According to Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns is a “failure,” but it was Wyatt who was left out in the cold at the end of a qualifying match for the Men’s Elimination Chamber Match, where Universal Champion Brock Lesnar’s WrestleMania opponent will be decided. Fighting words aside, that’s a bitter pill for Wyatt to swallow, given that he won his first WWE Championship inside the Chamber last year and has been chasing those heights since losing the title at WrestleMania. Re-entering the site of his greatest triumph would have been the perfect launching point for him, and Wyatt fought like a man who understood the stakes, taking the match to the outside when Reigns began to gain the advantage. Even when The Big Dog slowly but surely clawed his way back, Wyatt hung with him every step of the way, turning the match into a high-stakes war of attrition. Reigns regained the upper hand by kicking out of Sister Abigail to send Wyatt into a twitchy, wide-eyed frenzy and powering out of a second attempt in order to set up a match-ending Spear. The loss would have been bad enough for Wyatt, of course. But thanks to a post-match attack from “Woken” Matt Hardy, whom Wyatt cost a Chamber position last week, The Eater of Worlds’ night ended in something even worse than failure: Deletion.
Those of you wondering what it looks like when The Revival compete as singles Superstars will have to wait: According to Scott Dawson, the “tag team specialists” do everything together, and so he refused to allow Dash Wilder to face Finn Bálor one-on-one (Dash still owes him for that Coup de Grâce on Raw 25 a few weeks ago) until Finn picked a member of The Bálor Club to back him up in a tag match. He picked Karl Anderson, but the “Top Guys’” strategy seemed to pay off, as Dash & Dawson focused on Bálor’s inexperience as a tag team competitor to keep the bout in hand. That left Anderson in the unexpected position of saving Bálor from the brink of defeat, and he made good on the opportunity when Finn finally reached him: The former Raw Tag Team Champion tagged in and used his own tag-team know-how to separate The Revival, sending Dash over the ropes in order to tee Dawson up for a Coup de Grâce of his own. The Revival might remain a step behind The Bálor Club, but true to their ethos, they lost the same way they win: Together.
205 Live has a new General Manager — hello, Drake Maverick — and, in 62 days, will have a new champion when a tournament for the WWE Cruiserweight Title culminates at WrestleMania. On Raw, the Cruiserweights separated into tag teams for a whip-fast showcase that didn’t advance the bracket, but it did help further what Maverick, who sat in at the commentary desk, said was his agenda as GM: To re-ignite the excitement that had surrounded the division following the conclusion of 2016’s Cruiserweight Classic. It also helped further Cedric Alexander’s status as a pre-emptive favourite in the tournament. The high-risk-high-reward Superstar, who has already advanced to the second round, was all over the place, working in perfect sync with Mustafa Ali to dismantle the team of Drew Gulak & Tony Nese. Ali shouldered a solid amount of the burden himself, spelling Alexander after a nasty tumble on the apron until his friendly rival was ready to put Gulak away with the Lumbar Check. Alexander’s momentum continues to build, but with two blockbuster tournament matches scheduled for 205 Live tomorrow — Kalisto vs. Lince Dorado and Hideo Itami vs. NXT’s Roderick Strong — his path to WrestleMania is far from guaranteed.
Last week, Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon announced that Alexa Bliss would defend her Raw Women’s Title in the first-ever Women’s Elimination Chamber Match. This week, Little Miss Bliss tried her hardest to get out of it. Things went swimmingly before that, however, as Raw General Manager Kurt Angle arrived to name the rest of the field for the Women’s Chamber — Bayley, Sasha Banks, Mickie James, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville — plus an interesting wrinkle: Nia Jax won’t be in the match, but she’ll face Asuka at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view and, if she wins, will be added to the Women’s Title Match at WrestleMania no matter who else is in it. At that point, Alexa reared her head, taking Angle to task for forcing her to defend her title in the Chamber but not Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, going so far as to accuse him of betraying the Women’s Evolution by giving The Beast Incarnate “preferential treatment.” With Angle on the ropes after Alexa’s inquiry, The Olympic Hero offered a fair compromise: As General Manager, he answers to the WWE Universe and would leave it up to them to decide whether Alexa would defend her title in the Chamber. Unfortunately for Little Miss Bliss, the audience voted overwhelmingly to send her into the lion’s den with an avalanche of “YES!” chants, but as far as exit strategies go, it was an inspired effort nonetheless.
Asuka remains undefeated, but with WrestleMania on the horizon and challenges arising from all sides, her margin for error is growing slimmer and slimmer. Last week, Sasha Banks took The Empress of Tomorrow to the limit; this week, Asuka’s old NXT rival Bayley took her first Team Red crack at the undefeated Superstar.
The Huggable One started off somewhat in the shadow of Banks’ instant-classic effort, which Sasha said in a backstage encounter was proof that The Boss was capable of beating Asuka. Bayley countered that since she knew she could beat Banks, she thought she was capable of ending The Empress’ streak as well. She seemed to be making good on the uncharacteristic boast as well, getting the better of Asuka in a series of exchanges that sent the women tumbling to the outside. Suffice it to say, Bayley was indeed ready for Asuka, but despite an extremely impressive effort that had The Empress of Tomorrow fighting from underneath the entire time, Bayley simply got caught. After Bayley reversed the painful Asuka Lock into a pinfall stack that nearly snapped her opponent’s streak, Asuka rolled her foe into an armbar that finally forced her to tap. Another all-world effort didn’t get Bayley the win, but it did give her something Asuka did not give The Boss (or Ronda Rousey, for that matter): A handshake.
According to The Miz, it is an astrological certainty that 2018 is his year. It’s a little early to say for sure, but between his Intercontinental Title win and now a Men’s Elimination Chamber berth, he might be on to something. The A-Lister once again backed up his boasts in a Chamber qualifier, turning away Apollo Crews despite an astonishing effort from Titus Worldwide’s resident workhorse. The same manoeuvres that nearly won Titus Worldwide the Raw Tag Team Titles made mincemeat of the Intercontinental Champion, who had almost no answer for anything Crews threw at him. But Miz’s kick out after two consecutive Standing Shooting Star Presses seemed to take the wind out of Crews’ sails a bit, and The A-Lister leaned on some crafty know-how to bring it home, changing an airborne Crews’ trajectory to land him groin-first on the ropes. One Skull-Crushing Finale later, and The Miz was off on The Road to WrestleMania.
Jason Jordan may not have been medically cleared for his and Seth Rollins’ Raw Tag Team Title rematch against Cesaro & Sheamus — their last such opportunity against The Bar, per Kurt Angle — but he still found a way to get himself involved … and inadvertently cost Rollins the bout. Angle allowed The Kingslayer to sub in Roman Reigns as Jordan’s replacement, and the two former WWE Tag Team Champions had no trouble re-kindling their old magic. The Bar responded by distracting the referee to open Reigns up to a handful of cheap shots that put The Big Dog at a disadvantage. He showed little exhaustion in his second match of the evening, however, kicking out of the White Noise-DDT combo and countering the Neutralizer into a Samoan Drop.
It was after Sheamus knocked Rollins off the apron, however, that Jordan resurfaced, helping The Kingslayer get back into the match — much to the chagrin of Reigns, who told Jordan to get lost. Jordan stuck around to block The Bar when they attempted to take a count-out, but the champs successfully goaded him into a physical confrontation that gave Cesaro & Sheamus a disqualification win. The only person more frustrated than Rollins was Kurt Angle, who told his son to go home and stay there until he was medically cleared.
Nia Jax has a major opportunity on the horizon against Asuka that could send her back to WrestleMania, which means poor local competitor Vanessa Floyd was little more than a tune-up opportunity for The Irresistible Force. The plucky local put up a fight, but a gorilla press and leg drop spelled the end. In a post-match interview in the ring, Nia wasn’t sweating the challenge of The Empress of Tomorrow, proclaiming herself as the only Superstar Asuka couldn’t beat and promising to turn her from The Empress of Tomorrow to “The Empress of Yesterday.”
In 2016, Mickie James returned and helped Alexa Bliss win a Steel Cage Match to retain her SmackDown Women’s Title. Little Miss Bliss might be hoping Mickie can do something similar in the Women’s Elimination Chamber Match. The Raw Women’s Champion provided a crucial assist to the six-time Women’s Champion after a bout against Sonya Deville of Absolution, which Mickie won via a surprise rollup following a tight contest between the veteran Superstar and the aggressive newcomer. When Absolution began to gang up on James, Alexa showed up to drag her to out of the ring to a safe haven. Confused as she was, James seemed grateful for the assist. Perhaps she’ll end up returning the favor?
Statistically speaking, entrants No. 5 and 6 are most likely to win the Men’s Elimination Chamber Match, and thanks to an upset of titanic proportions on Raw, Elias has positioned himself comfortably as the final Superstar to clock in at The Road to WrestleMania’s most formidable stopover. That said, Braun Strowman might not let him skate to The Showcase of the Immortals so easily. The first three confirmed Chamber competitors — John Cena, Strowman and Elias — clashed with the opportunity to be the final entrant into the Elimination Chamber Match at stake. The bout, predictably, was all Strowman at the start; Elias and Cena got those hands in such monstrous fashion that the two rivals had to join forces to take The Monster Among Men out of the running. It took two trips into the ring post, one into the steps, a set of steps to the face, a guitar to the back and an Attitude Adjustment on the steps, but it finally did the job … for a while, at least. Strowman did indeed return down the stretch, and when he did, Elias was ready. Elias dodged an incoming Five-Knuckle Shuffle, sending Cena sprinting straight into a Running Powerslam. One shove of Strowman through the ropes later, and Elias stole the pin for himself. Strowman got the last word, however, dishing out multiple Running Powerslams to both Superstars after the bell. Technically, Elias will have to walk the shortest path to WrestleMania of all his fellow Men’s Elimination Chamber competitors, but a monstrous obstacle remains.