WWE Elimination Chamber 2014: Smart Finishes for Each Match on the Card
The booking of the matches on any given WWE pay-per-view can be the most important aspect of the entire show.
It wraps up storylines, adds new elements to programs to keep them fresh or exciting and can make or break an entire angle.
With WrestleMania on the horizon, the importance of the booking at the annual February Elimination Chamber event is magnified. The company plants the seeds for the biggest match at WrestleMania during this Sunday's show.
Randy Orton defends the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against John Cena, Sheamus, Christian, Cesaro and Daniel Bryan inside the unforgiving steel structure known as the Elimination Chamber. With so many talented individuals in the match, five of whom have held heavyweight gold, anyone could leave the match with the title and be a fitting champion.
But for the sake of the 'Mania plans only a few can conceivably capture the title.
Furthermore, only a few finishes make sense within the context of the story being told and competitors involved.
What are those finishes? What about the rest of the matches on the card and their conclusions?
With Elimination Chamber rapidly approaching, here is a look at the smartest finishes for every match on this Sunday's card.
WWE Kickoff Match: Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs. Ryback and Curtis Axel
Rhodes and Goldust have lost a great deal of momentum since dropping the tag titles to the New Age Outlaws last month prior to Royal Rumble.
Now they have the opportunity to get back to their winning ways by taking on a team of Superstars in Ryback and Curtis Axel that has not been truly relevant since last October.
The smartest finish for this match is an easy one.
Rhodes and Goldust are more valuable to WWE and their immediate plans for the future than either Ryback or Axel. That is not a knock on the heels themselves but, instead, a statement about WWE's current booking of them. Thus, Rhodes and Goldust should win the match and do so convincingly.
Rhodes countering out of a Perfect Plex attempt from Axel and catching him with the Cross Rhodes for the win would give Cody a solid victory, and another loss does nothing to further damage the former Intercontinental champion Axel, who has fallen off considerably since losing the title and his mouthpiece Paul Heyman.
Darren Young vs. Titus O'Neil
The split of the Prime Time Players has resulted in an entertaining little rivalry that has played out between Darren Young and Titus O'Neil on Friday Night SmackDown.
Thus far, Young has gotten the upper hand on his former partner, but it is O'Neil who has really stood out as a character. He has been a quick-witted, fast and funny speaker who catches the viewers' attention whenever a microphone is put in front of him.
As solid and explosive an in-ring performer as Young is, it is O'Neil's personality that makes him better suited to today's entertainment-heavy WWE.
Both wrestlers could use a victory to improve fans' perception of them, but at this point in time O'Neil is more valuable to the company. A strong, clean win over Young for O'Neil would be a great way to really kick off his singles push.
Tag Team Title Match: The Usos vs. the New Age Outlaws
Jimmy and Jey Uso are the best tag team in the sport, but they have not been appropriately rewarded with a title reign at this point in their careers.
The Outlaws, on the other hand, have done an admirable job of returning to the ring and proving they can still go between the ropes.
Unfortunately, it has become apparent as of late that they simply cannot match the pace and the energy that today's young stars bring to their work. It was never more evident than during the Steel Cage match a few weeks ago when they were badly outworked by potential breakout star Cody Rhodes and his (admittedly older) brother Goldust.
Add to that the fact that Road Dogg and Billy Gunn's association with The Authority, which looked to be the emphasis of their tag title win in the first place, has been largely forgotten, and the team really has no reason to be a full-time part of the tag division.
The smartest finish would see The Usos land the victory and their first tag team championships, following a top rope splash to either of the heels.
Intercontinental Title Match: Big E vs. Jack Swagger
Intercontinental champion Big E and No. 1 contender Jack Swagger both have an amateur wrestling background, meaning their bout this Sunday night should be a very physical, ground-based match that plays on their experience.
Swagger has shown flashes of intensity and renewed passion in recent weeks and has earned a singles push, even if it only lasts through the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view.
A solid performance from Swagger on Sunday night could earn him the trust of management and get him a spot on the WrestleMania card come April 6, a spot that did not look likely as late as two weeks ago.
With that said, this match is all about continuing the rise of Big E. He has a very legitimate shot at being one of the building blocks of the WWE's future. For that to happen, he has to get on a roll, stay on a roll and not fall into the trap that the creative team has allowed other young stars to fall into by booking them in losing streaks.
The most likely and smartest finish sees the champion withstand the onslaught of the challenger and counter Swagger's attempt at a gutwrench power bomb into the Big Ending for the strong pinfall victory.
Batista vs. Alberto Del Rio
To say that Batista's return to World Wrestling Entertainment has been anything but smooth would be an understatement of massive proportions.
Fans have not reacted to The Animal as management wanted or intended. The booking of the former WWE and World Heavyweight champion has left a lot to be desired. He had said little and done less but was expected to be welcomed back with open arms and cheered to victory in the Royal Rumble.
As anyone who saw the Rumble can attest to, it did not quite work that way.
Pairing him with Alberto Del Rio at Elimination Chamber will not help.
Del Rio is not over enough as a character to be considered a threat to Batista, nor has he been properly rehabilitated enough as a legitimate main event competitor following the series of matches against John Cena last fall.
He may not be a threat but Del Rio still is a workhorse for WWE whose in-ring work is a great deal above that of many of his co-workers. That will only endear him to an audience looking for any reason not to cheer Batista.
The Animal will win the match following the Batista Bomb whether fans like it or not. That is the smartest finish given the competitors, and it is the one that makes the most sense given the fact that Batista is preparing to challenge for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on April 6.
It will come in a match, however, that will be ugly for management, who hopes fans will get behind the Washington, D.C., native on his road to WrestleMania XXX.
The Shield vs. the Wyatt Family
The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family is the most anticipated match on the Elimination Chamber card.
The company's creative team has done an exemplary job of building the match through promos and staredowns. The program is proof that the Superstars involved do not need physical contact to fuel a feud or tell a story.
The Shield have been positioned as the babyfaces of the match, but the dissension within the group puts them at a significant disadvantage against the solidified, unified Wyatt Family.
The finish to the match is a delicate one that has implications on April 6's WrestleMania.
Based on what was presented to fans at Royal Rumble, Bray Wyatt will compete against John Cena at the "Showcase of the Immortals." For that reason, he must be booked as strong as possible for fans to perceive him to be any sort of threat to WWE's resident Superman in Cena.
At the same time, the creative team will also want to play up the dissension within The Shield, especially that between Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose.
The best way for all of that to happen is for there to be some sort of miscommunication spot between Reigns and Ambrose, leading to an argument or even a betrayal by the latter. Seth Rollins, being the glue that has held the group together this long, will attempt to smooth things over between the stars but will fail.
He will also fall prey to Sister Abigail from Wyatt, leading to the pinfall victory for the cultish trio.
The finish puts the Wyatt Family over strong by beating one of the greatest trios in WWE history, furthers the dissension between Ambrose and Reigns and gives Rollins a reason to finally be frustrated, potentially leading to a three-way feud between the breakout stars of 2013.
Elimination Chamber Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Coming up with a smart finish for a match such as the Elimination Chamber is no small feat. After all, there are six Superstars involved, all with varying degrees of stardom, all of whom are involved in different stories.
What are the post-Chamber plans for the champion and his challengers? How will they factor into the booking of the match? How will the booking affect the stars?
There are many questions surrounding the bout from a booking standpoint, but what is for certain is that Randy Orton, John Cena and Daniel Bryan have been pushed as the three most important competitors in the match.
As such, they figure to play key roles in the finish.
Though all signs point to Cena taking on Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania rather than a high-profile title match, at least based on the seeds planted at Royal Rumble, he is still the unquestioned top star in the sport and beating him still means a great deal.
Daniel Bryan pinning Cena, who Michael Cole put over as one of the greatest Chamber performers ever this past Monday on Raw, would go a long way in continuing to establish Bryan as one of the top stars in all of sports entertainment.
Seconds after Bryan pins Cena, Orton scores another fluke victory by rolling Bryan up, grabbing a handful of tights and securing the victory.
The finish puts Bryan over, creates questions as to whether or not he is the rightful champion and once again allows Orton to look like the weak champion that was lucky enough to have escaped with his title while doing the bare minimum to do so.
Which, like it or not, is the story the company is attempting to tell with The Viper.