(Might as well post a few of these from last year’s and going backwards, leading up to Sunday’s show where we can all celebrate the greatness of Roman Reigns yet again.)
The SmarK Rant for WWE Elimination Chamber 2017 – 02.12.17
Live from Phoenix, AZ
Your hosts are Mauro & JBL & Tom & David.
Becky Lynch v. Mickie James
Surprising amount of boos for Mickie, as you’d think the nostalgia pop would override the storyline. (Honestly, I don’t even remember what the storyline was.) They fight outside on a lockup and Mickie works on a hammerlock in the ring, but Becky kicks her off the apron and follows with a dive. Mickie catches her with a DDT on the way in, for two, and goes back to the arm again. She works on that for a while and the match has no heat, but Becky makes the comeback until Mickie cuts her off with a trip to the post. Rana out of the corner while Mauro goes on a ridiculous run talking about “Mickie’s generation” as though she’s 50 years old or something. Mickie goes to a chinlock on the mat, but they slug it out as Becky makes the comeback. Exploder suplex gets two. Blind charge misses and James gets a flapjack and goes up with the senton for two. Becky fights back again and gets a missile dropkick for two. Mick Kick, but Becky is in the ropes, so the ref makes her pull Becky into the middle for the pin attempt. They’re really serious about the “calling it as a shoot” stuff these days! Becky backdrops out of the DDT and reverses a rollup for the pin at 11:32, however. Decent TV-level opener, kind of dull most of the way but with a good finish. **1/2
Meanwhile, James Ellsworth hangs out with Carmella in the skybox. Carmella can’t even convincingly eat popcorn without looking fake. (Are they EVER gonna pay off the Money in the Bank thing with her, by the way?)
Dolph Ziggler v. Apollo Crews & Kalisto
Dolph wisely attacks Kalisto during his entrance and tosses him into the LED board. THOSE THINGS ARE EXPENSIVE, PAL! Good thing WWE stock was at $20 after the financials. The crowd immediately cheers like crazy for Ziggler’s heel move and chants his name. Crews, upset about the injury to the guy he’s never associated with before, attacks Dolph in the ring and pounds away, but Dolph catches him with a neckbreaker on the apron. Back in for another neckbreaker that gets two. And we hit the chinlock. Crews blocks a superkick, but Ziggler puts him down with an elbow and it’s back to the chinlock. For like 2 minutes. Dolph continues working the neck and now Kalisto gimps out to the ring like an idiot. Crews comes back with enzuigiri that “puts Ziggler in airplane mode”. Keep workshopping that one, Mauro. Kalisto gets the hot tag, and Crews finishes Ziggler with a powerbomb at 7:29. This may be one of the worst heel turns in wrestling history thus far, as Dolph is now doing jobs for jobbers. * Dolph snaps again and beats on both babyfaces alone, to huge cheers before Pillmanizing Apollo’s ankle. The crowd chants “Thank you Ziggler” for that heinous act. THIS IS A DISASTER, on every level. (On the bright side, Dolph is now both a bigger geek than ever, AND in the main event of the next Smackdown PPV show! It’s a 2-for-1 deal!)
Smackdown TAG TEAM TITLE TURMOIL
Match #1: Heath Slater & Rhyno v. Tyler Breeze & Fandango
Slater dominates both heels with atomic drops and Rhyno beats on Breeze, but Fandango trips up Slater to take over. Fandango blocks a sunset flip and writes him some tickets for fashion crimes, but Slater gets two anyway. Over to Rhyno, who finishes with the Gore at 4:33. ½*
Match #2: Heath Slater & Rhyno v. The Vaudevillains
The heels attack Rhyno on the floor and double-team Slater in the ring, but Rhyno breaks it up and Slater finishes English with a DDT in 1:15. DUD
Match #3: Heath Slater & Rhyno v. The Usos
Mauro clarifies that the Usos’ new attitude is because they have “too much sauce for the rest of the tag team division”. More like WEAK SAUCE, am I right? The Usos are now morphing into Los Boriquas before our eyes and they beat on Rhyno for a bit before Slater gets an immediate hot tag and makes the comeback a minute into the match. Jey puts him down with a samoan drop for two and Jimmy superkicks him for the pin at 2:03. DUD
Match #4: The Usos v. American Alpha
Alpha dominates with suplexes and Gable hits Jey with a high cross for two, but Gable takes a cheapshot and he’s YOUR face in peril. Usos work him over in the corner and Jimmy hits the chinlock. Finally this marathon leads to Jordan getting the hot tag after a grueling 4:00, and Gable rolls up Jimmy for the pin at 4:37. *1/2 The Usos, upset at this turn of events, blindside the champions and destroy them afterwards. Perhaps if they had tried that tactic during the match itself they wouldn’t have lost like the geeks they are. (Thankfully the Usos worked out the kinks on their new gimmick and are tremendously entertaining in that role now.)
Finals: American Alpha v. The Ascension
So things are bleak now with the champions laid out and unconscious, and they immediately hit their finisher on Jordan for two, but Gable saves. The Ascension continues working Jordan over in the corner and growling a lot, and Konnor gets a high knee for two. Jordan fires back with a suplex on Viktor and Alpha hits Grand Amplitude on Viktor out of nowhere to retain at 2:42. This whole thing was a complete waste of time that only highlighted how useless the entire division is. ¼* Like, they couldn’t even have Kurt Angle come out and inspire Alpha to come back and win or something? (I mean, what if Angle was secretly connected to them somehow…nah, that’d be stupid.)
Nikki Bella v. Natalya
Apparently they used to be best friends and then it spiraled out of control or something. Nikki tries a cross armbreaker, but Nattie pounds her down until Nikki rolls into a kneebar. They fight to the floor and Nikki follows with a clothesline off the apron, but Nattie sends her into the post. Back in, Nattie stomps away in the corner and goes to the chinlock. She stops to yell at Mama Bella at ringside, but sadly this isn’t leading to Johnny Ace v. Jim Neidhart as a payoff. Nikki finally makes the comeback with some stuff, but Natalya gets a Michinoku Driver for two. Nikki with a forearm for two and a spinebuster for two. Nikki goes up and Nattie brings her down with a superplex and into the Sharpshooter. Nikki of course powers out and reverses to an STF, but Nattie makes the ropes. And they tumble to the floor for the brawl and double countout at 13:18. Oh boy, this feud must continue. **
Meanwhile, back in the skybox, Carmella is still working on her popcorn.
Randy Orton v. Luke Harper
Harper’s solo music doesn’t exactly set the crowd afire. (Failed singles push #2 for the poor bastard.) They immediately brawl out of the ring, and back in for a Harper dropkick as all the announcers talk over each other. “Good thing there’s eight of us out here in case someone gets hurt” quips JBL and then he goes silent for a while because Vince is probably yelling in his ear. Harper goes up and gets crotched and Orton comes back with a back suplex onto the announce table. Back in, that gets two. And it’s our move of the night, the chinlock, before Orton stops to pose. Orton’s supposed to be a heel and wrestling like a heel but the crowd desperately wants to cheer him, so this is a really weird and subdued crowd. Another chinlock, but Harper makes a comeback with a slingshot senton and big boot for two. Luke escapes the draping DDT and dumps Orton, following with a dive as the poor announcers are getting all kinds of abuse tonight. Harper suplexes him onto the table and Orton recovers with a powerslam on the floor as they finally get into a decent groove. Back in, they fight on the top and Orton gets the superplex for two. Luke blocks the RKO, but Orton hits a full nelson slam for two. Draping DDT, but Harper blocks the RKO with a pair of superkicks for two. Powerbomb gets two. They slug it out and Orton hits the RKO OUTTA NOWHERE for the pin at 17:14. Needed a better climax and really no one bought Harper being a threat to Orton for a second, but Luke Harper hung with Orton to finally deliver a good match tonight. Still though, this was like a really good TV main event, not a PPV quality match. ***1/2 The replay is some chick holding a beer. Way to earn your massive stock options there, Dunn.
Meanwhile, Natalya attacks Nikki again.
Smackdown Women’s title match: Alexa Bliss v. Naomi
Welcome to the death slot. Alexa survives the initial onslaught of neon and chokes away on the ropes for two. Bliss pulls hair in the corner and gets two. Ref: “Hey come on, you’re stepping on her hair.” Bliss: “I KNOW!” Well she’s got the self-awareness down. Bliss with a rollup for two, reversed to a crucifix for two. Naomi makes what I guess is the comeback with a variety of kicks and a Blockbuster for two. She Calls That The Rear View gets two. Bliss begs off and runs away, but comes back with the moonsault knees for two. Naomi tries a dive, but Bliss blocks and gets a DDT for two. Naomi gets a moonsault, but Bliss somehow gets a rollup out of that for two, but gets caught cheating. Bliss goes up, but the splash hits knees and Naomi gets the pin and the title at 8:25. What are they even doing with this division? *1/2 (Well, you know, it led to…uh…I got nothing here.)
Elimination Chamber, WWE World title: John Cena v. Bray Wyatt v. AJ Styles v. Dean Ambrose v. Baron Corbin v. The Miz
We start with Cena v. AJ, and it’s a huge babyface reaction for Styles. They slug it out to start and AJ quickly gets the rack powerbomb off a blind charge, for two. Cena with a Code Red for two. They slug it out and AJ gets the fireman’s carry neckbreaker for two. Cena comes back with shoulderblocks and the Five Knuckle Shuffle, but he’s interrupted by Ambrose entering at 4:56. Dean sends Cena to the fence and pounds away, and thankfully the ALL NEW Chamber is built much safer than the original one. Plus it’s got LED lights all over it, so there’s that. AJ breaks it up, so Ambrose suplexes him on the grating, as thankfully the guys can bump onto it without killing themselves now. Ambrose comes flying off the top of the pod with a dive onto Cena. Back in, they do the three-man german suplex spot and then everyone hits their big knockout blow to set up the next guy. Bray Wyatt is in at 9:09 and he runs wild, tossing Styles into the cage, but AJ guillotines him in the corner. Styles and Cena climb the fence and slug it out up there, resulting in Cena bumping down onto the safe mats around the ring. It’s not only 100% safe, but fans are used to the grating, so it still SEEMS terrifying at the same time. That’s a great combo. Ambrose and AJ slug it out on top of a pod, but Bray brings Dean down and they fight in the corner. This sets up a Tower of Doom spot with AJ getting suplexed off the pod, and everyone’s out as Corbin is in at 14:02.
He goes after Ambrose with the Deep Six and runs Wyatt into the pod for a big boot. AJ takes the End of Days, but Cena dives in with an STF on Corbin, which he escapes. End of Days on Cena, but Ambrose flies into camera with a missile dropkick and goes nuts on Corbin outside by whipping him into the cage repeatedly. They’re using the Chamber effectively tonight, coming up with all kinds of creative spots and uses for it. Corbin counters Dirty Deeds and tosses Ambrose into the cage as Miz enters at 18:12 with no one eliminated yet. Corbin yells at Miz, and Ambrose rolls him up for the pin at 18:39. Well that’s a cheap one. Dean gets thrown through the pod for his reward, and Miz pins him at 20:50 to take advantage. Miz throws the Daniel Bryan kicks on Cena and Wyatt to get his shit in and dropkicks the other three in the corners, but hits Cena with a bodypress and Cena rolls through and finishes him at 23:30. You never hit Cena with a bodypress!
Wyatt and AJ team up for a bit before that falls apart, and Cena makes the comeback on both guys at once. AJ comes back with a Styles Clash for two, however. Cena with another FU for two. Cena heads up and dives off the pod with a bodypress onto both heels, and he uses extra POINT TO SIGN power to really kill both of them dead. Bray recovers first with Sister Abigail and pins Cena at 29:14, however. But..but…Cena POINTED TO THE SIGN! So we’re left with Wyatt v. Styles, which is a weird dynamic. Bray pounds away on him, but AJ puts him down with a forearm for two. AJ gives him the kick combo, but Bray clotheslines him for a hot two. Pele Kick and Shining Wizard from AJ, but the springboard 450 does more harm than good. And Bray blocks the Forearm and hits Sister Abigail to win the title at 34:36. The match was great, but Bray was the worst one in there, spending the entire match selling and then just hitting his one move out of nowhere to win. Like, fuck, dude, this is your big coronation where you finally win the big one after years of empty threats and spooky promos, DO SOMETHING!
Randy Orton comes out to stare him down afterwards, but does ANYONE care about seeing this midcard match as the supposed headliner for Wrestlemania? (Come on, what’s the worst that could happen?) Anyway, the match was just non-stop action for 20 minutes and then slowed down a bit with the good drama at the end, but would have worked WAY better with Cena at the end against Wyatt because people would have been much more invested in seeing him come close to winning and then losing at the last minute. But really, what was even the point of Cena being the champion for two weeks? (Or Bray being champion for four weeks, for that matter?) This match came down to Styles at the end anyway, so why not have him keep the belt until here? ****1/2
It was literally a one-match show and at least the match delivered, but really you can skip the entire show because it did absolutely nothing to set up Wrestlemania aside from that one match. They still need feuds for everyone else on the roster and there was absolutely no direction for anyone but Wyatts tonight, and in fact the women’s title situation is even muddier now because they randomly put it on Naomi for no reason.
Show was OK, literally two hours of filler and then a great main event, so I can’t really recommend it or anything, but the Chamber match is worth seeking out. Thumbs mildly up for the Orton/Harper and Chamber match.