We are at the last stop on the road to Wrestlemania! Elimination Chamber is here, and the main event is the rematch between CM Punk and The Rock for the WWE Championship. Also on the card is the second televised match of The Shield, and a No.1 Contender Elimination Chamber Match to see who will challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania 29! There are 3 other matches on the show, plus a pre-show tag-team match that features the Team Rhodes Scholars Reunion.
As I said last time, I won’t be going into detail for divas matches or the pre-shows. For what they’re worth (not much), I will pick Kaitlyn to retain the Divas Championship against Tamina, and the newly formed team of Brodus Clay and Tensai to triumph over Team Rhodes Scholars for that exact reason – they’re new. In a month when all the focus is on Wrestlemania Clay and Tensai will probably have already lost their novelty factor, and could very easily already be relegated to jobber status for the Prime-Time Players. And WWE doesn’t seem to know if they want Rhodes and Sandow to be a team or not; they split them up on TV, but they teamed together at a couple of recent live events and are back tonight.
United States Championship Match: The Miz vs Antonio Cesaro (C)
Remind me exactly what Miz has done to earn a championship match? Lose in about 5 minutes on the Royal Rumble pre-show? Get his shoulder injured by Cesaro? Get F5’d by Brock Lesnar? I could even get behind this match if it was a case of Miz antagonising Cesaro to the point he demanded to fight Miz, and Miz countered with a title match – but there hasn’t even been that. It’s just apparent that these two hate each other, which apparently entitles one to multiple title opportunities if the other holds a belt. We don’t know if Miz even wants to hold the US Title again, we just know that he wants to fight Cesaro. That is a major problem: if the fans don’t think the Championships are important, why should we care who hold them? This is especially the case with the mid-card belts at the moment. WWE dropped the ball with Cody Rhodes after his lengthy Intercontinental Championship run; they had the chance to push him to the top of the card, and consequently put over how important holding the Intercontinental Championship was to his success. That’s an easy story to tell, since it would mean others would want the belt to try and emulate that success. They are going to have a similar opportunity when Antonio Cesaro eventually drops the United States Championship, and if they screw up his push then they might as well retire the mid-card belts until they can be bothered to put some thought into them instead of focusing on people who show up for a grand total of two months a year and are in a grand total of two or three matches a year. So until those people are gone, I sincerely hope Cesaro’s reign doesn’t end.
Prediction: Winner and STILL United States Champion – Antonio Cesaro
It becomes obvious that WWE has forgotten how to book their mid-card when you have someone like The Miz, a former WWE Champion, a former Money In The Bank holder, the man who has held the United States Championship for the 9th longest time (combined) in the belt’s 38-year history, who has no believable chance in most of his matches. And why is there no Intercontinental Championship match on the card? There is only so much longer they can draw out the Wade Barrett-Bo Dallas feud – I’m not sure it can last all the way to Wrestlemania as it stands. Plus, I had to double check who the Intercontinental Champion even was! That is not a good thing by any means. There have been rumours that Main Event will become a show that is focused on the IC belt, which would be a good thing if it had anywhere near the viewers that Raw does. Raw is 3 hours now. Take out all the recaps and stop promoting the same thing every 15 minutes for the best part of 3 hours, and put some focus on everything that isn’t called The Rock, John Cena or the WWE Championship for God’s sake!
Anyway, rant over! Moving on to a totally different topic with our next… wait…
Team Cena vs The Shield
I do wonder how much focus would have been put on The Shield if John Cena wasn’t involved in this match. My problem with this match is that it feels like both teams need the win. John Cena won the Royal Rumble and will face the WWE Champion at Wrestlemania. Regardless of who the champion is, Cena doesn’t have a great record against them and is coming off the worst year of his career as we have so regularly been told. Therefore he needs a win here to keep him looking like a threat, and to keep the momentum going heading into Wrestlemania. Sheamus is coming off the back of a loss at Wrestlemania, and a couple of losses to the Big Show before that, and at the minute isn’t obviously scheduled for anything looking ahead to Wrestlemania. He needs a win to stay relevant at the top of the card. Ryback hasn’t had that big win to really cement his spot in the main event either – he hasn’t won a match on PPV since Money In The Bank last July, as well as losing a WWE Championship Match on the first Raw of 2013. He too doesn’t have an obvious match yet looking at Wrestlemania, and so also needs a win to stay relevant. However, on the other side, The Shield have only competed in one match on the main roster, which they won. But one victory doesn’t mean anything. They are still relatively new to the big shows, and if they lose here they would be in danger of falling into the same trap as Nexus did three years ago. The need to look like threats. They need to look like a danger to anybody and everybody in the WWE. Recently we have seen them bested by Team Cena, and I could understand some arguments that they are beginning to stagnate – they keep coming out and attacking people. The attack’s aren’t so random anymore, but we don’t really know what injustice Sheamus or Ryback have committed aside from fighting back.
So which is more important WWE? Putting over new stars, or building towards the main event of Wrestlemania? Surely putting it like that it’s pretty obvious what Vince McMahon will choose. There is no way he will risk losing any Wrestlemania buys for three guys who may or may not have a big role to play at the event, and who may or may not prove to be real success stories. Despite what the entire internet seems to think, there is no guarantee that The Shield will become top players in the WWE. We have seen them mess up bigger pushes than this before. There can be only one outcome for this match, and that is a victorious Superman picking up the pinfall.
Prediction: Winners – Team Cena
World Heavyweight Championship Match: Big Show vs Alberto Del Rio (C)
I’ll happily admit it, Del Rio has surprised me. I did not expect him to get over as a face as easily as he has done. He looks like a natural in the role, and the switch has shown exactly how much a turn can do for a career. If he was still a heel, he would be a jobber to the stars. But now he is a face, he is a major player in the main event, and it looks like he could easily hold the World Championship all the way through Wrestlemania. Big Show on the other hand benefited massively from a heel turn in the middle of last year. Yes the circumstances were a bit slack – remember? If he was under contract he should have been fired for interfering in the Cena-Laurinaitis match? Then they backtracked and said they only had a verbal agreement? Still, it has allowed Show to prosper and produce the best work he has done for years. His current motivation makes sense too – he is pissed at how the match at the Royal Rumble ended, and with good reason. He feels like Del Rio got as close as he possibly could to cheating in a match with no rules. He feels like Del Rio didn’t beat him in the match, and that the World Heavyweight Championship is rightfully his. Now, he is hell bent on getting it back. It’s a simple, logical story – the type that WWE seems incapable of telling most of the time. The outcome? Del Rio’s run is working well at the moment, I don’t see any reason to stop it so soon.
Prediction: Winner and STILL World Heavyweight Champion – Alberto Del Rio
Elimination Chamber Match
Randy Orton. Chris Jericho. Mark Henry. Daniel Bryan. Kane. Jack Swagger. One of these names is not like the others, one of these names doesn’t belong. But WWE are trying, I’ll give them that. Between them they have held the World Heavyweight Championship 11 times, totalling 676 days. That’s a prestigious record, earned by some prestigious wrestlers. So much so that I would expect 5 of them to be future hall-of-famers based on their current credits, and how much potential they have. Again, that leaves one as the odd-one-out. I wonder if anyone has guessed who the one person is I’m talking about? I put this after the World Title match, because I think the contenders are dependent on Del Rio retaining. Let’s just discount the tag-team champions straight away, they’re only in the match so that one of them can eliminate the other – I would guess Bryan rolls up Kane after some double-teaming together, and then after Kane is eliminated he chokeslams Bryan to eliminate him. Then they either lose the belts or face each other at Wrestlemania. Being honest, even with my comments for Swagger, all of the rest have a chance, and are plausible candidates. Swagger’s new racist Real American gimmick contrasts perfectly with the Mexican champion. But is he ready, or more to the point, are the fans against him enough to wrestle for a World Title at the biggest show of the year? I doubt it. What he is doing is good, but he needs to keep it going for longer after being away for so long, and not winning for so long before that. I think he could be a future challenger with this gimmick, but not yet.
Mark Henry is back with a vengeance! In storyline, he took Rey Mysterio out of this match – what better way to re-introduce yourself after 9 months than to welcome a new member into the hall of pain? His last matches before his time off were against CM Punk for the WWE Championship, so it makes sense that on his return he is right back into a world title picture as a dominant figure. Right now, Henry is probably the top heel in the match, so it would make sense for him to win and go on to wrestle a face champion at Wrestlemania. But that would be a very similar dynamic to what we have right now with Del Rio against Big Show, so it might be best to hold off on that one for a bit if they don’t want to bore the fans. Randy Orton has apparently been wanting to turn heel for… years. With the emergence of Ryback and Sheamus over 2012, maybe now is the time to do it. There have been some signs recently that they might be about to pull the trigger – his quarrels with Sheamus at the start of January, getting intentionally disqualified against Mark Henry this past week on Smackdown. Maybe the biggest factor in WWE picking Orton to face Del Rio at Wrestlemania is that it’s a match they can be confident in. They’ve faced each other plenty of times before, they have good chemistry together and it would be a good choice for an opener. This would be a safe choice, and a good way for Orton to turn heel against a popular champion.
Chris Jericho. Who would’ve thought it? Who would have thought at the start of January that Chris Jericho would be a serious contender for a World Heavyweight Championship Match at Wrestlemania. Jericho can have a good match with anybody. And I mean ANYBODY. He can give Del Rio his Wrestlemania moment. He can give Del Rio that defining memory for his WWE career. But the biggest reason Jericho has a chance here doesn’t have anything to do with Alberto Del Rio. The biggest reason is Dolph Ziggler. Or, to be more specific, Dolph Ziggler and his Money In The Bank Briefcase. There are so many possible scenarios involving Dolph cashing in and facing Jericho, denying Jericho, that I don’t think I can actually write them all down. And add to that there is the possibility that Dolph will somehow cost Jericho the Chamber and they will face each other at Mania in a match that has absolutely nothing to do with the World Heavyweight Championship. And if they are involved together at Wrestlemania, it could very easily be a show-stealer. I’m getting ahead of myself. We still have this match tonight. I think Henry will dominate, eliminating three, or maybe even 4, by himself. But I also think that effort will be in vain, as he is the last person eliminated. And eliminated by…
Prediction: Winner and Number One Contender – Randy Orton
WWE Championship Match: CM Punk vs The Rock (C)
The big one. This match should be totally different from the Royal Rumble match between these two. The stipulation that if The Rock is counted out or disqualified means that CM Punk doesn’t have to beat Rock, he can focus on getting under Rock’s skin, he can focus on riling Rock to the extent that he snaps and gets himself disqualified. And THAT is where Paul Heyman can be key. He can actually try and influence what is going on in the match instead of just being a cheerleader for Punk. He can actively try and anger Rock as well as the heel tactics we are sure to see from Punk. These attempts started with Punk stealing Rock’s WWE Championship belt, and I think that was a masterstroke. Rock gave a promo on Smackdown where he mentioned that he has been waiting to be WWE Champion for 10 years. While not strictly true, it shows that he is passionate about the belt and angry that Punk took it from him. And it is that anger that Punk and Heyman should be looking to play on.
But of course there is the bigger picture to look at. John Cena awaits the victor in the match that will undoubtedly close the show at Wrestlemania. And there’s also no doubt that The Rock will be in that match. The only question is if Punk will join them. The expected match of CM Punk vs The Undertaker has been thrown into some doubt recently because of uncertainty over Undertaker’s health. So if that doesn’t happen, there is no bigger match than a WWE Championship match against both The Rock and John Cena. The only way that Punk can reasonably put himself into that match though, would be as the reigning WWE Champion. Looking at it long term though, last year The Rock beat Cena clean, one-on-one in the centre of the ring. The whole idea behind that was surely for Cena to avenge that loss, one-on-one against The Rock, in the centre of the ring. Throwing CM Punk into the mix kind of defeats the purpose of that “passing of the torch” moment. I thought this would happen at the Royal Rumble, but regardless of who wins I think the show will end with John Cena at the top of the ramp, facing off with the WWE Champion in the ring, with a lot of pointing towards the Wrestlemania sign.
Prediction: Winner and STILL WWE Champion – The Rock
I’m starting to really look forward to Wrestlemania. WWE always gets so much better around this time of year, and I think you can tell the superstars are more focused when they’re not spouting off about hustling crackheads. I would expect it to pick up even more when the next PPV is Wrestlemania itself, and the rumour is that the card will become much clearer after tomorrow night’s Raw. If this time of year doesn’t hook you as a wrestling fan then chances are nothing will.
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