WWE – Elimination Chamber/Fastlane 2018 (Cert 15)
2 Discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 189 minutes/ 171 minutes approx.
Make the most of this title as it is the last two-for-the-price-of-one release from WWE Home Video for the moment, as the WWE have ended the single-brand PPVs and have reverted back to sharing the monthly events between both RAW and Smackdown Live!.
We’re on the Road to Wrestlemania (points to sign) and the final stops for both brands are presented here for your delectation – one is a gimmick heavy show featuring the ominous Elimination Chamber, the other isn’t.
The RAW brand gets to lock up its top stars this year but this time they break new ground in the hosting the first ever Women’s Elimination Chamber match. Whoo! Hot on the heels of the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble match the ladies of RAW get the chance to fulfil Kevin Dunn’s ultimate fantasy and become real life dolls as they stand in the opaque pods like Barbie in her plastic box as they wait their turn to enter the match.
Meanwhile John Cena is trying to get himself a spot on the Wrestlemania 34 card because he has no opponent, so a win here will put him in the main event against Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title – except we all know that spot is reserved for Roman Reigns so wither John Cena?
Elimination Chamber show took place on February 25th at the T-Mobile Arena in the Las Vegas Valley, Paradise, Nevada drawing 11,000 fans with commentary from Michael Cole, Corey Graves and the very annoying and utterly hopeless Jonathan Coachman who clearly hasn’t watched any wrestling in the 10 years he’s been away, so I’m afraid you have to listen to his inane drivel for three hours.
As ever, while my match review won’t contain any results, expect plenty of opinion.
WWE RAW Women’s Title Elimination Chamber Match – Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks vs. Mickie James vs. Sonya Deville vs. Mandy Rose
I hope you didn’t expect the women to headline TWO PPVs in a row, because they’re back to curtain jerking here, although this works to their advantage as they get to set the tone for the rest of the show to follow. Despite a few moments that weren’t so smooth the ladies stepped up, worked hard and delivered a great match that told a couple of interesting stories.
First there was Alexa Bliss defending her title against five other women with her “best friend” Nia Jax otherwise occupied, so Bliss tried to curry favour with erstwhile partner Mickie James instead. Secondly, there is the ongoing implosion of the relationship of Sasha Banks and Bayley, who have head a few unfortunate mishaps in recent times, with both guilty of letting the other down, inadvertently or otherwise. Great opener.
WWE Tag Title Match – The Bar (c) vs. Titus Worldwide
You’ll be pleased to know Titus O’Neil didn’t trip on his way to the ring, so it is up to Dana Botch in her faux Alexandra York rip-off gimmick to embarrass the team with her hideous attempt to strut to the ring to the funky entrance music. Titus and Apollo Crews have this title shot because they scored a couple of fluke wins over the champs and because The Bar have beaten everyone else.
The match was better than it had any right to be thanks to The Bar trying their best to make the challengers look like a threat otherwise this was an extended RAW match at best since the outcome was never in dispute.
Asuka vs. Nia Jax
Contradicting Coach’s demonstrably untrue claim that “Asuka has never faced anyone like Nia Jax before” this feud started when my Goddess Asuka beat Jax via count-out on RAW due to injury and Nia demanded a rematch. With Asuka having not yet decided which champ she was going to face at Wrestlemania 34, it was assumed she’d face Alexa Bliss, so Kurt Angle decreed that if Jax wins here, she gets added to that match.
Really good David vs. Goliath (insert female equivalent here) match with Jax mostly dominating but Asuka being able to find a counter and break the monopoly causing Nia to have a rethink. Nice power moves from Jax and great psychology from Asuka, this didn’t damage the latter’s aura at all as some have opined.
Woken Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt
Yup, this feud is still going and shows no signs of ending, the same which can be said for the unfortunate funk Wyatt is in since he always loses despite being put over as a credible threat by the announcers. It goes without saying that the Impact Wrestling version of “Broken” Matt Hardy was far superior to the Vince McSenile directed version.
Match was there. The crowd were into the “Delete” stuff at the beginning but by the end were calling for beach balls and chanting “Rusev Day”. Less “woken”, more still asleep.
Next was the “official” contract signing of former UFC star Ronda Rousey to the WWE. Rousey made her surprise appearance at the Royal Rumble following Asuka’s win, interrupting Asuka choosing a Wrestlemania opponent by oscillating between smiling giddily then pointing at the Wrestlemania sign with a serious stare.
Anyway, a month after this debut it was decided Rousey should officially sign her WWE contract, despite already having her own TitanTron video and theme music (Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation) – nice work if you can get it. This was really designed to set-up a tag match at Wrestlemania between Triple H & Big Steph vs. Rousey and Kurt Angle, and they did so in the clumsiest and goofiest manner possible. But the fans enjoyed it so what do I know?
WWE Universal Title No 1 contender Elimination Chamber Match – Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman vs. John Cena vs. Finn Bálor vs. The Miz vs. Seth Rollins vs. Elias
Just so the women don’t completely eclipse the men again, this year they had SEVEN men in the Chamber match after Rollins and Bálor scored a double pin on Bray Wyatt during a last chance qualifying match so they were both added to the match. This meant that the first five minutes was a triple threat match.
What can I say? The result was never in doubt so it was how they got there that was important. Unfortunately McBooking was in full swing and we ended up with a situation was designed to make Reigns look strong but instead made everyone else look like a total chump which is hardly going to endear him to the fans who continue to reject Reigns after four years.
On the one hand the seeds for the big matches at certainly sewn in this show, but as it would transpire, not all of them would bear fruit come the big day. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, so in keeping with the discussion for this show, it did its job in that respect. Whether it engendered any real excitement and fervent anticipation for the big night on Grandest Stage of Them All is another matter, and one has the feeling that the forgone conclusion of the main event may have dampened that somewhat.
On the other, it is clear once again that the wrestlers making all the effort in the ring are being let down by the questionable and myopic booking, something that has blighted them for many years now. The result is that many of the wrestlers without support do a much better job of stating their case for a better push with the fans who the company clam they listen to but clearly don’t.
Thus this show is another indictment of that. You get your money’s worth on the action front but the tangible satisfaction and fulfilment of watching a show that has its own game changing itinerary and is not just a stopgap to Wrestlemania is sadly ever present.
Best Match – Women’s Title Elimination Chamber Match
Rating – ***
The blue brand’s Road to Wrestlemania is a gimmick free event save the multi-man main event which was a farce of epic proportions in how it escalated from a potential singles match to a six way bout.
Perhaps the most egregious development was the insertion of John Cena into the match as the “free agent” having been in the Elimination Chamber main event two weeks earlier as he continues to pursue a slot on the Wrestlemania 34 card his (bit of a spoiler for the EC match result if he needed a second chance. Oops).
Fastlane show took place on my birthday March 11th at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio in front of 12,000 fans with commentary from Tom Phillips, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton. As ever, while my match review won’t contain any results, expect plenty of opinion.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev
With his WWE Title shot at WM 34 secure Nakamura needs something to do to earn his keep and rack up a few more wins to appear a serious threat to the title, so of course the top choice is the one guy the fans want to turn face, Rusev. Ever since a flippant Rusev Day skit on SD during his “feud” with Randy Orton the fan got behind this fictitious celebration and have been cheering for Rusev ever since.
But Vince McSenile doesn’t like things getting over organically and even though T-Shirts have been made, he won’t get behind Rusev Day as a babyface, making matches like this one a bit awkward. Thankfully, Nakamura and Rusev have good chemistry and had a good little match, getting this show off to a good start.
WWE US Title Triple Threat Match – Bobby Roode (c) Randy Orton
I won’t lie, I find it very hard to be enthused by anything Orton does, not helped that he is one of Vince’s “chosen few”, therefore I could hardly contain myself for this match, especially when the narrative being peddled for it was Orton seeking the one title he has never held. This not only makes the result a foregone conclusion but doesn’t help Roode as he only won a month earlier himself.
Making matters worse, the catalyst was the pointless and poorly explained Top 10 list which you’ve probably forgotten about as it was dropped shortly after it was introduced, AND Jinder Mahal was orbiting this feud too for reasons I don’t care to remember. The match was the usual 20-minute Orton snooze fest which the fans also slept through as I wished I had.
Becky Lynch & Naomi vs. Natalya & Carmella
To be fair, the previous match had a better build up than this one which was Naomi mocking Natalya for not having any friends, which Nattie duly refuted by nominating Carmella, so Naomi challenged them to a match against her and Becky. The again this was on the last SD before the PPV so at least they had the foresight to set it up and not just throw it out cold.
Also this was to remind us that Carmella still has the MITB briefcase which is no doubt a prelude to her cashing it in soon after nine months of it being a forgotten entity. Aside from a couple of moments of apparent confusion near the end this was basically a perfectly acceptable extended TV match, if inconsequential in the long run.
Smackdown Tag Title Match –The Usos (c) vs. The New Day
No, you’re not experiencing déjà vu but no-one would really blame you if you did. They really are running this match again after the epic feud last year between these two teams that spanned five months and included four PPV matches.
But there was a method to this madness beyond Road Dogg being an unimaginative booker and the SD tag division being mostly comedy acts as revealed at the end of this bout. For the most part, it was business as usual, building up to something interesting as they started using each other’s finishers, but then some uninvited guests decided to crash the party.
Smackdown Women’s Title Match – Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Ruby Riott
Having beaten everyone else including the other two members of the Riott Squad, Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan, Ruby was the only one left on the heel side of the SD women’s division not named Carmella for Charlotte to defend her title against.
This was Ruby’s chance to prove she can hang as a solo performer on the main roster and she did a commendable job in giving the champ a pretty good match, but the reality is there was no way Charlotte was going to lose this close to WM 34. Then again, there was someone else waiting in the wings to make her championship intentions clear…
WWE Title Six Pack Challenge Match – AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena vs. Baron Corbin vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler
Okay, so after failing to best Styles at the Royal Rumble as a duo, Owens and Zayn had a singles match to determine the next challenger for the WWE Title. That match ended in a Double DQ so Triple Threat match was announced. Then it was decided that Zayn and Owens had to each face Ziggler and Corbin respectively and they would be added to the match if they won, which they did.
Then Cena showed up on SD and demanded he be inserted into the match because he’s John Cena and that is more important than rules and earning things. He then beat Styles in a non-title match to get his wish hence this Six-Pack challenge. And Shane O’Mac was at ringside because his feud with Owens and Zayn won’t ever die. Despite this overegging of the cake, the match itself was bell-to-bell chaos, full of action and plenty of developments regarding the supplementary issues simmering beneath the main title concerns.
This show suffers from the same handicap as Elimination Chamber by being caught in between the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania where the main matches and feuds have already been established and in some cases set in stone, thus there is little to no room for movement in throwing in some surprises. Not that this can’t happen of course, but if it did Vince McMahon would find himself with a “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t” dilemma.
If we were to look objectively at the biggest victim of this on both fronts, it is John Cena whose plight of having no match at Wrestlemania would have only worked on another wrestler, since no-one believes the most protected and privileged wrestler since Triple H would not be on the biggest show of the year. Vince could have pulled he trigger on this angle either way and it wouldn’t have helped Cena at all because his status and tenure doesn’t encourage sympathy.
So, for the most part there was really very little at stake for the wrestlers here making this a skippable show although the effort as always, was there on behalf of the wrestlers to make our investment for the duration worthwhile. Nothing truly offensive match wise, except maybe for the plodding US title match, but nothing essential here either.
Best Match – Six Pack Challenge Match
Fastlane Kick-Off Match – Tye Dillinger & Breezango vs. Shelton Benjamin, Chad Gable & Mojo Rawley
Rating – ***
Man In Black