Cook’s Elimination Chamber 2017 Report Card
Hi, hello & welcome to the Elimination Chamber 2017 Report Card! Everybody that does wrestling recaps gives star ratings. I don’t really like giving them, as everybody else does it and I’m not sure what would set wrestling match snowflakes from me apart from the rest of the writing community. I’ve never liked doing what everybody else does, so I’m going to try something a little different starting with this show. Instead of grading the match by number of stars, I’m going to grade the performers involved in the match. Like in school, we’ll grade on an A-F scale.
A – Outstanding. Great moves, selling, interaction with the fans, everything. Stands out as a top performer.
B – Above Average. Very good offensively or defensively. Plays their role well. Helps the match accomplish what it set out to do.
C – Average. The type of performance that does nothing to stand out. No outstanding moves, no great effort to sell their opponent’s offense or draw the crowd into what they’re doing, just bland, basic wrestling. Sometimes, especially in a multi-man match, a short period of time spent in the ring without a chance to do too much.
D – Below Average. Poor execution, ignoring the crowd, not doing things that make sense.
F – Failure. Not doing anything useful. Actively holding the match back from accomplishing its objective.
Grading a match is one thing, but let’s face it: Promoters are more interested in who played their role better during the match. That’s who will get the push going forward (usually), and that’s what I’ll try to figure out.
Make sense? I hope so, or this is going to be a bigger flop than the Gobbledygooker.
Kickoff Show Match: Mojo Rawley vs. Curt Hawkins
Nice introduction of Curt Hawkins & trashing of Mojo by Curt Hawkins. Much of the build for this match was on Twitter, which used to annoy me before the President of the United States did all of his business on Twitter. So now it’s the norm. Mojo with some awkward looking offense early, they go outside and more awkwardness ensues. These two don’t look on the same page so far. Nice clip by Hawkins once the commercial ends. Nice punches by Hawkins. Mojo does a good firing up. Nice Stinger Splash. Fireman’s carry faceplant gets a two count, looked like a viable finish to me. Cheap shot by Hawkins leads to the Downward Spiral and a two-count. Now that’s real deep in the Edge playbook from the former Edgehead. Enziguri from Hawkins gets two. Now he’s motioning for a spear. Rawley with the right hook from hell and a tilt a whirl slam to end it.
Winner: Mojo Rawley
Rawley’s Grade: D+
Hawkins’s Grade: C
They got off to a really rough start but got on the same page and found their way to a decent finish. I think I liked Hawkins’ performance more because of the Edge re-sets. Nice that he remembers his roots. Rawley needs to incorporate some Zack Ryder offense.
Piano music has made a welcome return to pro wrestling over the past year and it’s a key part of setting the mood in the opening video.
Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James
Becky looks determined while Mickie looks happy to be there. Extended collar & elbow tieup makes for an interesting start to the match. Becky going right after the arm to start warms my heart because her finisher is an armbar. Crowd sure loves Tye Dillinger with the constant 10 counts. Mickie hits a DDT and goes for three covers. She targets Becky’s arm…I figure it’s tougher to work on your opponent’s arm when your arm is hurting, so it’s good strategy. Becky sure seems to be in pain so it’s working. She remembers its hurting when she temporarily goes on offense, which puts her ahead of a lot of people these days. Mickie busting out some rarely-seen holds these days, better than the usual chinlock. Fans getting behind Becky as she comes back. Mickie with some blood on her elbow, or maybe it’s Becky’s hair dye, who knows for sure. Mick Kick is a good finisher when Becky isn’t too close to the ropes. Good way to protect that move. A series of reversals leads to a flash pin for Lynch and a big win over one of WWE’s top women of the 21st century.
Winner: Becky Lynch
Becky’s Grade: B
Mickie’s Grade: B
Good start to the show by the ladies. Mickie hasn’t lost a step over the years and Becky’s been one of the best women on the roster since she arrived. Felt like it was missing a little bit to get to that extra gear, but it was perfectly acceptable.
Dasha goes to Carmella & Ellsworth’s skybox. Pretty uneventful except she poses a question to “Carmelo” and I thought it was funny.
Handicap Match: Apollo Crews & Kalisto vs. Dolph Ziggler
Dolph at least temporarily makes the match one on one by attacking Kalisto from behind and slamming him into the entranceway. The fans get behind Ziggler, which probably isn’t the intended reaction but I’m not sure what else they expected when they booked this. Hopefully Crews can do some interesting stuff and get the crowd on his side. He hasn’t really done anything early. Ziggler’s working the slow methodical pace to keep the fans from getting excited. I assume Dolph worked the American flag into his wardrobe because he thinks Phoenix is close enough to the border he’ll get heat from people that crossed over for the show. Certainly Dolph’s working the right style for a heel character, as he’s grinded this thing to a stand-still. Kalisto staggers back out to even the odds for his buddy Apolo, I suppose. A referee tries to send him back, but he’s part of the match so I dunno what his beef is. Crews finally lands a kick & gets a tag so Kalisto can do some flying around. He kind of sells between. Kind of. Some fun flips, and Crews hits the sit-out powerbomb to get the victory. Ziggler beats them up after the match to get his heat back as the crowd chants “Yes”. Ziggler does the Pillmanizer but doesn’t go up top like Austin did back in the day. Crews cries in pain & the fans want more. Ziggler leaves to “Thank You Ziggler” chants. Yikes. And this is Phoenix, not exactly Chicago or Philly.
Winner: Apollo Crews & Kalisto
Crews & Kalisto’s Grade: F
Ziggler’s Grade: D
That was counterproductive, unless they want Ziggler to be more over as a face & Crews & Kalisto are on their way out. I can’t really blame the guys involved, they’ve been booked to fail from the beginning of this angle. Ziggler is trying but the people aren’t really buying it. Crews isn’t connecting at all with the audience, and Kalisto should be on 205 Live. Just bad times all the way around.
Tag Team Turmoil Match for the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship: American Alpha (c) vs. Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. Breezango vs. The Usos vs. The Ascension vs. The Vaudevillains
Slater/Rhyno vs. Breezango starts us off. I don’t remember the last time I saw Breezango’s entrance. Or them in the ring for this long. Breezango has a decent showing before they’re Gored out of the match. The Vaudevillains are next and they work over Rhyno on the outside before Heath flies off the top rope. “He’s Got Kids” chant. Simon Gotch takes the advantage over Slater with some knees. Rhyno gores him, Aiden English gets DDTed by Slater to get eliminated. The Usos are next and I think Heath & Rhyno’s minutes are numbered. The announcing team has broken down and it’s only the fourth match of the night. The Usos eliminate Slater & Rhyno, and here comes American Alpha. All four meet on the rampway. I feel like this whole thing would have been more effective with just these teams. Jey Uso narrowly kicks out of a Chad Gable cross-body. The Usos work over Gable for a bit. Gable with a front corner bump that would make Bret Hart proud. Good working as the face in peril here. Jason Jordan gets the hot tag and gets a flash pin on the Usos, but the Usos beat the living crap out of them after the match. Either the Ascension just gets a quick pin or they’ll get to look like complete goobers here. They might be taking too long since I see Gable stirring ringside. The Fall of Man leads to a save by Gable, sure enough. Viktor & Konnor work over Jordan some. Viktor misses in the corner, Jordan hits a belly to belly suplex and we’re about to be ready, willing & Gable. Nice switcheroo leads to Gable & Jordan hitting their finisher on Viktor & Konnor being out of position to break it up. Gooberish, but not as bad as I was expecting. Perhaps my standards are too low for the Ascension these days.
AA’s Grade: B+
Slater & Rhyno’s Grade: B
Breezango’s Grade: C
Usos’ Grade: B+
Ascension’s Grade: C-
Vaudevillains’ Grade: C-
Solid work. Nothing terrible. The downside here: no real pop for American Alpha’s victory. They’re talented kids, but haven’t gotten over with the WWE Universe yet. I think they need a personal issue with a strong rival team to do that. Maybe the Usos, maybe the Ascension, maybe somebody in NXT. (Revival? Please?)
Nikki Bella vs. Natalya
It’s a bitter, personal feud so we go right to the headlocks & headscissors & wristlocks. I can justify this…Nattie says she’s the best actual wrestler in the women’s division and people still think Nikki can’t wrestle because they’re weird. This is where they’re going and I can dig it. Nikki jumps off the apron into Natalya, but then gets rammed into the ringpost back-first. I don’t know why I’m more sensitive to Nikki taking offense, but I am. Wow, Tom Phillips talked during a match. I wasn’t sure he was allowed to do that. I guess Nikki’s mom is in attendance, they haven’t shown her but Natalya’s talking to her while working Nikki over. Ah, there’s Mama & Brother Bella. I join JBL in wondering where Big Johnny is. Getting called a bitch is what Nikki needs to get going, and sure enough here’s the comeback. A Michinoku Driver by Natalya gets 2, and she goes for the Sharpshooter but it’s shrugged off. Nikki hits a forearm for two. Spinebuster by Nikki gets 2. Springboard enziguri gets 2. Nikki does the most random moves sometimes. Part of her charm. They go up top & Natalya hits a superplex! They’re sure testing Nikki’s neck out tonight. Nattie really should have let the ref count Nikki out but she cinches in the Sharpshooter instead. Nikki counters out into the Fearless Lock! Nattie gets to the ropes. They roll to the outside and start throwing each other into the barricade, so we end up with a double countout. The fans are unimpressed. Natalya cheap shots Nikki on her way out, but Nikki spears her on the ramp! This feud must continue.
Winner: Neither (double countout)
Nikki’s Grade: C
Natalya’s Grade: C
Pretty average match there without a satisfying finish. I assume we’ll get a proper blow-off match on an upcoming episode of SmackDown Live. These things bothered me more when the shows cost 40 bucks, now that they’re $9.99 with the Network its not as much of a problem. I was hoping for more from this though, even with that finish built in it could have been better.
Luke Harper vs. Randy Orton
I feel like Randy’s arms have moved closer in his pose over the years. Am I wrong? Both these guys look like they’re out to lunch, which as past/current associates of Bray Wyatt you would expect. Harper gets off to a quick start though, and Orton opts for the Zbyszko stalling tactics. Nice palm strike by Harper. Dropkick! Not quite Orton-level, but nifty. Orton knocks Harper off the corner & he bounces his head off the apron. The crowd almost forgot to do the 10 gimmick. Orton back suplexes Harper on the announce table and knocks over three announcers in the process. CHINLOCK! VINTAGE ORTON. A brief flurry of action and posing and we return to the chinlock. I think Orton likes rubbing Harper’s beard. Harper with some agility in the corner, and an Eddie-style hilo. Big boot gets two. Catapult into the ropes. Fans getting behind Harper, but an attempted dive is thwarted. Maybe this time? Yup, and there go the German announcers. Harper back suplexes Orton off the English announce table, but Orton responds with a powerslam on the floor. Harper wants to superplex Orton to the floor, but that’s not happening. Superplex by Orton a la Cowboy Bob! Not sure it’s reached “This Is Awesome” yet, but compared to the rest of the matches so far, sure. Full nelson slam by Orton has Harper bouncing off the mat. Two count. I think Phillips & JBL scooted over to the Spanish announce table temporarily for some reason, which probably made Carlos & Marcelo uncomfortable. Harper likes that arrow pose. Two Superkicks get a two count. Liger Bomb gets a two count for Harper! He’s getting a chance to shine here, no doubt. They exchange shots while on their knees. Back to their feet & the exchange continues. Discus clothesline blocked, Orton turns it into an RKO and a 3 count.
Harper’s Grade: A
Orton’s Grade: A
Not sure if it was as great as the announcers were saying, but the fans bought it as a damn good match. Orton gets the win, as he should because he’s the one getting the title shot at WrestleMania. He doesn’t need to be losing. Harper looked good in defeat though, and showed that he can deliver against one of the big boys. He deserves more high-profile opportunities down the road and he better get them.
Natalya attacks Nikki backstage during an interview & powder gets all over Maryse somehow. Something tells me that will be relevant in the near future.
WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship Match: Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Naomi
I’m digging Naomi’s ring attire. Neon can’t be used enough in wrestling for my taste. I’m just noticing how much these ladies grab each other by the hair, and that can’t be comfortable unless they’re extensions waiting to be yanked out. I was about to say they’re having a hard time getting the crowd involved but they finally got them with a quick exchange. It’s tough in the slot between the best match so far and the main event, you’re hoping at best not to get crapped on by the crowd. Rear View gets a two count. Some nice flippy do handspring splashes by Bliss get 2. Naomi kicks her off the top rope, then teases a splash, but Bliss breaks it up. Naomi kicks out of the DDT, which is a mild upset. Tantrum by Bliss! Split legged moonsault by Naomi misses, Bliss does an Oklahoma roll and uses the ropes, but the ref sees it & stops the count. Back up top…Twisted Bliss misses, the split-legged moonsault kind of hits & Naomi wins the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Bad night for the bad girls of SmackDown Live.
Alexa’s Grade: C
Naomi’s Grade: C
I wasn’t really feeling it for most of the match. The fans were happy Naomi won though, so that’s good for her. She got a “You Deserve It” chant after the match, which I’m not big on as a chant but was a nice gesture from the audience. I have a bad feeling about her chances of going to WrestleMania with the title though…since she keeps mentioning going home to Orlando as champion that seems like a pretty strong indicator she won’t.
Ellsworth finally kicks Dasha out of the skybox before the main event. One wonders why he didn’t earlier, and one also wonders why Dasha had nothing better to do the whole night other than bug Ellsworth & Carmella in the skybox. I guess Renee took all the good assignments.
Elimination Chamber Match for the WWE Championship: John Cena (c) vs. AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz vs. Baron Corbin vs. Bray Wyatt
Looks like the pods are smaller and there’s a big ol’ WWE logo on top of the Chamber. There also appears to be padding between the ring & the cage where steel used to be, that should make things a little bit safer for the boys. Cena & Styles start the match because they’re the two best workers. Fans are behind Styles here, though Cena’s response isn’t as negative as it is some places. “AJ Styles” replaces “Cena Sucks” in the famous chant. Cena busting out the Code Red early, and taking control over Styles in general before the next competitor comes out…it’s Dean Ambrose! He goes crazy on Cena, tossing him to the padding & then whipping him off the steel. Styles gets dumped on the padding, and Ambrose climbs on top of the pod & directs himself towards Cena. I think I see why it’s padded now. Two-man German suplex by Cena! Bray Wyatt is the next man in. Time for him to go crazy on everybody. Wyatt launches Styles into the chain link. Now Styles climbs up, and Cena follows him…this seems ill-advised. Cena falls down to the padding. Is Styles going to do something crazy? Well, Ambrose joins him on top of Miz’s pod before he can. Dean jumps off into an uppercut from Wyatt. Then we get a unique Tower of Doom spot, Dean powerbombing Bray & Bray overhead suplexing AJ. Craziness. Who’s next? Baron Corbin is next. Miz got the luck of the draw here. Corbin runs over Ambrose & generally makes him miserable. Deep Six on Ambrose. Cena’s kind of been dead for awhile so somebody should probably cover him or something…nah, they choose to kill each other instead. Corbin & Wyatt go at it, to Bray’s displeasure. End of Days to Styles…here comes Cena and he locks in the STF! Countered…End of Days to Cena, but both he & Styles roll out of the ring. Now it’s Ambrose & Corbin again. Ambrose gets pushed off the top rope into the chain link, and now it’s time for Miz to enter the fray. He’s quite reluctant. Corbin pays for his focus on Miz when Ambrose rolls him up for the three count. Corbin goes after Ambrose afterwards, throwing him through one of the pods! That’ll be it for Ambrose. Or maybe not, Corbin’s still not done with the guy. He eventually hits the End of Days, and Miz covers Ambrose to get him out of there. Now he needs to take care of the other three. But first he’ll do some Yes Kicks to Cena & Wyatt. Styles comes back in & gets some kicks in the corner. Corner dropkicks to all three. Awesome clothesline to Cena! Bray gets a Skull Crushing Finale on the padding, then Miz does a cross-body to Cena…bad idea. AA, see ya later Miz. Wyatt & Styles’ teamup doesn’t last too long. Cena goes to town on both of them. Ten Knuckle Shuffle! AA to Wyatt! Styles Clash to Cena! Two count for Styles there. Phenomenal Forearm…nope, it’s an AA for Styles and a 2 count. Poor Miz, it only takes one to finish him off when he’s like ten times fresher. Cena seems to have lost his mind and he’s climbing up to the top of one of the pods. Crossbody to both men! Cena finally gets up, sets Wyatt up for the AA…no, it’s reversed…Sister Abagail to Cena! Wyatt eliminates Cena! We’re getting a new champion! I don’t remember AJ & Bray meeting before, so this is pretty cool stuff here to me. Maybe somebody can correct me. Series of reversals, big ol’ lariat by Bray gets 2.9! Pele kick grazes Bray, but the bushiaku knee gets more of him. Springboard 450? He hits it, but it only gets two! AJ landed on Bray’s knees there. They weren’t raised but that still stings. Phenomenal Forearm time? Bray catches him! Sister Abagail! THREE COUNT! We’ve got a new WWE Champion!
Randy Orton stands on the stage, and now the reality of Wyatt vs. Orton starts to set in. Bray seems happy about it! Orton…not so much.
Winner: Bray Wyatt
Cena’s Grade: A
Styles’s Grade: A
Ambrose’s Grade: A-
Miz’s Grade: C
Corbin’s Grade: B
Wyatt’s Grade: A
I’m a big fan of Elimination Chamber matches in general, and this was a pretty darn good one. Styles & Cena put in some work for sure, as they usually do. Bray brought it tonight and people were ready for him to win the belt. Ambrose was really good during his stretch of time, Corbin wasn’t bad either, and Miz…well, Miz was only in there a few minutes so it’s tough to judge.
It was a two match show. Orton & Harper had a great match like I was hoping they would, and the Chamber delivered us a new star. The rest was pretty skippable, but definitely check out the Chamber match & Orton vs. Harper. I think overall I’d give the show a B-.