PPV OUTCOMES & IMPLICATIONS – ELIMINATION CHAMBER: World Title at stake, Bliss vs. Naomi, Tag Turmoil, Orton vs. Harper, Nikki vs. Natalya

By Michael Souza, PWTorch Specialist

WWE reveals 2023 Elimination Chamber location


Elimination Chamber is Smackdown’s last pay per view event before Wrestlemania, and many outcomes of these matches will have huge implications on how each wrestler will move forward towards Wrestlemania. With wins, losses, and performances meaning so much on Sunday, lets take a closer look at what each match could bring.

Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper

The Wyatt family has been filled with controversy and turmoil over the last month or so and the battle of new and old will be on display at Elimination Chamber. Luke Harper has been a loyal soldier of Bray Wyatt since this group debuted in the summer of 2013 but has mostly been in the background. In a shocking twist, Randy Orton joined the group hell bent on domination but has garnered much of Bray’s attention, leaving Harper as the odd man out. The tension that this has created will come to a head in what could be described as Harper’s biggest match in WWE to date.

Smart money tells us that Randy Orton would not lose his last PPV match before Wrestlemania. Orton has not been a prominently featured wrestler within the company since his world title run, triple threat match against Batista and Daniel Bryan, and his place within The Authority. While Randy is still extremely over with the fan base, his ability to win big matches has not been protected as much following Wrestlemania 30. A win for Orton will not only showcase him as a strong championship contender, but will also prove to Bray that he is worthy of Wyatt Family status. In all honesty, I do not see a path to defeat here for Orton. While WWE has made some very questionable booking decisions lately, it is highly unlikely that Harper defeats the #1 contender to Smackdown’s major championship.

Regardless of the outcome, the most important objective in this match for Luke Harper is to look as dominant as ever while endearing himself to the fans. His character is not exactly the typical babyface that fans want to cheer, but his defiance and willingness to be independent has gotten the wheels in motion. Being defeated by one of WWE’s top superstars will not hurt as long as Harper is protected, with a distraction from Bray being an easy way to explain why Harper came up short. If Harper were to win it would be an incredible boost to his career, but the negatives greatly outweigh the positives. Randy Orton would have lost to someone who has been in the mid-card for almost 4 years and there is not enough room on a crowded Wreslemania card to utilize Harper in a premier match.

Nikki Bella vs. Natalya

This is as close as we have gotten to a grudge match in the WWE’s woman’s division in many years. It has been so refreshing to see these women bring real life conflicts to this program and blur the lines between what is real and what is scripted.

Many of the rumored Wrestlemania cards show Nikki Bella teaming up with John Cena to take on the team of The Miz and Maryse in what could be Nikki’s final WWE match. That being said, it is hard to see Nikki leaving Elimination Chamber without a win. Nikki’s run following her return from injury was a strange one. Nikki never made it to the women’s title picture, has helped enhance younger talent, and engaged in more personal conflicts. This could be the last chapter of Nikki’s career and after everything she has given to the WWE and the work she put in to get back to the ring, expect her to win this match looking stronger than ever heading into Wrestlemania. A loss here could be quite detrimental. With Natalya telling the world that Nikki has gotten by on looks alone while lacking any charisma and wrestling talent, being defeated would prove these words more true than ever.

Natalya is in a very tough spot. She has presented many reasons for fans to be interested in the outcome with her scathing promos and vicious attacks, but with Nikki headed towards Wrestlemania in a mixed tag match and having no involvement in the title picture it is hard to see her getting a victory here. A loss to Nikki would send her virtually out of sight and out of mind heading into Wrestlemania as Nattie has not won a big singles match in what feels like forever. A win, however, would not make sense as there seemingly wouldn’t be anything to use her victory for moving forward other than bragging rights. Natalya wouldn’t be beating a current title contender, and with Lynch, James, Naomi, and Bliss gearing up for a fatal four way match in April a victory on Sunday could only gain momentum to start a feud with the odd woman out – Carmella. This feels like a no-win situation for Nattie, who has been getting used to that sort of thing over the years.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Apollo Crews & Kalisto

In a contest that will undoubtedly end up on the kickoff show, this match will feature 3 men that are really trying to find their way. Ziggler is doing his best to get himself over as a heel with no regard for his former friends in the locker room while Kalisto and Apollo Crews have been lost in the mid-card.

Quite frankly, this is the least important match on the card and I am not sure that any outcome can greatly help or hurt any of the wrestlers involved. With almost no path to a meaningful Wrestlemania match for these three, it would seem that Ziggler would be the easiest to heat up given his new attitude. Look for the violence to continue and a weapon to be used either to get Dolph disqualified or pick up a win. If Ziggler does lose, this could spin him further out of control and may force him to take a small break to refresh his character.

Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James

Mickie James has built a nice story for herself going into this match. Coming back as a pioneer of the first woman’s movement in WWE’s modern era and reclaiming the spotlight she thins she deserves is a great way to get the fans to believe she means business. Becky Lynch is the perfect character to face Mickie because she can make her look fantastic and also handle a loss.

The return of Mickie James may not have won over the fans as WWE would have expected, but a strong victory over a formidable opponent and former champion would have to garner the respect she has been looking for. A victory for James on Sunday would prove that she can still compete in this new-look woman’s division, possibly putting her in line for a title shot against her new friend, Alexa Bliss. A loss for Mickie would be quite disastrous and put a halt to any momentum she has gained for herself since her return to the main roster. Regardless of the outcome, Mickie needs to deliver a first class performance and her opponent is the perfect person to allow her to do that.

Becky Lynch has done a tremendous job of battling James on the mic and matched the intensity of her opponent on the go-home episode of Smackdown this week. She has proved that she can bounce back from losses as well as anyone, which is why it makes so much sense for her to come up short at Elimination Chamber. Becky has held the belt, won her fair share of marquee matchups, and can rebound fast enough to find her way back in to the title picture come WrestleMania.

Tag Team Turmoil Championship Match: American Alpha (c) vs. The Ascension vs. The Vaudevillians vs. Slater & Rhyno vs. The Usos vs. Breezango

If there was one thing you could point to on Smackdown as being a weakness, it would most certainly be the tag team division. Even the champions, American Alpha, have not been as well received by the fans since being called up and winning the titles. The blame can be placed solely on the booking team who has not put any of these teams in favorable situations since the roster split. In this case, there is no clear cut #1 contender so WWE has decided to throw every tag team on the roster in a match to see who is the best.

Unfortunately, unless one or two teams come out of this match looking leaps and bounds better than the rest, this may be a preview of a different gimmick match with the same participants at WrestleMania. The outcome of this match isn’t nearly as important as what the winners do for these titles following Elimination Chamber. The upcoming WrestleMania card has the potential for a ton of multi-person/team matches and I am hoping this isn’t leading down the same path.

The two teams that have shown the best chemistry have been American Alpha and the Usos. With Alpha not endearing themselves to the crowd as much as they had hoped, the key would be to feature them in the chase rather than a title reign. If the Usos cheat to win, it would allow for Alpha to demand a rematch at WrestleMania and have more than enough time to get some momentum in Jordan & Gable being the underdogs to root for. While I like a lot of what the other teams in this match have done, Breezango in particular, they don’t have any business being featured in April.

Woman’s Championship Match: Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Naomi

Alexa Bliss has performed well above anyone’s expectations since being called up to the main roster. It could be argued that WWE pivoted to keeping the title around her waist after delivering on such a high level each week since taking the championship from Becky Lynch. Naomi presents a different kind of threat and has made quite the case for herself to leave Phoenix with her first WWE  Woman’s Champpionship.

Until this week’s episode of Smackdown aired I had no doubt that Alexa would be retaining her title. Not so fast… As Wade Keller pointed out on the post-Smackdown Livecast, it would go against standard booking practices for a heel to completely dismiss and babyface before a major title match, only to win and prove that her opponent was irrelevant as she claimed. Alexa shined bright again at the contract signing and acted as if this Sunday would just be another day at the office. If she does win it would boost her even further, but at what cost? Naomi is incredibly talented, has a different look that is catching on, and possesses athleticism that may not be matched by any woman on either Raw and Smackdown. After being blatantly ignored by the current champion, Naomi would look awfully foolish if she does not come out victorious.

Naomi talked up WrestleMania being in her hometown, citing that it would be a dream fulfilled if she can walk into Orlando representing Smackdown as the woman’s champion. Being that February is Black History Month, and taking a logical look at the way Tuesday’s segment was booked, it is likely that Naomi goes over against Alexa this Sunday. What will be crucial is how Alexa rebounds, and her ability to explain away her reasons for coming up short.

Elimination Chamber WWE Championship Match: John Cena (c) vs. AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin vs. The Miz vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Dean Ambose

While I would love to believe that this match is wildly unpredictable, all signs point to Bray Wyatt leaving Phoenix, Arizona with the WWE World Championship. This would mark the first and long-awaited singles title run of his career. That being said, there are a lot of things to look out for as each man will be looking to leave a lasting impression with the fans heading into WrestleMania.

With all of the betting odds and rumors aside, Bray Wyatt is the best option to win this match. Not only would it build to the blow-off between he and Randy Orton, but it would also allow him to secure his biggest victory in WWE’s most destructive match. The unlikely pairing of he and Orton has been fantastic, but no one anticipates Randy to finish his career as a member of the Wyatt Family. After turning Bray’s brother against him and taking a ton of spotlight off of Wyatt and his message, there is a perfect built in story for Bray and Randy to turn on one another once their WrestleMania match is set in stone.

There is one monkey wrench that could change things up a bit in the scenario above. While Seth Rollins is on Raw, his match with Triple H is currently in question which leaves a massive void on the WrestleMania card. Sure, ardent fans would like to see Bray and Randy, but those same fans will watch WrestleMania no matter what. WWE’s biggest event of the year is not only a celebration of wrestling and (gulp) sports entertainment, but also their most advantageous chance to gain new fans or recapture the attention of folks who have tuned out. John Cena vs. Randy Orton for the title jumps off a poster much more than Orton vs. Wyatt, and with Hunter and Seth off the card WWE may pivot to a more marketable matchup. This would see John Cena walking out of Elimination Chamber with the title, maybe even leading to a fatal 4 way match so Bray and A.J. could be involved.

Aside from the two aforementioned possibilities, it is up to the remaining four wrestlers to do everything they can to stand out. Dean Ambrose will still be the Intercontinental Champion next Tuesday, so which heel steps up and creates a strong enough conflict within the chamber to garner a future title shot? Does Miz and Cena rekindle their rivalry from years ago which would lead to the rumored mixed tag match? Will Baron Corbin gain even more momentum by shocking everyone with a pin fall over Cena or AJ? Only time will tell.

Lastly, there is AJ Styles. I firmly believe that he should have beaten Cena at Royal Rumble, retain again at Elimination Chamber and head into WrestleMania as a long tenured champion. Unfortunately, that is not the reality of this situation and it is hard to imagine what will happen with him in this match and heading into Wrestlemania. It is rumored that his opponent will be Shane McMahon but nothing in the chamber match will help build to that, so A.J. needs to be predominantly featured on Sunday. If he is not victorious, look for A.J. to be one of the first two wrestlers who start the match and the last one pinned or submitted. A.J. has the ability to work well with every other wrestler in this match while also making them and himself look like a million bucks. A.J.’s booking in this match needs to be as highly prioritized as the man who wins, and anything short of that will be an insult to the run he had in 2016.

NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS PPV SPECIALIST COLUMN: PPV OUTCOMES & IMPLICATIONS – WWE ROYAL RUMBLE: The pros and cons of various finishes for each of the matches

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