WWE Elimination Chamber 2017 Winners: Biggest Stars of the Night
One of the problems with having a pay-per-view this close to WrestleMania is that fans engage in a lot of meta-booking. Everyone knows that every storyline is building to The Showcase of the Immortals, so a lot of match finishes are more predictable than usual.
Thus, the enjoyment comes not from the outcomes but from the journeys. The wrestlers must engage in superb ring psychology and storytelling so that the fans suspend their disbelief, stop playing "inside baseball" and become absorbed in what's happening in front of them.
Who stood out on this latest SmackDown-exclusive PPV? Here are the biggest stars of the night.
Something unexpected happened tonight. Apollo Crews got mad.
Dolph Ziggler attacked Kalisto from behind, and Crews started scowling something fierce. He walked to the ring with purpose. He looked like he wanted to kick Ziggler's ass. And that's a refreshing switch from his usual, wide-eyed babyface routine. A little intensity goes a long way.
If Crews is ever going to follow through on his initial promise (he's thankfully toned down the acrobatics, which would have shortened his career and destroyed his knees), he needs to develop a personality beyond "smiling good guy who's happy to be there." Tonight, fans saw what Crews could be if he manages to bring that killer intensity on a nightly basis.
Ever since Heath Slater earned his contract, he hasn't gotten nearly as much screen time as he used to.
But the man is irrepressible. Slater is a natural underdog, and it's easy to cheer for him and feel good doing it. He always puts on a great show, and he dominated the first third of Sunday's Tag Team Turmoil match. Rhyno had his signature Gore spots, but it was Slater who did most of the heavy lifting. A painful-looking reverse atomic drop and a cross body off the top rope to the outside of the ring were two spots that were particularly impressive.
It's too bad that Slater doesn't get more time to shine on a weekly basis, both inside and outside the ring. The fans love him, and he and Rhyno have the sort of comedic chemistry that's impossible to script.
It did not take much to turn The Usos into the hottest heel tag team on SmackDown. It's all in the cocky swagger and the smirking facial expressions.
At Elimination Chamber, The Usos played their roles perfectly. They had seamless chemistry, constantly tagging in and out while keeping their flash to a minimum. They also engaged in one of the most prolonged post-match beatdowns in recent memory.
American Alpha was always going to win this match. But The Usos put that in doubt and made fans believe, if only for a second, that The Ascension had a chance to steal the titles.
Out of the three members of the original Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan), Harper is the best worker. For years, however, he's languished in his role as "Redneck Zombie No. 2." We've only seen brief, teasing glimpses of his full potential.
Tonight, however, we got to see all of Harper's skills on display, and he was a pleasure to watch. He was both agile and powerful. He demonstrated a litany of holds and strikes. And he had the crowd on his side the entire time. That's no small feat for a guy who wears an unwashed shirt to the ring.
His wild look and growing bald spot will probably prevent Harper from ever reaching main event status in WWE. But there should always be a place in the company for a guy who works this well, this consistently.
Sasha Banks, Bayley, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch get all the press and glossy cover stories for kick-starting the women's revolution. But many of the other female wrestlers deserve praise for stepping up their games rather than sliding into irrelevance.
Fans should have suspected that WWE had big plans for Naomi when she debuted that awesome, glow-in-the-dark entrance. And fans quickly learned that she had the moves to back up her swag. Her goofy Rear View finisher became her signature move. The botches that used to be constant became nonexistent. And at Elimination Chamber, she put on a deliberate, convincing performance, including a pinfall that seemed earned rather than lucky.
Naomi has gone from backup dancer to SmackDown women's champion, and she looked great doing it. Good for her.
Finally. After multiple false starts over multiple years, Bray Wyatt is the WWE champion. He won the "real" title with the lineage, not the title that WWE invented out of thin air for Raw. He did it by first taking out John Cena and then finishing off AJ Styles. And he did it without having his lackeys magically appear in the ring to help him out.
No matter what indignities WWE puts Wyatt through from here on out, it can never take this moment away from him. The Eater of Worlds has ascended to the top of the mountain.
At WrestleMania, Randy Orton has a job to do, and he better do it.