CHARLY CARUSO INTERVIEWS ROMAN REIGNS- she asks him whether he is worried about having to compete in this long, grueling gauntlet match just six days before stepping into the Elimination Chamber. Roman says that he isn’t worried about tonight’s Gauntlet Match, but is worried about the Elimination Chamber and then gives the usual WWE speech about how dangerous the chamber is and how it shortens careers, etc. etc. This wasn’t terrible (although it would help if it didn’t feel like I heard at least one person cut this exact same promo every single year), but the very nature of what Roman was told to say requires him to come out and just dismiss tonight’s match, which certainly doesn’t get me excited for it, and once again adds to the feeling that this match is totally pointless and is only serving as a time-killer.
GAUNTLET MATCH: Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins vs. John Cena vs. “The Drifter” Elias Sampson vs. Finn Balor vs. The Miz (w/the Miz-Tourage) vs. Braun Strowman- 8.75/10
The fans are chanting “BURN IT DOWN!” for Rollins. What, exactly, do they want him to burn down? Now they’re chanting “WE WANT AMBROSE!” Are they daft? I can’t imagine that that many people going to a WWE even and who like Dean enough to chant for him don’t know that he’s injured.
Seth and Roman had an awesome singles match that ended when Seth got a win via roll-up. Cole told us there would be “no rest for the weary,” and meanwhile, it had been a good minute since Seth had pinned Roman, and the next entrant’s music hadn’t even started playing. The next guy in would be Cena, who took his time posing, and probably would have taken even more had Rollins not decided to charge at him when he turned around between poses. All in all, it was almost two whole minutes from the time Roman was pinned to the time Cena and Seth started to wrestle.
Cena and Seth went for an even longer time. It was all slow-paced in order to help Seth out, but it worked very well, and all of their nearfalls were believable. If these were the only parts of the match (or even if they did the Drifter part with a slightly different finish), I would have given this AT LEAST a 9.5/10.
When The Drifter’s music hit I had no idea whose it was. I’m honestly not sure I had even heard it before. He eventually eliminated Seth. This did get heat, but I would have tried to stretch Seth’s run out a bit more. It was very disappointing to see him lose after going for so long. I know that that’s just how it is sometimes, but maybe a ref stoppage would have been better? Something to really hammer home that he might be injured going into the Elimination Chamber because of this. I actually have some ideas about what I would do with this whole set-up, which I will get to below.
Finn and Elias also went for a while, with Balor finally getting the win via Coup de Grace to Elias’ injured ribs. Miz was in next and used Miz-Tourage as a distraction to come out of the crowd and attack Balor from behind. Miz and Balor went for a while, with something of a lightly-told story about Miz working Balor’s arm, before Miz used a distraction by Bo & Axel to pin Balor. Braun came out and they let Miz get a surprising amount of offense on him before Brock made his comeback and got the win.
This match was a victim of its own success. There was nothing in the second part of it that was bad, but the first half was so fantastic that almost anything would have felt like was going downhill from there. That being said, I’m still very happy that they did the second half of the match the way they did. This match went almost TWO HOURS. I don’t think we’ve ever seen that in WWE. The stuff with Rollins was definitely an essential ingredient, but they very easily could have finished everything else off in twenty-five minutes if they wanted to, but doing so would have made everyone else feel very secondary to Rollins. They still felt secondary here- it would be impossible not to- but giving the rest of the match a lot of time helped it feel like the Rollins stuff was the tone-setting and most epic part of a long, epic, match rather than the Rollins stuff all being epic and everything else being cheaply-produced window-dressing for it.
When I was watching this match, I felt like I was watching something truly special and unforgettable. How often does that happen on Raw or Smackdown? There have been excellent segments over the years, sure (Alexa’s championship celebration, the Rusev Day proclamation, and the Joe-Brock brawl all spring to mind as recent examples), but the last time I remember watching something that felt truly special and unforgettable was probably Occupy Raw. That was four years ago. This night will probably wind up being just as big of a talking point in Seth Rollins’ career as his WrestleMania MITB cash-in.
But WWE being, I don’t trust them to capitalize on it correctly, but which I mean they need to make it a part of Rollins’ journey. Here’s how I would have handled it:
Rather than Roman cutting the opening promo, I’d have Rollins do it. He’d cut the standard promo that Roman did, then explain to us that the way the seven-man Elimination Chamber would work would be that three men would start instead of the usual two… but, to be honest, he’s not happy with this whole “seven-man Elimination Chamber” compromise of Kurt’s. If he is going to make this show “Monday Night Rollins” then he wants to prove that he truly belongs in the Elimination Chamber more than Finn does, so he wants to be the one to beat Finn Balor in tonight’s Gauntlet Match.
The first match in the gauntlet would be Miz vs. Rollins. Miz would come out cutting a promo complaining about having to be in a Gauntlet Match- and starting first- just six days before he has to start first in the Elimination Chamber. After a few minutes of wresting, with Seth controlling much of it, Miz would purposely get himself DQed with a low blow, then he, Bo and Axel would beat Seth up until Roman came out to make the save.
Then we would get first Rollins vs. Roman and then Rollins vs. Cena, progressing exactly as they did during tonight’s show. Then we would get Rollins vs. Elias, and Rollins would once again fight through the pain and find some way to exploit The Drifter’s injured ribs for the victory. Seth would now have beaten four men, setting up the expectation that Balor would come out now so they could have their confrontation, but instead it would be Braun, who would obliterate Seth and pin him, with Seth doing a stretcher-job. Braun would beat Balor to win the gauntlet, but the real story would be Seth, who is taken to the hospital, and who we will later learn has very bad internal injuries, and will be out of action for several weeks, meaning that he’ll have to miss Elimination Chamber.
Roman will win the Elimination Chamber match and go on to face Brock at Mania, we probably get Miz vs. Strowman and Joe vs. Cena, and Elias fades back down to the midcard where he belongs. And as for Balor…he wallows around for a bit not doing much but not losing, either, until Seth Rollins returns a few weeks after Elimination Chamber and suggests that they face off to find out who is the better man- and with Seth arguing that he earned WWE Universal Title shot by qualifying for the Elimination Chamber but not being able to compete, and Finn maintaining that he is owed a one-on-one title shot because he never got one after having to vacate the belt due to injury, we wind up with Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor in a #1 Contendership Match at WrestleMania (Balor would win because the possibility of the Balor vs. Brock match that they never got around to will maybe put some doubt in people’s minds that Roman won’t win, and Seth can be rebuilt for the next title shot after Finn’s. Another possible scenario would be to have Finn eliminate Miz from the Elimination Chamber, leading to Finn taking the belt from him in March and being on the line in this match instead of the #1 contendership [I think this match would benefit from something extra being on the line and Braun vs. Miz doesn’t need a belt because Braun doesn’t need any belt other than the world title because him doing a job is such a rarity that it’s kind of like he’s already half of a champion]).
After each non-Roman wrestler was eliminated, he got to cut a promo on the split-screen via an interview with Renee Young (Roman got to cut his promo before the match). I didn’t like that they were taking attention away from the match for these, and Cena rambled a lot, but I do like the format of the immediate post-match interview. This sort of thing is exactly what I have in mind when I talk about an interviewer getting a “reaction interview” with a wrestler in my “BRM Books Raw 1,000 And Beyond” ongoing fantasy booking thread (that I totally haven’t given up on, despite all appearances to the contrary) [/cheap plug].
BRAUN STROWMAN PROMO- excellent.
He said “I don’t fear the unknown; the unknown fears me!” and referred to Brock Lesnar as “Beastie Boy.”
BRAUN STROWMAN MURDERS MIZ & THE MIZ-TOURAGE- this was totally unnecessary and went on for way too long.
I live in the NYC area so I get the local market commercial for Backlash. The commercial had it as a Raw-only show. Then again, the commercial also claimed that this was a “first time ever” event, which is quite false.
They finally explained to us that three men will start the Elimination Chamber match.
JEFF JARRETT IS GOING INTO THE HALL OF
RENEE YOUNG INTERVIEWS ASUKA- parts of this went very badly. They gave her too much to say. You can’t treat a non-fluent speaker like a fluent one, and that is pretty much what the writers tried to do here.
Asuka finally got her promo out, then got jumped from behind and destroyed by Nia. A fine go-home segment (minus the promo problems).
RONDA ROUSEY VIDEO PACKAGE- I already know who she is, so I skipped it.
TITUS WORLDWIDE (w/Dana Brooke) vs. SHEAMUS & CESARO- 2/10
If only we had thought a whole four weeks ahead and hadn’t wasted the title shot Titus Worldwide already earned when they beat Sheamus & Cesaro back in January in a throw-away match the night after WrestleMania. Then we could have used this whole month to keep building them up in the background while doing the Rollins/Jordan stuff in the foreground so that we would have Titus Worldwide already ready for the February PPV title shot so that we could give Jason Jordan the time off that we already knew he needed while also avoiding booking Rollins & Partner vs. Sheamus & Cesaro for the fourteen millionth straight time in the past seven months, and wouldn’t be stuck rushing the same exact pathetically bare-bones build to set these same guys up for a title shot that we did last month on the freakin’ go-home show.
Oh, who are we kidding? Foresight like that would have to be the work of some kind of wizard, with knowledge of arcane and forbidden magics written in tongues long forgotten by all but the oldest of secret societies. It’s really not fair to expect anyone on WWE Creative to have foresight like that.
After at least a month of Dana Brooke being Titus Worldwide’s “statistician” someone finally decided that maybe we should give some shred of evidence that she actually does something, so this week Corey Graves- not Dana in a promo, because that would give her character actual attention- told us that Dana told him that “Titus wins 70% of matches where he lands more strikes than his opponents.” So, in other words, “when Titus hits the other guy more than the other guy hits him, he usually wins.” I’m sure we needed Dana’s help to figure that one out.
Why does she have to be their f*cking “statistician?” Why can’t she just be another wrestler that Titus manages? That would help the women’s division have some more depth (and free someone else up to go to Smackdown, which badly needs the help), and wouldn’t require this woman who was hired to be a professional wrestler and is a (kayfabe) perfectly competent competitor to not suddenly become a statistician- a position for which she had never shown any aptitude before getting the job and has not shown any aptitude at since talking it, either. If I had to guess, the entire reason this happened is because someone on the Creative team has a thing for women in glasses and pitched this whole thing to get Dana in glasses on TV every week.
The latest victim of WWE’s completely random and completely pointless name-shortening is “Apollo,” with no Crews. Just as I have done with “The Drifter” Elias Sampson, I will continue to ignore their editorial decisions because they’re f*cking stupid, to the point of being insulting. Do they really think we can’t handle these people having both first and last names? They do realize that of us- and most people we know- have both first and last names, right?
In fact… f*ck it. It’s time to strike back that the machine. I am hereby calling on every single person who talks about wrestling on the internet to only refer to Hunter from now on as “Triple.”
Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt has been added to the PPV. I would suggest that they maybe do some actual build for it on this go-home show, but I really don’t want to have to deal with either of them tonight, so I’ll just hold my tongue.
Ah sh*t. Too late.
MATT HARDY & BRAY WYATT PROMOS- skipped them. And I’m glad I did because I did not need to see the camera cutting back and forth between two nut-jobs while they make silly noises.
ABSOLUTION PHONE PROMO- the Radic-galz say that one of them will win because they will be able to remain friends while the other women in the match won’t. I swear that’s what they said in their attempt to hype up the supposedly career-shortening Elimination Chamber match.
MICKIE JAMES, SASHA BANKS, & BAYLEY vs. ALEXA BLISS! & ABSOLUTION (w/Paige)- 6/10
There was a wonderful exchange on commentary where Corey Graves shocked the world by agreeing with Cole that Alexa is only trying to be Mickie’s friend to use her as an ally in the Elimination Chamber, saying “I call it like I see it” and then going on to use this honesty to claim that it is no different that “the way Sasha Banks uses Bayley,” but Alexa should at least get credit for being honest. Coach, stunned at this awesome new twist in Graves’ heelish bullsh*t, said “I’ve never met anyone who walked out of three sides of their mouth before,” and Graves did not miss a single beat in responding “now you know why they pay me so much.” AWESOME!
They had a good match, with a double-heat, giving both Mickie and Bayley the opportunity to play babyface in peril. After the final hot tag we wound up with Sasha and Alexa in there together who had a very fun little segment, with Sasha being an awesome babyface. Alexa slammed Sasha’s head into the middle turnbuckle hard enough to make an awesome sound. Sasha made Bliss tap soon thereafter, but at least I can console myself with the fabled Law of Revere Momentum.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- D-Gynreration X assaulted Sasha after the match. Bayley tried to make the save but she got overwhelmed. Alexa realized that she was caught in the ring with them and got very nervous as they started to corner her but Mickie actually made the save for Alexa. Then they hit a double elevated DDT and walked off all smiley together, with the announcers wondering whether the women’s Elimination Chamber match would come down to more of a 2-on-2-on-2 scenario. This feels kind of odd, but that scenario would definitely help differentiate the match from the men’s one. This is the exact sort of situation where a show like Raw Talk/Talking Smack would be great to give us a bit more insight into Mickie’s thought process here.
This was an interesting show from WWE. Because the Gauntlet Match was two thirds of it and the Gauntlet Match was awesome, this show was mostly awesome, with the first hour of it being probably the best solid hour of wrestling you’ve ever seen on WWE TV. But, in the long run, almost everything that happened on this show was completely inconsequential as far as storylines and real PPV build were concerned (really just the tag match and Nia laying out Asuka were the only things that mattered. And maybe Mickie saving Alexa), and the reason for that is that, pathetically enough they just plain ran out of build for their top two matches, so they had to find ways to spin their wheels. It was entertaining wheel-spinning to be sure, but wheel-spinning nonetheless, and all because their team of thirty writers can’t figure out how to tell a four-week story.
STUPID ANNOUNCER QUOTES:
1. Cole kept insisting that “Rollins kicked out!” of the AA when what he really did was get his shoulder up. I know this might seem like a nit-pick, but it really bothers me that Cole called this a “kick-out” when Seth’s leg barely moved.