WWE Classic of the Week: Remembering Elimination Chamber Match at SummerSlam '03
A decade ago, a sledgehammer proved more powerful than a jackhammer in a classic Elimination Chamber match at SummerSlam.
Triple H outlasted five foes and held onto his World Heavyweight Championship in Phoenix, Ariz., on Aug. 24, 2003. This battle remains a masterpiece worth revisiting, one that's bubbling energy still heats up the screen.
In the 10 years that have passed since that night, WWE has undergone major changes.
Chris Jericho, Triple H and Shawn Michaels all bled inside that chamber. The sight of a wrestler's brow streaked with blood is now a rare one. Detractors may say that the company traded grit for gloss, but an emphasis on safety has toned down this kind of violence to protect the wrestlers.
This match predates WWE's move to an Elimination Chamber-centered pay-per-view, and this was only the second time fans had ever seen this type of match.
Looking back now, one has to marvel at the convergence of WWE's intensity at the time, its stacked roster and the amount of overlapping and crisscrossing feuds that this title match boasted.
The story of the world title match that ended SummerSlam 2003 had foes locked in a cage together, hatred spilling out of the steel structure.
Triple H's Evolution ally, Randy Orton joined him in the match. The thought was that Orton's job would be to protect Triple H and help him retain.
This was the only allegiance inside the chamber; the rest of the wrestlers had a myriad of reasons to hate each other.
Michaels and Kevin Nash had a rivalry over the WWE title several years earlier when Nash was Michaels' bodyguard-turned-enemy. Michaels and Jericho had a rivalry that reached a head at that year's WrestleMania, and The Show-Stopper had just engaged in a series of bloody, unforgettable wars with Triple H the year prior.
Nash was still angry over Jericho snipping off his locks, and Goldberg was after Triple H's championship.
The former WCW champ was not the only man in pursuit of Triple H. On a four-year losing streak at SummerSlam, Triple H entered this match as the underdog heel. He was the rat forced into a locked room with starving cats.
Even with Ric Flair and Orton on his side, it seemed impossible that Triple H could walk out of that chamber still the champion. The Superstars did a magnificent job in telling that story of a scumbag surviving.
The six men vying for the World Heavyweight Championship each played their part in imprinting this match into fans' memories.
A boisterous Phoenix crowd watched on as Jericho and Michaels opened the match. Those two future Hall of Famers blended slaps with suplexes in the early going. The fast-paced action they delivered as snarling predators awaited inside the pods set the tone.
Nash launched Jericho into the steel chains surrounding the structure.
When a surprise Sweet Chin Music knocked him out early, Nash retaliated by going on a powerbomb rampage. Separating the biggest man of the match from Goldberg was a wise move that allowed both powerhouses to look like monsters.
Orton did his best to thin the field for Triple H. Michaels nailed Triple H with a superkick just as he was exiting his pod and lay unmoving inside it for a good while afterward. Orton, Jericho and Michaels impressed as they writhed on the steel grates and sped between the ropes, but it was Goldberg who was the star of the show.
The crowd had been chanting his name throughout the match, and when he was the last to emerge from his pod and began to demolish the competition, he looked like a wrecking ball crashing into bowling pins.
His intensity and energy elevated an already thrilling match.
He speared Jericho through a pod. Later, when Flair tried to keep the pod door closed and Triple H out of danger, Goldberg kicked down the Plexiglass.
Victory looked to be inevitable.
This is when WWE toyed with our expectations, tossing in a plot twist to a compelling tale. Goldberg, having eliminated everyone remaining other than the champion, charged at Triple H for a spear. Flair had just slipped Triple H his trusty sledgehammer and the champ bashed the oncoming bull with it.
The rat escaped once more in a match that surprised and stunned.
We can't revisit the feeling of novelty that the Elimination Chamber match had back then, nor are we likely to see such a bloody mess in a WWE ring again. However, the power of multiple feuds converging is still very much a possibility.
Fans watch countless hours of WWE matches, hoping to see another classic composed before our very eyes. That's what many will be doing at SummerSlam 2013 and beyond, awaiting another symphony of hatred and carnage like we witnessed in 2003.
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