Smackdown’s road to Wrestlemania started on Sunday night from Phoenix Arizona as the WWE presented the Elimination Chamber. Have to give credit to the crew over on Smackdown, they only had two weeks to really build to this PPV following the Royal Rumble. Smartly, they planned ahead and were able to keep many of their story lines fresh going into the event. There’s a lot to cover so let’s get into it.
Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James
This feud has been building for months and in another time and place these two could have been fighting for the women’s championship. I liked the idea behind this feud, with Mickie feeling like her generation is being looked past in favor of the new “women’s revolution” and she is taking out her frustration on Becky Lynch. This was a pretty nice back and forth match and a solid was to kick off the show. There weren’t any “high spots”, but I wouldn’t have really expected that from either of these two. Mickie working over Becky’s arm during the match was a nice way to keep her from having to tap out to the “disarmer”. The finish was nice and kept both women looking strong, with Becky countering into a jack-knife cover for the pin. I don’t know if this feud is over, but I wouldn’t be sad to see these two have a couple more matches.
Apollo Crews & Kalisto vs. Dolph Ziggler
This match was originally scheduled to be a two-on-one handicap match but the #Heel Dolph Ziggler attacked Kalisto as he was making his way to the ring and for the majority of the match it looked like Apollo Crews was going to have to go it alone. I don’t know where they’re going with this whole story as it isn’t helping anyone involved. Ziggler got beat when Kalisto finally made it to the ring and a blind tag to Crews turned into a nice power bomb variation and the pin for his team. Here’s my problems with this match. 1. Kalisto is horrible at selling. He’s limping down to the ring and then he pulls off a bunch of flips and kicks. I’m pretty sure he was supposed to take a move from Ziggler during the finish but he just brushed it off. 2. Who does this help? Ziggler got beat, but each of these guys has beat him recently in singles matches. Crews got in some offense, but still needed Kalisto to get the win. Kalisto is just awful. Put him on 205 Live and be done with it. This was just filler and I hope they all move on to new things. My hope is that the post-match attack by Ziggler means they will take Crews off TV for a bit and freshen up his character.
American Alpha vs. Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. Breezango vs. The Usos vs. The Ascension vs. The Vaudevillains (Smackdown Tag Team Championship)
Let me start off by saying that I really enjoyed the fact that they wanted to put the tag team division on display. That being said, I hate the “tag team turmoil” concept. I think this match should have been in the elimination chamber. You could have really put American Alpha over by having them be the first team in the cage and letting the other teams also look strong by picking up pins over each other until you were left with the inevitable final two of Alpha and the Ascension. Then that finish. The Usos beat down Alpha, Ascension walks in hits their finisher and don’t get the victory. Nope you have Jason Jordan get beat down, hot tag to Gable, finisher and we’re done. You know who looked good coming out of this match, the Usos. You could say that Alpha looked good too, but the Ascension just look bad and all the build that they’ve been getting over the past few weeks is gone.
Nikki Bella vs. Natayla
Here’s a crazy idea. You know that feud that’s been going on since November, the one that no one cares about at all. Yeah that one with Nikki Bella and Natayla. Let’s give them XX minutes to have a bad match and then have it end with a double count-out so the feud can continue a while longer. This match was the polar opposite of the Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James match, which is sad because Natayla and Nikki Bella have both been in the WWE for long enough that they should be able to put on a decent match. I said in my preview article that I really hoped this was the “blow off” match to end this feud. I was sorely disappointed.
Luke Harper vs. Randy Orton
I’ll be honest with you all, I only watched this match in passing. Not because it wasn’t a good match, but because there was no way in hell that Luke Harper was going to win. The WWE may like surprises, but Luke Harper beating Randy Orton wasn’t going to be one of them. Honestly, I’m not going to talk much about this match. It was good, both guys got their spots in, including a couple of things on the table. What I got out of this match came at the very beginning. The crowd is cheering Orton. Think about that for a second. They are cheering the “bad” guy. Are they suddenly not going to cheer him if he becomes a “good” guy at Wrestlemania? Just some food for thought.
Alexa Bliss vs. Naomi (Smackdown Women’s Championship)
This match was a lot better than I thought it would be, which isn’t saying a lot, but it was much better than the shit show put on by Nikki Bella and Natayla. It wasn’t the best women’s match on the card but it was a nice, fairly quick match that had enough “high spots” and the ladies kept for really botching anything too badly. I would have been a bit more surprised with the title switch if they wouldn’t have drawn attention to the fact that Naomi is from Orlando at the start of the match. I mentioned in my preview article that a title switch here wouldn’t really surprise me, especially given what is going on with the other story lines. I think these two have the potential to put on a really good match. They have good chemistry with each other in the ring and their styles work well with each other. I’m not at all disappointed that we’re going to see a rematch at Wrestlemania.
John Cena vs Baron Corbin vs. AJ Styles vs. Bray Wyatt vs. The Miz vs. Dean Ambrose (WWE Championship)
Before this match even got started, Bray Wyatt coming out 4th and looking at all the other guys locked in their pods was a great visual. Cena and Styles starting it off was also a nice touch, especially giving their “match of the year” candidate at the Royal Rumble. This match is a perfect example of why I think that the tag team match should have been in the Chamber. Ambrose gets a quick roll up on Corbin to eliminate him and Corbin beats him down, ala the Usos on Alpha, but you’ve still got 4 other guys in the ring. Then the Miz is able to slip in and easily pin Ambrose. Great stuff. (Side note, I kind of like the idea of an Ambrose vs. Corbin feud for the IC title.) The Miz getting pinned after a single AA, especially when he was so “fresh” kind of bugs me, but as I never really expected him to win the match I’m not bothered by it. (Side note: if the rumors going around about The Miz & Maryse vs. John Cena & Nikki Bella at Mania are true, the way they set it up tonight worked, but is just lazy booking.) Nice back and forth between Cena and Styles. Wyatt pinning Cena after a single “Sister Abagail” made him look very strong. AJ and Bray then put on a great exchange leading into the finish. In the end the result was what we all expected it to be, Bray Wyatt is the new WWE Champion.
What happens now
I want to take this last part of the article to make my predictions on where the story lines on Smackdown will go from here in the lead up to Mania. Naomi vs. Alexa is a lock for the women’s championship as that story still has room to progress and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Becky, Mickie or both end up getting tossed into the mix in this one. My best guess is that we’re going to see Alpha vs. the Usos at Mania. The Usos were clearly made to look like the dominant “heel” team, sorry Ascension. Corbin vs. Ambrose for the IC title looks to me to be the way they’re heading. I just don’t see Ziggler getting out of this thing he has with Crews and Kalisto any time soon. I really don’t want to see it, but I do think that the mixed tag with Cena & Nikki vs. Miz & Maryse is probably going to be what they go with. The Miz can say Cena cost him the title and Nikki bumped into Maryse backstage and ruined her makeup. Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton won’t be the headliner of Mania no matter how much Smackdown plays it up. It will almost certainly be a better match than Goldberg vs. Lesnar for the Universal Championship, but it won’t close the show. Everyone else on Smackdown needs to step up their game in the next few weeks, but my guess is these will be the matches that make up Smackdown’s part of Mania.
That’s it from our side. What did you think of the Elimination Chamber? Any of the results surprise you? Let us know in the comments.
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