SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Opening Segment – MISS: I’m just not buying this storyline. It is a shame because the performances were strong. Charlotte did a good job of playing the arrogant heel mocking Becky Lynch for getting suspended and making her case for being her replacement to face Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania. But, it is playing into my fears (and most fans’ fears) that she will be added to that match. Lynch was good in playing the calm badass character, but her rationalization for getting herself suspended still doesn’t hold up. Triple H was fine, but I don’t like the alpha Charlotte leaving when the authority figure tells her to, even as a heel. This is more McMahon vs. Austin retread. It is more heel authority figure, especially after he turned the tables on Becky to claim that she’s afraid of Rousey. Right now, I am not a fan at all of the storyline revolving around what should be the final match at WM.
Orton vs. Ali – HIT: Mustafa Ali had a nice promo early on about how nobody is giving him a chance in the Elimination Chamber and setting up this match against Randy Orton. Ali is playing his underdog character very well. He and Orton put on a good match where Ali got in plenty of offense to tease that he might get the upset win, but in the end he fell short. The RKO finish was one of the more clever ways that Orton has hit that move. That was a cool spot to end the match. The post-match attack from Samoa Joe worked well to continue to hype the Chamber.
Bryan’s Promo – HIT: I appreciate that Daniel Bryan didn’t try to turn the hometown fans against him. It would have been easy to do some cheap things to get those fans to boo him. All it would have taken was for him to talk about how the people in Washington think that they are enlightened like he is, but they are just as ignorant as everyone else which is why he moved to San Diego. I liked seeing him go with it and own the cheers even as a heel. He came across like a jerk for the television audience. It is important to remember that cheap local pops or heat don’t work on tv. When a heel makes fun of an NBA team other than the Warriors, I agree and nod along. So while you get cheers or boos in the crowd, the audience is minuscule compared to the millions watching on tv. So, I loved that Bryan didn’t try to manipulate the crowd. He played his character and played it well. Rowan wasn’t as good on the mic. But, the bad part was when Bryan complained about the corporate suits who don’t want him to be WWE Champion, but then threw to a corporate video on the Chamber match. That didn’t fit in with his character at all. The rest of the segment was good and built anticipation for the main event and the PPV.
Hardy and Styles – MISS: WWE is trying to portray A.J. Styles as being more intense and focused since he lost to Bryan at the Royal Rumble. But, that shouldn’t come along with him being a jerk like he was to Jeff Hardy for no real reason when he interrupted his interview. I get wanting to build some tension among the various Chamber wrestlers to make it more than just everyone verses Bryan. However, there are better ways to go about it than having wrestlers scripted to act differently than they normally would.
Women’s Six Man Tag – MISS: WWE should have done a better job of telling a story of how Carmella and Naomi became a team. It is is like the McMahons needed a third Smackdown tag team for the Elimination Chamber match, but they didn’t have one, so they randomly picked two women to put together. That’s exactly what happened behind the scenes, but it shouldn’t have been the storyline thing that happened like it was. Moving on to the match itself, it just wasn’t good. Three of these wrestlers are barely good workers and the other three are decent at best. So, the skill level isn’t there, so the match wasn’t good. Other than Bayley and Sasha Banks, the best wrestlers in WWE aren’t in this match. Becky, Charlotte, Rousey, Asuka, Natalya, Ember Moon, Mickie James, Ruby Riott and Nikki Cross are better in the ring than 10 of these women. Plus several in NXT and NXT UK are better too. Nia Jax is the best of those 10 and she has plenty of limitations. So, I fear the quality of the match which is being portrayed as a historical moment.
Bryan vs. Hardy – HIT: This was a good main event. Jeff Hardy isn’t going to be on the top level at this point, so seeing a WWE Title match with him against Bryan isn’t likely to happen. So, it is ok to give away a non-title match between them at this point. The match went 12 minutes and was fun to watch from start to finish. There were some questions about what Hardy did to deserve being in the Chamber match, so giving him a strong showing here where he won via disqualification after looking like he was about to pin the WWE Champion made sense.
Post-match Fighting – HIT: I was expecting the main event to go longer, but the reason that it didn’t is that there was a lot of fighting that was going to happen afterwards. Samoa Joe continued his run of attacks by jumping Rowan and then attacking Bryan. Orton came out which made sense given what Joe had done earlier in the night. Ali got to hit some fun spots to get some momentum before Rowan put him down to underscore his importance to Bryan. It was interesting that Styles was the only one who got his music played. He got to stand tall in the end. Afterwards, Bryan escaped and was interviewed backstage. He came across as totally unglued in his performance, ranting and raving in a way that should get everyone to hate him. The problem with his character is that there are a lot of fans out there who agree with some if not most of his positions in terms of protecting the environment and treating animals well. So, that can’t be what makes him a heel. So this was a definite good development for his presentation.
For another view from the original Hitlist author, compare Jason Powell’s views to mine by visiting prowrestling.NET’s “Hitlist” section here.
Jon Mezzera is PWTorch.com’s WWE Hits & Misses Specialist, providing his point of view for Raw and Smackdown each week. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonMezzera.