By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
ProWrestling.net Live returns today with Will Pruett and I taking your calls coming out of WWE Elimination Chamber at 3CT/4ET at PWAudio.net.
WWE Elimination Chamber Hits
Daniel Bryan vs. Drew Gulak: The show peaked the main card opener. This was a hell of a match with a mat based style that really stood out from everything else on the show. The only negative was Bryan taking some dangerous suplexes that felt unnecessary. Michael Cole and Corey Graves did a very nice job of calling the match and telling the story that Bryan was facing a mirror image of himself. As for Gulak, the key is what happens next. Will he be booked strong or will he go back to being the wonky PowerPoint presentation guy? If Bryan is going to start attempting to make some underutilized talent, here’s hoping that a match with Cesaro is coming soon.
The Miz and John Morrison vs. The Uso vs. New Day vs. Heavy Machinery vs. Lucha House Party vs. Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler in an Elimination Chamber match for the Smackdown Tag Titles: There were some big memorable spots and some clunky moments along the way, but this turned out to be an entertaining Chamber match. Heavy Machinery was the most over team in the mix. Tucker had one of his better nights. Otis is the guy the fans love, but the moment when he first got his hands on Ziggler and he simply dropped him on the top rope was a big letdown. Miz and Morrison winning the tag titles should have been saved for this match rather than taking place in Saudi Arabia. That title change occurring less than two weeks earlier made the outcome of the Chamber match feel way too predictable.
AJ Styles vs. Aleister Black in a No DQ match: A soft Hit for a match that felt roughly eight minutes longer than it needed to be. I was excited about The OC reforming when it happened, but the trio has been booked poorly. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson are two of the colder wrestlers on the Raw roster. They’ve been cast as bumbling henchmen and now they actually bring Styles down by association. Undertaker’s interference continues the build to either a singles match with Styles or perhaps a handicap tag match with Black against The OC. Taker’s dominance over Styles and his cronies has been fully established, so there’s no real appeal in either match, and it’s hard to imagine what the company can do to change that between now and WrestleMania.
Andrade vs. Humberto Carrillo for the U.S. Championship: A soft Hit for another well worked match that also created a sense of deja vu. We’ve seen Andrade and Carrillo have several matches and we’d even seen them use the same finish with Andrade grabbing the tights. Andrade and Carrillo can always be counted on to deliver a quality match, but it feels like it’s time to move on from Carrillo challenging for the U.S. Championship.
Braun Strowman vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Cesaro, and Sami Zayn in a handicap match for the Intercontinental Championship: It was a pleasant surprise to see this result a title change rather than in the further destruction of the heel trio. Zayn holding the Intercontinental Championship likely sets him up for a showdown match with Strowman at WrestleMania. Will the WrestleMania crowd cheer the popular Zayn or play along with his heel schtick by booing him?
WWE Elimination Chamber Misses
Overall show: The lineup looked underwhelming on paper. The card lacked star power and most of the match outcomes felt predictable. And while I applaud the creative forces for not changing WrestleMania plans just for the sake of making this event feeling less predictable, it still made for a needlessly long and mostly uneventful night. I can’t blame WWE for not having Roman Reigns win an Elimination Chamber match in Philadelphia. That said, the show clearly suffered due to the lack of a meaningful men’s singles Chamber match.
Shayna Baszler vs. Asuka vs. Natalya vs. Ruby Riott vs. Liv Morgan vs. Sarah Logan in an Elimination Chamber match for a shot at the Raw Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 36: Baszler is an outstanding talent and I’m all for her being spotlighted as the heel bully of the division, the same role she played to perfection during his NXT run. Baszler dominated the match and eliminated everyone, but this just didn’t work. This was probably one of the briefer Chamber matches we’ve had and yet it somehow felt like it dragged. WWE always fudges on times between Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber entrants, so why did they let Baszler stand in the ring for what felt like an eternity while she waited for a pod to open on multiple occasions? With the benefit of hindsight, they would have been better off claiming that Asuka couldn’t work the match due to her wrist injury. Yes, it would have hurt this match, but it also would have saved the first Baszler and Asuka in-ring exchange for a time when it could have been built up as a showdown singles match. Why did they tease everyone with a Riott Squad portion of the match only to never put the three former faction mates in the ring together at the same time? This match may have done more for me had it not been in the main event slot. It felt underwhelming in the show closing role, and it was odd to see Becky Lynch watching on a backstage monitor and not appear in front of the live crowd during the pay-per-view. A simple long distance staredown would have closed the show on a higher note. Despite my negativity, I suspect the production team will work their magic and make Baszler’s dominance look more impressive for those who didn’t see the show than for those who did.
The Street Profits vs. Seth Rollins and Murphy for the Raw Tag Titles: The in-ring work was solid, but the crowd was cold for the majority of the match. The Viking Raiders coming out and brawling with AOP felt lazy in that they battled to the back so quickly that it felt way too convenient. The interference of Kevin Owens was well received by the crowd. But Owens helped the Profits win the tag titles and now he helped them retain the tag titles. It leads to pops for Owens, but it’s not helping the Profits establish credibility as champions.
The Viking Raiders vs. Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins: As if the cruel and unusual punishment that is Daylight Saving Time stealing an hour away from our weekend wasn’t enough, WWE wasted another precious weekend hour with a worthless Kickoff Show. There was no reason storyline purpose for this match, the outcome was never in question, and nothing was accomplished beyond filling five minutes of television time.