If the Royal Rumble is the official kickoff on the Road to WrestleMania 35, then Elimination Chamber is a major pit stop. It is a chance for WWE to adjust its title pictures and storylines entering its biggest show of the year, and for better or worse, that's exactly what the company did Sunday night in Houston. In addition to crowning the first women's tag team champions of the modern era, WWE had two titles change hands and may have set a couple of WrestleMania feuds in the process.
The card was thinner than recent WWE pay-per-view offerings, but the two namesake Elimination Chamber matches started and closed the show relatively strong with the latter -- for the WWE championship -- the best match on the entire card. We also got a surprise appearance by Becky Lynch that continues the company's top storyline in what is expected to be the 'Mania main event.
That does not mean everything we saw on Sunday night was good. There were some truly curious booking decisions, which are discussed below as to not spoil the results at this early juncture. At points, it felt as if WWE had reverted to its booking in the fall of 2018 that caused ratings to hit an all-time low and lead the McMahons to promise there would be changes. Grade: C+
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2019 WWE Elimination Chamber results, grades
Cruiserweight Championship -- Buddy Murphy (c) def. Akira Tozawa via pinfall to retain the title (Kickoff Show): Selling a lower back injury after a suplex early in the match, Tozawa gained a brief advantage with a shining wizard and fantastic mid-air huricanrana from the top rope. Frustrated from being unable to put Tozawa away, Murphy shoved him, which angered Tozawa into another flurry of offense. An inverted huricanrana and tope suicida, followed by a senton on Murphy -- elevated into the ring on the middle rope -- resulted in a 2.8 count for Tozawa. The challenger attempted to lock the champion in an octopus submission, but Murphy broke out of it and hit Murphy's Law for the 1-2-3. Solid match between two talented cruiserweights, but it was not given enough time to truly shine. Fun way to start the show, however. Grade: B
Women's Tag Team Championship (Elimination Chamber) -- Boss 'N Hug Connection vs. Riott Squad vs. Nia Jax & Tamina vs. The IIconics vs. Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville vs. Naomi & Carmella: An elevated neckbreaker by Bayley on Rose with her legs elevated in the chamber wall was an early highlight before the first door opened. The six women (order below) then completed a pyramid superplex with Bayley taking the brunt of the punishment as the second pod opened. Once the IIconics entered, they attempted to pin every woman in the ring but paid special attention to assaulting Sasha Banks & Bayley. Fabulous Glow cleaned house when their pod door opened before the women individually took out one another with power moves. Eventually, Billie Kaye suplexed Naomi with a bridge, and Peyton Royce jumped over her to help cinch it in for the first elimination. The IIconics then hid in a pod, which was torn apart by Jax and Tamina, who hit a dual Samoan Drop for the combination pin. The remaining teams attempted to take out Jax & Tamina with Riott Squad climbing atop a pod to splash both women. Once Jax awoke, she hit Liv Morgan with a Samoan Drop from the second rope, and Tamina nailed both Riott Squad members with the Superly Splash for the night's third elimination.
Jax attempted to charge Bayley, but a sidestep into the ring saw Jax crash into a pod, destroying it as she lay motionless; the other four women ganged up on Tamina with Banks hitting a Meteora and Bayley nailing an elbow drop as the four women covered her for a pinfall. Banks sold her injured shoulder late, and the Boss 'N Hug's finisher -- a backstabber into a Bayley-to-Belly -- on Deville was broken up by Rose at 2.9. Rose climbed atop a pod, so Boss 'N Hug followed with Banks assisting Bayley to the top. Deville soon met them only to fall off first; Bayley followed, so Deville drove her spine first into the pod's support beam. With Bayley knocked out cold, Banks checked on her partner but was herself thrown into a pod door by Rose, who subsequently hit the Fairytale Ending for a 2.8 count. A miscommunication saw Deville accidentally spear Rose, but Banks's injured shoulder prevented her from locking in the Banks Statement. Instead, she used her leg and forced Deville to tap out as Boss 'N Hug became the first women's tag team champions.
The match was slow and plodding until the first elimination, but business did pick up from there. The callback to the Banks-Bayley incident in Elimination Chamber last year was solid, and Banks picking up the slack for her team while Bayley had done that over the last few weeks was good storytelling as well. The match did leave some to be desired -- and there was way too much obvious, unnecessary coordination in the early going -- but it was tough not to love the finish and the crowd's "you deserve it" reaction as Banks and Bayley cried in the middle of the ring while speechless. Grade: B-
|Order of entry||Order of elimination|
Boss 'N Hug Connection
Naomi & Carmella (IIconics)
Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville
IIconics (Jax & Tamina)
Riott Squad (Jax & Tamina 2)
Jax & Tamina (Boss 'N Hug)
Naomi & Carmella
Rose & Deville (Boss 'N Hug 2)
Nia Jax & Tamina
Winners: Boss 'N Hug Connection
SmackDown Tag Team Championship -- The Usos def. The Miz & Shane McMahon (c) via pinfall to win the titles: Before the match began, Maryse took the stage and announced she and Miz were having another baby. McMahon's first hot tag resulted in some solid action, but it also angered the Usos, who regrouped outside the ring and put forth a dominant effort from there. The next McMahon hot tag saw the Usos laid out with McMahon hitting Coast-to-Coast on Jimmy Uso only for Jey Uso to catch him with a superkick on a second attempt to the other side of the ring (Miz broke up the pinfall at 2.8). A miscalculation by the Usos saw one splash into the other outside the ring; McMahon took advantage by climbing to the top rope and hitting an elbow drop into Jey through the announce table. After trading maneuvers back inside the ring, Miz eventually hit Jimmy Uso with a Skull-Crushing Finale; however, Jimmy converted Miz's pinning combination into a backslide at 2.5, getting the 1-2-3 to regain the titles. Miz was despondent in the ring after the match, while McMahon was disappointed outside. McMahon patted Miz on the head a couple times and put his arm around his partner as they walked to the back. You're not going to get a barn-burner with Miz & McMahon, but the action was solid and the result was as well. Also, Miz hit a springboard double axe handle during the match, which is quite noteworthy. Good job by all involved. Grade: B
Intercontinental Championship -- Finn Balor def. Bobby Lashley (c) & Lio Rush via pinfall to win the title: Backstage before the match, Dasha Fuentes got Rush upset by asking if he was the weak link of the team; Lashley was bothered by the suggestion and pushed them out to the ring as their entrance music began. Balor got a lot of action in early, but as expected, Rush was pesky and persistent in tormenting him. This led to Lashley getting an opportunity to dominate Balor, though that was interrupted by a blind tag from Rush, who attempted and badly missed his frog splash. Balor took advantage by hitting a tope con hilo on both men; he brought Rush back in the ring and nailed a diving dropkick followed by the Coup de gras to pin the non-champion and win the title. Lashley was incensed with Rush after the match, spiking him to the mat before walking off on his own. Horrendous booking here as Balor wins his first intercontinental title on a mid-level PPV by beating a cruiserweight as opposed to the dominant champion. Grade: C-
Raw Women's Championship -- Ronda Rousey (c) def. Ruby Riott via submission to retain the title: Before the match, Charlotte Flair cut a promo saying Becky Lynch panders to fans for their approval, while Flair looks in the mirror and gets all the approval she needs. She then sat ringside to see who would face her at WrestleMania 35. Dressed up like Sonya Blade, it did not take long for Rousey to dispatch of Riott, who spent most of the match outside the ring looking scared. A quick armbar led to the tap out of Riott and Flair entering the ring to stare down Rousey. Grade: D+
Becky Lynch loses her mind: It did not take long before cameras found Lynch, dressed like Beatrix Kiddo, hobbling on crutches through the crowd and into the ring. Lynch tossed one of her crutches at Flair and annihilated her with the other as Rousey watched on and shrugged. Once Flair was dispatched, Rousey picked up the extra crutch and considered using it on Flair. As Rousey stalked Flair into the corner, Lynch attacked Rousey from behind and similarly destroyed her, accidentally cracking her once on the side of the head among her dozens of strikes. Lynch was walked out of the arena with her arms behind her back through the crowd as Rousey rose to her feet outside the ring and Flair struggled to hers inside. Michael Cole put over Lynch's suspension and anti-authority actions. The storyline still needs a lot of repair after WWE screwed it up over the last seven days, but this was a big moment for Lynch, one that probably should have closed Raw on Monday. Grade: B
Baron Corbin def. Braun Strowman via pinfall (No Disqualification): Strowman hit Corbin with his charging shoulder tackle and was prepared to hit another when Corbin threw an announcer's chair at him; in a fun spot, Strowman caught the chair but was soon dispatched when Corbin dodged another charge and he wound up in the steel steps. Strowman setup a table in the corner of the ring and eventually drove Corbin through it with a running powerslam. As expected, that led Drew McIntyre out to the ring with a steel chair; not as expected was Lashley also appearing with one behind Strowman's back. Strowman fought off the attack briefly, but Lashley's spear took him out. The trio brought two bottom steel steps into the ring and two tables, stacking them atop one another. McIntyre hit a Claymore, and the trio lifted Strowman onto the steps before powerbombing him through the tables with Corbin covering him for the 1-2-3. They then stood on the steps and celebrated as if they were at an Olympic medal ceremony. The booking is awful as the alignment of the three men continues to occur without explanation or reason; however, the final spot was spectacular and saved this from a failing mark. Grade: D+
The Miz flips out: With McMahon being checked out by trainers for a potentially broken hand, Miz lost his cool over dropping the titles, clearing off an entire trainer's table of supplies as he claimed to be embarrassed at what went down on the show. McMahon demanded he go home, and he said they would work everything out Tuesday.
Lacey Evans catwalks: For no apparent reason, Evans's music hit. She walked down and back up the ramp. That's it.
WWE Championship (Elimination Chamber) -- Daniel Bryan (c) vs. AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton vs. Samoa Joe vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Kofi Kingston: Bryan entered with a fantastic new TitanTron and cut his general promo about the people needing him as Rowan was ejected from ringside. Bryan attempted to stay away from Joe and waste time early but did not escape him until Kingston entered when Bryan climbed atop the empty pod. Kingston soon followed by leaping from the ring to the pod; Bryan crawled away on chain link before falling off and seeing Kingston crash down into him and Joe. Styles entered and cleaned house, taking everyone out including Bryan, who again climbed the chain link only to be knocked off when Styles hit him in the back of the head with a Phenomenal Forearm. Kingston escaped a Coquina Clutch from Joe with a stunner, and Styles hit his Phenomenal Forearm to get the first elimination. Hardy took it to Styles upon entering, drilling him with an unfathomable Senton Bomb from the top of the pod with Styles perched atop the ropes. Bryan took advantage with a running knee and 1-2-3.
Styles looked to eliminate Kingston next with a Phenomenal Forearm, but Orton appeared out of nowhere to grab Styles's neck on the top rope and hit him with an RKO. Orton then caught Kingston with an elevated DDT, but Bryan interrupted his subsequent RKO attempt, so Orton took him out with a running powerslam. Kingston caught a dazed Orton with the Trouble in Paradise for the quick elimination, bringing the crowd to its feet with chants of "Kofi! Kofi!" Kingston ate Bryan's leg chops and called for more, but Bryan ducked a Trouble in Paradise, took Kingston's knee out and struck him with more kicks. Kingston dodged the last attempt and hit S.O.S. for a 2.8 count. Bryan then dodged a running Kingston, who rammed his head into the top turnbuckle, allowing Bryan to ram him with consecutive diving dropkicks. Kingston countered the last with a rising double stomp to Bryan's chest for a 2.6 count. Bryan countered an attempted bulldog by Kingston by ramming him into the side of a pod and took advantage with his running knee only for Kingston to kick out at 2.9. Bryan grabbed Kingston and stomped his face only to be shocked with Trouble in Paradise. Bryan rolled out of the pinning combination at 2.8, and Kingston kicked out of a subsequent pinning attempt. However, Bryan quickly locked Kingston in a shoulder and jaw submission ... until he grabbed the rope.
Chants returned for Kingston, who again chased Bryan atop a pod and slammed the champion's head into the Plexiglas repeatedly. Bryan and Kingston thwarted each other's superplex attempts from the top of the pod with Kingston knocking Bryan from the perch. Kingston went for the home run with a splash from atop the pod, but Bryan dodged it, crouched in the corner and hit his running knee to win the match and retain his title. After the match, Rowan helped Bryan out of the ring and New Day rushed to Kingston's side. The crowd chanted, "Thank you, Kofi!" as the event ended with Kingston's arms around his brothers as the crowd again chanted "Kofi! Kofi!" Fans were dejected at the finish as they were ready to explode for a Kingston win, but it was stellar and executed to perfection. If this sets up a Bryan-Kingston match at WrestleMania 35, no one will complain. It was a "B" chamber match, but the bout between the finalists improved it a full letter. Grade: A
|Order of entry||Order of elimination|
Winner: Daniel Bryan
2019 WWE Elimination Chamber updates, highlights
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