My impression after last night’s Elimination Chamber was that it was a good PPV with every match delivering at least decent quality. The results were somewhat predictable, but that is easily forgivable because the results were, in my mind the ‘correct’ ones, and ‘shock’ results, say Jerry Lawler winning, would have set up less interesting match-ups for Wrestlemania. Also, in a noteworthy bit of trivia, this PPV was the first time since No Mercy in October, 2008, that the RAW world title match didn’t feature HHH, Batista, John Cena or Randy Orton, the first time since Cyber Sunday, later that month, that none of Cena, HHH or Randy Orton were in the RAW main event. There is of course the large caveat that one of the guys in the match was 61 years old, but nonetheless, any move away from that monopoly of the RAW main event is a good thing and a good sign for the future.
Match 1) Alberto Del Rio def. Kofi Kingston
Now, my stream cut out half way through this match, so my critique of it comes out of context, having watched it again this morning. The main thing I liked about this match was how Kofi was booked to be a little green, a little too nice in the early goings. Where Del Rio was ruthless, Kofi would hold off on inflicting further punishment, like when Del Rio was sent to the outside. Kofi seemed to go through a learning-process though, as, in the second half of the match, he really brought it to Del Rio, including an awesome missile dropkick which was legitimately the highest i’ve ever seen with incredible hang-time. Throughout, Del Rio was working Kofi’s gut with ingenius moves, like his double knee-buster reversal of Kofi’s cross-body. This, and some distraction from Ricardo Rodriguez, helped him finally overcome the Intercontinental Champion, but only after fighting off a nice counter to the cross-armbreaker which involved him holding his other hand and stopping his arm from hyper-extending. Del Rio pounded Kingston until he couldn’t continue this defence and had to tap.
Match 2) Edge def. Rey Mysterio, Kane, Drew McIntyre, Big Show and Wade Barrett to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
This chamber match was fantastic. That may be something of a surprise seen as the mystery entrant turned out to be the always (recently) disappointing Big Show. I barely see the point of having him in, other than him being a scary guy. I would have rather Christian (if he was fully healthy) or Cody Rhodes to interact more with Rey Mysterio and purposefully target only him, this costing him the title and creating more heat for Wrestlemania. In some ways it took a while to really get going, starting out tentatively with little interaction with the Chamber, but once Drew McIntyre (one of the stand-out performers of the night) came out, business picked up! McIntyre was a house of fire, throwing Mysterio in to one of the pods. He then teamed with Barrett for a while, which I thought was a nice touch before the even nicer touch of his turning on Barrett as he entered the ropes and throwing him through one of the pods, and generally causing brutal havoc, even managing to Future Shock Big Show! He was eventually eliminated, but his intensity, and the heat he managed to generate (he had to work for it) showed him off as a big deal at the highest level. On the other side, I don’t think Barrett succeeded at making much of an impact. He was eliminated first and didn’t really get to do anything memorable. The same really goes for Big Show, who was clearly nothing more than filler. Kane was a house of fire (pardon the pun) for a while, and added a psychotic element to the match, but the match really went to the next level when we were left with Edge and Mysterio, the two opening combatants. They had an excellent, dramatic mini-match with lots of near-falls, with either kicking out of each-other’s finishers. The only way the match could be won was with an even more powerful version of their finisher, and Edge accomplished that with his super-Spear which met Mysterio coming off the turnbuckle, and resembled a spine-buster. Great match overall, probably the best of the night. After the match, in a move that made complete logical sense, Alberto Del Rio returned to the ring to beat down and intimidate his Wrestlemania opponent, getting Edge in his armbreaker and refusing to let go. Cue Christian, who came out (not looking too injured) to take down Del Rio. This points to me as if Christian will have some involvement in the world title match at Wrestlemania. Why do it otherwise! It makes sense too. Not only was it Del Rio that took Chriatian out for months, but, more importantly, the history that Edge and Christian share is deserving of any Wrestlemania story, be it as opponents or partners, and if we get to see this, it will be what they call a ‘mark out moment’.
Match 3) Justin Gabriel & Heath Slater (Corre) def. Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov to Win the WWE Tag Team Championships
This was definitely the weakest match of the night, but that doesn’t mean it was particularly poor. Santino was continuing to show his wrestling skill, while Corre used quick-tags while the teams traded the ascendancy. There was a good, conclusive ending as Slater dropkicked Santino to ringside while Gabriel hit the 450 Splash on Kozlov. This was probably a good result for Corre, as they need something to catalyse their impact. As for Santino & Kozlov, it’ll be interesting to see what happens to them. Keep them together; they’re popular.
Match 4) The Miz def. Jerry “The King” Lawler to Retain the WWE Championship
Though the Smackdown match was the better match in many ways, this match was the most moving. Lawler’s story of never being WWE Champion, and never competing at Wrestlemania was moving enough, but the added (legitimate) tragedy of his mother’s death just added another, and very powerful aspect to the atmosphere of the match, partly because we knew Lawler had to be thinking of his mother, even if he knew he was going to lose. I could feel my heart beating during the match, and that’s telling. I must add to this point that I didn’t want Jerry to win. If he had, i’d have been pleased about his moment in the sun, but I think it would have hurt Miz too much. I think it was right that he lost; he’ll get his moment at Wrestlemania, probably against Cole. As for the match, it played on all of this very well. It was quite an evenly-matched contest, but if anyone looked like they could win, it was Lawler, who had the most near-falls. You know a match in which you can believe that a 61 year old man could become the WWE Champion is a good, dramatic and unpredictable match. Cole, who had been obviously berating King at ringside, finally got his when Lawler threw Miz over the announce booth on to Cole, and thus surely starting their road to Wrestlemania. Back in the ring, Miz, rightly, managed to just get the better of King with a Skull-Crushing Finalé. This was followed by a nice spot where Cole went in to the ring to congratulate Miz and raise his hand. Very well played-out.
Match 5) John Cena def. CM Punk, Sheamus, Randy Orton, John Morrison and R-Truth
This was another good chamber match. Perhaps not as good in terms of drama as the first match, but it used the chamber very well and was probably more brutal than the first. The stand-out talent here was, as you might expect, CM Punk. His character was by far the biggest in the match, be it in his general demeanor in the pod, his re-instatement in the match, and his amazing elimination of ‘Randall’ Orton which involved him mocking Orton’s Viper taunts before delivering a GTS. Elsewhere, Morrison got in his obligatory parkour (kinda) spot in the match when he scaled the roof of the chamber in a way we’ve never seen before, before dropping down on to Sheamus with a cool but slightly messy crossbody for the three. The last two fighters were Cena and Punk, and after a little wrestling, Cena went for the AA, to which Punk responded with the standard block of grabbing the ropes. However, that obviously doesn’t work in a chamber match, and Cena adapted nicely, hiting the AA over the rope on to the steel grid for a well thought out but abrupt finish. Perhaps the finish was so abrupt that it was a little anti-climactic, but we had the right winner in my opinion (Cena and Miz have had tension for about 2 years now!) and a good finish using the chamber, so it’s fine by me.
Overall, we learned a lot about Wrestlemania from five good matches which produced the right winners. Not as shocking as in the past, (though Christian’s return was surprising and points to the much desired and highly sensical involvement of Christian in the World title match at Wrestlemania) but very well realised.