John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE Elimination Chamber preview featuring the Raw brand. It’s the last Raw brand PPV of the year and it features two Elimination Chamber matches. The show takes place this Sunday, February 25th from the T-Mobile Arena in beautiful Las Vegas.
Joining me for the preview are Mike Holland and Matthew Phillips. No Kurt Zamora this time because of work commitments.
(Note: All graphics are from WWE.com. The banner up top is courtesy of our friend Melo Man.)
On Friday afternoon, WWE realized that they needed a match on the Kickoff Show. Here’s what they announced on WWE.com.
Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs. Curtis Axel & Bo Dallas
That should be a win for Gallows and Anderson. Basic stuff there. Let’s get to the rest of the card that knew of earlier in the week.
Raw Tag Team Championships: The Bar - Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Apollo & Titus O’Neil
Mike: I can't say it does that much for me. While Titus Worldwide has been booked better of late, and Apollo Crews became the latest victim of the name shortening brigade, they don't seem like anything other than another stopgap for The Bar while we wait for the Raw tag team scene to become much more interesting. You can't tell me you wouldn't rather see a team like The Revival or Gallows & Anderson getting this opportunity.
Speaking of which, can we end the Sheamus and Cesaro thing already? Strong heels are needed on both rosters, and while they've been far better than I expected them to be, heel teams are no longer a priority. I would like to see The Balor Club get the next duke and the win, as they have major crowd support and could help revitalize a scene that's gotten a bit stale since the injury to Dean Ambrose derailed the Shield comeback. It's closing time on The Bar. Just not yet, apparently.
Winners (and STILL Raw Tag Team Champions): Sheamus & Cesaro
Matthew: I’m not quite sure where the Raw Tag Team Division is going these days. There are a handful of perfectly good Tag Teams competing on Raw, but the plan for the Red and Silver Belts come Wrestlemania seems to be M.I.A. I can say that I’ve grown tired of the Raw Tag Team Champions. Unlike their Blue Brand counterparts, The Usos, Cesaro and Sheamus have failed to maintain my interest in them and are failing to get better with each passing day. They failed to raise The Bar so to speak, while Jimmy and Jey consistently surprise and impress me.
Maybe the Raw Tag Team scene could use the shake up of a Titus Worldwide win. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Apollo in particular in recent weeks and would like to see him rewarded and pushed even a little bit. Unfortunately, I sense a holding pattern.
Winners and Still Raw Tag Team Champions: The Bar (because I see a pre-show Fatal 4-Way Raw Tag Team Title match at Wrestlemania featuring these two teams, The Revival and Gallows/Anderson)
John: The team of Apollo and Titus got this title shot because they beat Sheamus and Cesaro in a non-title match on Raw last week. It’s the typical way of WWE getting somebody title match. Sometimes I wonder if the creative team realizes how lame their stories are because they just don’t think of creative things anymore. I like Sheamus and Cesaro as a team that can be the focus of the division, so keep the gold on them. WrestleMania is likely going to lead to a multi-team match with Gallows/Anderson and The Revival involved.
Winners: Sheamus & Cesaro
Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt
Mike: Oh dear. I had my concerns the minute I heard the intentions to recreate Matt Hardy's "Broken" character within the confines of WWE, and those concerns were well founded to say the least. Just about everything special has been removed from this incarnation, aside from the horror movie classical music intro and the annoying laugh. Getting the crowd to chant "Delete!" loses its steam after about three times. It's just gotten started and it already feels like it needs a reboot.
As for Wyatt, he may want to hire an attorney because it's just criminal what WWE has done to him. This feud with Matt has served to elevate neither man, and their underwhelming contest against each other a little while back at Raw 25 did him no favors either. I think this program's best moment was their odd moment of teaming up in the Royal Rumble, which was as popular as it was fleeting. Now there's a direction nobody sees coming that could lead to good television. In the meantime, though, it's more of the standard. Jeff "Brother Nero" Hardy is due for a return and Wyatt won clean at Raw 25, so you do the math.
Winner: Matt Hardy
Matthew: I want to care about this match, but the WWE have worked overtime to ensure that I don’t. They’ve done nothing to make this interesting whatsoever. No further exploration of Woken Matt existing in a battle with Sister Abigail for centuries. No venturing to the Hardy Compound. No personal elements or cheesy theatrics. Just duelling promos and cackling. I kind of can’t wait for this feud to be over so we can get to good, creative Woken Matt stuff and move on from the creativity vacuum that is Bray Wyatt.
Winner: Woken Matt Hardy (because Bray Wyatt is as lost a cause as I’ve ever encountered in recent memory. I have very little use for him or his rambling repetitiveness at this point)
John: When Matt Hardy first came back to WWE, he mentioned repeatedly that he wanted to feud with Bray Wyatt due in part to the way their characters are unique. I thought it was a great idea too. The problem is the booking has been shit, it’s gone on way too long without enough action and I don’t think there’s much to the story aside from each man laughing a lot. I get that Bray’s the guy that loves the darkness while Matt loves the light (because he’s “woken”), but there’s nothing that interesting about it.
I’ll go with Wyatt just because Raw really needs some heels to be booked well. Raw’s top heels right now are Miz and Elias. That’s not very strong at the top. Maybe a win here will get Wyatt going again.
Winner: Bray Wyatt
Asuka vs. Nia Jax
(If Nia Jax wins she gets added to a Championship match at WrestleMania.)
Mike: I openly stumped for Nia Jax to win the Royal Rumble because I felt it was a way for Asuka to "lose" without really losing, and as usual they ignored that option to their detriment. Now they are somewhat painted into a corner with no apparent exit strategy, as Asuka's winning streak can't have been maintained this long just to lose a singles match before her WrestleMania title shot. The stipulation of this match, though, gives you pause as Nia can't be booked poorly either. What's a company to do?
The easy answer is that there is just no way Asuka straight up loses to Jax here. Jax's solid booking Monday in a convincing and thorough beatdown of Asuka further proves that point. WWE will take it as a big win if you believe she has a shot here. She can still technically be protected in some way (disqualification, for example) but I wouldn't take it for granted that Jax losing means the stipulation can't still come to pass. Pretty sure there's TWO women's titles that need defending there. Asuka has already dominated Raw. I think she's headed to Mania to go up against the best woman on either roster, Charlotte.
Matthew: I suppose I’m to believe that Nia might win here to set up her Title Match for Wrestlemania. The prevailing thought is that Asuka will challenge the Smackdown Women’s Champion, and that Nia, having beaten Asuka here, will be the rightful challenger for the Raw Women’s Champion. This logic is sound, but incredibly foolish in my humble opinion. If the plan really is to break Asuka’s undefeated streak right before Wrestlemania, then I’d have to question the sanity of the people in creative control (which in fairness I do regularly). I just refuse to believe they’re this dumb.
Asuka should remain undefeated heading into a mega match with Charlotte. Nia can still claim ownership of a Raw Women’s Championship match in defeat. The destination can remain entirely unaltered without making a stupid decision.
Winner: Asuka (because the WWE isn’t dumb enough to do the opposite)
John: This should be a win for Asuka. Anything other than that would be a surprise. They have wrestled eachother before in NXT, so they have chemistry from that. I think this will be one of those matches where the loser (Jax) gets to be on offense for 80% of it, comes close to winning several times, the announcers will push her hard in terms of how impressive she looks during the match and ultimately she’ll lose to a submission hold by Asuka.
I think on Monday’s Raw, Asuka will say she’s challenging Smackdown’s Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania and WWE will keep Asuka away from Rousey possibly for a full year. Build it up for as long as you can. I think that’s the plan.
Ronda Rousey’s WWE Monday Night Raw contract signing
Mike: Whether anyone wants to hear it or not, there is far more of the future of women's wrestling tied up in this moment than the actual matches on this card. Rousey signing has been presented as a big deal, so much so that it's overshadowed everything else. Can it deliver? Maybe, but it mostly depends on what you're expecting. The speculation has been wild to say the least. Will WWE play off the long rumored Rock/Rousey vs. Triple H/Stephanie angle? Will they have Rousey make a bid for whichever belt Asuka isn't chasing? Whatever is actually in store might be a bit of a letdown just due to the build.
I've learned to split the difference, so I definitely think having Kurt Angle and Stephanie McMahon in the ring for this Raw signing makes sense. Stephanie gets offended at some slight, Angle gets involved in some way, and things take shape quickly from there. Rousey will need to be protected at first, so a high-profile championship match (unless it's brief) would be in error. Kurt Angle taking the Rock spot sounds like a WM moment to me.
If you're looking for more of my take on Rousey, check the article here!
Matthew: I’ve been mulling this over for a little while now, trying to find something interesting or meaningful to say here about what promises to be a noteworthy/buzz-worthy segment from Sunday’s show. Ronda Rousey in the WWE is a big deal. It brings mainstream attention, it brings eyeballs and it makes people talk. I unfortunately don’t have much to say about the matter that is productive or positive. I’m not a UFC or MMA fan. I don’t rally care about Rousey in that sense, nor do I care about her much as a celebrity name. I’ve never seen her fight, and as a name she truly doesn’t move the needle for me. Outside The Rock showing up here, there’s literally very few things that could inspire me to give a damn about this segment or what it leads to.
As excited as I am to see Shinsuke Nakamura take on AJ Styles at Wrestlemania, I feel the exact and equal opposite way about Rousey vs Stephanie in whatever form it might take. I guess the plus side is it would keep Stephanie off TV for a little while post Wrestlemania, but otherwise it doesn’t make the show any better for me personally. I guess I’m not very excited for this particular event, and I honestly doubt that it is going to pack much of a punch even for the people excited about it. My expectations are low, so it’ll be an easy bar to clear.
John: I think Rousey’s going to get booed by the fans because they view her as somebody who doesn’t belong in WWE. I don’t think of her like that because she loves the pro wrestling business, she has been training to do this since last summer and after seeing how successful she was in judo as well as UFC (one of the biggest draws they ever had), I believe in her succeeding in WWE too. My concern is with the booking.
The rumors are that Rousey will team with a male wrestler (The Rock if they can get him, but more likely Kurt Angle or Seth Rollins) against Stephanie McMahon and Triple H. I’m already dreading the idea of Stephanie in a match with Rousey. If that happens, Rousey should not have to sell for the 40-year-old daughter of a billionaire that’s not a wrestler. Sadly, WWE probably won’t book Rousey strongly enough and Stephanie won’t sell as well as a good wrestler, so it’s going to turn into a mess.
I expect this segment to have Stephanie talk shit about Rousey, then Triple H joins the fray and Angle is there to stand up for Rousey because he can say he was the one that signed her to Raw. I hope it’s a good segment. I’m worried that it won’t be. Here’s hoping WWE plans it out well.
Women’s Elimination Chamber Match for the Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley vs. Mandy Rose vs. Sonya Deville vs. Mickie James vs. Sasha Banks
Mike: This historic match doesn't have my interest as much as the previous ones did, and I don't think it's a coincidence. It's been booked as Bliss not getting a lot of respect as champion and having to defend against five competitors, but whenever that canard gets trotted out you're best advised to look in the other direction as quickly as possible. Bliss has every advantage here, and the biggest thing about this match really has nothing to do with her whatsoever.
I don't have much to add about Mandy Rose except to say that it will be brief. Ditto Sonya Deville, as the Absolution angle only really has steam when they have the numbers, which they don't here. Paige's injury appears to have derailed most of whatever this stable was supposed to be. Mickie, of course, is very good, and their teasing of her solidarity with the Raw champion is not an idle direction. I would expect her to be used to protect Bliss a bit until the inevitable moment when Alexis shows she doesn't keep friends very long, especially in situations where her belt is on the line.
That leaves what you really came to see, Bayley versus Sasha Banks, and while either of them would make a fine champion, it's flat out not happening. The end of their friendship has been in the cards for quite a bit, and event after event they've delayed it. I don't think I can even write about it anymore if they don't go through with it here. While either could theoretically play the heel, Bayley is cemented in the female Cena role so I predict Banks lays her out in frustration over being eliminated so that Bliss can steal the win. I don't expect this match to be as good as it's being built up to be, unfortunately.
First two: Bliss and Banks
Final two: Bliss and Bayley
Who will last the longest: Bliss
Most eliminations: Banks and James
Winner (and STILL Raw Women's Champion): Alexa Bliss
Matthew: There are only three ways this ends. Either Sasha wins, screwing over Bayley in the process, leading to the two of them facing off for the Title at Wrestlemania, Bayley wins leading to Sasha turning on her and challenging for the Title at Wrestlemania, or Alexa Bliss retains and faces Nia Jax at Wrestlemania for the Raw Women’s Championship. I guess any of those outcomes could also lead to a Fatal 4-Way featuring Alexa, Sasha, Bayley and Nia, though I seriously doubt that’s the direction. Anyhow, the decision seems to be between having the Title in the Bayley/Sasha Rivalry or in the Alexa/Nia Rivalry.
First two: Sasha and Mandy Rose
Final two: Bayley and Alexa Bliss
Who will last the longest: Bayley
Most eliminations: Alexa, Sasha and Bayley
Winner: Alexa Bliss (because they’ve invested too much time in her and she frankly deserves to enter Wrestlemania as Champion. She’s been so damn good for a long time)
John: Let me start by saying that this title reign by Alexa Bliss has been one of the most boring title reigns in a very long time. No PPV title defenses since October? That’s ridiculous. I know she has defended it on Raw since then, but I can’t tell you the dates of those matches off the top of my head and it’s bad that it has been so long for a champion to have a title match on a PPV. Plan things better, WWE. If you want us to care about this division and this title, have your champion defend it more often. If Bliss loses the title here or at WrestleMania, is it really a big deal considering how rarely she defended it on TV? No. Make us care more, WWE. A little effort would be nice.
The main story is whether Alexa Bliss and Mickie James can work together to deal with the other obvious pairs in the match: Banks/Bayley and Deville/Rose. That likely won’t end well for my favorite in the match, Mickie, because I can see Bliss turning on her after they work together. It fits Bliss’ character. The veteran James should be able to see it coming, but WWE likes to book their wrestlers to be idiots.
I think Bayley is going to pin Banks or do something to cause Banks to be pinned. By that I mean an accidental clothesline would work. Banks eliminated Bayley at the Royal Rumble, so having Bayley “pay her back” by reminding her it’s every woman for himself would be good. I think Banks is going to turn heel either after she gets pinned here or more likely on Raw the next week.
I don’t expect Rose and Deville to have much of a role aside from the announcers hyping them up as “rookies” who look like they belong with the others.
The rumor is Bliss vs. Jax at WrestleMania. That doesn’t excite me at all and I think it would be a bad match with Jax possibly in the face role as a monster similar to Braun Strowman. I think a multi-woman match at WrestleMania would be a better idea.
First two: James and Banks
Final two: Bliss and Bayley
Who will last the longest: James
Most eliminations: Bliss
Winner: Alexa Bliss
Men’s Elimination Chamber Match for a Universal Championship Match vs. Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania: Braun Strowman vs. Elias (last man to enter the match) vs. John Cena vs. Roman Reigns vs. The Miz (first man to enter the match) vs. Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins
Mike: This match, overstuffed as it is, only has one real hook. Does WWE go with the plan hatched since the dawn of time and have Roman Reigns book his ticket for a date with Brock Lesnar, or do they make an unprecedented eleventh hour swerve and allow someone else to take his spot? I don't pretend that the latter option means Reigns still doesn't get into the match, but it would be interesting to say the least. As for everyone else, this Chamber battle really boils down to what they themselves will be doing WrestleMania weekend.
That's critical, because oddly enough we really don't know where just about any of the folks not mentioned above fit in. I would expect more than one of those situations to resolve themselves by the end of the show. Miz naturally has no shot to win this match, so I'd imagine his opponent to be evident by the time this is done. While there's been no shortage of discussion regarding Strowman, a natural choice given his fan support, Balor is more logical and would allow him to be hidden out of the Universal Title discussion for a while at least.
John Cena is even more interesting since this is really being billed as his "last" opportunity to fit in at WM. If we are to believe that The Undertaker is to be his opponent, which seems probable to me, I don't think the Deadman has to put in an appearance here for that match to happen. I think it ramps up for a Cena victory only to have him lose, putting his future in question and resulting in an interview segment where Taker appears and the stage is literally set. It would feel special and unique.
Rollins was booked fantastically on Raw's epic gauntlet match, and I'm not sure where he goes from here. I would expect his solid performance to continue, and maybe further the "Reigns getting over at Seth's expense" angle that was hinted at in the Rumble. Should the plan be to turn Reigns heel after Lesnar goes, that would be a very solid possibility. Elias is entertaining but really has no business in this match. As for Strowman, that will be the real question of this battle. He is the only person other than Reigns who I could see winning, and should he not, it remains to be seen where he slots in. Strowman/Lesnar has not delivered to the level we'd have liked though, so I think it's smoke and mirrors to attempt to obfuscate what's been known from the beginning. The Big Dog will have his day.
First three: Miz, Rollins, Balor
Final two: Cena, Reigns
Who will last the longest: Rollins
Most eliminations: Strowman
Winner: Roman Reigns
Matthew: Everybody here has a role to play, and that is the role of stepping stone to the 3rd Coronation of Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania. This outcome is pretty much etched in stone, so no sense in belabouring that point. Spoiler Alert: Roman Wins!
It’s everything else in this match that could be intriguing, despite the already clear outcome. Will the events of this match set John Cena’s path for Wrestlemania? Could we see The Undertaker here? How will The Miz cost Braun Strowman, leading to the A-Lister getting “Those Hands” at Wrestlemania? Will this match set up a Seth Rollins match for Wrestlemania? Possibly with Finn Balor? What kind of theatrics does Elias have planned and will he be more than just a comedic entrant? So many questions and so many possibilities. I’m trying not to get my hopes up because that’ll lead to disappointment.
First three: Miz, Reigns, Balor
Final two: Reigns and The Miz (with Reigns getting the pin on him after Miz beat him twice recently)
Who will last the longest: Reigns
Most eliminations: Reigns & Rollins
Winner: Roman Reigns (because DUH!!!!)
John: Roman Reigns will win and I don’t think a lot of people are going to go against that. We know that Vince McMahon has wanted to do Reigns vs. Lesnar since last March. How many years are there where we know what the plan is for a match a year in advance? It’s pretty rare. There’s no indication that WWE is going to deviate from that plan either.
I think the little stories of Miz as one of the first three guys and Elias as the 7th man in adds some intrigue since they’re the only heels in the match. However, I don’t believe anybody watching this match believes either of them will win.
As for Cena, he’s there to try to push the story of an aging wrestler that feels like he’s in a must-win match to get a title match at WrestleMania. I think Cena will get pinned by Reigns and Mikey Cole will push the story wondering what this means for Cena at WrestleMania. On Monday’s Raw, Cena will probably do a promo in the ring, The Undertaker will interrupt and there they are with their WrestleMania match.
The only candidates to win other Reigns are Rollins and Strowman. It was nice to see Rollins put over huge on Monday’s Raw with clean wins over Reigns and Cena after 65 minutes of in-ring action. It showed that WWE believes in him again after making him a tag team wrestler for about six months. It also means he’s not winning this match. The same goes for Strowman, who really should be the one to beat Lesnar at WrestleMania based on crowd support and how he has been booked for nearly two years with very few clean losses. I think Strowman will get pinned by Miz, who will use some object (a lead pipe perhaps?) handed to him by the Miztourage to do a cheap shot. That sets up Strowman vs. Miz at WrestleMania too.
This should be 35-40 minutes long with a lot of cool moments. The booking of big matches in WWE has been great in the last few years. I expect nothing different here.
I’m going with Reigns as I already said. I don’t mind Reigns. I just wish things were a little more unpredictable.
First three: Miz, Rollins, Cena
Final two: Reigns and Rollins
Who will last the longest: Rollins
Most eliminations: Reigns
Winner: Roman Reigns
Match I'm Looking Forward To The Most
Mike: Men's Elimination Chamber match. Plenty of WrestleMania intrigue and it's all been leading up to this.
Matthew: Men’s Chamber.
John: Men’s Chamber for sure because it has a great lineup. I think if the women’s Chamber match is lacking in the story department.
Match I Care About The Least
Mike: Wyatt/Hardy. Good gravy, it's been awful.
John: Clean sweep for Wyatt/Hardy here.
Mike: Men's Chamber match again. More participants and more time between eliminations.
Matthew: Men’s Chamber.
John: The Men’s Chamber match should go 30-40 minutes.
Mike: Asuka/Jax. It has to be kept short in my view.
John: Sheamus/Cesaro vs. Apollo/Titus doesn’t need to be long.
Excitement Level on a Scale of 1-10 (1 being low, 10 being high)
Mike: I'll go 6. Most of the big matches aren't very interesting. Should have some keeper moments though.
Matthew: A high 4 at best. I’m not terribly excited about this show.
John: A 6 seems fair. The storylines for every match other than the men’s Chamber are poor. They could have built up the full card a lot better.
John: It's a weak card that is banking on the two Chamber matches to carry the show. It's as if WWE realized that they had this show scheduled, so they have to figure something out. The stories in the two Chamber matches aren't strong at all and the undercard matches are just average at best. I hope the stories get better after this PPV leading up to WrestleMania because it feels as if the creative team took several weeks off. Chamber matches in the past have had better build. These ones are just so weak in terms of storylines. That doesn't mean it's going to be a bad show because the talent is good enough to have compelling matches. I just wish the stories were better.
That’s all for us. Thanks to the crew for joining me once again. I will write a live review of Elimination Chamber on TJRWrestling.net on Sunday night, so check it out during the show or after it’s over.
Mike - @DharmanRockwell
Matthew - @MJDP_GSE
John - @johnreport
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