By Drew Lapoint
What a wild and explosive night it was last night in New Orleans for the Elimination Chamber pay per view event. With every predictable action the WWE Universe witnessed, it seemed as though an unpredictable reaction soon followed. Its been said time and time again for far too long that the WWE has lost its ability to swerve the viewers, and that for years now when we see and event on paper, there's a good chance that we can see the outcome coming from a mile away. Last night was no different for me as a viewer. Sure I had high hopes that the booking team may take a chance on doing something different, but wasn't expecting anything out of the ordinary. Boy was I wrong on that one.
While victories for Alberto Del Rio and The Rock were widely expected, who really thought Jack Swagger would emerge victorious from the Elimination Chamber number one contenders match? Two weeks into his return, Swagger has seemed reinvigorated more so than I've ever seen him. He's always been great in the ring, but his "All American American" character certainly ran its course and after his world title push three years ago, Swaggers been swimming in obscurity ever since. During his most recent absence, it was widely speculated that Swagger was due his walking papers from the company. With all the new blood recently infused into the main programs, and the part-time legends around for Wrestlemania season, nobody really saw Swagger being any kind of important fixture aside from a couple Superstars appearances or getting squashed for the greater good of more popular superstars. Enter Zeb Coulter as his mouthpiece, and a new "Real American" gimmick, Swagger suddenly looks credible again, I just don't think anyone expected his moment in the sun would come so soon after returning, especially considering the star power that was in the chamber match. At this rate its sink or swim for Swagger and his road to Wrestlemania, and being a fan of his myself, I wish he and Del Rio all the best because I think their feud will be controversial to say the least, and if done properly, we have two bright, young stars ready-made for the future. WWE swerved us on this one, all we can do is let it play out to see where things are headed, but for the first time maybe since his debut, Swagger is a force to be reckoned with and has a character to go along with it.
Next up was the match I was anticipating the most from the event, the super team of Cena, Sheamus, and Ryback colliding with possibly the hottest new young stable in all of wrestling, The Shield. Once again, the general consensus was that the face team was going to "bury" the young talented trio to look strong heading into Wrestlemania. Even though that was the popular train of thought, I never lost hope that maybe just maybe the WWE booking crew learned from their past mistakes of the Nexus angle. The Shield has been talking since their debut about "correcting injustice" in the WWE. It was a vague, yet bold statement made, and the expectations for this trio (namely Ambrose and Rollins) especially from the IWC was tremendous. They gave us a great showing at Decembers TLC pay per view proving to the world that they belong with the top dogs in the industry. The fact that they had only had one sanctioned match, which was more of a brawl the first time around, has helped them maintain a certain mystique. This time it was a six man tag team match with traditional wrestling rules in place (for the most part). Exhibiting amazing teamwork and chemistry not seen in a WWE ring for a long time, The Shield hung with, if not dominated the face team until the final spear from Reigns to Ryback was the final nail in the coffin. It was then that I realized what the injustice was that they were referring to from the start: Heels winning clean.
It almost seems like a lost art nowadays in the wrestling world, specifically WWE. They are so protective of making their babyfaces out to be as strong as possible, that there's no way heels can win without cheating their way through a match, interference, etc. Last night changed that dynamic, and gives me and many other fans in the world hope that maybe the company is finally seeing the error of their ways over the last few years. If you want to make your villains credible, they need to beat top babyfaces in a hard fought match, cleanly. It gives the face side that much more motivation for retribution, as well as a mountain to climb on the way to their inevitable victory. When the Nexus lost to team WWE at Summerslam 2010, they lost steam, and were never taken seriously as a threat again. At Elimination Chamber 2013, right in the heart on the road to Wrestlemania, The Shield, in their second official match in the company walked away more credible than ever, and the faces didn't lose much in defeat. Jack Swagger took his opportunity to roll up Randy Orton and secure a number one contenders spot, clean and effective, and Orton didn't lose anything in the process.
If the company continues to treat their heels as credible threats more like this in the future, I think we may finally have found a legit, even landscape for the future of WWE. Like every other story, good most of the time always overcomes evil at one point or another, but last night The Shield and Jack Swagger both proved why heels deserve their own brand of justice time and again, leaving a compelling story to tell for the weeks and months to follow.