WWE Home Video’s latest release brings us two high-profile stops on the Road To WrestleMania in one handy package as Smackdown’s Elimination Chamber and Raw’s Fastlane pay-per-views are brought together. But are they worth the watch? Matthew Roberts revisits the shows and finds out…
The good thing about Elimination Chamber was that the match that gave the show it’s name was really rather good. Pitting incumbent World Champion John Cena against a top notch set of challengers in the form of AJ Styles, Bray Wyatt, The Miz, Dean Ambrose and Baron Corbin this was the usual herculean effort from all involved and as it took place under the auspices of the Blue Brand it featured logical and entertaining eliminations to boot. Of course we now know that Bray Wyatt’s win led to a deeply unsatisfying Title match at WrestleMania against Randy Orton, but if you can ignore what came next then this was a great piece of work all round.
The undercard was much more of a hit and miss affair.
Randy Orton against Luke Harper was on the one hand a pleasant surprise but on the other was a disappointment. It was a decent, competitive match but one that lacked any of the spark that you would have wanted to see in what was supposed to be some form of grudge match within the ongoing Orton joining the Wyatt Family storyline. It was however VASTLY superior to the Tag Team Turmoil match for the Tag Team Titles. To go into any length of description about it would be to give it far more time than it deserves. Suffice to say, these type of bouts rarely work in WWE and this was no exception.
Even that, however, was arguably better than the bizarre Dolph Ziggler versus Kaliso and Apollo Crews handicap match. From the moment this contravened all known rules of wrestling (one heel valiantly going up against two faces?) it was a mess that achieved nothing and left none of the trio with any forward momentum whatsoever. You could almost believe that it was designed to let all three men know just how little is thought of them by management.
The card was rounded off with three, yes THREE, women’s matches.
Mickie James against Becky Lynch was the best of the bunch. Although never quite catching fire like you might have hoped it was a solid, storyline driven affair that entertained from start to finish. Nikki Bella against Natalya didn’t come close to matching it. After video packages showing the intense hatred the two had developed against each other the two had a methodical, boring match with no spark whatsoever. The “Women’s Revolution” has, in my eyes, shown Natalya for the average worker she is and as much as Nikki has improved her act over the years (and she should be commended for the effort) she’s still not at a stage where you can invest in her as a believable wrestler. To get a non-finish after all this just made things worse.
The Women’s Title match sat somewhere between those two others on the quality stage. As fantastic as Alexa Bliss is as a character (she has a grasp of the little subtle things in terms of presentation that few ever master) she’s still learning her trade in the ring. At the time I thought Naomi’s big title win would have been better served being saved until WrestleMania (which ironically it ended up being thanks to an injury she suffered here) but it provided a feel good moment that went down well with the crowd.
If a card lives and dies by it’s main event then Elimination Chamber was a success. Very little else on the card excelled though and little else bears up well to repeat viewings.
Raw’s PPV was headlined by Kevin Owens defending his Universal Title against everyone’s favourite part-timer and all round good father Bill Goldberg. To complain about how the match worked out and the result it gave us is pointless; we all knew it was coming and at least in credit to Owens he did about as much as you could have done given the situation. Indeed, his work before the bell rang is well worth studying closely, even if it led to a squash loss. At least the Chris Jericho storyline involvement gave Owens somewhere to take this afterwards.
Unfortunately the undercard did not generally deliver the strong entertainment that was necessary to “cover” for the main event.
The best of the action was to be found in a couple of title matches. Neville vs. Jack Gallagher for the Cruiserweight Title was the match of the night by far. Not falling into the usual WWE trap of just being your standard WWE bout but with smaller guys, both were able to shake loose a bit and deliver something different. I’m convinced people WANT to be entertained by a Cruiserweight division that is different from everything else the WWE produces. If only they were booked that way more often.
The women’s match between Charlotte and champion Bayley was fun but nevertheless a notch down from what we’ve come to expect from the high-profile Women’s title defences over the past year or so. It was decent enough at the time and slightly spoiled since as none of the imagined storylines that might come from the way this one ended have made their way to our screens. There’s slow burn break-ups and then there are storylines where nothing progresses for months until we get a “shock” turn. Let’s hope the WWE have something better in mind for Sasha and Bayley as we move ahead.
Ignoring the usual IWC Roman Reigns moaning, his match against Braun Strowman was entertaining enough and had the ending that it HAD to have given that Reigns was moving on to the Undertaker at WrestleMania. If you have to moan about the result, at least direct your upset at the bookers for making it.
Most of the rest of the card was neither here nor there really. Nia Jax continued to show that she’s not quite ready to climb the ladder of the Women’s Division in a so-so match with Sasha Banks. Rusev took punishment for cutting his hair in a boring loss to the Big Show (who for all the commendable efforts in losing weight for a Shaq match that never came will still never be half the worker he was when he hit WCW screens in 1995) and if anyone out there thinks that Cesaro Vs Jinder Mahal is worth their PPV money I’ve got some shares in TNA Impact that I can sell them at a vastly inflated price.
The Tag Team Title match between Gallows & Anderson and Enzo & Big Cass was ok but forgettable and it was left to Sami Zayn and Samoa Joe to provide the best entertainment on the card in a good opener (that nevertheless wasn’t that good. Let loose the two could have had a cracker).
Fastlane was a card that struggled to get into top gear and Cruiserweight Title match aside offered little that is worth too much of a second look.
The only extras are kickoff matches on both discs. Elimination Chamber’s Mojo Rawley Vs Curt Hawkins is as exciting as it sounds and Fastlane’s 205 Showcase pitting Akira Tozawa and Rich Swann against Noam Dar and Brian Kendrick is better, but again far from essential.
One good match per card, accompanied by some decent but unmemorable supporting action, does not make this an essential set. Still it’s good value and the best match (the Elimination Chamber) is fantastic.
5 out of 10.
Photos courtesy: Fetch, Fremantle Media, WWE
Format reviewed: DVD
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy of Elimination Chamber 2017 & Fastlane 2017 Double which is available on DVD in the UK from the 1st May. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk now by clicking here