Wednesday, February 22, 2023

WWE Elimination Chamber 2023

Second night in a row that I'm attending a WWE show... it's a PPV, this time around; the Elimination Chamber PPV or whatever they're calling it. Make no mistake, however; the Elimination Chamber may be the gimmick that the show is named for, but neither Chamber match is the focal point of the main event, as beloved underdog and hometown favorite Sami Zayn challenges the dominant Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship. This was a major turning point in the story of Sami Zayn and the Bloodline and the way I saw it, there were only TWO ideal scenarios that you could go from here... but did they actually go there?

Unlike the Smackdown musings, I did watch the PPV as it aired on the WWE Network and so there's a little more structure. And honestly, there's a couple live notes I could toss there, but on a whole, there's not much too to it. I think the crowd reactions translated well to television. Maybe a couple localized chants from our section didn't quite make the cut, which is a shame because you had the one guy who constantly chanting for Mami and there were a couple random chants here and there - see the Smackdown musings because they're the same chants pretty much. But on a whole, no complains on how it was presented on television other than the usual quibbles about the shitty N64-style graphics for the entrances as well as some of the more atrocious camera work during the Men's chamber match.

So we show up around 7:30, which is when the show is supposed to take place... at least, the pre-show. We didn't get any matches beforehand because they had already laid down the Elimination Chamber that had been hanging above last night and finally got to settle down... and then just as the show was about to start, they bring up the Elimination Chamber, which made me think that we're going to have one of the grudge matches first. And then they play the opening video that opens up the show, followed by the pyro... and then they lower the Elimination Chamber, which prompts my brother to quip that the chamber is having a panic attack. For the record, my older brother has a history of panic attacks, so he would know better than anyone what that experience would be like.

And no, that is not a joke. Shame on you for thinking such things, you sick freak.

Fun Live Notes: Ariel Hewani - the guy who does MMA interviews - was spotted a couple times among the crowd. Twice on Smackdown where he was gauging the crowd reaction and once on the PPV in attendence with former MMA guy and fellow Quebecois Georges St. Pierres. Helwani also narrated a video that they showed in the arena. It's entirely possible that they aired this on TV and I missed it, but I thought it was a good video revisiting some of the highlights of WWE programming from the Centre. You can actually watch the video on Youtube.

Asuka and her killer klown make-up gimmick defeated Carmella, Raquel Rodriguez, Liv Morgan, Nikki Cross, and Natalya in the Women's Elimination Chamber match to earn a RAW Women's title match at Wrestlemania against reigning champ Bianca Belair (assuming she makes it as champ, that is). The match had a bit of a slow start at first, but once Asuka came into the picture, things definitely picked up in the pacing department and we got a good match out of it. When it came down to Asuka and Carmella, there was no doubt who'd be winning and honestly, I'm fine with Asuka getting the win here. Some people say that Asuka isn't a worthy Mania challenger. Those people can go fornicate themselves.

Bobby Lashley defeated Brock Lesnar via disqualification when Lesnar, while trapped in Lashley's Hurt Lock submission, kicked ol' Bobby Who in the balls... and then Brock F5s the ref who made the call and F5s Lashley through a table. Well, it was fun while it lasted, but ultimately worthless. So does that mean Bray Wyatt is going to challenge Bobby Lashley at Mania? Maybe... but it's better than what Brock is probably going to be stuck with.

A Wrestlemania Goes Hollywood trailer plays, with Seth Rollins doing his best Joker cosplay while Becky Lynch does her shittiest Batman growl. I enjoyed the old trailers that they did for Wrestlemania 21; those were always fun. But if this is any indication as to the quality of this next wave, we're all in trouble.

Edge & Beth Phoenix defeated Finn Balor & Rhea Ripley in a pretty good match. Neither Edge nor Beth looked like they missed a beat in there and both Finn and Rhea are at the top of their game. Also, glad to see Edge make a comeback and actually win a fucking match. That's just edgy.

Fun Live Notes: All throughout the night, there was a guy in our section who was constantly chanting We Want Mami, in reference to Rhea. Even after the match was done, he was still wanting some Mami. Also special mention is the loud, almost merciless "Fuck You, Dominick" chants. When you're such a despicable human being that the crowd is throwing "Fuck You" chants your way, you're doing your job as a hell exceptionally well.

United States Champion Austin Theory defeated Seth Rollins, Montez Ford, Bronson Reed, Damian Priest, and Johnny Gargano in the Men's Canada Dry Elimination Chamber Match For The United States Championship to retain the title... okay, minus the Canada Dry part; I added that myself because the branding could've been funny as fuck. Anyway, this was also pretty good, though my older brother would argue that the women's match was better. There was a point where Montez was on the receiving end of both Theory and Rollins' finishes before getting pinned and he seemed out for a long time, to the point where they got a bunch of guys checking up on him. So they get him out and as they're doing that, that Youtube guy - Logan what's his face - shows up and Buck Eyes Rollins, allowing Theory to retain the title. Well, I guess it's Logan vs. Seth at Mania... meh.

Fun Live Notes: Montez Ford is one half of the Street Profits and the entrance has him coming out while there's red plastic cups falling from above, which I thought was odd, but that's the gimmick, so whatever. Then hilarity ensues as behind Montez, you have a couple dozen guys scrambling to pick up all these fucking cups off ground and for a whole minute, I was mesmerized by these jabrons scuttling about, picking up all these fucking cups. Quite hilarious, actually.

Next up is the main event, with the video playing that recounts the whole Sami Zayn/Bloodline storyline from then to now. Out of all the video packages that WWE has put out over the years, this has been one of the better ones, as it does a fine job of highlighting the major points of the story and bringing anyone out of the loop up to speed.

Undisputed WWE Champion Roman Reigns defeated Sami Zayn to retain the title in a great match that ended in the most unsatisfying way. It is a perfect scenario that you don't see often in WWE these days; a despised heel champion walks out first, much to the visceral hatred of the Montreal crowd; a reaction that comes to close to (but not quite) rivalry some of the most incensed reactions that Roman received during his abortive babyface run when this company was trying to cram this guy down people's throats. And then out comes Sami Zayn to the biggest pop of the night, being given (for the second night in a row) a hero's welcome. As an added bonus (and something I neglected to mention in the Smackdown musings), they brought back Sami Zayn's old NXT music, which I always thought was a catchy little beat, so I'm happy they did this, if only for the sake of having one guy with halfway decent entrance music.

Then the match begins... there's a lot of stalling and taunting of the crowd. The crowd let out their loudest "Fuck you, Roman" chants and Roman just shrugs it off, as if to say, "That's the best you got, bro?" Sami, on the other hand, gets the big babyface reactions. Almost deafening in the Bell Centre. I'm telling you right now; any noise being made here did NOT translate to television.

And then the match begins... rather predictably, Roman get the majority of the offense at first, with Sami getting a couple shots in at most before getting pummeled. It's a slow start and Sami seems to be outmatched at first, but the crowd doesn't give up hope. They cheer Sami on and eventually Sami starts to mount a bit of comeback... before getting shut down. This happens a couple times before Sami evades a spear, manages an Aquaman punch of his own, and even nails his signature Blue Thunder Bomb move for the two-count. The crowd is on fire and this is where, for all intents and purposes, there was the sliver of a chance that Sami Zayn might actually be able to defeat Roman Reigns.

And then the ref bump happens, Sami nails Roman with the Helluva Kick and gets the visual pinfall, but nobody is there to make the count... and out comes Jimmy Uso, who somehow managed to get past Canadian border patrols to show up and superkick Sami a couple times before Roman goes for the pin... but Sami kicks out. Now things are REALLY picking up and the crowd is HOT. Sooner or later, there is another ref bump and Sami's down and out. Roman goes for a chair, he's about to hit Sami, and then this brings us Jey Uso - the conflicted Uso of this duo who had finally learned to trust Sami after Survivor Series - who stops Roman from hitting Sami with the chair. So Roman give Jey the chair and HE'S conflicted even more. He hesitates, Roman goads him, talks down to him, and just before Jey could make his decision, Sami Zayn comes in, lunges towards Roman with a spear of his own, only for Roman to move out of the way, causing Sami to take down Jey instead. Sami looks down at Jey, realizing he fucked up, and at that point, what was once a molten Montreal crowd suddenly deflate as they realize that Sami Zayn's dream of defeating Roman Reigns will end in failure.

Sure enough, Roman Reigns smashes Sami with a chair and finishes him off for the pinfall victory, thus retaining his Undisputed WWE Championship in a match that has been an incredible ride of emotions that ended in the most limp dick manner possible.

As I eluded at the start of this musings, there were two possible scenarios that WWE could play out that would've saved face. One would've been the obvious direction that they wanted to go, which is to have Jey cost Sami the match and screw him out of the championship, which, in turn, prompts Kevin Owens to come out and save his best friend. Both guys would reunited and go after the Usos and take their tag titles. Not necessarily because they want the tag titles (though that would be nice) because what better way to get revenge on the Usos, who have been a constant thorn on these men's sides, than to deprive them of the thing they cherish most? It's less about winning the titles and more about hurting the Usos and, ultimately, put a chink in the wall of the Bloodline. And before the PPV took place, that's the direction I expected them to go and if that's the case, I would've been fine with that. Give the two Quebecois a crack at the Usos for the titles and a measure of revenge, while leaving Roman open to focus on Cody Rhodes - to whom the crowd reacted somewhat positively to whenever he popped up on screen during the recap videos.

But then there's the other possible scenario... and considering the crowd reaction and the organically magical and spontaneous reaction that occurred this past weekend in regards to Sami Zayn, the other course of action would've been to have Sami Zayn beat Roman Reigns and win the championship in Montreal. Whatever happens after the fact is up to debate; does he make it to Mania with the belt? Does he lose it before hand? It's happened before and it could happen again. I'm not speaking of this in regards to how it plays in the storyline because it's clear that WWE has a very specific story they want to tell, one that may not jive with what the fans are feeling is the best course. And because we want these stories to make sense, Sami losing the match via underhanded means and somehow directing him towards a feud with the Usos as a measure of revenge or to chink the Bloodline fence is the right call.

That having been said, what happened this past weekend was such a magical moment. A once in a lifetime moment that can never be recreated no matter how hard they tried. They could have Sami challenge Roman for the title at Mania if they wanted to go in that direction, but it wouldn't be the same. The venue might've been bigger, but the reaction wouldn't have been as strong. People will complain about the tag titles being a step down, but I'd argue that winning the title at Wrestlemania or just being part of the main event picture at Mania in a three-way scenario is even MORE of a downgrade. If there ever was a moment to give Sami Zayn the title when you could have generated the most buzz, this was the night to do it. This was the right time to pull the trigger, create a moment that will likely be replayed for years to come, and bringing credence to the long-pushed promise that anything can happen in WWE. They had the perfect opportunity to prove that to be the case.

You listen to that reaction that Sami got at Smackdown the night prior; like I said, he got the Hogan treatment. He was given a hero's welcome; the likes of which WWE has not seen in years. It is the most organic crowd response to a babyface underdog since maybe the Daniel Bryan days. And then you see Sami getting the big reactions during the match with Roman. And as that match was going, there was the slimmest possibility that Sami may actually pull it off. He might be the guy to end Roman Reigns' two-year run as champion. A week before that, no way in hell would the guy who has been treated as a flunky and whose last major singles match was losing to one of the dorks from Jackass be the one who slayed the tribal chief. It wouldn't have made sense... but that crowd reaction, man... whatever you heard on TV, I guaran-damn-tee you, that does not compare to the live reaction. There was a chance that Sami could walk out of Montreal the WWE Champion.

Maybe they should've pulled the trigger in hindsight and gone through with it. A Wrestlemania main event happens twice a year and isn't that big a deal. Something like this taking place on a PPV event that is often considered an afterthought at most is something that you simply could not ignore and if you do, you'd better have a damn good way to steering the crowd towards the direction you intend on going in a way that does not disappoint the crowd and encourages them to follow along this path you've planned on going.

Instead, Roman Reigns retained the title and defeated Sami Zayn in his hometown in front of his hometown crowd in the worst possible way that you can have the guy lose. Sami wasn't screwed out of the title, he wasn't betrayed or anything like that. He accidently speared the wrong guy and that gave the other guy the opening he needed to take out Zayn for good. Zayn's downfall was his own fault and even worse, Jey has all the more reason to be mad at Sami and turn on him. It deflated a hot crowd, it may have been possibly harmed Sami, and most of all, it made me not care about what happens afterwards because, at the end of the day, this is WWE, where no matter who's in care of creative, no matter how much of a surefire hit they have in their hands, no matter how much of a no-brainer it is to make this hot thing even hotter, no matter how unfuck-uppable something may seem, they will invariably find some way to fuck this up.

Glad to see they did not disappoint in that regard. And I was actually enjoying myself this time around.

At the point, we started to make our way out towards the exit in order to beat the traffic and then as I was walking out, Kevin Owens' music hit, I immediately turn around and there he is, walking very slowly, taking out Jimmy Uso a stunner, putting him through a table, he goes after Roman, Heyman tries and fails to stop Owens, and then Owens sees Sami and steps aside to let Sami get one Helluva Kick on Roman and Owens walks off, both men staring at each other, but no words spoken... and that's where the show ends... that's where we walk out... and that's when my older brother chimes in and says "Sami has terrible friends."

Then we head home, I notice on Youtube, WWE has a highlights video from the PPV and I wrote a comment on how "Kevin Owens come out to save his friend, after his friend lost the big title match. Moral of the story; Sami Zayn needs better friends."

So all in all, I enjoyed the show watching it live and even on a second watch via the PPV airing, I thought it was a tremendous show. All the matches were pretty damn good, everyone did a fine job, put on a good show, never a point where I was bored or uninterested in what was going on. And outside of the downer ending in the main event, the crowd was hot. They were enjoying themselves. It was a fun atmosphere. And any time you have a show in Montreal, you're going to have a hot fucking crowd. That's pretty much the gist of it.

Two WWE PPVs into 2023 and they've been tremendous shows, so whatever happens next, I'm enjoying the ride immensely and for the first time in a long while, I am actually excited for Wrestlemania... even if we have to sit through some truly horrendous Wrestlemania Goes Hollywood fake trailers. I've seen the one previous showcasing the other stuff that's coming up and my hopes aren't high... but I suppose we'll see.

For what it's worth, I enjoyed the show while I was there life and on a second watch via the PPV airing, the show was pretty good.

All in all, I had a good time at both shows.

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