Last night, SmackDown Live hosted Elimination Chamber, which did exactly what it was supposed to do: set up for WrestleMania. SmackDown has managed to put on great shows on a regular basis, but last night’s show felt like more of a mix of highs and lows. There were some well deserved championship victories, good matches, and some complete duds. What did Elimination Chamber do well, and what fell flat?
Well Deserved Championship Wins
The biggest story coming out of last night was that we found out who is (essentially) going to defend the WWE Championship against Randy Orton at WrestleMania 33: Bray Wyatt. The Eater of Worlds led his cult-like family since the early days of the NXT reboot, and just recently, the Wyatt Family picked up their first pair of Tag Team Championships. While that ended just as fast as it began, it wasn’t the end of Bray Wyatt being on top of his game. Wyatt eliminated both John Cena and AJ Styles to pick up the biggest prize in the industry, something he has deserved for several years.
While Wyatt surviving the chamber is a great moment, one that shouldn’t be overlooked is the result of the SmackDown Women’s Championship match. Alexa Bliss defeated Becky Lynch for the title in December at the TLC event, and she has been a great champion since. However, she lost to Naomi twice in tag team action, and had to put her title on the line against the former Funkadactyl. Naomi proved that when she is given the opportunity, she can shine and she did so by becoming SmackDown Women’s Champion. Between the Funkadactyls, injuries, Team B.A.D., and being overlooked in the Women’s Revolution, Naomi finally broke through and won the gold. If she can stay champion for seven weeks, she will walk into WrestleMania in her hometown of Orlando the best way possible.
Luke Harper Wins While Losing
Luke Harper has been chomping at the bit to get to Randy Orton after the Viper “stole” his family from him. Harper was not exaggerating when he alluded to how badly he wanted to take out Orton, and this match was action packed from start to finish. The most important part, however, was the fact that Harper was so close to defeating a 12-time World Champion, and surefire Hall of Famer. Like Tony Nese, Harper hit like a heavyweight, moved like a cruiserweight, and put on a hell of a performance that should help the former Intercontinental and Tag Team Champion get to the next level.
Complete Silence for Nikki Bella vs. Natalya
On paper, a personal feud between Nikki Bella and Natalya should culminate in an incredible match. Nikki Bella is one of the best female wrestlers of the last generation, and Natalya is one of the most technically impressive female wrestlers ever. While Nikki Bella tried her best to make this match exciting with several cool spots (clothesline off of the apron, spear on the ramp, etc.), every time Natalya gained control, the audience fell asleep.
Since Natalya is the heel in this scenario, she should be trying to get herself booed. This is why she insulted Nikki Bella’s personal life, especially focused on her relationship with John Cena. During the match, it seemed like the former Divas Champion tried a little too hard. She would hit a punch, taunt to the crowd, hit another move, yell at Nikki Bella, and so on. Natalya has proven that she can put on great matches, but this just slowed the pace of the match to a crawl. A double count-out finish put the cherry on the lame sundae, resulting in the audience booing the match itself.
This may seem like a nitpicky thing to complain about, but it seemed like if wrestlers were thinking a little more strategically, matches would have had different results. The first example of this was at the end of the Tag Team Turmoil match, where The Usos essentially handed The Ascension American Alpha on a silver platter. All The Ascension had to do was continue the beatdown a little more, and take the titles. However, they took their sweet time, which gave Chad Gable just enough time to get himself together, which would lead to a broken up pin, and eventually Grand Amplitude.
Another example of this was already talked about with the Nikki Bella/Natalya match, so we’ll just head straight to the Elimination Chamber. While it was no doubt a great match, there were several moments where Superstars just never bothered to capitalize. John Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment on Bray Wyatt, and instead of getting Wyatt out of the match (and as we know, Wyatt won the whole thing), AJ Styles attacked John Cena and prevented anyone from taking advantage. This happened several more times throughout the match, while The Miz was the only person to actually wrestle this match strategically.
Overall, Elimination Chamber was a pretty enjoyable show, whether it was for great matches in the second half, or just for appreciating hard-working people finally getting what they deserve. There were definitely some hiccups along the way, but SmackDown Live this week should do a great job of helping getting things back on track.
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