WWE Elimination Chamber 2021 Reaction: Confusing, Self-Defeating Booking
Since I (temporarily (maybe)) deactivated my Twitter account for my own sanity I’m jam packed and ready to burst with wrestle thoughts. This string of reactionary thoughts posted with the presence of structure on here is being typed out in sequence at 3am with no social media promotion, let’s see who finds it and SURVIVES.
So I watched the Elimination Chamber show by accident, by which I mean I couldn’t sleep and loaded up what was left of my WWE Network month from the (awful) Royal Rumble to see if I could find a light documentary for some late night exercise. The first video that popped up on the home page was WWE ELIMINATION CHAMBER PRE-SHOW and oops the pay-per-view was half an hour deep already. I went back and watched the show from the start, but going in I had no idea what the card was, any of the build or storylines and I used the delay to skip some of the midcard stuff because god who cares.
What I got was a mostly uneventful middling show that people still laughingly refer to as a “pay-per-view”, albeit one that still managed to showcase much of what’s wrong with modern logic and storytelling by presenting the same situation twice on a show that barely broke two and a half hours and trying to contrive two different reactions from them.
The meat of the show was two Elimination Chamber matches both of which contained major implications for the world title matches at this year’s Wrestlemania. The first one with the Smackdown talent was pretty good for the standards of six random guys fighting in a cage goes, but looking back on it its hard not to consider it a colossal waste of television time. The story of the match focused on lovable Daniel Bryan starting off the Chamber and having to go through all five guys to win with special focus on a developing knee injury…which in retrospect wasn’t actually that important. After the people’s underdog comes through the stipulation of the match kicks in where the winner gets an Universal Championship immediately…I can only assume this was made a bigger deal of on television as a sleazy Paul Heyman contract fiddling but it was presented as an everyday occurrence here. Roman Reigns comes out, and after a brief one move comeback pounds the tripe out of what’s left of Daniel Bryan to retain the championship in seconds.
All in all this seemed effective, I called the finish and the match about three minutes in the chamber when the announcers were already mentioning Bryan’s knee before much had happened to it…but it’s acceptable booking. I’ve long dreamed of a face Daniel Bryan Vs heel Roman Reigns Wrestlemania angle, and if Rocky’s not going to wrestle in front of 200 socially distanced people in an empty stadium it would be a perfect match for this year. Then all of a sudden BAM Edge comes out of the Thunderdome Guess Who panels and hits Roman with a spear and OH YEA EDGE I had completely forgot he won the Royal Rumble and that’s the match we’re actually getting. Again, fine choice, but now I’m wondering why I just sat through 45 minutes of a six man cage match putting over a guy who’s not being pushed for this spot to lose in a minute long match so the guy who’s already got momentum can hit one move. This feels like three angles done at once, and if the deal to have Roman wrestle the winner was set in stone before this pay-per-view aired then the heel move has already been pulled in advance…what we got as a “match” was simply a formality. This was a waste of nearly an hour of pay-per-view time that only served to get me interested in a match that isn’t happening and make me confused about the one that is.
Also note that to open the show, we’re presented with a scenario where winning an Elimination Chamber and wrestling a championship match afterwards is an intriguing opportunity…and at the end of the show the same thing happens but now it’s the most despicable thing ever to make somebody wrestle again after a Chamber. Obviously there’s differences in the two scenarios, but considering this was pretty much a two card match did they not notice they booked the same heat seeking angle twice?
The Raw Chamber then, which was for the WWE Championship itself and on the surface was an alright way to portray the difference in mentalities of the heel champ Reigns on Smackdown and the babyface champ Drew McIntyre on Raw. The match was noticeably clunky and awkward, I can only imagine how much harder it is to work these gimmick multi man game show matches versus actual wrestling but these guys did not make it click. A major low point was when AJ Styles’ new big beef boy ripped the panel of AJ’s pod so he could enter the match early and take advantage of Randy Orton’s post-elimination tantrum. This is not clever or subversive, it only makes a mockery of what is already a very gimmicky match by throwing what rules it does have in the bin, and AJ didn’t even get an elimination off it so not only did he work he forced himself into the match early for no reason which made him look so goofy even the announcers mentioned it. Those pods get broken in almost every single Eliminaton Chamber ever, if you’re eligible the second you enter the cage regardless of how you do it why don’t the first guys in every Chamber from now on go and break the pods and drag everyone out so nobody gets an advantage? Is that a stupid, pedantic suggestion that shouldn’t be brought up? YES. So don’t force me to think about it with lazy gimmick booking.
Again, I’m not watching or paying attention to any of the WWE television right now, but from the booking of this match alone I perceived that WWE might be going for McIntyre Vs Sheamus at Wrestlemania…or at least as an appetiser on route to Wrestlemania to keep them both busy. The finish of the Chamber seemed to confirm this, Sheamus and McIntyre battered each other throughout the match and then Sheamus hits his finish for what looks like a count but AJ Styles flies out of nowhere and beats Sheamus with a Phenomenal Phorearm so we’ll never know…perfect out for Sheamus to demand a single opportunity in the near future. But again, to fudge with all that because Bobby Lashley runs out to beat the piss out of McIntyre (starting with a surprise spear, which just occurred was also a repeated spot from the angle earlier in the night) setting up for THE MIZ to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase to become WWE Champion for the second time…in the same way.
Here’s all I have to say about The Miz becoming WWE Champion again: it matters so little who the champion is right now I can’t even begin to care, but I poked my head into the trends on Twitter for a few seconds and most of what I saw was goofs about what the “Angry Miz Girl” must be feeling right now who made the funny face when he cashed in Money in the Bank to win his first WWE Championship in 2010. I had three thoughts about this: 1) the overwhelming majority of the what’s left of the dwindling, active and invested WWE audience was also watching the show 10 years ago 2) most of the people acting like this is exciting remember the same guy doing the same thing 10 years ago and 3) the Angry Miz Girl probably doesn’t care because she’s in god damn college now.
As a viewer who’s lost interest as this point I watched a boring cage match where the booking made it equally plausible that McIntyre is working Sheamus, Bobby Lashley, The Miz or maybe even Brock Lesnar again at Wrestlemania and only served to make me uninterested in all of these scenarios. It was remarkable watching this show seeing how hard wrestling has lost the plot on the most basic of concepts and storytelling. I can accept in the modern era it’s not realistic to plan out a Wrestlemania card a year in advance, but when the show is 7 weeks away can you not at least pretend that you’re thinking about it?
I have no idea whether this show has been received well by the niche parade of hardcore wrestling fans, but this presentation has long stopped making sense to casual fans and normal people. As someone who isn’t actively following this promotion anymore but used to it just made me sad; the WWE Championship Elimination Chamber that was exclusively filled with former champions feeling distinctively midcard…only for the king of the midcarders to steal it from all of them. Not to mention the exciting “pushes” of fresh talent such as The Miz (40), Daniel Bryan (39, semi-retired), Cesaro (40), Randy Orton (40), Sheamus (43), AJ Styles (43), Jeff Hardy (43), Bobby Lashley (44) and Edge (47).
I don’t think the wrestling industry has fully come to grips with how much long term damage the COVID era has done to it. A lot of people were watching show out of habit and ritual, the millions of people who have jumped off the ship the past two years aren’t “waiting for crowds to come back” they’ve been rehabilitated. The hardcore will come pouring back in droves when live shows do return and they’ll do well for a couple of months (especially AEW) but those people can’t afford to support you everywhere forever and live attendance is likely to sizzle out even worse than it was in 2019 anyway. This does not work anymore, the remixing and rehashing of over familiar talent isn’t going to bring old fans back and the goofy logic, self referential irony and insider trading of modern booking and talent isn’t going to appeal to many new people either.
Anyway liked the spot where Kevin Owens got his arm trapped in the cage door overall 7/10