Time to review one of the stranger PPV’s i’ve seen in a while! I should note, for all you/us nerds that I actually beat my own prediction success record by getting all five correct (I called the Swagger match as soon as it was advertised), so I guess my opinion should be valued, right? Unfortunately, i’ll have to keep this more short and sweet (whenever I say this I go longer than ever!) because I’ve been busy and tired, and still have to tweet about RAW and live-tweet tonight’s LIVESUPERSMACKDOWN … So let’s get into it!
Match 1) CM Punk def. The Miz, Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler, R-Truth, and Chris Jericho in the Elimination Chamber to Retain the WWE Championship
A quick note: I know starting a show is now seen as more of a boon than an insult these days, but this match going on first was ridiculous to me. Cena-Rock will be dominating the WrestleMania card, so it seems only right and fair that they give the WWE Championship (aka, most important thing in wrestling) the prestige of going on last this time to make up for it. This is all the more righteous given the fact that the RAW Chamber was the best match of the night (and certainly better than the Ambulance match). To the match itself! To me, this was all about the important quest of continuing to make Punk look like an amazing champion, and so having him start out the match, and last the whole 30+ minutes, IN THIS DEMONIC STRUCTURE. I enjoyed Punk code-of-honoring Kofi by having him in the initial one-on-one contest which involved some nice progressions and some pretty sweet moments, including Kofi avoiding Punk’s attacks by leaping over the top rope. Kofi is showing himself as a guy who can really make an impact on the show by creating memorable ‘moments’ and is starting to back it up in the rest of his ring work and mic skills. Ziggler was instantly great when he came in third, using a fireman’s carry in the only context where it actually looks damaging, in the Elimination Chamber before doing pull ups on the chamber chains and using the resultant momentum to hit a leg drop on Punk. That is the epitome of showing off and using it in a wrestling context. It’s unique, and the best kind of ‘showing off’. Ziggler’s intervention in the match made some cool work some great work. There were so many great moments in a short period of time that it was almost hard to keep up with, including an awesome spot where both simultaneously Punk and Kingston attempted a springboard attack on Ziggler, only for Ziggler to dive out of the way so Kingston and Punk would clash mid-air in a fantastic, unique spot. Truth wasn’t in for that long, but also put his body on the line to make this match great, including his hip toss to Ziggler to the Chamber floor before diving over the top rope to dive on the Show Off. Bumping wise, unsurprisingly, Ziggler was the stand out, taking a lot of tough spills in the chamber, and really, again, showing why he is a huge future star, in terms of work-rate and sacrifice. Ziggler at least got to return the favour once though, as after a characteristicly acrobatic ‘Spiderman’ leap from Kingston to the chained walls of the Chamber, he was slammed to the floor in a very painful looking spot. What’s more, when Miz got in the match, he took another hard bump when Miz simply showed him from the turnbuckle to the Chamber floor. I noticed here that Miz was wrestling with a lot more aggressiveness and purpose than i’ve seen from him in a long while, and his work with Punk was pretty good in this period. Then, finally, Jericho was released. Cue Punk dropping Miz and a staredown with Jericho that was a nice little moment to show the tension between these two. They had a few moves thrown that were a pretty cool taster for their future battles, before Ziggler tried to intervene and ate a Codebreaker and pinfall for his troubles. Back to Punk and Jericho and they had a cool brawl which led inside Jericho’s Chamber where Punk caught him, only to take a seriously tough beating at the hands of Jericho and the Chamber door; ramming his shoulder in to the door repeatedly, and slamming the door shut on his head in a move which looked sickening. I liked how Booker T kept criticising the more showy aspects of his move-set because they had no reverence in THIS HELLACIOUS STRUCTURE because it really sold THIS DEMONIC STRUCTURE for what it was, and soon after, Kofi succumbed to the Walls of Jericho/Liontamer, and by this time, Jericho was looking dominant. His arrogance would be his failing grace though as he wouldn’t break the hold on Kingston, and insisted on throwing him out of the Chamber personally. A cool-looking spot, but one that Punk punished with a roundhouse to Jericho’s head, sending him out after Kingston with a nasty looking spill with hopefully kayfabe!) knocked Jericho out (it looked real to me, dammit!). Jericho was deemed unfit to continue and so was eliminated from the contest – the only booking that made sense given that he had to legitimise a title shot at Punk for WrestleMania, though if Jericho was originally slated to win the Royal Rumble but plans were changed, it wouldn’t have been necessary. They were certainly booked in to a corner. Finally, we were left with Punk and Miz, and there wasn’t really much doubt about who would win that. Apart from, that is, Miz’s awesome reversal of a springboard clothesline from Punk into a Skull-Crushing Finalé for a near fall a lot of people (and me, to a certain extent, bit on). Finally, Miz fell to a GTS to give Punk an impressive defence in the Chamber, in what I believe will be my first 2012 Match of the Year candidate.
Match 2) Beth Phoenix def. Tamina Snuka to Retain the Divas Championship
Most of the time when divas have matches at PPV, they come close to fulfilling their potential, and this was one of those situations. As I said in the preview for this event, Tamina is no doubt a stop-gap for Beth, but she was certainly built well in this match. Tamina is certainly a match in the power game, sometimes getting the best of Beth, but never being able to to the point where it really looked like she could win. That is, apart from when she finally got to hit the Superfly Splash (Beth had been constantly interrupting her attempts throughout the match) and it did cross my mind that perhaps WWE were going to swerve us, but instead, Beth managed to show her strength yet more by kicking out of a move no-one’s kicked out of in some time. There were other moments of impressive power: tough bumps, strong style, and a superplex to name a few, but eventually Beth managed the Glam Slam for the win. For the time given it was a good match, but the end was a little sudden. Perhaps unintentionally though, that had the air of Beth simply being sick of messing around and wanting the win. While she was celebrating, I expected to hear Kharma’s music, but alas it wasn’t forthcoming … yet.
Match 3) Daniel Bryan def. Santino Marella, Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, The Big Show, and the Great Khali in the Elimination Chamber to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
This was a strange match in many ways. For the first, quite large, portion, I wasn’t particularly enjoying it. The action was pretty slow, given that the starting participants were the slower, bigger talents. It improved a little as Cody Rhodes and Santino entered respectively, but the match only really took off when Khali entered the match … and left the match. Another flash-point came shortly after when Big Show broke in to the cell of Daniel Bryan after AmDrag taunted him. This was a really effective spot as Show broke in the top rather than through the glass and so had the chance to absolutely decimate Bryan in the pod. However, I must say I don’t think Big Show made the best of the opportunity physically or aesthetically. It was cool that Bryan’s pod opened when Show was inside, allowing Bryan and Show to spill out. After brutally smashing Bryan back through his pod. Unfortunately for Show, he then left Bryan, and was taken on by the increasingly familiar partnership of Wade Barrett and Cody Rhodes. Barrett chopped Show to his knees and to his back, this was followed by a Rhodes’ Disaster Kick off the ropes, and then another off the Chamber walls, and then a DDT. Barrett followed up with a diving elbow before Rhodes pinned Show for the rub. This made the two heels look great, but it was then followed by the eliminations of both Rhodes and Barrett, in relatively quick succession, by Santino Marella. A great result for Santino, if not so great for the higher profile heels. They really needed that Big Show elimination! At the time, I was furious because I thought Santino had no place eliminating guys like Rhodes and Barrett. I still do, really, but i’ll say this, it helped make this match very good. The crowd, which had been hot all night, were really behind Santino, cheering his name like he was John Cena or CM Punk, and it was down to just Santino and Daniel Bryan. Bryan had a complacent smile on his face, and with the heat from the crowd, I did start to worry that something silly could happen. My fears grew yet more when Santino hit the dreaded Cobra on Bryan, but like Beth against Tamina, this was the point where Bryan had enough. He recovered and managed finally to get the LaBelle Lock on Santino. While Santino struggled valiantly, he couldn’t escape the hold and had to tap. The crowd was red hot here, and the ultimate achievement was to bag even more heat for Bryan who got to look good retaining his belt, even if it was in a kinda simple way (he only eliminated Santino). Given the response of the fans, there is no way this match can be criticised, even if Santino’s contribution was a bit of a joke. Santino is great, and is really running with the ball he’s been given. In his current guise, he can never be World Champion, but i’m now of the opinion he can return to the secondary belt scene, and that means a possible match with Cody Rhodes. I really think Santino’s OTT comic style could gel really memorably with Rhodes’ theatrical heelishness. A great match, and basically, helped a lot of people and didn’t really hurt anyone. Then of course, Sheamus appeared as Bryan participated in his usual OTT celebrations and attacked him to seemingly chose him as his WrestleMania opponent. How novel. Thank God they didn’t decide to swerve that one.
Match 4) Jack Swagger def. Justin Gabriel to Retain the United States Championship
My initial reaction to this was that Jack Swagger against Justin Gabriel had to be the worst impromptu match booked of all time. Part of the problem with it was that Jack Swagger barely appears on TV, so why throw him in to a PPV, against someone he’s had no interaction with like Justin Gabriel. Luckily, the saving grace of this was that his opponent was Justin Gabriel – in that Gabriel was about the right guy to provide him with a decent opponent to essentially squash. Gabriel gave Swagger a bit of competition, but really, Swagger controlled the match, and finished it well after catching a Gabriel kick, throwing it in to the ring post, and following up with an Ankle Lock for the impressive win. This is the sort of match that makes Swagger and the US Championship look good; it’s just a shame that it happened once in a blue moon.
Match 5) John Cena def. Kane in an Ambulance Match
I disliked that this match was the main event, for reasons i’ve already explained when talking about the RAW Chamber match. It was of course late, but it wasn’t long before I was getting drowsy. Of course Cena and Kane are good at brawling in an entertaining way, but at the same time, there’s only so entertaining that can be when a whole match centres around it. It was decent, but not up to the standards of the other Chamber matches at least. Brawling was interspersed with the occasional attempt at an comically over-the-top SuperCena spot, like when he attempted to lift Kane, on his shoulders, up the ring steps with the intention of AAing him through the announce table. Making their way to the ambulance following a glove-handing from Kane, the match continued, and it was here I realised I don’t really like ambulance matches as the near-falls look kinda ridiculous, with people kicking their way out of ambulance as Cena did. This continued for a while before Cena recovered and mounted the ambulance. Chased by Kane, who attempted to Chokeslam him off the ambulance, was reversed by Cena in to an AA off the ambulance, which incapacitated Kane enough to shove him in an ambulance. This was the kind of ridiculous Cena stunt, similar to when he AA’d Batista off a car, is what that makes him tiresome at his worst. It was at least a way for him to get a clean break and move on to Kane.
That should have been all it was though. The match was average, and ultimately shouldn’t have been the main event as the consequences weren’t all that important. Positioning is crucial to a good show, and this positioning really gave the show a bitter taste. To my mind, the card was upside down. Make the Cena match a heart-warming opener, and have it all build to the RAW Chamber match and the Punk celebration. I think that would have made it all a bit less strange and improved it an awful lot. The matches were mostly good to very good, but positioning made a crucial PPV only really ok.