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The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: Elimination Chamber 2017


 

When rumors of a brand split first started floating around well before July of last year, many skeptics were worried. In the days of the original split, single-brand PPV events always suffered because individual rosters were never deep enough to have stars from top to bottom. Cards were always stocked with forgettable undercards involving incorrectly-booked midcarders in terrible stories, especially during the tail end of the system. This is why PPVs were merged in the middle of the last decade, before the brands were eventually reunited. Cynics believed that a new brand split would have the same problems.

In a way, they were right, but not completely. Monday Night RAW and all its events continue to suffer because of Vince's boneheaded insistence on doing things the same way for all three hours, but SmackDown Live is a completely different animal. At worst, it puts on a decent PPV with a good main event; at best, it makes all of the matches on the card better. It gives the whole show the best it can.

Elimination Chamber had always been a problem ever since it became its own PPV some seven years ago. Like Hell In A Cell, Extreme Rules, and TLC, the Chamber match type was now forced to be an annual tradition, even when it wasn't necessary. While it's definitely closer to the Money in the Bank and Royal Rumble matches in its plausibility as a yearly thing, we've always known the Chamber before that as a culmination to a world title scene that saw too many players. It also didn't help that double-brand PPVs meant each brand had to have their own Elimination Chamber match, lessening the impact of the monstrous stipulation. Hell, the last event had two different Chamber matches with new twists.

Right now, the Chamber benefits a lot from being a SmackDown-only event. The single-brand PPV, as well as its relatively shallower roster, means it's not obligated to have more than one, putting the focus back on the WWE Championship as the main event. Unlike last year, they no longer needed to put in inexperienced youngsters who didn't really know the best way to hack it yet, or have the star power to carry the whole Chamber match. (That event proved that the Chamber doesn't make the stars; it's really the other way around.)

This year, it was just like the old days, but made better by SmackDown's superior writing. The Chamber saw a mix of the best of the best and some hungry wolves made for great chemistry all around, producing one of the best Elimination Chamber matches we've seen in a long time.


Everyone got their moment, looked good, and were eliminated in a logical way. Baron Corbin, the first guy out, fell to his own pride and ego. Dean Ambrose lost after getting destroyed by an angry Corbin. The Miz was eliminated by John Cena to further set up their WrestleMania feud. John Cena and AJ Styles were taken out by Bray Wyatt singlehandedly in order to make the big win believable and hardworking. Everything made sense, and the quality of work each man brought to the match elevated everything. Had it been anyone else on the roster right now, we may not have gotten something as good.

It always bears repeating that even though SmackDown Live may not have the deepest roster, their attention to detail, logic (for the most part), and audience emotion is unparalleled within the WWE's three brands right now. On the wrestlers' part, everyone brought it, seemingly happy to be part of a brand that treats them much better than the other would have. This perfect storm of elements prove that you don't need the marquee branding and the star power of a RAW in order to be the better brand. The whole show was great from top to bottom, and it isn't at all surprising that a SmackDown event would be an early contender for Show of the Year—when it gets this consistent, it might even turn out better than WrestleMania.

*****

  • Laugh all you want at Mojo Rawley and Curt Hawkins, but Hawkins is a low-key ring general. That match leaned toward three stars in whatever ranking system you'd like to use.
  • Naomi winning the SmackDown Women's Championship was completely unexpected, but well-deserved. Naomi had always been a hard, underrated worker, and her perceived sloppiness is only directly proportional to the athletic risks she's willing to take in order to come up with a good match. I certainly wouldn't mind if Alexa immediately regained the title on SmackDown tomorrow.
  • It's just as strange, then, to see Becky Lynch quickly overcome Mickie James if Alexa Bliss was going to lose. You'd think that we're all used to seeing Becky in a long, drawn-out feud, and a long feud with Mickie was one we were totally okay with seeing.
  • It's a testament to how creative and lenient the agenting is on SmackDown if you can have three women's matches that look nothing alike. Becky and Mickie were the stiff, emotionally-charged match, Alexa and Naomi were the faster-paced, more athletic bout, while Nikki Bella and Natalya put out a slower, ground-based submission match. That may not be for everyone, but it's my cup of tea.
    • Something also has to be said about Nikki continuing to risk her physical well-being just to wrestle a solid match. She didn't need to take those risks, but she did, and we should all appreciate her a little more for it.
  • Anything can apparently happen on SmackDown, as we believed that the Ascension could really win after the Usos viciously beat down American Alpha in the Tag Team Turmoil match. The only sour spot of the night, in fact, was that American Alpha powered through the heel teams in the turmoil. I'll only buy this if we're building up toward either the Revival or the Authors of Pain showing up on SmackDown.
  • Luke Harper is ready for a solid singles run. Harper/Orton was not completely the stiff affair I wanted and needed it to be, but they more than made up for it in the third act of their match. Harper is an unorthodox, antiheroic star in the making.


Photo from WWE
*****

Romeo Moran (@roiswaris the Editor in Chief of Smark Henry and one of the three hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He gets by in this hard knock life through working in publishing. Smark Henry was his and Stan Sy's original vision of a watering hole for local wrestling fans. He roots for the undersized guys who hit hard, but really hates Davey Richards with his entire soul.

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