There are few things in this life more worth lamenting than a bloodless steel cage, let alone one that's modified into a dome with all manner of Mad Max-style architecture designed to imprison and impale. Good thing John Cena and Kevin Owens were still on hand to save the day with old fashioned sweat and tears.
On the other hand, it would be another two hours before proceedings concluded with a whimper by way of Seth Rollins escaping as champion thanks to the least convincing of technicalities. But hey, what would a WWE Network-exclusive Sunday special event be without generating its share of praise and pointed critique? So without further, "Don't mind if I adieu," here are the five key things I took away (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) from 2015's edition of Elimination Chamber.
5. Yes, Sheamus, We Are Entertained
Harry Shearer made news by departing The Simpsons, but the spirit of his Spinal Tap alter ego, Derek Smalls, was most certainly in the American Bank Center last night. After Sheamus' pod failed to open during the Intercontinental title gauntlet, hijinks ensued until a bit of MacGyvering by the Great White finally jimmied him free and into combat. Short of a roadie trying to weld off its hinges with a blowtorch, the embarrassing live malfunction could not have more cannily evoked Spinal Tap's satirical ode to real arena spectacle. It was the second of two mechanical mishaps during that match alone, leaving one to surmise that perhaps this year's resurrection of the evening's titular chamber may be its last hurrah.
4. Love That Titus
And no, not Christopher Titus' eponymous turn-of-the-century sitcom, though I quite enjoyed it for its time. I'm referring to Mr. O'Neil, who along with Prime Time Player partner Darren Young, has always been one small piece away from completing his character's puzzle. But amid a card largely dominated by lumbering pace and/or over-rehearsed "spots," O'Neil carried the latter portion of the tag-title collision with intense physicality and contagious charisma. It was thrilling to witness he and Young rise to – and seize – the moment of being the chamber's final survivors alongside eventual victors New Day. And not that we'd see a second coming of the Nation vs. DX, but New Day and PTP could turn in a pretty entertaining feud – no pods required.
3. Reigns for IC Champ in '16!
Not really. But why, might I ask, was he not chosen as Rusev's replacement in last night's Intercontinental clash over Mark Henry? I myself have conceded that Reigns isn't budging from the Heavyweight Championship scene any time soon, and it'd certainly have been difficult to throw him into the mix with ultimate champ Ryback et al and ask him to lose. But it's not as if his involvement in the main event was all that momentous, and had his music hit earlier on rather than Henry's, Corpus Christi would have gone bananas (they were, overall, a rather excitable lot). Who knows? Maybe you pull a swerve, have Roman grab IC glory and run right into former Shield mate Ambrose as the challenger first in line. Or run some typical J&J interference to prevent him from getting out the gate (not that we needed any further false starts in that match). It just felt as if, given how eager WWE was to please (see: Owens vs. Cena), their resident author of the Superman Punch could have easily descended to compete for Daniel Bryan's vacant belt and saved the day.
2. Out of Breadth
What started out as a special between-PPV mini-marquee when first announced quickly flowered into a full-blown, three-hour extravaganza with more matches than there've been hyphenated modifiers in this sentence. But why? Oh why? Did we need Neville vs. Bo Dallas? (Maybe, but I wasn't convinced.) Were the lengthy storytelling packages really necessary to catch us up on rivalries that have fomented for all of two weeks, or merely inserted to buy time while the Chamber was repeatedly raised and lowered for matches? Wouldn't this whole thing have felt more unique and had less to live up to had it aspired for the Saturday Night's Main Event approach of a modified major annual production? As I'll explore in just a moment, I'm on board with WWE experimenting to see how these things rate without PPV as a partner, and appreciate them delivering signature moments and unexpected finishes accordingly. But asking folks to make six hours of Sundays available a month while still tuning in for Raw and SmackDown each week for the interim drama is more than most can offer, or that one promotion can redeem – no matter many free months they give away.
1. Cena and Owens: The Real Tag-Team Champs
I truly have no idea how John Cena spins this loss to just roll off his back, nor can I fathom Kevin Owens merely moseying down to Florida until it's time for Money in the Bank and then disappearing back into NXT's ranks. WWE has obviously stumbled on a serious moneymaker in KO, and that sort of overnight phenomenon is rare in any prizefighting form of entertainment, and even more rarely ignored. So Cena was asked to make the ultimate sacrifice, and Owens only had to prove that he was ready to make good on 15 years and deliver the match of his life. And together, the two made a bit of history.
Cena was audibly reassuring Owens through transitional moves, keeping him calm and steady like a pitching coach making mound visits with men on in the ninth and a tenuous lead to protect. Owens was brash, cocky and bold but backed it up with every high-wire bit of offense and counter-offense in his arsenal. And Cena, meanwhile, set the tone by strategically laying out and then finding resolve. It had the aura of a slightly shambolic heavyweight payoff between bitter foes, yet these two have never tussled and this was Owens' debut inside a big-time WWE ring. What it means is that, regardless of how Cena bounces back or Owens keeps the ball rolling, two important themes for the company's future were communicated: Whoever carries that NXT title is someone you need to know, and you can continue begging off a subscription to the Network at your peril. So while we await this pair's next head-to-head at Money in the Bank, fact is they already worked together in a bigger win for WWE, Inc.
Below the Belt:
- Would be kinda weird if at least Big E didn't join Kofi in the MITB ladder match, no?
- Really, Jerry, you can't tell the Ascension apart?
- Pretty surprised Nikki won.
- Even more surprised Paige is alive after she and Naomi botched that hurricanrana.
- Was also shocked to see Kidd and Cesaro, and later, Dolph Ziggler, eliminated when they were.
- Rusev better get healthy to keep this Ziggler story alive.
- Ryback pulled a Neville and popped up from that winning pin a bit too quick.
- I miss Ryback the bully.
- Oh yeah, Seth Rollins was pinned and lost the title but then lost but kept the title. For some reason.
- Move of the Night: I may actually go with one that didn't land…that incredible top-rope footwork and subsequent moonsault by Owens.
- Line of the Night: Really lovin' that JBL lately: "That wasn't awesome. That was dumb."