Monday, February 24, 2014

Going Out with a Bang: WWE Elimination Chamber 2014 Review

And that's the last anyone ever saw of Dean Ambrose
Photo Credit:
In the TH style.

  • In the pre-show match, the Rhodes Boys beat Rybaxel when Cody Rhodes reversed a neckbreaker into CrossRhodes on Curtis Axel.
  • Big E Langston retained the Intercontinental Championship with a Big Ending on Jack Swagger.
  • The New Age Outlaws retained the WWE Tag Team Championships as Billy Gunn rolled up Jimmy Uso with a handful of tights.
  • Titus O'Neil downed Darren Young with the Clash of the Titus rydeen bomb.
  • After Bray Wyatt dragged Dean Ambrose somewhere out of the arena and Luke Harper and Erick Rowan put Seth Rollins through the Spanish Announce Table, the Wyatt Family descended on Roman Reigns, finishing him with a Sister Abigail's Kiss for the win.
  • AJ Lee retained the Divas Championship though disqualification loss when Tamina Snuka gave Cameron a lariat on the outside.
  • Batista defeated Alberto del Rio with the Batista Bomb.
  • In the Elimination Chamber match, Randy Orton retained the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, last eliminating Daniel Bryan with a RKO and some help from Kane.

General Observations:
  • Miz had to work the day after his wedding? Tha's cold, WWE. Tha's real cold.
  • I could hear Jerry Lawler's shirt all the way from Philadelphia, by the way.
  • At first, I thought Larry "The Axe" Hennig was a fake Dusty Rhodes, due to my unfamiliarity with the AWA and not being able to pick the Perfect Father out of a lineup without assistance.
  • Michael Cole talked about how Ryback tweeted that he had the "biggest traps" in WWE, and JBL replied loudly and obnoxiously "MAYBE HE SHOULD CHECK WITH SID AND HULK HOGAN, MAGGLE, HE DOESN'T HAVE THE BIGGEST TRAPS." And with that statement, JBL encapsulated why he's an awful color commentator. All he did was loudly refute Ryback like he was some kind of nobody while name-checking old dudes he was friends with. JBL is the fucking dying gasp of the AWA in commentary form.
  • Honestly, I think it's awesome how Cody Rhodes has turned into such a graceful high spot dude. His diving plancha to the floor was streets ahead of more than a few indie guys I've seen do that on a regular basis.
  • Ryback's delayed vertical suplex was tight, yo.
  • I was glad to see the Rhodes Boys win, if only because I hope it means they'll stay together for longer than a Mania match. I still think their best time to wrestle will be at Mania XXXI, not this year.
  • "It's over." >>>> "Suck it."
  • Zeb Colter came out, claimed the "E" in "Big E" was for "enough," and blamed the polar vortex on illegal immigration. If the man's gonna commit to a vile racist character, I'm glad he keeps thinking of ways for it to surge over the top.
  • An audible "We Want Ziggler" chat sprang up early in this match, which I thought was a bit unfair. Big E Langston and Jack Swagger at least seem fresh enough.
  • Langston took the signature Ziggler-shoulder-to-the-ringpost bump, tackled Swagger to the floor and went with him, and finished it all off with an enzugiri before hitting the Big Ending. He has to have a luchador inside him, waiting to break out.
  • Bad News Barrett made an appearance right after the match, lauding the Russians' gold medal count and claiming it as proof that Europe will always be dominant in sports. First off, he got my hopes up because I thought he was teasing a Vladimir Kozlov comeback. Second, a guy from one country praising another for its success? Europeans are more like SEC football fans than I thought!
  • I don't care what anyone says. I'm excited for Hulk Hogan being back as long as he doesn't get into the ring to wrestle. WWE already tried that experiment with Bret Hart. It wasn't pretty.
  • Billy Gunn took a drop toehold from Jimmy Uso and inexplicably bumped on it. I dunno if he was trying to hard or if he was just too clumsy to do anything but smack his face on the canvas.
  • Road Dogg tried to headbutt Jey Uso, but Uso just absorbed it and started dancing before womping on the Middle Aged Outlaw. Love that nod to wrestling history, even if it has slightly racist roots.
  • The Tag Title match was completely watchable, and all of it was due to the fact that the Usos appeared to work their asses off in it to cover for the flubs and loss of steps that the Outlaws had. Maybe that was just my inner hater talking, but man, did the Outlaws look janky as hell here.
  • Darren Young sported a NOH8 hoodie to the ring.
  • HOLY SHIT, Young took a pretty dangerous top-rope-to-the-floor bump for Titus O'Neil here. Young looked like he did his best to make up for O'Neil still moving around like he eternally has shit lodged in his ass. I'll give O'Neil credit here though, he does look somewhat improved from his early PTP days.
  • Young broke out a Rude Awakening on the apron, confirming that he probably watches at least a little bit of Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.
  • Haha, The Shield/Wyatt Family match got pre-emptive "This is awesome!" and dueling support chants before they even locked up.
  • Bray Wyatt started taunting The Shield, and in true loose cannon fashion, Dean Ambrose leaped on him like a dog cornering a piece of steak. Talk about setting a tone.
  • The Shield had Luke Harper in the corner. He tried to escape, but Rollins yanked him back in by his dirty-ass muscle-tee. Crafty!
  • Wyatt screamed into The Shield's corner "IS THIS THE WAR YOU WANTED?" The crowd vociferously assented to the question, for what it was worth.
  • The crowd also chanted for tables, and for once, that seemingly throwaway chant was completely warranted.
  • One point right before the finishing sequence saw Ambrose go like the Tasmanian Devil from the old Looney Tunes cartoons on Wyatt, successive planchas by Harper and Rollins, while Roman Reigns sneaked in a rollup on Erick Rowan in the ring. I have no idea how I kept my head during that sequence.
  • HOLY SHIT, WYATT AND AMBROSE JUST BRAWLED ALL THE WAY TO THE CONCOURSE! At that time, I thought both guys would eventually make their way back, but alas, only one would come back unscathed. Poor Dean.
  • Rowan and Harper got up with Rollins on the English Announce Table and double-chokeslammed him into the Spanish one. I started to get a distinct flashback vibe at that point...
  • Reigns may have lost, but the dude died a warrior's death. He is one of a bunch of guys I can see headlining WrestleMania.
  • Christian backstage got snippy with fellow Canadian Renee Young. I thought you hosers were supposed to be all euphoric after you took home BOTH hockey gold medals at the Olympics.
  • Cameron is not a good wrestler. She was too much for AJ Lee to handle, but I don't blame either one of them. If Cameron got to wrestle in meaningful matches that weren't laid out like typical fucking Divas trash, she'd get better. If Lee got to wrestle the kind of matches she was able to work agianst Kaitlyn on Main Event or Bayley in NXT, she'd be able to handle greener or worse competition. WWE just doesn't fucking get it, and I wonder if they ever will before Vince McMahon croaks.
  • Alberto del Rio came out for his match with Batista in a neckbrace and crutch and ended up snookering him with the fake injury angle. He should've gone all the way and stabbed him with the jagged edge of a theoretically broken crutch.
  • Sheamus and Antonio Cesaro started out the Elimination Chamber match. HOSS HEAVEN!
  • Cesaro had Sheamus in the corner right in front of John Cena's pod, and he did the "YOU CAN'T SEE ME" taunt. Brilliant.
  • Cesaro and Sheamus spent so much time exchanging European uppercuts that afterwards, I thought Daniel Bryan and Cesaro would offer him Dave Taylor's old spot in Team Uppercut.
  • Speaking of Bryan, he was the first out of his pod, immediately cleaned house, and culminated his first run by locking Sheamus into an Indian deathlock then simultaneously hitting Cesaro with a Northern Lights suplex. I didn't think that spot could be topped, by the by. Just keep that in your back pocket.
  • Cesaro must be stronger than he lets on, because he sent Bryan right through the UNBREAKABLE LEXAN back into his pod.
  • Christian was fourth in the match and came in like a house on fire, a Canadian house that was politely burning down, if you will. He tossed Sheamus off the top and started relentlessly clawing and pawing at Bryan's injured shoulder.
  • Christian tried the Killswitch, but Cesaro turned him around and tossed him onto the cage. Christian grabbed a hold of it and leaped onto Cesaro, who countered him into powerbomb position threw him through another LEXAN pod. Beginning to think that this LEXAN might not be as sturdy as they hyped it up to be, guys.
  • Cena was the fifth guy in, and no one had gotten eliminated to that point. Five guys in the Chamber, and all of them took turns beating the shit out of each other. It was my kind of chaos.
  • I will never get tired seeing Cesaro give Cena the Swiss Death.
  • Everyone was down on the mat when Orton got in. He picked the bones and then posed in the middle of the ring, because he is the best pure character WWE has right now. Then, everyone got up and bore down on Orton. He got back into his pod, which made Sheamus so mad that he Brogue Kicked the LEXAN down. Three out of four pods by this point have been destroyed.
  • Not to be outdone by his Team Uppercut teammate, Bryan broke out the fucking Chaos Theory, aka Doug Williams' signature O'Connor Roll into a German suplex, on Cesaro.
  • Sheamus was the first to be eliminated by... CHRISTIAN?!?!?! He hit the Celtic Warrior with a flying body press off the top of one of the pods. It looked a bit wobbly, but with the extra height, it was to be expected.
  • Christian ate a busaiku knee shortly after by Bryan to get eliminated.
  • Remember way back when Bryan hit Cesaro with the Northern Lights while he had Sheamus in the deathlock? Cesaro topped that by German suplexing Cena while Cena had Bryan in the fireman's carry position. By that point in the match, I was ready to smoke a pack of cigarettes.
  • Cesaro tapped to the STF, but only after Cena put him through the last LEXAN pod with the Attitude Adjustment. Man, WWE has made him in the last two weeks, but that poor Chamber. I guess WWE has to look for something stronger than LEXAN going forward.
  • Cena was just about ready to lock the STF on Orton when the lights went out and the Wyatts appeared. Bryan attacked them first because storyline continuity is important, but they shoved him aside and descended on Cena. After Orton pinned the ravaged Franchise and the Wyatts descended from the Chamber under the orders of Kane, the crowd chanted "THANK YOU WYATTS!"
  • Bryan took his opportunity to attack Kane, which certainly couldn't end up biting him in the ass, could it?
  • Bryan took the first RKO, and I thought the match was over, but he... KICKED OUT. The RKO has arguably been the most protected finisher in WWE outside of Big Show's KO punch, and Bryan kicked out of it.
  • After the final Kane screwjob and second RKO, Bryan knelt dejected in the ring as Cole recounted his entire sad, maltreated history since SummerSlam. I wonder if that means RAW will have shenanigans? Naaaaahhh....
Match of the Night: Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, and Erick Rowan vs. Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, and Seth Rollins - This match was absolutely perfect. If any match was expected to be perfect going in, this match would fit that bill. However, even with sky-high expectation, I thought these six performers came close to exceeding those predictions. Each individual in the match took his role, played it with the same methodology as a Daniel Day Lewis, only if Lewis' job was to crash through things repeatedly, and they built an emotional hyperbaric chamber where no possible result would end up damaging my soul. Be that as it may, the result they came to was absolutely the correct one.

They came out of the gates in utter perfection, staring each other down and jawing until Ambrose, the livest wire of either group, decided he was going to do his best Warner Bros. Tasmanian Devil impersonation, dunking the fray into the complete anarchy one might expect gang warfare over disputed turf might delve into. The only thing that I was surprised by was that no one thought to break out a trident. They took turns showing each other how they could isolate and eviscerate single members of either group. The first act of this match was a clinic on tag team and trios wrestling injected with the performance enhancing drug of "can you top this" escalation, puncuated with Wyatt shouting to the crowd "IS THIS THE WAR YOU WANTED?" Judging by the roaring applause, I wasn't the only one who was nodding furiously in agreement.

Then, the action started transitioning, as each member began to show their individuality. Rollins bumped like a fucking madman and answered those big shots with panache-laden high spots of his own. If he's not a nuclear, Jeff Hardyesque babyface one day, WWE will have failed him. Ambrose kept showing everyone why those Roddy Piper and Brian Pillman comparisons are apt with his short fuse, which was unusually truncated with the larger-than-normal payload behind it. Reigns was the fixer with his Superman punches and cool vampire flair. Wyatt barked the orders and set to creep with his wild eyes, while Harper and Rowan followed his orders and stalked the ring with their unholy cool demeanor, like golems towering over unsuspecting prey.

But the finishing flourish was what cemented this match as an all-timer within WWE's folklore. Ambrose had to be absent for the finish, but WWE gave him the out by having Wyatt drag him out of the camera eye (to Hell, perhaps?). Rollins took a massive bump through the Spanish Announce Table FROM the English Announce Table, while the DAMN NUMBERS GAME brought down Reigns despite his best efforts. If this match is to be The Shield's final as a three-man group, then it effectively mirrorred their debut match against Daniel Bryan, Ryback, and Kane. Ryback was Ambrose, lured away from the ring so as not to affect the finish. Kane effectively mirrored Rollins, as both were destroyed using the scenery as a weapon. And just as Bryan died a warrior's death at the hands of Reigns and Ambrose at TLC '12, Reigns was devoured whole by the entire hillbilly cult. Symmetry is a wonderful thing, folks.

Overall Thoughts: Elimination Chamber was the last show for which WWE will have charged full price to a full audience, and with that fact in mind, they gave the best possible slate they could with the cards they dealt themselves. The show was a two-match card, and both of those featured attractions overdelivered, thanks to the strong and creative performances from the 12 wrestlers tasked with fleshing their respective contests out. However, the rest of the roster came up huge in other spots as well. Jack Swagger and Big E Langston made the most of their opening chunk of time and fired the crowd up. The Usos, Darren Young, and Alberto del Rio made the most of their inferior competition and turned in watchable, if not enjoyable, performances in their respective matches. Bad News Barrett even got a few chuckles out of me tonight, and he wasn't involved in kicking over anyone's Legos.

But the two matches that I at least came to see took my inflated expectations, smashed them against the not-so-UNBREAKABLE LEXAN, and gave me such a euphoric high that I now have to rethink what I can expect from the performers on the WWE roster. Don't get it twisted; I'm not totally in love with the booking of the Chamber match itself. I am staring down the barrel of a gun of retread match between a stellar performer but with questions about adaptability against a gassed lunk who needs CGI to make him look good at this point. That match correlates to a bazooka at point blank range, by the by.

However, six wrestlers left everything they had in that Chamber, and the run-ins made absolutely perfect sense. All of them busted out at least one signature spot, if not multiple ones, and they found a way to get six guys in the ring in a non-Rumble setting at the same time and pace the action without making it feel like guys were just taking turns (even though they totally were taking shifts on action/rest sequences). Even Christian, the guy WWE is rumored not to be re-signing in two months and who gets buried on commentary by anyone not named Michael Cole, got to do a wicked body press from the top.

But I can't say enough how perfect the entire Wyatt Family/Shield match was. The opening, the meat, the crescendo, the finish... all of it was sublimely resonant, and I can't be happier. Bray Wyatt, by the by, has been in the match of the night in the last two pay-per-views; I think everyone can stop worrying about whether his ring skills will catch up to his character, but that digression is not on the menu tonight. The point is that WWE set up two heel factions against each other and was able to get a reliable story that generated crowd investment. I don't know what more I could want from a match, or even a pay-per-view.

Later on this morning, WWE will launch the Network. That venture is going to change the face of everything in wrestling, but most specfically, it is going to make pay-per-views as the public knows them now a completely different animal. Will WWE be more experimental with its slates? Will it revert back to an even more stale formula? I don't know, and I don't think I want to pretend to either. What I will say is that if Elimination Chamber was the final time I was going to sit down and go halfsies or fours or whatever with a friend or a group of friends, then WWE at least gave me a show to remember for something other than a heinous shitstorm. The final stop before the road to WrestleMania was a fantastic final note, and I for one can't wait to see what the Network brings.