Tuesday, February 21, 2023

WWE Elimination Chamber 2023 Recap, plus NJPW Battle in the Valley

It was a big weekend of wrasslin', between WWE's biggest-ever gate for a B-level PPV and NJPW's sold-out show on US soil.  Lots of stuff happened, most of it good, so let's do a quick recap, shall we?

First Elimination Chamber, which was a good show overall.  The molten Montreal crowd elevated this show beyond its in-ring quality, which was quite solid in its own right.  

The women's Elimination Chamber opened the show and featured very capable action.  Raquel Rodriguez looked like a star in the making, with a powerful performance that only ended after she was double-teamed by Asuka and Carmella.  Nikki Cross got to be her old crazy self again.  Liv Morgan once again played the role of plucky underdog babyface and it took a double submission from Asuka and Natalya to eliminate her.  And of course Asuka was a destroyer, eliminating or co-eliminating three opponents in short order, on her way to becoming Bianca Belair's new #1 contender.  This was 100% the right move and the resulting match at WrestleMania should be another show stealer (for my money Bianca's had the best match of the weekend the last two 'Manias).  Solid work to open the show.  ***1/2

Not so solid was the next match, as Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley once again did a short finisher-spamming sprint with another dumb finish.  I do not understand why anyone likes these Lesnar matches; they're literally all the same.  Brock picks the opponent up, drives him into the corner, hits a few shoulder blocks, hits a few German suplexes, hits an F5, opponent kicks out, opponent hits his two big moves, Brock kicks out, repeat, repeat, repeat.  Stop booking Brock like this!  Would it kill you to have Brock get into a stiff striking battle to start the match, being that Brock and Bobby are both legit MMA guys as well?  Imagine how awesome a G1-style match would be between these two.  This ended after four-and-a-half minutes when Lashley had Brock in the full nelson and Brock kicked him in the groin to draw a disqualification.  So now the plan is Lashley vs. Wyatt, and Brock vs., wait for it.....Omos.  Fuckin' seriously guys?  You're passing up Brock vs. Gunther for this.  Absolute drivel.  *

Things got back on track with a fast-paced mixed tag match pitting Edge and Beth Phoenix vs. Finn Balor and Rhea Ripley.  I didn't really agree with the finish here, as Finn could've used the win to help set up the inevitable 'Mania match with Edge.  But then it is rumored that Finn will bring back the Demon persona and hopefully that means he beats Edge at the biggest show of the year.  Anyway, the women carried the majority of the match, with Rhea looking great and Beth looking a little rusty.  Edge got the pin on Balor after countering a corner dropkick with a Spear, followed by the husband/wife duo hitting FTR's Shatter Machine for the win.  Decent match.  ***1/4

The show peaked with the men's Elimination Chamber, as these six US Title combatants worked their asses off to make the secondary championship feel special.  Montez Ford may have stolen the show with his daredevil cage dive, but Johnny Gargano wasn't to be outdone, turning a Doomsday Device attempt into a poison rana, and later hitting a regular rana on Seth Rollins, off one of the pods.  Rollins looked poised to win the match, but as Montez was being escorted from the cage post-elimination, Logan Paul ran in and hit Rollins with a Curb Stomp, setting up Austin Theory to finish him with A-Town Down and retain the title.  Seth vs. Logan should be a helluva spectacle.  Damn good Chamber match.  ****1/4

But it was the Roman Reigns-Sami Zayn Title match that the Montreal crowd was there to see, and they were on fire for this.  As a piece of storytelling this main even was very good, at times great.  However as a match it was about ten minutes too long and the finish felt overbooked and awkward to me.  They started out slow as Roman's matches usually do, milking the crowd for all it was worth.  Zayn dominated early, Roman came back and did his usual really slow control segment.  His taunting played well into the story, but there's no reason Roman needs to work SO slowly and artifically draw his matches out to "epic" length.  The finish involved multiple ref bumps before Jimmy Uso interfered and Roman grabbed a chair.  Before he could assault Sami with it, Jey Uso came out to stop him.  Roman then ordered Jey to hit Sami.  Now what I would've done here is have Jey look like he's going to hit Roman with the chair, and then hit Sami instead, and then have Kevin Owens run to Sami's rescue and chase off the Usos, and then have Roman get a tainted win anyway.  But what happened was Roman gave Jey the chair, Jey threw it down and walked out, Roman whacked Sami numerous times with the chair, speared him, and then got the pin.  Only post-match when Roman and Jimmy were double-teaming Sami did Owens make the save.  Soooo, why'd he wait until after Sami had already lost?  The Montreal crowd was stunned silent at Sami's loss, and only came alive again for KO's entrance.  Obviously they're setting up Sami and Owens vs. The Usos for 'Mania, which is the right move, but it could've been done in much less sloppy fashion, and in a way that the crowd would've stayed hot for the entire angle.  Unlike many I'm not upset Sami didn't get the job done here; Cody should be the one to end Roman's 900-day title run, and it should happen at WrestleMania (not to mention Sami/KO vs. The Usos is big enough to be the Night 1 main event).  But this was just overly convoluted and too long.  Still it was a very good main event in front of a white-hot crowd.  ***3/4

So yeah, good piece of business from WWE for the second straight month.  It feels good to actually be excited for WrestleMania again.

Best Match: Men's Chamber
Worst Match: Brock vs. Bobby
What I'd Change: Stop booking Brock's matches like he's Goldberg.  Stop adding ten unnecessary minutes to every Roman match.
Most Disappointing Match: Brock vs. Bobby
Most Pleasant Surprise: Men's Chamber
Overall Rating: 8/10

As for NJPW Battle in the Valley, this was also a fine show, with lots of variety and a pretty excellent double main event.  The big news was of course that Mercedes Mone is the new IWGP Women's Champion, after an epic 26-minute war with Kairi.  These two stole the show as expected, delivering a match worthy of being the show's main draw.  I give Kairi-Mone ****1/2.

The other half of the main event was Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, which was probably their weakest match together but still a damn fine bout.  These two couldn't have a bad match if they wanted to.  **** for them.  Okada and Mone posed together to end the show, after Okada talked Tanahashi into teaming with him to go after the IWGP Tag belts.

One match that almost stole the show was Eddie Kingston vs. Jay White, which escalated into a super stiff striking war that would've felt right at home in the G1 Climax tournament.  These two beat the piss out of each other for 19 minutes and White ended up doing the clean job for Kingston, as his final NJPW act.  The post-match was also quite memorable as White's old Young Lion pal/rival David Finlay waylaid him and cut a scathing promo, talking about how White was given everything Finlay would've killed for, and squandered it all.  This did a tremendous job of setting up Finlay as NJPW's new gaijin arch-villain and I'm excited to see him finally given a chance to run with the ball.  ****1/4 for the match.

The rest of the show was a mixed bag; I enjoyed the Tom Lawlor-Homicide garbage match (***1/2) and the ZSJ-Clark Connors TV Title sprint (***1/2).  The first three bouts felt like they belonged on the undercard, with the Motor City Machine Guns-WCWC tag match being the best of the three (***).

Overall a very fun, if overlong show with a great semi-main event and some memorable stuff.  

Best Match: Kairi vs. Mone
Worst Match: Fred Rosser vs. Kenta
What I'd Change: Get the first three matches over with faster 
Most Disappointing Match: Rosser still feels like an NXT guy to me, and Kenta still relies on Bullet Club shenanigans.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Lawlor vs. Homicide was stupid fun
Overall Rating: 8/10

Thanks for reading - subscribe to our mailing list, and follow us on Twitter, MeWe, Facebook and YouTube!

No comments:

Post a Comment