1. Vladimir Kozlov vs. Big Show vs. Edge vs. Jeff Hardy vs. The Undertaker vs. Triple H - Elimination Chamber Match - 8
2. Shane McMahon vs. Randy Orton - 5
3. Jack Swagger vs. Fit Finlay - 2
4. Shawn Michaels vs. JBL - 5
5. John Cena vs. Edge vs. Mike Knox vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Kane vs. Chris Jericho - Elimination Chamber Match - 8
This was a really good pay-per-view; even better considering it’s the last before WrestleMania, making this show feel like it delivered doubly. I’ve been watching WWE pay-per-view shows at bars and restaurants for over five years now, and I can honestly say I’ve never seen people in that environment as into a show previously, especially the big eliminations and drama produced by the two phenomenal Elimination Chamber matches.
The SmackDown! Chamber match started the show off unexpectedly and by the time it ended, after nearly forty minutes, I instantly heralded it as the best Elimination Chamber match in history. Granted, that’s not saying a ton, as there’s a lot of competition in that category, but that is in no way a disservice to this match, as it was off the charts. Edge got eliminated after just a few minutes, a huge surprise, and Hardy rode that momentum throughout the match, looking great in his role of daredevil underdog surrounded by behemoths. The only glaring issue with this match was Kozlov, his selling of Big Show’s strikes, being noticeably out of position multiple times, and etc. really hurt. We all freaked out for Hardy’s “Swanton Bomb” off one of the “pods” onto Show—hell of a spot! The ending, between Triple H and Undertaker, just felt huge, reminiscent of a bygone era where giants like Hogan and Warrior battled it out in the center of the ring. While plenty of smarmy writers point out what they feel is staleness in both guys’ game, few are better at sucking a crowd into a match, and we really saw that here, as every blow and move had that sense of anticipation inherent.
I’ve never been a fan of Shane McMahon’s work, sure, he’ll take a gnarly bump, but so do guys that wrestle in their parents’ backyards, and nobody gives a shit about them, so why should we care about Shane? But, here, he was carried to a memorable match, and Orton deserves an Oscar for his performance. Randy’s selling is top-notch, one of the best at it in the business, and if he can make a shitty Shane gut shot look that damn good, he is worth his weight in gold. Randy bleeding was a nice touch, something that we don’t see on WWE programs these days, and McMahon took his requisite nasty bumps, including missing an elbow drop from the top turnbuckle out onto an announcing table on the floor.
It was disappointing to see Swagger and Finlay have such an awful match, seeing as how they’ve had two surprisingly solid ones together thus far on ECW on Sci-Fi. I liked the mat stuff early, Jack is certainly capable in that realm, but there seemed to be some major miscommunications that messed things up. The crowd needed to cool down, too; this match was weakened as a result of that. The ending spot, where Hornswoggle was supposedly “knocked” off the apron was lame, there was clearly no contact involved, but a crappy ending to a crappy match seems fitting. The HBK versus JBL match was a step in the right direction, the crowd was still suffering from a mid-show lull, but by the end of this they were back into things. Match kept a relatively slow pace, odd considering the hatred Michaels had been harboring going into it, and it’s clear he’s not able to captivate by sheer force of will as he once did, as this felt flatter than presumably his wife pre-op. As a friend pointed out, Shawn can’t be too broke, as making payments on those big, plastic tits can’t be cheap. JBL had some decent facials, like desperation creeping up when he couldn’t put Shawn away after hitting his patented “Clothesline from Hell” twice. Shawn’s wife getting involved, throwing a shot at JBL, which helped reinvigorate Michaels, was a nice touch and her acting at ringside wasn’t as hackneyed as you’d assume. Still, this doesn’t feel like the end of this storyline, not that easily, and while not actively bad this didn’t feel like the blow-off match you’d expect.
The main event was terrific, I’d argue slightly surpassing the earlier Elimination Chamber, and a hell of a way to end the show. Edge attacked Kofi during his entrance, scrambling into his “pod” and entering himself into the match. This led to some great moments, as everyone was pissed, and Edge cowered playing the chickenshit heel to perfection. Jericho and Rey were the workhorses here, opening the match, and just delivering consistently throughout; Jericho by taking the bulk of the match’s big bumps, and Mysterio with ballsy highflying. Kane continued his streak of selling well, took nearly a decade to figure it out, but he’s definitely improving that aspect of his game. When Cena got in (last) he was on fire, just destroying everything that got in his way, but then he got Jericho, Rey, and Edge’s signature moves in consecutive order and was promptly put away in a huge shocker. Edge’s facial afterward was awesome, realizing he might stand a chance of winning the title, eyes widening maniacally. The eliminations were top-notch, and the last stretch with Edge and Rey was breathtaking. You knew Rey didn’t stand a chance, but I’ll be damned, we marked out for every one of his many near-falls regardless. When Edge tossed him through the glass of one of the “pods” everyone at Hooters cringed (and it wasn’t with abominable pain either). Edge gets the win, maybe not sending everyone home happy, but making for some real interesting weeks to come as WrestleMania 25 looms in the distance.
The middle of the show dragged, no denying that, but both Elimination Chamber matches delivered above and beyond my wildest expectations, raising the bar for those in the future to nearly unattainable heights. I felt a type of “edge of your seat” excitement a few times during this show that I rarely, if ever, feel nowadays with the current wrestling product.