The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of Wrestling Inc or its staff
Elimination Chamber marked the end of the WWE Network for many WWE fans. While the Network will still operate for international fans, the next PPV, Fast Lane, will be on Peacock. The experience for fans should not be too different on Peacock than it is right now, but it will be a melancholy goodbye for a service that changed the wrestling industry.
By knocking the price of PPVs down to $10 per month, and also giving fans instant access to countless hours of archived content, the WWE Network was a wrestling fan’s dream and completely changed the way fans viewed the product. Other wrestling companies followed suit and created their own networks to host live events and archived content, and the instant-access to classic PPVs and television shows is to this day, an indispensable resource for wrestling fans.
The WWE Network was never as financially as successful as the company originally hoped. It never came close to the original projections for subscriptions, and different economic studies have shown that WWE would have made more money if they simply stuck to the old PPV model. In the long run, it made sense for WWE to sell the service to Peacock, basically punting on the idea that the WWE Network itself would ever reach it’s original goals and had a limited ceiling.
The service was still a great tool, and the final PPV to air on it, Elimination Chamber, was a reasonably entertaining show. Despite a really confusing build and the unfortunate cancellation/alteration of a few advertised matches, the show was generally enjoyable. There is always some awkwardness when it comes to the two PPV events between Royal Rumble and WrestleMania, since fans already know some of the matches that will take place at WrestleMania the world title matches on these shows often feel like superfluous filler.
While most of the show was solid, the final match was a really puzzling decision that highlights a continued problem with WWE. The WWE Network signing off with fans being confused about a creative decision is actually a fairly fitting tribute to the WWE product during the lifespan of the network.
The Miz vs Drew McIntyre: No Rating
I don’t get this at all. Clearly, the idea is that The Miz will be a short-term title holder as he steals the title from McIntyre and then will drop the title to Lashley, which will probably set up McIntyre regaining the title at WrestleMania, getting that big title victory at WrestleMania in front of a live crowd, which he was denied last year.
My issue with this booking is that McIntyre doesn’t have to lose the title to do any of this. They could just have Lashley as a protected heel challenge McIntyre at WrestleMania, and McIntyre can have a big win over him at WrestleMania. There is not a lot of inherent value in McIntyre specifically winning the title at WrestleMania; he won the title last year and has been the champion for most of the year, nothing new is being accomplished by doing this title-swapping.
Instead, they are taking the title off of McIntyre, forcing him to regain the title again. Doing the title swap with Randy Orton last year didn’t help him at all, and I don’t think this will either. I get that WWE is also probably hoping interest in the title swap will help RAW’s sagging ratings, but you can’t simply pass the title around like a prop in hopes of boosting ratings for RAW. The long-term solution to the ratings problem is to establish a major drawing star, and I think this move is regressive; it isn’t going to help McIntyre.
The Miz has been treated like a complete joke for the past year, and I think his run as Mr. Money in the Bank hurt the value of the briefcase, because he was just a geek running around with it. I get he will be a transitional champion, and the story is kind of supposed to be that he is a geek with the title; but the title needs to be protected in some way. A geek like The Miz should never hold it, otherwise it hurts its overall importance and drawing value. McIntyre needs to continue to be established as a major star; senselessly swapping the title around in an inane quest for short-term ratings and a “WrestleMania Moment” is not going to cut it.
Jey Uso vs Daniel Bryan vs Cesaro vs Kevin Owens vs King Corbin vs Sami Zayn: ***3/4
I thought this match went a little long and it took a really long time for all the competitors to come out and the match to feel alive, but I thought it was very smartly designed, particularly involving the final three eliminations. Jey Uso did well outsmarting Owens, beating him down and beating him cleanly, which gave him some solid credibility as a smart, capable heel that can beat top babyfaces. Cesaro was clearly made to be the star of the match and did everything one would expect of him, but was knocked-out by Uso who took the typical heel route to slyly eliminated Cesaro. Bryan of course, finds a way to win the match by getting the better of an arrogant Uso.
Some people may have expected Cesaro to win the match and were disappointed he did not. I thought Cesaro looked great and while he is capable of being put in a main event spot; we have spent a decade being told by WWE that Vince McMahon simply does not see him at that level, so I really didn’t expect him to win the match. I’d like to have seen him in the spot Bryan is in because it would be something different, but him getting some shine in this match is really his ceiling in WWE.
Maybe it was just me, but I felt like the Elimination Chamber not being in front of fans hurt the aura of the match. I’ve really gotten use to wrestling without live fans, and in general WWE’s atmosphere in the Thunderdome is pretty decent all things considered, but not having a live crowd for this match made it feel kind of sterile and very controlled.
Daniel Bryan vs Roman Reigns: **
I viewed this match as basically a post-match angle as opposed to an actual wrestling match. I figure that Bryan will get a title shot at Fast Lane, and the Elimination Chamber match was essentially a #1 contenders match for that title match at Fast Lane. I did like that they kept this really simple; Reigns came out immediately after the Elimination Chamber match for maximum cruelty, and after one brief hope spot, beat the crap out of Bryan and squashed him in two minutes. At Fast Lane, I don’t think Reigns should beat Bryan at Fast Lane, but for tonight it was fine because it was all about showing that Reigns is a coward for immediately going after a beaten man.
Kofi Kingston vs Sheamus vs Randy Orton vs AJ Styles vs Jeff Hardy vs Drew McIntyre: **1/2
This match was the second chamber match of the night, and we probably don’t need two of these types of matches. Everyone worked hard, but I thought this match lacked the psychology of the SmackDown chamber match, which had a much more interesting story. Most of this match just felt like a lot of random brawling without any real tension outside of the novelty of the match, which isn’t even that novel since we already saw the same type of match earlier in the night. I never believed that McIntyre was losing this match, unlike the SmackDown match which was more unpredictable.
Matt Riddle vs Bobby Lashley vs John Morrison: **3/4
John Morrison got added to this match after winning an unannounced #1 contenders match on the pre-show, as a replacement for Keith Lee, who mysteriously missed the show. The reason they had to add a third man to the match was because WWE wanted to get the US title on Riddle without pinning Lashely, who is the most protected man in wrestling.
The match was fine, nothing spectacular and designed around the fact that Lashley is far too superior to be beaten by any of these geeks. Riddle won the title by pinning Morrison after temporarily immobilizing Lashley by hitting him with a crutch. Riddle on RAW is made constantly to look like an uncool goof, so him winning a midcard title that nobody cares about (and didn’t even pin the champion) doesn’t move the needle that much for me.
The sad thing is that Lashley has been such a dominant champion that if WWE actually wanted to get Riddle over, they would have had him beat Lashley in a dramatic, hard-fought match. That might have actually really helped Riddle; instead he basically stumbled into this title and it doesn’t really help anybody.
Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair vs Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax: *1/2
This was not good. Nia Jax just isn’t athletic at all in the ring and hard to move. Belair is a great athlete but isn’t there in the ring yet to carry somebody like Jax to an entertaining match. Banks is at that level, but she was not really in the match that much until the finish. Speaking of which, I don’t get the point of inserting Reginald into whatever Banks and Belair are doing. What is the payoff to it? Banks beats up Reginald? Who cares about that, he is the sommelier? I suppose Banks could become infatuated by him, leading to a heel turn and her facing off against Belair, which I think would be shortsighted since Banks has real momentum as a babyface and she shouldn’t turn heel unless it is for a really good reason.
In latest episode of the Gentlemen’s Wrestling Podcast, Jesse Collings (@Jesse Collings) and Jason Ounpraseuth (@JasonOun95) discuss the relationship between AEW and NJPW; they go over some potential dream matches, possible talent exchanges, look at how each company can benefit from working with the other, as well as some potential pitfalls that could come from the new relationship.