WWE – Elimination Chamber 2020 (Cert 15)

2 discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 221 minutes approx.

The caprice of Vince McMahon and his protean moods and decision making was never more destructive to a WWE PPV than this one, the annual obligation filler between Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania that is Elimination Chamber.

At the Rumble, the winners of the two Rumble matches were originally to be Roman Reigns and Shayna Baszler, but when the online betting echoed both choices and alerted Vince to the predictability of his booking, he changed his mind, instead going with Drew McIntyre and Charlotte Flair.

In Roman’s case this wasn’t an issue, because the next step to giving him his latest WM main event and challenge Universal Champion The Fiend Bray Wyatt was to have him win a number one contender’s Chamber match – except Vince booked Goldberg to face Wyatt at Super Showdown in Saudi Arabia and Goldberg refused to lose as he felt it would damage his image as a superhero.

So, Wyatt dropped the belt to Goldberg then decided to scrap the chamber match, having Reigns simply come out on Smackdown and challenge Goldberg without earning his shot. Still needing an SD Chamber match, they had newly crowned tag champs Miz & John Morrison defend against five other teams – aka the entire SD tag roster (sans the soon to be released The Revival) instead.

For the women, everyone knew Baszler and RAW Women’s champ Becky Lynch would clash at WM 36 and a Rumble win would at least legitimise that. Charlotte however has faced Becky a million times and also SD Women’s Champ Bayley too, making her win a total waste if we’re simply going to retread the same old ground at WM which nobody wants to see.

To their credit, they tried something different in having Charlotte pursue NXT Women’s Champ Rhea Ripley instead, but this meant getting to Becky vs. Baszler another way, although Shayne biting Becky’s neck and drawing blood apparently wasn’t sufficient for Vince, since fans saw through the silliness of the angle, hence the RAW Women in a Number One Contender’s Match to really get Shayna over hard. Perfectly logical but as we have seen many times, it is the execution that matters.

Elimination Chamber took place on March 8th 2020 at the Wells Fargo Centre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with an attendance of 13,000 fans with commentary provided by Michael Cole and Corey Graves for SD and Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton & Jerry Lawler for RAW.

As ever, while my match review won’t contain any results or major spoilers because the DVD back cover artwork does that for me, expect plenty of opinion and backstory to the matches.

 

Daniel Bryan vs. Drew Gulak

A rather odd feud that came from nowhere, Gulak started offering advice to Bryan’s opponents on SD claiming he knew Bryan’s weaknesses and how to defeat him. This is Drew Gulak who, apart from a brief Cruiserweight title reign, has barely been used on TV and when he has, was squashed like a jobber.

So Bryan told Gulak to man up and face him and here we are, and guess what? They had the best match on the show! It was one of the most technically tight and proficient matches in WWE since the days of Angle vs. (name redacted), which bamboozled the crowd a bit but the hard strikes and nasty suplexes (how Bryan didn’t break his neck on one bump is a miracle) were enough to win them over. Classic grappling.

WWE US Title Match – Andrade (c) vs. Humberto Carillo

This is a feud that has been going for a while because Vince can’t make his mind up about Carillo – one minute he gives him a big push, the next he thinks he’s a flake and buries him. After alternating title shots between Carillo and Rey Mysterio, and adding Angel Garza into the mix, we’re back to this singles match again.

It’s another top effort from both guys, not a mega blow-away match but good fun, mostly all action and the crowd got into the big moves. The spot with the exposed concrete floor is becoming a bit of a crutch in Andrade matches now but he needs something other than Zelina Vega to give him an edge so it works in this context. Good stuff.

Men’s Elimination Chamber SD Tag Title Match – The Miz & John Morrison (c) vs. The New Day vs. The Usos vs. Heavy Machinery vs. Lucha House Party vs. Dolph Ziggler & Bobby Roode

There hasn’t been a men’s tag team chamber match since 2015 and who won that one? The New Day! Says everything that needs to be said about the WWE tag division really, and why The Revival wanted out so badly. They had requested their release for a second time at this point but Vince being Vince decided to turn them into a comedy act then keeps them off TV hence their absence from this match.

Anyway, this was fine for what it was, a little sloppy in places with a few rope slips for the high spots and a bit long but did what it had to. The problem is that this is the sort of match the champs should be involved in down the line after beating everyone, not in their first defence but as explained earlier, they needed an SD chamber match. Aside from the big (and contrived) elimination bump from Otis, the big news is Lucha House Party having a good showing for one after years of being light relief jobbers.

No DQ Match – AJ Styles vs. Aleister Black

On paper, this should have been a corker but Styles for some reason hasn’t been firing on all cylinders lately though he is still consistently better than most of the roster. They still had a good match but following the previous stunt show with something that started out as a straight wrestling match didn’t help interest the crowd.

Interestingly for a No DQ match, Styles’ OC stable mates Anderson and Gallows didn’t get involved into very late in the bout but of course, there was a reason for this and once a certain surprise visitor made his Mark, this ended up feeling less of a big deal for Black and more to advance the angle relating to Styles and his WM match this year.

WWE RAW Tag Title Match – The Street Profits (c) vs. Seth Rollins & Buddy Murphy

Disc two opens with a rematch from RAW after the Street Profits were given one last chance against Rollins and Murphy in a “Now or Never” scenario (with no build up) and with help from Kevin Owens won the titles. Since Owens vs. Rollins is telegraphed as their match for WM this year, the outcome of this match is also telegraphed, which does nothing for the Street Profits who have been blowing hot and cold recently.

That this bout went almost 20 minutes works against it as the crowd was dead most of the way until a second uninvited guest of the night showed up. Work as fine enough but they could have achieved everything they needed to in half the time.

WWE IC Title 3 on 1 Handicap Match – Braun Strowman (c) vs. Sami Zayn, Cesaro & Shinsuke Nakamura

Now this was dumb. Strowman defeated Nakamura for the IC Title on SD and the rematch was set, but at the contract signing, Sami Zayn was so obnoxious Braun signed the contract without reading it to shut him up. Zayn then revealed the match would be a 3-on-1 handicap match, not that Braun was fazed, him being a monster and all.

Handicap matches are an odd thing because of the single guy wins, his opponents are exposed as useless, so logic would dictate the numbers game would be to the advantage of the team side. But with someone like Braun, being a giant means he should win or the mythos of his might is compromised, so he has to win, right? So what do you do? Well, we’d soon found out what Vince would do…

Women’s Elimination Chamber Match – Asuka vs. Shayna Baszler vs. Ruby Riott vs. Natalya vs. Liv Morgan vs. Sarah Logan

So, we established earlier that this was essentially going to be a showcase for Baszler to get her over as a threat to Becky Lynch at WM 36. However, they did a great job teasing Asuka vs. Shayna as well, and after Asuka’s loss to Becky at the Royal Rumble and being a Women’s tag champion, she’d need to look strong too. Also, Ruby Riott returned from injury and turned on her old mate Liv Morgan, leading to a Riott Squad implosion with Sarah Logan somewhere in the middle.

In theory, this would have given us plenty to keep things interesting until Shayna or Asuka got into the match – then again in theory, Communism is a good idea. Typically, it all went south quickly when the entrance meant no Riott Squad face off, then Shayna came in and eliminated everyone, leaving her to stand round until the next person was let out of their pod.

This resulted in TWO periods where Baszler stood there doing NOTHING for almost FIVE MINUTES, by which point the crowd got bored, started booing, or in some cases, leaving the arena! Any other time they would have called an audible and abandoned the time periods but not here. The idea was to create anticipation for Shayna vs. Asuka but it failed and the actual showdown was over in less than two minutes after that.

Had this not been the main event the fans might have been a little more forgiving as following matches might have caused them to forget it, but Vince will keep on Vinceing and fail to read the room as he is prone to doing, thus we have a mess of a main event that will leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth.

Bottom Line:

The argument that interim PPVs between the Rumble and WM are a waste of time can be countered if the card and the booking had something to offer and weren’t academic in forwarding storylines and WM matches. When they are run as maladroit as this show was, the argument against them is strengthened tenfold.

You just have to look at who isn’t on the card to get an idea of the problems it incurs – no Reigns or Goldberg, no Lesnar or McIntyre, no Lynch, no Bayley, no SD women… It’s basically WWE painting themselves into a corner in programming fans to expecting a PPV every month then realising they simply don’t have the material to fill it properly without messing up WM, the foundation of which is usually set in stone anyway.

Less is more and whilst the first half is perfectly fine work wise, the second half and the horrifically booked main event stains not just the show itself but the interim PPV concept as it currently stands.

 

Best Match –  Daniel Bryan vs. Drew Gulak

 

Extras:

German Language

Disc 2 Only:

Elimination Chamber Kick-Off Match – Viking Raiders vs. Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins

Monday Night RAW – February 24th 2020

Women’s Elimination Chamber Match Contract Signing

Smackdown Live – February 28th 2020

IC Title Match Contract Signing

Smackdown – March 6th 2020

A Moment Of Bliss With The nWo Is Interrupted

 

Rating – ** ½    

Man In Black