Winners: Buddy Murphy, Sasha Banks and Bayley, The Usos, Finn Balor, Ronda Rousey, Baron Corbin, and Daniel Bryan.
The Cruiserweight Championship was once again relegated to the kick-off show; I’m starting to wonder what the WWE did for the kick-off show before they brought back the Cruiserweight Championship. I guess I kind of get that something has to go here but it really shouldn’t be a championship match unless it’s going to be a surprising title change to get the crowd pumped. Anyway, Buddy Murphy and Akira Tozawa threw everything at each other and did everything they could to try and remind everyone why the cruiserweights should be considered relevant and it resulted in a fast-paced match in which Tozawa tried everything he could to put away the champion. There was a great spot where Tozawa went for a Suicide Dive but got caught in mid-air and planted with a Suplex; Murphy worked over the back for the majority of the match but he was still able to hit a sick German Suplex and an Inverted Hurricanrana off the top rope. He also hit a Top Rope Senton onto Murphy as he was draped over the ropes, which had to suck, but his Octopus Stretch was eventually countered into Murphy’s Law to keep the purple strap around Murphy a little while longer.
Surprisingly, the women’s Elimination Chamber match was the first match of the night; I was sure that the WWE wouldn’t miss a chance to plug this as the main event but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been wrong (contrary to popular belief). Sasha Banks and Bayley kicked things off against Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose, which was a pretty evenly matched contest for the most part until Mandy got her leg trapped in the cage and planted with a Neckbreaker from Bayley. Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan were out next, taking out Sasha and Bayley and getting into it with Rose and Deville, before everyone got taken down by a Tower of Doom spot.
Peyton Royce and Billie Kay entered the match and tried to get a quick win over anyone but everyone just kicked out; they posted Liv and Logan and tried to pin Bayley after a Camel Clutch/Knee Shot combo but Sasha made the save. The Iiconics ran Bayley and Sasha’s faces over the steel mesh but still couldn’t put them away even after a Slingshot Leg Drop.
Naomi and Carmella joined the fray, ensuring that the ring was literally filled with bodies and chaos; Carmella countered a Powerbomb attempt from Billie into a Hurricanrana that smashed her into a pod door, while Bayley started throwing Suplexes like she was Brock Lesnar or something. A finisher fest saw everyone take a bit of a break, with the Iiconics managing to make the first elimination by pinning Naomi.
Nia Jax and Tamina quickly replace them and squash the Iiconics almost immediately, eliminating them from the match, before getting into it with the Riott Squad. Nia planted Liv with a Samoan Drop from the middle rope, which allowed Tamina to hit the Superfly Splash on both Liv and Logan and take them out as well. Bayley side-stepped a Spear from Nia, causing her to crash into a pod door, and then Sasha, Bayley, Mandy, and Sonya managed to get Tamina down long enough for Bayley to pin her with a Splash from the top rope, meaning the match ended exactly as it began with Bayley, Sasha, Mandy, and Sonya going at it. Sasha kicked out of the Bed of Roses at two and quickly locked in a modified version of the Banks Statement soon after to get the submission victory and claim the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships.
The Miz and Shane McMahon put the SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championships on the line against the Usos next (because two tag team championship matches back-to-back is always a great idea…); Miz tried to get a quick win with the Figure Four but that obviously wasn’t happening. Shane also tried for a Coast To Coast as soon as he got in on the action but was thwarted and had to settle for a Slingshot Sunset Flip; fuckin’ Shane McMahon, man! Anyway, the Usos soon isolated Miz (because of course!) and worked the quick tags until Miz floored Jimmy Uso with a Clothesline and made the hot tag to Shane so he could get his big hero moment. Shane hit the Coast To Coast on Jimmy but his arrogance finally backfired as he got smacked with a Superkick when he tried to hit it on Jey Uso; things spilled to the outside, which allowed Shane to smash himself and Jey through an announce table (because of course Shane just had to do that…!) However, none of that really mattered as Jimmy managed to kick out of the Skull-Crushing Finale and tie Miz into a Crucifix Pin for the three count and the tag titles.
Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush added to the multi-man mayhem by teaming up against Finn Balor as Finn challenged for the Intercontinental Championship; Lio immediately tagged in Lashley, who targeted Finn’s ribs in the early going. Balor largely managed to survive Lashley’s onslaught and power with his speed and agility, dodging attacks and slipping out of moves all over the place before finally dumping Lashley to the outside; Lio tripped Finn, causing him to chase him to the outside and end up being slammed into the barricade by Lashley. Lio tagged in and stomped away at Finn’s ribs; the two then tagged in and out, using the Camel Clutch, Abdominal Stretch, and striking attacks to keep the pressure and pain on Balor’s ribs. Lashley set Finn up for a Spear but Lio tagged himself in and went for the Frog Splash, only for Balor to avoid the impact,wipe them both out with a Suicide Dive, and capture the belt with a Coup de Grâce to Lio. Lashley wasn’t best pleased with Lio and attacked him after the match.
Charlotte Flair came and sat at ringside for Ronda Rousey’s Raw Women’s Championship match against Ruby Riott, which lasted less than two minutes; Ronda pretty much immediately put the Arm Bar on Ruby and she tapped out immediately. Becky Lynch came out afterwards and attacked both Charlotte and Ronda with a crutch until she was thrown out by security. What an absolutely pathetic display and a complete waste of Ruby; why not just have this be a contract signing or some other in-ring skit between Charlotte and Ronda that Becky can crash instead of burying Ruby in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it match?
Braun Strowman and Baron Corbin were up next in a No Disqualification match; I didn’t realise that Corbin was still competing in his slacks and shirt…I don’t really get why, as he’s not the Sheriff (or whatever the fuck he was supposed to be) any more and just looks like a bit of an idiot wearing trousers and a shirt in a match. Anyway, Corbin started the match by working over Strowman’s ribs and legs with a kendo stick; you wouldn’t think that kind of weapon would really faze a guy like Strowman (remember when Kane and the Big Show used to just shrug off chair shots to the head?) but there you go. Strowman eventually snapped the stick in half and they fought to the outside; Crobin tried throwing a chair at Braun’s face and, when that failed, attacked him with the steel steps for a bit. Strowman eventually downed him with a Clothesline and a Big Boot and then hit the Running Powerslam through a table propped up in the corner. Before he could follow-up, though, Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley ran to the ring and beat Strowman down with steel chairs; McIntyre landed the Claymore and then the three of them hit a Triple Powerbomb through a table so that Corbin could pick up the scraps and get a win. I guess we know who Braun will be feuding with for the immediate future, then…
The evening finished with the WWE Championship being defended inside the Elimination Chamber; Daniel Bryan and Samoa Joe started the match (which was kind of weird as they’re both heels), which saw Bryan try to work over Joe’s leg and him constantly having to keep his distance from Joe’s power. Kofi Kingston spiced things up a bit but his momentum was soon cut off by Bryan, who dropped him with a knee to the back of his neck. Bryan escaped from Joe to the top of a pod but, when Kofi chased after him, was forced to climb across the chamber’s chains to get away. Joe pulled Bryan down and Kofi took them both down with a dive, though Joe was soon back to work chopping away at Bryan’s chest when AJ Styles entered the match.
AJ went right for Bryan, taking him and Kofi out with a DDT/Inverted DDT double move, downing Joe with a forearm shot, and landing the Phenomenal Forearm to Bryan. AJ tried to hit the Styles Clash on Kofi but it was blocked; Joe then slammed AJ’s face into the chains and briefly put the Coquina Clutch on Kofi until he broke free. AJ then flew at Joe with the Phenomenal Forearm and eliminated him just in time for Jeff Hardy to get into it; Jeff’s Leg Drop to AJ only got a two count so he went after Bryan, landing the Mule Kick and the Poetry In Motion (with an assist from Kofi). Jeff then draped AJ chest-down on one of the top turnbuckles and hit him with the Swanton Bomb, which probably sucked as well, but was quickly hit with the Running Knee and pinned by Bryan.
Randy Orton came in right after the other three guys had wiped each other out with a Tower of Doom and eliminated AJ with an RKO soon after; he got distracted with Bryan as he went for an RKO to Kofi, which allowed Kofi to hit the Trouble In Paradise and get rid of Orton (fantastically ironic given their history together), leaving Kofi and Bryan as the final two to the utter delight of the crowd as they totally bought into everything Kofi did.
Bryan dodged the Trouble In Paradise and they fought outside the ring, which allowed Bryan to throw Kofi into a pod door, but Kofi still managed to kick out of the Running Knee (which put away Triple H, let’s not forget). Bryan went a bit mental after that and stomped on Kofi’s face; Kofi countered another Running Knee with the Trouble In Paradise but only got a two count. They fought up top for a bit and Kofi tried for a splash off the roof of a pod but Bryan rolled out of harm’s way, hit the Running Knee, and scored the win but the real winner here with Kofi, who got nothing less than a hero’s reaction from the crowd for his efforts.
Triple H kicked things off this week to talk WrestleMania, put over Sasha Banks, Bayley, Kofi Kingston, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, and Ronda Rousey and, of course, to announce that he, Shawn Michaels, Road Dogg, Billy Gunn, X-Pac, and Chyna are all going into the Hall of Fame this year as part of D-Generation X. It’s a shame that the WWE decided that this was the best way to get Chyna into the Hall of Fame, as he singles career was a lot more noteworthy than her time in DX, but a result is a result (and, plus, the Outlaws and X-Pac were probably never going to get in any other way…). Oh, he also announced that NXT’s Ricochet, Aleister Black, Johnny Gargano, and Tommaso Ciampa would all be making their main roster debuts that night.
Baron Corbin and Braun Strowman went at it again twenty-four hours later in a tables match; Corbin got, and kept, the advantage by attacking Braun’s ribs, slamming them repeatedly into the barricade. This eventually descended into some dull, plodding offense from Corbin as he punched and stomped at Braun’s ribs while doing very little else; Braun eventually took control with a Suplex onto the ramp but Corbin easily regained the momentum by shoving him rib-first into the announce table, the ring post, the barricade, and by working his ribs over with a kendo stick. Braun somehow managed to lift the steel steps to smash Corbin out of mid-air and attack him with them and then just hit a Running Powerslam through a table out of nowhere to get his win back.
Instead of Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley interfering (which they legally could have) to assist Corbin or even attacking Strowman after the match, Braun had a bit of a confrontation with Paul Heyman afterwards; Heyman hyped up Brock Lesnar for a bit and then just…left…as Finn Balor came out to cut a promo about being the new Intercontinental Champion. That was weird. Equally weird was that Lio Rush and Lashley were apparently on the same page again as they interrupted to beat Finn up a bit. Okay, so, why not have Lashley come out, have a stare down with Braun, and then have Lio beg his forgiveness and have them be interrupted by Finn? Anyway, Ricochet made the save and ended up in a tag team match with Finn against Lashley and Lio.
Similar to when Hideo Itami teamed up with Finn a while ago, this match was basically a showcase for Ricochet’s incredible athleticism; not that the crowd really cared as they were too busy sitting on their hands all night long. Anyway, Ricochet flew all over the place to run rings around Lio and Lashley, which was enough for Lio to demand that Finn tag in and face him. Unfortunately, this resulted in the Intercontinental Champion playing “face-in-peril” as Lashley worked over his arm and the two of them wore him down for quite a long stretch; Finn eventually floored Lashley with the Standing Stomp and make the tag to Ricochet. Ricochet blurred into action, hitting a Dropkick, a Springboard Dropkick, a dive onto Lio over the top rope, a Moonsault off the barricade, and finally getting the win with the 630 Splash. This was a great showcase of what Ricochet can do and I’d love to see him and Finn go head-to-head in a friendly rivalry over the Intercontinental Championship heading into WrestleMania.
Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins faced off against Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik in a desperate attempt to end Hawkins’ losing streak. It didn’t work (spoilers!) as Ryder ended up preoccupied on the outside and Hawkins got pinned by a Hurricanrana from Metalik. Afterwards, Heavy Machinery tried to be imposing but it’s incredibly difficult to believe they’ll make an kind of impact given what a shit job the WWE did with the Ascension and the Authors of Pain. They were also randomly interrupted by Lacey Evans in an incredibly weird segment that I’d rather just move on from…
In what I will argue is an incredible miss-step by the WWE, the NXT Champion Tomasso Ciampa and the NXT North-American Champion Johnny Gargano teamed up against the Revival next. So…I know that these two have been teasing a #DIY reunion on NXT but we’re still a long way from that, I would imagine, given all the hell they put each other through so to see them teaming up, being buddy-buddy, and Ciampa even having babyface mannerisms was really weird. I know the WWE tag team scene is pretty dire but these guys really shouldn’t be pushed back together to help with that; put Gargano on SmackDown! Live and have him feud for the United States or WWE Championship and have Ciampa on Raw as a top tier heel while you work on improving your existing tag teams. Anyway, this was a call back to the rivalry these four had in NXT and saw Gargano and Ciampa pretty much dominate throughout the match. Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson tried to tag in and out and hit double team moves but Gargano wasn’t having any of it. Once Ciampa came in, the Revival were able to weather the storm and chip away at him but, ultimately, it was futile as Gargano and Ciampa hit the Superkick-And-Knee to Dawson and got the win.
Afterwards, Nia Jax and Tamina spoiled Sasha Banks and Bayley’s victory speech to set up for a future title match between the two teams, which is a saddening thought, though we did learn that the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships will be defend on Raw, SmackDown! Live, and NXT so all those multi-woman matches will finally (hopefully…) have a meaning to them. It’s too bad the WWE didn’t do the same thing with the men’s Tag Team Championships as Red and Blue Brands cane barely sustain a division each as it is! Anyway, this was followed by Drew McIntyre absolutely crushing Dean Ambrose; literally, Dean barely got a chance to do anything as Drew chopped him, shoved him about, and then hit him with repeated Claymore’s. Even weirder, Dean question Seth Rollins backstage after the match as to why he didn’t “have his back”….is everyone on the WWE’s writing staff high or something!?
Elias had his little session interrupted once again, this time by former NXT Champion Aleister Black (cannot wait for him to be simply known as “Aleister”!); they had a pretty disappointing match, considering what we known Aleister is capable of, that ended with Aleister kicking Elias’ face off with the Black Mass and getting the win. I love that the WWE are calling up NXT guys but is it really a good idea to have them all get big wins over some of your top guys right away? That’s kind of the problem, really; those that know want to see NXT call-ups be treated as a big deal but it’s always going to get in the way of existing pushes and storylines. Like, why not have Heavy Machinery fight the Revival and build towards a feud with #DIY, if you really must do that? Why not just have Aleister interrupt Elias and them exchange words and brawl or something rather than just have Elias lose when he’s supposed to be this hot prospect right now?
Anyway, the Elimination Chamber rematches continued with Ronda Rousey once again putting the Raw Women’s Championship on the line against Ruby Riott; this time, the match went a bit longer than two minutes, which really begs the question of why have the match at the pay-per-view at all if you’re going to have a competitive effort the very next night? Like, what legitimate claim does Ruby have to challenge Ronda again when she was so easily defeated and why would Ronda even want to fight her again when she knows she can win with ease? The mixed signals are just made worse when the WWE follows up a squash with a match like this, where Ruby actually got a chance to do something and even looked like she might upset Ronda a few times. Ugh, well, anyway, Ronda got the win with the Arm Bar again despite interference from the Riott Squad and then pretty easily dispatched all three women after the match.
Shane McMahon opened the show this week to set up the matches for the night; the Miz interrupted to beg Shane to sign off on a rematch for the SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championships, which the Usos openly object to. Apparently, there is no automatic rematch clause? That’s weird because we always see rematches for championship matches. This seemed to be another way to make Shane look amazing as he over-ruled the rules to book the match at Fastlane after the Usos disrespected the Miz. Man, I really wish Shane would just go away…
Aleister Black was back in action (apparently, all NXT call-ups now float between brands until they are officially signed…), this time against Andrade. For my thoughts about this, just read what I wrote about Elias/Aleister Black this week on Raw; the only real difference here was that Andrade put up a bit more of a fight than Elias but he still fell to the Black Mass. Again, I thought the WWE were high on Andrade and wanted to push him? Couldn’t Aleister have thought, like, Rey Mysterio or Shelton Benjamin or something?
Similarly, Sheamus and Cesaro faced off against Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano afterwards and, again, the NXT guys got the win after a more competitive match than the one between #DIY and the Revival. The size and power of Sheamus and Cesaro allowed for far greater variations throughout the match as they slugged it out with Ciampa and then dominated Gargano; in the end, though, Ciampa got the win by rolling up Cesaro. It’s so weird seeing how these four NXT guys are being treated compared to the last round, as EC3 is a dull mute, Lars Sullivan is nowhere to be found, Heavy Machinery have yet to have a match and…I don’t even remember if there was anyone else…but, again, it’s all coming at the detriment of other guys. I get that you want people to care about these new faces but you can do that without having some of your top guys take the fall in their debut matches!
Asuka finally returned to television…unfortunately, it resulted in her losing to Mandy Rose after she distracted the referee and got a fluke rollup. Oh, and Lacey Evans randomly came out during the match…If this keeps up, I wouldn’t be surprised if Asuka doesn’t follow in Tye Dillinger’s footsteps and request her release.
As if it wasn’t crazy enough to see Asuka actually be on the show, Eric Young finally showed up again! …to lose to Ricochet, despite the remainder of SAnitY being at ringside. Again, I’m all for Ricochet being called up and making waves in the upper-mid-card division and towards those belts but SAnitY still haven’t had a chance to make any kind of impact so is it really the best idea to have one guy, even a guy as talented as Ricochet, run rings around one of them?
Anyway, SmackDown! Live finished with a good, old fashioned six-man tag team match as Kofi Kingston, Jeff Hardy, and AJ Styles took on Samoa Joe, Randy Orton, and Daniel Bryan. The idea here was that, whoever won the match would get to face Bryan for the WWE Championship at Fastlane, which raises a couple of questions; like, what is Bryan makes the pin? And weren’t Joe and Orton going after Bryan just a few days ago for the belt? Honestly, this probably should have been a classic WWE fatal-five-way with Bryan on commentary or something. Anyway, Samoa Joe started on the heel side and quickly found himself on the receiving end of Jeff Hardy’s trademark offense; Randy Orton tagged in and faced off with Kofi, with Bryan getting involved at every opportunity to screw up Kofi’s momentum. Orton took emphatic control with his patented Back Suplex onto the announce table; he tagged out to Bryan and Kofi tagged in AJ, who went right at Bryan with all his biggest moves. Kofi tagged in, hit the Trouble In Paradise, and got the win to earn the championship opportunity. I mean, I’m happy for Kofi but it’s just a shame that it took Mustafa Ali being injured to give him this kind of push as I don’t believe he would have this opportunity if not for that.