So hey, did you know that there’s a WWE PPV this weekend? Yeah, neither did the Raw writing staff. While all of the interesting news in WWE has been centered around the ever-evolving main event of WrestleMania, there’s the little matter of Elimination Chamber coming up on Sunday. Even though Monday night has mostly ignored it (and frankly been a worse show because of it), SmackDown Live has been quietly building a nice little card for this…JOINT PPV? REALLY? Okay, I guess. I remember when Elimination Chamber was an event to get hyped for, not a show where literally half the card was announced via the WWE’s Twitter account. Still, there are some potential bangers on the card, and everyone (well statistically, fewer than recent years) is wondering — who’s leaving the (second) most dangerous structure in the WWE with the belt — or in the case of the women’s tag title match, belts? We’ve asked some of AiPT! Wrestling’s staff who they’ve got this Sunday.
Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Akira Tozawa (Cruiserweight Championship)
It’s a WWE PPV pre-show, so that must mean it’s time for a Cruiserweight title defense. Yes, despite routinely featuring the most athletically exciting wrestling on the entire show, Buddy Murphy and Akira Tozawa are going to put on a barn-burner of a match in front of like one-third of the crowd of a Baron Corbin squash. Fortunately, these are two of the best performers on the 205 roster, so anyone who actually makes the effort to watch this match should be in for a treat. Can the Juggernaut outlast the latest in what has been a fairly impressive list of challengers, or can Akira wreck Murphy like he was Neo Tokyo?
Jason: It really is a shame that these two guys are going to go out there and put on the equivalent of a 2005 RoH main event to a crowd that has more open seats than filled ones. I’m sure this will be amazing, and I honestly wish that more people were watching this, but I just find it hard to care about a title that the company itself clearly doesn’t care about. I’m going to assume that Murphy’s making it through this with his title intact, only for someone (hopefully someone interesting) to finally take the belt off of him at Mania.
Winner: Buddy Murphy
Brian: We have to, in the long run, stop seeing the Kickoff Show as a throwaway. With the smaller audience, 205 Live isn’t one of the main draws of the PPV. At best, it would be a five minute throwaway in between four giants growling and throwing haymakers. Buddy Murphy has proven that he elevates the Cruiserweight platform, and if the Kickoff Show is how we get the most minutes for this match, then take that ring and rumble, young man, rumble. Tozawa is a great opponent, but Murphy holds the title through Mania.
Winner: Buddy Murphy
JJ: I feel like I say the same exact thing every time the Cruiserweight title is on the card. I don’t watch it, I don’t have time for it, WWE brass is wasting this talent, and the division is largely pointless. Integrate these guys into the Raw and SmackDown rosters so people will actually see them on TV. I have a lot of friends that watch wrestling and I don’t know a single one that watches 205 Live.
Winner: Buddy Murphy
Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin (No Disqualification Match)
Remember a few months ago when we all thought Braun Strowman was the hottest thing in wrestling? When this big, screaming rage bear was an unstoppable force trudging inevitably toward the Universal Title? How’d that work out again? So yeah, our mighty Braun is now slumming against the tallest croupier at Reno’s scummiest casino in what should be a short squash artificially inflated by shenanigans. Given how WWE has been booking these two, however, it’s more likely to go 40 minutes, involve Drew McIntyre and Kurt Angle, and morph into a tag match no one wants to see. Can the abominable Strowman best Sweet Barry C with nothing on the line?
Jason: Braun should literally destroy Corbin. Literally. Rend his limbs from his body, stomp his chest through the mat, leave nothing behind but a tattered waistcoat. Total time investment: 45 seconds. That won’t happen, of course, as Corbin will do his whole stick and move nonsense for long enough to make this exercise in futility feel overly long and unpleasant before Corb eats the L.
Winner: Braun Strowman
Brian: What are we waiting on with Strowman? Why is he in a holding pattern? Corbin has been a great heel (he gets constantly booed out of the building, no one likes him, everyone wants to see him get his ass kicked), but this doesn’t move either of them forward. If BRAUN isn’t going into Mania to be involved in a title program, what will happen? A match vs McIntyre? The ARMBAR? Lesnar’s outsized thumb on the scale of Raw has put BRAUN in this position.
Winner: BRAUN Strowman
JJ: I’ve no idea what they’re doing with Braun anymore. I get that he’s been injured, but it feels like the guy flips between heel and face every other month. I hope this match finally puts this boring feud to bed. Now that Baron isn’t running Raw anymore, this is even less relevant. Baron will get his comeuppance, but the match is no DQ so he can get in plenty of offense and make it interesting before he ultimately loses.
Winner: Get these hands
Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Ruby Riott (Raw Women’s Championship)
Ronda Rousey has a date with destiny at WrestleMania when she faces
Becky Lynch Charlotte Flair in a grudge match that’s been brewing since November of last year. But before she tangles with the most popular star in all of wrestling today Charlotte Flair on the Grandest Stage of Them All, Rugged Ronnie needs a quick tuneup match to remind the world that she’s a force to be reckoned with. Sadly, the woman counting the lights for the women’s champ this month is Ruby Riott, whose only real chance at winning would require Rousey to suffer a heart attack on her way to the ring. Can the tattooed tough gal best the madame of MMA, or is Ruby just a speed bump on Ronda’s Road to WrestleMania?
Jason: Ronda Smash. This one is so obvious that they felt the need to advertise that Charlotte Flair will be watching from the front row. If Becky Lynch doesn’t show up at some point to brawl with either of her Mania opponents, I’ll eat my hat. Ruby deserves better, but she’s counting those lights on Sunday.
Winner: Ronda Rousey
Brian: Ruby Riott is the fiercest friend and bravest leader of a stable in all WWE (except for Adam Cole Bay-Bay). She is talented in the ring and on the mic and is certainly a future champion. Just…not…now. She’s going to get stomped by Ronda, maybe get a few minutes of heat using the Riott Squad, but she’ll tap out as Ronda stares down Charlotte.
Winner: Ronda Rousey
JJ: Is this even a question? I’ve been a fan of Ruby Riott’s since she joined the main roster and she’s criminally underused. The faction behind her is entertaining, her look is cool, she’s great in the ring and good on the mic. While everyone and their mother knows that she doesn’t stand a chance in hell of winning this match, I really hope this is the start of her being positioned more seriously as a threat to the title.
Winner: Ronda Rousey
Bobby Lashley (c) and Lio Rush vs. Finn Bálor (Handicap Match for the Intercontinental Championship)
Last month Finn Balor put on the performance of a lifetime, managing to look like a credible threat against the biggest baddie in all of sports entertainment, Brock Lesnar. Looking strong in defeat, Balor looked to leave the Royal Rumble with a ton of momentum…whiiiich was immediately squandered when he was utterly destroyed by Bobby Lashley and his house elf, Lio Rush, for a few weeks. Naturally, having proven his dominance over the extraordinary man who loses an extraordinary amount of matches, Lashley decides to…defend his Intercontinental title in a handicap match where he doesn’t have to be pinned to lose it…K? Can Finn win and hold onto a main roster title for more than a day or are we all going to be forced to stare at Bobbo’s butt till Mania?
Jason: Speaking of people who deserve better, Finn is almost assuredly losing this match. The introduction of Lio Rush into the proceedings is the one wrinkle that gives me some pause, but I think it would be more interesting if this was treated more like a triple-threat. It’s not, I don’t know why they would give Finn the title now and not, say, at Mania, so I think Lashley and the first Cleveland Jr are taking this one.
Winner: Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush
Brian: I’ve got a feeling that this feud is lasting through Mania. Finn won’t really be in the Universal Title picture until after Mania at the earliest, so why not send him down the Seth Rollins route here? Give the man a reason to bring out The Demon at Mania. A loss here and being pinned by that little dog from Looney Tunes will certainly move him down that darker path.
Winner: Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush
JJ: The IC title has to be on the Mania card and I don’t see them building a different feud being close to the big show. If I may fantasy book this a little, one man against two is never fair odds. But one demon against two men? That’s an even playing field. So if they’re finally going to push Finn, have him lose at Elimination Chamber to the unfair odds and then overcome them at Mania as the Demon. Plus it’s just plain insane to me that we haven’t had a Demon entrance at Mania yet.
Winner: Mr. Butt Flex and Lio Rush
The Miz and Shane McMahon (c) vs. The Usos (SmackDown Tag Team Championships)
The Usos are one of, if not THE greatest tag team in the world today. Five-time tag champions, Slammy winners for Team of the Year, and one of the most popular acts in the company, Jimmy and Jey are the cornerstone of the only good tag division on WWE’s main roster. So, of course, they’re going to be asked to make a D-list movie star and a 50-year-old executive look like a competent threat to their tag team prowess. Can a makeshift duo of vain men with daddy issues top two of the best grapplers in the game today? Sadly, yeah, probably.
Jason: This match just makes me sad. Every time a championship-quality athlete has to sell one of Shane McMahon’s stupid baby punches a part of me — and presumably them — dies a little. Sadly, it feels like Jimmy and Jey Uso are next in line to feign injuries at the hands of a sweaty orange executive in Jordans. If the end game is Miz/Shane at Mania, you could start the dissension here, but I suspect that team MizMahon is rolling into Fastlane with those ugly dime belts still on their shoulders.
Winners: Miz and Shane McMahon
Brian: I just don’t know with this one. I’m certainly sports-entertained by MizMahon, but with The Revival holding the Raw belts, I’m just not impressed. There are half a dozen tag teams that could be in this spot (and none of them are named New Day or The Bar), but we get Shane O’Mac and his stupid punches. I can only hope that somehow SAnitY will get involved before Fastlane or Mania. Where’s those “new matches” we were promised?
Winner: God help us, Miz and Shane
JJ: Well, Jimmy got arrested and taken to the Uso penitentiary. So that’s that. But seriously, they clearly aren’t done with Miz and Shane as best buddies just yet. I pray these two aren’t the tag team to walk out of Mania with the belts, so I’m hoping after the Usos lose we see SAnitY or someone else that isn’t The Bar/New Day as their opponents for Mania.
Winners: The world’s greatest tag team
The Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection vs. Fire and Desire vs. Naomi and Carmella vs. Nia Jax and Tamina vs. Riott Squad vs. the Iiconics (Elimination Chamber for the Women’s Tag Team Championships)
The day has finally come. After scratching and clawing its way up from the dregs of the Divas era, the modern WWE women’s division has evolved to the point that mid-card title is not only a feasible option, but a pending inevitability. Despite its bafflingly lackluster announcement, there’s precious little known about how the women’s tag titles will work — especially since duos from both shows will contend for the belts. Can a pair of Horsewomen stride past the competition? Will the match have an Iiconic end? Is WWE seriously going to put a title on Tamina by-god Snuka in 2019?
Jason: There’s only one result I want more than an Iiconics victory in this match, and I’m pretty sure I’m not getting either of my dream finishes from this card. Sadly, the smart money is on Nia Jax and Tamina. As crummy as they both are, the last several titles to be introduced across all of the WWE’s brands is for heels to beat out the fiery babyface favorites to be crowned the inaugural champs. It happened to the NXT North American title, it happened to the NXT UK Women’s title and it’ll happen again on Sunday with the women’s tag titles. The Samoan Slaughterhouse isn’t quite in the league of an Adam Cole (Bay bay) or a Rhea Ripley, but they’re the most intimidating baddies in the match, and probably walking out with those belts.
Winner: Nia Jax and Tamina
Brian: There are a ton of reasons to be happy about this match. Twelve women get time to show that they are as worthy of attention as any of the men on the roster. Six teams get the chance to solidify themselves in the pecking order on both rosters. One team will — say it with me — MAKE HISTORY as the new WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions. While each of these teams is championship material (all for wildly different reasons), only two teams stand out as deserving of — storyline-wise and IRL — holding those belts for the first time: Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection and the Samoan Slaughterhouse. The vignettes we’ve been getting have laid the groundwork for some great feuds in the future, but these two teams will be battling for the titles at WrestleMania. To inspire the chase, though, Nia and Tamina have to win here so that Bayley and Sasha can have their WrestleMania Moment.
Winner: Nia Jax and Tamina (no last name given)
JJ: This is the match I’m having the most difficulty with deciding on. There are three teams I see as having realistic chances of coming away with the belts: Sasha and Bayley, Nia Jax and Tamina, and the IIconics. The IIconics are the dark horses of the match, but have been a team far longer than any other team in the match. WWE has also been playing a lot of video packages recently around their relationship and life long dream of winning the titles. I’m legitimately convinced that Tamina is only still employed by WWE because Vince helped Jimmy Snuka cover up a murder. Nothing else makes sense. That being said, her and Nia Jax are undisputedly the most physically dominant team and we know how high the brass is on Nia. The Boss ‘n’ Hug connection are the perfect team for these belts and it feels like that’s what WWE has been building the two towards for some time. But wouldn’t it make much more sense to save that moment for Mania? I struggle to see anyone getting out of their seat or raising a cheer when Tamina raises a belt at Mania.
Winner: sigh… Nia Jax and TA-MI-NA
Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Randy Orton vs. Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles vs. Jeff Hardy (Elimination Chamber for the WWE Championship)
The New Daniel Bryan has spent the past few weeks using his platform as the WWE Champion to make the world a better place. From exposing the horrors of the baby boomer generation to introducing an eco-friendly version of the title, D-Bry has proven to be the champion the world needs, if not the one it deserves. Sadly, Papa H and the powers that be have decided to put Bryan to the test by pitting him against six other men in the Elimination Chamber. The lineup of challengers features four of SmackDown‘s biggest and baddest names and one scrappy underdog that has almost no chance at winning. Sadly, injury forced WWE to swap out one longshot for another, providing the Wildcat Kofi Kingston with his first shot at the WWE Championship in years. Will Sunday prove a New Day for the WWE Title, or will the planet’s champion trounce the competition and head into Mania hoisting that burlap belt proudly toward the sky?
Jason: After Tuesday, the only thing I want more than the Iiconics to win the women’s tag titles is for Kofi Kingston to win the WWE Championship. It doesn’t have to be on Sunday, per se, but I want it to happen so much. Dude absolutely deserves a chance to run at the top of the card, and his merch schilling, pancake tossing gimmick makes him a natural foil for Daniel Bryan’s anti-consumer, anti-consumption credo. It won’t happen, sadly, as Daniel’s holding onto that turquoise friendship bracelet until Mania, at least. I imagine this match will also set up some new rivalries for the future, most likely Styles vs. Orton. Still, one man is entering the cage as champion, and by hook or by crook, that same man is leaving that way.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
Brian: Kofi Kingston winning the WWE Championship would be one of the most amazing moments in the past decade of WWE television. It seems like he may end up as another Roddy Piper or Mr. Perfect, however, always the bridesmaid and never the bride. We are going to see some amazing (and amazingly stupid) things in that cage, but The New D-Bry will find a sneaky heel way of winning, setting the other five against each other to see who is worthy of a shot leading into the grandest stage of them all, where the WWE Championship will be overshadowed by the Universal Championship (sponsored by Red Vines) and the Raw Women’s Championship.
Winner: The New Daniel Bryan
JJ: Kofi Kingston’s run in the gauntlet match on SmackDown this week was nothing short of amazing. He deserved the standing ovation. It felt like such an eye opening moment. We all know Kofi does his cool Royal Rumble moments, is one of the funniest people in the company, and has one of the best factions of all time on his resume. But the guy never gets singles consideration. Am I crazy for thinking that could finally change? After SmackDown I can’t see anyone else facing off against Bryan as the last challenger in the Chamber. My hope is that Rowan costs him the match and we see Kofi capture title and long overdue glory at Mania. The New Day Freebirding the championship would be nothing short of amazing.
Winner: Captain Planet
WWE Elimination Chamber airs live this Sunday on the WWE Network.