Brief thoughts on the Elimination Chamber PPV:
- Overall the event was a pleasant surprise for me. I was pleased by a number of the match results, and on top of that, they were all mostly pretty good.
- People really like to bring up Alberto Del Rio's botch, but I think that he recovered very swiftly from it.
- Antonio Cesaro beating The Miz by disqualification was a little weird and probably the biggest disappointment of the night for me. I would've liked him to win clean, but I was happy that he didn't deliberately cheat to retain his title. Miz going over Cesaro without winning the title was a bit of a copout in my eyes. Granted, the feud did help Miz gain a lot of momentum, but I'm annoyed by how weak Cesaro looked as a result.
- I was so, so happy when Jack Swagger rolled up Randy Orton to win the chamber match.
- Almost as happy as when The Shield beat John Cena and company. The look on his face was priceless, man.
- The Rock still beat CM Punk at the end of the night though. Oh well, at least it wasn't as stupid a finish as their first match.
The subsequent five weeks have all been a sort of blur to me. There was a weird transition between wrapping up prior feuds and building the actual Mania feuds and it didn't really come together into a coherent picture, in my eyes. Mostly though I'm disappointed that Cesaro didn't get a build to the biggest pay-per-view of the year. Supposedly he was going to feud with Sin Cara, whom I now greatly resent for having a skeleton made of Styrofoam. Other than that, there's not a lot to comment on regarding notable absences from the match card, which isn't all that surprising considering there are ten announced matches, including three tag team matches. I mean, I guess it's kind of weird that Kaitlyn's not on the show, her being the Divas Champion and all, but then again, the US Champion isn't gonna be there either, so...yeah.
Youtube Pre-Show Intercontinental Championship Match: The Miz vs. Wade Barrett (c)
Speaking of secondary champions that WWE doesn't care about, holy shit, Barrett has been taking it pretty hard since becoming IC champion, hasn't he? Dude's been losing to everyone except the guys that Cesaro's taken care of losing to already. The feud started as a dispute over who had the better movie (which apparently David Otunga won without even being involved), turned into a three-way title match involving Jericho that Barrett won by the skin of his teeth, and Miz has been convincingly booked to look like the better of the two men since then. He's beaten Barrett cleanly already, and the two have been focusing on each other exclusively for...what, two weeks? Is there really anything to expect from this match other than Miz winning the title or Barrett retaining in some controversial manner? It's mind-boggling how little tension there is to this match and how little attention the Intercontinental Championship has received since the year began. I really can't bring myself to care about who wins or how or what would come next for either character.
Mixed Tag Team Match: Team Rhodes Scholars and The Bella Twins vs. Tons of Funk and The Funkadactyls
As great and enjoyable as Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow are when they're together, I can't help but be a little annoyed that they aren't entering Wrestlemania as the Tag Team Champions. The two have clearly suffered from bookers jutting back and forth on what to do with the tag team scene in general. I don't really like Brodus Clay and Tensai as a tag team, but they're clearly connecting with a certain portion of the audience, and they look and act like a team, which is more than can be said of Team Hell No. If they were to face Rhodes Scholars for the Tag Team Championships, and then win them, I wouldn't really mind. Instead those titles are being feuded over by four singles competitors who occasionally take breaks in the middle of the match. Oh how much more I would enjoy this event if this match were for the championships, and Daniel Bryan and Kane were feuding with each other. Alas, I weep for what could have been.
On the other hand Sandow hasn't been getting his ass kicked by fucking R-Truth recently, so that's a nice bright spot in all this.
Chris Jericho vs.
Holy shit you guys, Fandango is fucking awesome. THAT IS ALL. My hype levels have reached 11/10 for this match.
Mark Henry vs. Ryback
It's a big strong guy who yells unintelligible things who wants to beat another big strong guy who yells unintelligible things and thereby prove that he is the biggest strongest guy who yells the unintelligiblest things. It's been a simple and straightforward story between these two, although the whole weightlifting thing was pretty stupid. Honestly the most elegant thing about the feud was how it worked Ryback out of the match with The Shield, and honestly even that wasn't all that clever. It was sort of something everyone knew would happen. But considering the type of match this is, it shouldn't be clever or complicated, it should be simple and straightforward. Really, the worst thing about it has been the whole "HERP LOOK I CIRCUMVENTED THE NO-CONTACT CLAUSE". I have concluded that no-contact clauses are really damn stupid, by the way. So. Ryback's probably going to win, I guess. Pity. Whatever.
Big Show, Randy Orton, and Sheamus vs. The Shield
I AM SHEAMUS, ONE OF THE SMILING STARS OF WWE, AND I HAVE GATHERED TWO OTHER POPULAR GUYS TO HELP ME BEAT THE SHIELD ONCE AND FOR ALL.
I'm kind of bummed about this match. It doesn't really mean anything from an in-universe perspective, it's just to give all six guys something to do. Big Show got turned face for this match at basically the drop of a hat, which is annoying, and also kind of weird. I started writing these posts because of how much I disliked the storytelling that was going on at the beginning of his heel turn. I grew to like Big Show's heel character after a while, though, and seeing it be unceremoniously dropped is a bit of a bummer. I've also grown a little tired of The Shield, mostly because they seem to have little direction. When they debuted, the trio claimed to have their own agenda of wanting to right perceived wrongs in the WWE, while it was implied that they were in somebody's pocket. The latter turned out to be true, as they were working for the benefit of CM Punk at the behest of Paul Heyman. Both explanations for why they were doing what they were doing, the false and the true, made sense, but both went out the window when their secret was exposed. They didn't fight Cena, Sheamus and Ryback because they were paid to do it, they did it because their authority was, for once, being seriously challenged and they wanted to prove how dangerous they were. So they did. So then they fought another three-on-three match. And they won. Then they were put in another one. But uh...what do they have to gain from this? What are they trying to do? Do they still have an agenda? If so, what is it? And further, how does winning another random three-on-three match help them to achieve it? On top of that, since the teams were decided, they've been doing the same thing over and over: emerging from the crowd to "intimidate" their opponents (who have just beaten THE MIGHTY AND HORRIBLE 3MB), only to skedaddle once Show Sheamus and Orton (whom I shall hereafter refer to as Team ShoShO) demonstrate that THEY STAND UNITED AND STRONG. So the actions of the two teams have been repetitive and boring, one group has grown disappointingly stagnant, and the other consists of performers that I don't care about as faces (including one whom I actively dislike).
Also, Orton is apparently the calm voice of reason in Team ShoShO. The hell?
Tag Team Championship Match: Big E Langston and Dolph Ziggler vs. Team Hell No (c)
Refer to the paragraph about the mixed tag match for my one problem with this match.
There is a lot for me to look forward to in this match. Daniel Bryan wrestling Dolph Ziggler. Big E Langston's debut. The slim chance that Team Hell No will go back to the breakup storyline I was hoping they would throw themselves into two months ago. But really, this match smells of "Hey, we needed SOMETHING for these guys to do." I imagine it will end suddenly just as I'm starting to get into it, and then I'll be upset that it could've been twice as long had Diddy not been on this damn show.
World Heavyweight Championship Match: Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Jack Swagger
I had much higher hopes for this feud when it first began, and it has faded on me. Maybe the controversy surrounding the "racist white Americans are evil" angle prompted less focus to be placed on the conflicting ideas within this story, which is a shame, because the feud was at its best when Zeb Colter was talking and Swagger was occasionally chiming in, and that's happened less and less as time's gone on in favor of beating up Ricardo Rodriguez. Granted that's a good way to make people want to see Swagger get beaten up, but I'm starting to worry that all of Del Rio's face feuds are going to feature that element. For as excited as I was when Del Rio became a face champion, he seems to have run into a wall very quickly. I think the problem is that, while his initial turn to the light seemed very organic, nobody seems to know what he as a face should be like. Rather than seeming like a true Mexican-American role model - which would have really contributed to this feud - Del Rio acts like what an ignorant four-year-old kid would imagine a Mexican-American hero would be (which probably suits WWE just fine). So yeah, ditching the car entrance, wearing the colors of the Mexican flag, acting like Ricardo's friend instead of pushing him around, those are all great. But throughout his feud with Swagger, Del Rio has been all about "AMERICA IS SO GREAT I LOVE AMERICA LOOK I BROUGHT BURRITOS AND PIÑATAS AND OTHER THINGS THAT IGNORANT WHITE AMERICANS ASSOCIATE WITH MEXICO AND JACK SWAGGER, YOU ARE JUST A BULLY!" instead of demonstrating pride in both Mexico and America, and addressing Colter and Swagger on any level other than "You are wrong." Look, this isn't hard, just say something like: "Neither Ricardo nor I came to this country illegally, and immigrants have been making a positive difference in America for longer than anyone here has been alive."
Colter and Swagger have been great, but Del Rio simply hasn't been playing up to their level. Unfortunately, while Ricardo is great at evoking sympathy with the crowd, and he is a much better public speaker than Del Rio, he's also not really suited to speaking against Colter in English at a high level either. So once again we have the smart-sounding guy saying things that sound reasonable but are recognizably wrong, and rather than being able to verbally argue against those wrong ideas, the good guys have to just punch him. Once again, a pity.
No Holds Barred Match: Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H
Triple H the character is an awful, awful person. He's an egotistical bully with no real concept of logic or reason or human emotion beyond "I must kick your ass, and if you don't sit there and let me kick your ass, then you're not a man." Huh, guess he's a misogynist too... So anyway, Triple H stabbed Paul Heyman with a pen and now we can root for him to get revenge on a guy who beat him fair and square seven months ago. Granted, Lesnar broke his arm...which wouldn't have been allowed if Triple H hadn't specifically told the referee to allow that kind of thing. Hm. Well, I guess there was the other time that Brock broke his arm...which he recovered from in like, two months. Less, if you count how he wasn't wearing the brace every time he was seen. Urrrr...well, but Heyman insulted Stephanie and implied that she and Triple H were terrible parents, right? Oh, but Stephanie slapped Heyman for no reason and said his children were going to grow into slimeballs..........OH, BROCK BROKE SHAWN MICHAELS' ARM! There we go! Jumped him in the parking lot, broke his arm for no reason, and never paid for it. There we go. Glad WWE remembered that all of one week before this match is happening.
Now we can all feel justified in cheering for our hero, the slow-talking, pen-stabbing, pants-peeing, crotch-kicking Triple H. Man, we better hope he wins, too, or he'll be fired and not appear on WWE television EVER AGAIN. Oh man, I think my brain smiled as I typed that.
CM Punk vs. The Undertaker
Holy shit CM Punk is such a wonderful asshole. I'm almost happy he's not in the title picture anymore, because at least now I'm not being constantly reminded that he's not champion anymore, and plus, I won't feel so angry when he loses. "I'm bathing in the ashes (not really) of your father (not really)" is pretty easily the darkest thing I've seen since I started watching wrestling about two years ago. I remember during the segment as Punk started to unscrew the lid of the urn I just kept thinking to myself "Is he really going to do that?", and then he did and I was all "Oh holy shit that is so awesomely messed up." And then I went on the Internet and people were going "LOVED IT! STRAIGHT OUT OF THE ATTITUDE ERA!" which cheesed me off a little, because something resembling the attitude era does not automatically make it good, you single-minded troglodytes. You didn't like that segment because it was hardcore, you liked it because it wasn't overdone to the point of stupidity. It pushed the envelope while there was still an envelope to push. But I digress.
CM Punk as a balls-to-the-wall villain has been far more interesting to watch than last year's "I know I can beat you this time" Triple H tour, which only ever got good when the two of them and Michaels were all in the ring, Taker said "Shawn couldn't beat me, and he's better than you", and Shawn sat there with a big ol' grin on his face that clearly said "Yep." What makes Punk's performance so interesting to me is that he's clearly not afraid of The Undertaker, when anyone in their right mind would be. Last year, Triple H knew from experience that he could conceivably beat Taker, at Wrestlemania. The year before that, he had doubts going into it because everyone else did. CM Punk lives in a world where everyone is still pretty terrified of The Undertaker, but rather than outright denying that he's afraid through words, Punk has simply not been giving a fuck. The lights go out, Taker appears in the ring and throws haymakers at Punk, and he just jumps out of the ring grinning like a maniac. With his championship gone, Punk the character has nothing to lose and everything to gain from this match, and it shows in every single arrogant smirk he's put on in the past several weeks.
WWE Championship Match: John Cena vs. The Rock (c)
Double urgh. What's there to even say? I can't even get excited for this match as the end of me having to see The Rock on television giving boring nonsensical promos, because he's going to be around through Extreme Rules. Cena's crowd-baiting isn't going to lead to a heel-turn, no matter how much people want it to. Both men have been uninspiring, uninteresting, and unexciting on the microphone for the past five weeks, and Rock's been completely absent several times too. The best promo of this build came two weeks ago when Cena snapped that he had cost himself a victory over Rock last year, and nothing The Rock had shown him demonstrated he was really the better man. That was cool. I especially liked how he referred to The People's Elbow as a "stupid move". Granted the Five-Knuckle Shuffle is nearly, perhaps equally, as stupid, but that does not negate the point that it is, indeed, a stupid move. Other than that, this has been a stupid feud. AND IT'LL BE ANOTHER GODDAMN MONTH BEFORE IT'S COMPLETELY OVER.
My biggest problem with the story being built in this match, however, is that Cena claims this match is about redemption, because his loss to The Rock sent his career and personal life into a downward spiral. Nnnno it didn't. Let's put aside his personal life and break this down: Following his loss to The Rock, Cena was attacked by Lesnar, who wanted to take over Raw. Cena beat him immediately on the next pay-per-view. Then John Laurinaitis tried to make his life hell and end his career. Granted Cena lost to him at the NEXT pay-per-view, because he was a moron, but then he got Laurinaitis fired one month later. Then he won Money in the Bank. Granted he was the first person ever to fail in his cash-in attempt, and in the ensuing months he failed to win the WWE Championship from CM Punk. Then he feuded with Dolph Ziggler, and AJ betrayed him, and Langston debuted to beat him up. And then Cena spent the ensuing month beating them all up and won the Royal Rumble. He also lost to The Shield. So, all in all, Cena got the better of his enemies in three different feuds, was influential in two different general managers being fired, was still in the main event scene, won two important, non-title accolades, and is in a better position than he was in at last year's Wrestlemania - still in the main event, against the same opponent, but this time for the company's biggest championship.
Man, Cena's life has been an absolute nightmare the past year, hasn't it? Seriously, while it's true that it's been quite a while since he held the championship, he hasn't exactly been living in Hell on Earth. And if you assume he has, it hasn't been because of The Rock - it's been because of CM Punk. Hence I wish this were a triple threat match involving Punk - all three men would have legitimate beefs with one another, and you could make a more compelling argument that Cena would be at a real disadvantage, having to take on two opponents that have gotten the better of him in recent history. Instead...it's his turn to win this time. He's going to win. Who cares?
I'm actually looking forward to the goofy stupid shit that'll inevitably happen this summer now.