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Chair Shots: Top star out of WWE Elimination Chamber; his replacement and analysis

Once WWE.com announces something, I no longer consider it to be a spoiler. And chances are if you're reading my blog, you already know who is no longer in the Elimination Chamber and who his replacement will be. The news was announced at Tuesday's Smackdown tapings and later on WWE.com.

So if you want to wait until Friday, be my guest. Just come back to read my analysis after you've watched Smackdown. Otherwise, keep reading.

Apparently, Randy Orton has suffered yet another injury -- this time a concussion -- and has been pulled from the Smackdown Elimination Chamber match at the PPV. His replacement, after a battle royal on Smackdown, is Santino Marella. Don't believe me? Here's the link.

The World Heavyweight Championship match, in addition to current champion Daniel Bryan, Big Show, Wade Barrett and Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes, now also features comedy acts in the Great Khali and Santino. Both are far cries from the men they replaced -- Mark Henry and Randy Orton -- both originally named participants in the Elimination Chamber. As I wrote a few days ago, I can at least make a reasoned argument for Khali because of his size and status as a former world champion. But Santino, despite his popularity, is a mid-card comedy act. He doesn't belong in this spot.

Oddly enough, Mark Henry also appeared on Smackdown -- apparently his suspension is up -- and I think it caught everyone by surprise that he didn't earn the spot. I'm not even positive he was in the battle royal, because I haven't seen detailed spoilers online yet.

Nevertheless, I can't help but think this story is a complete work, and the angle will unfold further at the pay-per-view on Sunday. And if it's not a work, WWE will be turning it into one.

WWE.com reported that Orton suffered the concussion when Daniel Bryan hit him with the title belt on Raw. That part, I think, is clearly storyline. If Orton did suffer a head injury during the match, it probably wasn't there, but WWE will use it to further the issue between the Viper and the reigning World Champion, who I believe are on a collision course for WrestleMania.

It wouldn't surprise me in the least if Orton was still at the Elimination Chamber PPV, doing a backstage interview with Josh Mattews, when Daniel Bryan approaches him and starts spouting off, then Orton attacks him and punts him in the head and out of his title defense.

It would open a spot for another deserving candidate at the last minute, probably Mark Henry, who I believe very strongly will enter WrestleMania as the World Champion and face Royal Rumble winner Sheamus there.

Doing an angle like this would also give both Bryan and Orton a reason to have a grudge match at WrestleMania.

Finally, if this is simply an angle, I'm betting it was done because WWE wants to protect Orton (and maybe Bryan if my above prediction is true). In the Chamber, you pretty much have to lose clean if you aren't walking out with the title. Orton doesn't exactly do clean jobs much these days, so taking him out of the chamber because they want to put the title on someone else is a smart way to do it.

However, in case this is legitimate, I'd be worried about Orton's long-term future. He suffered a concussion in June the week leading up to Capital Punishment last spring during a house show. Two head injuries in less than a year is a problem. I wondered then if it was a work or legitimate as well. As it turned out, Orton wrestled that Sunday and it never really came to light if it was just an angle. My guess is this incident won't either. But WWE should be cautious with Orton going forward. There's also that alleged back injury he suffered a few months ago that also wasn't clear if it was real or a work.

I do think it's worth noting, though, that last week when R-Truth was knocked silly, WWE immediately had something on their website saying he was OK and won't miss time. Granted, it was more obvious to those watching that R-Truth was legitimately hurt than it was Orton this past week, if Orton in fact was. But the news of Orton's injury didn't really break until right before the Smackdown tapings started. Maybe it didn't get diagnosed until Orton showed up at the building and complained of headaches or something.

Call me cynical, but I can't help but to smell a rat here. Besides, in professional wrestling, I've long believed that everything is a work until proven otherwise.

What do you think, and who do you now think the favorite to win the World Championship at Elimination Chamber?

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