WWE Elimination Chamber 2014: Grading the Build for Every Match on the Card
It is far easier to invest one's self in a match when the storyline behind it is the best it can be.
This Sunday, WWE presents an Elimination Chamber pay-per-view lined with matches accented by various qualities of storylines.
WWE World Heavyweight champion Randy Orton faces criticism and questions surrounding the legitimacy of his title reign as he defends against five challengers inside the unforgiving structure that shares the name of the event.
The Shield and the Wyatt Family will clash in a six-man tag team match that may be the most anticipated match the company has produced in months. Bray Wyatt has promised a war and the lack of physical contact between the two teams ensures that they will leave everything in the ring come Sunday.
Batista has dominated Alberto Del Rio for the last two months. Sunday, he will have the opportunity to put the Mexican aristocrat in the rear view mirror. Will he succeed or will Del Rio stun The Animal on the road to WrestleMania?
How do those stories grade heading into this weekend's event? What about the stories, or lack thereof, behind the undercard bouts?
Here is a look at the grades for the build to each match on the Elimination Chamber card.
Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs. Ryback and Curtis Axel
This month's Kickoff Show match features two teams that have been left without much to do in terms of any substantial feud or story.
Goldust and Cody Rhodes were tag team champions a month ago and in the middle of one of the greatest runs of either of their careers. They were turning out great match after great match and were responsible for saving some shows from being truly awful.
Then they lost the tag titles to the New Age Outlaws, dropped a few rematches to them and the momentum they built for themselves over the span of five months disappeared.
Ryback and Curtis Axel have been portrayed as a B-level team to this point, despite having potential to be more. They have not been afforded many victories to this point and there has been no indication to suggest that will change anytime soon.
With very little in the way of build between the two teams, the fans really have no reason to invest themselves in the match outside of the actual participants involved.
Darren Young vs. Titus O'Neil
On the January 31 episode of SmackDown, the Prime Time Players suffered a quick and embarrassing loss to Ryback and Curtis Axel. Dismayed and frustrated by the defeat, Titus O'Neil turned on partner Darren Young and brought the Players' two-year run as a team to an end.
A week later, during the February 7 SmackDown, Young attacked O'Neil following a promo and brawled with him around the backstage area until being pulled away by backstage personnel. A week later, Young once again got the best of his former partner, humiliating him by ripping his suit pants off.
After cutting a very entertaining promo on Raw, hyping the match for an audience that may not even have known it was booked for the show, O'Neil has established himself as an entertaining persona that is more valuable to today's WWE than Young, who is a very solid worker and shows great energy and explosiveness between the ropes.
The build has been solid enough and actually gives one of the undercard matches on this Sunday's show a reason for happening. Whether the fans bite and respond with any kind of enthusiasm remains to be seen, but the creative team has done a solid job setting the match up.
Intercontinental Champion Big E vs. Jack Swagger
Over the last two weeks, the creative team has renewed its focus on both the Intercontinental Championship and Jack Swagger.
Sunday night, Swagger will challenge Big E for the title in a match that should play on the amateur wrestling backgrounds of both men. Champion and challenger also have very physical, hard-hitting styles that should make the secondary title match an entertaining one to watch.
On the February 14 episode of SmackDown, Swagger defeated Rey Mysterio, Mark Henry and Kofi Kingston in a Fatal 4-Way match to earn a shot at Big E's title. Three days later, he defeated Kingston to maintain his winning streak while Big E defeated both Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal in a handicap match, throughout which Swagger's manager Zeb Colter berated and insulted the champion.
The build behind the match is minimal, at best. That the company held a number one contender bout featuring as many former World Heavyweight champions as it did, however, indicates that they at least wanted the title match at this weekend's show to seem important.
The intention was there but the execution came a bit late.
The Usos vs. Tag Team Champions the New Age Outlaws
Team beats champions in non-title match, earn title shot.
It is WWE's go-to booking when they do not have anything else or any better reason to have its Superstars feuding over the top prizes in the company.
The New Age Outlaws captured the tag team championships a month ago at the Royal Rumble Kickoff Show by defeating Cody Rhodes and Goldust. They have retained the gold in subsequent rematches, including a steel cage match.
Recently, they have been on the losing end of matches, including those to the Usos in both tag team and singles competition.
The Usos have been one of the best tag teams in the company for quite some time now but were floating around the midcard with little to do as of late. Their sudden leap into title contention is well-deserved.
Outside of the tired old booking methods mentioned above, there is no story surrounding the match.
And that is a shame, given the Outlaws' history with the Usos' father, Rikishi.
Batista vs. Alberto Del Rio
The feud between Batista and Alberto Del Rio dates back to before The Animal's return to Raw, when the two Superstars traded insults via Twitter. It escalated when Batista delivered a spine buster and power bomb to the Mexican aristocrat on his first night back with the company.
From there, he dumped Del Rio over the top rope, eliminating him from the Royal Rumble.
Recently, he power bombed the former World Heavyweight and WWE champion through an announce table.
To say that there is no reason for fans to believe Del Rio has any chance against Batista is an understatement.
The fact of the matter is that Batista has been booked very strongly in an attempt to get him over with the audience heading into his WrestleMania title shot. Unfortunately, the creative team forgot to put him in any kind of peril or present any obstacle for him to overcome.
Del Rio has not recovered from the series of matches against John Cena last fall and has floated aimlessly around WWE television.
Easily the most predictable match on this year's show.
Grade: C-, for the entertaining Twitter exchange back in January
The Shield vs. the Wyatt Family
The Shield had their first interactions with the Wyatt Family way back on the November 11 episode of Raw and it became abundantly clear from the moment they exchanged blows that fans wanted to see the two trios do battle.
Fast-forward two months to the January 27 episode of Raw, where The Shield took on Sheamus, Daniel Bryan and John Cena in a six-man tag match to determine the first three challengers for Randy Orton's WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
The Wyatt Family interfered in the match, drawing a disqualification win for the babyfaces and costing The Shield the opportunity at singles glory. Understandably upset, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose demanded a match against the cult-like trio.
Despite COO Triple H's best attempts to prevent the contest, Reigns insisted and the match was booked for Elimination Chamber.
Since then, the company has used promos and staredowns to build both the match and the anticipation of the fans. This past Monday, for the first time, the competitors exchanged blows as Raw went off the airwaves.
The program between The Shield and the Wyatt Family shows that the creative team has not forgotten how to build a huge wrestling match without reverting to the same tired methods that bore fans on a weekly basis.
It also shows that the company may be better at booking feuds between two heels than between the more traditional babyface-heel combination.
Elimination Chamber Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
While there is a lot of attention being paid to the challengers in Sunday's WWE World Heavyweight Championship Elimination Chamber match, including both Cesaro and Daniel Bryan, the story of the match revolves around Randy Orton and how many perceive him as champion.
For the last two months, questions have persisted within The Authority as to whether or not Orton is really the best choice to be the "Face of the WWE."
He has struggled against his five challengers, compiling a miserable 1-4 record over the last two weeks.
Orton has been booked in a fashion that resembles the Honky Tonk Man. He is rarely afforded the opportunity to win a match clean and, when he does, it is either with help, in a fluke manner or against a talent outside the main event scene.
Entering the Chamber, the odds are against him. He has five challengers gunning for him, four of which were former World or WWE champions. The other, Cesaro, pinned him clean on the February 14 episode of SmackDown.
It is the perfect background for Orton to rise to the occasion, retain his title and head into WrestleMania as the villainous champion.
Even if it comes at the expense of fan-favorite Daniel Bryan.