John Cena Adrift?
Recap: The night began with John Cena in the ring, lamenting that he may not have a match at WrestleMania. He stated that in order to avoid this fate, he had to win WWE’s most “unwinnable” match, the Elimination Chamber, but he guaranteed that he would.
The Miz then came to the ring, mocking Cena for being delusional from spending too much time in Hollywood. Cena then challenged the Miz to a match, with the loser entering the Elimination Chamber first. The Miz feigned declining the match, but instead waited for the Miztourage to attack Cena, accepting the match and calling for a referee while Cena was incapacitated.
Kurt Angle then appeared. He agreed to the proposed match, but banned the Miztourage from ringside. The Miz tried to quickly pin Cena after the delay caused by Angle, however Cena kicked out. Cena eventually won the match.
Evaluation: There are a lot of odd things here. First, it’s not all that believable that John Cena could be left entirely without a match at WrestleMania, when even all of the midcarders typically have some sort of match on the six hour card.
Second, it was odd that John Cena apparently has enough juice to not only make his own matches, but also call referees to the ring and add stipulations to PPV matches. At least in this case, due to Kurt Angle’s interruption to protect an incapacitated John Cena, the match and stipulation were later given the veneer of GM approval.
Third, it’s strange to call the E-Chamber a uniquely “unwinnable” match when it happens once a year at a regularly scheduled PPV.
Considering his gimmick, I did enjoy the ironic humor of the Miz accusing John Cena of being an out-of-touch Hollywood-type.
Forecast: John Cena isn’t winning the Elimination Chamber, but he will certainly have a match at WrestleMania. If the rumors are true, it will be with the Undertaker. I think the Undertaker has already wrestled a few WrestleManias too many, and the setup to the match would be odd, sort of like Undertaker is doing John Cena a favor so he’s not without a WrestleMania match partner.
On the other hand, if WWE isn’t going in the Undertaker direction and this match was to set up a longer feud between John Cena and the Miz for WrestleMania, it exacerbates the existing problem with face John Cena being booked while face Miz is cheered. John Cena himself acknowledged this phenomenon during his promo tonight.
The E-Chamber Takes Shape…
Recap: Kurt Angle announced that Jason Jordan will miss WrestleMania with his neck surgery. He asked as a father that the fans not cheer an injury and give Jason Jordan well wishes. Seth Rollins then appeared in the ring looking for a match at WrestleMania. Kurt initially suggested a new tag partner; however, Seth protested that he wanted to “be” Monday Night Raw, not just a piece of Monday Night Raw (as he would presumably be in a tag team). He announced intent to pursue the Universal Championship and asked to be put into the Second Chance Match for the Elimination Chamber. With approval from the crowd, Kurt agreed.
In the Second Chance Match itself, Seth Rollins and Finn Balor simultaneously pinned Bray Wyatt. The show went off the air without a clear winner.
Evaluation: Kurt Angle actually referred to the competitors in the Second Chance Match as “wrestlers” before catching himself and reverting back to the WWE corporate-speak of “Superstars.” I wish the correction weren’t necessary.
Jordan’s surgery contradicts his wife’s comments on Twitter earlier this week, but it’s understandable that she would hold out hope that the injury would be less serious.
Before the Jason Jordan injury, I’d have to believe that the plan was a clean Finn Balor win to enter the Elimination Chamber. With Jordan injured, however, Seth has no program for the next month and a half.
This finish creates some tension between Finn and Seth. It also adds to a history of tension that began with the first Universal Title match, during which Finn injured his shoulder on the barricade. If they can use this tension to get these two guys into a match with each other at WrestleMania, I’m all for it.
However, that leaves open the question of how to handle the Elimination Chamber. If Finn and Seth are going to fight at WrestleMania, then I’d rather they not have a singles match next week for the last E-Chamber spot.
Forecast: I don’t believe the E-Chamber cage can physically accommodate another match participant, so that solution is out. Unfortunately, I think they’ve got to have a Finn vs. Seth match next week for the last E-Chamber spot. They can have the match end with some sort of ambiguity to build a rematch for those two at WrestleMania.
Bayley Defeats Sasha, but Nia Comes Out on Top…
Recap: Without any promos or much buildup, Kurt Angle set a match between Sasha Banks and Bayley, which Sasha won. After the match, Nia Jax rolled over both Sasha and Bayley.
In an interview on the ramp afterwards, Nia pointed out that both Sasha and Bayley had taken Asuka to the limit, so Nia rolling over both in seconds shows that she’s ready to end Asuka’s streak.
Evaluation: I like the idea of building up Nia Jax as a real contender in her match with Asuka. I don’t like giving away a Sasha vs. Bailey match on TV to do it.
As I mentioned in a previous column, I like the building tension between Sasha and Bayley. Sasha is a much better heel than a face, and Bayley’s character has been lost in general, so frankly I’d be okay with either one of them turning heel as part of a feud.
But I was hoping their singles match would take place at WrestleMania. While WWE still can do this match at WrestleMania, it being given away on television seven weeks prior makes it feel less important.
Forecast: There are rumors that Bayley is going heel due to her being advertised as teaming with Elias in an upcoming match against John Cena and Nikki Bella. However, that match could simply be a callback to their Mixed Match Challenge pairing.
My initial assumption was that Sasha Banks would the one to turn, as she is so much better as a heel than a face. However, Bayley is so lost that turning her heel could be just the kick in the pants she needs. Like Sami Zayn, they could simply turn up her same face personality a couple notches to make it more annoying.
-The Batman cartoon text and graphics have unfortunately invaded Raw, as Gallows and Anderson were stuck with them during their promo. Almost worse was using the text animation during the recap of Nia Jax’s very serious post-match interview….
-Kurt Angle announced that Rhonda Rousey will be signing her contract in two weeks at Elimination Chamber….
-Elias’s “concert” got the important top of the third hour slot tonight, a testament to how over WWE perceives his insult comic songs to be….
-Speaking of the Elias segment, Braun Strowman spoke more than normal in that segment tonight. It appears that WWE may be trying to broaden his character before it becomes overly repetitive…