I didn’t watch the show until Monday morning, which had the added benefit of allowing me to skip everything that wasn’t an actual match. As such, I don’t have any opinions on some of the skits that happened in the middle of the show that people are complaining about. Also, please note that while most of my wrestling reviews are spoiler-free, this one is not. You’ve officially been warned, so take appropriate precautions.
Sasha Banks & Bayley vs. Nia Jax & Tamina vs. Riott Squad vs. The IIconics vs. Naomi & Carmella vs. Sonya DeVille & Mandy Rose – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship Match, Elimination Chamber Match
Here’s my thing about Elimination Chamber matches. It’s easy for them to be pretty good – there’s usually some cool spots and big bumps and violence and all that – but very few of them have been particularly great. The gimmick is just convoluted enough to get in its own way, and as a consequence the matches themselves always have at least a few parts where the flow is weird or there’s too much going on at once or something like that.
This was a good match. There was a good amount of action and spots and bumping and the finish was way cool, but the match as a whole didn’t have a single, overarching story to it. There were bits of story here and there, but for the most part, there wasn’t any storytelling substantial enough to latch on to and say,’ This is what this match was about.” The exception to this, however, was the entire time the IIconics were in. They stole the show, being fantastic both at the comedy aspects of their bit, but also doing really cool wrestling things and heeling it up exceptionally well. Despite this (and, since this is the main roster we’re talking about here, seemingly because of this), they got bounced disgracefully early.
Also very good in this match were Sonya DeVille and Mandy Rose, both of whom were in the match for the entire duration. (Yes yes, Sasha and Bayley were in the whole time as well, but we all know they’re awesome.) DeVille has some seriously sick looking offense and carries herself like a total legit BAMF, and I hope she gets a major push someday. Rose looked good too – since she looks like holdover from the dark days of the Divas era, I think I subconsciously decided she must suck at wrestling, but she doesn’t! Hooray! (That said, Corey Graves need to shut the fuck up and not slobber over Rose on commentary. That shit is a throwback to the bad old days in the worst way.) I’ve rambled a bit, here. In conclusion, this match was very good, but not great. ***1/2
The Usos vs. Shane McMahon & The Miz (c) – Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match
Is the Miz a decent babyface? Over the course of his tenure has gone from untalented low card roster filler to actually pretty good at this whole wrestling thing, but he hasn’t been a face for any length of time that I am aware of, bot then I’ve been religiously watching every week in that time period. He did a really good job of taking the heat in this match, and while I don’t think he should get any substantial face runs or anything crazy like that, it was heartening to see he’s come along far enough in his development as a worker to be a decent face when that’s what he’s tasked with.
Shane McMahon has to go, though. I’m sick of seeing this 50 year old dweeb get pulled out of mothballs once a year or whatever so he can jump off things, throw shitty punches, and take a spot from somebody else more deserving because he’s the boss’s son and can’t succeed at anything else. This was a fine enough formula tag match, though. **1/4
Finn Balor vs. Bobby Lashley (c) & Lio Rush – Intercontinental Championship Match
Does WWE know they hired motherfucking Prince Devitt? He was one of the New Japan’s biggest stars for the first half of the decade, he’s outrageously good at the whole wrestling thing, and he founded the fucking Bullet Club, for fuck’s sake. Yet here he is, pinning a guy who’s not the IC champ to win the IC title in a match that was maybe one half of a step up from a comedy match, if that. He deserves better. WWE has always done this. They stock their rosters with the best ring workers they can find so that no one else can have them, then stash them in the midcard. (This is why it was a breath of fresh air when they immediately pushed AJ Styles to the top, but he’s practically the exception that proves the rule.)
Anyway, it’s a bummer to see Balor used this way. I’m still confident he’ll get a good run at the top at some point, although I’d like to see him turn heel first. Balor is a really good heel, guys! Again, he founded the Bullet Club, and here he is, doing WWE’s smiling babyface thing. Good on him for winning the IC title, but this match wasn’t anything. *3/4
Ruby Riott vs. Ronda Rousey (c) – Raw Women’s Championship Match
This was a squash match, so there’s not much to say, so let’s talk about the shenanigans afterward. You wanna know why Becky Lynch is the biggest star in the whole company right now? Because she beats the ever-living shit out of her enemies. Her whole run towards the top started when she beat the shit out of Charlotte at SummerSlam, and was cemented as A Thing That is Defintely Happening when she showed up on Raw, beat the shit of some people, got her face smashed open, and got to look like a total badass. On Sunday, Becky Lynch showed up to beat the shit out of her enemies with a pair of crutches, and she did so, and it was awesome and the crowd loved it.
My point here is that her arc absolutely in no way needs any element of ‘Becky vs. the McMahons’ or ‘Becky vs. The Authority’ or whatever. Not only has that story line been done to death, exhumed, then done to death a few more times over the past 20 years, but Becky, Charlotte, and Ronda have all they need to make this feud compelling on their own. All this McMahon bullshit seems like it’s there because WWE thinks it has to be, and it doesn’t. It’s yet another frustrating reminder that Vince is a mush-brained narcissist who has long since run out of ideas.
Baron Corbin vs. Braun Strowman – No Disqualification Match
I’ve rambled a lot more that I usually do for these reviews, and the main event is more interesting than this match and the three that preceeded it put together, so let’s get to the point. This match sucked. *
Kofi Kingston vs. Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan (c) – Smackdown Men’s Championship Match, Elimination Chamber Match
This was a great match, and one of the two or three best Elimination Chamber matches ever, if not the best. It wasn’t perfect by any means. It was incredibly interesting, however, so like I said above, there’s lots to talk about. Let’s start with the good.
First off, Daniel Bryan rules as a heel. This is not new information – he became a legend on the indies for his heel run with the ROH Championship in 2005-2006, and it’s incredibly difficult to be a true top heel in such a den of smarks. But since he became huge in WWE as a result of his underdog babyface work, there were reasons to be skeptical about his most recent heel turn. But man, he has done such a phenomenal job of turning the entire crowd against him. There’s no cool factor or comedy factor to his promos, or his matches. He’s just the most loathsome version of his character he can possibly be, both on the mic and in the ring. That rules.
Second, Kofi Kingston rules, and has for a long time. Remember his feud with Randy Orton from late 2009, where it looked like he was going to become a huge star? That didn’t happen – the feud petered out, Kofi didn’t get the megapush I expected and instead floundered in the midcard for years afterward, until The New Day got over and turned the careers of all three around. What The New Day have accomplished is outstanding – they took a nothing gimmick and turned it into a star vehicle, and now, it looks like Kofi might just be able to cash this goodwill in for the main event push he’s deserved for years. The final 10 minutes of the match were fantastic, and proof that Kofi can hang in the ring with the best of the best. Kofi was added to the match less than a week before the show as a sub for the injured Mustafa Ali, and now I want nothing more than to see a singles match between him and Daniel Bryan for the title at Wrestlemania, and I know I’m not alone in that. That rules.
And yet…why were the other four guys in this match, really? For the most part, they didn’t do much. Samoa Joe and Bryan had some cool strike exchanges to start out the match. Orton hit a really sick RKO on Styles. But that’s about it. Jeff Hardy got eliminated in short order, although the sequence that led to it was quite slick indeed. Samoa Joe, by contrast, looked like more of a chump when he was eliminated. My point here is that while the middle portion of the match had its highlights, for the most part, it was just there. In a vacuum, this would probably have been a better match if it was just Bryan vs. Kofi. I understand why that wasn’t going to happen here, and we still might get that match in the very near future, but this is what I mean when I say the Elimination Chamber gimmick gets in its own way. There was an excellent singles match here, surrounded by stuff. ****1/4
Very good show overall, more than the sum of its parts. I recommend checking it out, but if the middle matches aren’t holding your interest, go ahead and skip them.