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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: Bryan's Story Continues / Shield vs. Wyatts WWE Match of the Year (Elimination Chamber Review)
By The Doc
Feb 23, 2014 - 11:46:27 PM

The Snowman is a genius

Match 1: Big E retained the Intercontinental Championship in 12-minutes (** ½) (Solid match to the open the show and a match that highlighted what Swagger brings to the table as a mid-card performer. I continue to appreciate Big E’s hard work. He wants it; that much is apparent. His shoulder tackle that took both him and Swagger from the ring and onto the floor was a good example of it. What remains to be seen is whether or not he can successfully get over as anything more than a lukewarm babyface. Sheamus has proven that it does not so much matter if you are all that over with live audiences if you can do well in non-programming-related appearances and push some merchandise. Can Big E copy that formula? I am not sure at the moment. I do, though, enjoy his matches. They are not always 100% crisp, as witnessed in the semi-botched final sequence, but they are hard-hitting and make it clear that he is working hard to improve. Swagger provided him with an ideal opponent – one who can work a good match and still has enough credibility to where taking a loss to him means more than, say, beating Fandango or Curtis Axel. I will be curious to see what Big E does at Mania. There are two other heels with plenty of credibility that he could go over in Alberto Del Rio and Christian, but these upcoming six weeks are always telling for how the WWE feels about a mid-carder’s long-term prospects. Rarely do they put much creative effort into the secondary title divisions during the home stretch of Mania season. Will Big E force them to make an exception? Well done to both men on this night; a night in which both the wrestlers and the IC title looked good because of their performance)

Match 2: The New Age Outlaws retained the Tag Team Championships in 8-minutes (**) (A ho-hum tag team affair of the highest order, reminiscent of the majority of the last ten years of tag title matches. I was expecting more than average from these four. One can only hope that tonight was merely a wrinkle in the plot that will lead to a nice spot on the Mania card for the Tag Championships and perhaps even a title win at Mania for the Usos. However, see my closing notes on the previous match for my concerns about the mid-card from late February to WrestleMania)

Match 3: Titus O’Neill defeated Darren Young in 6-minutes (* ½) (I stated in my column last week that I thought tonight was an important night for Titus, in particular. I went further with my statements on my radio show, claiming that it would be a major plus for O’Neill to have a good match with Young and leave an impression. Well, nobody left any particular impression. The crowd hijacked the match a few minutes in and there was simply no heat, here. I will give credit where its due to both wrestlers for attempting to engage the audience after the fans began chanting for “CM Punk,” but they just did not have enough of a story. The WWE must pay better attention to detail in the future. Had the Prime Time Players continued to get meaningful TV time to build their characters in recent months, then maybe the heel turn and subsequent – and I’ll add relatively solid – feud might have meant something to the people. As such, the lack of attention to pre-4 weeks-ago detail left Young and O’Neill with a heatless filler match that likely will prove neither here nor there for their respective futures)

Match 4: The Wyatt Family defeated The Shield at 23:33 (**** ½) (Match of the Year 2014 in The Doc’s eyes. This was the match for which I was most excited. Apparently, I was not the only one. The Minneapolis crowd chanted “This is Awesome” before the match even got underway. I feel as if the general audience has shifted in the last few years. We seem to have reached a place where all the fans - and by all I mean the vast majority and not just the vocal minority - really want is wrestlers that actually bring something new to the table. The WWE has had so many start-stop pushes and have developed little more than generic main-eventers up until recently that the fans are recognizing and thoroughly appreciating when the WWE has some talents come along that want to do more than just go through the motions. Del Rio, as a for instance, is such a bland character. I love his wrestling talents, but there’s no denying that his persona is as interesting as the turnbuckle. Classic, solid heel he may be. It is just that wrestling, in general, is about investing your emotions. If you have blasé heels and unnatural, forced babyfaces, then the product just doesn’t work. It’s part of the reason why we see these old-timers coming back. This year, though, we’re seeing a litany of young, hungry stars that are actually unique. The Wyatts and Shield are certainly at the top of that list and the crowd tonight proved it. The same crowd that loved the awesome underdog tale of Daniel Bryan and absolutely crapped all over Batista went bananas and chanted “awesome” for a match between six guys with no more than 18 months main roster experience…before the damn thing even started.

It was awesome. The whole match was an exercise in what pro wrestling is all about. The pacing was superb. Since there was no true babyface in the match to begin with and they needed to establish a face-in-peril to build drama, they previewed the potential future of Seth Rollins as the high flying bump taker that can do things no one else can. His flat foot landing of the German suplex off the top rope from Harper was incredible as a visual, but utterly foundational to this match’s success because it set him up as the sympathetic character who had to overcome the odds in order to tag his teammates. There were several dueling chants prior to that sequence, but only one afterward. Rollins clearly established the Wyatts as the heels. Luke Harper had his breakout performance, as far as I’m concerned. That guy is going to be a star. Everyone did well, but I thought that it was clear that Rollins and Harper – and to some extent Erick Rowan, too - were trying out for their long-term careers, whereas Ambrose, Reigns, and Wyatt looked secure in their immediate futures and were merely building on what they already have on the horizon. They did well to get Ambrose and Rollins out of the picture, leaving Reigns to give us a sneak peak of what he could become as a lead protagonist. I thought he passed the test with vibrantly flying colors. He had the crowd in the palm of his hands with his comeback, particularly his powering out of Sister Abigail. Though he came up short, it didn’t really matter. Everyone won with this match. Us. Them. WWE management. Everyone)

Match 5: AJ retained the Diva’s Title (n/a) (Sorry. Didn’t bother with it. Love the Diva’s Champion, but am completely disengaged from the Diva’s division right now)

Match 6: Batista defeated Alberto Del Rio in a roughly 10-minute affair (* ¾) (I give a ton of credit to Alberto Del Rio for trying mightily to get this segment over like the WWE probably hoped it would. It was a solid piece of work from ADR, as we’ve come to expect from his in-ring performances and ability to tell simple stories that ultimately connect with the fans. However, the experiment failed. The WWE tried to make Batista sympathetic in this situation both at various times throughout the last few weeks and before the match officially began tonight, but there’s just no convincing a WWE audience that they should cheer for Batista. It looked like he might have injured his arm during the finish. I hate to state this – I really do because I don’t wish ill will on the guy and I like him, generally – but do you have to wonder if it’d be a blessing in disguise if he was forced out of Mania with an injury? Then, he could come back later and in a role that better suits him after he gets in shape. I don’t know. I went into the PPV thinking that this would quietly be one of the most important matches on the show because it would tell us what an upper midwest group of American fans - and not an area where counterculture typically reigns supreme - thought of the WWE’s attempts to ignore Royal Rumble. It was apparent that the Minnesotans cared as little about Batista as the Pittsburgh crew did. People just don’t give a crap about him. They’re going to have to do something with the main-event. The WWE cannot possibly go through with Orton vs. Batista as the lone title match at Mania 30. Tonight proved that it’s just not working. The fans chanted for Bryan, Y2J, RVD, and CM Punk. Del Rio was more over. Cut your losses and call an audible or spend 6 weeks fitting a square peg into a round role with millions of people looking the other way)

Match 7: Randy Orton retained the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in 37:33 (****) (There is a new candidate for the best Elimination Chamber match after tonight. That was an outstanding match right up until Kane showed up and made it clearly obvious who would win. Even then, Bryan kicked out of Orton’s first RKO and infused a little bit of extra hope into the worldwide viewing audience and live attendees. I am not upset, though. Frankly, the entire story of the latter part of the match was Bryan’s quest. Surely, that will continue to be the story moving forward. It has been for the better part of the last seven months. Tomorrow night will be a fascinating Monday Night Raw just to see what they do with Bryan. Before I get more into that, let’s add a few notable things about the Chamber match. The Wyatts firmed up their date with Cena at Mania. After Bray's last two PPV outings, my interest in Cena vs. Wyatt has skyrocketed and I look forward to seeing how that all plays out. Cena will do well in the special attraction role for the next half decade or more. It has been a long time coming and I hope that you fans that so desperately asked for it will put aside whatever other problems you have with management to be thankful that you at least have Cena taking a backseat. Cesaro, as many predicted, had a fantastic showing. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess, but he did enough to at least give himself a shot at a bright future. Sheamus and Christian were their usual, reliable selves. I really like the Celtic Warrior. His intensity and work ethic make him an exception to the rule that someone who is not that over as a babyface should be depushed. Frankly, he just keeps bringing it and finding ways to, just when you think he’s not going to be able to make the face character work, pull off something like his Brogue Kick through the glass spot with Orton. Fella. And, you know, lost amidst the rabid desire for Bryan to win the title has been how well Orton has done to carry it in the last two months since winning both straps at TLC. His character needed tweaking when he turned heel and he’s found a way to do that. I’ve long been an Orton supporter and he ranks in that second tier of my all-time favorites. I believe he does deserve the spot that he is in right now and should go to Mania in position to do something important.

So, that brings us back to the Bryan situation. The show-closing story was the disappointed fans. Any time that a story is made of disappointed fans, the WWE will bring the tale full circle to give them what they want. I think it’s clear that Bryan is going to be doing something at Mania that gives him redemption. Anything less would fail to follow the WWE’s history of delivering satisfying payoffs at WrestleMania. I’ve got my eye on tomorrow as a night that sets up Bryan to be victorious at Mania. I honestly would not rule out the scenario that I described last week - Bryan goes thru Trips to get to Orton in a Mania X scenario where Batista-Orton also takes place. How can they not do something to put Bryan in the title match? How can they, also, not do something to allow Bryan to overcome the Authority? Stick with me on this…our payoff is coming in one way, shape, or form)

QUESTION OF THE DAY: What did you think of the PPV?

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