WWE – Elimination Chamber / Fastlane 2017 (Cert 15)
2 Discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 179/176 minutes approx.
It’s the Road To Wrestlemania and with the roster now split in two that means we have TWO PPV shows to set the wheels in motion for the card that will take place on the Grandest Stage Of Them All.
Thus, WWE Home Video has decided that instead of dragging it out for the fans, both shows will be released in this double DVD set. So apologies in advance for the extra long post and let’s get on with it, shall we?
Smackdown gets the first opportunity to lay the foundation for their half of the WM card by bringing back the Elimination Chamber after a two-year absence.
Taking place on February 12th 2017, at the Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix, Arizona in front of just under 11,000 fans, with commentary from the crowded desk of Mauro Ranallo (for the last time), JBL, David Otunga and Tom Phillips.
As ever, while my match reviews won’t contain any results, expect plenty of opinion.
Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James
Having wowed everyone in her NXT return against Asuka, Mickie was signed to a new contract, first appearing on SD under the mask of La Luchadora, costing Becky a cage match against Alexa Bliss. A well-worked bout, the only thing that was missing was the hatred that had been building up for two months, otherwise this a fun opener and another good showing for the veteran James.
Handicap Match – Apollo Crews & Kalisto vs. Dolph Ziggler
Talk about ass-backwards booking – a handicap match where the heel is the one at the disadvantage? Ziggler turned heel in late December after failing to win the WWE Title and took his frustrations out on Kalisto and Crews, ironically earning biggest pops then when he was a face. Match had no heat and was mostly a singles bout between Ziggler and Crews after Ziggler attacked Kalisto during the entrance. The post match antics got over more than the match itself did.
Smackdown Tag Team Turmoil Title Match – American Alpha (c) vs. Heath Slater & Rhyno, Breezango, The Usos, The Ascension & The Vaudevillians
Turmoil rules means winner stays on basically. It is a sad state of affairs when the entire division can feature in one match and that hardly any of them are over. Despite running over 20 minutes there is little here that is memorable or newsworthy, outside of the fact that both The Vaudevillians and The Ascension lasted longer than 20 seconds.
Nikki Bella vs. Natalya
Our second women’s grudge match of the evening has been building since Natalya was revealed to have been the one who attacked Nikki at Survivor Series. Another good match in which had some of the hatred the Becky vs. Mickie needed but was ruined by a lame ending to set up to a rematch on SD two weeks later. They also sowed the seeds Nikki’s next feud with Maryse when the fight continued backstage later in the show.
Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper
I don’t know if this was just the fans being fickle or not but Orton was supposed to be the heel in this feud, having usurped Harper’s spot in the Wyatt Family, but he had the most fan support. Harper however earned his love from the crowd the hard way in the closing stretch of this match after a typically slow snooze fest we’ve come to expect from the robotic Orton.
Smackdown Women’s Title Match – Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Naomi
Yup, three women’s matches on one card! Naomi got this title shot after beating Bliss twice, in the Royal Rumble kick-off show match and again on SD, although it appears that Naomi’s win over Bliss at No Mercy has been forgotten. Fine match for the time it got but coming after the prior bout, it took a while for the ladies to warm the crowd up again, but they got into by the end.
WWE Title Elimination Chamber Match – John Cena (c) vs. A.J. Styles vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz
Cena defeated Styles at the Royal Rumble to match Ric Flair’s (skewed) record of 16 title reigns and this is his first defence. This time the design of the structure has been altered, with the circular frame replaced by a square one and padding where the floor grating used to be, which I am sure the wrestlers appreciate more. Good match overall, with Styles being the MVP as usual and an interesting result to set up Wrestlemania 33.
Usually when the Chamber is involved on a PPV, it ends up being a one-match show, and one could argue that on this occasion in terms of storyline importance this is true. However, the undercard here is not just solid but also one propped up by the women, which is pretty much newsworthy on its own.
Definitely an over-performing show heading into WM 33.
Best Match – Elimination Chamber Match
Elimination Chamber Kickoff Show Match – Mojo Rawley vs. Curt Hawkins
Rating – ***
RAW’s pit stop on the Road To Wrestlemania sees 50 year-old part timer Goldberg challenge Kevin Owens for the Universal Title, a bold move since his match against Brock Lesnar at WM33 is already etched in stone.
Taking place on March 5th 2017 at the Bradley Centre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin before 11,000 fans and your commentators are Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton, with Austin Aries calling the Cruiserweight Title Match.
Sami Zayn vs. Samoa Joe
This had the potential to be the show stealer and while a fun little opener it was used more of a way of getting Joe over as a destructive beast in his WWE PPV debut. Sami got a lot of offence in but not enough to make this competitive. If Joe hadn’t injured Seth Rollins in his RAW debut (potentially taking Rollins out of Wrestlemania for a second year running) this might have been a different scenario.
WWE RAW Tag Title Match – Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows (c) vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass
The Club won the tag titles from Sheamus and Cesaro at the Royal Rumble kick-off show which shows us how important the belts are post-New Day. Aside from a cool spot where Anderson intercepts Enzo from making a hot tag in spectacular fashion this was an average TV tag match at best.
Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
Their first encounter was also on the Royal Rumble kick-off show which saw Nia Jax dominate the Legit Boss and best her in short order. This rematch was much better than its awkward predecessor and told a decent “David vs., Goliath” story (with added oestrogen) but also exposed the work that Jax needs to improve her game.
Cesaro vs. Jinder Mahal
The first of two “bonus” matches for reasons that remain unclear. Jinder and Rusev had teamed up to feud with Enzo & Cass but inexplicably and summarily split up backstage with GM Mick Foley giving them a singles match each. The crowd were generous with their reactions but you could see that Cesaro was going through the motions in a bout that should have been a short, swift squash.
Rusev vs. Big Show
It has been rumoured that this match was punishment for Rusev cutting his hair without permission and/or to write him off TV because he needed surgery. Either way, it didn’t do him any favours and the finish was anti-climactic but the fans again were determined to enjoy it regardless.
WWE Cruiserweight Title Match – Neville (c) vs. Jack Gallagher
Outside of the UK Championship in February, this might be the first time two Brits have faced each other for a WWE title on a WWE show. Gallagher’s “Gentleman” gimmick has him walk to ringside with an umbrella because Americans only understand stereotypes. This was actually a good match, possibly the best o the show and so far the best received Cruiserweight match on the main roster. Look out for the sick German Suplex Neville nearly kills Gallagher with!
The New Day come out to shill ice cream because it isn’t like this show didn’t already have enough time wasting filler.
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
Somebody got a warm welcome from the crowd while the other was mercilessly crucified – I’ll let you work out which is which. Reigns must have left his boots at home as he worked here in trainers but that didn’t stop Strowman mauling him like a rag doll. The big man pulled out some impressive moves for his size in what was a better match than it had any right to be, but let’s face it, the result was never in doubt because Vince.
WWE RAW Women’s Title Match – Bayley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair
After losing to Charlotte at the Royal Rumble, Bayley did a Sasha Banks and won the title on RAW a few weeks later, which traditionally means that Charlotte would win the belt back here to keep her PPV winning streak alive. Another good match between these two but this late in the card hurt the fan response it should have got, despite the hard work to keep the interest level up.
WWE Universal Title Match – Kevin Owens (c) vs. Goldberg
Goldberg’s total one-on-one match time since his return has been 1 minute 26 seconds. Owens has been Universal champ since September. Wouldn’t it be cruel if that title reign should end with the similar swiftness Goldberg bested Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series? At do we really need their match at WM 33 to be for the title since both are part timers?
The difference between the quality of the product from RAW and SD is quite startling considering the latter has the smaller roster. The wrestlers put in the effort but the overall presentation is bogged down by the usual questionable booking and a bloated undercard of uninspired filler and stagnant repetition that blights the mid-card and top tier scene.
Aside from the abovementioned bravery of the main event, there’s not really much to see here
Best Match – Neville vs. Jack Gallagher
Fastlane Kickoff Show Match – Akira Tozawa & Rich Swann vs. The Brian Kendrick & Noam Dar
Rating – ** ½
Man In Black