Monday Morning Backlash: WWE Elimination Chamber 2011 Reviewed (John Cena, John Morrison, Jerry Lawler, Edge, CM Punk) and Mythbusting the Rock’s WWE Return

Welcome to the Monday Morning Backlash. Today we’ll be reviewing Elimination Chamber then looking at some Rock myth busting. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at Raw and Wrestlemania plans.

Elimination Chamber opened with Alberto Del Rio defeated Kofi Kingston cleanly in a *** match. The match was good, if not memorable and was, unlike most openers, not there to sweeten the crowd. The purpose of this one was as a test for Del Rio. He’ll be a top guy soon and he was here supposed to show he could bring Kofi up to a top level match without making it overly likely that Kofi was going to win (near-falls needed to mostly be saved for later in the card). The back and forth match had to have helped the stature of both in the back, and I still think Kofi has a main event future if they want him to.

Next, we had the Smackdown Elimination Chamber, won by Edge at *** ½. Big Show got the call to replace Dolph Ziggler, which was bad for the match. This isn’t because Show isn’t effective in his role of big, tough guy, but because Kane filled that role and we really didn’t need two guys in that spot. Edge and Rey showed they still have great chemistry here, but the real star of the match was Drew McIntyre. He really needs an official face-turn, but his intensity has ratcheted up another notch of late and he really took it to top guys seeming like a big star in this match. He should have gotten the rub of being final two with Edge, but still came off as a star. This was more a wrestling match than a stunt show, despite Rey being used as a lawn dart a few times. Kane really got a lot of heat here, eliminating two men and then beating on Edge and Rey after losing. It’s enough to make me wonder if he’s Undertaker’s Wrestlemania opponent after all. The match was, in the end, held down a bit in quality by the inclusions of Big Show and Wade Barrett, neither of which really added much to the story here. Finally, we had the Del Rio beatdown to finish, stopped by the returning Christian, which offers some small hope Christian gets a spot in the Wrestlemania match with Del Rio and Edge.

People are going to talk about how bad Trish looked, but I’d just like to note she’s extremely beautiful and people have this weird warped standard about wrestling women. Also, yes, she blew a spot. She hasn’t wrestled in years and was wearing huge heels. Relax.

Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater defeated Borscht Marinana in a ** match. The match wasn’t bad, but ended in what felt like the middle of a heat segment on Kozlov. Besides feeling incomplete, there was a good flow to this, as both teams handled tag formula well. It was definitely time to get the belts off the comedy duo and onto a real team, as the joke had started to wear a bit thin. Hopefully another team actually emerges to challenge the Corre duo.

The Miz defeated Jerry Lawler in a **** match. This felt, in a weird way, like a Lawler vs. Bockwinkel match for the AWA title. Lawler was extremely hot and the heel had to do everything he could to slow the King down. The heel used numerous tricks to get the advantage- cheating, the lackey/manager and even the announcer this time- and, as these were overcome by the hero, it seemed like nothing could stop him from winning. Then, of course, he suddenly ran out of steam, came up just short, and lost. Great storytelling and the Miz is the most successful first run as WWE Champion since Cena and Batista.

John Cena won the Raw Elimination Chamber in a **** ½ match that’s my current Match of the Year. This was fantastic. Unlike the Smackdown Chamber, here everyone had a role that made sense. Starting with Sheamus was a great idea as he set a great tone, being an aggressive monster and absolutely wrecking people left and right. His willingness to wait outside the Chamber door and jump the person who tried to exit worked great as a way to keep Cena’s heat down until late in the match and worked better as a way to make R-Truth look good. Of course, Sheamus is a top guy for a reason, so as good as Truth looked, he was on borrowed time and granted Sheamus his elimination to save face. Orton showed himself to be no one’s fool here, assaulting and eliminating Punk due to a “malfunctioning door,” but Punk was saved by the Raw GM. Orton was a real workhorse while he was in the ring, keeping the crowd involved emotionally, while Morrison and Sheamus did the bulk of the wrestling. That emotional involvement let Punk’s eventual escape from the cage, taunting and beating of Orton carry real resonance. Punk was absolutely fantastic with his facial expressions and the crowd noticed. This is, to my memory, the first time a crowd outside of the ROH bases chanted Punk’s name in response to “We Want Cena.” Cena, of course, was a survivor here. His role until the big finish was to lay there and be hurt, take quick spots and get beat up. It made his victory look great and now he can get revenge on Miz for the Royal Rumble.

This would, of course, mark the second PPV in a row that Punk had absolutely stolen, except John Morrison absolutely took it to another level. He’s officially proven he can be the new Jeff Hardy, with sick bumps (running full force face first into the door was phenomenal), great selling (he never stopped selling the leg after that bump), and huge spots (bouncing off the cage and scaling the top of it). He’s had great matches against both top guys and guys a step below, both technical and brawling. He’s stolen a major PPV. He all but has to win Money in the Bank now; the only thing that can stop him is his promo ability. For the first time in a long time I believe Morrison can be a true main event star.

Overall, this show had a very good flow. There was a dead period around the middle with the tag match and some promos, but a tag title switch and Trish Stratus’ return are both big enough to more than make a dead period worthwhile. The match quality was fantastic, with the only match below good being a short, filler match and two excellent matches besides. The young talent is really stepping up for WWE and this show gets a huge thumbs up.

The Rock Mythbusting

Myth 1: The Rock showed how bad promos have become nowadays.

The Rock is an all-time great on the mic. Is he better than anyone currently on the mic? Almost certainly, but he’s also likely better than anyone else who was ever on the mic, as well. Miz, Alberto Del Rio, Edge, Sheamus, Vickie Guerrero, and, yes, John Cena, have all been doing very good mic work. Add in CM Punk, already among the best ever, and you have a good crop of talkers. Remember, Piper wasn’t Rock’s era. There usually aren’t that many truly epic promo guys at once.

Myth 2: The Rock is setting up a match with John Cena at Wrestlemania 27.

The Rock makes more on acting than wrestling and doesn’t have to beat up his body to do so. In every interview for years he’s said he’d be back to do something, but not to wrestle. He isn’t going to wrestle. He called out Cena because of the heat it drew and because Cena had commented on him in the past. Sure, they’ll have a few moments, but WWE won’t throw their golden boy under the bus long term for a guy who left.

Myth 3: WWE Should Have Advertised the Return of the Rock.

No, a surprise in Wrestling has always been a big draw. It was Valentines Day. Practically no one I know was planning on watching Raw. The surprise was the only reason anyone was planning to tune in. Being a major day for going out and doing couples things, a 3.1 can be considered a major victory. Also, as Kyle Paul said:
“People don’t call each other and suggest switching over to a different channel because something awesome is happening. I’m not sure people ever did. You know what people do now? They check it out the day after on Youtube. How are those numbers doing? Awesome?
The metric of ratings is archaic. Raw could deliver 1’s and still be a successful brand. You know what’s a pretty good indicator? Trending topics. Blog posts. Pop culture journalists talking about it. This was a big deal if you pay attention to current metrics of popularity. It wasn’t if you’re still paying attention to those stupid ratings boxes very few Americans have on their TVs.”
Myth 4: The Rock is here to get people to buy Wrestlemania 27

Look, if you’re a wrestling fan at all, you’re buying Wrestlemania or going to someplace that will have Wrestlemania. Rock might sway some casual fans, but HBK is being inducted into the Hall of Fame and Austin is likely returning thanks to Tough Enough. That’ll cover Attitude Era fans. Rock isn’t about buy-rate; he’s about making the show a spectacle. Wrestlemania lives and thrives on feeling like an event and making customers happy. Rock helps that, so Rock is a big deal for the show.

Myth 5: The Rock isn’t that great is relying on nostalgia

That’s ridiculous and gets a full post on Friday. So, remember: Tomorrow: Raw and Wrestlemania, Friday, what makes the Rock so special.

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