Sunday's Elimination Chamber pay-per-view is the last pay-per-view stop on the Road to WrestleMania 29, and as a result, there will be undeniable pressure put on both the top stars in the business as well as young talent looking to stake their claim to a spot on the WrestleMania 29 card.
Everyone from The Rock and CM Punk to Antonio Cesaro and The Miz will have the focus of World Wrestling Entertainment's fans, Superstars and management squarely on them. But which Superstars deserve a little added attention? Which Superstars bare watching just a little closer on Sunday night?
More importantly, which Superstars have the most questions surrounding their performances at Elimination Chamber and how those performances will affect whether or not they appear at WrestleMania?
These are the Superstars who fans should keep an eye on while enjoying WWE's annual February extravaganza.
Two weeks ago, “the World’s Strongest Man” made his return and wasted little time in re-establishing his dominance in World Wrestling Entertainment, flattening Rey Mysterio, Sin Cara and Daniel Bryan in one fell swoop of rage.
The Great Khali, Hornswoggle and Randy Orton have also felt his wrath, and now, he prepares to enter the Elimination Chamber, where five potential victims await him.
There are a number of questions surrounding Mark Henry as he anticipates his entry into the Elimination Chamber, the most intriguing of which is whether or not he can sustain the momentum he has currently if he loses on Sunday.
There have been very noticeable pops for the former world champion since returning to WWE television. Can he sustain the fan interest if he looks any less dominant than he has of late by losing inside the Chamber?
What about his stamina? Considering the fact that Henry lost a year of his career to injury and has only competed in three matches since returning, there is undoubtedly ring rust that must be worked off before he gets back to the level of performances we saw from him a year ago.
With so much star power in the No. 1 contender’s Elimination Chamber match, there is a likelihood, no matter how large, that Henry will square off with his WrestleMania 29 opponent.
Could it be Chris Jericho, who has been on a tremendous roll since his return at the Royal Rumble? How about Randy Orton, who has a history with the “World’s Strongest Man”?
Perhaps, Kane and Daniel Bryan would have gone their separate ways by the time WrestleMania rolls around, therefore, would be available to take on Henry in a singles match.
Whatever the case may be, it is safe to say that the direction Henry takes on the road to WrestleMania will likely become clearer by the time Sunday’s Elimination Chamber match wraps up.
Jack Swagger may be the single most interesting Superstar to watch Sunday night because of the general inconsistency that has followed him throughout his career.
There have been times that the former world heavyweight champion appeared to be a bona fide Superstar in the making. His initial run with the ECW brand, that saw him defeat the likes of Matt Hardy and Christian in tremendous one-on-one bouts comes to mind.
Unfortunately, there have also been times where the talented Oklahoman appeared to be operating on cruise control, simply going through the motions.
Swagger should not shoulder all of the blame for his inconsistencies, however. WWE’s creative team has displayed great inability to push Swagger and sustain said push. Too many times, they have apparently had plans to feature him on their programming, only to drop those plans, and in the process, drop him back down the card.
Since returning a few weeks back, Swagger has enjoyed great success. He has torn through midcard favorites Kofi Kingston and Zack Ryder and has adopted a new manager in the form of Zeb Coulter (aka Dutch Mantel). His attitude has changed, as has his physical appearance, and he appears to be in the middle of another push toward Superstardom.
Swagger’s appearance in the Elimination Chamber on Sunday, as well as the focus put on him, will determine whether or not this latest push is a serious one or one simply started to assure he would not look out of place amongst the other stars in the bout.
The only Superstar on this list not already scheduled for a match on the Elimination Chamber event, Dolph Ziggler bares watching because of the briefcase he has in his position.
Thus far, Ziggler’s reign as “Mr. Money in the Bank” has been anything but predictable. With WrestleMania 29 on the horizon and no clear direction for his character to take, Sunday would be the perfect opportunity to pull the proverbial trigger and catapult Ziggler to World Heavyweight championship status.
His match with Alberto Del Rio this past Wednesday on WWE Main Event has received rave reviews and may very well be the one thing the long-undervalued Superstar needed to convince management that he not only is world-champion material, but he also is a potential Wrestlemania headliner.
It remains a possibility that the company will wait until WrestleMania, or even after, to have Ziggler cash in his contract and win his second heavyweight title, but it is also possible that Ziggler will realize a dream when he pins either The Big Show or Del Rio on Sunday night. For that one reason, he bares watching very closely.
OK, so there are three Superstars here, but let’s count them as one group, for argument’s sake.
At December’s TLC pay-per-view, The Shield made its in-ring debut, taking on the trio of Ryback, Daniel Bryan and Kane in a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match that not only stole the show but also captured last-minute “Match of the Year” consideration.
Now in only their second in-ring outing, they will stand across the ring from the top star in the industry and two young talents ready to supplant him in the years to come.
It is never easy drawing John Cena as a pay-per-view opponent. Say what you will about the man (what fan has not) but there is a certain pressure that goes along with facing the company’s top star. When Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns step foot in the ring at Elimination Chamber, they will face the biggest test of their young careers.
For one, they are facing Cena. Two, they are competing in the second most hyped match on the card, and three, whether they make the WrestleMania card in an in-ring capacity or in some sort of run-in may very well hinge on their performance Sunday night.
The fact that they set the bar so high for themselves with their performance at TLC only helps to add to the pressure that will await them inside the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, La.
Luckily, the three young, talented individuals have proven they can perform up to expectations. If they can do it again on Sunday, they could cash in in the form of a very high-profile WrestleMania bout.
There is no denying the roll Alberto Del Rio has been on since making the switch from heel to babyface in late-2012, a turn that did not fully kick in until January. He seems completely rejuvenated, his in-ring work is better, his promos are better and the fans finally appear to be accepting him as one of WWE’s elite.
Sunday night, he is faced with the toughest challenge of his World Heavyweight championship reign, as well as his babyface run, when he faces The Big Show in a straight-up, one-on-one match.
In their two previous encounters, Last Man Standing stipulations masked The Big Show’s limitations and helped Del Rio garner sympathy from the audience. Heading into the Elimination Chamber event, there are no parlor tricks or stipulations to hide behind.
Del Rio has proven himself to be a tremendous in-ring performer. Even when his character was at its stalest, very few critics questioned his wrestling talent. But The Big Show has always been a tricky performer to work with.
He appears to have his best matches with bigger, stronger workers whom he can exchange power maneuvers with. Del Rio is a more technically sound, submission-based Superstar and the dynamic of a babyface controlling the match by working over a limb of their heel opponent rarely works.
Del Rio is a Superstar to watch at Elimination Chamber because his match with The Big Show is really the last hurdle he must clear, the last piece of evidence he must present to WWE’s power brokers, that he has what it takes to be a top babyface heading into WrestleMania.
The match will also prove his ability as a truly adaptable worker and may elevate him to the upper echelon of great in-ring workers on the active roster.