What a bizarre past few months it has been for WWE! On one level, there has been severe backlash from the fans with the departure of CM Punk from the company and the return of Batista – ending Daniel Bryan’s opportunity to participate in the main event of WrestleMania 30 and win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship (assuming he loses at Elimination Chamber). At another level, the hottest feud in professional wrestling – The Wyatt Family versus The Shield – is growing more exciting with each week, and the WWE Network is launching with a free one-week trial on February 24. Despite the opinion of the general public, the past two weeks of WWE programming have finally made the “Road to WrestleMania” exciting again.
The final stop before WrestleMania is the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view (PPV). Airing this Sunday for $45 on various PPV providers, this event is significant for two different reasons. First, this will be the last PPV sold solely through standard PPV providers, as the WWE Network will become the new home for WWE’s PPV events. While less historical, the second reason is simple: the match card for Elimination Chamber is absolutely solid.
From the kick-off match to the main event, Elimination Chamber seems exciting with several storylines finishing and others just beginning in time for WrestleMania.
The first point of intrigue on the Elimination Chamber match card is a minor storyline, but interesting nonetheless. Only a few weeks removed from their break-up, the (former) Primetime Players, Darren Young and Titus O’Neil, are set for a one-on-one contest to settle the score. Of course, this all began after the Primetime Players lost a match; O’Neil called Young “dead weight” and proceeded to assault him after that match. The reason this match is important despite its seeming triviality is that this is a defining point in both of these men’s careers as singles competitors, a harbinger of just part of the future of WWE.
In the tag team division, Rybaxel, Curtis Axel and Ryback will be squaring off against Cody Rhodes and Goldust. There is no story here, but this should be a good tag team contest regardless. With respect to the WWE Tag Team Championship, Jimmy and Jey Uso, the Usos, will be challenging the current champions, Road Dogg and Billy Gunn, the New Age Outlaws. While not the most exciting match on paper, this particular contest should be the beginning of phasing out the New Age the New Age Outlaws, the old friends of the Chief Operating Officer Triple H, and pushing the Usos as the tag team in WWE. In a slowly decaying tag team division, with the break-ups of the Primetime Players, perhaps Cody Rhodes and Goldust in the future, and The Shield soon, having the high-octane, popular Usos as the faces of the tag team division is a wise move if the division is going to recover from its losses.
The second to last title match of the night, Intercontinental Champion Big E will defend his title against the “Real American” Jack Swagger. Lately, Swagger has been portrayed as dominant, seeds also being planted for animosity between his tag team partner Cesaro, who is in the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Swagger having lost his qualifying match. Big E’s popularity and on-screen dominance has faltered as of late, so the logical move might be to have Big E defeat Swagger, leading to his and Cesaro’s manager Zeb Colter to abandon Swagger for Cesaro. This would then set up a small but interesting feud between Swagger and Cesaro, as Cesaro definitely won’t win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship because it does not make sense for the “big picture” storyline for WrestleMania. With this outcome, Big E looks strong, retaining his title, and the Real Americans (Swagger and Cesaro) can break up, allowing for each man to pursue his own singles career, especially Cesaro, who is nearing the prime of his career.
Although easily forgotten, there is another match at Elimination Chamber besides the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match, and that is between Alberto del Rio and the man who is set to main event WrestleMania 30, “The Animal,” Batista. The build for this feud – the events leading up to the match that will happen at Elimination Chamber – has been good for the suddenness of the feud. Del Rio has looked strong, while Batista has been portrayed as the babyface (“good guy”), despite the crowd’s negative reaction. Match-wise, this should be a solid contest. Del Rio is a fantastic worker, and Batista has yet to have a full match, so hopefully the “ring rust” that has been present in his return thus far will be polished. Without a doubt, unless there is some interference or other shenanigans, Batista will win this match. “The Animal” has to look strong going into WrestleMania, especially with the crowd rejecting his return, despite what the WWE writing team had planned.
Perhaps the most anticipated match in recent WWE history, or professional wrestling for that matter, the Wyatt Family will be squaring off against The Shield. In quick summation, these two trios are the top squads in WWE, and seeing them fight is akin to The Avengers fighting The Justice League – really. The Wyatt Family will undoubtedly win this match, as The Shield has been teased to break up, much tension forming between Shield members Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. Reigns and Ambrose are expected to feud following the Elimination Chamber, as Reigns is being pushed into his singles career, for the WWE writers have great plans for him. The third member of The Shield, Seth Rollins, is in a sort of “limbo” state, but his talent can allow him to flourish in the mid-card division, competing for the likes of the Intercontinental Championship or even Dean Ambrose’s United States Championship. In fact, speaking of the U.S. Championship, some speculation has been made that Reigns would defeat Ambrose for the U.S. Championship, fighting Intercontinental Champion Big E at WrestleMania 30 to unify the titles. Regardless of the future, this match is a must-see.
Finally, the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship is the main event of the evening. WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton will be defending his title against Sheamus, John Cena, Cesaro, Christian, and Daniel Bryan in a free-for-all contest. Now, Elimination Chamber (the PPV) is named after the Elimination Chamber match. The rules for this match are as follows: two men start in the ring while the four other participants are locked inside plexiglass pods; the ring and pods are surrounded by a chain-link chamber with metal grates even with the floor of the ring; every five minutes a participant is chosen at random to exit his pod, continuing until all men have exited their pods one man is standing at the end of the match. The booking for this match (the way it should end depending on the impending storylines ahead) is difficult at first, but rather straightforward.
My hypothesis for this match is conjecture, so do not interpret it any other way, but it is sound and highly likely. Daniel Bryan will not win this match; he will be cheated out of a victory allowing Randy Orton to retain his championship. What’s the reasoning behind this? The Authority, through Director of Operations Kane, will ensure that Bryan loses, having Kane interfere and allowing Orton to retain. This sets up a Bryan versus Kane match at WrestleMania 30, Bryan out of the title picture. However, and this theory is credited to hosts of the Smart Wrestling Fan podcast at smartwrestlingfan.com, Bryan’s insertion into the main event at WrestleMania could come the following Monday on Raw, when there is outrage at Bryan being cheated out of a victory. Triple H could tell Bryan that if he beats Kane at WrestleMania, he will be inserted into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match with Orton and Batista. At WrestleMania, Bryan would beat Kane, and then Triple H would come out and say that if Bryan really wants to be in the match, he has to beat him, too. Bryan would then beat Triple H, overcome all odds, and win the triple threat WWE World Heavyweight Championship match. For thefuture, Batista can either turn heel (“bad guy”) or feud with Orton even. I don’t want to look too far into the future, but I believe that, in the interim, this is a sound assumption.
As for the rest of the participants in the Elimination Chamber, I’ve already outlined how Cesaro would be handled, feuding with Swagger. Cesaro does not have to win the Elimination Chamber match to look strong. For Sheamus and Christian, there has been hinting at a feud between the two, as Sheamus accidentally hit Christian with his finishing maneuver, the Brogue Kick. Since Christian turned heel, this would be an obvious feud to have post-WrestleMania. Leaving one participant left, John Cena is set to face Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania, so expect some interference, perhaps, in Cena’s role in the Elimination Chamber, too.
This piece has exceeded my intended word count. For that, I apologize. I have been told that my pieces are a bit too “insider,” assuming the reader watches wrestling. In this particular column, I ensured that I explained things well. Of course, watching the product helps identify names with faces, but the basic storyline elements can be gleaned from this writing. To close, I want to discuss one rumor that has surfaced that makes for an exciting post-WrestleMania feud.
The Undertaker is expected to return (not a rumor) this Monday on Raw, the night after Elimination Chamber. His opponent at WrestleMania, who will challenge his 21-0 streak at WrestleMania, is supposedly Brock Lesnar. However, a rumor that has been supported by several sources, so it just requires confirmation on actual television, is that “The Icon,” Sting, will be returning to WWE. Without delving into too much detail, this would be a major return for a variety of reasons (that you can Google if interested) and would set up a WrestleMania 31 match that is best characterized as a fantasy match come to life.
WWE walks a thin line every year with its months leading up to WrestleMania. Things never look compelling and seem disappointing. However, with WrestleMania 30’s matches, the WWE Network, and the potential return of Sting, excitement could not be any higher. In short: order Elimination Chamber, get your free trial of the WWE Network, watch WrestleMania, and see what is so special about professional wrestling.
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