By: Brian McDonald (@sackedbybmac)
After an almost two-year absence, the Elimination Chamber Pay-Per-View returns this weekend to the regular WWE lineup.
The last actual Elimination Chamber matches disappointed, but that May 2015 PPV did feature the victorious debut of Kevin Owens, and an excellent WWE Championship match between Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose.
This year’s PPV probably won’t have a moment as big as Owens defeating John Cena in his debut, but it will be used to set the table for what WWE plans to do at WrestleMania.
So, in that way this PPV is both pivotal and exciting because it will give us a glimpse at the matchups WWE plans to build towards between now and April 2nd.
What will that plan look like? That question is what these predictions will look to answer.
Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper
I’ve long held the belief that Luke Harper was an underrated performer who could break out if given the opportunity—and he delivered a great promo last week on SmackDown Live—but there’s nearly a zero percent chance of him winning this match.
Randy Orton won the Royal Rumble to earn the right to main event WrestleMania, so there’s no way they’ll stop his momentum on the road to that match with a loss to a guy on the undercard.
Predicted Finish: Randy Orton by RKO outta nowhere, probably with help from Bray Wyatt
2 on 1 Handicap Match – Dolph Ziggler vs. Apollo Crews and Kalisto
With Dolph Ziggler turning heel recently, expect creative to keep building his momentum between now and WrestleMania.
Ziggler is getting a reaction and selling his new role well, but they should keep him strong so that when a baby face eventually goes over on him—probably at WrestleMania—they maximize the impact of that accomplishment.
Bottom line: Ziggler is way more important to their WrestleMania plans than either Apollo Crews or Kalisto, so expect WWE to keep him strong with a win.
Predicted Finish: Dolph Ziggler by pinfall
Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James
Similar reasoning to what was listed for the previous match, Mickie James is new to the SmackDown Live roster and needs to build up her heel credibility with a few wins.
Becky Lynch will eventually win this feud, but to build up the importance of that rivalry, WWE creative needs to book Mickie James strong and position her as a legit threat.
Predicted Finish: Mickie James by pinfall
Nikki Bella vs. Natalya
TMZ/Jerry Springer style insult promos have carried this feud so far without much payoff in the ring, and frankly has bored me to this point.
Their rivalry doesn’t feel like it will last past this Elimination Chamber PPV, so expect the baby face to go over for a clean ending to the story.
Predicted Finish: Nikki Bella by John Cena’s submission move
Tag Team Turmoil Match for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship – American Alpha (C) vs. Slater & Rhyno vs. The Vaudevillains vs. The Ascension vs. The Usos vs. Breezango
Honestly, I don’t have a good feel for this match, but there are a few tag teams we can eliminate right away from contention. So, The Ascension and Breezango have no chance of winning the belts at Elimination Chamber.
For the remaining four teams, I rank the most likely winners in the following order: The Usos, American Alpha, Slater & Rhyno, and lastly The Vaudevillains.
American Alpha puts on exciting matches in the ring, but the booking around their title run has produced little momentum, interest, or a significant story line, so I think they’ll make a short-term change with the plan of letting American Alpha chase the belts for a little while before winning them back.
Prediction: The Usos by pinfall
SmackDown Women’s Championship – Alexa Bliss (C) vs. Naomi
Alexa Bliss has been a great champion, so I don’t see a reason to change direction at this point. She’s great in the ring, she’s great on the mic, she looks great, so what reason would they have to take the belt off her so quickly?
Naomi isn’t over and Alexa is on a roll, so the most logical decision would be to keep building up her momentum as the main event heel of the women’s division before booking a big match at WrestleMania, when a baby face could go over.
Prediction: Alexa Bliss by pinfall
Elimination Chamber Match for the WWE Championship – John Cena (C) vs. AJ Styles vs. The Miz vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dean Ambrose
When thinking about who might win this matchup, you must keep in mind that the winner will most likely be the opponent for Randy Orton at WrestleMania. So, anyone who either isn’t big enough for that spot or lacks the history with Orton that would make booking the angle difficult can be crossed right off the list.
For those reasons, right away we can eliminate the idea of either Baron Corbin or Dean Ambrose winning this match.
Corbin has a bright future ahead of him, but he’s not ready to main event WrestleMania, and with Ambrose already the current Intercontinental Champion, WWE is unlikely to book him into a program for the WWE Championship.
I’ve been a huge fan of the heel work done by The Miz recently and want to see him in the main event picture this year, but there’s no booking momentum or relevant recent history to make a feud between him and Orton, so take his name off the list as well.
That leaves three possible winners: John Cena, AJ Styles, and Bray Wyatt.
It’s hard to imagine WWE creative lacking so much creativity that they book yet another Cena vs. Orton main event, and while Orton vs. Styles would be a great match, they’ve had very little interaction with each other and booking Styles to win back the belt from Cena would make things complicated and messy as it would extend that rivalry.
So, the most logical and best choice to win this match is easily Bray Wyatt.
Wyatt is great in the ring, great on the mic, the storyline would be easy to build with a fracture of their “family bond,” and he frankly deserves this spot as someone who still hasn’t won a singles championship in WWE; malpractice by WWE booking in my opinion.
Prediction: Bray Wyatt pins The Miz