RAW Deal: Back to the madhouse
NORFOLK, VA—Before he scrapped it in favor of going back to a non-themed February event in Fastlane, Elimination Chamber (the event) was one of Vince McMahon’s ugly children.
I mean, the event was never not fun—even though the people involved were hardly undeserving, throw in any six guys in the chamber and you’ll always get a fun match—but the novelty of the match was overexposed due to the necessity of having an Elimination Chamber every February.
The event, born in the renaissance from a few years ago of PPVs centering on special match types (like Extreme Rules, Hell in a Cell, TLC, and, well, Fatal 4-Way), watered it down by featuring two Chamber matches and forcing storylines to fit around them. Sometimes it worked, but it really just ended up being more awkward.
When Elimination Chamber was brought back, seemingly inexplicably, for May 30, it didn’t take me long to connect the dots and figure out that the recently-vacated Intercontinental Championship was a huge factor. For the first time in a long time, the Chamber was going to make sense again. A champion-less title and a stacked midcard? And considering the fact that the Chamber had always been for the top championship? Why not, right?
Not only did my guess turn out to be correct, but the innovation didn’t stop there—they’re topping themselves by holding the first-ever tag team Elimination Chamber. That’s going to be a mess of at least twelve broken and battered bodies on the Chamber’s unforgiving steel floor, but it’s going to be a lot of mad fun.
But the best thing about shifting the focus of the Chamber to midcard championships is that finally, we’re fleshing out something that’s not the main event. The WWE World Heavyweight Championship is dialing down its star power as Seth Rollins defends against Dean Ambrose, a guy who’s pretty much 3rd or 4th in line for the title. U.S. Champion John Cena is taking on NXT Champion Kevin Owens in what seems to be a non-title match. All of that is okay, because the Chambers will be selling the show.
Around WrestleMania time, rumors flew around that the WWE was looking to reinforce their midcard championship scenes, and it looks like they’re not backing down on that promise. Let’s hope the momentum keeps rolling.
- Like last week, this episode of RAW was another night of solid wrestling. Other than your typical Authority segments that bookended the show, there was a lot of action going on, and thanks to Elimination Chamber, few segments felt irrelevant and aimless.
- The show was opened by Sheamus vs. Ryback, which was a lot better affair than either man’s respective Payback matches. (Definitely better than the lukewarm Ryback/Wyatt.) These two seem to have better chemistry as athletic big men, and now I’m not sure if Ryback’s supposed rib injury from last night was legitimate. It sure doesn’t seem like it here.
- By the way, these two were competing because they’re going to be in the Intercontinental Championship Chamber. Context!
- Neville and Barrett had their 52341235th rematch, and again, it never gets old. The match-up feels stale, but the action is always fresh. It’s that good, and the bonus is that Neville is somewhat seamlessly transitioning into a new (old) feud against Bo Dallas, from whom he won the NXT Championship. You might not think much of Bo in the ring, but I look forward to what Neville pulls out of him.
- A lot of people are thinking, after the conclusion of Rusev’s feud with Cena last night, that Rusev’s momentum is all gone, especially now that he’s also broken up with Lana. I disagree. While I won’t argue that feuding with Cena has all but completely drained the amazing momentum he had going into it—moreso with the terrible I Quit ending—I do also think that he has a way back up. Nothing can give him his heel heat back like a feud with Lana, a character who has gotten over on her own. The split came at a good time, when Lana’s good crowd reactions are only dampening whatever heel reaction Rusev can possibly get on his own. Splitting them apart will allow Rusev to get heel heat on his own. Feuding with Lana, as the stereotypical jealous lover, is going to paint him as a villain that’s deeper than the hokey mean foreigner.
- Ambrose/Wyatt is another gem of a match. Bray Wyatt is a lot better when he is able to actually impose himself on his opponents. As a guy who’s smaller than the average WWE wrestler in stature, he needs to find creative ways to do that, which he hasn’t fully explored yet. Fortunately, he doesn’t have to try very hard when he works with a guy like Dean Ambrose.
- The finish was also well-booked, with both Bray retaining his momentum and the Ambrose/Rollins feud advanced at the same time thanks to J&J interference. Everyone is kept looking strong here.
- Two words: Kevin Owens. Glad they figured out a more compelling feud for Cena to be in; hopefully he doesn’t halt Owens’s momentum like he did Rusev’s.
- Naomi and Nikki Bella put on a solid singles match for the Divas title that, while ending in a DQ, made up for the lackluster tag match they had the previous night.
- The way Ambrose is presented as the babyface challenger to heel Rollins is a bit… questionable, but I’ll let it slide since the bad guys are still playing the numbers game. At least Rollins closed the show standing tall, reinforcing his credibility as champion.
- Also, Rollins + Pedigree = Money.
- Not too sure what’s going on with Harper and Rowan not being in the Chamber, but I have a feeling there’s a swerve in the works here.
- Also not quite feeling the new Lana/Dolph/Rusev angle that’s budding. Yes, I just said Rusev needs to feud with Lana to reinforce his evil character, but the way it’s set up right now feels so rushed and unnatural. It’s clear that Lana’s just trying to make Rusev jealous to get in his head, and that either of these two guys are winning the title, but did she have to go in for a kiss that quick?
- Paige is back! But alignments in the Divas division are still a mess.
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