Elimination Chamber looms large and close, with all the opportunities for career-ending injuries that the PPV promises. Let’s see how the SmackDown crew are preparing for the event.
Not sure if that was a face-slap or a heel-slap
Charlotte Flair has chosen to take advantage of the fact that Becky’s suspended and make her entrance first. If you read Charlotte’s personality as someone who believes the entire world revolves around her, everything makes far more sense. We get to see footage of Becky fucking up Stephanie McMahon from RAW, and bless Steph for taking those shots when it’s not even WrestleMania.
Charlotte tells us that arrogance is dangerous, in a blindingly hypocritical denunciation of how she’s been operating for the past few months. Christ, Charlotte, just go after Asuka’s Championship. She sarcastically hopes that Becky recovers and cheers for her, before mentioning that she’d love to face Ronda Rousey. You shut your whore mouth.
Becky appears in the stands, approaching Charlotte as Flair runs her down. Becky hops the barricade, grabbing a microphone and deals with security by simply ignoring them. Oddly, this works. Becky and Charlotte mock each other until Triple H is forced to show up act like a real father to his NXT children. He tells Becky, for the love of Christ, see a doctor, then sends Charlotte backstage for talking over him. He’s taking the whole “beating up his wife” thing really well, but then I guess he’s smacked her around a couple of times over his career. Maybe he doesn’t want to be a hypocrite. Maybe he understands.
Triple H lays out his incredibly fair ultimatum: see a doctor and you’re un-suspended. Becky insists that she doesn’t trust him, but…she trusts doctors, right? They have this whole Hippocratic Oath thing going on. What, does she not trust vaccines, either? Are big pharma going to pump her full of mercury and prevent her from making it to WrestleMania? WWE let goddamn Eugene wrestle; you think they wouldn’t clear someone with autism? HAS THE WHOLE WORLD GONE MAD?!
Becky mocks Stephanie, because a WrestleMania match against Triple H probably qualifies as a decent consolation prize in her mind. Hunter takes a second to find his quiet place, which I imagine is a room full of sledgehammers, Championship Belts and, I don’t know, some kind of memorial to Lucy the Bulldog. Serenity achieved, he says that he can finally see through Becky: she’s not The Man, but rather a self-destructor who’s afraid of failure. That’s a rational fear, fucker. Triple H claims that she wants to be a martyr with an easy way out; that’s what she did when she assaulted Ronda and got injured, and that’s what she’s doing now. This is a lot more psychoanalysis than I expect from an opening segment, but I can dig it.
Triple H finishes up by saying Becky’s afraid, and she won’t go to the doctor because she’s scared he’ll let her face Ronda Rousey. Well, Triple H should know that losing at WrestleMania is no big deal by now. He tells Becky that she fears being shown up as a fraud on the biggest stage of them all, or that she’ll have to not kick out of a finishing move almost thirty seconds after taking it after her opponent spent weeks being a massive racist. And most of all, she’s afraid of Ronda Rousey.
Becky Lynch slaps Triple H. Between her and AJ Styles, they’ve officially decked all four members of WWE’s management team. The crowd chants “One More Time”, Triple H’s NXT brilliance not saving him here. Becky then leaves, with Hunter trying his damnest to both not retaliate and not get an erection.
You think Lana and Nakamura colour-coordinated?
Gallows and Anderson got jobber-entranced, if you want to know the result of this match early. My bald bearded boys can’t get no respect. Shinsuke and Rusev noticeably do not mash their entrances together in some kind of Bulgo-Japanese mess, for which I am sad.
Gallows starts off against Nakamura, bulling through him before tagging in Anderson to be match bitch. A moment of discord between the New UnAmericans allows Anderson to get in some offense, but right after the break he’s back in a front facelock. Nakamura batters away at Anderson, finally laying him out with the reverse exploder. A Kinshasa is countered into a spinebuster from Anderson, and both big men tag in.
Gallows runs right over Rusev before squashing him in a corner, kicking his head in and choke-bombing Nakamura. Both Gallows and Rusev deck each other with clotheslines whilst Lana screams at Shinsuke on the outside to “get up”. Careful, Lana: per Nia Jax, it’s okay to hit women now. Lana actually lifts Shinsuke up on his feet, and apparently sudden sexual arousal is a hell of a motivation, because Nakamura is suddenly inside the ring, devastating Gallows with a Kinshasa. Nakamura eats a Rocket Kick from Gallows, who then eats a Machka Kick from Rusev for the victory, and I think we can all agree that there are too many kick variants in wrestling.
A quick demonstration of why Gallows and Anderson are not used nearly enough. 2 Stars.
Mustafa Ali is backstage with his epilepsy-inducing mask. He talks about how no-one’s betting on him to beat Randy Orton or become WWE Champion, to which his counterpoint is “yeah, but what if I do, though?” Food for thought.
The Usos are backstage to talk shit and hide from Mandy Rose. Their thesis is “we’re going to win”.
I think Ali’s starting to miss 205 Live
Here’s Randy Orton. Hope you all love sleeper holds and headlocks and STOMPS. Oh, and they done jobber-entranced my boy, Ali. Christ, just break his legs while you’re at it. We see an interview segment where Orton says that he doesn’t know Mustafa Ali’s name, nor the name of anyone else in the Elimination Chamber. I know it’s intended to sound sociopathic, but it comes across more like Orton’s not been paying attention at work for the past ten years.
Orton backs Ali into the corner, and Mustafa smacks him right in the tit. Flurry from the Pakistani acrobat before Randy shuts his shit down and stomps on him. And that’s only the beginning of Orton’s slow, plodding offence. Back suplex onto the announce table leaves Ali dead weight, but he kicks out back inside the ring. Oh, and there’s the headlock. Enjoy it while you can, folks: these things only last around five whole minutes.
Ali tries to fight back, but runs into a powerslam, which I’m minded to regard as a tactical error. Randy continues to perform his seminal two-man work of “Drunken Sailor Beats Baby Seal to Death”, taking Ali down with a superplex before we head into a commercial break. When we come back, Ali’s main strategy appears to be hoping that Orton will eventually get bored of hurting him. Oh, and Randy applies a sleeper hold, so all three things I joked about at the start of this match have happened. Randy Orton is the dullest man to have ever served time in a military prison.
Ali finally hits a dropkick to Orton, who rolls out of the ring, surprised that the corpse he was beating somehow fought back. He attempts another back suplex on the announce table, but Ali rolls out of it, dropkicks Orton over the table and launches himself at the Viper.
Orton throws Ali into the ring, slithering after him into a volley of kicks directly to the face. He elevates a charging Ali over the apron, wants the Vintage DDT but instead takes another kick to the head. You don’t get too many of those. Facebuster takes Randy down, then a tornado DDT almost gets the win. Ali’s eye is already swelling up like crazy, but he heads up for the 054. Orton recovers, dragging him off the top for an RKO and the victory.
I’m not in favour of Ali being in the World Championship match so early, but if you’re going to have him in the match, then at least make him look like a viable contender. He’s not going to win, so treating him like such a major underdog is only damaging his credibility so far. 2.5 Stars.
And Samoa Joe attacks during a recap, the savvy bastard, putting Orton in the Clutch for daring to not know his name. Then he kicks Ali out of the ring, because fuck him too, I guess.
And then Daniel Bryan’s music hits. Joe looks like all his Christmases have come at once, and every single item on his list for Santa was “bitches to murder”. He moves towards Bryan like a hefty shark, but Rowan shows up in his official capacity as “protector of insane men with beards”.
Backstage, Samoa Joe cuts a promo about how he doesn’t know how physics works and doesn’t believe in proportional retribution. He promises to win at Elimination Chamber, I guess because it would be weird if he didn’t say that.
Galileo Galilei would be a great wrestling name
Meanwhile, Daniel Bryan is in the ring with his wooden belt and his wooden sidekick. The crowd seems happy to see him, and Bryan say that he’s glad he can finally talk to people who understand him. He says that whilst Washingtonians are smart and environmentally friendly, the vast majority of people he talks to are dumb enough to reject his Green reforms that he has literally no power to enact.
Bryan says that the former WWE Championship was a symbol of excess, whereas his new belt is a symbol for change. And also probably way less of a bother to carry around everywhere. He says that people are threatened by change, and Rowan gives us a brief lecture on the similarities between him, Galileo and Daniel Bryan. All three of which, as a side-note, had beards.
The crowd keeps chanting “what” at Rowan, and Bryan chides them before claiming to serve a higher power. No, not Vince McMahon this time: the planet. He says that the suits backstage have never wanted him to be WWE Champion, and that’s why they’re making him defend the belt inside an Elimination Chamber. Well…probably also because the event is called Elimination Chamber, Bryan.
Bryan says that he’s been in the Chamber before, so he knows how hellish but also sometimes laughable an Elimination Chamber can be. We get shown a quick video package of more recent and therefore less awesome Elimination Chamber matches, then Bryan says that every single one of his opponents will resist progress if they become Champion, whereas he will continue to do very little, having zero political clout whatsoever as WWE Champion.
Backstage, Jeff Hardy says that Daniel Bryan walking around with a bunch of hemp and not smoking it makes him sick. And he’s going to register his displeasure by beating Bryan into unconsciousness tonight, then he’s going to make that belt disappear in a literal puff of smoke.
AJ Styles interrupts, asking Jeff if he thinks that WWE is going to put the belt on him ever again. They start sniping at each other as Kayla looks both scared and aroused. Jeff says they’ll finish this inside the Elimination Chamber, so look forward to one of them getting eliminated before the other enters the match. Continuity, thy name is something else.
Naomi and Carmella teaming together actually makes Mandy and Sonya look like the Odd Couple
Here’s Carmella and Naomi, who have apparently formed a tag team. I’m quite surprised that never occurred to me until now, considering the shared dancing theme they have going on. We see an interview with Naomi, whose response to Mandy’s complaints about her is that the incident in question happened over four years ago. It’s getting easier to sympathise with Mandy, especially as revenge is the core motivator of most of what WWE employees do.
Their opponents are the IIconics, and we see an interview with the two of them actually talking seriously about becoming the Tag Team Champions. It’s weird to see them behaving lucidly. And their other opponents are the Artists Formerly Known As Absolution, who declare that they are unimpressed by the competition before making their way out there.
Sonya and Carmella start off, with the former MMA star beating up the dancer like…well, a former MMA star beating up a dancer. Mandy tags in to fuck things up for her team, and she manages to tag in Kay to escape Naomi as the former Women’s Champion enters the match.
After a break, the IIconics are handing Carmella her Staten Island ass. Carmella fights back against both Australians, but Kay gets the tag, stopping her from tagging out. Mandy gets a blind tag, continuing the punishment of Carmella with an abdominal stretch. Carmella finally escapes, tagging in Naomi. Mandy panics, tagging out to Sonya, but Naomi is hitting everything in sight, taking out Absolution and then the IIconics.
Mandy accidentally gets tagged in as an IIconic loses consciousness onto her, and Naomi spends a good long time beating on the amateur homewrecker. Peyton makes the save for no discernible reason, but it allows Mandy to plant Naomi with the Bed of Roses for the win.
It’s refreshing to see Absolution (I’m not calling them “Fire and Desire” because this isn’t Game of Thrones) being positioned as real contenders for the Championships, no matter who wins at Elimination Chamber. 2.5 Stars.
We’re taken backstage to Andrade’s beautiful face and Zelina’s beautiful face and they’re talking about how Rey Mysterio is old news and that Andrade’s legend begins with the end of the legend of Rey Mysterio.
We get a Black History Month segment about Birmingham, Alabama: a place which apparently made the first half of Remember the Titans look progressive.
And finally, finally, the commentators raise the question of who’s going to face Asuka at WrestleMania, because everyone else has been pretty fucking quiet about it. The question isn’t answered, but my hopes weren’t high.
Good on you, Rowan
Here’s Jeff Hardy, whose chances in the Elimination Chamber I actually rate lower than Mustafa Ali. There: I said it. Daniel Bryan joins him in the ring during the break so…is that a jobber entrance?
Bryan goes after Jeff’s arm, presumably to avoid touching those cargo pants that Jeff’s been wearing for decades now. The WWE Champion continues to dominate Hardy, but Jeff suddenly catches him in a charge out of the corner, hitting a degree of offence before Bryan wears him down with some running dropkicks.
Bryan locks Jeff in a bow and arrow submission hold, then hammers him with kicks. Jeff finally hits some kicks of his own, knocking Bryan out of the ring, but a distraction from Rowan allows Bryan to knock Jeff’s head off the steel steps.
After a commercial break, Hardy’s trying to fight his way out of an arm lock. He does, but staggers into a drop toehold, allowing Bryan to work the arm and wrist again. The WWE Champion stomps on Jeff’s arm, then drops a knee on his face. Bryan builds some momentum, but an atomic drop from Hardy stops him cold. Jeff follows it up with a leg drop and a drop kick, and both men work their way to their feet, throwing hands.
Jeff elevates Bryan over the top rope, then dives off the apron onto Bryan. Back inside, Hardy wants the Swanton, but Bryan rolls out of the way, tripping Jeff face-first into the turnbuckle. Hardy ducks a kick, hitting Bryan with the Twist of Fate before hitting the Swanton Bomb. Rowan drags Hardy out of the ring, hurling him into the steel steps.
Jeff continues to fill the latter portion of his career with overwhelming adequacy. Quite what he’s expected to contribute to the Elimination Chamber, I can’t say. 2 Stars.
Rowan throws Hardy back inside for Bryan to apply the Yes Lock. When suddenly Samoa Joe is there, throwing Rowan into the ring post before locking Bryan in the Clutch! Orton runs out, blasting away at Joe with right hands before Mustafa Ali hurls himself off the top rope, taking out both men with a flying dropkick!
Ali dives out of the ring onto Joe, then at Rowan…who catches him and slams him onto the announce table. Nice try, Mustafa.
Then AJ Styles’ music hits, the notion of a surprise attack entirely alien to him. He takes Orton out with a kick, Joe out with a knee to the face, and then finishes Jeff with a Phenomenal Forearm before staring down Bryan and Rowan, who have retreated up the entrance ramp.
Tags: AJ Styles, Andrade, Asuka, Becky Lynch, Carmella, charlotte, Daniel Bryan, Erick Rowan, Gallows and Anderson, Jeff Hardy, Mandy Rose, Mustafa Ali, naomi, R-Truth, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, rusev, Samoa Joe, Shane McMahon, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, Sonya Deville, The IIconics, The Miz, the usos, WWE