John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE Elimination Chamber preview. It’s a Smackdown Live show that takes place in Phoenix, Arizona with a six-man Elimination Chamber match for the WWE Title as the main event.
There are some PPV events where the main event of the show isn’t that obvious (hello WrestleMania), but this is an event where we all know that the Elimination Chamber match is the featured attraction. I’m looking forward to it because they didn’t do an EC PPV last year. When they did it two years ago, the WWE Title wasn’t on the line, so this one feels big.
In addition to that, this card is also historic because it has three women’s matches on the show and all of them belong there. It’s not like WWE just threw them out there to fill out the card. They have been built up well. I think WWE should brag about three women’s matches at this event because that’s as important as anything they have done in their “Women’s Revolution” in the last few years. Anyway, let’s get to the preview.
Joining me for the preview are fellow TJRWrestling writers Kurt Zamora, Matthew J. Douglas and Mike Holland.
(Note: All graphics are from WWE.com. The banner is courtesy of our friend Melo Man.)
The Kickoff Show match was announced by WWE.com on Friday afternoon - it is Mojo Rawley vs. Curt Hawkins. We’re not going to preview it because WWE took too long to announce it. I think it’s just a way to get Rawley a win to “hype” the crowd.
Apollo Crews & Kalisto vs. Dolph Ziggler
Kurt: Judging by the crowd reactions the last couple weeks when Ziggler made his attacks with the steel chair, I don’t think this heel turn is going as well as they hoped. I understand Ziggler being someone the fans don’t want to boo though. Although he’s been great since the turn, what was the reasoning behind it? He was underutilized and underappreciated and now isn’t going to just settle for a role? Ok, we all agree with that! It’s tough to boo him in that situation. It’s not for a lack of trying on his end.
This is a weird premise for a match and I feel if Crews/Kalisto go over, it will just make the fans cheer Ziggler more because really he’s in an unfair situation. I’m curious if they have someone lined up to come into this storyline to pair up with Ziggler. No one comes to mind off the top of my head, so I guess I’ll go with the babyfaces here and something done after to continue to push Ziggler’s heel turn.
Prediction: Kalisto & Apollo Crews
Matt: This match goes against all conventions of storytelling, which I suppose could be viewed as outside the box thinking. Usually, giving the protagonist such an obvious advantage over the villainous antagonist is a bad idea. It garners unwanted sympathy for the villain, while simultaneously making the hero look either too overpowering or in the case of our “heroes” here, look inept as hell. This might be a death sentence one what the WWE think of Apollo Crews. The guy is really talented and probably should have stayed on NXT. This match is further indication that they brought him up with no plan whatsoever.
I expect shenanigans that either make the babyface look horrible or at the very least turn the odds in Dolph’s favor. Maybe he introduces a new heavy that’ll have his back Diesel style? Maybe one of the babyfaces turns and joins him? I would have Lawler come out to seemingly join in on the fun of outnumbering Ziggler, only to low blow Crews and join Dolph as an advocate. When JBL objects, he eats a punch and Superkick combo from The King/Ziggler. I’d also have this go on right before the Chamber.
Winners by DQ: Apollo Crews and Kalisto (because Ziggler winning the match doesn’t serve the narrative here at all)
Mike: This is one of those classic philosophical examples of the drinking glass: on the half full side, Dolph Ziggler is once again rebounding from the border town of relative obscurity with a renewed heel zeal that has always suited him. On the half empty side, the net result of this for now is a handicap match for Dolph against two guys that occupy his former spot in the Land That Creative Forgot. Kalisto and Ziggler is an entertaining prospect, sure, but it feels like we've seen it a bunch of times before. And Crews? More proof that getting to the main roster might not be everything it's cracked up to be.
I am disturbed for those two gents if they don't beat Ziggler here, because in addition to straining logic it's just sort of depressing to their standing and futures in the WWE. It's not clear where they are headed with Dolph's next feud, as he's dabbled on the fringe with Jerry Lawler of all folks, but I'd wager it's bigger and better than anything on the ledger Sunday. It's the sort of tale usually told with a face character overcoming the odds, but in reverse. Ziggler wins. Ego grows. Mike yawns.
Winner: Dolph Ziggler
John: The easiest way to call this match is to just say Crews and Kalisto will win since it’s two on one. Keep in mind, though, that Kalisto beat Ziggler in a short match on the last Smackdown, so it makes me wonder if they want to do something different here. The different route could lead to something where Apollo Crews turns heels to become an ally of Ziggler because Crews has nothing going on right now. Perhaps a heel turn will lead to more success for him. Another option is having somebody else help Ziggler get the win. I’m not sure who that person be, but giving an ally would help Ziggler get more momentum.
I’ll go with Crews and Kalisto as the safe pick. However, if they went the Ziggler route with somebody helping him that would be better.
Winners: Apollo Crews & Kalisto
Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James
Kurt: I admit that I was not happy when it was announced that Mickie was coming to the Smackdown division, as I thought she would be perfectly suited on Raw as they only have four women going there and maybe could’ve been a nice “re-introduction” feud for both her and Emma(lina). However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. She is perfect for Smackdown and more importantly, she is perfect for Becky Lynch. Her promos have stood out every week and I really believe she’s insulted by this Revolution that everyone is fawning over
I would love to see this feud continue into WrestleMania and with Mickie’s connection to Alexa Bliss, hopefully that could then make itself get incorporated into the Women’s Title picture. This is a hard match to predict because I could make a case for either woman needing it more, but I think in order to keep it going strong and to help continue to establish Mickie James as the name value she says she is, she needs it just a touch more. I hope they get some time to tell a terrific story.
Prediction: Mickie James
Matt: The first of three women’s matches for Smackdown’s robust Women’s division, in comparison to Raw’s. This match is also Mickie’s first singles match on PPV since returning to the WWE, so skipping any pretense, you have to put her over here to give her credibility. This match will serve to remind longtime fans that she is one of the best women on the roster, and inform newer fans that she has the skills to bay the bills.
It should be a really good competitive match, as they are the strongest pairing of workers in Sunday’s slate of Smackdown Women’s Division action. I doubt they disappoint.
Winner: Mickie James (because she needs to look good coming out of Sunday)
Mike: Before I dig into this match, let me just say that three women's matches on one card is a big indicator of why the blue brand has been so superior to its Monday night counterpart. There's a lot of good stories being told, and Mickie James being reintroduced in a semi-surprising adversarial role is at the top of the list. James has been a thorn in the side of former champ Becky Lynch as she has fruitlessly tried to regain her belt from current titleholder Alexa Bliss, and now we add another dimension to that story. It doesn't have to be that complicated. The classic stuff still works.
This encounter comes down to the simple matter of who needs the win more. If it feels like they are giving Becky stuff to do until she inevitably recaptures the gold, that's a fair and true statement. That said, there are worse ways to spend your winter vacation than a staredown with one of the big movers and shakers during the Diva Era. (Sorry for the blue language, WWE.) James hasn't missed a beat since leaving the company, and I fully expect her to get the duke here and keep the wheels turning for Lynch.
Winner: Mickie James
John: They have done a good job in building the match up with clearly defined characters. James is the veteran heel that is a bit delusional in saying that the current generation of women are trying to disrespect people like her that were a part of the women’s division in the mid to late 2000s. James fits in well as a heel even though long term she’ll probably be a face. Lynch is easy to like as the woman that works hard, never gives up and unfortunately has people attack her all the time.
If they get 10-15 minutes they’ll have a great match. I think it will be closer to 10 minutes and Mickie should win since it’s her first televised singles match on the main roster since she came back. They can have other matches and Lynch can win, but for this one it’s better if Mickie gets the W.
Winner: Mickie James
Smackdown Tag Team Championship Turmoil Match: American Alpha vs. The Usos vs. Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. The Ascension vs. Breezango vs. The Vaudevillains
Rules: Two teams start off the match, once one team defeats the other, a new team enters to go up against the winning team. This continues until one team is left the victor.
Kurt: How am I supposed to get hyped about this match when The Hype Bros should rightfully be a part of it, if not the champs themselves? I miss Zack Ryder. I’ve always been a fan of the Tag Team Turmoil concept and thought WWE should use it more. I’m glad they went this route instead of making them do the Chamber match again. It would’ve made me ask, “Are you serious, bro?!”
I feel like American Alpha has lost some of their mojo since becoming champions, probably because their victory only came at the hands of Ryder’s injury and the company wasn’t sure what to do at that point. It’s a bit of a rough ride to convince me that any of these teams except maybe The Usos are worthy contenders, but if American Alpha just runs roughshod through everyone in this Turmoil match, which I fully expect, then what? The Andre The Giant Battle Royal to buy the writers time to figure that out? Woo Woo Woo, you know it.
By the way, that’s five Hype Bros references I incorporated and I’m not at all apologetic for it.
Prediction: American Alpha starts first and goes the distance to retain the Smackdown Tag Titles
Matt: Smackdown has a lot of tag teams. There are six in this match and if Zack Ryder doesn’t get hurt, there could be seven. Unfortunately, none of them are booked on the show in a way to develop and showcase them. How Breezango were not the ones helping Carmella with her Makeover of James Ellsworth is beyond me. Why aren’t The Usos utilized more often? I have an AMOC planned for the future on The Vaudevillains (among most of the teams in this match to be honest), so I don’t want to go into too much detail, but needless to say, there’s untapped potential in this division.
As far as the match is concerned, I can see Alpha starting and either running through all the teams or dropping the titles at the end to a dastardly duo like The Usos or an unexpected seventh entrant (Revival anyone?). I expect to see Rhyno and Slater continue down their road to falling out, if not outright breaking up here as well.
Winners and STILL Smackdown Tag Team Champions: American Alpha (because they just put the titles on them. I assume they’ll get some time with the belts during this run)
Mike: On the other side of the ledger, Smackdown's tag scene is a bit of a mess (and a miss) for me lately. Following the teasing of a breakup between ultra-popular former champs Rhyno and Heath Slater, American Alpha finally scored a run with the prime time and hasn't gotten much airtime to go with it. None of these teams even merited throwaway spots in the Royal Rumble, if that gives you some indication of WWE's feeling on them. Even the match itself seems like a shell of Smackdown's really great tournament for the belts, just a gimmick match to eat up some time between stuff we actually care about.
That's not to say this match won't have its moments, more to decry that half of the teams are only here to provide cannon fodder for the champs and their main challengers, the Usos. We could finally see the Slater/Rhyno split become official, but it's not like we're talking Owens and Jericho here. American Alpha was super buzzed about coming out of NXT, and that's stalled with the nagging injury angles and non-publicized title reign. Hopefully they get in first and dominate everybody to get their mojo (not Rawley, thank Flair) back again.
Winners (and STILL Smackdown Tag Team Champions): American Alpha
John: The tag team division is one of the few things on Smackdown that has been mildly disappointing in the past few months. Two weeks ago on Smackdown it was as if they finally realized they had a tag division, threw all these teams into the ring for a brawling segment and expected the crowd to love it. The crowd didn’t care because WWE has done a poor job of making us care about this division. Hopefully the match is fast paced and exciting that can win over the crowd.
If there’s a title change then maybe it’s the right time for The Usos to win as heel champions. That should have happened a few months ago. Right now they have no momentum, so I’ll go with American Alpha pinning three teams to retain the titles in impressive fashion.
Winners: American Alpha
Nikki Bella vs. Natalya
Kurt: This storyline almost went from feeling real and raw to cheesy after Natalya made the comment that John Cena would probably end up with her if she wasn’t married. That just came off as a hokey comment. However, they recovered nicely in their Talking Smack angle that saw Nikki take a nasty shot on the edge of the desk they interview from. I’ll overlook that minor blip for the fact that this has been a storyline that Natalya has really been able to sink her teeth into to become a true heel, and has helped Nikki rebound a bit after what I’m sure she would think ended up as a substandard feud with Carmella. (Think its coincidence that Carmella is now the odd woman out in the division?)
This is a rather easy match to predict, as Natalya has taken some real shots at Nikki and she’s yet to get appropriate revenge. Again, I’d love to see these two get some time as they’re both veterans that can work, but I would not be surprised in the least to see a very decisive win for Nikki.
Prediction: Nikki Bella
Matt: This match has been built up quite well since November. I really do like how things have escalated from a match to determine the captain of the Smackdown Women’s Survivor Series team, to this bitter and personal feud. There have been some creative and intense brawls between these two ladies on Smackdown every week, and it has really kept thing here fresh up to this point. The attack on Talking Smack was really well done in particular.
Now as much as I’d like Natalya to win, I have a lot of heels winning on this show (American Alpha are my only babyface picks). I think the injury angle from Talking Smack sets up for Nikki to overcome the odds and topple her tormenter since Survivor Series.
Winner: Nikki Bella (because she is Smackdown’s female John Cena, and one of them has to win on this night)
Mike: Once again we have a story that makes sense, and once again it's in the solid women's division of the roster. WWE's best work lately are the plotlines that mirror reality, and therefore Natalya's bitterness at Nikki Bella receiving opportunities due to her relationship with John Cena is a winner. That was before the added layer of Cena capturing the blue brand's main belt again at the Rumble, and I'll be interested to see if they work in a JC cameo here. It would set the table for furthering this agenda as rumored at WrestleMania, and it would also add fuel to Natalya's contention.
For her part, Natalya is a hell of a worker, but she always seems to be playing second fiddle to someone higher on the food chain in WWE's burgeoning orchestra. She finds herself in that tough spot again here, as Bella's future plans have more than a tinge of doubt and therefore the time is now to do something big with her. I like the edge to Nattie's character lately, doing everything from sneak attacks on Nikki to running down Bret Hart during interviews. It won't help her here, but it will in future.
Winner: Nikki Bella (with assistance from Mr. Bella)
John: The story has been strong for this match with Natalya doing the best heel work of her career while Nikki is a face that keeps defending herself from verbal and physical attacks. The interesting thing about that is that Nikki was a top heel for several years that would act like a “mean girl” to everybody, yet now that she’s a face we are supposed to act as if she is the nicest girl on the show. That’s just how pro wrestling works.
The difference between this match and Becky vs. Mickie is that this has been going on longer since Nikki was attacked by Natalya back at Survivor Series in November. They haven’t had a proper match yet, so it makes sense to have the face Nikki get the victory. As most people know, the rumored WrestleMania match is Nikki and boyfriend John Cena vs. The Miz and wife Maryse, so if they want to do that match then Nikki should go into it with a victory. If that match doesn’t happen then I can see Natalya getting the win. I’ll go with Nikki in what should be a competitive match that gets around ten minutes.
Winner: Nikki Bella
Smackdown Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss vs. Naomi
Kurt: This is the THIRD women’s match we’re discussing on this PPV. Think about that for a second. Three solid storylines for the women on one show. When is the last time that ever happened? Has it ever happened? Kudos to the Blue Brand for getting the most out of their roster.
What’s even more interesting is even though this is for the title, this may be the least meaningful match of the three. This is really Alexa’s first chance to carry a match on her own and show that she belongs on that top level of women’s performers in the entire company. Yeah, Naomi is athletic and has a cool entrance, but I don’t know if anyone is really buying her as a #1 contender all of the sudden. I don’t see any reason for Alexa to lose the belt now, so they’ll find a way to make Naomi look strong and keep her viable, but the champ retains.
Prediction: Alexa Bliss retains
Matt: Of the three Women’s matches slated for this Smackdown-exclusive PPV, this match features the least experienced pairing of women they have on the roster. It’s also for the title, so I appreciate them putting younger talent in a place to succeed (a rarity at this time of year). I expect this to be the sloppiest of the three women’s matches, but it also has the potential to be the most exciting.
Naomi can pull off some legitimately electrifying stuff in the ring and Bliss has her share of interesting attacks. I’m glad that Naomi is getting this chance to shine, even though her doing her full entrance for a contract signing on Tuesday was the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen on TV in quite some time.
Winner and Still Smackdown Women’s Champion: Alexa Bliss (because she’s still the best character on Smackdown. She really has it down pat.)
Mike: Bliss has done a stellar job as champion, and that's a big reason why I have no bones about seeing her pitted against everyone else in the division as they continue her deserved big build into stardom. The latest contender for her gold is Naomi, who has gotten a pretty good crowd reaction since her glow stick makeover. Her work in the ring has also been pretty good, but I feel like she's all catchphrase and no character. She has cool shoes and likes to dance, and then what? There's nothing really compelling about her under the surface, not even her much-promoted relationship and wedding with now-heel Jimmy Uso.
That lack of dynamism is why this match doesn't quite have the cachet of the other two, even though I fully expect both to do their part and have a good one. Bliss is still developing as a badass champion, and Naomi should eventually get a lengthy look with the title, but I can't see it happening at the Chamber. There's no reason to switch things over as they build Lynch's redemption story, and that's the one everyone will pay to see. Solid but unimpressive filler.
Winner (and STILL Smackdown Women's Champion): Alexa Bliss
John: The promo Naomi did on Smackdown last week made me think that there might be a title change here. She talked about how she wanted to win the title here, so she can slide down the ramp at WrestleMania in her hometown of Orlando as the Women’s Champion. Since her entrance is cool, that actually sounds like a great idea and an awesome moment for her. That doesn’t mean she’s going to win this match, but when she said that it made a lot of sense to me.
Bliss has only had the title for less than two months, so I would keep it on her longer. She will probably win a cheap manner in order to give Naomi another match at some point, perhaps at WrestleMania in a singles match or a multi-woman match. It’s also possible that this ends in a DQ win for Naomi in order to keep her as a viable contender. I’ll go with Bliss in a match that may have trouble keeping the crowd interested, but the match quality should be good enough.
Winner: Alexa Bliss
Luke Harper vs. Randy Orton
Kurt: This may be the most interesting match on the card for me, just because it could go so many directions. The obvious thought is that Orton can’t lose heading into WrestleMania, but I would argue that if the main event goes as expected, then Orton could feasibly lose to Harper and be just fine, while also elevating Harper in the process. They did something similar in 2001 when Steve Austin won the Royal Rumble heading into WM17, but lost to HHH at No Way Out in between.
I would love to see Harper stand on his own and get a sustained push. Crowds have reacted very favorably to him getting fed up with Bray and finally attacking him, so maybe there’s a babyface run in him. I don’t think it will go as poorly as Erick Rowan’s did. Speaking of which, he’s apparently close to coming back so is this a spot for him to show up to add another layer to this storyline? I’m going to pick Orton here because I think it ultimately gets too tricky to end up turning him and Harper babyface and Bray will welcome back Harper. However, I truly think anything is in play.
Prediction: Randy Orton
Matt: I really wasn’t expecting Luke Harper to get as hot as he’s been coming out of this Wyatt angle, but to paraphrase a line from Zoolander: Harper, so hot right now. Harper. Seriously, the guy has been putting in some great work, and I’m starting to wonder if the WWE is playing this Wyatt thing all wrong.
Don’t be mistaken, I’ve really loved Randy joining the Wyatt Family. I didn’t think that I would but I’ve absolutely adored it. That said, I assume it all leads to Randy vanquishing the evil Wyatts from within the family. He slithered in, made them trust him and struck when they least suspected (or at least Bray, Harper has been suspicious for some time). Where I’m saying they may be headed astray is that I don’t think that Randy should be the protagonist here. He’s a man destroying the greatest makeshift family since the Fast and Furious family, using serpent-like tactics of deception and poisoning them against each other. He’s a villain here. He’s Charlize Theron leading Dom against his own family in the Fate of the Furious trailer.
Winner: Randy Orton (because you have to book the Rumble winner strong, heading into Wrestlemania)
Mike: Randy Orton's plan to overtake the Wyatt Family from the inside has made for some compelling television, but it's also had the undesired side effect of not letting the fans in enough on the joke to really respond. Bray has been a monster baddie in more ways than one since his debut, and letting Luke Harper get some revenge on his former boss is an intriguing concept (though they've already done it poorly once) that gets muddled when you realize Orton is basically doing the same thing. Scorched earth for Bray until Rowan's return, then, I suppose.
This match is interesting, then, since the roles are reversed from what you'd expect. It's also likely more about Bray vs. Randy than it is Orton v. Harper. Whatever the outcome here, I firmly hope one consequence from this Wyatt storyline is the emergence of Luke Harper as a viable and solid singles star. He has earned it with his work in the ring, and he has gotten some very solid reactions during this build. Few would see Orton losing on the road to WrestleMania, but think of it this way: he doesn't need the win as his spot is already guaranteed. Chicanery.
Winner: Luke Harper
John: I’m looking forward to this match because Harper is one of my favorite guys to watch since he’s got a lot of great moves on offense, moves well for a bigger guy and sells well. When they did this match on Smackdown Live a few weeks, it was pretty good and left me wanting to see another match. I hope this match goes 15-20 minutes with a lot of nearfalls that the crowd gets into because then that could mean big things for Harper later in the year. It’s one of the biggest matches of Harper’s career while Orton is performing at a really high level and looking healthy. This should be fun.
A win for Harper would be a nice surprise. It’s possible WWE goes that route, but I’m going with Orton since he was pinned by Cena on SD Live this week. Having him lose two matches in a row doesn’t seem likely. It makes sense to have the Rumble winner win this match to give him the momentum going to WrestleMania.
Winner: Randy Orton
WWE Championship Elimination Chamber Match: John Cena vs. AJ Styles vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz vs. Baron Corbin
Kurt: If anyone but Bray Wyatt wins this match (save AJ Styles), I feel like all hell is going to break out on the IWC. I haven’t seen any of my counterpart’s predictions before submitting this, but I feel fairly certain we’re all picking Bray.
The question is, what do we do with the other five guys in the Chamber to get them to their Road to WresleMania? Ambrose should be the first one eliminated because he’s already protected with the IC Title. Have him and Corbin start the match, when a couple other guys get in the ring, have him do a crazy spot off one of the pods or off the chain link walls and then have one of the heels roll him up for a cheap elimination. I’d love to see Baron Corbin headed for another face to face with Braun Strowman in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal, but I could also see him being a top contender for Dean’s title with the way they’re pushing him. Either way, he needs to be one of those that takes 3 or 4 finishers in a row from the other opponents before being put away. Keep him strong.
If you’ve been anywhere near the site, you know that the plan is for The Miz and Maryse to take on John Cena and Nikki Bella at WrestleMania. Obviously, you have The Miz cost Cena his title somehow, with the help of Maryse of course. If that takes place, I’ll be VERY interested to hear the reaction of the crowd for that.
That leaves us with AJ Styles. If you listened to The Match Beyond podcast (you knew I’d get my plug in somewhere), you heard my opinion on AJ Styles’ standing after Royal Rumble. I would have AJ be the last one in the Chamber with Bray and I would have someone from the Wyatt Family help Bray win. Then you have AJ go into his proposed match with Shane, after complaining about his situation, and then after the match you can easily begin his official face turn and put him right back in the title picture as Bray’s first challenger after WrestleMania.
Everyone needs to take a deep breath as it pertains to the title picture. AJ is going to be just fine and Bray Wyatt is FINALLY getting the ball to run with. Let’s all just enjoy this moment.
Prediction: New WWE World Champion, Bray Wyatt
Matt: This match is very much a set-up for things to come at Wrestlemania. It’s likely setting up the Intercontinental Championship feud heading into Wrestlemania (probably some multi-man match featuring Ambrose and Corbin among others), a Cena/ Miz feud that’ll probably feature their significant others heavily (and may mark the inception of the WWE’s newest division, the couple’s division, complete with its own mixed tag team Couple’s Championship), something for AJ (I have thoughts on this you’ll see elsewhere soon), and of course Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton. I’m picking Bray to win here, as I assume anybody with sense is.
With that said, I’m going to continue on my thought that they are playing this wrong. I think that there’s significant money in Bray Wyatt as a babyface, and that him winning the Royal Rumble and heading into Wrestlemania as a babyface, trying to wrestle control of his family back from the diabolical Randy Orton is a far better story.
Firstly, the fans would have popped for Bray winning the Rumble as it would have been something new and exciting as opposed to the steady stream of sameness the Royal Rumble has come to represent. Second, the visual of Bray winning, kneeling in the ring and looking at the Wrestlemania sign lit up by “fireflies” is a new, iconic and hauntingly beautiful image to imagine. Third, it should be Randy winning the title in the Elimination Chamber, going on to defend against Bray at Wrestlemania.
Instead of having Randy tear the Wyatts apart as a part of his plan to get Bray alone, he pulls Harper over to his side, and Bray must fight to regain his brother against the wicked viper, who has wrapped himself around Luke Harper and poisoned his mind against Bray. Bray overcoming a villainous Randy at Wrestlemania to capture his first major Championship in WWE, while also regaining his brother Luke Harper, is a star-making moment on the grandest stage.
Wyatt winning the World Title at Elimination Chamber, it’s cool I suppose, but not star making. Especially if it leads to him losing to cunning anti-hero Randy Orton at Wrestlemania. Even if Bray retains at Wrestlemania, it still isn’t the moment that makes him. Winning your first title at Mania can make you, not defending it. They're doing the whole thing backward if you ask me.
Winner and NEW WWE World Heavyweight Champion: Bray Wyatt (because it’s inevitable. I’ve also talked myself into despising it)
Mike: Here's one of those matches that seems way larger than it actually is, but all the bells and whistles in the kingdom won't obscure the main fact that half of the entrants have no chance. The Miz has been rock solid since last summer, but the idea of him as "the guy" doesn't hold water just yet. Baron Corbin is finally being realized as the big beast coming out of NXT after all the fits and starts, but we're not at the tipping point. And poor Dean Ambrose? The worst thing about his lack of chance to head out of EC as standard bearer is that we're prevented from an Intercontinental Title match for literally no reason whatsoever.
That leaves current champ Cena, former champ AJ Styles, and the aforementioned Bray Wyatt as the candidates with a viable chance for victory, and we've already seen Cena/Styles a bunch over the last few months. I'm not complaining, as they absolutely tore the house down at Rumble, but with Cena's reduced schedule and Hollywoodland commitments it's not likely to continue as a focal point.
Randy Orton needs a dance partner for the biggest event in wrestling, and while his storyline with Bray doesn't scream main event to me, it might have to do with the current state of affairs. Cena's quick trip to the title exists just to make the next one a HUGE tale, and we can all pretend these last couple of weeks didn't exist at all. Wyatt will undoubtedly take over, if only to serve as jester to the re-coronation of Orton, and then we're back to five years ago. It's not an Elimination Chamber, it's a time machine.
Winner (and NEW WWE Champion): Bray Wyatt
John: I like Elimination Chamber matches a lot. I’m glad it has returned as its own pay-per-view event with the WWE Title on the line. There’s a lot of talent in this match with different backstories and if they book things the right way (a strength of SD Live of late) then we could be talking about one of the best EC matches ever.
John Cena’s the transitional WWE Champion in this match. It’s weird to say that he’s a transitional, but it’s true. He beat AJ Styles clean in a classic match at Royal Rumble two weeks ago and now he’s going to drop it in a match where he has a 1 in 6 (or 16.7%) chance to win. While I would love to see him drop the title to somebody in a one on one match to put the guy over clean, it’s not going to happen. I think Cena booked in a spot where he takes two or three finishers in a row before getting pinned. He’s the favorite in the match (in the storyline), so have the others work together to get rid of him. That’s something that has happened in some EC matches in the past where the champ is taken out early. I think it would work well.
The Miz and Dean Ambrose are both good performers that have been top guys before. Ambrose is the IC Champ while Miz was a long term IC Champ. They’re there to add credibility and do some cool spots, but I don’t see either man having a big role. Perhaps Miz will do a cheap attack on Cena after he gets eliminated to try to push that as an angle leading to the previously mentioned mix tag at WrestleMania.
Baron Corbin is the future main event star of this match. He needs a strong showing. I think he’ll eliminate one or two guys. He might even last until the final two, but I think he’ll be out before that. It’s too early in his main roster career to put the title on him. Maybe later in 2017 if he’s Money in the Bank winner or something along those lines.
It seems unlikely that AJ Styles will win. I think he’s going to be in the role as one of the two guys that starts the match, he’ll fight until he’s in the final two and be the guy that puts over the winner. It also seems likely that he’ll turn face shortly after WrestleMania because the crowd likes him too much.
I think Bray Wyatt is the obvious winner and WWE knows that a lot of fans are aware of it. I don’t think they are going to deviate from the plan because I assume this has been the plan for a few months now. Do you think it was an accident that Wyatt and Orton were the winners of the big Survivor Series elimination match? At the time it felt random, but then they had Orton win the Rumble and two weeks after that we could see Wyatt as the WWE Champion. It sounds like good long term booking to me. From there, we could see Luke Harper side with Wyatt or stay on his own. Erick Rowan is due back from injury at any time, so he could have a role in the storyline too. There’s a lot of time to set up Wyatt vs. Orton and I’m optimistic about it.
I’m happy for Wyatt finally getting that WWE Title, if it does happen. He hasn’t been booked consistently well since he’s been on the main roster, but now that he’s in this position they can rectify that with a WWE Title run.
They should get 25-30 minutes and I expect something above the four star level out of five as well.
Winner: Bray Wyatt wins the WWE Title
Mike: I think Elimination Chamber has a bit of a tough job to do, as it has to keep Smackdown's rolling momentum and further the WrestleMania agenda while still putting forth an entertaining show. It's a lot of straight up wrestling, which I'll never complain about, versus the standard stipulation things the company seems to enjoy so highly. The Chamber match itself, always a show piece and a crowd pleaser, will definitely have some buzzworthy moments, but it's a bit muted by the obvious road the WWE is taking regarding the potential outcome. They could always pull the rug out to have a laugh at us, but it seems unlikely given the timeline.
I am a fan of the focus on women's wrestling that this card has, and hope all three bouts get suitable time to tell their story. The red brand could learn a bit about how to present specialized wrestling (hello, cruisers!) and the tag team match should be chaotic but likely underwhelming. This show is all about the destruction of the Wyatts, and how much you do or don't like them will have quite a bit to do with how you likely feel about EC at the end of it.
John: The card is predictable because as you can see there were a lot of similar picks, but that doesn’t make it bad. I think they have built up a lot of these matches well for the most part. Our predictions are based on traditional wrestling booking and how we think things might turn out since we have watched WWE shows all of our lives. If I go 100% on my picks it won’t mean I loved or hated the show. It all depends on things like match finishes, timing of the matches and the crowd reaction. That’s what makes these PPV events fun because you know the performers will get more time in the ring to tell a story.
I will write a live review of WWE Elimination this Sunday night during the show, so check out TJRWrestling.net during the show or after it’s over for my thoughts on everything.
Kurt - @KTankTMB
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Mike - @DharmanRockwell
John - @johnreport
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