With a main event so predictable it almost made this PPV a mere formality, or even missable, the WWE had to do a lot to prove to the WWE Universe that investing 3 hours of our time in watching Elimination Chamber 2018.
Adding the first ever Women’s Elimination Chamber Match was certainly that, though its worrying lack of build was a concern to many, while the addition of a seventh man to the men’s Chamber, seemingly just to say it was history in the making was largely pointless. Add to the that the rather underwhelming rest of the card, with the potential exception of Asuka vs. Nia Jax, the fact that a contract signing was taking place at the PPV, and the fact that some of the matches were announced a mere two days before the event, yet fans were still supposed to feel invested in them, and you had a very top heavy PPV with not a lot to look forward to.
With this being RAW’s last PPV before Mania, it would have to produce fireworks for it to memorable at all...
Match #1 - Alexa Bliss (c) def. Sasha Banks, Bayley, Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville [RAW Women’s Championship Elimination Chamber]
Hands down, this was my favourite match of the night. Every woman in this match left it with a story and left looking so much better than they went entered.
Any concerns I had about the lack of real storylines going into this match quickly evaporated, as the women put on an excellent match ripe with tension and really good match building.
Bayley and Sonya Deville started off proceedings, tentative at first, unwilling to allow themselves into the wall, before Mandy Rose entered and Bayley took an absolute pounding at the hands of the Absolution pair.
Sasha Banks was 4th in to even the odds and continue the interesting dynamic between Bayley and herself. Especially as rumours that one of them is to turn heel on the other are rife in the IWC.
Mandy Rose soon tapped out to a Bank Statement to earn the unenviable title of being the first woman eliminated from the Women’s Royal Rumble, and the Women’s Elimination Chamber; though she had good moments herself.
Mickie James entered 5th overall clad in Wonder Woman inspired attire, and proceeded to show why age, despite the crossings of Alexa Bliss at TLC, was not a factor. Ascending to the top of a pod after kicking Bayley off of the wall, she hit and eliminated Deville after a Lou Thesz Press from the top, only to be eliminated herself by a Bayley-to-Belly just before Alexa Bliss entered.
Hesitant at first, and attempting everything to escape the pair of Bayley and Banks, Bliss climbed up the side of the cage, across the cage and even to the top of a pod, only to be cornered at every turn by Bayley and Banks. That was until the long awaited heel turn finally seemed to start, with Banks kicking Bayley from the side of the cage.
Clearly in shock, Banks and Bayley started to fight amongst themselves, with Bayley delivering a Super Bayley-to-Belly to Banks, only to then be rolled up by Alexa for the elimination.
Bliss and Banks exchanges offence at a quick pace, Bliss hitting Twisted Bliss from the top of a Pod, only for Banks to reverse it into a Bank Statement. As Banks then went to the top rope, she was pushed by Bliss with her face connecting flush with the side of the pod leaving Bliss to deliver a Draping DDT from the top rope to give her the win allowing her to retain her championship heading into WrestleMania.
Bliss then cut an outstanding promo, explaining that this was her dream and that if anyone tried, they could accomplish anything, convincing the watchers at home and the Vegas crowd that we were witnessing a Bliss face turn, only for her to swerve us at the final second saying that no-one would achieve their dreams because no-one was like her! Outstanding end to a brilliant match!
PodMania Star Rating: 8 stars
Match #2 - The Bar (c) def. Titus Worldwide [RAW Tag Team Championship Match]
Possibly one of the most disappointing matches of the night followed; disappointing for many reasons. Firstly, after the excitement of the Women’s Chamber Match, any match unfortunate enough to follow it was always going to struggle. Secondly, the match itself was incredibly underwhelming. The story of the match revolved mainly around Apollo’s attempts to get the hot tag to Titus after being repeatedly cut off by The Bar.
Once he was indeed tagged in...nothing really happened. No offence to Titus, but he is hardly the most capable wrestler, and his hot tag moment really boiled down to him plodding to people and chopping them; upsettingly underwhleming. There were sparks, Apollo’s Moonshot over the top rope onto the outside was beautiful.
The ending came as Apollo misses a blind tag and gets hit with The Bar’s still untitled Tag Team move, with The Bar retaining their titles, presumably until WrestleMania!
PodMania Star Rating: 4 stars
Match #3 - Asuka def. Nia Jax
I felt going into this match a certain apprehension as Asuka’s undefeated streak throws up a fair few problems, especially when you want someone like Nia Jax to look as strong as she possibly can, whilst still losing.
Once again though, WWE managed to elevate those fears whilst still giving us the correct result.
It started with an excellent close up on the titantron of Asuka’s mask, eliciting a huge pop from the audience, only for the mask to be smashed by the boot of Nia Jax. Excellent start!
Throughout this match, Nia Jax was made to look like an absolute beast. Many times she reversed attempts at kicks and Hip Attacks from Asuka into big power moves, including an excellent spot where Asuka attempted a Hip Attack through the ropes with Nia on the apron, but Jax caught her by the hair and held her pinned against the ropes.
Even in defeat, Nia looked brilliant. After a roll-up victory saw Asuka’s winning streak continue, she was ploughed into by a vengeful Nia, who finished off the match by steamrollering Asuka through the barricade.
Sure Asuka won, which is the result that was needed and that we wanted, but Nia looks like an utter monster, and don’t discount her from finding a way into that RAW Women’s Championship at WrestleMania anyway!
PodMania Star Rating: 5 stars
Match #4 - 'Woken' Matt Hardy def. Bray Wyatt
I love Bray Wyatt. You know this.
But this was the toilet break match.
When you have got two of the most exciting and interesting characters in the business, and the audience are chanting ‘Rusev Day!’ and ‘We want beachballs!’ you know that people aren’t invested; which is ridiculous.
The match itself was fine, nothing more. Wyatt teleported into to the ring after Matt, only for Matt to have disappeared at the same time, leaving Wyatt to investigate around ringside whilst Matt serenades him with the ‘Obsolete’ song.
Eventually Hardy appears and hits Wyatt with a Double Axe-Handle off of the apron. This lead to a nice moment as Wyatt attempted to do his creepy upside down moment in the corner, only for Hardy to laugh and applaud him, with the audience joining him in the sardonic applause.
The match ends when Hardy hits Wyatt with a Twist of Fate, bringing to a merciful end a match that has driven so many fans of the pair away. The quicker these two invest in a match at the Hardy Compound the better!
PodMania Star Rating: 4 stars
Ronda Rousey Signs Her WWE Contract
Irrelevant of my early fears, this segment was mostly excellent. Sure, Rousey’s opening promo was obscenely choppy and left a lot of fans worried about her mic work, but she rescued herself well as the segment continued.
Out of nowhere, Kurt then announced to the arena at large and to Ronda (wearing a much better fitting leather jacket than at the Royal Rumble), Triple H and Steph in the ring, that he had overheard Trips and his wife saying that now they “Own the Bitch!”
With the tension palpable, HHH led Kurt from the ring explaining that he was suffering from Double Pneumonia before Kurt turned around and added that Steph has said that “She was a has been and even she (Steph) could take her!”
Oh wow x2.
As Hunter then slid back into the ring and attempted to play piece keeper, Ronda suplexed him through a table, which was incredibly cool, before Stephanie slapped her (as she has an annoying propensity to do) before Ronda turned to face her unblinking, scaring Stephanie off. She signed the contract threw onto onto Triple H, who was selling table spot as though he had been shot in the spine, and left to tumultuous applause.
An excellent, if not slightly odd, segment which pretty much guarantees us the Kurt and Ronda vs. Triple H and Stephanie Match we all thought we were going to get!
Match #5 - Roman Reigns def. Braun Strowman, Finn Balor, Seth Rollins, The Miz, Elias & John Cena
And so we reach the most predictable main event in WWE’s recent history. After not winning the Royal Rumble, it was incredibly doubtful that Roman Reigns wouldn’t win the Elimination Chamber Match, especially as it was given the stipulation that the winner would face Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania for the Universal Championship!
But I don’t care about any of that. This match was excellent.
Similar to the Women’s match, the men could do no wrong, everything they touched turned to absolute gold. Even the entrances, from Elias’ hilarious banter with the crowd before being sealed in his pod in panic as Braun entered the ring, to The Miz mocking every single person in the pods before recoiling in fear from Braun, to the Monster Among Men himself breathing heavily against the side of the Chamber, leaving condensation against the glass, like a scene from Jurassic Park.
The Miz, Rollins and Balor started off, with The Miz playing the chicken-shit heel wonderfully, attempting to team with first Rollins then Balor (with the aid of a Too Sweet) before being laid out by the pair.
Elias barricading himself inside his Pod when the buzzer went off for the last entrant was brilliant, until all members of the match were laid out on the floor, when he then attempted to pin all of them to no avail, only to them himself be eliminated by the rampaging Strowman.
Strowman was the MVP of this match as you might have expected, eliminating 5 of the 6 possible opponents. Hitting Running Powerslams on every person in the ring. Even the moment where every member of the match hit their finisher on him, he kicked out of all of them, to the utter delight of the Las Vegas crowd. Even kicking out of an unbelivable Frogsplash from atop the pod from Seth Rollins. Astonishing.
The sight of The Miz then ascending the cage to the relative safety of the top of the pod, only to be chased at a scary speed by Strowman who then launched him into the superstars below will certainly be one which lives Long in the memory for a lot of fans.
Sure enough we were left with Strowman and Reigns as the final two, and a Superman Punch, 2 Spears, a pinfall and a cavalcade of boos later, Roman was going to WrestleMania...
Only for Strowman to put him through a pod as revenge, leaving the viewer with a wonderful image of a broken Reigns underneath the WrestleMania sign. Lovely.
PodMania Star Rating: 8 stars
So all in all, Elimination Chamber 2018 was a very good PPV, made better by being book-ended by two of the better Elimination Chamber Matches in history!
Sure, Roman Reigns won and that will irritate some fans, but it’s what we expected, however the last shot was of him battered and bruised after Braun. We saw the beginnings of a feud between The Miz, Finn Balor and Seth Rollins for the Intercontinental Title and Cena’s search for a WrestleMania match continues.
As for the women, the storyline between Sasha and Bayley is one of the most enduring moving forward, while Alexa Bliss match against Asuka, with the looming shadow of Nia Jax is far more intriguing now than any of us dared to think it would be.
My only qualms with the PPV was the weakness of the rest of the card; Titus Worldwide at no point felt like a credible threat to The Bar and never really troubled the champions, while Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy’s match felt nothing more than a throwaway RAW match, very disappointing.
Still, ending on a positive, Ronda Rousey is now part of the WWE, has a sensible story moving forward, hasn’t been thrust undeservingly into the title picture and is seemingly going to be a full time roster member. Hopefully, she can excel in WWE in the same way she excelled in UFC!
Matches You Need to See: Women's Elimination Chamber Match, Men's Elimination Chamber Match
Matches You Need to Avoid: Bray Wyatt vs. Matt Hardy, The Bar vs. Titus Worldwide