The road to WrestleMania is beginning to look a little clearer.
WWE made the most of its five scheduled matches at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view – which lasted just 2 hours and 30 minutes on Sunday. It booked its first match for WrestleMania 37 in Tampa Bay and started to lay the creative for others by crowning two new champions. Amid plenty of positives – and while there were circumstances for it – the women’s division was grossly ignored and underplayed on this show.
Here are five takeaways from Elimination Chamber:
Raw’s Elimination Chamber match wasn’t as good as its SmackDown counterpart, but ended up having much bigger implications on the company’s landscape. The Miz is now your WWE champion for the first time in more than a decade after cashing in his Money in the Bank contract. Drew McIntyre won the actual chamber match and looked dam good and intense doing so. He hit an absolutely awesome Claymore counter on A.J. Styles’ Phenomenal Forearm to get the victory. McIntryre was then attacked by Bobby Lashley, who lost his United State championship earlier in the night. Miz was seen talking to MVP earlier in the night, so it’s safe to assume they cut some sort of deal.
It lays an intriguing foundation for all three of them. Miz, who last held the WWE championship on May 1, 2011, feels like a transitional champion who needed to make good on a second cash-in attempt. The event set up McIntrye for the next two months, likely with a match against Miz or a triple-threat that includes Lashly at Fastlane. Miz and John Morrison still seem destined for a tag team match against Bad Bunny and Damien Priest in Tampa, leaving Lashley the leader to face McIntyre for the title. One does have to wonder when WWE will revisit a McIntyre-Sheamus feud that was a highlight of this match. Randy Orton was a very surprisingly eliminated first and Styles – who was scheduled to enter last – had bodyguard Jordan Omogbehin rip off the back of his pod so he can enter early.
The first WrestleMania 37 match is official. Royal Rumble winner Edge chose to face Universal champion Roman Reigns in April after “The Head of the Table” beat an injured Daniel Bryan to retain his title. Edge came from across the ring to spear a celebrating Reigns, point to the WrestleMania sign and whisper something in his foe’s ear – fully returning the favor from this week’s “Friday Night SmackDown.” This was well done and the right call. Reigns, who is firing on all his storytelling cylinders, needs a true babyface opponent. Edge’s biggest strength is character and story, so there is plenty of reasons to be excited for this build.
Expect Reigns to face Bryan at Fastlane in March. Bryan won SmackDown’s Elimination Chamber to open the show by pinning Reigns’ cousin Jey Uso and working a storyline knee injury. That match with Reigns happened immediately after the chamber. Bryan did get Reigns in the Yes Lock in a flash before tapping to the guillotine. Michael Cole did a superb job giving us WrestleMania 30 flashback and making it feel Bryan just may win in that moment. All these circumstances make it easy for Bryan to ask for a pay-per-view match at full strength.
Cesaromania – sort of
Cesaro did not win the Elimination Chamber, but no one looked better than him in it. An edge and confidence that we have not seen from him in a while was back. Cesaro did pullups on the roof of the chamber after kicking Sami Zayn off, swung Jey Uso into poles on the side of the structure and dominated large portions of the offense. He was in the final three before being pinned by Uso.
There was a real feeling Cesaro would win this thing. Let’s hope WWE is grooming him for some sort of push. He and Seth Rollins still have some unfinished business on SmackDown, and if all goes well, maybe he gets a program with Reigns later on this year when fans return.
This match featured the best wrestling of the night, especially since it opened with Cesaro and Bryan. Such a treat. Sami Zayn’s character work – hiding in the pod and trying to form an alliance with Kevin Owens – really stood out. King Corbin was in the powerhouse spot but was eliminated first via sharpshooter by Cesaro.
Remember the days when WWE’s women’s division produced some of the most meaningful and competitive matches and stories on any show they were on? It feels like WWE got away from that at Elimination Chamber – which lacked a women’s chamber match all together.
Raw women’s champion Asuka was supposed to wrestle Lacy Evans, until the sassy Southern belle’s real-life pregnancy announcement. WWE promoted the match right up until Sunday and did not find Asuka a replacement. She hasn’t defended the belt since a Nov. 23 match on Raw against Lana. Unless you are going to pull the Rhea Ripley card, WWE left itself with no legitimate contenders for the belt.
The women’s match we did get – women’s tag team champions Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler vs. Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair – felt more like filler at best. Banks and Belair seem destined for a WrestleMania match for the SmackDown women’s championship. The Boss just got out of buddy-tag-team-gone-wrong-storyline with Bayley, so why go this route despite their good in-ring chemistry? Belair continued to show off her athletic ability and Baszler’s joint manipulations are painful beauty.
Even worse, Carmella’s sommelier, Reginald, is somehow involved in this. He rolled a potential celebratory bottle of champagne in the ring for Banks to use on Jax. She refused, the referee saw it and it led to Jax hitting the Samoan Drop to get the pin. Banks getting pinned a little more than two months before WrestleMania isn’t ideal. Jax got a win back after being pinned by Reginald on SmackDown. Maybe Banks does the same at Fastlane.
Flip the switch, bro
There was a lot of change around the United State championship, which is now around the waste of Matt Riddle. The night started with Keith Lee being pulled from because of “injuries sustained at the hands of Lashley.” Though there was a report by PWInsider that Lee may have suffered a real injury. John Morrison won a match against Mustafa Ali, Ricochet and Elias on the kickoff show to earn a spot in the match.
Morrison took the pin from Riddle via a Bro Derek. It came with the champion Lashley – who looked like an unbeatable monster throughout even in a quasi-handicap match – knocked out of the ring when Riddle hit him with MVP’s crutch. It was a good way to get the belt off Lashley so he could move into the world title picture without him actually losing. Tom Philips had an awkward moment where he made it seem like the referee let the disqualification go on the strike with the crutch even though triple-threat are no DQ.
What’s next for Riddle is unclear. If Lee returns, he has a legitimate case for title shot. Maybe Riddle starts a program with the Hurt Business’ Shelton Benjamin or Cedric Alexander. Why not make Retribution mean something and have Riddle Feud with Ali? Also, note to WWE: Please give Morrison a singles run soon.
Best Match: SmackDown Elimination Chamber
Biggest Winner: The Miz/Bobby Lashley
Biggest Loser: Sasha Banks/Asuka