WWE Elimination Chamber 2013: Determining Most Likely Combatants in WHC Chamber
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The short amount of time between the Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber makes for an accelerated build. That is already apparent when it comes to the World Heavyweight Championship No. 1 contender chamber match, which is set to take place in less than two weeks.
SmackDown general manager Booker T already named three of the six participants on Raw as he has placed Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio and Daniel Bryan in the mix. That leaves three more spots to be decided, and there is suddenly no shortage of candidates as recent returns have given the WWE roster a great deal of depth.
The SmackDown chamber match last year was good from a match quality standpoint, but the lack of star power was evident as Santino Marella and The Great Khali were forced to take part. That shouldn't be an issue in 2013, as there are several strong candidates who are being considered for one of the final three spots in the bout.
Although at least two of the following superstars will inevitably be left out, here are five men who are most likely to secure one of the remaining chamber match berths. Regardless of who is ultimately selected, this contest certainly has the potential to steal the show at Elimination Chamber.
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Although Christian hasn't been seen on WWE programming in roughly six months, there is a definite possibility that he could return in the next week and throw his hat into the ring with regards to the Elimination Chamber match. Christian has been nursing a shoulder injury and many expected him to potentially return as a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble. That didn't come to fruition, but he could make an even bigger splash by vying for the world title's No. 1 contendership.
Christian was in the thick of World Heavyweight Championship contention throughout the summer of 2011 and even had two brief runs with the belt. There are differing opinions on his run in the main event, but I was thoroughly impressed with him as the top heel on SmackDown. Unfortunately for Christian, however, he got caught up in Randy Orton's rampage and was unable to carry the title for a significant amount of time.
When Christian returned from an unrelated injury at Over The Limit last year, he came back as a face and won the Intercontinental Championship. He dropped the title to The Miz on the 1,000th episode of Raw and hasn't been seen much since then. I don't want to speculate on the severity of Christian's injury because it could possibly be worse than most initially thought, but he has been out of commission for quite a while and figures to be nearing a return.
In a perfect world, Christian will come back as a heel this time and demand "one more match" for the World Heavyweight Championship. The Elimination Chamber match already has three faces in it and needs three heels to balance things out. A heel Christian would be the perfect way to do that, although it's admittedly a long shot until we actually see him back in action.
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The case of Sheamus is an interesting one when it comes to the Elimination Chamber. Conventional wisdom states that there is no reason why he shouldn't be vying for the No. 1 contendership. He beat Daniel Bryan for the world title at WrestleMania XXVIII and held it for seven months before losing it to Big Show. He challenged Big Show for the belt as recently as TLC and is easily one of the biggest stars to appear regularly on SmackDown.
Despite that, it seems like the WWE is angling Sheamus away from that chamber match and toward a different one against The Shield. Last week I predicted that John Cena, Ryback and Brad Maddox would take on The Shield in the first ever tag-team chamber match. Even though Sheamus had been heavily involved with The Shield, I left him out since I figured he would definitely be placed in the world title picture. That no longer appears to be the case, though, as Cena, Ryback and Sheamus went toe to toe with The Shield on Raw.
Even so, Sheamus cannot be completely ruled out. He was one of the men in the ring on SmackDown last week when Booker T initially announced the chamber match. He also proceeded to beat Damien Sandow that night and defeated Kane on Raw as well. Seeing as Kane is another candidate for the chamber, Sheamus beating him would seemingly put him in position to take part in the match. It all comes down to whether or not the WWE plans to use Sheamus against The Shield, however.
There is still a chance that we'll see him in the No. 1 contender bout, but my guess is that he will give up his spot in order to teach The Shield a lesson instead. It doesn't really make a ton of sense from a storyline standpoint, but it appears to be the way that things are heading. If the WWE ultimately decides it needs more star power in the chamber match, Sheamus is still an option, though.
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Kane may have fallen short in his efforts to impress Booker T on SmackDown and Raw, but he is still among the favorites to be included in the No. 1 contender chamber match. Kane and Daniel Bryan lost to Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara on SmackDown and Kane proceeded to lose to Sheamus on Raw as well due to a distraction from Bryan. With Bryan already in the match, though, it wouldn't make much sense to leave Kane out.
There has been a lot of turmoil between Kane and Bryan lately, and it seems as though it is only a matter of time before they drop the Tag Team Championships. Having them somehow cost each other a shot at winning in the Elimination Chamber would exacerbate the situation even more, and I expect the WWE to take advantage of that. Luckily, putting Kane in the match wouldn't be a pity entry. He is a former World Heavyweight Champion, an all-time great in WWE and still perfectly capable of working a good match. The chamber environment is perfect for him, so he would be a great choice for the contest.
I can't imagine that he or Bryan would have any chance of winning the match since they'll almost certainly defend the Tag Team Championships at WrestleMania, but I suppose anything can happen. Even if Kane isn't a candidate to win, he would add obvious star power and experience to the fray. There were too many guys who didn't deserve to be in the SmackDown chamber match last year, but that isn't an issue for someone as accomplished as Kane.
Also, considering the fact that both Bryan and Mysterio are on the small side, a bit of size needs to be added to the match. Kane brings that in spades and would provide a great deal of balance. Even though it seems like Bryan is trying to prevent Kane from being added to the match, the odds are in favor of Kane impressing Booker T in some way over the next week in order to be chosen.
2. Mark Henry
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After being on the shelf for about 10 months, Mark Henry finally returned from injury on Monday night following a match between Daniel Bryan and Rey Mysterio. Henry proceeded to toss Bryan into a barricade and absolutely decimate Mysterio. Sin Cara attempted to rush to Mysterio's aid, but Henry destroyed him as well. Henry left both Mysterio and Sin Cara in shambles, and it certainly looks like he is now a prime candidate to be added to the Elimination Chamber match.
Henry's return was a welcome sight since the lack of depth on SmackDown was starting to become evident. With Henry back in the fold, however, there is suddenly a lot to like about the World Heavyweight Championship scene. Henry beat Randy Orton for the world title at Hell in a Cell in 2011, and although he lost it a couple months later at TLC, he was extremely impressive in the first true main event run of his long WWE career.
There was a lot of talk about Henry potentially coming back as a face to challenge Antonio Cesaro for the United States Championship. That would have been entertaining, but Henry is undoubtedly at his best as a monster heel, so I'm glad he has maintained that character. Henry inducted several superstars into the Hall of Pain prior to suffering an injury that knocked him out of commission, and most would agree that he finally came into his own after years of toiling in the midcard.
Even though Randy Orton would have to be considered the favorite to earn the No. 2 contendership, I would have no problem putting Henry right after him should he be placed in the match. It is almost impossible to predict where things are going with regards to the world title over the next couple months, but if the goal is to ultimately get Alberto Del Rio over as a major face, then Henry may very well be the best option as far as WrestleMania opponents go.
1. Jack Swagger
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While Mark Henry's return was the most impactful of the past week, Jack Swagger shouldn't be forgotten as he announced his presence on SmackDown. Swagger decided to take some time off in September, and although he has been used on house shows since then, last week marked his first appearance on television in five months. Swagger interrupted Booker T when he was attempting to set up the No. 1 contender Elimination Chamber match and demanded a spot in the match. Booker obliged, provided The All-American American could sufficiently impress him.
Swagger went on to defeat Kofi Kingston on SmackDown and made quick work of Santino Marella on Raw as well. Following his win over Santino, Swagger went over to the announce table and asked if Booker was impressed. Although the SmackDown GM didn't commit to putting Swagger in the chamber match on the spot, all signs point to that being the case as Swagger has made it his goal since returning to the fold.
Even though I wasn't thrilled with the way Swagger came back initially, he has been handled pretty well since the first segment. Swagger was essentially being utilized as a jobber to the stars prior to his hiatus, as he had endured a three-month losing streak. Just giving him some convincing wins is a step in the right direction, and that has been the case thus far. Swagger seems much more ruthless and business-like in his approach, so that should bode well for him moving forward.
As much as I like Swagger, I don't envision him winning the No. 1 contendership. I suppose that stranger things have happened, but losing for three months straight, disappearing for five months and then earning a main event match at WrestleMania within a few weeks of returning seems unlikely. Swagger would bring some credibility to the match as a former world champion, though, and a good showing could go a long way, even in a losing effort.