This past Sunday, WWE’s Smackdown brand held their final pay per view leading up to Wrestlemania. This was their ideal time to establish their half of the card heading into Wrestlemania, and also make that build up exciting as well. With that being said, here is my review of each match at the Elimination Chamber pay per view as well as a review of the pay per view. I will also explore some of the feuds that Smackdown seems to be teasing at Wrestlemania that were revealed in this pay per view.
Pre-Show: Mojo Rawley defeated Curt Hawkins
Smackdown’s roster was stretched out really far tonight, so they had to use two wrestlers that are really low on the card to fill a pre-show slot. In fact, the only wrestler on Smackdown’s active/uninjured roster to not appear was Jack Swagger. There wasn’t much of a feud or a story going into this match, and it really just felt like an old-fashioned Sunday Night Heat match in which two low card wrestlers engage in a mundane contest that doesn’t advance anybody’s character. It was quite clear that Rawley was going to win, as Curt Hawkins is quite clearly Smackdown’s resident, pimp cane-carrying jobber. It’s just a fact of life. A short, boring 8-minute match that is arguably better than hearing the pre-show banner talk for that 8 minutes. Hopefully Zack Ryder’s knee heals up soon, as Rawley just doesn’t click as a singles wrestler, but he does have some decent chemistry with Ryder, as annoying as they may be. Okay, Rawley is the annoying one. If creative doesn’t have an interesting feud for Rawley, it would likely be best to keep him off of television until Ryder is ready to go, however.
Becky Lynch defeated Mickie James
I am actually really happy that Mickie James is back in the WWE, particularly because of how poorly she was treated in the final months of her first run with the company. The “Piggie James” angle was plain inexcusable. However, as WWE seems to actually treat Mickie James like the great in-ring competitor that she is this time around, I think they might make up for it. Putting her into a feud with the face of Smackdown’s women division definitely helps re-establish her to younger fans, and for the most part, she was able to keep up with Becky Lynch. I was actually a bit surprised that Lynch took the first match of this feud, but it was still a back and forth match that Lynch had to win with a roll-up. This was far and ahead the best women’s match of the night, and further proves that Becky Lynch is in a class all of her own when it comes to in-ring work among the Smackdown women’s division.
Kalisto and Apollo Crews defeated Dolph Ziggler
I think that a heel turn was needed for Dolph Ziggler to regain his relevance, however, I think he is being booked poorly even in this. Having him lose this match even after ambushing Kalisto before the match makes him look really weak in a feud that should be used to make him really strong. While it did look like he was going to win for the majority of this match, he ended up losing after Kalisto tagged in Crews unbeknownst to Ziggler, resulting in Crews hitting his spin-out power bomb for the win. Ziggler assaulted Crews after the match, and looked good, but not as good as he would have if he had actually won the match. This match wasn’t poor because of the in-ring work, but because it seemed like nobody went over or gained any ground. It would have been better for Ziggler to have just picked up the win.
Tag Team Turmoil: American Alpha defeated The Ascension, Breezango, Heath Slater and Rhyno, The Usos, and the Vaudevillains to retain the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championships
This match featured every single tag team on Smackdown’s roster, save for the Hype Bros, as Zack Ryder is injured. This wasn’t actually that bad of a match, however, the crowd clearly wasn’t into it, which is a shame. I think Heath Slater and Rhyno looked pretty strong in the beginning of the match. The Vaudevillains gimmick just isn’t working on the main roster, it seems. The Usos aren’t great in ring workers in my opinion, however, they do make alright heels. The Ascension was made to look really weak, as the Usos assaulted American Alpha after they were pinned, and all the Ascension had to do was pin Chad Gable, but, apparently that would have been too easy. Instead, American Alpha retained the tag team titles, which is good, as American Alpha is on an entirely different level than the other Smackdown tag teams. This wasn’t a bad match, however, the one flaw that I have is that after this, American Alpha doesn’t look to have any real threat to their titles left on the roster. Hopefully The Revival is called up soon and fixes that. I also hope American Alpha can do a better job of getting over, as they are a phenomenal tag team that was on fire since the beginning of 2016.
Natalya vs Nikki Bella ended in a double count out
I am really not a fan of this feud, in all honesty. The “Nikki Bella only gets opportunities because she’s dating John Cena” angle has already been played and it is getting old. In addition, it’s in pretty bad taste. This was a lackluster match, and one that I feel could have had a more definitive finish as the feud isn’t going to continue on much longer. It looks like Nikki Bella started a feud with Maryse after the match, due to spilling powder on her backstage, likely leading up to a John Cena and Nikki Bella vs The Miz and Maryse match at Wrestlemania. Overall, if I had to designate a bathroom break match for this event, this would be it.
Randy Orton defeated Luke Harper
My favorite match of the night, and arguably the match that stole the show. Luke Harper showed that he is the most underrated worker in WWE right now, and there were times in the match where it looked like he was going to win. While a win would have benefited him more, it also wouldn’t serve to make Randy Orton look weak before his title match at Wrestlemania. After this match, I really hope that Luke Harper receives at least a midcard push as he has proved himself to be a real workhorse no matter where he is on the card.
Naomi defeated Alexa Bliss to win the WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship
For as highly as I think of Alexa Bliss and as athletic as Naomi is, this match could have been better. In fact, it was downright sloppy. Alexa Bliss seems to be a better talker than an in-ring worker, and Naomi appeared to have been injured during the match. However, with that being said, this was a great moment for Naomi and it was a long time coming. Hopefully her title run isn’t cut short due to injury.
Bray Wyatt defeated John Cena, AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, The Miz, and Dean Ambrose in an Elimination Chamber Match to win the WWE Championship
This match featured Smackdown’s top six wrestlers, thus leaving the rest of the card pretty thin, however, this was a good Elimination Chamber match. While I don’t care much for the new Chamber design, it does lend itself more to high risk spots. Each wrestler aside from AJ Styles had a feud established at Wrestlemania, and Bray Wyatt winning the WWE Championship was a moment a long time in the making. While his character has been seriously damaged as of late, I think winning the WWE Championship does a bit to revitalize it. Overall, a decent match, made better by the ending.
Final Verdict: While this was in no way a ground breaking pay per view, it did well enough to establish feuds for Wrestlemania. It did feature one very good match and a feel good moment at the end, enough to earn it a C+.