom break. Not exactly what the WWE should be going for with their WWE Championship challenger for the biggest show of the year. The Batista experiment is not working, and the fans turned on him just like they did last month at the Rumble. Alberto Del Rio of all people was being cheered after blind siding the Animal with a pair of crutches. The atmosphere for this was a lot of fun to watch event though the match itself was pretty bad. We got random crowd chants including the awesome “Bootista” which was even acknowledged the following night on Raw. Anyway, after Del Rio working over Batista and getting cheered for it, Batista made his come back (to boos) and won the match with a Batista Bomb. The fans are really not getting behind Batista at all since he won the Rumble last month. Its time to pull the audible WWE. Turn the guy heel. I think it will happen eventually, although it looks like we might have to get through him winning the title at Mania first based on where things seem to be headed on Raw. By the way, it’s also not a good sign for the WWE title match at Mania that Batista was once again blown up minutes in. The guy has seen better days for sure. After the match he did his “deal with it” thing to the crowds. Were we seriously supposed to cheer this guy? Great job by the crowd once again.
Grade: *

After another WWE Network plug, we headed over to our pre-show panel hosted by Josh Mathews. The panel this month consisted of Mark Henry, The Miz and Rey Mysterio. They made their Chamber picks with Henry choosing Sheamus, Miz picking Bryan and Mysterio choosing Cesaro. This strengthened my theory heading in that Orton was winning. Anyway, we went to a video package about the Chamber as that match was up next.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship – Elimination Chamber Match:
Randy Orton (c) vs Daniel Bryan vs John Cena vs Sheamus vs Christian vs Cesaro w/Zeb Colter
Entrant Order:
Sheamus and Cesaro started. First entrant = Daniel Bryan, Second Entrant = Christian, Third Entrant = John Cena, Final Entrant = Randy Orton

My pick heading in: Randy Orton
Winner: Randy Orton pinning Daniel Bryan at 37:24

Eliminations:
Sheamus by a splash from Christian at 26:00
Christian by a running knee from Bryan at 27:07
Cesaro via submission from the STFU applied by Cena at 30:04
John Cena by Randy Orton following Sister Abigail by an interfering Bray Wyatt at 32:32
Daniel Bryan by Randy Orton following an RKO at 37:24

With the talent involved in this match, this was bound to be a very good match. It lived up to the hype, even though a lot of people aren’t too thrilled with the booking. Let me say one thing – I was upset when Bryan did not win the Rumble last month, but at no moment did I expect him to win the title here. This is not the kind of match or PPV where you win the first title. Now, my ideal situation would have been for Bryan to win the title at Mania, but I’m not too sure if that is on the cards. Not here though. I’ll get into all that after the match though. I was really impressed by everyone in this match. Cesaro definitely did not look out of place and thrived in the Chamber setting to the point that I would say he was the star of the match with it being his first main event shot. I’m glad to see Cesaro finally getting the chance to shine (great spin to Orton), and whilst I don’t think he’ll be pushed to the moon right away, he has a bright future. This years Money in the Bank winner anyone? I was also glad to see Christian put on a good showing and actually eliminate Sheamus as the first pin in the match following a splash off the top of the Chamber. That was a great spot, although I had flashbacks to RVD crushing Triple H’s throat when he first went up there. Its clear Christian suits working as a heel better, so whilst his turn was sudden, I think it will work out just fine. On the topic of Sheamus, the spot where he busted the chamber glass to go after Orton was really cool. Cena was predictably eliminated when the Wyatts showed up and beat him down allowing Orton to pin him and set up Bray/Cena for Mania. The involvement of the Wyatts was a key part of the match for another reason as well though – it led to Kane coming to ringside to admonish them whilst Bryan and Orton were left to go at it for the gold. Bryan took Kane down pre-emptively which led to Kane coming back and attempting to cost Bryan the match. I thought the match was over when Orton hit the first RKO following Kane’s interference, but Bryan managed to kick out and the pop was insane. Bryan attempted to fight back, but in the end Kane would interfere once more, and Bryan would face defeat following a second RKO, What is promising here is that Orton once again was unable to beat Bryan clean – a theme that has continued ever since SummerSlam. I’m not sure if Bryan gets the title at Mania, but he’ll have it by SummerSlam, that’s for sure. Anyway, Orton wins to retain his title and face Batista in one of the most under anticipated WWE title matches at WrestleMania, but this match itself was excellent. On another PPV it could have been the match of the night, but we had that awesome six man earlier which trumped it. Yeah the booking was predictable, but it made sense with what we are headed for.
Grade: ****

After the match, Michael Cole ranted on commentary about Daniel Bryan being screwed over once again by Kane and the Authority stating this had to stop. This all culminates in the Superdome at Mania. Thats where we go off the air.

Three Stars of the Night:
1. Seth Rollins – phenomenal showing in the six man. The guys athleticism is incredible. I really hope he isn’t lost in the shuffle when the Shield splits.
2. Cesaro – I was shocked when he was first announced for the Chamber match. He did not look out of place tonight. His standing in the company has grown a lot since his match with Cena a few weeks back on Raw.
3. Roman Reigns – this guy is going to be a star. He was great in his match down to finally being pinned at the end.

This was really tough – so many good performers on this show that I couldn’t list more than half of them!

FINAL THOUGHTS:
Overall a good PPV from the WWE to carry them into the launch of the network and Mania season. This show had two matches that reached the **** star range and any show that can do that is worth the money to me. One of those matches – The Shield vs The Wyatt Family – is currently the match of the year, but we’re obviously still very early on to see if that claim will stand by the end of 2014. You also had a very solid opener between Big E and Swagger that I really enjoyed. This show was built very well and I think it delivered. The booking was pretty predictable as you can see from my predictions where I got most of the matches right (and in the cases I didn’t neither title actually changed hands), but unlike at the Rumble the booking actually made sense. The only real negative on the show was Batista/Del Rio which was terrible with Batista looking very out of shape. At least the crowd reaction was fun.

A lot of people are angry that this show did not end with Daniel Bryan as WWE World Heavyweight Champion. I did not expect it to happen, nor should it of. I’m not thrilled that all indications point to him being out of the title match at WrestleMania which looks like it will be Randy Orton vs Batista, but at this point I will be genuinely surprised if that match ends the show. It looks like the company is going with Daniel Bryan vs Triple H, which is a fitting culmination to the Authority storyline that kicked off at SummerSlam when Triple H screwed Bryan out of his reign as champion. At WrestleMania, Daniel Bryan finally gets his revenge. If the WWE really didn’t have big plans for Bryan going forward, he would not be facing Trips at Mania. Look at Triple H’s singles opponents since retiring from full time action – Taker, Punk, Brock, Nash – all major names. The guy with the power isn’t going to step into the ring with some guy he doesn’t consider worthy. Let this thing play out.

I fully believe WrestleMania ends with Daniel Bryan pinning Triple H in the last match of the night. I could see Bryan standing tall in the ring with Hogan to close the show. You don’t get a bigger WrestleMania moment than that – standing with the guy who started it all. Batista will win the title earlier in the night in a match that will be booed of the building, but I fully expect he will turn heel the next night on Raw leading to a Batista/Bryan program for the title going forwards. The only thing that would be better than the current direction would be for Triple H/Bryan to take place earlier in the night with the added stipulation that if Bryan beats Triple H he gets in the title match. I don’t think it happens, but it is still possible with 5 weeks of TV between now and New Orleans.

WrestleMania is shaping up to be a good line up aside from the Batista/Orton if the current booking is considered. We know we are getting Brock/Taker based on this past episode of Raw. You can pretty much lock in Wyatt/Cena and some kind of match involving the Shield members along with Triple H/Bryan as your big matches. That’s not even considering what the other guys will be doing. Add in Hulkamania running wild and I am pumped. I can’t believe I’ll be there in just over a month. I’m more excited than I can ever recall in my wrestling fandom.

FINAL GRADE: 7 out of 10

2014 PPV Ranking so far:
1. Elimination Chamber
2. Royal Rumble

Author: Matt McCulloch