The annual February pay-per-view offering from WWE has, historically, been somewhat of a mixed bag. Lumped in between the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania, it typically is an event that is designed to bolster buy rates and increase interest for the company’s biggest show of the year, by providing a platform to further feuds en route to the big showdowns at the ‘Granddaddy of Them All’.
Occasionally, though, it does much for than that, by providing memories and moments that have gone down in wrestling’s history books. While it may have gone through several different names, February’s pay-per-view has, in the past, given us the shocking debut of The Big Show (1999), the ‘retirement’ of Mick Foley at the hands of Triple H (2000), the WWE arrival of the new World order (2002) and the one and only World title win for the late Eddie Guerrero (2004). Since being rechristened Elimination Chamber in 2010, the February show has been more than just a transitional event, with the ominous chamber structure offering up both big title changes and number one contender stipulations that have significantly altered the road to WrestleMania. Would 2013′s event offer up some special moments of its own for fans?
‘Elimination Chamber 2013′, available to buy on DVD and Blu-Ray from 29 April at WWEDVD.co.uk, saw WWE market an event around just one match and, more specifically, one person - The Rock. His Royal Rumble rematch against CM Punk unsurprisingly takes main event honours, and is the only bout on the entire card that the crowd in New Orleans comes alive for. Their lack of enthusiasm elsewhere unquestionably damages the undercard, but the big switch in interest from those in attendance adds to the big match feel when the bell rings for the main event.
Getting off to a slow start, Rock and Punk’s second title clash tells the story of a desperate challenger looking to use underhanded tactics to get the champion disqualified, in a rare stipulation that would see the title change hands on a DQ. Punk, as usual, does the fair share of the work in this, at times, sluggish affair, and receives an almost equal amount of fan support from the crowd for his efforts. In the end, though, the combination of numerous ref bumps and a contrived, and clearly rehearsed finish, damages this one, and while Punk does his best to appear a credible threat to the gold, it is clear from the outset which way this is going to go, with the inevitable ‘Twice in a Lifetime’ match looming large on the horizon.
The WWE title isn’t the only belt on the line on the show: World heavyweight champion Alberto Del Rio defends against The Big Show in the opening pay-per-view match for the second month in a row. Why WWE insists on frequently book-ending pay per view events with championship clashes is beyond me, but the positioning of the World heavyweight title in the very first match, traditionally reserved for undercard talent, does nothing to aid its prestige or perception. That aside, this tale of the newly-crowned “champion for the people” looking to slay the bully sees the crowd getting into the near falls in this giant versus underdog match, and sees Del Rio enter a spirited performance, although his babyface character continues to appear bland and against type. Much like with the main event, a poorly-delivered and contrived finish takes away from what is a good effort by both men. It achieves its purpose though, drawing a line under a feud that started with Del Rio’s shock Smackdown win in early Jan – but it would have had far more impact had it been positioned in the semi-main event position of this B-show.
On a show billed as the Elimination Chamber, there is only one such chamber clash, as Kane, Mark Henry, Jack Swagger, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan nd Chris Jericho compete for a shot at the World heavyweight title atWrestleMania 29. Bryan and Jericho kick things off, followed swiftly by Swagger, but the action falls flat in the first few minutes, livening up briefly once Team Hell No are in the ring together. Curiously, Randy Orton enters to a mixed reaction. It is Mark Henry, however, who is the standout star of this match, dominating his larger opponents and hurling Orton through the ‘pod’ in the annual highlight reel moment. Henry’s contribution to the match receives a a favourable reception from crowd, and rightly so – it’s a great performance from the WWE veteran who surprised everyone with his sensational World title run in 2011. The winner of the chamber isn’t a big shock to anyone given the storylines surrounding the match, and it’s an entertaining bout (thanks in large part to Henry), but it’s not a hugely memorable affair that would necessarily warrant repeat viewings.
The Shield have another strong showing in their second WWE match, following their exceptional debut at TLC 2012. Facing off against Ryback, Sheamus and John Cena (it’s odd to see Cena not in the main event mix as he continues his ‘redemption’ storyline), this six-man match sees the talented trio of justice seekers working on Cena for much of the match as the commentators play up the “pack of dogs mentality” that has been the key ingredient of their success so far. Ryback, Sheamus and Cena all get the opportunity to display their power (a triple vertical suplex from the three is a particularly impressive spot), while Seth Rollins flies around the ring and Dean Ambrose briefly shares the ring with John Cena in a face-off that many fans would like to see happen in the not-too-distant future. It’s a reasonable effort that allows The Shield to look strong once again, but it can’t hold a candle to their compelling debut.
US Champion Antonio Cesaro faces The Miz in an old-school affair that sees Cesaro work methodically on the injured shoulder of his opponent, taped up as a result of a very impressive, and inventive, attack from Cesaro on the previous week’s Raw. A great outing from the champion in particular, The Miz plays the perennial underdog throughout, and while the match runs a bit long in duration and falters at points, it’s good to see Cesaro involved in a proper match on a pay-per-view with a name talent. The finish of the match is very poor though – and the crowd lets the bookers know it.
Elsewhere on the card, Dolph Ziggler clashes with Kofi Kingston in an impromptu match (set up by Booker T) which exists simply to give ‘Mr Money in the Bank’ something to do and to showcase Big E Langston at ringside. Rounding off the show, Tamina Snuka challenges Divas champion Kaitlyn in a match that is about what you’d expect from WWE’s Divas division these days, given the lack of interest the promotion clearly has in developing meaningful female characters or feuds for fans to invest in emotionally.
Two extras accompany the DVD – a comedy match tag match from the pre-show between the dancing duo of Brodus Clay and Tensai and Team Rhodes Scholars, and an interview with Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger which sees Colter meander and seemingly lose his train of thought several times during the short segment. Given that this was a pre-record, it really should have been re-done before being placed on the DVD.
Viewed with the benefit of hindsight, and against the backdrop of WrestleMania 29, 2013′s Elimination Chamber really is an average show at best. Not one clash from the event is of sufficient quality to warrant multiple viewings, and while most matches deliver the action that you would expect from the names involved, not one bout offers a memorable moment that will be talked about for years to come. Very much a transitional event, Elimination Chamber was designed for one purpose only – to focus eyes squarely onWrestleMania – and with that show now done and dusted, it just seems a bit … redundant. But if you’re a die-hard fan of The Rock, you’ll probably still buy it anyway.