The Feb. 15 episode of WWE Raw served as the go-home show for the brand before the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. Several stories were furthered (and one just made all the more confusing) in preparation for Sunday’s event, none more than the build for the WWE Championship Elimination Chamber match.
In one of several callbacks to “KofiMania” tonight, WWE employed the tried-and-true method of the gauntlet match.
The gauntlet match involved all six participants in the Raw Elimination Chamber match: WWE Champion Drew McIntyre and former WWE Champions A.J. Styles, Kofi Kingston, Jeff Hardy, Randy Orton, and Sheamus. Kingston qualified after defeating The Miz earlier in the night, the latter removing himself from the Chamber match due to possessing the Money in the Bank briefcase/contract.
The winner of the match earned the right to enter the Elimination Chamber last. Tom Phillips kept reminding us during the match that the final entrant has a huge advantage entering the match fresh after his other competitors have been in the contest for anywhere from five to 20 minutes enduring who knows what inside the Chamber.
MOMENT: Sheamus wins the gauntlet match to enter the Elimination Chamber match last
Credit to WWE in that they made sure we heard from each participant prior to the match about what it would mean to win the match and the Chamber match Sunday, even if that meant literally seconds before Hardy entered the match in his pre-recorded promo.
We heard from McIntyre in the opening segment, Kingston with Adam Pearce and The Miz in a backstage skit, Sheamus with Charly Caruso, Orton with his (now weekly) backstage promo in a secluded and dark area, Styles in his pre-match comments, and Hardy in the aforementioned pre-recorded video.
It only makes sense to hear from the participants before they participate in TWO big matches within six days, and each wrestler did a good to great job explaining their aspirations and the deep meaning it would hold for them to again be WWE Champion.
The match started with Styles and Kingston, who was eliminated after a short battle. McIntyre entered third and eliminated Styles. Hardy entered fourth only to succumb to the WWE Champion. Orton entered fifth and was counted out after shenanigans from Alexa Bliss. Sheamus was the final entrant and eliminated McIntyre to win.
Was it the best gauntlet match? No, but it was fine. I still think the best gauntlet match in WWE the past few years was the tag team gauntlet The New Day won to earn Kingston his WWE Championship match at WrestleMania 35. I really think the moment in the video below puts it above all other recent ones.
This moment still makes me a bit emotional.
I do think having McIntyre start off the match would have been a better booking decision, leaving the finish exactly as planned. That would have further built McIntyre as a fighting and resilient WWE Champion, especially six days before what is regarded as one of the most brutal matches in WWE.
Further, I have yet to hear WWE announcers raise the point that as WWE Champion, McIntyre could probably demand and be granted the last entry in the Chamber match. Having reiterated to viewers that he hasn’t could do more to reinforce his babyface tendencies.
Still, aside from the Bliss involvement (seriously, how eerie is this scene?), the gauntlet match served its purpose and made for a more enjoyable third hour…though that bar is so low “that if you taped it to the ground, you’d confuse it for a speed bump” to steal a turn of phrase from an esteemed colleague.
The only issue: does anyone actually think McIntyre is losing on Sunday, and if so, who wins? I said last week the only other option I see is Styles winning, mostly because I want to see more of Omos, but aside from that, I don’t see any of the other three challengers as believable victors (or maybe I just don’t want to see them win).
Then again, with Fastlane still to come before WrestleMania 37, I wouldn’t be shocked if they give a quick reign to Styles or Sheamus only for McIntyre to regain the WWE Championship. This is WWE after all, and we have to take into account all possibilities.