Match order is important. It can't make a bad PPV good, but it can make a good PPV bad.
When the Raw Elimination Chamber Match kicked things off, I thought for sure we were in store for a twist heavy show. It wouldn't exactly be earth-shattering, Elimination Chamber has overtaken Survivor Series as the shenanigans PPV, but I definitely thought something was up. No wonkiness in this match though as it was just a straight up fantastic Elimination Chamber.
My chief concern going in was that it had to end with Punk or Jericho winning and there would be no way to make them both look good and worthy of wrestling each other at Mania. Luckily, WWE played it to perfection, with Punk sneaking in a nasty kick on Jericho, who was busy humiliating Kofi Kingston. Jericho tossed Kofi out of the ring ala Uncle Phil throwing Jazz out of the house, but Punk's kick sent him flying out of the ring and hitting his head on debris in the aisle. Refs took Jericho out the match which allowed Punk to retain his title by defeating The Miz.
Other highlights of the match include Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler, and anything else involving Kofi Kingston and Dolph Ziggler. Yeah, these two were awesome, bouncing all around the Chamber like pinballs and Kofi's tornado DDT off the chains was, well, off the chain. Punk may have won the thing, but this was really a coming out party for Ziggler and Kofi, which is kind of a shame since these guys have had numerous star-making performances and still can't quite get there. I don't know what the hold up is, but their work tonight basically screamed "can we get a fucking push already?"
Santino's Rocky spoofs, while a bit cliché, were really funny and a great way to get the crowd excited for him being in the Chamber match.
Beth Phoenix vs. Tamina Snuka was easily one of the ten best Divas matches in the last ten years. It's amazing what happens when you let female wrestlers wrestle, they have actual wrestling matches rather than 30-second "hey, look at the women who work here" segments. I really don't have a problem with the Eves and Kelly Kellys of the world, they're obviously not as good as the Beths, Taminas and Natalyas, but if you let the women go out there and wrestle like this, everyone will get better.
This match, as good as it was, could've been so much better if the crowd were into it. That's not their fault though, after a decade of WWE conditioning them to look at this as the nacho break, what do you expect? Still, kudos to WWE for finally doing something right in the Divas division, the first since anything involving Kharma.
John Laurinaitis and the parade of returning heels was nice, but as I suspected, no big announcement was made... unless you count Ace wanting to be the General Manager of Raw and Smackdown a big announcement, which I don't since Otunga was talking about it a week ago. Still, it was a fun segment, brought back Christian, Mark Henry & Alberto Del Rio and gave us this:
So I'd consider it a successful bit.
The Smackdown Elimination Chamber going on next was just bizarre though, confirming that John Cena vs. Kane in an Ambulance Match would headline the Elimination Chamber PPV. Sigh.
So the match started off really slow with Wade Barrett and Big Show not really clicking and I feared it would suffer from odd placement and lack of importance. Luckily, once Santino got involved, the match was saved. Yes, Santino Marella saved a match and the crowd was absolutely bonkers for him. Great Khali's instant elimination didn't hurt things either.
Business really picked up when Big Show became determined to get his hands on Daniel Bryan, even going so far as to break the chains (Dokken style) at the top of Bryan's pod and climb into it. Show mauling Bryan in an enclosed space was really clever and showed there's still room for innovation inside Satan's Structure. Big Show really deserves praise for working his ass off in this match, he's still underrated as a performer, whether wrasslin' purists want to admit it or not.
Everything from that point on was excellent with Bryan getting tossed around like a rag doll, Cody Rhodes & Barrett teaming up to take out Show, and Santino just being awesome. Barrett powerbombing Bryan into the chains and just barely missing them was NASTY! and then slamming his head in the pod door was NASTY².
I knew when it came down to Bryan, Barrett and Santino though that this was all leading to Bryan solidifying his status as a great bad guy by making Santino tap out. Santino made it an exciting finish at least, perhaps even the best since Mysterio vs. Edge a few years back, but this was Bryan's moment to be Top Dickhead.
Sheamus made his WrestleMania intentions clear after the match, hitting Bryan with the Celtic Cross. It's not the most exciting WrestleMania match ever, but the World Title match never will be. And it is impressive that after getting bumped off the card last year, they're main eventing* this year. And by "main eventing," I mean "probably opening the show," but the World Title is on the line, that's pretty damn cool for both guys.
After an intelligence-insulting backstage segment, Teddy Long setup an impromptu US Title match with Jack Swagger defending against Justin Gabriel. It was as exciting as it sounds. Swagger won, woopity-doo.
John Cena vs. Kane in an Ambulance Match was our main event. Oooooooookay? Well surely with this match going on last, something crazy's going to happen? Zack Ryder's going to show up and turn heel? Maybe even a Rock cameo? Nope. Nothing. Just a straight up Kane vs. John Cena match that climbed slightly abover Raw main event territory thanks to Kane chokeslamming Cena through the Spanish Announce Table and Cena doing his B-PPV Attitude Adjustment off something really high.
It wasn't a bad match, probably the best it could've been, but it had no business being the main event of the show, especially without something big afterward. Seriously, even The Rock showing up for the obligatory "let's stare at each other while the WrestleMania sign looms over us" would've justified it, but this just sucked the air out of the PPV. Had this match gone on in any other spot and a Chamber match headlined, it would've worked fine.
And that pretty much sums up the entire PPV. If the match order would've been completely reversed, it would've been a great show, but instead, it turned out to be just okay. The first three matches ranged from good to excellent, but ending with filler and then an Ambulance Match dragged us down. I assume they won't repeat this mistake in six weeks.