Surprises and swerves have been the name of the game in past Elimination Chamber PPVs. Whether it was Edge losing his WWE Championship in one, then replacing Kofi Kingston and winning the World title in another, or Batista getting an impromptu championship match right after John Cena won the chamber two years ago, the unexpected should be expected when the Elimination Chamber is involved.
If any match is rife for a swerve, its the Smackdown World Championship match. Mark Henry and Randy Orton because of injuries (storyline or otherwise) have been replaced. And I think because their replacements aren't typical main event level stars, it would shock no one if one of them were replaced.
There's also the ominous tweet from interim Raw General Manager John Laurinaitis Sunday morning that promised "a Game changing" announcement at the PPV. Will that have to do with his and David Otunga's plan to takeover both Raw and Smackdown? Or does it have to do with Triple H, considering he capitalized the word "Game" in his tweet.
Speaking of Twitter, Captain Charisma, Christian, also teased a return tonight. He tweeted a postcard from Milwaukee, the site of tonight's PPV. No matter what the card looks like now (and I honestly don't think it's that great) the Elimination Chamber PPV always seems to deliver spectacular matches and shocking surprises.
With that in mind, let's move on to the predictions.
Smackdown Elimination Chamber for the World Heavyweight Championship: Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Big Show vs. Wade Barrett vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Great Khali vs. Santino Marella
This match has lost a lot of star power since it was first announced. To begin with, Mark Henry was taken out of the match due to a kayfabe suspension that was actually the result of him working through several injuries. Then this past week Randy Orton was removed from the match because of an apparent concussion. The jury is still out on whether that's an angle. They've been replaced with Great Khali and Santino Marella. There are any number of directions WWE could go here, and this could be the most intriguing match on the card. For one, on a PPV known for crazy swerves, it would shock no one to see another participant -- likely Santino but possibly even Bryan -- be attacked and removed from the match during the course of the show and replaced by someone with more star power. There's also the fact that Sheamus has been positioned to challenge the winner of this match (even if that hasn't been officially announced) and there seem to be a lot of people doubting Daniel Bryan will go into WrestleMania as champion.
Assuming no major changes in the line-up (such as another person getting injured, maybe Orton punting Bryan backstage and taking him out of the match) I feel like this is a two-man match coming down to Bryan and Big Show. Regardless of who wins, I'm holding steadfast in my belief that Mark Henry will enter WrestleMania as the World Champion and face Sheamus, so just to throw a curveball here, and to give him a decisive victory to finish his feud with Bryan. ...
WINNER: And NEW World Heavyweight Champion, the Big Show
Divas Championship: Beth Phoenix (c) vs. Tamina Snuka
Tamina has been on quite a role as of late, winning several squash matches on Raw and Smackdown since her push began. Hopefully, she's got a little more in her than the 2 to 3 minute matches we've been seeing. We know what Beth can do. Tamina actually provides an interesting challenge because of her background as daughter of Hall of Famer Superfly Jimmy Snuka, and the fact she has a much more muscular look than some of the model Divas like Kelly Kelly, Eve, Alicia Fox and the Bellas that we are accustomed to seeing challenge Beth. Despite the build being all about Tamina, she's not the story. She's just keeping the seat warm until Kharma returns, possibly at the conclusion of this match.
WINNER: And still Divas Champion, Beth Phoenix.
Raw Elimination Chamber for the WWE Championship: CM Punk (c) vs. Chris Jericho vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz vs. R-Truth vs. Kofi Kingston
Like the Smackdown chamber match, I think this comes down to two men: the current champion CM Punk and Chris Jericho. As former world champions and with Sheamus as a contender, I can't entirely rule out the possibility of Dolph Ziggler or even The Miz (despite being in the dog house) winning this match, but their chances are very low. In fact, I could see the Miz be the first person eliminated. If I'm booking the match, I'm putting my two best workers -- Punk and Ziggler -- in to start the match and let them pretty much go the distance. Chris Jericho is the final participant, and I don't think that's by accident. If Jericho-Punk is indeed going to be one of the main events of WrestleMania, then they'll want to keep the interaction between the two to a minimum. I wouldn't be shocked if Jericho hinds out in his pod after it opens, then attacks once Punk is the only guy left, delivering a Codebreaker on a dazed Punk and picking up the win. ...
WINNER: And NEW WWE Champion, Chris Jericho
Royal Rumble winner challenge: Sheamus vs. ???
At minimum, I expect Sheamus to deliver a promo at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, possibly letting us know who he plans to challenge at WrestleMania. I would also fully expect that announcement to be interrupted. Logically, it would make sense for either Christian or Alberto Del Rio -- both of whom have been off TV for a while with injuries -- to interupt the Celtic Warrior. Christian was in the midst of a feud with Sheamus was he was injured, and he could blame him for costing him an opportunity to participate in the Royal Rumble. Del Rio, while he couldn't blame Sheamus specifically, could challenge Sheamus as the winner of last year's Royal Rumble who couldn't participate this year. Potentially, either could coax Sheamus into putting his WrestleMania title shot on the line, although I don't think either would win. Other potential interrupters, if those two aren't ready for return from injury yet, would be Drew McIntyre or United States Champion Jack Swagger. Regardless ...
Ambulance match: Kane vs. John Cena
Several wild cards are at play in this match -- Zack Ryder, Eve Torres and the Rock. It's equally plausible that none of them get involved in the match. In fact, the most likely to actually be there is Eve. Ryder, after his hellacious fall off the stage at the hands of Kane Monday, shouldn't be anywhere near a wrestling ring. If the Rock were showing up, WWE would be promoting the crap out of it. So, it's down to Eve. Will she reveal that she was acting in alliance with the Big Red Monster the whole time, and help him defeat Cena? (Or at least try?) That all remains to be seen. The soap opera drama that has lead to this match has really lost me, and I don't know what they are really trying to accomplish through the whole thing. For once, we know the end game (Cena-Rock at WrestleMania) but I have no idea how you transition Cena from Kane to Rock seamlessly. Perhaps Kane will demolish Cena in such a way that it puts his WrestleMania match in jeopardy? That won't sell tickets. I don't know. As much as I love Cena (and for that matter, Kane, Ryder and Eve, all among my favorites) this whole angle has really lost me to the point that I don't care how it turns out. I know Cena and Rock are going to wrestle April 1 and it's probably going to be amazing, no matter how convoluted the storyline. I'll just hope for a good match here.
WINNER: John Cena