The Elimination Chamber pay-per-view is always in that unenviable position of playing before WrestleMania and following the Royal Rumble, making it a transitional show used to set up everything that will come at the bigger show.
However, based on the storylines WWE has developed leading up to this show, it should have no problem providing plenty of drama and excitement as the final pay-per-view stop on the Road to WrestleMania.
The top of the card looks especially strong, with some new stars getting spotlight matches and another championship match with an intriguing stipulation. Here is a full breakdown of the top matches at this Sunday's show.
WWE Championship: The Rock (c) vs. CM Punk
If Rock is disqualified or counted out, he will lose the championship.
The stipulation that was added last week on Raw actually heightens the drama in this match. If it was just a one-on-one contest everyone would expect Rock to come away with the victory and walk into WrestleMania as champion.
While an overwhelming majority still expect that to be the case, there could be a little more doubt in people's minds. Perhaps Punk has someone interfere on his behalf, only to attack him and force the referee to disqualify Rock.
Things could get very convoluted in a hurry if WWE goes in that direction, but you have to plant that seed of doubt to make people believe there is a chance the outcome could go either way.
One way or the other, Rock needs to come out of this match as champion. WWE needs to set up Rock vs. Cena II for WrestleMania right away so the build can begin in earnest. After all, there are only seven more weeks until the big event.
The Shield vs. John Cena, Ryback & Sheamus
What is the most important match at the Elimination Chamber?
I love this match for no other reason than it puts a new group into the spotlight. Some people might have an issue with the push for The Shield, but give WWE credit for getting behind a new act and putting them in big spots.
The outcome of this match looks easy on paper. Cena is the star of the match. He is heading into WrestleMania to challenge for the championship. WWE would be foolish not to put him over, right?
But, just as we mentioned with the previous match, WWE could pull a trick here to get The Shield over. This is a young group that needs help to look like a force in the eyes of the people in the audience.
And by making this a six-man tag team match, WWE can sacrifice someone else—like Ryback—to put The Shield over. I don't think that will happen, but if I were booking the match I would seriously consider doing it.
Winner gets world heavyweight title shot at WrestleMania 29
In the past, WWE has used this pay-per-view as a way to make the Royal Rumble feel irrelevant. While the system still isn't perfect, I love that WWE is giving the other brand a chance to set up its title match at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view in this spot.
Trying to figure out the direction WWE is going with this match is a bit tricky, just because there really haven't been any storyline indications that WWE is building between any of the six wrestlers in this match and Alberto Del Rio or Big Show.
Chris Jericho might be the biggest fan favorite in the match, but I don't see WWE putting him in the title match at WrestleMania for the second straight year. If Dolph Ziggler cashes in the Money In the Bank, that could change.
Swagger, Bryan and Kane are just bodies to get in the match. Henry could take Big Show's spot as the adversary for Del Rio at WrestleMania, though I think WWE will want something bigger for the world title at WrestleMania.
Therefore, by process of elimination, Orton looks like the best choice to win the match. He wants to be a heel, though I doubt fans will boo him against Del Rio. He is still one of the most popular stars on the roster and needs to get back in the title picture.