February 23, 2014
Roman Reigns . . . is the giant incarnation of both members of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express!
Alberto Del Rio . . . and a rowdy crowd make for a fun match, in spite of Batista being involved.
Antonio Cesaro . . . and four other guys not named “Randy Orton” pull out all the stops in a very fun main event.
BIG E. LANGSTON © vs. JACK SWAGGER (WWE Intercontinental Title)
While there isn’t anything overtly bad here, there isn’t anything especially good either. They have a few good ideas up their sleeves, particularly Swagger’s counter into the ankle lock, although Langston escaping and finishing him off shortly afterwards with the Big Ending kills the idea of the hold as a serious finisher. It was also fun to watch Langston working over Swaggers midsection. The spear into the post, and the later one through the ropes and off the apron were certainly highlight reel spots, but the work didn’t wind up meaning anything special. Swagger’s selling was there, but it wasn’t anything notable, and it wasn’t like having it worked over kept Swagger from getting in any of his own stuff. While it would theoretically soften him up for the Big Ending, they never went in that direction either. The counter to the Swagger bomb, and the finish itself could have both been done, and been no less effective, if Langston never touched the ribs.
ROAD DOGG/BILLY GUNN © vs. JIMMY USO/JEY USO (WWE Tag Team Titles)
This would have been completely forgettable, if not for the Usos flashiness, and a couple of big bumps, especially Jey getting turned inside out by Billy’s lariat on the floor. The Outlaws were never super workers, even during their glory days, let alone sixteen years later. They can follow the formula, and occasionally be entertaining, such as Dogg making the mistake of headbutting a Samoan, but there isn’t much more to expect than that. The distraction and cheap roll-up finish seems more suitable for TV than PPV, but it’s painfully obvious that the Outlaws are only placeholder champs anyways, so it’s not like they’re going over the Usos in any sort of dominating manner.
TITUS O’NEIL vs. DARREN YOUNG
There really isn’t any reason that this shouldn’t have been a quick squash, even if this is a PPV match. Titus’ mean streak and his explosive execution are the clear highlights here, and it’s not like Young has anything going on. Watching Titus was reminding me of watching Brock Lesnar when he first debuted in 2002, especially the repeated back breaker spot, and the sequence of effortlessly flinging Young into the post. Young didn’t exactly get in anything notable, other than the neckbreaker on the apron, and even that was wasted because Titus finished him off shortly after that with Clash of the Titus. It’d have been just as well to knock this down from six minutes to three, and just have Titus destroy him.
DEAN AMBROSE/SETH ROLLINS/ROMAN REIGNS vs. BRAY WYATT/LUKE HARPER/ERICK ROWAN
This is what a month of good booking can accomplish: two trios who hadn’t had any physical contact with each other, the match was entirely built up with promos and staredowns, turn their first match into a war. The match is structured like a typical southern tag match, with the Shield playing babyface, and Rollins is up to the task of getting destroyed. The only weak part of the match is the extended control segment on Rollins, and even that’s more dull than it is bad, and Rollins is good at choosing when to try to fight back so that it never gets too monotonous. The Wyatt family are supposed to be mindless brawlers, so it’s probably a little unreasonable to expect them to work like Tully and Arn while in control. Everyone has at least something to add to things, even Rowan (the weakest worker of the six) does a nice fallaway slam. Harper does two Brodie Lee boots, and takes to the air with a dropkick and a dive to the floor. Ambrose makes some well-timed saves (and proves that he’s willing to put his apparent dissension with Reigns on hold for the good of proving the Shield’s dominance), and Reigns is both the Robert Gibson hot tag, and Ricky Morton making the improbable comeback when things look bleak.
Reigns is clearly designed to be the star of the match with his performance at the end, but, Rollins is the one whose performance makes the match. He takes the bulk of the abuse, with some huge bumps, the table bump at the end looked like it killed him. But, he was great at finding the right time to try to make a comeback, and playing to the crowd for the maximum reaction. But, the fact is, that after the match ends, everyone was remembering Reigns in the final stages. It’s bitter irony to see Reigns in a three-on-one situation, like the Shield had done to so many others over the last fourteen months, and when Bray looks to finish him off, he breaks the grip and looks for all the world like the person that Orton should really be worried about. Reigns starts unloading on all three Wyatts and gears up for the spear to Bray when Harper jumps in front of the bullet, and Bray takes advantage and quickly plants him with Sister Abigail’s Kiss (learning his lesson from when he tried to draw it out) and gets the pin. It’s truly going to be a sad day when the Shield breaks up, and the days of high end trios matches, like this, come to an end. ***1/2
A.J. LEE © vs. CAMERON (WWE Diva’s Title)
This would have been the usual Diva’s match on a PPV, a.k.a. a waste of time, if not for A.J. bumping and stooging left, right, and center to try to make Cameron look credible. Aside from the splitting legdrop, there wasn’t anything notable from Cameron. Tamina unleashes the mother of all superkicks and accidentally hits A.J. and then interferes to save the title. A.J. is lucky her teeth are intact after that shot.
BATISTA vs. ALBERTO DEL RIO
From bell to bell, this is actually pretty fun. The crowd completely turning on Batista is certainly amusing to listen to, and Del Rio sharking in on the arm is fun to watch as well. Big Dave even graces us with some passable selling as well. Once it’s time for Batista to make the comeback is when it starts going downhill. The spear itself was a little questionable, but not too bad, and Batista did delay his follow up a little bit to put over the arm. The finish completely craps on everything, he just grabs Del Rio and plants him with the powerbomb to finish him off. The exposed buckle giving him the opening isn’t a bad idea in theory, but it doesn’t come off well in execution because they didn’t do anything beforehand to work it into things. If JBL hadn’t mentioned that Batista threw Del Rio into the exposed buckle, then nobody would have even known it.
RANDY ORTON © vs. JOHN CENA vs. ANTONIO CESARO vs. SHEAMUS vs. CHRISTIAN vs. DANIEL BRYAN (WWE World Heavyweight Title - Elimination Chamber Match)
This is really more fun than it is good, although this isn’t the sort of match that one should watch expecting to see a lot of psychology and storytelling. Almost everyone, Orton being the lone exception (and that works in its own way too), brings the goods, and the result is a very fun match with quite a few smart touches. Two things that are almost essential in matches like this are timing and creativity, and the five challengers definitely weren’t lacking. Cena and Cesaro’s inadvertent tandem slingshot is a good example of both, and Bryan does an Indian Deathlock to Cesaro and then gives Sheamus a suplex to wrench the knee. Christian is perfect as the dirty heel taking whatever advantage he can, to prove that he’s not the underdog. Orton thinks he’s pretty clever by locking himself in his pod, but Sheamus solves that by Brogue kicking it open.
Again, despite not really being the setting for a lot of smart work, there’s quite a bit of it to be found here, especially in the eliminations. Christian gets some revenge on Sheamus by eliminating him with the splash off the pod, and Christian’s selling shows that it hurt him almost as much as Sheamus, and that makes him easy pickings for Bryan to take out with the flying knee. It really wasn’t necessary for Cena to eliminate Cesaro, since he’d already beaten him on TV, and getting a revenge win over a bulletproof Cena on PPV would give Cesaro some rub, and if Cesaro took out Cena, it would have allowed Bryan to get a second elimination under his belt. But, at least Cesaro goes out in style. After Cesaro outwrestles Cena to escape the STF, Cena AA’s him over the ropes and onto the plexiglass and steel, which is more than enough to allow Cena to do the STF and get the submission. The Wyatt Family picks up where they left off the month before, attacking Cena, and Orton steals the pin. The heat during the home stretch between Bryan and Orton is molten, with everyone knowing that Bryan is finally going to beat Orton for the title, especially after he kicks out of the RKO, but Kane intervenes and Orton escapes with the belt again. Creative spots, smart work, and a finish that nobody will like, but will hopefully forgive (assuming Bryan does finally get the title). ***
Conclusion: The big reason to get this is the Shield/Wyatt Family match, but, this is a very solid card as a whole.