Elimination Chamber is often looked upon as a bridge between the two biggest pay-per-views on the WWE calendar. Although Royal Rumble was excellent, and WrestleMania XXIX promises to be as well, Elimination Chamber refused to take a backseat. It was an extremely entertaining event, and it effectively set up several feuds that will play out in the coming weeks.
The featured match was The Rock defending the WWE Championship against CM Punk, but there were several other big-time bouts as well. Alberto Del Rio defended the World Heavyweight Championship against The Big Show, six of the WWE's top superstars did battle to determine the No. 1 contender for the world title and The Shield took on the dream team of John Cena, Ryback and Sheamus.
There were a few supporting matches on the card as well, and even though some of them ultimately fell short of expectations, it was a very deep show that left me impressed. I wasn't overly optimistic heading into the event as the lack of a second Elimination Chamber match left me a bit disappointed, but I can't complain too much about the way things played out.
Continue reading for in-depth analysis and grades for every match that took place at Elimination Chamber on Sunday night in New Orleans.
Sunday night's Elimination Chamber pre-show necessitated what the WWE is calling a one-night-only reunion of Team Rhodes Scholars.
Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow announced a few weeks ago that they were amicably parting ways in order to focus on their singles career, but they decided to team up once again against the new tandem of Brodus Clay and Tensai.
Not surprisingly, Brodus and Tensai continued their roll as they vanquished the intellectual pairing of Rhodes and Sandow. Team Rhodes Scholars was in control for much of the match as Rhodes and Sandow isolated Tensai while utilizing several quick tags, but a hot tag to The Funkasaurus turned the tide and allowed the behemoths to prevail.
There was some apprehension from the more cynical members of the WWE Universe when the tag team of Clay and Tensai first became apparent, but they seem to be working pretty well together.
Not only did they sandwich Sandow, but they finished off Rhodes with a devastating double splash. Clay and Tensai may seem a bit goofy, however, they can be dominant if booked effectively.
It is unclear where this match leaves Team Rhodes Scholars, but I'm hopeful that they'll remain together over the long-term.
With Team Hell No set to break up in the near future, there is a definite need for depth in the tag division. The team of Clay and Tensai, The Prime Time Players and Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara are a solid nucleus, but another heel team would be ideal.
Team Rhodes Scholars have generated a lot of heat over the past few months and should be the ones to take the Tag Team Championships from Kane and Daniel Bryan. Based on this loss, though, that doesn't seem particularly likely.
Just as they did at the Royal Rumble, Alberto Del Rio and The Big Show led off the televised portion of Elimination Chamber with ADR, putting his World Heavyweight Championship on the line.
Del Rio has been a thorn in The Big Show's side since beating him for the world title in a Last Man Standing match on SmackDown, and that continued as Del Rio defeated the giant for the third consecutive time.
The Big Show was in total control early in the match as he emptied his chamber in terms of offense. He hit several high-impact maneuvers, including a chokeslam, but Del Rio was able to avoid disaster.
During the latter stages of the match, it looked as though The Big Show was loading up for a Knockout Punch, but he was preoccupied with Ricardo Rodriguez and proceeded to knock him off the apron.
He then picked up the bucket that Rodriguez brings to the ring and stared at Del Rio's manager. Del Rio then stalked The Big Show from behind and attempted an enziguri, but he whiffed.
Del Rio hit the move on his second try, but his miscue overshadowed things a bit. It did set up Del Rio to lock in the Cross Armbreaker, however, and he managed to do precisely that. It seemed like The Big Show would be able to get to the ropes, but he succumbed to the pain and tapped out,
It is incredibly rare for him to tap out and almost equally as rare for him to lose cleanly. Del Rio looked incredibly strong in making The Big Show submit, so his development as a top face continued.
I fully expected The Big Show to attack Del Rio in a fit of rage after the match, and my suspicion grew larger as Del Rio's victory sequence dragged on. The Big Show was nowhere to be found, though, so a Dolph Ziggler cash-in didn't come to fruition.
I would have preferred to see Ziggler cash in, but I trust that the writers have a plan. The bout itself wasn't bad, but it didn't live up to their previous Last Man Standing matches. It was a tactical error on the WWE's part to have a regular match after two with stipulations, so my enjoyment of the match was affected.
The budding feud between United States champion Antonio Cesaro and The Miz continued on Sunday night as Cesaro defended the title he won at SummerSlam against The Awesome One.
Cesaro and Miz did battle at the Royal Rumble as well with Cesaro defeating The Miz during the pre-show. Cesaro prevailed yet again at Elimination Chamber, but it happened in a much different manner.
The main storyline in the early stages focused on The Miz's injured shoulder. Cesaro injured The Miz on Raw during a match with Cody Rhodes as he slammed him into the barricade.
Cesaro worked Miz over and dominated a good portion of the contest. The action spilled outside, and Cesaro aimed to put Miz out of commission, however, Miz was able to recover and gain the upper hand.
Miz attempted to finish off Cesaro with the Figure Four Leg Lock, but Cesaro kicked out Miz's leg, and it resulted in The Miz kneeing Cesaro below the belt. Although it was accidental, the referee called for the bell, and Cesaro was ruled the winner by disqualification.
The Miz was in shock following the match as he seemed to be on the verge of winning the U.S. title. He then proceeded to hit Cesaro with an intentional low blow after the match, which figures to continue their rivalry until WrestleMania.
I realize that the WWE is trying to protect both men, but I wasn't too keen on the finish. Having The Miz win via disqualification would have been sensible as it would have set him up for a rematch quite clearly, but losing by DQ clouds things a bit.
The match was also quite short, and I was never able to get involved in the action. This was little more than a throwaway bout, and it didn't stand out at all.
Even though I'm not one of those fans who gets upset over an indecisive finish, this match essentially meant nothing and didn't do much to advance the storyline. I suppose that The Miz will eventually get his by beating Cesaro at WrestleMania, but I can't help but think that the finish could have been handled a bit better.
The next match on the ledger was the Elimination Chamber match to determine the No. 1 contender for the World Heavyweight Championship. Even though the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view is supposed to be all about the chamber match, it wasn't necessarily the focus heading into Sunday night.
The match was certainly important nonetheless as a world title match at WrestleMania was on the line. With top stars in the form of Chris Jericho, Mark Henry, Randy Orton, Jack Swagger, Kane and Daniel Bryan taking part in the match, it had the makings of an exciting encounter.
Things started off with the two best in-ring workers as Jericho and Bryan continued their battle from Monday Night Raw. Swagger was the next to enter the match, and he was followed by Kane.
The first significant spot of the match came when Kane and Bryan attempted to double-team their opponents. Everything seemed to be going well for Team Hell No, but Bryan tried a roll-up when Kane's back was turned. Bryan attempted to diffuse the situation, however, The Big Red Monster would have none of it as he attacked his tag-team partner.
Orton then entered the contest with momentum. Henry was the final participant to join the fray, so all six men were in action. As expected, The World's Strongest Man immediately cleaned house. Within minutes he delivered a World Strongest Slam to both Bryan and Kane resulting in Team Hell No being eliminated.
That left Henry, Orton, Jericho and Swagger as the final four. There were several spectacular moments in the following minutes, including Henry throwing Orton through a pod, and Jericho and Swagger combining to suplex Henry on the chamber grates.
Henry was the next to be eliminated by virtue of a Code Breaker followed by an RKO. Instead of leaving the ring peacefully, he came back and hit every remaining competitor with a World's Strongest Slam.
Jericho saved Orton from the Patriot Act, and then, Orton saved Swagger from the Walls of Jericho. Orton hit Y2J with an RKO to eliminate him, and then, Swagger surprised Orton with a roll-up to become the new No. 1 contender.
As somebody who has been a huge fan of Swagger since he first came to the WWE, I was very happy to see him come out on top. I considered him to be the third most likely candidate to win behind Henry and Jericho, but it was still somewhat of a surprise to see him prevail after a three-month losing streak and five-month hiatus.
Swagger's new gimmick and the presence of Zeb Colter are intriguing factors, and I'm very interested to see where things go from here. A feud with Alberto Del Rio is in the cards as he is the world champion, and Swagger has been speaking out against immigrants.
Elimination Chamber matches rarely disappoint, but this was one of the best in recent memory due in part to the unpredictability. Anyone in the match could have conceivably won, and it was booked impeccably to boot.
The Shield has only competed in two matches in the WWE, and it is batting 1.000 when it comes to quality. Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns were hard-pressed to live up to the bar they set in their victory over Ryback and Team Hell No at TLC, but they managed to do precisely that.
The dream team of John Cena, Ryback and Sheamus were heavily favored heading into the bout as they are arguably the WWE's top three faces, but The Shield showed superior teamwork.
It was apparent from the very beginning that The Shield represented the more cohesive unit as the triumvirate was able to isolate members of the face team. Cena, Ryback and Sheamus eventually gained some traction and took over the match, though.
Ryback especially turned the tide as he single-handedly dominated all three members of The Shield. Reigns was once again responsible for the spot of the match, however, when he speared Sheamus through the barricade and essentially eliminated him from the match.
The Shield attempted to triple-team Ryback, but Cena made the save and set up a tandem Attitude Adjustment and Shell Shocked along with Ryback. Cena executed his finisher, but Reigns entered the ring and speared Ryback to interrupt his maneuver.
Ryback then took the fall and The Shield prevailed. I expected The Shield to intentionally disqualify themselves and to settle for decimating Cena, Ryback and Sheamus, so needless to say, I was surprised by the result.
It is very rare for the WWE to have top faces lose at the pay-per-view ahead of WrestleMania, but that was the case for Cena, Ryback and Sheamus. It was ultimately the right decision by the creative team as The Shield needed the win far more than its counterparts did.
There was some concern that The Shield would go the way of Nexus with Cena serving as the burial master. That wasn't the case, though, and The Shield now appears to be here to stay.
There has been some cynicism when it comes to The Shield as some fans have grown tired of their attacks and were disillusioned when it was revealed that Paul Heyman paid them off. The Shield looked incredibly strong in beating the top three fan favorites in the WWE, however, and clearly will play a big role during the road to WrestleMania.
Despite the fact that the Elimination Chamber card seemed fairly jam-packed, there was enough time for an impromptu match involving Dolph Ziggler. The Show Off was not booked for the pay-per-view, so he proceeded to cut a promo about Jack Swagger winning the chamber match.
He said that Swagger wasn't guaranteed to become the World Heavyweight champion, but the Money in the Bank contract guaranteed that Ziggler would. SmackDown general manager Booker T interrupted and set up a match between Ziggler and Kofi Kingston.
The fact that Booker said Kofi was just as good as Ziggler was laughable as Kingston has gone on a major losing streak since losing the Intercontinental Championship to Wade Barrett, but I digress.
Ziggler and Kingston have faced each other many times over the years and have great chemistry, so they certainly knew how to get the most out of their few minutes in the ring.
Ziggler and Kingston went back and forth for a while before Kingston hit Trouble in Paradise. Ziggler was able to roll outside the ring, however, and avoided the pinfall. Kingston then executed a suicide dive on Big E Langston, who had involved himself in the match on a couple occasions. Ziggler was ultimately able to hit the Zig Zag on Kingston for the victory.
Langston then got revenge on Kingston following the match as he did The Big Finish on the Ghanaian superstar. This could potentially set up a side feud between them as Langston has yet to wrestle his first WWE match. As for Ziggler, it was nice to see him get a win on pay-per-view, despite the fact that it wasn't necessarily impactful.
I would have rather seen Ziggler cash in his Money in the Bank contract, but that apparently wasn't in the cards quite yet. Ziggler vs. Kingson was little more than filler, however, there were definitely worse ways for the WWE to burn a few minutes.
In an effort to create a buffer between The Shield vs. John Cena, Ryback and Sheamus and the main event of The Rock vs. CM Punk, the WWE decided to place Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston and the Divas Championship match near the back end of the card.
There was absolutely no build to Kaitlyn defending her title against Tamina Snuka as the Divas Division has clearly been put on the backburner over the past several weeks. The fact was apparent on Sunday.
The extent of the anticipation for the match came via the WWE Active app as Kaitlyn asked Vickie Guerrero for a match, and Tamina proceeded to attack Kaitlyn. The WWE did the best it could to make people care about the match on short notice, but it was to no avail.
It was clear that very little effort was put into Kaitlyn vs. Tamina, and the match mirrored that fact. It was extremely brief, and it resulted in Kaitlyn coming out on top, thanks to a spear as expected.
I'm not a huge fan of Divas wrestling, but I don't hate it like a lot of fans do either. With that said, hopefully the WWE finds something more substantial for Kaitlyn heading into WrestleMania such as a feud with A.J.
After an exciting match at the Royal Rumble that saw The Rock defeat CM Punk for the WWE Championship, they went at it again in the main event of Elimination Chamber.
There was some added intrigue this time as a stipulation was added that stated The Rock would lose the title if he was disqualified or counted out. Also, Punk stole The Rock's title and entered the match as the faux champion. Most figured The Rock would win the match, but the atmosphere was exciting nonetheless.
Things started off slowly, which will probably fuel the fire that has started to burn with regards to The Rock not having the stamina to last through a grueling match. I believe it was more a case of building to a fever pitch, however.
Punk controlled the pace in the early going and dictated the match for the most part. The Rock battled back, though, and seemed to be in better condition than he was at the Royal Rumble. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that he has wrestled two matches in a month and is starting to get a feel for competing again.
When the action began to heat up, referee Mike Chioda took a bump and was incapacitated outside the ring. Punk then hit a GTS on The Rock, but there was no official present to make the count.
Another referee eventually made his way to the ring, but he was injured as well. Paul Heyman then grabbed onto The Rock, so Punk could hit The Rock with the WWE Championship, but The Rock moved, and Heyman ate the gold instead.
The Rock then executed a Rock Bottom and pinned Punk to retain the title. The match itself was solid, but the ending was fairly anti-climactic. Due to the stipulation, it seemed clear that The Shield, Brock Lesnar or Brad Maddox would get involved in some way.
The stipulation didn't even come into play, though, as The Rock won and will move on to face John Cena in the main event at WrestleMania for the second consecutive year.
I enjoyed the match because of the big-time feel that it provided, but I actually preferred their encounter at the Royal Rumble, even though many were critical of it. The ending was a bit too muddled for my liking.
I would have liked to have seen some sort of interference. If nothing else, though, the result will allow Punk to continue his crusade against the WWE, as he can maintain that he was screwed when the referee bump prevented him from pinning The Rock.
Perhaps, the most interesting storyline to follow is the relationship between Punk and Heyman as Punk's miscue could lead to the dissolution of their partnership. Whatever the case, it was a solid match, and it ended an excellent pay-per-view on a high note.