The return of "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels in 2002 took the wrestling world by storm. Despite missing four years of action following a serious back injury, he returned to the ring in August at SummerSlam and delivered a near flawless performance as he defeated Triple H in a five-star classic street fight.
Fast forward three months and the feud between the two former friends and D-Generation X teammates was still ongoing.
November brought with it the annual Survivor Series pay-per-view, and a new match concept was designed for the big show.
Known as the Elimination Chamber, the match would feature six Superstars competing for the World Heavyweight Championship inside the brutal and unforgiving steel structure. Naturally, Michaels and Triple H would be involved, as would two of Triple H's top contenders in Rob Van Dam and Kane. Booker T and Chris Jericho, former world champions themselves, would fill out the remainder of the field.
Historic Madison Square Garden in the heart of New York City was the site for the match, and the rabid fans inside the mecca of sporting arenas watched as the six men inside the Elimination Chamber threw caution to the wind and battered their bodies to entertain the WWE fans and win the title.
Rob Van Dam delivered a Five-Star Frog Splash from the top of one of the pods, crashing down across Triple H, his knee catching "The Game" in the throat and crushing his windpipe. The champion would once again prove his toughness, though, as he was short on air for the majority of the 39-minute match but still remained in the contest until the very end.
Chris Jericho was the MVP of the battle, taking big bumps and carrying the majority of the action as an injured Triple H tried to preserve what energy he had so he could perform adequately in the closing minutes of the match.
Michaels was good enough, but his performance in this match paled in comparison to his showing just months earlier at SummerSlam. Still, that did not prevent him from capping off his storybook return to the ring with Sweet Chin Music to Triple H and his first heavyweight championship since 1998.
The sight of Michaels, one of WWE's greatest performers, standing tall inside the chamber, the World title draped over his shoulder, was an outstanding visual.
The World Heavyweight Championship match at the 2002 Survivor Series, and the near-perfect execution of it, has everything to do with the success of Chamber matches over the years. Without that first one turning out as well as it did, odds are the Elimination Chamber never would have seen the light of day again.
Now, it has its own annual pay-per-view event every February, and the match itself goes a long way in setting up some of the biggest matches of the year at WrestleMania.
This year, Randy Orton will defend his WWE World Heavyweight Championship inside the steel structure against John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Sheamus, Christian and Antonio Cesaro as he attempts to make it to WrestleMania XXX.
While that match has the potential to be one of the great Elimination Chamber matches in WWE history, the original from November of 2002 will always be looked back upon with great fondness and respect.
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