The final Raw-exclusive pay-per-view/network special before WrestleMania crowned a number 1 contender for the WWE Universal Championship inside the confines of the ELIMINATION CHAMBER, while the WWE women made history again.
Coming off of the ROYAL RUMBLE – one of the best WWE shows I’ve seen in a while – the bar is set a bit higher for WWE to deliver with another gimmick pay-per-view. WWE has two Elimination Chamber matches tonight, and both matches have some firsts associated with them. For the men, competing for a Universal Title match against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, there will be SEVEN superstars competing in what is usually a six-man match. And in the second one, Alexa Bliss defends her Raw Women’s Championship in the first-ever women’s Elimination Chamber.
And former UFC Champion Ronda Rousey is in the house to sign her contract with WWE. There’s no doubt the contract signing will go down with no shenanigans or funny business, because who would ever cause trouble during a contract signing?
For a primer on what’s going on at this show, head over to THE NORTH JERSEY NONCONFORMIST and check out that preview of the show. It’s absolutely a must-read.
Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson – Setting the stage for the main program is this tag team match, as Gallows and Anderson are looking for some revenge on Dallas and Axel for causing Finn Bálor to get pinned in a Gauntlet Match on Raw Monday night. This probably could have been done on Raw to give the angle a little bit more focus (and who knows, it probably will get a Raw rematch to push a Miz-Bálor feud). Former tag team champions Gallows and Anderson basically squash Miz’s lackeys in a match that really did nothing for me. The most exciting part, I think, was the inset interview with the Revival, who are much more deserving of air time than Dallas and Axel.
WWE Elimination Chamber 2018
Live from the T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, Nevada. With more 200,000 residents, Paradise – adjacent to Las Vegas – is the largest unincorporated community in Nevada. Your hosts are Michael Cole, Jonathan Coachman and Corey Graves.
Women’s Elimination Chamber Match for the WWE Women’s Title: Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Bayley vs. Mandy Rose vs. Sasha Banks vs. Mickie James vs. Sonya Deville – I’m pretty happy this kicked off the show and WWE didn’t go for the “OMG! THIS IS AN HISTORIC MOMENT!” thing by putting it in the main event, like they did at the Rumble last month. I still don’t know who Mandy Rose or Sonya Deville are, other than they’re being managed by Paige. There are definitely more new faces in the women’s division than there are for the men since I stopped watching weekly. Deville starts the match off with Bayley, who I’m rooting for to have a good showing here, because I still think she’s one of the better workers and characters in the division, and she’s been ridiculously pushed aside in favor of Sasha Banks. And I am SHOCKED Banks didn’t get the 1 or 2 spot here, since WWE seems to like having her beaten up over long periods of time. Banks stayed out of the match til the fourth slot, saving Bayley from a 2-on-1 onslaught from Rose and Deville, and also earned the honor of having the first elimination in the match, forcing Rose to tap out before Mickie James entered the match at 5.
Two quick eliminations of Deville and James – who was not given a whole lot of time in the match – meant that champion Alexa Bliss only had to deal with Banks and Bayley when she got into the match. Banks, though, turned on Bayley pretty quick, giving Bliss another break, not having to take on two former champions all on her own. The champ takes advantage of Bayley hitting a Super Bayley-to-Belly on Banks, pinning Bayley with the deadly roll-up, and I lose a whole lot of interest in the match. Bliss knocks Banks’ head into one of the Chamber pods, hits a DDT and pins Banks to retain the title and punch her ticket to WrestleMania 34 as champion. Bliss, ostensibly the lead heel in the women’s division, gives a complete white meat babyface promo about dreaming big before turning on the crowd and telling them they’ll never achieve anything. If Bliss was as good a worker as she is a talker, this match would have been a classic.
As it stands, it was a paint-by-numbers multi-woman match, just with the Chamber to add some spots. The Biggest Spot of the Match went to James, who hit Deville from the top of one of the pods to get an elimination, though she wasn’t able to capitalize on it and was eliminated not long after. Nothing terrible but nothing that really reached above average, either, which is unfortunately par for the course with the women’s division lately.
Raw Tag Team Championship Match: Cesaro and Sheamus (c) vs. Apollo
Crews and Titus O’Neil – It’s amazing how Sheamus and Cesaro went from thrown-together tag team partners who don’t like each other to probably the best tag team in WWE right now. Even though they’ve lost and regained the tag titles a few times over the last year, they’ve carried some great matches with other teams and they’re at a point right now where it’s hard to believe that another thrown together team could beat them. Meanwhile, Titus and Apollo just feel like wasted potential. Now that Apollo has lost his last name, perhaps they should adjust O’Neil’s first name and give them a Mount Olympus gimmick. It can’t be any worse than what they’re doing now, with Titus being a player-coach for his management team. The challengers get some offense in, but they are so clearly outclassed by the champions. Cesaro and Sheamus retain in another match that could have easily been on an episode of Raw.
Asuka vs. Nia Jax – If Jax wins, she gets added to the Raw Women’s Title match at WrestleMania 34. It’s a rematch to an NXT match that’s being wiped from WWE’s memory like any Hogan-Andre match before WRESTLEMANIA III or the first Triple H-Undertaker WrestleMania match from 2001. The match follows a David vs. Goliath formula as the much larger Jax used her size to dominate the undefeated Asuka, as the Empress of Tomorrow tried to figure out how to beat her larger opponent. Jax dominated most of the match, even breaking out of the Asuka Lock armbar (not really surprising since Asuka did nothing to weaken the arm beforehand), but the match came down to the one move no WWE woman can kick out of – the roll up. Asuka uses the dreaded move to get Jax’s shoulders down for a three-count and keep Jax out of the WrestleMania 34 title match, though Jax puts Asuka through a barricade after the match ends. The match had some energy, but the ending left me flat.
Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt – I’m so glad Hardy was able to bring his weirdo crazy person gimmick he perfected in TNA over to WWE. Wait… sarcasm really loses its effect without inflection. Of course, putting Hardy in a program with Bray Wyatt means it’s nothing but incomprehensible promo time as Wyatt continues to be wasted with idiocy. Hardy’s “Woken” promos make the Ultimate Warrior sound scholarly. The match starts with smoke and mirrors with Wyatt appearing in the ring out of nowhere and Hardy disappearing and leading chants of delete from an undisclosed location and I lose all interest before the bell even rings. Of course, the WWE Network on my iPad starts to act up during this match, causing me to spend more time with it than I really cared to. Not that it was a bad match, because Wyatt and Hardy can both still go. Hardy wins with a Twist of Fate, and Wyatt is in desperate need of a make-over.
Before we get to the main event, we are treated to the contract signing of Ronda Rousey, who is using Roddy Piper’s “Rowdy” moniker and wearing Piper’s leather jacket. And you know it’s going to be a circus as soon as Triple H’s music hits and the COO comes out with his wife, Stephanie McMahon. Rousey tossed Triple H like a rag doll and put Stephanie in an armbar at WrestleMania 31, and, you know, that family holds grudges. After an emotional speech from Rousey, Triple H announces she’ll have a match at WrestleMania and Kurt Angle spills the beans about the Helmsleys’ plans to manipulate Rousey. The former UFC champion goes from emotional to angry and takes out Triple H before signing the contract.
Triple H and Stephanie are great here, walking a line between confidence and cowardice that Vince McMahon perfected with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. But it is a bit disappointing to know that before Rousey can be integrated into the WWE proper (if she will at all), she has to have a match with the McMahon-Helmsley family at WrestleMania. Will Kurt Angle be her partner? I guess we need to tune in to Raw to find out…
Elimination Chamber Match – Elias vs. John Cena vs. The Miz vs. Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns vs. Finn Bálor vs. Seth Rollins – With seven men in the match for the first time, the Elimination Chamber starts off as a triple threat instead of a one-on-one match and the heavy hitters – Cena, Strowman and Reigns – are inside the pods along with Elias, who will enter last. That means less time for Reigns to have to nap during the match. Or, at least, he’ll have to do it standing up. Of course, the rumors of Reigns beating Lesnar at WrestleMania 34 have been floating around for a while now, so this match may be little more than a foregone conclusion.
Despite having Miz, Rollins and Bálor starting the match, with Cena as the first man out of the pods, the first section of the match felt much too slow. Way too much laying around and all four men were on the mat when Reigns came in at 5. Maybe that was a rib. But it didn’t help to quicken the glacial pace of the match. We at least get a great spot when Braun enters the match, chasing Miz up a pod, slamming his head against the plexi-glass above the pod and tossing him onto the other four men in the ring. After some more toying around, Braun eliminates the Miz, but the laying around continues as Elias tries to avoid getting in the ring. A flurry of finishing moves leads to – what else – everyone laying around, and finally Elias decides to leave his pod. This has to be the lowest-energy Chamber match ever. Once Strowman eliminated Elias and Cena, business began to pick up. Strowman actually eliminated EVERYONE in the match. Well… almost. After earning 5 eliminations, the monster was left alone in the ring with Roman Reigns, who hit Strowman with multiple Superman punches and spears to fell the beast and get the win. It was, in fact, a foregone conclusion. Reigns will take on Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 34.
Even with getting pinned by Reigns, Strowman still looked like a million bucks, racking up all but one elimination and withstanding a video game-like onslaught of finishing moves from the Big Dog before taking the loss. They’re eventually going to have to give him a World Title run, and I think it needs to happen soon to capitalize on his momentum. Also, at some point this year, they need to put out a Braun Is War shirt. It would sell like gangbusters.
Reigns, on the other hand, gets yet another chance at a coronation at the biggest event of the year. Hopefully, they figure out how to use Reigns soon, because WWE has been forcing the face Reigns on its fanbase for too long, especially since no one is buying it. Either turn him into a cocky heel after WrestleMania or cut your losses and center Raw around Braun.
Overall, another middle-of-the-road WWE pay-per-view. The disappointing ending with Reigns winning was expected. The women’s Chamber match was so-so and the highlight of the whole show was the Rousey contract signing. Same as it ever was.
I’ll be back in two weeks for the SmackDown! Live-exclusive FAST LANE, with a card topped by AJ Styles defending his WWE World Title in a Fatal Five-Way match.