Your SO OF COURSE preview of WWE Elimination Chamber 2015

In this day and age you can’t just “predict” a PPV anymore, you have to to account for the capricious whims of WWE’s septuagenarian, sleep-deprived egomaniac owner. You can’t just “preview” a PPV…you have to Preview how things should go, in a reasonable and sane world, and then add “so of course…” and explain what Vince McMahon will probably do instead.

Just last Wednesday, NXT presented Takeover:Unstoppable. It was a brilliant event which capped off three months of build up and escalating drama. For three months the NXT’s best and brightest worked up to the Takeover event with brilliant promos, logical plot advancements in the major feuds and exciting action week after week all culminating in the two hour supershow that blew away high expectations and gave us one of the best wrestling events of the year and proved once more that NXT is the best wrestling brand on TV today.

Meanwhile…

The “main” brand gave us WWE Payback two weeks ago, a show so loaded with rematches fans took to calling it PLAYback, because WWE fans are so darn witty and clever. The actual wrestling content was good, but the stories surrounding the action was (and has persisted in being) poor, forcing the show to have to rely on “wrestling for the sake of wrestling.”

Fans  await the day when WWE will reach the level of great “sports entertainment” that NXT achieves week after week. Here we are, two weeks after Payback PPV and two weeks before the Money in the Bank PPV comes this show:

WWE PRESENTS:
IN YOUR HOUSE:

ec-triple-h

ELIMINATION CHAMBER

Essentially this is a glorified house show, tossed out there as a last ditch effort to entice WWE Network subscribers to actually let the WWE bill them, just once. This month alone they’ve given us King of the Ring, Takeover, Payback and now the last gimmick match they haven’t fully run into the ground. On the night after, they will bring back the Stone Cold podcast and the aforementioned Money in the Bank PPV (annually the best PPV without a name ending in Rumble, Mania or Slam).

Please order the Network. The only thing WWE has left to try is a commercial set to In the Arms of an Angel with still images of Big Show crying.

Anywho there’s this show, so let’s see what WWE has planned…

INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP ELIMINATION CHAMBER MATCH

WrestleMania 31 feels like forever ago, but we’re only five months removed from Daniel Bryan’s big win. Since then it’s been all downhill. Though Bryan hasn’t competed in a singles match since the Smackdown after Mania, the title has kind of floated around in limbo while the US title has been elevated to near-main event status. Finally, WWE has decided to do something with the white belt and has brought back the elimination chamber gimmick to do it. Six worthy superstars…minus R-Truth who hasn’t been worthy of a title shot since 2008…and Ryback, who was last seen losing to Bray Wyatt on PPV. And come to think of it, why is Rusev worthy of a shot? He hasn’t won a PPV match since February. Dolph Ziggler was last seen losing to Sheamus and now is involved in a feud with the aforementioned Bulgarian. You might say King Barrett is most-worthy, since at least he last won something memorable in the past month, when he captured the “coveted” (whatever) title of King of the Ring (an honor so un-prestigious it exists only so JBL can find new ways to be annoying every Monday night). On the other hand, Barrett can’t buy a win on Raw so how is he really worthy to compete for the historically-number 2 title?

Sheamus was right when he said the Authority ought to have just handed him the belt the moment he kicked Bryan’s head in.

Both Elimination Chamber matches have one entity that doesn’t belong. In this case, R-Truth is—let’s be real—only there to add “diversity” to the mix, and because someone has to take the dreaded first fall in the match. Snark aside, once Truth is disposed of, this match could go in anyone’s favor. Sheamus of course can use it to establish himself as the dominant force in the division. Ziggler or Rusev can use it as the prop to fight over (apart from Lana, who WWE is currently treating like a piece of meat) in their new feud. Ryback could use it for a credibility boost. Barrett could use it because why not, he has the biggest “title-to-relevance” disparity since Jack Swagger was World Heavyweight Champion. Once R-Truth is hastily pinned this match should be all kinds of exciting, as potential winners get winnowed and the eventual champion rises to the occasion. Whoever walks out the champion will do so with momentum.

so of course…

CHAMBER SO1

BO DALLAS vs NEVILLE

Hey, remember when Neville and Bo Dallas feuded on NXT? Bo was this amazingly multi-layered character who basically was a babyface that didn’t know he was a heel. He came out and cut cheesy, John Cena-esque promos, oblivious to the boos as he smiled away. His biggest weakness was his in-ring chops, as his matches were usually pretty dull. But, like all good writers do, NXT took his weakness and made it a virtue: The crowds would chant “boring” and Bo would blush, humbled that the crowd would cheer him on as he competed in “BO’s RING.” He was great, but when NXT became a flagship show on the WWE Network, Adrian Neville won the title and became the new face of the promotion. Bo and he had a short feud before the former moved on to bigger and better things the main roster. On Raw, Bo lost all of his nuance. He became a cheesy motivational speaker who took cheap shots at the local crowd because he wasn’t allowed the time or the platform to show off a character of any depth. Months later Neville joined him, suddenly mute and wearing a cape, because Vince McMahon hates us. He’s basically Evan Bourne without the pot smoking and doesn’t look like he’s anywhere close to sniffing a main event match. But there was a time when we said that about literally-babyfaced Daniel Bryan. So who knows.

In the meantime this match is basically a chance for Neville to have something to do away from the IC title match, since apparently WWE has plans for the title that don’t involve Neville. I’m not going to knock them on that until I know what those plans are, and I can’t complain too much because they could have just left him off the card entirely…

100115-bray-wyatt-3This man wrestled the Undertaker at Wresforgetit

 

It’s nice to see Bo back on TV, as he has managed to take the nothing that he’s given to work with and make something out of it. He’s sure to eat the Red Arrow but that’s for the best. Neville has more upside, even if it is as a spotmonkey.

so of course…

CHAMBER SO 2

NIKKI BELLA vs NAOMI vs PAIGE (WWE DIVAS CHAMPIONSHIP)

It’s not hyperbole: Sasha Banks vs Becky Lynch was the best one-on-one “wrestling” match of the year. It was a remarkable achievement, not only as wrestling contest, but as a “women’s” wrestling contest, as that qualifier will always be applied to women’s matches; they will always have a stigma attached to them and fans will always praise them with words ending in “…for a women’s match.” If that stigma is ever going to go away it’s not going to be done in Shimmer or in the TNA Knockouts division; it’s going to take the bully pulpit of WWE to change the perceptions attached to women’s wrestling. Evidence points to Triple H and Stephanie—presumably the heirs apparent to Vince McMahon’s empire—being all-in on being at the forefront of a rebuilt women’s division, but Vince is old and sleep deprived and still very much in charge. So while Triple H gets to tease us with women’s matches that legitimately could main event major shows, Vince is giving us this shlock.

The story behind Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch is easily told: Sasha is the champ who used to be a goody-two-shoes nobody. She took a long look in the mirror and decided she needed to find an edge if she was ever going to rise to the top. So she did. And she did. She beat her former mentor, Charlotte, and won the women’s championship. Soon after she took Becky Lynch under her wing. Becky was a newcomer to NXT; a plucky irish lass who loved to dance merrily and smile a lot. She sucked, let’s just leave it there. But Sasha groomed her as an apprentice and told her she needed to take a long look in the mirror and find an edge if she was ever going to rise to the top. By the way, none of this is metaphor: There is an actual mirror these people are looking in. Presumably its the same one Austin looked into just before the main event of WrestleMania 17. The mirror is evil but it helps you win. Becky found her edge, became a tough-as-nails wrestler and rose to become number one contender, putting her right in the cross hairs of her former mentor, Sasha Banks.

In one paragraph I just covered about a years worth of storytelling, but it all happened smoothly and organically and so it was easy to recap. The big lasting image before their fight was a contract signing (for a women’s match, because NXT is awesome) where Sasha stood dominant with her soon-to-be opponent’s head literally under her boot as she raised her title high. It made fans crazy to see the match, and had they put it on PPV, I would have gladly shelled out $60 to see it, ala a UFC show with Ronda Rousey in the main.

Meanwhile in the valley: The lasting image before this triple threat match between Nikki, Naomi and Paige, was Paige (the babyface) calling Tamina (Naomi’s “muscle”) a man. She’s the babyface we’re supposed to be rooting for. Hey remember when Paige was on NXT and she was the “anti Diva” whose whole character was that she wasn’t the stupid WWE-styled woman that everyone made fun of for sucking? Remember that? Before she started only screaming “this is my house” and calling women trannies?

It is a chasm between the quality of the two shows.

So what should happen in this triple threat? The same thing that should happen every month: Who cares, just call up Charlotte and announce a total makeover (no pun intended) of the division. Scrap the butterfly title, scrap the idiotic stories, feature divas who can work matches and give them stories that are not insulting to build those matches around. In other words, join the 21st century. That’s what needs to happen.

so of course…

CHAMBER SO3.1 (2)

Uh…Vince…?

chamber so3.2

TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP ELIMINATION CHAMBER MATCH

Somehow, against all odds and entirely contrary to WWE’s plans, New Day has gotten over. At the same time Tyson Kidd and Cesaro have not only gotten over but they have stayed over. Then there’s the other four teams: The Lucha Dragons started out hot after WrestleMania, but since WWE sucks horribly at multi-tasking within a division, their push was stalled as New Day took the spotlight. It will only take one good high spot, however, for the fans to remember why they loved Kalisto. The Prime Time Players were a team that looked like they could have gotten over a few years ago but circumstances and Vince’s horrible ADD prevented it. They have since been given a second chance and have managed to garner a modest enough reaction to justify a spot in this match. Meanwhile there’s the Ascension, who—best as I can figure—is here only in a “it’s now or never” sort of way. They will either still be employed this time next year or not, based on how this second chance push for them goes. They were never great in NXT, but they were certainly treated like garbage out of the gate in WWE. They’ve not been given much to work with lately so things aren’t looking promising for them. They are here to add bodies to the match. And then there’s Los Matadores, who are, let’s be real—only there to add “diversity” to the mix, and because someone has to take the dreaded first fall in the match.

So who makes the most sense to win the match?

In descending order: New Day certainly haven’t lost any momentum, nor have Kidd and Cesaro. The Lucha Dragons could win and replace Kidd and Cesaro in the feud with New Day, leaving the Swiss and Canadian team to split up for singles work. The Prime Time Players are on the verge of becoming popular and a title win could be the last push they need to get to that point. The Ascension winning would convince me that Vince books via dart board, and the only way Los Matadores are walking out with the gold is if mass wellness violations occur on the morning of the show. Seriously though: Can someone explain how they got in as opposed to Harper and Rowen? Didn’t those two just get back together as a team? You would think they did that en route to this exact match. I suppose it’s possible that, since the entire Wyatt family is missing from this show, that they make a big splash somewhere during the night and recapture all the momentum they have lost in the past year+. That’s just wild speculation, however.

What should happen? Pandemonium. New Day needs to be the final entrant, just so we can watch them spooning angrily in the pod for 20 minutes while Xavier Woods shouts nonsense on the outside. Los Matadores take the first fall, then Ascension, then Prime Time Players, leaving the three fans really care about to tear it up. It’s time to break up the Kidd and Cesaro fun machine, and with Money in the Bank coming up, that might be a great time to reestablish them as singles stars. Pin them and give New Day the win over the Lucha Dragons, setting those two teams up as the summer feud for the tag titles. Before too long the Usos will be back and they can rejoin the fun. It’s only taken a little bit of care, some good wrestlers, and fun characters, but the tag division is back and it hasn’t been this good in a long time.

so of course…

CHAMBER SO4

JOHN CENA vs KEVIN OWENS

There’s two ways this can go. Either you can do things the old fashioned way, where John Cena takes a beating on free TV and then wins decisively on PPV, ending the feud and all of Owens’ momentum. OR, John Cena takes a beating on free TV and then…takes another beating on PPV, giving the “champ” a storyline where he begins to question his place in the WWE with all of these new kids in town. He’s won a lot of US title matches in the past couple months, maybe he doesn’t have the stamina and strength (“hustle” if you will) to go like he once could. This allows Owens to play the devil, whispering in Cena’s ear about how he doesn’t have it in him and that he needs to retire. Ultimately Cena and Owens have a rematch at SummerSlam, with the US title on the line and triumphs over the bully. Owens doesn’t lose anything in the loss because he got to dominate NXT on Wednesday nights and play mindgames with the top WWE superstar in the land on Monday nights. He loses to Cena but joins the roster permanently soon after and picks up where he left off, dominating guys on Monday night on the way to a big Mania match in Dallas next year. How awesome would that be?

so of course…

CHAMBER SO5.1

The one with the immediate payoff, no story told and sacrificing the future on the altar of the past?

CHAMBER SO5.2

 SETH  ROLLINS vs DEAN AMBROSE (WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP)

Almost one year ago this was a dream match. Almost one year ago Seth Rollins split from the Shield, joined the Authority and entered a feud with former teammate Dean Ambrose. Immediately fans jumped on the Ambrose hypetrain, and for a time it looked like the next big thing was blossoming before our eyes. I say “our” eyes, but ultimately it was another set of eyes that counted and they were looking elsewhere… Ambrose’s feud with Rollins ultimately ended without any real resolution, he then lost his feud to Bray Wyatt, went on a WrestleMania quest to win the Intercontinental Championship, but that got hijacked by Vince’s need to put Daniel Bryan’s rubber-cemented neck in a ladder match. After that he kind of wandered aimlessly until suddenly he worked his way into the WWE title picture, now occupied by his former colleague, Seth Rollins. How convenient for WWE: Finally one of their dropped feuds can be an asset. Not having any resolution in 2014 to the Ambrose vs Rollins story has allowed the 2015 variety to very naturally occur. Fans are on board as well, as Ambrose has always had a great connection to the live crowds. Unfortunately, the WWE’s braintrust (pictured below)

lacks the sort of finesse needed in their writing to make Dean Ambrose’s character really work. They’re trying to play him as a PG version of Stone Cold, but there’s a million and one reasons why PG-Stone Cold doesn’t work. And before you say it, “lack of middle fingers and beer” is nowhere near the top of the list. It doesn’t work because the PG environment is so stale and so safe that the worst Ambrose can do is drive a police-decorated ice cream truck into the arena, to the top of the ramp, step out calmly and march determinedly to the ring. Compare that, to this:

You’ll notice exactly zero middle fingers, zero cans of beer, and zero foul-mouthed expressions. What you do see is energy, frenzy, intensity and…earnestness. All of which is lacking by the time the end of the third hour of Raw rolls around. In better hands, this feud could be something special. It could have been special last year too, but the same bad decisions that hampered it then are hampering it now. So what should happen in this match?

Ambrose should win the title.

Why not? Are you expecting it? WWE wants to make this Network-exclusive event something worthwhile; they love “rewarding” fans for these sort of things. I can’t think of a better way to reward those who signed up, and make those who didn’t wish they had (and therefore, do it next time). I’m not saying I’ve lost faith in Rollins; in fact Rollins vs Lesnar for the title is what I’m hoping is the main event of Wrestlemania 32 next year. But giving Ambrose the belt might be just crazy enough to work, even if it is a short term thing. It could be reversed in two weeks time or two months, but just try it. Try something. I’m just so tired of being bored of WWE. The actual bell-to-bell wrestling has been good, even great at times, but the writing has been abysmal. Giving Ambrose the title would sure shake things up and might even inspire the WWE “creative” team to be “creative” for a change.

so of course…

CHAMBER SO6 -

Oh well. There’s always NXT.

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  • Henry Higgins III

    “The Rey Mysterio Brothers” made me laugh.

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