WWE’s Elimination Chamber accomplished its goal, setting the table for WrestleMania 35 in April.
There is still one more pay per view before WrestleMania, which takes place on March 10 with Fastlane. But the card is coming together, thanks largely to an entertaining Elimination Chamber that saw critical performances from Becky Lynch and Kofi Kingston.
Here are the results from the show:
· Buddy Murphy successfully defended his Cruiserweight championship against Akira Tozawa on the preshow
· Sasha Banks and Bayley won the tag team Elimination Chamber match to capture the women’s tag team championship over Liv Morgan and Sarah Morgan, Carmella and Naomi, Billie Kay and Peyton Royce, Nia Jax and Tamina, and Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville
· The Usos defeated The Miz and Shane McMahon to win the SmackDown tag team titles
· Finn Balor won the Intercontinental title in a handicap match over Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush
· Raw women’s champion Ronda Rousey forced Ruby Riott to submit
· Baron Corbin, along with the help of Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley, defeated Braun Strowman in a No Disqualification match
· Daniel Bryan pinned Kofi Kingston to win the men’s Elimination Chamber match that also included AJ Styles, Randy Orton, Samoa Joe, and Jeff Hardy
Here are my five takeaways from the pay per view:
1. The best storylines 2019 are both spontaneous and steeped in realism.
Kofi Kingston was not in the main event picture as of two weeks ago, but if WWE is listening to the reaction from its crowd, then Kingston should defeat Daniel Bryan in a match at WrestleMania 35 for the WWE championship.
Bryan successfully defended his eco-friendly title in the Elimination Chamber, which is a format and formula the WWE has perfected, after a running knee to the face of Kingston.
Tapping into a real-life storyline that has seen Kingston overlooked in the world title picture, Kingston attempted a flying splash off the top of a pod to put Bryan away. Bryan moved, then hit the running knee to pin Kingston.
The psychology on display in the match was outrageous, with six of the best in the world taking full advantage of the main event.
Jeff Hardy’s swanton bomb off the top of a pod was magnificent, but also made complete sense. Hardy was willing to gamble, as he hoped hitting the move on AJ Styles would eliminate him, but an opportunistic Daniel Bryan jumped in with a running knee to the face of Hardy following the maneuver.
Following the match, the crowd showered Kingston with praise, and his New Day music was even played as he left the ring with Big E and Xavier Woods.
Near the end of the match, Bryan shouted at Kingston, “You don’t deserve to be here with me!”—which is suddenly the beginning of one of WWE’s most compelling storylines. Kingston has been overlooked in the main event picture for the past 11 years, so Bryan’s taunts are realistic. Kingston has primarily been presented as a comedy character with unparalleled athleticism, which is displayed every January during the Royal Rumble match when he escapes a certain elimination by standing on his head outside the ring.
But Kingston came up short in his attempt to win the WWE title at Elimination Chamber, which is perfect storytelling. His coronation should take place at a much grander stage: WrestleMania 35.
2. The women’s Elimination Chamber match finished as expected, with Sasha Banks and Bayley winning the newly restored women’s tag team titles.
The Boss N’ Hug Connection of Banks and Bayley are now the first WWE women’s tag champions since the women’s tag team titles were deactivated in 1989. Just as importantly, the titles add a new dimension to a women’s division overflowing in talent. There is simply too much talent in WWE for only one women’s title on Raw and one on SmackDown, and the tag titles allow for some creative storylines that should keep multiple talents in the title picture.
Banks and Bayley should also have their “Rockers moment,” leading to a singles match at WrestleMania 35.
Banks needs to turn on Bayley and cement herself as one of the best heels in all of wrestling. Unlike The Rockers’ Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty, who had one of the most memorable splits of all-time, but never shared a WrestleMania moment, Banks and Bayley should have the opportunity to showcase their breakup on wrestling’s biggest stage.
Beyond adding a much-needed new title to the women’s division, this match hopefully sets up one of the best moments at WrestleMania 35.
3. Shane McMahon and The Miz dropped the tag team titles to The Usos, which added a new layer of interest to the McMahon/Miz storyline and also showed that WWE did not further punish The Usos after Jimmy Uso–whose name is Jonathan Solofa Fatu–was arrested this past Wednesday in Detroit, Michigan for disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice.
For starters, I hope that Uso is in a positive state. A job with constant travel and the stresses of professional entertainment is extremely difficult. Wrestling aside, I hope he somehow finds a way to turn his negative into a positive.
As for the match, The Usos proved again that they are an incredibly underrated tag team. With The Usos and The Revival as the respective SmackDown and Raw tag team champions, WWE has the chance to deliver some very compelling tag title matches at WrestleMania 35, including The Usos vs. The New Day’s Big E and Xavier Woods.
The Miz took the pinfall in this match after Shane McMahon was out of commission following his trademark elbow drop off the top rope onto a table. While I am normally critical of WWE’s insistence on booking McMahon as a superhuman, the decision to have The Miz lose—and then blow up about the loss with McMahon in the back—plants a seed of dissension between the self-proclaimed best tag team in the world.
McMahon rarely loses (and when he does, such as against The Undertaker at WrestleMania 32, it takes a herculean effort), but building this feud to the point where The Miz defeats McMahon at WrestleMania 35 will be a tremendous building block for one of the best heels in the business.
4. In a match that left a lot to be desired, Finn Balor won the Intercontinental title from Bobby Lashley.
This was a handicap match, and Balor pinned Lio Rush to win his first IC title. Lashley clearly should have taken the pinfall here, adding far more meaning to the moment.
The story was that Balor outsmarted Lashley, but as the undersized babyface, a far better story would have been Balor outworking a monstrous villain in Lashley.
Lashley took out his frustrations on Rush following the loss, chokeslamming his hype man. This course would have been just as effective had Balor pinned Lashley.
On the bright side, there is a lot of potential for the IC title with Balor as champion. The title, long renowned as the WWE’s championship for its best wrestler, will allow Balor to have title matches every week on Raw. This is especially meaningful in the stretch to WrestleMania, as Brock Lesnar is not expected to defend the Universal title on Raw, providing Balor the chance to prove to the WWE audience that he is the most elite talent in the ring on Monday nights.
5. Like it or not, Becky Lynch’s plot is set.
Lynch will have to overcome a storyline knee injury, as well as The Authority, just to have the right to challenge Ronda Rousey and Vince McMahon’s handpicked contender, Charlotte Flair, at WrestleMania 35.
Lynch assaulted Flair at Elimination Chamber with her crutches, and then attacked Rousey.
I would prefer that the Lynch arc was centered around a one-on-one match with Rousey at WrestleMania, but WWE takes immense pride in its storytelling. The inclusion of Flair—in the role of a corporate villain—will both add to the match, as Flair is extremely talented. But it also will remove some of the boos, which were reaching a boiling point, toward Rousey.
Lynch is the most over star in the WWE, and she has earned her spot in the main event against Rousey and Flair. Even with some frustrations in the storytelling, people will go home happy from WrestleMania if Lynch pins Rousey to end the show.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.