A Two Hour Gauntlet…
Recap: Tonight’s gauntlet match began with Seth Rollins vs Roman Reigns. Rollins was able to roll up Reigns for the win, after which the two showed respect by bumping fists.
Rollins’s next opponent was John Cena. The two had a long, exciting match that engrossed the crowd. Perhaps most impressively, at one point, Rollins rolled Cena through into an Attitude Adjustment. Rollins eventually defeated Cena with a curb stomp a full hour into the gauntlet match.
After the match, Renee Young interviewed John Cena, who looked flustered as he related the difficulty of juggling wrestling with his other professional responsibilities. He repeated the possibility that if he isn’t successful at Elimination Chamber, he may not have a match at WrestleMania.
Next up for Rollins was Elias, who finally took advantage of Rollins’ exhaustion by beating him with the Drift Away. As Rollins left the ring, he was given an ovation from the crowd.
Finn Balor entered the ring next and defeated Elias.
Before the Miz entered to take on Balor, the Miztourage stormed the ring as a distraction, allowing Miz to surprise Balor from behind. Balor recovered, but eventually would be pinned after a later Miztourage distraction.
The final man to enter the gauntlet was Braun Strowman. The Miz attempted to flee the ring, but he was caught by Strowman and dragged back to the ring. Strowman mostly toyed with Miz for a while before hitting the running powerslam for the pin. Afterwards, Strowman unleashed destruction on Miz and the Miztourage.
Evaluation: Having one match take the entire first two hours of Raw was a fun change of pace. The match quality was good enough that it didn’t feel too long.
Reigns was booed worse than normal tonight, which would seem to indicate the rehab project they’ve tried to run on his image for the past few months leading to WrestleMania hasn’t worked. I wonder if any of the negative reaction was related to this week’s new allegations from Richard Rodriguez, the incarcerated steroid dealer who Reigns has thus far denied knowing.
Rollins’s hour long performance served as a great reset as he moves away from the Jason Jordan angle. He stole the show tonight, and was recognized for it by the fans. This puts him in a good position in fans’ minds going into WrestleMania season.
John Cena used his loss to further sell the angle that he’s struggling with his new role in WWE as a part-timer. While that’s not a bad angle per se, claiming that he may not have a WrestleMania match at all is asking for too much of a suspension of disbelief. They’d be better off having him express that just any match at WrestleMania isn’t enough, and that he needs to have the main event.
Strowman was again made out as an unstoppable force. This will help keep his positive momentum and keep him looking strong going into WrestleMania even after his expected loss in the Elimination Chamber.
Forecast: Like a broken record, I forecast that Roman Reigns wins the Elimination Chamber and heads to the WrestleMania main event, unless between now and then Richard Rodriguez is able to produce some real evidence that spooks WWE on Reigns.
[Non-]Clarification on the Women’s Side…
Recap: During the gauntlet match, the announcers subtly changed the stipulation of the Asuka vs Nia Jax match on Sunday. They said that if Nia wins, she would end up in a Triple Threat for “one of the women’s championships.” It was no longer stipulated that Asuka must challenge for the Raw title if she loses on Sunday.
However, during an in-ring interview with Asuka, Renee Young repeated what we’ve heard in prior weeks, that Asuka would be locked into competing for the Raw title should Nia defeat her.
After the interview, Michael Cole again repeated that if Nia won, she would be competing in a Triple Threat for “one of the women’s championships.”
Evaluation: It would be a lot better if WWE could get everyone on the same page here. This is a major angle at a pay per view, so there really is no excuse for the inconsistency.
Forecast: I’m assuming that the announcers gave the correct information here, and that Renee’s information was old. I say this because the on-screen graphic simply seemed to agree with the announcers, and also because if the announcers gave bad information, presumably they’d be corrected in their earpieces.
Sunday’s Card Fills Out (A Little)…
Recap: Coming into tonight, the only matches set for Elimination Chamber were the two Elimination Chamber matches and Asuka vs Nia Jax. It was widely expected that several more matches would be set, but that didn’t really happen.
Cesaro and Sheamus did lose to Titus Worldwide tonight, making it possible that a rematch will be announced on social media for the PPV. However, there are typically two preshow matches, so I would presume such a rematch would take place on the preshow.
Later in the night during the PPV rundown, the announcers did mention Matt Hardy would be taking on Bray Wyatt, but that match has preshow written all over it.
Evaluation: This would seem to indicate that we’re going to get two lengthy Elimination Chamber matches. The qualify of tonight’s gauntlet tells us that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Forecast: My optimistic forecast is that we get three lengthy, high quality matches during Elimination Chamber. The Ronda Rousey contract signing will also take up some time, but the PPV will likely end a little early, maybe at 10:40p EST. It wouldn’t be the first time a single-brand PPV has ended before 11p EST.
There was finally an extended video package to build anticipation for Ronda Rousey tonight. Overall, it served its purpose well…
NOW CHECK OUT THE FULL REPROT ON RAW: KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT 2/19: Final Elimination Chamber hype, Gauntlet Match with Men’s EC competitors