By Matt Straub
With so little time for the WWE to get its ducks in a row in time for the Elimination Chamber PPV, there was a good chance the show would feature haphazardly put together angles which would give the show a throwaway feel.
It would have been easy for WWE to do as well, since it could simply rely on the Chamber itself and the carnage which often takes place inside it to draw viewers this month, meaning it didn’t need incredibly deep back stories for the matches.
On short notice, however, and without much motivation to do so, WWE actually put together some decent reasons behind the matches this month, which to some fans means as much as the work itself.
While not all the ideas are good ones this month, there’s enough there to make a serviceable show, which is a success considering the time table. So let’s take a quick look at the matches in the chamber and how the show was put together.
Divas Champion Nikki Bella vs. Paige vs. Naomi
Triple Threat Match
This is a vehicle to get Paige back in the mix. She’s not great, but she’s probably the best actual wrestler the Divas division has, and has a bit of a personality. She’ll show off some moves getting revenge on Naomi, and start a feud with Nikki for the belt. I’d rather watch the Red Sox offense than this match, but at least some thought went into it instead of the usual Divas format of everyone vs. everyone else for no reason in a 6 or 8-person tag.
Matt’s Prediction: Paige dominates but Nikki cheats to win, setting up their feud. Everyone who watches it loses.
Brad's Prediction: Watching the last Divas' match on PPV, one woman nearly threw another woman down directly on her head and neck, which would have been hilarious if I wasn't thinking, geez, she could have been seriously injured just because of sloppy work. That's pretty much the Divas division right now ... just get through a match without ruining a career, or worse. As for this match itself, yes, it actually makes sense, as it has purpose. The title is on the line. Putting a Divas match on PPV has to involve the title in some way, or there is no point. So, finally, kudos to the WWE for giving the division the right push on screen. I honestly have no idea who will win the title, as each wrestler could win and it wouldn't surprise anyone. That's what every match should be in theory. So, there are positives. I'll go with Naomi winning the belt, as they seem to be pushing her the most.
Neville vs. Bo Dallas
Ok, some of the matches are just thrown together. Bo has been attacking Neville for ... well I’m not quite sure why. This might actually be a pretty good match in the ring, but is a perfect example of why the angles have to make the match matter. These are just two guys fighting. Hopefully they get to showcase their skills a bit.
Matt’s Prediction: Neville’s rise continues with a big win. Those who appreciate high-flyers love it, those who want good plots are bored to tears.
Brad's Prediction: Not surprisingly, I disagree with Matt. Angles and plots are all well and good, and it's likely why nearly everyone from my age group was so enthralled by Hulk Hogan back in the day. He could barely wrestle, but the buildup to his matches were always epic. So, nobody cared about what moves he could do, just that he would beat up his evil opponent and get the win in the end. Nowadays, you need a happy medium, of course. But in matches like this, in the mid-card of a PPV, some good, and potentially great, pure wrestling is a must. Even though the reason for these two youngsters wrestling each other doesn't make much sense, it has the potential to be a five-star match, which we need more of. Not everything should be John Cena refusing to lose, Roman Reigns getting praised for throwing a punch or even Brock Lesnar suplexing everyone out of the building, as much as I enjoy the latter. Wrestling is still wrestling, as much as it has to be sports entertainment. Bottom line, putting two guys in the ring who will wow you with their offensive skill-set, and not much else, is more than enough to make a match. Bo Dallas, who is Bray Wyatt's brother, something that might come into play down the road, isn't being pushed like Neville is, so Neville wins.
Elimination Chamber Match
King Barrett, Sheamus, R-Truth, Ryback, Dolph Ziggler and Rusev are in this one, which is an interesting use of the chamber itself. Instead of taking all the guys who were in the title picture and putting them in the chamber, WWE decided to use it to try and elevate two of its secondary belts. The first is for the IC belt, and has a couple of things going on. Ziggler and Rusev are fighting over Lana, whose allegiance to Ziggler seems to be based on his being there, which is dumb. I get taking her away from Rusev, but exactly zero thought went into getting her to Ziggler. Anyway, those two will meet at some point in the match, and R-Truth and Ryback are there for Barrett and Sheamus to beat up. They will fight at the end, then into the next couple of months.
Matt’s Prediction: Sheamus wins and feuds with Barrett.
Brad's Prediction: In a PPV called Elimination Chamber, shouldn't all the matches take place in one? Anyway, Rusev is the best of the bunch here, but with a ready-made feud with Dolph Ziggler already in motion, that eliminates him from winning the IC belt. Same goes, obviously, for Ziggler. Ryback being IC champion would ruin the image of what an IC champion used to be. I believe the only reason R-Truth ever gets on PPV now is to do is little rap intro, which gets the crowd going a bit. He's not going to win the title. That leaves King Barrett and Sheamus as the likely final two to battle for the belt. King Barrett had a nice streak going, but when it comes down to him or Sheamus, who doesn't seem to be liked by anyone, whether he's a face or a heel, the Irishman appears set to ascend to champion here. As a heel, Sheamus works, and giving him the IC belt elevates its importance more than putting the strap on Barrett.
WWE Tag Team Championship
Elimination Chamber Match
The danger of putting lesser names in the Chamber to try and build them up is the chance their arrival in the structure has the opposite effect and cheapens the Chamber. Hell in a Cell was once awesome until everyone got to fight in it, and this match could be signaling the same fate for the Chamber. This one is the New Day, Ascension, Kidd and Cesaro and a bunch of no-names. I think the New Day survives, and this many people in the Chamber could lead to some crazy spots, but I hate how unimportant it makes the Chamber feel.
Matt’s Prediction: It’s a New Day, just like all the other days in which they beat other teams no one cares about.
Brad's Prediction: Do I always disagree with Matt? Contrary to what he says, having an Elimination Chamber match involving a championship is all it really needs. That's if you believe in the importance of winning a championship. Besides the WWE world title, the lesser belts don't have the same appeal as they did back in the day, but this is one way to elevate them, as we've been writing about a lot. There's a lot of teams involved in this one, so I'll go with the champs retaining.
John Cena vs. Kevin Owens
This is a non-title match, which makes me think Cena is going over, since they won’t have to then explain why he’s not going to defend the NXT belt. This was a great way to introduce Owens to the majority of wrestling fans who don’t watch NXT and to put some new blood into the upper part of the card. Owens is much better than his first WWE promo showed, as he was clearly nervous and nearly botched a bunch of lines. Owens is big, strong and charismatic, meaning he was put on this earth for Vince McMahon to love. It doesn’t make much sense for Owens to keep going back and forth between WWE and NXT, so I’m interested to see if this is a one-shot deal. There’s also a chance Samoa Joe becomes involved, which I hope doesn’t happen in NXT. Joe is a big enough star to be in this spot, but I get using it to promote Owens, who needs the exposure. Still, I hate seeing Joe buried with the new guys. This role is perfect for Cena, who, despite what many think, doesn’t have to lose to get new blood over. Kevin Owens is getting famous because he’s in with Cena, making him feel important.
Matt’s Prediction: Cena keeps the title, Owens and Samoa Joe build their feud, then go back to NXT to have it, meaning most of us will miss it.
Brad's Prediction: I believe WWE is going in a whole different direction with NXT, which I admittedly might be completely wrong about. With TNA being such a failure, especially when comparing it to WWE, Triple H and Vince McMahon might see an opening to do what they could and should have done with WCW when WWE bought it all those years ago. Turn NXT into the second biggest wrestling promotion, fending off the competition like Ring of Honor, and creating another monopoly within the industry, all the while giving younger wrestlers a chance. Putting Owens on WWE television as NXT champion elevates (there's that word again) the promotion, especially when putting him as a serious threat to beat John Cena. Look at it this way, should a minor league champion ever have a shot to beat a major league champion? No way. But that's not how they are building this match. Owens should look great in this match, but Cena will win by DQ or something, letting the NXT champ to go back to that arena with, hopefully in WWE's eyes, a whole host of new viewers along with him. Now, for Samoa Joe, who Matt obviously loves, his debut in NXT does give the promotion a big name to fill the main event picture immediately. As much as Matt wants to believe he has, Joe hasn't done anything on a big stage, so putting him anywhere near the main event in WWE wouldn't make any sense. But in NXT, it's perfect. Especially if they are going to build it to take TNA's place. Which is ironic in its own way for Joe. So, Cena vs. Owens could have a whole bigger meaning than just what is happening Sunday in the ring.
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins
vs. Dean Ambrose
The reason this feud has been so much fun despite just two weeks of build is because it has months and months of history built in. This is a feud which started a year ago and was dropped way too quickly. Ambrose has to be careful not to let his character become too much of a Steve Austin rip off, but he has been really funny of late while keeping his “lunatic” edge. There’s hatred between the two characters which simply had to be tapped into, and keeping Roman Reigns with Ambrose has helped remind fans of the Shield angle while helping Reigns move into a bodyguard type role. Maybe he becomes the new Diesel. The Authority is past its tease of a breakup, and now we’ll get to see if they use the tired old group tactics to win. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Chamber come back down and lock the Authority in with Ambrose, meaning Reigns will have to break in and make the save. Can you say triple threat next month?
Matt’s Prediction: A good feud ends with boring booking as the Authority helps Rollins win.
Brad's Prediction: My thought-process on the immensely popular Dean Ambrose hasn't changed ... He just doesn't have the look or persona to be world champion. Matt says Ambrose has to be careful of becoming too much of a Steve Austin rip-off, which even as a rip-off is an insult to Austin. Stone Cold could carry a company because he was believable as everything a guy at the top of the card should be. Ambrose, unfortunately, isn't any of that. Daniel Bryan had more appeal as champion. So, he's not going to walk away with the belt, meaning Seth Rollins continues his reigns as champion. A triple threat match might be the next main event, which would be solid, but nobody believes Rollins would drop the belt to either Ambrose or Roman Reigns. Whenever Brock Lesnar returns, that will be the time Rollins will be in serious jeopardy of losing the strap. Until then, it's Rollins' show at the top of the company.