The Date: 9 January 2005
The Venue: Coliseo de Puerto Rico; San Juan, Puerto Rico
The Commentary: Jim “J.R.” Ross, Jerry “The King” Lawler, and Jonathan “The Coach” Coachman
The Referee: “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels (guest)
The Stakes: Six-man Elimination Chamber match for the vacant World Heavyweight Championship
By 2005, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) was the undisputed top dog in the sports entertainment industry; having bought their competition and become an indomitable multimedia juggernaut, the company decided to split their now bloated roster into two distinct brands, with both Raw and SmackDown! receiving their own exclusive wrestlers, belts, and creative teams. Under Paul Heyman, SmackDown! became known as the “wrestling show” and delivered quality matches and storylines thanks to the efforts of the fabled “SmackDown! Six”, rising stars like John Cena, and the brand-exclusive Cruiserweight division. In contrast, Eric Bischoff’s Raw was more about over-the-top storylines and was largely dominated by Triple H’s “Reign of Terror” that saw him maintain a stranglehold on the World Heavyweight Championship, backed up by his Evolution allies (“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, Randy Orton, and Batista). Though this led to a fondly remembered feud against Triple H’s former D-Generation X running buddy Shawn Michaels and saw Chris Benoit finally capture the big one on the grandest stage of them all, it also included controversial storylines involving Kane and a disastrous main event run for Randy Orton that would lead to him adopting a “Legend Killer” gimmick but also saw his big WrestleMania coronation being usurped by Evolution’s enforcer, Batista, who gained unanimous fan support around this time. After a championship match between Triple H. Chris Benoit, and Edge ended in a double pin, the World Heavyweight Championship was declared vacant and Bischoff had the six top challengers vie for a place in an Elimination Chamber match to battle for the belt. This was only the third Elimination Chamber match so the concept was relatively new in the WWE; it debuted at the 2002 Survivor Series and forced four men to waiting in “bulletproof pods” as two others fought in the ring, with each participant joining the match at random at regular intervals, with wrestlers being eliminated by pin fall or submission until only one is left standing. The two main storylines heading into the match revolved around Triple H; Batista was showing signs of independence and had earned himself the final spot in the match, which angered The Game as he’d already been slighted by Orton and was concerned about Batista’s loyalties. Shawn Michaels being named the special guest referee also threw Triple H of as he wasn’t expected to be impartial given his bloody history with The Game. Chris Benoit’s presence was another thorn in Triple H’s side since The Game had suffered numerous losses to him and Triple H’s years of domination and oppression meant he had few allies heading into this bout.
I remember this period of wrestling; I gather many look back on Triple H’s time with the belt more fondly now and it’s true that he eventually made some of the WWE’s biggest stars, but at the time it was absolutely frustrating to watch. What made it worse was that Chris Benoit had already knocked him off the perch (well, technically HBK and Goldberg had also beaten him for the belt but that’s neither here nor there…) and it seemed we were due some fresh faces in the Raw main event scene, but Triple H kept getting involved, basically meaning that the story leading up to WrestleMania 21 was basically the same as the previous year’s WrestleMania XX, only this time it would be the up-and-coming Batista rather than the veteran Benoit finally getting his due. The Elimination Chamber concept also hadn’t been run into the ground; the massive, dangerous steel structure had a real ominous feel to it at this point and the match is still perhaps the most inventive and interesting of the modern era despite becoming an annual event, often without any real storyline justification for it. Edge was the first man to enter a ring pod; this was the start of Edge’s push towards the top of the card and I was all for it. He had proved himself in tag team matches and runs with the Intercontinental Championship and was a much-needed fresh face in the main event scene, but he was edging into tweener territory here due to his problems with HBK. Triple H was out next and was practically livid at having to be locked into a pod by one of his worst enemies and then got into a slanging match with his former protégé, Randy Orton, when he came to the ring looking to regain the championship, though it was pretty clear that he’d lost a lot of the bite and appeal he’d had before turning against Evolution. In comparison, the crowd was much hotter for Batista, who had not only won the right to be the last man to exit his pod but had also vowed not to let the championship slip through his fingers if push came to shove. With the four sealed in their pods, it was up to Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit to kick the match off; these two were no strangers to each other by any means and could always be relied on to put on a clinic. I’ll give this to the creative team, they certainly had a lot of bad blood and crossover going on in this match; everyone had issues with each other and a reason to fight beyond just wanting to be the champion, which made for quite the powder keg as the match got underway.
Benoit and Jericho locked up with a series of takedowns, reverses, and tentative holds; Jericho’s attempts to take control were emphatically shut down by Benoit’s patented knife-edge chops and, when Y2J returned the favour, Benoit responded by tripping him into a Sharpshooter attempt. After fighting off the Walls of Jericho, Benoit landed a massive German Suplex, but Jericho managed to slip out of a Crippler Crossface attempt and score a couple of near falls. Benoit cut Jericho off when he went to the top rope and brought the first-ever Undisputed Champion crashing to the mat with a Superplex that saw both men struggling to recover as Triple H entered the match. Triple H went right after Benoit, beating and stomping on him in the corner and wiping out with a couple of hard whips into the corners for a two count while also taking out Jericho with his signature jumping knee strike. Jericho soon laid in the chops to The Game, though, before being taken down by a clothesline; Triple H brutally tossed Benoit out onto the steel platform surrounding the ring and ran him face-first into the thick steel chains that made up the chamber’s walls, busting him open and creating a gaping target for Hunter’s assault. Regardless, Benoit was still able to kick out at two so Triple H went for the Pedigree but, oddly, Jericho interrupted the move rather than potentially remove an obstacle from the match and then reversed another Pedigree into a back body drop that sent Triple H to the steel on the outside. Another slam continued to work over Triple H’s back and a suplex brought him back into the ring for a near fall before Edge joined the party. Edge wasted no time in taking advantage of his wounded opponents, hitting Spear-like moves on Jericho and Triple H before planting The Game with the Edgecution for a close two count and even planting Benoit with an uncharacteristic belly-to-belly suplex! Jericho tried to steal a pin, but Triple H kicked out, then Edge took a tumble to the outside courtesy of a Jericho dropkick but Y2J’s momentum was summarily cut off when Edge raked his eyes and launched him into the chain wall with a catapult and then did the same to Triple H after The Game tried to hit him with a Pedigree out on the steel!
A diving clothesline to Benoit scored Edge a two count, then he feverishly fought out of a Crippler Crossface attempt before being knocked down by an enziguri from Jericho that was also only a two count. The bloodied Jericho and Triple H then went at it, with The Game landing his patented spinebuster for a near fall and Benoit getting the same result with a lovely Northern Lights Suplex to Edge. Triple H finally nailed the Pedigree on Jericho but was too out of it to capitalise; Orton then entered the match like a house on fire, smacking Edge’s head off the chain and leaped at Triple H with a crossbody off the top rope. Orton continued to beat Triple H down to a fair amount of applause (though they mainly chanted for his finisher…), tossing him to the outside and running him into the chain wall, slamming him with his beautiful snap powerslam, and even planting Jericho with an RKO out of nowhere! However, when he tried that shit on Benoit, he got tied up in a version of the Crippler Crossface; Triple H taunted Orton as he struggled in the hold, so Benoit hit ‘Select’ to change targets and locked a Sharpshooter on The Game, only to be hit by an RKO! Edge then tried to take Orton out with a Spear but the future Legend Killer dodged out of the way and caused HBK to take the attack instead! Consequently, there was no referee to count the pin when Edge did hit the Spear on Orton; incensed, Edge manhandled HBK and slapped him, which earned him a dose of Sweet Chin Music and left him wide open for a Lionsault from Jericho and a subsequent elimination. Benoit then saved Jericho from another Pedigree by blasting Triple H with three German Suplexes in a row; Benoit then clambered on top of a chamber pod to land a humongous diving headbutt to Triple H! He and Jericho then called back to their days as a tag team by locking in both the Walls of Jericho and the Crippler Crossface on The Game but, luckily for him, the timer ran down and Batista finally emerged from his pod after an awkward delay that I can only assume was unintentional.
Batista’s first act was to save his mentor; he fought off Jericho and Benoit with ease, launching them out of the ring and drilling Orton with a spinebuster. He then went face-to-face with Triple H in a tense showdown that had the crowd absolutely begging for them to go at it but the two were jumped by their opponents before they could come to blows. Batista took out a camera man by Military Pressing Jericho into the poor bastard then hoisted Orton up in a wonky looking chokehold before Benoit attacked his knee and brought him to the mat. Orton and Benoit then temporarily joined forces to put the pressure on Batista before Triple H got back into the thick of it by picking each man off; he launched Orton into the chain but then got slammed into the platform by a facebuster courtesy of Jericho that properly got the blood gushing. After a bit of brawling, Benoit was emphatically shut down with a spinebuster from Batista, who then hit a spinebuster on Jericho onto Benoit that allowed him to eliminate the Rabid Wolverine. Jericho was next to go after being decimated by the Batista Bomb, meaning the match came down to a contest between Evolution! Orton struck first, tossing Triple H to the steel platform and smashing Batista off the steel before being launched into the chains from a Triple H catapult that busted him open. Triple H and Batista worked over the bleeding, helpless Orton relentlessly; despite the merciless beating, Orton continued to kick out of their pin attempts, frustrating both men. Although a lengthy onslaught clearly designed to pain Orton as a resilient underdog, this actually worked for the crowd, who were fully behind Orton as he mounted a comeback with some strikes and, indeed, when he hit a low blow and a huge RKO to eliminate Batista, the crowd came unglued! Triple H and Orton then fought on the outside, where Orton repeatedly threw him into the chain wall before hitting another massive RKO. Unfortunately, HBK was busy trying to get Batista and Ric Flair out of the ring so there was no pin fall. In the chaos, Batista blasted Orton with a clothesline; this was enough to leave Orton prone for a Pedigree that awarded Triple H yet another championship victory.
J.R said that Batista “dominated” the match but that wasn’t quite true, though it should have been; since the match went so long without any eliminations, I would’ve had Batista be the one to eliminate everyone before being upset by Orton to better paint him as this unstoppable force. Although Evolution celebrated the win, with Batista hoisting Triple H onto his shoulders, it was clear from the footage that The Game could’ve prevented Batista’s elimination and chose not to, a wrinkle that only added fuel to their issues going forward. Orton would win the right to challenge Triple H at the Royal Rumble but, where he came up short, Batista (eventually) emerged as the winner of the Royal Rumble itself. Although Triple H and Ric Flair tried to convince him to challenge JBL, Batista dramatically revealed that he’d had enough of being Hunter’s lackey and their manipulation; Batista went on to capture his first World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 21 and begin his own ascension to mainstream success that remained intrinsically linked to his former mentor. Despite the good reactions he got here, Orton’s time as a fan favourite was largely a dud; to get himself back on track, he decided to challenge the Undertaker at WrestleMania 21. Although unsuccessful and injured in the bout, he did score victories over the Deadman thanks to help from his father, “Cowboy” Bob Orton, during the feud, which took up most of his 2005. Blaming HBK for his loss, Edge got into a short feud with Shawn Michaels that was over with by WrestleMania 21; there, HBK battled Kurt Angle in a dream match and Edge won the first-ever Money in the Bank ladder match, which also included Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit; Edge cashed in the briefcase at the following year’s New Year’s Revolution to win his first World Heavyweight Championship. Although the WWE would continue to produce Elimination Chamber matches, there would only be two more New Year’s Revolution events; the pay-per-view was cancelled in 2007, though the branding was briefly revived for a series of house shows in 2020.
What did you think to the third-ever Elimination Chamber match? What did you think to the match concept? Were you a fan of Randy Orton’s face turn and would you have liked to see him win it? Did you like the narrative surrounding Batista and were you excited to see him break out on his own? What did you think to Triple H’s reign with the World Heavyweight Championship What’s your favourite Elimination Chamber match? Were you a fan of the New Year’s Revolution event and would you like to see it revived? Whatever your thoughts on the 2005 Elimination Chamber and its participants, share them below or leave a comment on my social media.