It’s remarkable how much of a difference a good main event can make to an otherwise lackluster pay-per-view. Sunday night’s Elimination Chamber was not one of WWE’s better efforts—in fact, it was really kind of a dumpster fire overall—but hot damn, what a main event.
Before I get into the good/bad/ugly of the show, though, a few thoughts on the NJPW’s The New Beginning shows from last week:
– I’m loving the new pairing of Don Callis (aka Cyrus) and Kevin Kelly on English commentary on NJPW World. It seemed like it took them about half of the Sapporo show to find their rhythm, but once they settled in they were fantastic.
– After watching his match against Minoru Suzuki in Sapporo, I’m finally sold on Kazuchika Okada as a main event talent. That’s three straight title defenses—first against Naomichi Marufuji at King of Pro Wrestling, then against Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 11—that have been total show-stealers. I think a large part of that has to do with the way NJPW handles their booking. I don’t think I’ve seen Okada wrestle any singles matches aside from his title defenses; he’s usually part of 8- or 10-man tag matches where he’s seldom involved in the finishes. That alone makes his one-on-one matches seem more special – and then he kicks it into a completely different gear in those singles matches. This match alone was enough to justify the 999 yen (about $10, depending on the exchange rate) monthly subscription.
As a side note: I need one of those Okada Tekken 7 t-shirts, but I really don’t want to pay the ridiculous import price.
– The Osaka show featured two amazing matches in Hiromu Takahashi (fka Kamaitachi in ROH) v. Dragon Lee and Elgin v. Naito. Takahashi and Lee legit look like they’re going to kill each other with the insane bumps they take during their matches, but that’s also what makes them so much fun. I don’t know if this match was better than they one they had at ROH’s All-Star Extravaganza last year, but it’s damn close. And as for Elgin and Naito, I’ll admit that I’m not a huge Elgin fan—I think he’s kind of one-dimensional in the ring—but he and Naito (who is probably my favorite wrestler right now) really put on a clinic as far as in-ring storytelling. Granted, Naito breaking Elgin’s orbital bone last year gave them plenty to work with in telling that story, but they have such great chemistry that the match would have been great even without the injury angle.
Okay, on to Elimination Chamber…
– The finish to the main event, obviously. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a total mark for Bray Wyatt, so I’m thrilled he’s getting a title run. The fact that he got clean pinfalls over both Cena and Styles was pretty fantastic booking, which sets him up as a legit badass heading into his match with Orton at Wrestlemania.
– Luke Harper and Baron Corbin both came off as looking strong in spite of neither man winning their match. There was no way Harper was going to go over Orton, but the sequence of near-falls at the end of the match (and the way Orton sold those superkicks – bah gawd!) almost had me believing it was possible. And while I don’t think it was the right move to eliminate Corbin first in the main event, his decimation of Ambrose hopefully means that those two will battle for the Intercontinental Championship all the way to Wrestlemania.
– Did The Miz get screwed in that main event, or what? Given that he’s basically the top heel in the entire company right now, that booking was kind of baffling. Rumor has it that he and Maryse will be wrestling John Cena and Nikki Bella at Wrestlemania (thus Maryse getting covered with talcum powder during the Nikki/Natalya backstage brawl?), which also seems like a waste of his momentum.
– Speaking of, can we please end the Nikki/Natalya feud? That double count-out finish means there will be at least one more match between the two of them. Can that be the blow-off? Please?
– Is anyone actually invested in the Carmella/James Ellsworth storyline? Anyone?
– Pretty much the entire Alexa Bliss/Naomi match for the Smackdown Women’s Title. Both Bliss and Naomi are pretty over, but it’s not for their in-ring skills – Bliss has that hot/mean thing going on, and Naomi’s over because of her entrance. Neither of those things translates into watchable wrestling. Bliss is definitely improving, but she’s still really inexperienced in the ring; her matches with Becky Lynch worked because Lynch could help carry her. Naomi is sloppy in her execution – if Bliss doesn’t have broken ribs from that botched split-legged moonsault that ended the match, I’ll be stunned. Plus, isn’t it just sort of assumed that Naomi will drop the title at Wrestlemania because the WWE makes everyone job in their hometowns?
-More than anything, Elimination Chamber highlighted how thin the Smackdown roster really is. With the six biggest names in the main event, the rest of the card was really weak. And while it’s nice to see someone like Apollo Crews finally get a PPV match, the booking of that handicap match made no sense at all. Also, the three women’s matches would have been far more interesting if they’d all been combined into an Elimination Chamber match, but then what would have filled out the rest of the show?