WWE sure knows how to keep fans invested.
Sunday night's Elimination Chamber pay-per-view truthfully felt shorter than an episode of Raw, yet a whole wealth of important things happened over a blitz-paced show.
Daniel Bryan won a Chamber match to challenge Roman Reigns, from which The Tribal Chief emerged the victor in about a minute and a half. Edge then chose Reigns for a WrestleMania 37 showdown. Riddle won the United States Championship, and Drew McIntyre won his Chamber match.
Last, but far from least, The Miz popped up, cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase with an assist from Bobby Lashley and stole the title as the show went to black.
The implications of that last bit are, in a word, dramatic.
Just like that, McIntyre's incredible pandemic-era run is over. The guy who won his title at an audience-less 'Mania after a historic squabble with Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble outright carried WWE on his back for most of 2020 as the company largely shied away from bringing on part-timers for audience-less shows.
And now his run is done just shy of this year's WrestleMania.
Or, at least, that's what WWE wants fans to think. With Fastlane again squashed between Elimination Chamber and The Show of Shows, it has the look of another forgettable PPV. So much so, this is the first Fastlane event since 2019.
But now the mood all changes. Now there is quite an impressive reason to tune in on March 21 and see what happens. Will McIntyre get his revenge? Does he even get a rematch? Clearly, there's something going on behind the scenes with Lashley, Miz and The Hurt Business.
Most likely, Lashley and Co. linked up with The A-Lister, agreed to help him and in exchange get the first stab at a title match. Granted, The All Mighty was over-the-top mad about losing his U.S. title earlier in the night, but this angle makes sense for many reasons.
One of those is just doing something with the briefcase itself. Otis won it at last year's Money in the Bank and lost it to Miz at Hell in a Cell, which seemed like an admission that the angle was going nowhere. The A-Lister was the perfect guy to stash it on while the company built up McIntyre and Reigns, freshly returned as a heel.
Pulling the trigger now on a cash-in means intrigue on the build to WrestleMania and doesn't damage McIntyre too much, either. Provided, of course, he's still in the mix for the title and doesn't get sidetracked into a feud with Sheamus and stuck in mid-roster purgatory. That, or he loses again at one or both of the next two PPVs, then the last year of building him as a top guy could be for naught.
In a way, maybe this is partially a way for WWE to reward the Scot. He carried the company on his back but never got the big 'Mania moment in front of a live crowd. Say Lashley takes the title off Miz at Fastlane, then that door is open for The Scottish Warrior to get his moment, provided fans can attend.
And really, this is one of the more interesting ways to keep McIntyre in the conversation. There wasn't a ton of time to build up a new, credible opponent—he just bested five prior top champions in a Chamber contest, after all. Putting him in a brief chase mode (remember how good he was at that while gunning for Lesnar?) and having him go after Lashley and it ending in a slugfest at Raymond James Stadium in April is great for all involved.
It's also tip-of-the-hat time, because this sort of creativity with a heel stable doesn't happen too often. Lashley, with one word, seemed to confirm some of the behind-the-scenes stuff from Sunday night:
Maybe the only disappointing angle here is the likely universal expectation that Miz drops the title almost instantly. That's a product of a company with no plan for the briefcase itself and a not-so-hot bit of building for its holder over the course of the past year.
Still, it's hard to find fault in the overarching storyline here. McIntyre on the warpath, a great company guy like Miz as champion, Lashley finally getting some shine and the intrigue of it all makes for some great headlining acts over the next few months until WrestleMania.
While how it all shakes out will very much determine how it's all viewed in hindsight, Miz stealing some shine from McIntyre was the perfect heel move and worked in multiple deserving Superstars of prominent 'Mania positioning.
As far as the possible stories that would have to sit behind the Reigns-Edge showdown go, this is about as good as it gets.