Well, Elimination Chamber’s certainly been a stealthy devil this year, hiding under the sofa while the fallout from Concussed Old Man vs. Most Refreshing Character in Decades has suffused the atmosphere. And now it’s crept in on bare feet, cleverly avoiding alerting us by having any kind of WrestleMania main event implications, to the point that I only realised that it was positively looming overhead when my flatmate asked me when the PPV was going to be. And he only asked that because I’d promised to make a scallop risotto for when we watched it.
The takeaway from this is that this year’s Elimination Chamber really seems like a throwaway event compared to Saudi Arabia’s Quarterly Super-Special Sportswashing of Misogyny, Homophobia and Terrorism, featuring the Elderly and the Infirm. And also that watching a WWE PPV at my house is quite the fancy business.
The show begins with a recap of last week, which saw John Cena pledge not to take part in WrestleMania before breaking that promise with enough speed and alacrity to make a Republican blush. And while a victory over Cena at WrestleMania could conceivably help raise Wyatt up from the depths that a loss to Goldberg has seen him sink to, it means far less than it would do if Cena was still a full-time wrestler and hadn’t spent his last several appearances (entirely to his credit) putting over younger stars, and after Goldberg I wouldn’t trust WWE’s creative team with a child-locked bottle of aspirin, much less to put Wyatt over Cena.
Wyatt’s apparently here tonight, but the shine’s been knocked off him enough that I’m no longer interested in seeing what my second-favourite character in WWE is up to. On the other hand, I’m being thrown a tag team gauntlet match, with the winning team getting to enter the Elimination Chamber match last. I can suffer through my weekly helping of Ziggler to watch that, I suppose.
It’s like Night of the Living Dead in here
But first, it’s time for another installment of A Moment of Bliss, hosted by Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross. They’re here to tell us about the Hall of Fame Class of 2020, out of all of whom only Batista gets a thoroughly positive reaction. It’s nice to know that other people share my mixed feelings about JBL and my thoroughly straightforward feelings about the Bella Twins.
Alexa then awkwardly segues into a challenge to the Kabuki Warriors for the Tag Team Championships, because I suppose casually asking for title shots is the hot new trend in WWE. She then segues just as awkwardly back to an introduction of Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and X-Pac, because Hogan only appears via satellite these days. The trio are welcomed enthusiastically by the crowd, which is truly appalling when one considers that the nWo only came to WWE because Vince McMahon wanted to inject the WWF WITH A LETHAL DOSE OF POISON. If they’d succeeded in their mission, WWE wouldn’t be here today, and these people are applauding them.
That is disgusting or, as Nikki Cross would pronounce it, desgustang.
Anyway, three-quarters of the nWo are here in what is already the weirdest Moment of Bliss ever. I wonder if they’re here to follow in the fine example of their fellow WCW alumnus and squash major stars for a quick payday in Saudi Arabia. Alexa mentions that all three of them are now two-time Hall of Famers, which seems egregious to me, but maybe WWE didn’t have many people to honour this year. Either that or they’re trying to put off inducting Cena for as long as possible.
Nikki then squees over the three old men, presumably in the hopes of them buying her some ketamine, and decides to take a selfie with them. And that’s honestly another thing. Back in the Ruthless Aggression era, Brock Lesnar, the Big Show or Kurt Angle would have already stormed down to the ring to destroy all three of these men for no other reason than “fuck them”. Even back in the Bad Times, you could hold out hope that the Nexus would show up and wreck everyone’s day, because how dare you stand in their ring, taking up their time? But now superstars are showing respect and asking for selfies, while all I want is for Nakamura, Zayn, and Cesaro to hit that ring and bully the elderly.
We get into what I’ll charitably call “comedy” between Bliss and X-Pac over what exactly she should call him, and this segment has already outstayed its welcome. The only positive now would be Goldberg getting Vietnam-style flashbacks from seeing the n.W.o shirts and trying to pull off three half-decent spears in a row before accidentally killing someone with a Jackhammer and concussing himself in celebration.
I’m kidding. Like hell Goldberg would be willing to show up every week until WrestleMania. Do you know how many appearances that is? Five. Five whole ten-minute segments of work, just because he’s the Universal Champion. Do you know how unreasonable it is to expect him to show up and earn the outrageous amount of money he’s being paid? You disgust me. You’ll see him when he embarrasses him at WrestleMania, and you’d just better hope he doesn’t decide to batter himself to death on his own dressing room door.
Oh, Alexa actually brings up Goldberg, receiving a huge amount of boos, and then mentions Nash ending Goldberg’s streak. It gets a cheer. The taser spot gets a cheer in 2020. Established WCW lore is being rewritten by how much WWE screwed up. This is like people applauding Triple H vs. Booker T at WrestleMania 19 for the dignity with which it handled the topic of race relations.
But rather than trying to bait two very over-the-hill men into a confrontation at an Elimination Chamber that would see Goldberg – you guessed it – concuss himself and Nash tear his quads so badly that the condition would become airborne and cripple the entire audience, Bliss just wants to ask Nash about what Reigns needs to do to beat Goldberg at WrestleMania. I mean…being younger and in much better shape should help, I’d imagine. Not aggressively introducing his own head to hard wooden surfaces in a bid for early-onset dementia is probably another winning strategy.
Nash says that Roman Reigns asked him for advice earlier this week, which I truly don’t believe, and they joke about the cattleprod finish. There’s a little bit of awkwardness as they try to play for time, clearly waiting on someone’s music to play. Oh, and it’s Zayn, Nakamura and Cesaro! Does this mean I get the elderly murder I predicted, or are we about to feed three amazing talents to the past once again?
Zayn says that the nWo have had their day, and the future is him, Nakamura and Cesaro. He pays some lip service to Nash and Hall’s IC Championship careers before mocking X-Pac for never having won the title. Nash takes some shots of his own at Zayn, making his teammates chuckle, and Alexa and Nikki have really lost control of this whole show.
Zayn gets serious, threatening to take out all three men, and I wish that he’d hurry up and do it before Braun shows up to make the save and have a feel-good moment with the Ghosts of Wrestling Past. The nWo square up, and then Zayn backs off. I’m torn between appreciation of solid heel-work and disappointment at not getting to see three old men die for my amusement.
And then Braun shows up. Cesaro and Nakamura charge at him one at a time, which as a strategy is sub-optimal. Sami runs into the nWo, getting caught between them and Strowman. After drawing it out for a while, Zayn uses Alexa as a human shield, escaping from the ring. Bliss, a former Women’s Champion, just kind of goes with it, and then Braun Strowman promises a swift delivery of “these hands” at Elimination Chamber.
I suppose at least Hall, Nash and X-Pac didn’t beat down three active talent, which is far more than I expected from this segment, but this did nothing and helped no-one.
Does Bayley have any viable challengers left?
It’s now time for a tag team match, pitting Lacey Evans and Naomi against the Women’s Champion Bayley and Sasha Banks. Evans swiftly gets beaten down to open the match, with the heels then tussling with Naomi on the outside, taking her out too. After a break, Bayley and Banks are still dominating veteran, mother, and terrible wrestler Lacey Evans. We get that weird television interference thing again, with Cole hesitating when it happens. So, he sees it too and we’re not all going mad together. That’s comforting to know.
Lacey tries to tag out, finally reaching Naomi, who dives out of the ring onto Bayley and Banks. I have to say: two competent wrestlers fighting each other is a nice bit of variety to see in this match. Banks fights through Naomi’s volley of foot-based offence, gaining the upper hand momentarily before a scorpion kick stuns her, with Naomi almost picking up the win with a sunset flip before Bayley breaks up the pin.
Lacey takes out the Women’s Champion before Sasha knocks her out of the ring. Banks turns her attention back to Naomi, who’s had time to recover and takes it to Sasha again. A split-legged moonsault attempt is interrupted by Bayley, allowing Banks to hit a double-stomp to Naomi, pinning her there and then.
This was quick, but if it keeps Lacey faaaaar away from any more Women’s Championship shots, then I’m fine with it. 2 Stars.
Backstage, Kayla is with the New Day, asking them about their chances in the gauntlet match tonight. Kofi reflects on his last experience in a gauntlet match, followed by Big E implicitly threatening to shag Kayla for literally hours. There’s been a lot of weird sexual energy in the SmackDown Tag Team Division as of late, and I for one am hugely in favour of it.
Meanwhile, in some other part of the backstage area, Bayley and Banks are running through the dwindling list of viable challengers for Bayley’s Championship. They bring up the Bella Twins, which scares me until I remember that one of them (I truly don’t care which) is pregnant and therefore cannot compete at WrestleMania. The last thing we need is more part-timers showing up to this thing.
At least Sheamus didn’t advocate genocide this week
Here’s Sheamus, whom we’re supposed to hate because he…wins matches? Promises an Elimination Chamber match to determine the number one contender for the Universal Championship which we then never got?
I do hate him a little bit for that second one.
Backstage, Apollo Crews is getting ready to die valiantly at Sheamus’ calloused Irish hands. Gable rocks up, claiming that the pair of them have a common mission: stop Sheamus. And, really, stop Sheamus doing what? Fighting and beating other people? That’s what Gable and Apollo would be doing if they beat anyone with anything approaching regularity.
Crews heads out to the ring, getting mauled by Sheamus before he hangs the Irish lad up on the top rope, hitting a flurry of offence that manages to keep the former WWE Champion reeling for several moments. Sheamus recovers some of his equilibrium for a moment, fights through some more offence from Apollo, then flattens him out of nowhere with a Brogue Kick for the win.
One of the more sensible squash matches I’ve seen, letting Apollo get in some moves at the start while clearly portraying Sheamus as an unstoppable force. 2 Stars.
Drew Gulak is in the locker room when he is approached by Drake Maverick, who wants Gulak to teach him fight Daniel Bryan. Gulak declines his offer as kindly as he can, starting to explain the various weaknesses in Bryan’s arsenal before he realises that Bryan’s right behind him.
Bryan challenges Gulak to a match at Elimination Chamber, netting the man a PPV paycheck, which is literally the nicest thing that anyone on this show has ever done to Drew Gulak. Even when Bryan’s trying to be mean, he’s a solid dude.
I like to think that Dolph’s here to pick up some tag team wrestling strategy pre-gauntlet
Here’s Carmella, who’s tagging tonight with Dana Brooke. It’s hinted that these two want a Women’s Tag Team Championship opportunity, which would further thin out an already pretty lean herd of potential challengers for Bayley’s title. Tonight they’re facing Fire and Desire, who are accompanied by Dolph Ziggler. If Mandy Rose started selling like Ziggler for the extent of this relationship, either as a result of his training or because that’s stuff’s sexually transmitted, then this whole, strange storyline will have been a success for me.
Brooke and Mandy lock up as the crowd chants their support from Otis. Rose takes control of Carmella, tagging in DeVille to hit some of her MMA-inspired offence. We’re told that Sonya invited Ziggler out here, that bitch. I realise that Sonya probably doesn’t look at men in terms of who would make a good boyfriend, but I feel like persuading your best friend to date Dolph Ziggler is a special kind of evil.
Carmella manages to overcome DeVille, tagging in Brooke for a double hip toss. Dana hits a handspring elbow to Sonya, catching her with a running kick before she’s distracted by Dolph Ziggler. As a result, Brooke misses Sonya making the tag to Rose, who catches her with a high knee, winning the match.
As semi-dirty finishes go, I liked this one and can’t remember the last time I saw it used. Most of the women in this match weren’t great at wrestling, which dragged it down a little. 1.5 Stars.
We look back at the Fiend challenging Cena. We recapped it at the start of the show, but I guess with Goldberg and the nWo running around, WWE’s more aware than ever of the need to cater to those members of the WWE Universe suffering from dementia.
Out of everything about Bray’s character work, I like his commitment to continuity the best
It’s a new episode of the Firefly Fun House, with the wall of photos all now showing John Cena. Wyatt says that we must be asking ourselves “why John Cena?”, and Ramblin’ Rabbit pops up to offer the explanation: Cena’s win over Wyatt was responsible for the downward spiral that led to him becoming who he is today. Bray looks taken aback by this, managing an awkward “yowie wowie” before Rabbit rolls the footage of Wyatt’s WrestleMania loss. Hated it then, hate it now.
Wyatt says that if it wasn’t for John Cena, then the Firefly Fun House wouldn’t exist. He thanks and forgives Cena, but then says that Cena is also responsible for creating the Fiend. He promises John that the dark side will always come back around, like a circle. He ends by demanding “let me in”. It would be nice if I could believe that Wyatt would win this one, considering how much sense that result would make, but I doubt any of us is 100% positive that WWE is going to let things play out that way.
We then get a recap of what is so far the laziest WrestleMania main event build ever. I understand that Goldberg doesn’t want to show up every week like he’s, you know, the fucking main Champion of the show, but it would be nice to think that wasn’t all the storyline we’re getting for this.
Backstage, Kayla is interviewing King Corbin, who is somehow able to exist while in a state of not actively feuding with Roman Reigns: you learn a new thing every day.
And Corbin is interrupted by the guitar-playing of Elias: the spectre of a previous feud that I don’t remember ever going anywhere. Corbin yells at him for a while then storms off, making that yet another WrestleMania match with more build than Reigns vs. Goldberg.
Elsewhere backstage, Otis approaches Mandy Rose, explaining the whole Valentine’s Day text confusion. And yet, despite this reasonable explanation, Mandy still considers herself as having been “stood up”, which is enough to wipe out weeks of flirting and apparent attraction. WWE has a really weird perspective on relationships: it’s either adolescent nonsense like this or it’s full-throttle Kane raping Lita and Gene Snitsky football-kicking a human infant into a crowd of people.
Am I saying that this story would be better with more infanticide? Christ, yes. You can copy and paste that into most midcard feuds from the last few years, if I’m honest. Hell, you can even apply it to Jinder Mahal’s title run. If that man had punted a live baby into a crowd, I’d have at least wanted to see what was going to happen the following week.
It’s gauntlet time, baby. I can definitely see Miz and Morrison winning this, which would raise the stakes and give them even more heat, but realistically I don’t know who’s going to end up entering the Chamber last.
The New Day vs. Heavy Machinery
The first two teams in the gauntlet are the New Day and Heavy Machinery. Presumably, this will allow WWE to keep Otis and Ziggler separated until the Elimination Chamber, and we’ll see the New Day advance for at least a few matches.
Tucker kicks things off against Kofi, trying to outwrestle the big man in the early going before felling him with a back elbow. Tucker’s strength allows him provide a match for Kofi’s speed and athleticism, both men acting cautiously in the early going. Kofi finally tags out to Big E, who requests that Tucker tag out to Otis. The crowd is already very into this as the two men exchange shoulder blocks and clotheslines, then Otis bodyslams Big E before tagging out to Tucker.
A double suplex attempt from Heavy Machinery is interrupted by Kofi, but Tucker merely grabs the former WWE Champion and we get delayed suplexes to both New Day members, who are both sent out of the ring. Heavy Machinery follow to the outside, with Otis taking both Kofi and Big E out with a double clothesline. Following a commercial break, both Otis and Big E are down in the ring, with both men tagging out to their partners.
Kofi enters the match with a surge of energy, hitting Tucker with a volley of blows and a Boom Drop. Tucker ducks Trouble in Paradie, eats a missile dropkick and rolls out of the ring. Big E tags in, elevating Kofi out of the ring…right into Tucker’s arms, with the Heavy Machinery member slamming him on the floor before catching Big E with a dropkick of his own! Back in the ring, Heavy Machinery hit Big E with the Trash Compactor, getting the win! That is a statement and no mistake.
Heavy Machinery defeat the New Day.
Heavy Machinery vs. Lucha House Party
Lucha House Party rush the ring, with Metallik and Dorado hitting Otis with some swift offence before Dorado baffles Otis with his athleticism. Tucker tags in, bulling through Dorado and keeping him down on the mat. Dorado finally manages to free himself, dodging a charge from Tucker and tagging in Metallik, who hits Tucker with a splash before Otis interjects.
The two LHP members try to chop Otis, but the sick fuck just likes it. He charges right through the luchadors, who manage to regain control, sending him through the ropes and out into the ringside area, launching themselves onto both Tucker and Otis as we go to a commercial break.
When we come back, Heavy Machinery has been able to slow down Dorado, with Tucker holding him in a half-crab. Dorado takes some more punishment before dodging a rapidly-approaching Tucker. Otis tags in, catching Dorado and throwing him to the mat before applying a bear hug. A jawbreaker staggers Otis, with Dorado sending him through the ropes before catching the big man with a springboard stunner. Both Otis and Dorado tag out, with Metallik keeping Tucker at bay with his incredible speed, felling him with a missile dropkick.
Metallik avoids a suplex, tagging out to Dorado, who splashes down onto Tucker, but the larger man is able to, for lack of a better term, hammer him into submission before throwing him right across the damn ring. Otis tags in, squashing Dorado in the corner before hitting the Caterpillar for the win.
Heavy Machinery defeat Lucha House Party.
Heavy Machinery vs. The Usos
It’s the Usos now, and it’s unlikely that they’ll throw this gauntlet match like they did the last one. After a commercial break, Jimmy Uso has Tucker grounded, clamping a hold on his arm. Tucker tries to fight back, but he’s been worked hard so far, and the Usos are far too good to be stopped, nailing Otis and Tucker with superkicks, only for Tucker to roll Jey up by surprise, getting the win!
Heavy Machinery defeat the Usos!
Wow, throwing the match might have been less embarrassing. The Usos don’t look best pleased, but at least they don’t attack Heavy Machinery in retaliation.
Heavy Machinery vs. The Miz and Morrison
The SmackDown Tag Team Champions are up next, looking to pick up the scraps. Miz backs Tucker into his and Morrison’s corner, tagging in Morrison for a Disaster Kick. Morrison continues to work over Tucker, blasting him in the face with a knee before bringing the Miz back in.
Frequent tags and double-team offence punish Tucker, who manages to gut through the assault, refusing to get pinned, trying to fight back no matter how ineffective his attempts are getting. Finally, he catches Morrison with a clothesline; the Miz tags in, but Otis is ready for his attempted cheap shot, blasting him in the face and knocking him out of the ring. Tucker almost makes the tag, but the Miz is able to drag Otis down to the floor, possibly dooming Heavy Machinery right there.
The Miz takes Tucker deep into enemy territory, blasting him with kicks and running knees. Morrison tags in, and they hit Tucker with running clotheslines, forearms and an insane elbow drop from Morrison that would have picked up the win if not for Otis breaking up the pin. As the Miz deals with Otis, Tucker catches Morrison with an inside cradle, picking up the win…again.
Okay, they probably didn’t need to have Heavy Machinery start at number one if they had to do that same trick twice.
Heavy Machinery defeat the Miz and Morrison.
Miz and Morrison attack both members of Heavy Machinery after the match. Maybe this clear homage to Kofimania can manage to not eventually feed Heavy Machinery to a part-timer in literally ten seconds.
Heavy Machinery vs. Ziggler and Roode
We see Mandy looking on from the Gorilla position as Dolph gets ready, seeming conflicted. I’d be conflicted too if I was her: conflicted between smothering Ziggler in his sleep and not going to prison for murder.
After a break, Roode and Ziggler are in full control of Tucker as Otis lies prone at ringside. Tucker has regular moments of striking back, but there’s no-one for him to tag out to, whereas Dolph and Roode can switch up and stay fresh.
This goes on for quite some time.
Otis finally gets to his feet, fighting off Roode’s attempts to put him down, smashing the former NXT Champion’s skull off the announce table. Tucker is trying to deal with Dolph, but the Showoff is tenacious, keeping Tucker down and tagging in Roode. Tucker manages to dodge Dolph’s charge, take out Roode and tag in Otis!
Otis storms into the ring, taking Roode out with shoulder tackles and a back body drop, blasting Dolph in the face. Roode fights back, but Otis is in Hulk-up, no-sell mode, and he throws Roode right over his head. Robert Roode tries to fly from the top rope, gets caught, slides out and hits a dropkick. Dolph makes a blind tag before Otis blasts him off the apron, unaware. The Caterpillar is almost at hand, but Dolph suddenly interrupts with a superkick, felling Otis and picking up the win.
I feel quite patronised by WWE just doing a straight copy of Kofi’s gauntlet run, especially when the Otis/Dolph storyline was enough to get everyone interested in the match anyway. And, if you were going to do that, maybe don’t make it as blatantly artificial by having Heavy Machinery run through almost every other team, particularly not when you had to have the Usos and Miz and Morrison look like chumps to accomplish that.
Kofi’s first gauntlet run worked because it seemed natural, and he wasn’t even in the final two: that was Styles and Orton and over in a heartbeat. You could have fed Lucha House Party to the New Day first, then proceeded as planned, whereas this felt very forced indeed. Still, it was decent for what it was and hopefully will be handled more competently moving forward. 2.5 Stars.
Tags: A Moment of Bliss, Alexa Bliss, apollo crews, bayley, Braun Strowman vs. Nakamura Cesaro and Zayn, Bray Wyatt, Chad Gable, Daniel Bryan vs Drew Gulak, Dolph Ziggler, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode, Drake Maverick, Elimination Chamber, firefly funhouse, goldberg, Heavy Machinery, Intercontinental Championship, Intercontinental Title, John Cena, Kevin Nash, Lacey Evans, Lacey Evans and Naomi vs. Bayley and Sasha Banks, Lucha House Party, Miz and Morrison, naomi, New World Order, Nikki Cross, nWo, sasha banks, scott hall, Sean Waltman, Sheamus, Sheamus vs Apollo Crews, Shorty G, smackdown live, Smackdown Tag Team Championships, SmackDown Tag Team Titles, Super Showdown, Super Showdown 2020, Tag Team Championships Elimination Chamber, Tag Team Gauntlet Match, The Fiend, The Fiend vs John Cena, The New Day, the usos, universal championship, Universal title, Women's Tag Team Championships, Women's Tag Team Titles, wrestlemania, WWE, WWE Smackdown Women's Championship, X-Pac