Randy Orton will defend his title at WWE Elimination Chamber 2014 inside a structure that has produced a wealth of classics.
The unsettling violence of steel hitting flesh, dazzling acts of athleticism and high-level in-ring storytelling has led to these clashes becoming instant favorites. One wonders if anyone will ever be able to top the greatness of the first few times warriors climbed inside the Chamber.
Each year, a new set of wrestlers has that opportunity. This time around, Orton will face off against Daniel Bryan, John Cena, Sheamus and others and try to create unforgettable drama inside the steel battlefield.
Before they add their bout to this list, every Chamber match is ranked here. The best of these is decided by the number of memorable spots and moments, how captivating the wrestling was and the amount of star power involved.
Big Show vs. CM Punk vs. Test vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Hardcore Holly
Adding weapons to the Elimination Chamber didn't improve it.
Test wielded a crowbar, Big Show brought a bat wrapped in barbwire to the party and Van Dam did his usual wizardry with a steel chair. The chair was the only weapon that added excitement to the action; the others didn't make much impact on the level of drama.
Minus Van Dam's memorable moments, including getting flipped off the pod, this bout offered little to remember.
Combine that with a deficiency in star power, and it's not hard to see why this match often gets ranked as the worst in Elimination Chamber history. Punk was not yet the headliner he would become. Test and Holly were talented midcarders and even as much as WWE pushed Lashley, he had yet to make a significant connection with fans.
Big Daddy V vs. Undertaker vs. Batista vs. Finlay vs. The Great Khali vs. Montel Vontavious Porter
The least compelling collection of Superstars entered the Elimination Chamber on Feb. 17, 2008. The match lacked a high-flyer and instead inserted a pair of mildly popular big men in Khali and Big Daddy V.
MVP provided two of the bout's few memorable moments when he used his chain as a weapon and when Undertaker yanked him off from the pod and tossed him into the ring. Undertaker and Batista outlasted the other combatants and had an exciting clash as the climax.
The issue is that there was little to savor before that.
A mostly forgettable contest in the Chamber ranks above the December to Dismember match thanks to Undertaker and Batista's chemistry and Finlay's fighting being a touch more entertaining than what the ECW wrestlers offered in 2006.
Big Show vs. Wade Barrett vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Santino Marella vs. The Great Khali
Santino's thrilling near-victory didn't overcome this match's slow start. Big Show and Barrett squared off to open things, and the crowd soon responded with chants of "Boring!"
Fans are used to seeing Elimination Chamber matches began with mini-classics like Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels or Edge vs. Rey Mysterio. Barrett and Big Show's battle was clunky and uninspired.
Barrett was more compelling once Bryan entered, smashing the champion's head in the pod door. He and Rhodes double-suplexed Big Show on the steel grate to provide a lasting image. The bout had too little of these, though, even with Santino revving up the crowd at the end.
There were too few top names in this bout as well. Bryan was nowhere near as popular then as he has since become, and too many of his foes were midcarders.
Ted DiBiase vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Randy Orton vs. John Cena vs. Triple H vs. Sheamus
Kingston's energy powered this Elimination Chamber match. Whether he was flying into a mass of men or suffering from getting his head pushed through the Chamber wall, he provided much of the bout's fun.
Beyond his contributions and Cody Rhodes slipping DiBiase a steel pipe, there aren't enough eye-catching moments to rank this any higher.
Several marquee names entered this match, providing a big-fight feel even with a sidekick like DiBiase involved. Triple H, Orton and Cena offer far more star power than the top three wrestlers in the Chamber matches ranked below this one.
Combining those stars wasn't enough to make this great, though. Several other Chamber bouts offered more electricity, more excitement, more memories.
Chris Jericho vs. R-Truth vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. CM Punk vs. The Miz
Jericho and Punk's growing hatred created suspense as fans waited for those men to collide. The match didn't deliver on that feeling, though, forcing fans to wait until WrestleMania to see them truly tear each other apart.
Jericho was out of the match too early thanks to a kayfabe head injury.
That left Ziggler and Kingston to provide the bout's highlights. Ziggler dropped from high on the Chamber wall. Kingston hit an SOS on the steel grate. Both of them thrilled in bursts, but there was a lot of lying around during this match that hurt its overall excitement level.
The bout's star power was adequate, but not impressive. Few folks have The Miz or R-Truth in their all-time dream Elimination Chamber match.
Edge vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Undertaker vs. Triple H vs. Big Show vs. Vladimir Kozlov
Minus Kozlov, this Elimination Chamber match was stocked with big names. Most of the Superstars involved have had better performances inside the steel structure, but this was a compelling clash at times.
Hardy was the star, soaring around the ring and using his surroundings more effectively than his foes. At one point, he lay on the top of a pod, waiting for the ideal moment to spread his wings.
Add the shock of Edge getting eliminated early, Undertaker's nasty DDT to Big Show on the steel grate and Triple H and Undertaker's excellent work to cap it all off, and there are a number of reasons to rewatch this.
Bigger, more jaw-dropping spots in other matches keep this from getting ranked higher. The same is true for the greatness of the wrestling. Portions of the bout thrilled, but other Chamber matches did so more consistently.
Carlito vs. Kane vs. Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena vs. Chris Masters vs. Kurt Angle
As fun as the story of Carlito and Masters splintering right in front of us was, replacing those two midcarders with marquee stars would have elevated this match.
Angle's flurry of suplexes was magnificent. Michaels excelled in his portion of the match, making every move he took look devastating.
Overall, the in-ring action was high quality, well-paced and crisp. A lack of Chamber-centric spots holds this back on the ranking some, though. The best Elimination Chamber matches punctuate superb wrestling with memorable high spots, something that this bout didn't do often enough.
John Morrison vs. R-Truth vs. Sheamus vs. John Cena vs. Randy Orton vs. CM Punk
Morrison crafted a wealth of memorable moments in a bout anchored by intensity.
"The Prince of Parkour" leaped from off the Chamber wall to land a dropkick, he climbed to the ceiling of the structure in his best impression of Spider-Man and was the victim of Sheamus' power when the Irishman hurled him through a pod.
Punk escaped elimination at first as his pod door didn't open properly before Orton pinned him. That angle felt too gimmicky, taking away from some of the match's drama.
Sheamus and Morrison's hatred sparked on the screen. The same was true for Orton vs. Punk.
The competition at this point in the list is stiff, though. Replacing R-Truth with a bigger star would have pushed this higher—as would have cranking up the level of wrestling quality to where the matches above this did.
Mark Henry vs. Jack Swagger vs. Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Kane vs. Chris Jericho
Even with less Chamber-centered spots than other versions of the bout, 2013's only Elimination Chamber match enthralled thanks to excellent wrestling and in-ring storytelling.
Bryan and Kane's partnership/rivalry made for both great drama and comedy. Bryan tried to pin his tag team partner, resulting in an angry, masked giant exploding, but not before Bryan attempted the first hug in Chamber history.
Henry thrilled as a steamrolling beast. Even after he was eliminated, he stormed back into the Chamber and left every foe writhing on the mat.
The surprise of Swagger defeating Orton in the end elevates this as well, but the matches above it better utilized the structure. When remembering the most incredible moments in the match's history, this 2013 bout doesn't cross many minds.
Edge vs. Kane vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Big Show vs. Wade Barrett
Edge and Mysterio's battles alone make this a great match.
Those two Superstars outlasted their foes and delivered a classic within a classic as they tried to decide the winner. Edge finally ended it with a gorgeous mid-air spear.
Before that, the Chamber's pods came into play again and again.
Edge smashed Mysterio's head on a pod, Mysterio leaped off one and Big Show smashed Barrett through another. The action provided the combination of excitement and violence fans have come to expect from this kind of match.
However, a lack of star power holds this back from entering the top tier. As talented as McIntyre and Barrett are, they aren't capable of providing a big-fight feel like someone like Shawn Michaels does.
Umaga vs. Triple H vs. Chris Jericho vs. John "Bradshaw" Layfield vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Shawn Michaels
The beginning and end of the match provided two great mini-matches in Jericho vs. Michaels and Triple H vs. Hardy.
The former pair of foes have excelled together time and time again. The latter have underrated chemistry that this match showcased.
Umaga served as the match's monster, and Hardy provided the daredevil duties. Hardy leaped from the top of the pod. "The Samoan Bulldozer" delivered a double Samoan drop and smashed Jericho into a pod with his hip.
JBL's post-elimination chair rampage was fun, as was Triple H putting Umaga in a crossface while Jericho had the big man in the Walls of Jericho. That collection of highlights doesn't quite compare to what the five best Chamber matches offered, though.
Bigger moments pushed other bouts ahead of this one.
Chris Jericho vs. Undertaker vs. CM Punk vs. R-Truth vs. John Morrison vs. Rey Mysterio
The No Way Out 2008 Elimination Chamber match featured more former world champs and headliners, but an unforgettable surprise at the end of this bout makes up for that.
Shawn Michaels hid under the steel grate the entire match. Just when Undertaker closed in on victory, having Jericho fearful and beaten, Michaels popped out and superkicked the big man in the chin. So set up the Undertaker vs. Michaels classic at WrestleMania XXVI.
The rest of the match featured a mid-match sermon from Punk, Jericho yanking Mysterio off the Chamber wall and Morrison providing his usual excitement.
Mysterio and Punk had fantastic chemistry. The two foes made sure to use the steel around them to heighten their clash.
With all that crammed into one match, how do four others rank higher? At this point, the difference in greatness is measured in millimeters. Slightly better in-ring action has a few bouts slide ahead of this one.
Edge vs. John Cena vs. Chris Jericho vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Kane vs. Mike Knox
Jericho and Mysterio's work together was crisp and compelling. Even before Mysterio made the Elimination Chamber the showcase for his agility and fearlessness, he and Jericho put on a fast-paced show.
Edge attacked Kofi Kingston to steal a spot in the match. The shock of that moment elevates this match. Not only was it unexpected and unprecedented, it fit Edge's character perfectly.
Mysterio climbed the wall and dropped down on his foes in one of many memorable spots, but it was the electric chemistry of all the men involved that powered this. The action was smooth and well-timed.
If WWE had replaced Mike Knox with Undertaker from the SmackDown match or another major star, this would have been even more of a classic. Instead, his presence felt like filler and a missed opportunity.
Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Randy Orton vs. Triple H vs. Goldberg vs. Kevin Nash
Filling the Elimination Chamber with five former world champions and a young wrestler on the rise is a formula for greatness. When two of those men, namely Triple H and Goldberg, are entrenched in an intense feud, the result is even better.
Like so many of the best Chamber bouts, it began with Jericho and Michaels locking up.
They provided a fantastic opening with their chemistry and in-ring acumen on display. When Nash entered, he rubbed Jericho's face into the Chamber wall and went on a rampage after being eliminated, a spot that has become a staple of the match.
Goldberg was the star of the night. Anticipation built as he awaited his turn to fight, pacing, bouncing and glaring from in his pod. Once he was finally unleashed, he tore through the opposition in enthralling fashion.
It took a sledgehammer shot from Triple H to put him down, ending a captivating bout.
That fantastic storytelling is topped only by the best display of wrestling inside the chamber in one case and in a match that set the bar impossibly high in another.
Triple H vs. Chris Benoit vs. Randy Orton vs. Chris Jericho vs. Edge vs. Batista
As long as Benoit and Jericho had been wrestling each other before this night, it's no surprise that they composed a masterpiece within the match to start things off.
Add to that Edge going on a spear spree, Batista protecting Triple H and Benoit hitting his diving headbutt from the top of a pod, and one is compelled to watch this bout over and over again. Batista hitting a spinebuster on Jericho with Benoit underneath him is another of many of the bout's memorable moments.
In terms of star power, it's hard to top this collection of talent, especially considering that Shawn Michaels was the guest referee. Not surprisingly, he played a part in the match as well, superkicking Edge for getting too pushy with him.
These men came close to topping the first-ever Chamber match, but that's something that may never happen. How does one surpass perfection?
Rob Van Dam vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho vs. Kane vs. Booker T
Only Van Dam and Kane aren't in either the Wrestling Observer or WWE Hall of Fame. Few fans doubt that Kane will be inducted in time, and Van Dam would head the ECW Hall if it existed.
That star power made the first-ever Chamber match feel momentous. The wrestlers didn't disappoint once the bell rang.
Many of the Chamber's best spots come from this bout. Kane threw Jericho through a pod, Van Dam hit a Five-Star Frog Splash from off one and just about everyone had their spine slapped against the steel grate. The Superstars used the Chamber as a perfect accent to their battle.
WWE cast the roles superbly for this match with Van Dam as the match's daredevil, Kane its monster and Michaels its resilient hero.
This remains the best version of the Chamber match, having given fans everything they could have asked for that night. It will take a Herculean effort to top it.