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WWE Classic of the Week: Elimination Chamber Match from SummerSlam 2003

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistJuly 28, 2015

Credit: WWE.com

In August 2003, the top stars of Monday Night Raw and the most intense rivalries in the industry converged on America West Arena in Phoenix for an Elimination Chamber match, the main event of WWE's SummerSlam extravaganza.

World heavyweight champion Triple H had dominated the company's flagship show as its lead heel and centerpiece for the better part of a year. Former friends Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash had proved to be thorns in his side, leaving The Game to recruit help in the form of Randy Orton, who would become essential to the foundation of the Evolution faction.

Then there was Chris Jericho, arguably the second-most hated villain on the show and a perennial contender to the world title.

And finally, there was Goldberg, the unstoppable force who had made his name in WCW and was tearing through the competition in Vince McMahon's company, including Y2J.

With so many top contenders vying for the most coveted prize in the industry, and the unforgiving steel confines of the Elimination Chamber imprisoning them, the marquee match of the biggest pay-per-view of the summer promised to be electric.

It would also prove incredibly controversial, thanks to a finish few saw coming.

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Background

The spring of 2003 proved to be an interesting one for WWE's Raw brand.

Kevin Nash returned from a torn quadriceps to emerge as the main foe for Triple H. Shawn Michaels remained in the mix as well, the flagship show in WWE devolving into an excuse for The Game and his friends to dominate the headlines.

At Backlash, Triple H, mentor Ric Flair and Chris Jericho defeated Nash, Michaels and Booker T in a six-man tag team match. A month later at Judgment Day, Big Sexy and The Game continued their rivalry, fighting to a no-contest.

Their program would reach its conclusion at Bad Blood as they waged war inside Hell in a Cell, the legendary Mick Foley as the guest referee. Triple H proved more barbaric than his 7-foot rival, successfully retaining his world title.

At the same event, Chris Jericho and Goldberg's intensely personal feud reached its climax. After weeks of tormenting the former WCW champion, Jericho found himself on the receiving end of a spear and Jackhammer.

Following his loss, Jericho engaged fellow Bad Blood loser Nash in a rivalry. On the August 11 episode of Raw, Y2J defeated the one-time New World Order member in a Hair vs. Hair match, earning himself considerable momentum ahead of the SummerSlam main event.

The return of Randy Orton to the squared circle only added further intrigue to the complicated and crowded title picture as questions abounded as to whether his allegiance was to Triple H and Evolution or the achievement of his own personal goals.

The Match

The Analysis

To this day, the finish of this match remains one of the most controversial in SummerSlam history.

Triple H was injured. He had suffered a torn groin and should have taken time off following the event. More importantly, he should have done the job for Goldberg, putting the explosive WCW alumnus over to signal a changing of the guard on Raw.

Instead, he fueled intense criticisms over his backstage political power by going over the man most expected to help Raw recover from its ratings slump.

The match was fine, with strong performances from all involved, but it was hardly enough to eclipse what was yet another excuse to stroke the ego of one of the most controversial performers of all time.

The Aftermath

The feud between Goldberg and Triple H intensified heading into September's Unforgiven pay-per-view.

Determined to rid the company of his top challenger, The Game would defend his title against the unstoppable Goldberg, with one stipulation: If the challenger lost, he would never wrestle in WWE again.

The title vs. career match was the marquee bout of the event, the contest that would alter the future of the Raw brand.

At least it was sold that way.

With The Game still suffering from his groin injury, the two industry giants would deliver a slow and unexciting match that culminated in Goldberg finally winning the title.

Triple H would continue to be the centerpiece of the showโ€”even while on the sidelines.

He lost a rematch at Survivor Series in November, but one month later, at Armageddon, he not only regained the title but effectively killed off the two hottest acts on Raw in one fell swoop, defeating both Goldberg and Kane in a Triple Threat match to do so.

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