Starting off on a personal note. The official theme for Elimination Chamber was “Ignition” by Toby Mac. This is a step up for Toby from Fatal 4 Way last year. For those who don’t know, Toby Mac is currently know for his music on Christian radio. So to see that he provided two songs for WWE Pay Per Views was quite the shock to me.
February of 2011 is an interesting month but not necessarily for anything that happens in the ring. The Rock, Undertaker, and Triple H all return in the month of February, building towards what they will do at WrestleMania. Mr. McMahon returns from his coma to announce there will be a special guest host for WrestleMania. Vince won’t be seen again on TV for some time. They never mention his coma or getting beat down by Nexus again. Also, Booker T joins the Smackdown broadcast team. I know not everyone likes Booker on color commentary but I love it. He gets so excited about what is going on, its like watching Smackdown with a friend. He has a quality that reminds me of Dusty Rhodes or Randy Savage on commentary.
As for the in ring, Elimination Chamber is always an amazing spectacle. No doubt the two Elimination Chamber matches will be among the top matches of the year. But frankly, the in ring action really suffers. Especially after The Rock shows up. The Raws after Elimination Chamber are heavy on promos and angles, light on the in ring action. Smackdown is slightly better week to week in ring but even that show is leaning heavy on angles as we build towards WrestleMania.
The first Raw of the month, Mr. McMahon shows up and announces we will have a special guest host for WrestleMania. The next week, The Rock returns much to the delight of everyone. A week later, Undertaker and Triple H return. These are all huge moments that drew a lot of attention on WrestleMania coming up around the corner. On the other hand, I have often wondered what it is like to be at one of these Raws. You pack up the kids, pay a bunch of money, get to the show the family has been looking forward to for months, then you sit in front of a bunch of long talking segments and one star matches. It probably doesn’t make you want to buy a ticket the next time WWE comes to town.
If You Smell….
On the February 14 Raw, The Rock closes the show, revealing he is the special guest host of WrestleMania. Never has the word electrifying been more apt. If you have been following along since 2010, the reaction The Rock received that night blew anything else anyone on the roster has received out of the water. Even watching it back 11 years later, its an amazing segment. What The Rock can do connecting with the crowd, it’s unbelievable. It helps that even in 2011 The Rock was one of the top stars in Hollywood. It also helps that in his promos The Rock can say things that aren’t PG. Furthermore, he seems to be the only person who can take the piss out of John Cena in a promo, whereas all the heels have to just scowl at John as he tears them a new one. Still, it’s clear that The Rock is a bigger star than anyone on this show and it’s not even close. The Rock’s power is so great that he was able to get John Cena a Fruity Pebbles sponsorship based off an off the cuff line in a promo.
Not to be outdone, the next week John Cena opens up Raw with a very strong promo, dusting off his rap skills to respond to The Rock. The Miz tries to also respond to The Rock. Miz is determined to not be an afterthought in this WrestleMania main event. We will see how that works out for him. The next in a long line of baffling decisions, the Anonymous Raw GM decides that John Cena and The Miz will team to face the new World Tag Team Champions, Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel for the championship. Miz singlehandedly wins the World Tag Team Championship against The Corre, never tagging in Cena during the match. Wade Barrett demands an immediate rematch, which the Raw GM grants. Miz turns on Cena, hitting him with the Skullcrushing Finale and costing himself the Tag Team Titles. This lifts Slater and Gabriel into an exclusive club of three time World Tag Team Champions. I really don’t understand the point of this segment.
The next week, The Rock joins the show via pre taped interview. Even in a video on the tron, The Rock is able to pop the crowd unlike anyone else. He slaps back against Cena, only briefly mentioning The Miz. Later on John Cena is confronted by The Miz. Cena offers Miz a challenge. If Cena can beat Alex Riley in a Steel Cage Match, Riley will no longer work for The Miz. Naturally, Cena is able to best Riley, being stiffer than usual with the young man. This calls into question the future of Alex Riley but barely moves the needle in building this WrestleMania main event program.
Two Years In The Making.
Last month I may have glossed over The New Nexus role in costing Randy Orton the WWE Championship against The Miz at Royal Rumble. Members of the New Nexus took care of the referee while Punk hits Orton with the GTS. Punk explains what his motivation for messing with Randy Orton is. They lean on recent history and continuity. We rewind to Unforgiven 2008. CM Punk is forced to forfeit the World Heavyweight Championship after Randy Orton and Legacy jump Punk in the back, causing an injury.
Orton doesn’t care what Punk’s reason is. He is determined to punt everyone in sight, taking out members of the New Nexus before getting to Punk. Orton punts Husky Harris. It will be a while before we see him again.
Our WrestleMania program will not be seen at this time. Instead we take a detour on the Road to WrestleMania to allow CM Punk to feud with John Cena on TV. Cena’s issues with The New Nexus seemed pretty well settled when Cena eliminated all of them from the Royal Rumble. This will be the stretch where CM Punk gets three straight wins over John Cena. The first came on the 1/17 Raw where Mason Ryan debuted, attacking Punk which caused a DQ victory for the Straight Edge Savior. On the 2/7 Raw, Punk wins when Cena punches him below the belt, causing a DQ. Why John Cena did this is beyond explanation. That same night, Punk ordered The New Nexus to soften up all of the combatants in the Elimination Chamber. Cena and Punk had a decent little match going when John gets sick of it and nails Punk in the nether regions. On 2/14, Punk finally gets a pin fall on John Cena when a New Nexus member hands their leader a wrench from under the ring and he nails Cena with it.
With all of this in play, the story at Elimination Chamber involves Randy Orton jumping CM Punk before his pod can open. It seems the pod didn’t open correctly but The Viper didn’t much care. He jumps Punk, beats him mercilessly, eliminating him quickly from the match. The Anonymous GM gets involved and reinstated Punk into the match. Punk eventually goes on to eliminate Orton. Cena’s interactions with Punk weren’t anything beyond what the other competitors were doing to each other.
After Elimination Chamber, the challenge is made and CM Punk will face Randy Orton at WrestleMania. But which members of the New Nexus will be allowed in Punk’s corner? The Anonymous Raw GM decides that Orton will face each member of the New Nexus in the coming weeks. Anyone who beats Orton will be allowed to accompany CM Punk at WrestleMania. Those who lose to Randy Orton will be banned from ringside. First up is Michael McGillicutty. McGillicutty didn’t have a good showing. He got punted and we won’t be seeing him for a while. Next month we will find out if any of The New Nexus have what it takes to defeat The Viper.
Crown ’em, King!
I’m so down on The Miz at this point, thanks in large part to this feud, I almost wish they would have put the belt on Lawler at this point. Considering how the WrestleMania main event is going to go and how Miz takes a complete backseat to The Rock, they might as well have had Lawler face Cena at WrestleMania. Miz continues his feud with Jerry Lawler going into Elimination Chamber. On 2/7, The Miz comes out to cut a promo and kind of puts Lawler over as a legend. I appreciate that and it was a pretty good promo by Miz. Lawler responded by crapping on Miz, not really giving Miz any credit for being WWE Champion. Lawler attacks Miz. Ted DiBiase Jr gets involved as does Daniel Bryan, leading to a tag team match. Miz gets a nice win on 2/14 over Daniel Bryan. WWE Champion vs US Champion as a tune up for a match with Jerry Lawler. Daniel Bryan hasn’t been doing much the last couple of months aside from having Divas fight over his virginity. Miz also appears on the 2/18 Smackdown, the 600th episode celebration. He gets a win over Kofi Kingston with some help from Alberto Del Rio.
The brings us to Elimination Chamber. The Miz faces Jerry Lawler for the WWE Championship. The match is fine, I guess. It would be better as a Raw main event. I’m surprised that they didn’t use some more Memphis shenanigans to at least make it fun or interesting. Alex Riley getting a fireball to the face would have made it more interesting. Miz gets the win and this will mean a lot more to the Lawler vs Michael Cole feud than it does anything for The Miz.
After Elimination Chamber, Miz is determined to not be an afterthought in all the excitement over The Rock returning. He cuts some strong promos and is working really hard. It’s just hard not to be overshadowed by The Rock.
For Jerry Lawler’s part, after Elimination Chamber he is interviewed by Michael Cole. Leading into the match against Miz, Jerry Lawler’s mother died. Michael Cole runs down Lawler with a serious of insulting questions but when he brings up Lawler’s mom, that crosses the line. Lawler decides to challenge Michael Cole to a match at WrestleMania. Cole turns him down, rightfully calling it a stupid idea. But the next week, Cole has had a change of heart. On one condition. Cole can have his coach in his corner. That coach would be Jack Swagger. So Swagger goes from winning Money in the Bank at last years WrestleMania to Michael Cole’s second at this year’s. Being in a featured match against Jerry Lawler would at least be a step sideways for Swagger instead of a fall from grace.
A Matter of Respect.
There wasn’t exactly a big program for the WWE Tag Team Title this month. But it is noteworthy thar Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov have been booked better than any other Tag Team Champions up to this point. They will lose the WWE Tag Team Titles to Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater at Elimination Chamber. Having won the title in December, Santino and Koslov have been frequently featured on both Raw and Smackdown. They have had title defenses on Pay Per View. Their run is just about three months. While The Hart Dynasty had a longer run, they were rarely seen on TV or Pay Per View. ShowMiz had a more high profile storyline but that was more in service of getting The Miz over than the team. I also don’t remember them defending the titles on TV often. I still don’t know why Cody Rhodes and Drew McIntyre were ever Champions. So, odd though it may be, Santino and Kozlov are likely the greatest WWE Tag Team Champions we have seen since the start of this decade we are covering.
On the other side of the ledger, Slater and Gabriel will lose the WWE Tag Team Titles to John Cena and The Miz then win the Titles back minutes later. That would make Slater and Gabriel three time WWE Tag Team Champions, which puts them in some exclusive company. It’s odd when you look at the list of teams that have held the Titles three or more times. They won’t get the kind of respect that Santino and Kozlov have during their run. Their role in The Corres has been as background characters who scowl during Wade Barrett’s promos. They likely won’t be defending the Titles on TV often. They haven’t in their previous runs. They won’t be defending the Titles at WrestleMania, although they will be in a forgettable match.
And The Rest.
Triple H comes back. He whips the everloving crap out of Sheamus, pretty well settling that matter in one segment. Triple H Pedigrees Sheamus through a table. Then Evan Bourne comes back and mops up what is left of Sheamus, really making this a bad day for The Celtic Warrior.
The Bellas Twins feud over Daniel Bryan’s virginity with Gail Kim now shifts to Eve Torres and the Divas Title, even though Eve has expressed no interest in sleeping with Daniel Bryan.
Speaking of Daniel Bryan, even though he is US Champion, for him its a hard road to WrestleMania. Teaming with Jerry Lawler is likely the best thing to happen to him all month. DB has been largely invisible. Then he gets jumped backstage by Sheamus on the 2/21 Raw. On 2/28, Bryan gets jumped by The Miz on his way to the ring before a match that never takes place.
Smackdown is pretty well dominated by Vickie Guerrero being on a power trip and out to get Edge. With Teddy Long in a medical facility, she is now in charge of Smackdown. It is already understood that Edge will face Alberto Del Rio at WrestleMania but every effort is being made to keep them apart from each other. Del Rio will enter into a program where he keeps trying to break Kofi Kingston’s arm with a Cross Arm Breaker on both Raw and Smackdown. The Corre targets The Big Show, seeking to destroy The World’s Largest Athlete. Cody Rhodes returns from facial injury and is Dashing no more. He is out for revenge against Rey Mysterio. As usual, Smackdown has better in ring action than Raw but the most important storylines are on Raw. As evidence of them replaying the entire Rock promo on Smackdown.
A Stacked Deck.
Thanks, in part, to the interference of Kelly Kelly, Edge speared his way to victory over Dolph Ziggler at Royal Rumble. Vickie Guerrero decides to put the World Heavyweight Championship on the line in a mixed tag team handicap match. Dolph teams with LayCool against Edge and Kelly Kelly. Edge has some doubts about his partner, considering it’s his title on the line. Kelly proves to be a worthy partner, winning the match with a spear. Vickie, realizing she is in control of Smackdown, fires Kelly Kelly on the spot. Next week, Edge will defend the World Heavyweight Championship against Dolph Ziggler. The spear will be banned. And as a final insult, Vickie Guerrero will be the special guest referee.
Drew McIntyre is very upset that Kelly Kelly has been fired and confronts Edge backstage about it before his big match. Edge has bigger matters on his plate and rightly point out that their romance died weeks ago. During the course of Edge’s match with Dolph Ziggler, Vickie hurts her ankle, allowing for another referee to enter the match. That referee being Clay Matthews of the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. Vickie sees Edge use the spear, as she isn’t knocked out or anything. She just looks on in horror as Edge wins the match against impossible odds.
Vickie shows up on Raw to inform the world that she is stripping Edge of the World Heavyweight Championship and he will be fired next Friday. She could have done it right then on Raw. Edge was standing in the ring at that moment, verbally sparing with Alberto Del Rio. Why wait several days? That brings us to the 600th episode of Smackdown. Even though Edge has already been declared fired, that isn’t until the end of the show. So he is allowed to participate in a match pitting the Smackdown and Raw combatants in their respective Elimination Chamber Matches into a Ten Man Tag Match. The match itself is quite good. It’s a fine show case for all of the talent who will be in the Elimination Chamber. It’s also a good opportunity to remind us that Kane still exists and will be in the Elimination Chamber on Sunday. Since losing the World Heavyweight Championship, The Big Red Machine has largely disappeared from television. So Vickie has a big ceremony to end the show in which she strips Edge of the championship and hands it to Dolph Ziggler. It’s kind of disappointing that Dolph Ziggler’s first World Championship was won because his girlfriend handed him the belt. With all hope lost, Edge fired and Vickie having gotten away with this crime, only one man can set things right.
Teddy Long returns from his cardiac event. It turns out that Dolph Ziggler attacked Teddy Long in a plot hatched by Vickie Guerrero. The Corre was innocent all along. Teddy orders Dolph to defend the championship immediately against Edge who is rehired moments after being fired. Edge wins back the World Heavyweight Championship to cap off the historic 600th episode of Smackdown. Then Teddy fires Dolph Ziggler. The crowd sings goodbye to Dolph.
Dolph is replaced in the Smackdown Elimination Chamber by The Big Show. The match is quite good if for no other reason that the spectacle of the whole thing. Edge survives the tremendous challenge to remain World Heavyweight Champion. Then he gets jumped by Alberto Del Rio. But then Christian returns to save his old partner Edge from this dastardly attack by ADR. Christian was put on the shelf by Del Rio at the beginning of Del Rio’s entry into the company, which seems like a long time ago. They have done a lot with Del Rio in a very short period of time.
Teddy Long is feeling charitable. He gives Vickie the opportunity to fight for her job. She will team with Drew McIntyre against Edge and Kelly Kelly. Vickie appeals to Chavo Guerrero for help but he seems to remember that she didn’t do a thing for him the entire time she was in power on Smackdown. Vickie loses to Kelly Kelly and his fired by Teddy Long. She throws a fit for the ages. Edge doesn’t have much time to bask in this moment. He gets jumped by Alberto Del Rio, hopefully putting the World Title feud on track heading towards WrestleMania.
See that image posted above? Nothing more really needs to be said. That about sums up February of 2011 for Alberto Del Rio and Kofi Kingston. Del Rio jumps Kofi. Gets him in a Cross Arm Breaker. Kofi leaves selling his arm. Let’s do it again next week or maybe even on Raw. It all starts when Alberto Del Rio decides to celebrate his Royal Rumble win on Smackdown in style. He has a piñata for Hornswoggle to break and a band. He spared no expenses. Hornswoggle misses the piñata and nails Del Rio. Del Rio puts the boots to Hornswoggle and Kofi runs in to make the save. While Kofi is tending to his fallen friend, Del Rio sneaks back into the ring, taking out Kofi with the piñata stick and put Kofi in the Cross Arm Breaker to teach him a lesson.
On 2/11 Smackdown, Alberto Del Rio opens the show talking about his destiny at WrestleMania. Kofi Kingston runs out with a kendo stick and laces Del Rio with it before they have a match. Del Rio gets the win and again Kofi walks away with a sore arm from the Cross Arm Breaker.
The next week, on the 600th edition of Smackdown, our Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston faces WWE Champion The Miz. Miz gets the win with help from Alberto Del Rio and once again, Kofi walks away from the conflict with a hurt arm.
Kofi Kingston and Alberto Del Rio open Elimination Chamber. They have a pretty decent match. Alberto Del Rio gets the win with his Cross Arm Breaker and one would think that would settle the matter on The Road to WrestleMania. But not so fast, my friend. On 2/21 Raw, even though he has owned Kofi at every corner of this feud, ADR jumps Kofi while on his way to the ring, putting him in a Cross Arm Breaker again. Building towards WrestleMania, I don’t see this issue with Kofi going much further. Especially with Christian coming back. I don’t get why Del Rio jumped Kofi here. He pretty well proved his point and repeatedly punked out Kofi for an entire month.
Typical Big Show Feud.
Continuing from the previous month, The Corre has it out for The Big Show. Show face Wade Barrett for a spot in the Elimination Chamber. The Corre gets involved and secures the win for Wade Barrett. The highlight of this segment is Ezekiel Jackson bodyslaming The Big Show. This isn’t as impressive as the commentators want you to believe. I would fully expect a large, muscular man like Ezekiel Jackson to be able to bodyslam The Big Show. Show gets a little retribution the next week when Rey Mysterio is subject of an attack by The Corre and The World’s Largest Athlete makes the save.
With Dolph Ziggler being fired, a substitution must be made in the Smackdown Elimination Chamber. This comes as a shock to Wade Barrett. They have some interaction in the Chamber Match. It’s fine, I guess. Big Show isn’t really built to do exciting things in an Elimination Chamber. To finish the month, Wade Barrett and Big Show square off one on one in a match on Smackdown. Wade Barrett gets counted out then The Corre attacks Big Show. This is likely the most heatless feud that will carry on all the way to WrestleMania.
Phantom of the WWE.
Cody Rhodes is cutting some strong promos at this point in 2011. He won’t let interviewers look at his face, turning his back to the camera. When he does reveal his face, Cody is wearing a Bill Lambeer or Will Perdue face mask, depending on your era of NBA Fandom. He is deeply resentful and bitter at Rey Mysterio for doing this to him. His good looks are mangled, in reality it doesn’t look all that bad. Mysterio cost him the opportunity to win the Royal Rumble. When asked if he feels bad for injuring Cody, Rey Mysterio doesn’t seem to care a whole lot. Injuries happen in the ring. On the 2/18 Smackdown, Cody cuts a great, atmospheric promo on Rey Mysterio, announcing he will return soon and vows revenge on the man who did this to him.
On 2/25 Smackdown, Rey wins a match against Kane. It’s a fine match but doesn’t do much for Kane. After the match, Dusty Rhodes comes to the ring. He calls Cody to the ring. The Dream demands Cody apologizes to Rey Mysterio. Dusty at this point still has charisma and the gift of gab. He carries the segment more or less singlehandedly. Reluctantly, Cody apologized for his behavior. Dusty goes to shake Rey’s hand one last time and holds on too long. It was a trap. Dusty and Cody beat down Rey Mysterio, leaving him laying in the ring. Cody even goes so far as to take Rey’s mask.
And The Rest.
The only other thing going on with Smackdown is the occasional bickering between Layla and Michelle McCool. When they win, they are good. When they lose, they fight. They are still very entertaining. There aren’t many other Divas acts who are as interesting as these two right now. I don’t know what they will do without them.
- Smackdown Elimination Chamber Match for the World Heavyweight Championship.
- Raw Elimination Chamber Match for the Number One Contender Spot against The Miz at WrestleMania.
- CM Punk vs John Cena. Raw. 2/14.
- Dolph Ziggler vs Edge. Vickie Guerrero as Special Guest Referee for the World Heavyweight Championship. Smackdown. 2/11.
- Dolph Ziggler and LayCool vs Edge and Kelly Kelly. For the World Heavyweight Championship. Smackdown. 2/4.
- Kofi Kingston vs Alberto Del Rio. Elimination Chamber.
- Kofi Kingston vs Alberto Del Rio. Smackdown. 2/11.
- The Miz vs Daniel Bryan. Raw. 2/14.
- Edge, John Morrison, R Truth, Rey Mysterio, John Cena, and Randy Orton vs CM Punk, Sheamus, Wade Barrett, Drew McIntyre, Kane, and Dolph Ziggler. Smackdown. 2/18.
- Kane vs Rey Mysterio. Smackdown. 2/25.
- Wade Barrett vs Rey Mysterio. Smackdown. 2/11.
- Kofi Kingston vs Drew McIntyre. Elimination Chamber Qualifier. Smackdown. 2/4.
- Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov vs Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel. WWE Tag Team Title Match. Elimination Chamber.