A superb WWE Elimination Chamber featured several matches that exceeded expectations and included surprises and results that set up WrestleMania 29's main events.
Sandwiched between Royal Rumble and WrestleMania, Elimination Chamber is often the forgotten child, but WWE delivered this time around. The pay-per-view showcased furious action, upsets and enjoyable twists and turns.
Jack Swagger emerged from the Elimination Chamber match the surprising winner. Dolph Ziggler got tossed into an impromptu match. Every champion retained his/her title.
How good was each match from an entertainment and narrative standpoint? Who was the real winner of each bout? What were the biggest moments from each match?
Let's dive into all of them, starting from Alberto Del Rio defeating Big Show by way of submission.
Big Show appeared hurt from the get-go. He limped to the ring and seemed a touch awkward throughout.
Still, he and Alberto Del Rio put on a solid battle.
Del Rio went for Big Show's knees early in an effort to take the big man down. It was a welcome change from Del Rio's predictable "work the arm then hit the Cross Armbreaker" offense.
Big Show soon took over and became the dominant monster we know and love. His moments were slower than normal, perhaps from a legitimate injury.
Ricardo Rodriguez inserted himself at just the right moments. He pulled the ring rope away from Big Show who was reaching for it to break Del Rio's hold, for example.
The match displayed a good use of nearfalls, making the outcome uncertain as the match progressed.
The ending of Del Rio kicking Ricardo's bucket into Big Show's head suffered from an apparent botch. After Del Rio missed the initial kick, Big Show stood there awkwardly, waiting around to get kicked in the head.
That slip-up took away from the believability and lost the match some points.
Biggest Moment: Big Show counters Cross Armbreaker into powerbomb.
Real Winner: Alberto Del Rio
Del Rio goes into WrestleMania as the champion. He beat Big Show in what may have been the big man's last chance at his belt for now.
Rating: 3.75/5 stars
The Miz came out to the ring with a bandage around his left shoulder. Despite his storyline injury, he was not going to back down from his clash with Antonio Cesaro.
While Miz was busy playing the relentless hero, Cesaro played the vicious shark attacking a bloodied animal.
A few nearfalls heightened the excitement of what could have been a show-stealing type match. The ending, while unexpected, just felt weird.
Miz was going for Cesaro's leg. He missed and hit him in the testes. The move earned him a disqualification.
The unsatisfying ending seems to signify that the feud will continue, but this match ended up feeling like a song that doesn't get to the last chorus.
Biggest Moment: Post-match low blow
The Miz gets out his anger with a kick to the family jewels, somewhat making up for the awkward ending.
Real Winner: The Miz
Despite the loss, the fact that Miz did so well while "injured" made him look fantastically tough.
Rating: 3/5 stars
Whatever one may think of a Jack Swagger vs. Alberto Del Rio WrestleMania match, the journey to that pairing was steel-rattling fun.
Daniel Bryan and Chris Jericho started things off. They began with a speedy exchange and showed off their excellent chemistry together.
Swagger entered next and immediately displayed his more aggressive style. He drew out his inner Vader when he pounded both Jericho and Bryan with clubbing forearms.
The middle of the match saw Team Hell No fall further apart.
After working together for a brief moment, Bryan went for a sneaky pin on Kane. An enraged Kane took immediate revenge.
The match moved along fluidly, building up well to the climax.
Randy Orton hit a DDT to Kane on the steel grates outside the ring. Kane and Jericho hooked up for a Doomsday Device maneuver. There were successive superplexes and heads getting tossed into the pods.
This was how brutal and exhilarating the Chamber can be.
This match was the story of no one willing to lose. The eliminations didn't come until late in the match, long after the superstars were put through some cringe-worthy abuse.
Mark Henry came in last.
He looked destined to win after he eliminated both Kane and Bryan and began to manhandle everyone else. In the end though, it was the dark horse coming out on top.
Just when it looked like Orton was going to win, Swagger rolled him up and stole the win.
Biggest Moment: Jack Swagger pulls out the shocking victory.
Real Winner: Mark Henry
Henry looked unstoppable as he tore his opponents apart. It took three finishers from three men to eliminate him. Even then, he forced his way back into the Chamber to deliver three World's Strongest Slams.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Michael Cole and JBL did a phenomenal job of selling The Shield as an unstoppable entity. The commentators compared The Shield to a swarm of insects as well as The Four Horsemen.
What began as a brawl slowed to a more traditional tag team match with John Cena taking the brunt of the punishment.
Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins looked like brilliant strategists, managing as always, to maintain an advantage. The team moved smoothly and cohesively and were a thrill to watch the whole time.
Rollins flew around the ring. Ambrose made every move he took look like true agony.
Ryback eventually answered the fans' chants of "Feed me more!" He charged in, cleaned house and looked ready to take the victory for his team.
Instead, Reigns speared Ryback, Rollins fell on top of Big Hungry and The Shield pulled off the upset.
The match mixed brawling and wrestling well. It had much of the same frenetic energy that The Shield's TLC match had.
Biggest Moment: Roman Reigns spears Sheamus through barricade.
Real Winner: The Shield
The Shield's record is now 2-0. Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose looked like an extremely cohesive unit. Knocking off the company's three biggest faces is a huge accomplishment.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Dolph Ziggler bragged about how he was WWE's best athlete. Cue Booker T to throw in a match against Kofi Kingston in order to shut The Show Off up.
Ziggler and Kingston have proven they have great chemistry in their previous matches, and it was on full view here in Sunday's short match. The two talented athletes filled the time they had to work with the best they could.
They were speedy and fluid. The match was too short though to build up the excitement.
This came off as a way to keep Ziggler on WWE fans' minds and to initiate a feud between Big E Langston and Kingston.
Biggest Moment: Ziggler suplexes Kingston onto the turnbuckle.
Real Winner: Big E Langston
The bulky bodyguard got more involved than usual, leading to what looks like his first feud.
Given less time than any other wrestlers on the card, Kaitlyn and Tamina did an admirable job.
They went back and forth in a match that had tinges of brutality. Tamina smashed Kaitlyn into the ring post. They slugged it out, showing off how intense their matches can be if stretched out a few more minutes.
Tamina went for a splash. She missed it and Kaitlyn hit her with a spear for the win.
WWE just needed a bridge between matches, some filler before the CM Punk and Rock match, but the two women showed they are capable of more than that.
Biggest Moment: Tamina smashes Kaitlyn into the ring post.
Real Winner: Kaitlyn
She keeps her title and finds a worthy opponent for future matches.
Taking into account how obvious it seemed that WWE was moving toward a John Cena vs. The Rock WrestleMania rematch, the match was far more entertaining than it should have been.
The stipulations stated that if The Rock was counted out or disqualified, he'd lose the title.
That was used to add drama right away. Punk tried to anger Rock enough to goad him into getting disqualified. He spat in Rock's face, much like Christian to Randy Orton not too far back.
While not original, it set a tense tone for the match.
Punk was outsmarting Rock. He was manipulating him, dominating him. Punk ground down the champ with chinlocks and elbows to the gut.
The story was that Rock was off his game, diverted by his anger which allowed Punk to gain an advantage.
The Rock eventually fired some authentic-sounding punches mid-match, shots that sounded like they really popped Punk in the jaw.
Their match ended in chaos, referees tossed to the ground, writhing in pain as sure pinfalls were happening in the ring.
Punk hit The Rock with the Go To Sleep, but there was no one to count to three.
In the end, Rock beat Punk again, but this time the climax was more fulfilling. The two men had fought until their legs wobbled. Rock earned this victory through luck, determination and a Rock Bottom in the center of the ring.
It was a match worthy of the main event, a level of sports theater that Cena and Rock will attempt to outdo in a few weeks.
Biggest Moment: The Rock catches CM Punk in mid-air, delivers the Rock Bottom, but CM Punk kicks out.
Real Winner: The fans
While it's admittedly a corny answer, it's true here. Both Punk and Rock put on an excellent show. Their match, even if most fans saw the outcome coming, was an enjoyable ride.
Rating: 4.75/5 stars