Elimination Chamber 2012: Official GeekOut Review

Article written by:
Romeo Moran
Author: Romeo Moran
Ro is our resident wrestling geek. Don't mess with him; he'll elbow drop you out of nowhere.

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If last month’s Royal Rumble PPV was an exercise in setting up high expectations and failing to deliver, the lesson everyone can learn from last Sunday’s Elimination Chamber PPV is best summed up in three words: timing is everything. There’s a secondary lesson in there as well, borrowed and paraphrased from gridiron football parlance: anyone can be a star on any given Sunday. But we’ll get to that a little later.

Much like the Rumble show, this PPV only had four advertised matches on the card. The Rumble suffered greatly due to the ungodly amount of filler – two inconsequential matches and many rolls of film’s worth of video packages about the upcoming John Cena vs. the Rock match at Wrestlemania 28 – that filled the gaps between its own four advertised matches. However, I’m glad to say that not only did Elimination Chamber see less filler (even though, like always, the filler’s fillerness could have been avoided), but around half of that material somehow didn’t feel like filler. Whenever that happens, that means most things had a purpose, and purpose is always, always good.

Again, the show did suffer from a big problem – the sequencing of the entire card felt off and unintuitive, and the WWE is a promotion that usually pulls off at least logically-sequenced card on a regular basis. This time, not only did it feel wrong on paper (looking at it in hindsight), but all the surprises – both pleasant and otherwise – stemming from its execution betrayed it all. However, it’s better to show you than to tell you, so let’s begin with the actual show review.

First, the show began with another title match, but this time the decision was strange as the RAW Elimination Chamber opened the show. Usually, SmackDown’s World Heavyweight Championship plays second fiddle to the WWE title, and from the looks of it this match was put on first for swerve’s sake, as the two chamber matches could’ve filled either position without much consequence. Anyway, this match served its purpose well – each man generously contributed his share of the action, and nobody slacked, not even the seemingly-uninspired Miz. Miz finally came back to play, Kofi Kingston cemented his new role as the black John Morrison, R-Truth was his usual energetic self, Ziggler showed off – but each of those four guys were really ornaments in the periphery as the central focus was on the budding feud between Chris Jericho and WWE Champion CM Punk.

Jericho was knocked out of the match by a stiff Punk roundhouse, setting up the rematch for Wrestlemania. The downside to this match, which emulated the entire show’s problem on a smaller scale, was the unusual elimination order. Most were expecting Miz, who is currently unfavored backstage due to many factors, most of all not catching R-Truth on a dive over the top rope a couple of RAWs ago, to be eliminated first, but Truth was eliminated instead. That’s not really a big deal, but then Ziggler, who is ever-so-slowly being pushed, was eliminated second. Eventually, the final two was down to Punk and Miz, which got a less-than-lukewarm reaction from the crowd. It certainly would’ve been better if it were Punk and Ziggler instead, being the sequel to their championship bout from last month. Despite everything, it was still a solid chamber match.

Afterwards, we had a quick Santino Rocky training segment set to Eugene’s old theme music. This was the first of many others, and they all prompted questions of Eugene’s return. And then, a John Cena video package featuring the guys down at Florida Championship Wrestling.

Up next was Tamina Snuka vs. Beth Phoenix for the Divas Championship. Very early on in the match, I tweeted, “15 seconds in and this is the best Divas title match we’ve seen in the last 12 months.” And I still stand by it. Tamina has already set herself apart from the Eves, Kelly Kellys, and Alicia Foxes of this world, proving that she belongs with the Natalyas, Kharmas, and of course, Beth Phoenixes. However, that wasn’t enough to win her the title, but that’s okay, though – it’s definitely in her future.

The only letdowns in this match were the lack of crowd reaction (which is neither the ladies’ or the crowd’s fault) and the lack of Kharma showing up at the end to try and set up the Wrestlemania match. There’s still a lot of time for that, I guess, but again, timing is everything.

The moments after the victory were the most ripe for the taking. After that match, we had a quick in-ring segment with John Laurinaitis, featuring Mark Henry and the returns of injured workers Alberto del Rio and Christian, who had come out to support Ace’s intention to try and take over Teddy Long’s GM role on SmackDown. This is clearly another feud going in to Wrestlemania, and while I like it, once again the timing is a wee bit off; this storyline would have worked a lot better around Survivor Series. We’ll take what we can get, I suppose.

Third was the SmackDown Elimination Chamber, and by God was it a fun match. The match started out slow with Big Show and Wade Barrett, both big men, being the opening two competitors. It would’ve theoretically been better if, say, Big Show was replaced by Santino, but the latter part of the match justified the order. But again, the beginning was slow and the crowd weren’t shy to take notice. It seemed that they would be unforgiving, but things managed to turn around.

The Great Khali was put out of his misery less than two minutes after his entrance, and Big Show personally destroyed archnemesis and World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan’s pod in order to get to him before he was officially in the match. That’s something honestly never done in a chamber match before, and it was very well-received. However, Big Show would not make it to the end, as Wade Barrett and Cody Rhodes teamed up to take the giant out relatively early. Instead, it was the absolute dark horse which came out to shine. Santino Marella, the comedy character and replacement for the concussed Randy Orton, was – in Michael Cole’s own words – the Jeremy Lin of the WWE. Santino still wrestled his typical comedic style, but he actually fought and fought back, and he was rewarded generously with the crowd’s adoration.

Santino was the last man eliminated, and in true underdog fashion (not like the market-tested underdogs in John Cena and Rey Mysterio, but instead guys like Zack Ryder), the crowd was completely behind him as he fought to try and score the huge upset. Alas, Daniel Bryan managed to tame the Cobra – and while Santino lost and Bryan won, both men were made: Santino as the beloved hero who almost won big, and Bryan as the cold villain who harshly denied him that magical moment.

And all of a sudden, the SmackDown chamber became more than a showcase of nonstop action; it became emotional. Everyone wins. After the match, Sheamus drops by and hits the Celtic Cross on the champion, declaring his official choice for Wrestlemania. We are then treated to a quick segment involving Hornswoggle, Justin Gabriel, Jack Swagger, Natalya, and Natalya’s flatulence. All of this leads to Teddy Long making an impromptu United States Championship match between Swagger and Gabriel, and Swagger gets in a quick jab at Long regarding Laurinaitis’s ploy to take over the blue brand. Now, the problem with this segment is that it could have happened at any RAW or Smackdown. It would have taken a bit of a stretch of logic due to Swagger being on RAW and Gabriel being on Smackdown, but they could have taken those few minutes on television to set up the title match for the PPV.

So second to the last came Justin Gabriel vs. Jack Swagger for the United States Championship. It was nothing to write home about, as it just lasted all of three or so minutes. Both men are talented workers, and again they were denied crucial minutes. It’s hard to care about a match thrown together at the last minute, and it’s even harder to care about a match that finishes before it even gets going.

All of that means our main event is John Cena vs. Kane in an Ambulance Match. It was everything you’ve come to expect from both men, all brutal and unforgiving. But it was harder to care about this after the emotional investment that was the SmackDown chamber, and the match itself hardly provided any justification for its main event spot. Cena won the sensible victory, but by then everyone was drained. No appearances from the Rock or even Zack Ryder means there weren’t even any surprises to be the least bit excited about, and that was that. Show over.

I’ve seen people saying that all they had to do was flip the card around and it would have been even better, and I can’t help but agree. I would personally keep the RAW chamber match first but closer to the end. But the point stands that the sequencing led to a less-than-optimal crowd reaction. That said, I did enjoy almost everything, even the filler, and you can’t say the same for the Rumble. However, I understand that this show might be better enjoyed selectively, as both chamber matches by themselves were the only ones worth the event; if you must care about one thing, at least make it that. And if you must care about just one chamber, if you're looking for something fun, make it the SmackDown chamber. You won’t regret it. 

images from WrestlingValley.org

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