If you went into Sunday's Elimination Chamber pay-per-view with expectations that CM Punk was going to recapture the WWE Championship, that Dolph Ziggler was going to cash-in Money in the Bank, or that Chris Jericho, Daniel Bryan or Mark Henry was going to be the new No. 1 contender for the World Championship, then you probably hated the show. If you recognized all along that it was going to be John Cena vs. The Rock for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania and are intrigued where the new "Real American" Jack Swagger character is going, and were hoping to see the Shield last at least until WrestleMania, then you loved this one.
Let's start with the main event. The Rock and CM Punk, in my opinion, delivered a better match this month than they did at the Royal Rumble. It wasn't a 5-star classic -- in fact, in the early goings, the match was kind of dull with a lot of holds -- but it really picked up the pace at the end with a lot of false finishes. I've already heard some complaints that it was overbooked with a couple of ref bumps, but I thought they worked to help tell the story and to keep CM Punk strong. After the first ref bump, Punk hit a GTS and had the Rock covered for a visual fall. This should actually give Punk some ammo to say he should have won and still be (in his mind) WWE Champion. I'm curious where they go with Punk now. Obviously, the ideal situation is to have the Undertaker return tonight and set up a WrestleMania match between the two.
As for the Rock, I think most fans realized he was going to win again and face John Cena at WrestleMania in a rematch from a year ago. Besides Brock Lesnar vs. The Rock, I think this is the biggest match WWE could possibly do for the biggest show of the year. And yes, it's predictable that Cena will win the title back at 'Mania, too. I don't understand why people are so upset about this. It's been nearly 18 months since Cena held the title. Punk had a historic reign and there is a good chance he'll go right back to challenging Cena for the belt after 'Mania. Some fans just can't be satisfied it seems.
But for everything seemingly going Cena's way, it wasn't so simple last night. His powerhouse trio of himself, Ryback and Sheamus was defeated by the Shield in what was easily the evening's finest match. The fast-paced brawl saw things get chaotic at the end, with Roman Reigns spearing Sheamus through the ringside barricade (nearly crushing poor Lillian Garcia by the way), then spearing Ryback, who was getting ready to perform Shell-Shocked on Seth Rollins, causing Rollins for fall on top of him for the winning fall. Cena had just given the AA to Dean Ambrose and was distracted when the fall occurred.
After the match, Ryback walked out disgusted as Sheamus recovered and Cena looked around confused. It'll be interesting to see the direction this angle is going to take tonight. Seven weeks of Rock and Cena cutting promos on each other like they did last year seems unlikely right now with this unfinished business, but we shall see.
If you weren't shocked by The Shield defeating Cena's all-stars, then Jack Swagger emerging as the victor for the No. 1 contender's Elimination Chamber match probably surprised you. I'd been going against the grain and picking Daniel Bryan, but I was also doing that based on the assumption Dolph Ziggler was going to cash-in his Money in the Bank contract and be World Champion by WrestleMania. I still think there is an angle to be done there with Ziggler and Bryan revolving around AJ, but I digress.
Swagger's "Real American" character seems designed solely for the purpose of putting over the Hispanic hero Alberto Del Rio. I'm a fan of Swagger the wrestler, although I appreciate what they are accomplishing with this gimmick, even if I don't entirely agree with what Swagger and Zeb Colter are saying. I definitely see there to be a potential for this angle to backfire, however. The positive reaction for Del Rio hasn't been as loud since WWE stopped touring the southwest, although it's still generally been positive. And there are a lot of people -- right, wrong or indifferent -- who agree with what Swagger and Colter are saying. I think New York City is progressive enough to cheer Del Rio rather than Swagger at WrestleMania, but the road to that match could pose some challenges. Oklahoma City, where Swagger calls home, plays host to Smackdown in two weeks. I'm curious to hear the reactions there.
Had WWE built up how important it was for Randy Orton to win the match last night, it would've been a bigger deal when he got beat with the cheap roll-up. They have done a lot of backstage promos and WWE Active videos with Orton talking about how badly he wants to be World Champion again, but most fans still go off of what they see on TV. It'll be interesting to see if the storyline will be his frustrations continuing to manifest into a heel turn. Orton vs. Sheamus at WrestleMania is still a possibility, although I would've liked to have seen something bigger happen with him and Chris Jericho last night.
While Kane and Bryan definitely got into things during the chamber, it wasn't the huge break-up many were anticipating. I think that's coming very soon though.
Mark Henry, despite getting pinned clean, still came out of the Elimination Chamber looking like a monster. He pinned both of the tag team champions, then after it took a Codebreaker and RKO to pin him, he came back into the ring and destroyed the three remaining competitors, getting back all of his heat. The problem is I'm not sure what you do with him from here. One idea I had was to pair him up with the Big Show, who is also no longer a part of the World Championship picture, and have them go after the Tag Team Championships. The World's Strongest Man and the World's Largest Athlete (World's Finest?) could take the titles from Team Hell No, and then face Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara at WrestleMania. The seeds were already planted when Henry returned and crushed them both, and the size disparity between the two teams would make a really cool visual.
Del Rio's victory over Big Show was an impressive one. There aren't many who can say they've made the Big Show tap out. However, I think what will be remembered most about this match was the botch when Del Rio went for the springboard enziguri to the bucket Big Show was holding and missed. He nailed it the second time, and my guess is once the DVD comes out, they'll edit out the miss if they can. It would have been a cool finish had it gone according to plan. I was surprised they didn't have Show get his heat back and KO Del Rio after the match, leading to Ziggler cashing in, but whatever.
Ziggler did actually get a match on the show, defeating Kofi Kingston in an impromptu affair made by Booker T. My guess is WWE wanted to keep open the possibility that Ziggler could cash in -- mainly in the fans' minds who might've ordered the PPV thinking it could happen since he didn't have an advertised match -- but also wanted to make sure he was showcased on the last PPV before WrestleMania, where he'll likely have a significant role. Look on the bright side, Ziggler fans, he won a match, something he hasn't done on TV in quite some time.
WWE managed to string out the feud between The Miz and Antonio Cesaro at least a bit longer with the cheap DQ finish when Miz accidentally hit Cesaro with a low blow. At this point, I'm thinking they might have another match at WrestleMania to get both of them on the card. Although I'm not sure you can stretch out this feud for seven more weeks.
Kaitlyn defeated Tamina in what was a relative squash match. The Divas division is in really bad shape right now. If AJ were to go after the Divas title at WrestleMania and be more than just arm candy for Ziggler, she might be able to breath some life into it. Otherwise, WWE might need to go the celebrity route and bring in Maria Menounous or see if Trish Stratus wants to be involved in a tag match of sorts. Or, just keep the Divas involvement in WrestleMania minimal. They definitely have done it before (WrestleMania 27, when champion Eve did a backstage segment and that was it).