WWE Elimination Chamber 2014: Stars Under the Most Pressure at PPV

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2014

For some WWE Superstars, the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view will be the final opportunity to deliver an impressive performance and earn a spot on the WrestleMania XXX card.

For others, Elimination Chamber will present the opportunity to solidify legacies or spots on the 'Mania card.

Those are the men and women who face the greatest pressure at the event. The biggest night in professional wrestling awaits them if they can convince the creative team and management that they are a vital part of the show.

If they fail to leave an impression in just over three weeks, they will find themselves watching the Showcase of the Immortals in with Zack Ryder in catering or taking part in the kickoff show panel of experts, which may be an even bigger slap in the face than not appearing at all.

With the clock winding down and the importance of a great performance magnified significantly, especially in the wake of CM Punk's departure from World Wrestling Entertainment, here is a look at a few Superstars who need to deliver in a big way come February 23.

Randy Orton

To say that the current WWE World Heavyweight champion's current title reign has been less than enthralling would be an understatement.

Booking issues have plagued it. Fans have been less receptive to the same tired main event stars populating the top of the card, as evidenced by the very vocal backlash to The Viper's title defense against John Cena at Sunday's Royal Rumble.

It was the second title defense of Orton's current reign that saw a crowd incredibly dissatisfied by the action the third-generation star was generating between the ropes. The other? The putrid Survivor Series main event.

In fact, Orton has yet to have a really great match since capturing the title last October. Most have been very good but none have reached the level that one would expect from someone being labeled as "the face of WWE," regardless of whether it is a storyline or not.

At Elimination Chamber, Orton absolutely must deliver in a high-profile main event match or his entire reign could very well be written off as one major disappointment.

For someone who had matured into one of the better workers in professional wrestling prior to his questionable heel turn last August, that is a major black eye on Orton's current run with the title.

Daniel Bryan

The goat-faced Superstar is the hottest star in all of professional wrestling. Fans pack arenas across the country for a chance to watch him ply his craft, a craft that is unmatched among Superstars on today's WWE roster.

Bryan, a former standout in Ring of Honor and in other independent promotions across the country, has overcome obstacles such as his size and backstage politics to become the most popular wrestler in the world. He has thwarted terrible booking decisions and misguided perceptions about his ability to be a legitimate main event star to get to where he is today.

With Elimination Chamber serving as the final pay-per-view between now and WrestleMania XXX, there will be pressure on the Aberdeen native to clear one more hurdle before enjoying what should finally (hopefully) be his moment in the spotlight at the biggest show of the year.

While the pressure will not be nearly as overwhelming as it is for some of the other stars on this list, it will still be enough to potentially affect his performance if he allows it to.

Luckily, Bryan has yet to disappoint in any big-match situation.

Do not expect him to start on February 23.

Alberto Del Rio

Despite dominating WWE in 2013 as World Heavyweight Champion, holding the title for the majority of the year, Del Rio suddenly finds himself directionless in the new year.

His short, one-sided feud with Batista ended unceremoniously when he was eliminated by The Animal just minutes into his Royal Rumble run this past Sunday night. A win over Kofi Kingston the following night on Raw did little to help him recover any credibility, especially considering the crowd's obnoxious chants for John Bradshaw Layfield and Jerry Lawler at ringside.

With no defined feud or story on the horizon, one of the company's MVPs of 2013 may very well find himself without a spot on what is sure to be a crowded WrestleMania card unless he can do something to capture the attention of the creative team.

One of Vince McMahon's pet projects who always seems to find himself involved in something, regardless of how little interest there is in him from the audience, Del Rio should manage to sneak into a match at the Showcase of the Immortals.

A standout performance at the upcoming pay-per-view, however, could very well dictate just how meaningful his position on the 'Mania show is.

Dolph Ziggler

At this point, it would not be a shock for Ziggler to not even have a match on the Elimination Chamber card.

Since losing his World Heavyweight Championship last June and wrapping up his program with AJ Lee and Big E Langston at SummerSlam in August, Ziggler has fallen into the abyss known as the WWE midcard, a dark and depressing place where Superstars may have the opportunity to excel one day and be without a spot on the card the next.

It is a place where pushes go to die and wins and losses are traded without any real impact on the rest of the show.

Since taking up residency there, he has been involved in nothing of importance despite still working extremely hard to deliver some of the best matches of any given night.

If he is given the opportunity to try to do so at Elimination Chamber, Ziggler will have to pull out one of the best performances of his career to even hope to sniff a spot on the WrestleMania card.

Del Rio is easily the star who has fallen the most since last year's show, even if it was by no fault of his own.

Note: SmackDown spoiler follows

Antonio Cesaro

The former United States champion will compete in the biggest match of his career at Elimination Chamber when he enters the structure to challenge for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

Cesaro has been rejuvenated during his run as a member of the Real Americans, especially after a disappointing first half of 2013 that saw him miss out on WrestleMania and suffer embarrassing losses to the likes of Santino Marella.

After a legitimate Match of the Year contender against Sami Zayn on NXT last fall, the hype surrounding the Swiss-born Superstar has increased exponentially to the point that he was clearly one of the more underappreciated stars on the roster during the second half of the year.

Working with performers like John Cena, Randy Orton, Sheamus and Daniel Bryan will be a big boost for Cesaro's stature within the company. If he can perform up to the situation, he could very well find himself on the receiving end of a big push going into WrestleMania or at the very least coming out of it.


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