WWE ensured Wyatt's first title win was no fluke, allowing him to hit his Sister Abagail finisher on both John Cena and AJ Styles, pinning the men consecutively on his way to victory. There was no interference in the match as some expected, and Wyatt was build to look as strong as ever by winning the championship legitimately over the last two men to hold the belt.
As such, Wyatt's win marked the 11th time in 19 Elimination Chamber matches that the champion(s) was unable to defend his title. He will move on to face Randy Orton, winner of the 2017 Royal Rumble and his Wyatt Family stablemate, at WrestleMania 33, though there are seven weeks to go until the event and that match could transform in some way.
Just one bout earlier, Naomi captured the first championship of her career by defeating Alexa Bliss in the co-main event. Like Wyatt, the Orlando, Florida, native has been on the main roster since 2012 but never held a singles belt until Sunday night.
Though most expected Wyatt to win the Elimination Chamber, Naomi's victory was a pleasant surprise and brings added intrigue to the women's division down the stretch.
Elimination Chamber results
Mojo Rawley def. Kurt Hawkins via pinfall (Kickoff Show): Nothing to write home about here, though Rawley was given two separate spots in which to shine during the match. What's confusing here is WWE's decision to bring back Hawkins, promote his return for weeks with vignettes and then hand him an awful gimmick with no shot of succeeding ... plus have him lose on a pay-per-view.
Becky Lynch def. Mickie James via pinfall: James absolutely dominated Lynch for much of the match, working on Lynch's left arm throughout and hitting a Mick Kick that may have resulted in a fall had Lynch not been positioned under the ropes. That miscue gave Lynch an opening to turn the tables, and she did just that by reversing a James roll-up into one of her own for the 1-2-3.
Apollo Crews & Kalisto def. Dolph Ziggler via pinfall: What was supposed to be a 2-on-1 handicap match with Crews and Kalisto teaming up became a singles match after Ziggler attacked Kalisto during his entrance and threw him into the big screen atop the ramp. As Ziggler took the upper hand in the ring, Kalisto began limping down to the squared circle, distracting Ziggler and giving Crews an opening to hit an insiguri. Kalisto was able to make the tag and get in some offense before Crews hit a spin-out powerbomb for the victory. Ziggler attacked Kalisto after the match at ringside and then placed Crews' ankle inside a chair in the ring and crushing it twice. Ziggler got some good heel heat coming out of the match, which was the point of the whole thing in the first place.
Tag Team Championship (Turmoil Match) -- American Alpha (c) def. The Ascension via pinfall to retain the titles: Rhyno hit the Gore for an easy opening pinfall in the match, which consists of teams continuously entering and being eliminated until there is one left standing. Heath Slater got a bump with the next fall as he eliminated The Vaudevillains following a DDT. The tone of the match changed quickly once The Usos entered as they easily dispatched of Slater with a superkick in a show of experience and dominance. American Alpha entered next, and The Usos met them at the ramp to get the action going quickly. Once back in the ring, AA hit simultaneous suplexes to take the upper hand.
The Usos looked like they might eliminate AA, but Chad Gable scored a fantastic surprise roll-up for a three count. Rather than take the loss and head to the back, The Usos attacked AA after their elimination, throwing Gable into the steel steps and hitting Jason Jordan with a frog splash inside the ring, leaving the champions down and out as The Ascension hit the ring.
The Ascension immediately hit Fall of Man on Jordan, but Gable broke it up before getting thrown out of the ring. Jordan kicked out of another pin attempt and immediately suplexed Viktor before finding a way to get to Gable for the tag. With Konnor recovering outside the ring, AA quickly hit the Grand Amplitude on Viktor for the 1-2-3. By putting AA at such a disadvantage and still allowing it to win, WWE did a great job building credibility for the young champions.
Order of entry (elimination): Heath Slater & Rhyno (3), Breezango (1), The Vaudevillains (2), The Usos (4), American Alpha [c] (not eliminated), The Ascension (5)
Nikki Bella vs. Natalya ruled a no contest via double countout: A solid, even rivalry match between two of the most experienced women on the WWE roster. The moment of the match came as Nikki reversed a Sharpshooter into the STF submission used by her boyfriend, John Cena, though Natalya was able to break the hold. The two immediately continued the fight outside the ring with Nikki running to stop a count out and Natalya catching her from behind before she could reenter the ring. Natalya attacked Nikki after that, but after the two were separated, Nikki chased Natalya up the entrance ramp and hit her with a powerful spear.
Following the match below, Natalya attacked Nikki backstage and the two had to be separated by referees. Among the casualties was Maryse, who was wearing all black only to be covered in powder as something was spilled on her.
Randy Orton def. Luke Harper via pinfall: There was never much question who would win this match but rather how it would get to the inevitable conclusion. Orton had the upper hand on Harper throughout the first half of the match, so much so that he actually climbed to the top rope for his signature pose not once but twice. Haprer got in some good offense in the latter stages of the match, earning two close pinfalls following consecutive superkicks and a sit-down powerbomb. Just as he was setting Orton up for a massive clothesline, Orton recovered and caught Harper with an RKO outta nowhere to pick up the expected victory. With WWE desperately needing to develop new legitimate singles stars on SmackDown, shopefully this is an opportunity for Harper to get a real push with his own unique gimmick going forward. Otherwise, a great match and good showing by the big man will be a complete waste.
Women's Championship -- Naomi def. Alexa Bliss (c) via pinfall to win the title: The action was fast and furious in this one with it looking for most of the match like Bliss would retain her belt. Naomi hit two splendid springboard split-leg moonsaults -- blocking a splash by Bliss in between -- to pin the champion and capture a belt for the first time in her career. Following the match, Naomi was showered with chants of, "You deserve it!" by the crowd and explained how thrilled she was to be taking the title into her hometown of Orlando, Florida, for WrestleMania 33. It was a special and somewhat unexpected moment, one that Naomi, yes, completely deserved after years of grinding it out in the women's division.
WWE Championship (Elimination Chamber) -- Bray Wyatt def. AJ Styles via pinfall to win the title: WWE made some changes to the chamber, namely adding more cameras and putting a flat black mat on the platform around the ring as opposed the classic metal grating. John Cena and AJ Styles kicked things off with a mini version of their tremendous match from Royal Rumble. Cena hitting a sunset flip powerbomb was an early highlight, but Dean Ambrose brought a new energy to the proceedings when he entered, cleaned house and hit Cena with a flying elbow from the top of his pod. Cena followed that with a super German suplex, putting all three men on the mat.
The spots were plentiful after Bray Wyatt and Baron Corbin entered, too, especially Styles knocking Cena from atop the chamber followed by a combination powerbomb and superplex between Ambrose, Wyatt and Styles. Corbin hit Styles and Cena consecutively with End of Days but was unable to put together a pinning attempt for either. He was soon the last man standing after pushing Ambrose butt-first off the top rope into the cage portion of the chamber. It was at that point that The Miz's number was called, but Miz's tentativeness distracted Corbin and allowed Ambrose to get a roll-up 1-2-3 for the first elimination. Corbin attacked Ambrose after the fact, throwing him through a pod and continuing the assault with an End of Days in the ring; as one would expect, The Miz jumped at the opportunity to pin and eliminate Ambrose.
The Miz took advantage of his wounded competitors with plenty of offense, even hitting a Skull-Crushing Finale on Wyatt on the platform; however, Cena caught him with an Attitude Adjustment inside the ring for the third elimination of the match. Cena followed with an AA on Wyatt and traded finishers with Styles for a pair of two counts. He then climbed atop a pod and splashed Styles and Wyatt leaving all three motionless in the ring. Wyatt somehow capitalized, reversing an AA into Sister Abagail to pin Cena and guarantee a new champion for the 11th time in 19 Elimination Chamber matches.
Wyatt displayed more energy than Styles in the final stages of the match, which makes sense as Styles began the bout and Wyatt was the fourth entrant. Styles was able to hit a springboard 450 splash, but Wyatt caught him in mid-air as Styles was attempting a Phenomenal Forearm and instead hit Sister Abagail to win the match and win his first heavyweight title in WWE.
Order of entry (elimination): John Cena [c] (4), AJ Styles (5), Dean Ambrose (2), Bray Wyatt (not eliminated), Baron Corbin (1), The Miz (3)
Elimination Chamber previous winners
Shawn Michaels (2002), Triple H (2003, '05, '09), John Cena (2006, '10, '11), Bobby Lashley (2006), The Undertaker (2008), Edge (2009, '11), Chris Jericho (2010), CM Punk (2012), Daniel Bryan (2012), Jack Swagger (2013), Randy Orton (2014), The New Day (2015), Ryback (2015)
WWE Elimination Chamber 2017 was mostly bubble gum for the eyes
After an epic, unforgettable Royal Rumble just two weeks ago, the Smackdown brand returned with its final pay-per-view event before Wrestlemania—the gimmicky but action-packed steel structure known as the Elimination Chamber. And that’s what this show delivered in spades: action, moves, high-risk spots, lather, rinse, repeat. Even if it offered the Wrestlemania card a bit more clarity (Orton vs. Wyatt looks to be the championship match), the show was three hours of mostly bubble gum for the eyes. It was neither the most incidental show from a storyline perspective, nor could it match the pure wrestling spectacle of the Rumble. But you can’t call the show a bore neither.
The show began with a solid curtain raiser between Mickie James and Becky Lynch, a match showcasing James’ diverse moveset. The 37-year-old James put on an impressive, wide-ranging clinic of holds, submission techniques and offensive maneuvers, and proved why she should contend for the Smackdown women’s title. (Whether she gets lost in the shuffle remains to be seen.) For storyline purposes, Lynch—a likeable fan favorite—had to win here and continue her momentum. How this manifests at Wrestlemania remains to be seen, although the fantasy booker in me would put Lynch, James, Alexa Bliss, Naomi, and Natalya in a championship ladder match.
The match that followed made no sense on paper. Why would Kalisto and Apollo Crews, two supposed good guys, be competing two-on-one against a Dolph Ziggler, a supposed bad guy who 80 percent of the crowd cheers for anyway? This makes little sense if you follow standard storytelling logic; the protagonist should be pitted against two antagonists, and ideally, the good guy facing insurmountable odds would prevail.
At first, I thought this illogical setup was resolved even before the bell rung. As Kalisto made his entrance, Ziggler ambushed the luchador from behind, incapacitating him, making it a one-on-one match between Ziggler and Crews for much of the match. OK, so Kalisto was the goat, sort of made sense. Then three-quarters of the way through the bout, Kalisto came stumbling back and the handicap match was back in effect. The finish reinforced the irrationality of the booking: Crews beat Ziggler with his spinning sit-out powerbomb. The good guys look like geeks because it took two of them to beat one dude. Ziggler, despite his heel-enforcing post-match antics snapping Crews’ ankles, came away with a loss. Wins and losses still matter, and this match did no one any favors.
The tag team turmoil bout that followed was effective because with 2-3 minutes for each matchup, it was all action and no filler. Heath Slater/Rhyno eliminated Breezango first, getting the comedy byplay out of the way. The Vaudevillians came next and were quickly dispatched. The Usos entered and dispatched Slater/Rhyno, setting up a showdown with American Alpha. After Chad Gable pinned Jey Uso, both members of American Alpha were jumped by The Usos and made into raw meat for the final team, The Ascension. Even left for dead, American Alpha pulled out a Grand Amplitude, because the thought of The Ascension as tag team champions is patently absurd.
Nikki Bella and Natalya had themselves a nice little match—Bella, especially, has improved her game in recent months—but the double count-out finish made the match feel meaningless (also, Bella totally no-sold the sharpshooter).
Luke Harper had the highest-profiled match of his life against Randy Orton. With Orton headlining Wrestlemania, the outcome of this bout was all but certain. Still, it was a chance for Harper—a well-regarded wrestler during his Evolve and Dragon Gate days—to convince the WWE brass he deserves to be higher on the card. Harper showed some nice moves for a man his size, including a drop kick, a senton atomico, and a tope through the middle ropes. The last few minutes of this match featured a number of believable nearfalls, including a pair of super kicks and a sit-out powerbomb from Harper. In the end, going for a discus lariat, Harper is met with an RKO outta nowhere! (And Harper sold the finisher as effectively as a Stone Cold stunner.)
There was a nice surprise winner in the Smackdown women’s championship match as Naomi captured the title from Alexa Bliss in a fun match. The best part came after the match, in a moment when pro wrestling and reality collided—Naomi holding her new belt, the crowd chanting “you deserve it,” and the new champion breaking down in tears.
Finally we arrived at the Elimination Chamber, and the problem with this storyline coming in was the relative lack of surprise. Let’s reverse engineer who could conceivably walk away the champion and face Randy Orton in the main event of Wrestlemania. Certainly not Baron Corbin; that would be a terrible match. Likely not Dean Ambrose, who will compete in his own Intercontinental championship, like a multi-person match. Most likely it wouldn’t be John Cena, since that matchup has been done ad nauseum and they just gave away that match on last week’s Smackdown. The Miz has been a fun act with his real-life wife Maryse, but the duo seems earmarked for a non-title story leading into Wrestlemania. That leaves A.J. Styles, who would have a hell of a match with Randy Orton, and Bray Wyatt, who makes better sense in storyline—brother against brother.
John Cena and A.J. Styles began this match, picking up from their incredible Royal Rumble performance. Dean Ambrose came in next, and the three-way reprised their great triple threat match from No Mercy last October. Bray Wyatt entered next and up to this point, much of the action was one-on-one interactions as participants took turns “taking a nap” outside the ring. Baron Corbin came in and delivered a series of End of Days to everyone in sight. Corbin got schoolboyed by Ambrose as The Miz entered with hesitation, and Corbin laid waste to Ambrose in anger. The Miz took advantage of the situation and pins the incapacitated Ambrose. After The Miz did all the Daniel Bryan moves to draw heat, John Cena caught him in a crossbody attempt and turned it into an Attitude Adjustment for the pin and elimination.
Cena, Styles and Wyatt were the final three. Cena executed an atrocious-looking ten-knuckle shuffle. Styles hits the Styles Clash on Cena, but Cena kicked out. Styles’ springboard forearm was countered into an Attitude Adjustment by Cena, which Styles kicked out. Then Cena climbed the chainlink fence and atop a pod (as someone in the crowd yelled, “don’t kill yourself, Cena!”) Cena leapt into a crossbody from the top of the pod and into both Styles and Wyatt.
Wyatt then escaped another Attitude Adjustment by Cena and countered into his Sister Abigail, pinning Cena, which drew the biggest pop of the night.
As predicted, Styles and Wyatt—the two most likely opponents for Randy Orton at Wrestlemania—were the final two competitors. Styles hits the 450 splash on Wyatt. Wyatt kicked out. Styles went for the springboard forearm. Wyatt caught him for a Sister Abigail outta nowhere! One-two-three and Bray Wyatt—son of I.R.S., brother of the Bo-liever—is your new WWE champion. An Orton-Wyatt staredown from a distance ended the show. Not what I would consider a marquee championship bout, but at least with new blood in the title picture, color me intrigued.