WWE Elimination Chamber 2014 assures the six Superstars vying for the company's top championship pain in excess, but a title change is far less certain.
Fans will be rooting for Daniel Bryan to unseat Randy Orton, but an unhappy ending awaits. Bryan, Jack Swagger and The Usos will all close in on becoming champions only to watch the incumbents celebrate.
The ominous structure that gives the pay-per-view its name is the centerpiece of an event featuring a stable-versus-stable battle, two tag team partners preying on each other and Batista's quest to squash a bug that has been buzzing in his ear.
Picking apart backstage reports and WWE's foreshadowing provides a clairvoyant view of Elimination Chamber, the last major stop before WrestleMania.
News, Potential Spoilers
Before placing your bet on who will win the Chamber match, it's best to consider the following two news items.
Many fans were surprised when Christian earned in a spot in the WWE title bout while Brock Lesnar was left out.
It now seems that "Captain Charisma" would be wise to hire a bodyguard for his journey to the ring.
Does Lesnar destroy Christian and take his place, or is he set to deliver some random acts of destruction? Either way, hearing that Lesnar will join the card in some fashion ups the show's potential even more.
Brock Lesnar at WWE Elimination Chamber changes everything http://t.co/Mi3xgZE6xy— Cageside Seats (@cagesideseats) February 21, 2014
Another man competing in that match may be in danger.
John Cena appears to have to worry about more than just his five foes on Sunday. Wrestling Observer, via WrestlingInc.com, writes of Cena's chances in the Chamber:
It's likely that The Wyatt Family will end up costing John Cena the Elimination Chamber match in some fashion, to set up the planned Cena vs. Bray Wyatt match at WrestleMania XXX.
Should this come to pass, it's going to be a career-altering night for Wyatt. He not only gets a crack at The Shield in a battle that decides the company's most dominant trio, but he could assure himself a major WrestleMania match by costing Cena a title opportunity for the second pay-per-view in a row.
- Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs. Ryback and Curtis Axel
- Alberto Del Rio vs. Batista
- Darren Young vs. Titus O'Neil
- Big E vs. Jack Swagger (Intercontinental Championship)
- The Usos vs. The New Age Outlaws (Tag Team Championship)
- The Wyatt Family vs. The Shield
- Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus vs. Christian vs. Cesaro vs. John Cena (Elimination Chamber match for WWE World Heavyweight Championship)
The Brotherhood Rebounds
The last time The Rhodes Brothers competed on a pay-per-view pre-show they saw their enemies wear their championships at the match's end.
Expect Rhodes and Goldust to get a win here if only because of the low quality of their competition. Ryback and Axel did defeat the Rhodes boys back in December. They haven't had a signature win since, though.
They will serve as a way to have Rhodes and Goldust push themselves back up the tag team rankings.
The Animal Preps for WrestleMania
Batista is set to face the WWE champ at WrestleMania. Whether that be Cena, Bryan, Lesnar or Orton, it makes no sense to have his last major match before that showdown be a loss.
He needs to look as strong as possible, and that forces the question about this match to be "how easily will he win?" rather than "will he win?"
The predator-prey dynamic has clearly been established, and there's little reason to expect WWE to deviate from that at this point.
The split between The Prime Time Players has been more about O'Neil than Young, which points to the bigger man winning on Sunday.
WWE pointed the camera on O'Neil first after the breakup, featuring him in a Backstage Fallout segment.
In addition, according to WrestleZone.com, "Vince apparently told the writers 'Titus O'Neil gets an opportunity, sink or swim.'" The opportunity McMahon reportedly spoke of doesn't happen with a loss in his first pay-per-view as a singles star.
The company's aim will be to give O'Neil a big moment, an impressive win and a catapult to send him forward.
A Champion Remains on Top
WWE has taken the Intercontinental Championship seriously since Big E won it.
The word "prestigious" is used so often before it one might think that it's part of the official name of the title. Big E has defended the belt more frequently than Dean Ambrose and hasn't been cowardly about it like Ambrose has.
Swagger is likely just his next big test. There hasn't been enough focus on Swagger lately to think that WWE is lining up him for a title run.
With as much as WWE believes in Big E, as seen by his recent prominence, expect him to be IC champ come WrestleMania time and be offered a title defense on that big stage to further his career.
The Journey Delayed
WWE has hinted that The Usos will win the tag titles so strongly that it now reeks of misdirection.
After defeating The New Age Outlaws in eight-man action on Feb. 14, Jey Uso pinned Billy Gunn in singles action on Monday's Raw.
Road Dogg and Gunn have had no victories of any form against this team. The announcers have also been predicting that The Usos will win. That much foreshadowing often equals WWE pulling the story in the opposite direction.
The champs are supposed to lose at this point, being the aging veterans of this equation. Count on WWE toying with that expectation and having The Usos wait until WrestleMania to get their first taste of gold.
The End of The Shield
Unity has turned to distrust. The Shield is on its way to splintering apart completely. That makes The Wyatt Family's goal of tearing the black-clad trio apart a lot easier.
On Monday's Raw, when Ambrose bragged about thrashing Mark Henry, his partners gave him an incredulous look, almost laughing at his ridiculousness.
It's the latest chapter in the story of The Shield falling apart.
Entering their collision with Wyatt, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan not completely unified will hurt them. Besides, Wyatt is on his way to superstardom. After defeating Bryan at the Royal Rumble, he's rumored to be facing Cena at WrestleMania, as mentioned above.
Not only defeating, but terminating, The Shield gives Wyatt ample momentum heading into that match.
The Face Remains the Same
Orton's gauntlet against his Chamber opponents went terribly. He lost to Cesaro, Cena and Bryan.
Count on those defeats being the precursors to his latest triumph. His opponents just have too much to worry about.
Cena has to look out for Wyatt. Bryan will enter the match with an injured arm after Kane and Christian both tried to render it useless on Monday's Raw. For weeks, Kane has been right behind Bryan with his teeth gnashing.
Look for him to interfere or at least distract Bryan, setting up a Triple H vs. Bryan match at WrestleMania, one that ends The Authority storyline.
This is Orton's match to win. Orton vs. Batista is seemingly the match WWE has been planning since January.
The first thing Batista did when he returned was step up to Orton and challenge him. He confronted the champ on Monday's Raw, forcing him to scurry off with just a glare. PWInsider, via WrestlingInc.com, reported that Orton against Batista was one of the top matches on the drawing board.
Is anyone betting on a Sheamus vs. Batista main event or that WWE has the gumption to put Cesaro on the WrestleMania marquee? Everything instead appears to add up to Orton retaining and Bryan's fanbase rejecting the result.
Taking the crown from the king is never an easy task, as Bryan and the other Elimination Chamber challengers will find out.