Last night’s Elimination Chamber started flat but had two main standouts. Seemingly the WWE are now promoting two PPV’s a month. Does it work? Let’s look at three points from the event.
1. Triple H is slowly becoming the main decision maker over Vince.
The reason I say this is down to one match. Kevin Owens vs John Cena. In one of the biggest shocks since the streak being broken, Owens was allowed to win clean over Cena. Taking this down to its bare bones, it is the top rookie beating the main guy at his first attempt. It just doesn’t happen. The match itself was the normal high-quality match that Cena can put on with anyone. Watching the creative, vicious Owens get the upper-hand was expected, as were the continual kick-outs by Cena. When he turned the tide the only thought was a typical, cheap, PG Cena victory. Instead Owens powerbombed his way into the public domain. When the three went down people were genuinely in shock. All but the most ardent Cena fans and children must have been distraught. The rest of us got a glimpse of what the WWE could be like in a few years.
You see this wasn’t just the new heel Owens beating the golden boy Cena. This was Triple H’s top star from NXT beating the top name in WWE. For Vince to give over this level of control and trust is a great sign. Anyone who has watched NXT will know the quality there, especially in the Divas division. The Divas triple threat last night would have went down a storm on NXT, however its placement and the lack of interest from the crowd killed it. It’s all well and good saying give divas a chance. When they get the chance and perform well, the crowd have to play their part as well. It certainly isn’t an interval. As for Cena, the worrying thing is where this feud will go from here. Sid Vicious Tweeted last night that this one win means Cena wins the next 20 rematches. I certainly hope not, but I have been watching too long not to expect it. The mythical Cena heel turn I spoke about last time is still a dream at this stage.
2. The Elimation Chamber is as badly used as the Royal Rumble.
Such a creative and interesting match as the chamber, needs to be well staged and well booked. Unfortunately it seems the WWE have lost the ability to do this over a long-form match. If we look back at the Rumble over the last two years, we see how badly it can be handled. It’s all well and good booking Reigns to win it, but if you don’t make him the choice of the crowd or the absolute heel then you have failed. Unfortunately both chamber matches last night fell into the same trap. In the first ever tag-team chamber match, we had a collection of teams and the two stand-outs Cesaro and Kidd and The New Day. If the New Day are booked to win, at least have them face off at the end or have an effect on each others night. The two teams were kept apart the whole match as we had to put up with the disaster that is the Ascension and the two warm up acts Los Matadores and Lucha Dragons. When Cesaro was rolled up and cheaply pinned by one of the Prime Time players the match died. Basically left with two heel teams there was only ever going to be one winner after that.
The IC title match followed the same pattern. Cruelly robbed of Rusev due to injury we were left with Dolph Ziggler to carry the match and the hopes of the crowd. Ziggler is the hardest working and most gifted performer on the roster. The fact that he is still in the IC scene not the World Title picture is a tragedy. He needed to have the main moment in the match. Instead he came out first and had to do the leg work for most of the match. Instead of reward him for this, he gets cheaply eliminated and we are left with Sheamus against Ryback. A quick look at the promo image for the event would have told you Ryback was on for this, so it came as no surprise when he got the win over Sheamus. Unfortunately it was a bad spot, a simple powerbomb and shell-shock shouldn’t take down Sheamus when normally it takes multiple finishers or a well worked roll-up. If these novelty events are going to have a future then the WWE need to write them as well as in the past. Stick on Ric Flairs great Rumble win and you believe he deserved to win, heel or not. Tell the story well and people will accept the ending.
3. The Rollins reign is using Wrestling’s oldest playbook
It was a great match between Rollins and Ambrose, both know each other so well, that it is effortless to entertain the crowd and tell the story. They are so good they even keep Roman Reigns in a popular position. Reigns as the sidekick or stalking horse is the best way to make him earn his stripes in front of the crowd. Reigns is the preferred choice in the WWE but he just can’t get the crowd on-side. Having him as the second, is a classic tool that has been used by Hogan against Yokozuna, Triple H in the early DX years and Kevin Nash in his stint as Shawn Michaels’ bodyguard.
The finish to the match last night was pure theater. Rollins pulls the referee in front of him, Ambrose knocks both out, spare referee comes in counts the three and the crowd went wild for Ambrose. I have to admit the longer it went before the screw-job, the more I began to believe. I was wrong of course. In a play dating back to Starrcade 1985 between Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes, the original referee took the match back to the first decision, awarding Ambrose the win but cruelly not the title. Back in the day this would have had the crowd rioting, now they stand in stunned shock, to be fair the Reigns intervention and Ambrose stealing the belt, at least let the crowd leave with the moral victory. The spectre of Brock Lesnar looms large and I don’t see anyone taking the belt off Rollins before his return. In the meantime the modern audience are getting a lesson in the heel’s handbook from Rollins. The reason they keep using these set ups is the same as always. They work. The heat going forward to money in the bank makes Raw essential viewing tonight.