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In Defense Of… The Elimination Chamber

Bringing the truth to the wrestling fan!

A version of this article originally appeared on 411mania.com and was updated for the book IN DEFENSE OF… EXONERATING PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING’S MOST HATED. Learn more at https://www.jpprag.com

Certain people, events, organizations, and storylines in wrestling history have gotten a bum rap. Some writers have presented overtly critical comments and outright lies as fact, and others have followed suit. Well no more! “In Defense of…” has one reason: to bring the truth to the wrestling fan!

Intro

Some dame walked into my office and said…

In the future chapters, I’ll use this space to paste the (probably heavily edited) letter of the person asking for my services. But this time, I go to bat again for myself. Unlike last time, our suspect does not have a long history to follow. This one only has about two and a half years of history and three incidents to examine. I am talking about the second-latest gimmick match in pro-wrestling, THE ELIMINATION CHAMBER!

Why this?

As has been habit recently in the IWC, writers have crapped on a gimmick or wrestler or storyline before they have seen it executed. Sometimes they are right in their skepticism (see Katie Vick), but more often they have jumped the gun (see WGTT debut and push, Eugene, Jericho/Christian/Trish Love Triangle, John Cena, etc…). The Elimination Chamber was another such event in wrestling history where the IWC had horrible things to say about it, even though NO ONE (and I mean NO ONE) saw what it looked like until the PPV (that’s Survivor Series 2002 for the record). How can you judge something before you have seen it?

And worse yet? The post judgmental comments by those who STILL had not seen it. Let me tell you, I watched that PPV, and I thoroughly enjoyed the match, the concept, and generally the result.

We will examine the build-ups, the fallout, and the actual matches themselves. The Elimination Chamber will prove itself, and haters will prove that they just know how to hate. Let’s get rolling.

Once a man had a dream…

On October 21, 2002 Eric Bischoff came out on Raw and said that there would be the first ever Elimination Chamber match at Survivor Series. By the next week, we knew two things: who was in the match and that that match itself was a combination of War Games, Royal Rumble, and Classic Survivor Series. Let the intrigue begin!

The following week, some vignettes began running that only whet our appetite even more. And again, on the following week we finally learned the rules! But we had not even seen the chamber for what it really was. How were we supposed to react?

You would think with a little awe or at the very least optimistic intrigue. But I’m afraid that wasn’t quite true.

The ostrich effect… in reverse

First, let’s take a look at people’s reaction to Bischoff’s announcement, right on 411mania’s own message boards:

After the first Elimination Chamber video…

What the hell was that all about? On the video it showed a circular cell surrounding one ring…ONE ring!! I want two rings!! And what’s with the circular cell? That’s a stupid idea. There better be more to it than this.

JUNGLE GYM OF DOOM!

WHOA WHOA WHOA! Cylinder? Dome? Alright Bischoff, be honest, is the Elimination Chamber just a giant steel penis?

After rumors leaked of the possible rules…

•Okay I’m not looking forward to this at all now. A lot of people are saying the same thing and it [is] starting to make sense. If you look at the official Survivor series website, look at the drawing closely, you can see 4 semi-circular cages inside the sides on the chamber. Very Unhappy and Angry!

Very unhappy and angry? That’s a stupid idea? What are these posters so against? What did we know about the Elimination Chamber at this point? Heck, when we did not even know the rules people were saying that it was the worst gimmick match going.

And this is the negativity that spread without any provocation. The Elimination Chamber had been found guilty without a trial, or even so much as a chance to say “Hello!” How was it supposed to ever recover from that start?

The Art of Professional Wrestling

But we weren’t the only ones who hadn’t seen the Elimination Chamber. There were a few other people who knew only a little bit more than we did. Their names were Chris Jericho, Booker T, Triple H, Kane, Shawn Michaels, and Rob Van Dam.

The six participants in the Elimination Chamber had no clue what they were getting into!

You see, the complaint we hear from many wrestlers in the WWE (especially those who have left) and old school guys who watch the product is that the WWE plots out entire matches backstage. Not only that, but they use house shows as practice ground for guys to get the matches down before their big PPV showdown. So in the end, wrestling becomes a tedious series of moves planned out in an exact way, and it shows.

That’s not to say that that is always bad. Sometimes guys do need to get a feel for each other, and the best way is to practice.

But that is a method, not an art.

I am of the belief that art is not limited to painting, writing, sculpting, and acting, but that art can be wherever you are creative. Moreover, I believe business is an art form, that the ability to create or grow a company and manage the flow of people and resources is an art that is practiced and perfected, not a method that can just be learned. That’s why most MBAs don’t go on to become millionaires, they want to learn a method to move up, not really risk it all for an art.

(And please, I’m not advocating not going to school. I think school is very important for helping you develop your art, whether it is business or wrestling. The most important thing is to listen to the lessons of those who came before you and integrate it into your own experience.)

So a lot of people, especially in the 70’s and 80’s, got into wrestling to make money and that was it. They had no love of the business as an art. The vast majority of them failed, but a few managed to stick around for a while. But eventually while someone like Terry Funk cannot stop wrestling because he loves it so much, people like Brock Lesner are perfectly content to have nothing to do with the business that made them. Some people are artists, some people are workers.

The Elimination Chamber was a moment of pure art. Six artists came together for the first time in a brand-new environment. They put on a spectacle of a show with nothing but their proverbial feather pens. There was no practice, there was no understanding of what you could or could not do in the Elimination Chamber. They risked themselves, not just physically, but spiritually. If they could not deliver, it would be because they had failed as artists, as people who could not work on the fly.

But they did deliver. It was a phenomenal match. People held on to the edges of their seats. People went home happy.

Still, people going home happy means nothing to this stockholder.

But nothing speaks louder than my credit card

As you may not realize, the Elimination Chamber cost $500,000 to build! That’s quite a bit of money there kids, even if you do make $90 million in revenue a year. So not only does the Elimination Chamber have to be initially profitable, it needs to have longevity.

Well, the WWE was so impressed with the match and the artisans involved that Linda McMahon took a considerable amount of time talking about it during a conference call with investors shortly after the event. In that interview she promised that the Elimination Chamber would return… and sure enough it did… TWICE!

In 2002, the WWE was still sailing on old recognition. The brand extension was in its infancy, and the WWE wanted to recreate the competition of the past without any of the backhanded slaps. At the same time, they wanted to create an opportunity for new talent to rise, something we are just starting to see the results of in 2005. In the short term, ratings were dropping and so were buyrates. They needed something to keep interest while the rest of their needs caught up.

The Elimination Chamber provided that. At Survivor Series 2002 it delivered a 0.86 buyrate. Not too shabby. Granted, Survivor Series had done better in the past, but the WWE was trying a few new things and fighting a falling business. It certainly was better than the previous month’s No Mercy 0.77 buyrate.

But the real proof doesn’t come until SummerSlam 2003. The WWE was falling on harder times; Judgment Day drew a 0.58, Bad Blood 0.75, and Vengeance 0.49. That was the buildup to SummerSlam. And then SummerSlam got the Elimination Chamber II, and took in a 0.94. Yes, a lot of that had to do with just the SummerSlam name. But to prove names don’t draw, and it is still the main event that matters, Survivor Series 2003 without an Elimination Chamber drew 0.71, less than the previous year’s No Mercy. People had seen what the Elimination Chamber was and were excited for its return.

And finally, there was Elimination Chamber III at a brand new PPV called New Year’s Revolution. It’s so new that we haven’t even seen a second one yet! It was just 4 weeks after SmackDown!’s Armageddon, which drew a 0.59 buyrate. More importantly, it was 3 weeks before the Royal Rumble! OK, so we have everything going against it: a no name PPV, two weeks where Raw wasn’t watched much because of Christmas and New Years, coming off a lackluster SmackDown PPV, but going into the second biggest PPV of the year — New Year’s Revolution seemed doomed. Oh, and they somehow needed to get the ten tons of steel to Puerto Rico. Despite all of that, New Year’s Revolution and the Elimination Chamber brought in a respectable 0.68 buyrate.

Not the best ever, and very much outside the success rate we defined in our last case, but pretty good considering everything it was going up against. How much money do you have after the holidays and New Years? Which PPV are you going to buy with your limited cash supply: New Years Revolution or the Royal Rumble? A PPV that you have no idea about except the main event or the event that is going to set up the next three months of angles and WrestleMania? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Has the Elimination Chamber paid for itself? Oh yeah! Has it made a profit? You bet! But there is more!

And if you read the Movie/TV Zone, you know that something else. Most movies make about 40% of their sales in the theatres, and the rest come from DVD/Video sales and rentals. Well, when dealing with children’s movies and Star Wars, the real money comes from the merchandise. We know, too, that the WWE is nothing but one of the best merchandisers going. Why don’t you scroll up to the top of this case for a second?

Ah, welcome back down here. That picture: the Elimination Chamber toy. See, there’s always more money to be made elsewhere, and you can bet that the WWE will exploit the Elimination Chamber for all its worth!

It’s a last minute thrown together match… with six months of planning

The outright worst lie I have heard about the Elimination Chamber is that it is just a thrown together match to pop buyrates with no long term planning or booking. It has been said that the Elimination Chamber just serves to get as many guys in the main event as possible.

Yes, the Elimination is good for business, and yes, it does get a lot of people in the main event.

But thrown together it is not!

To prove this we will examine all of the events that led up to the first Elimination Chamber. I would do this for the second and third, but as you can see, this is pretty huge by itself. Here we go!

Establishing the Brand

As you know, our story began on October 21, 2002, when Eric Bischoff first announced the Elimination Chamber match.

Except that’s not where our story began.

Jump back in time with me to August 25, 2002. The event was SummerSlam, and a lot was going on. Eric Bischoff had recently been brought in as GM of Raw, and the brand split was taking a new direction. The GM’s (Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon at the time) were starting to put more control on their talent, keeping them locked onto one show. This became a problem when Chris Benoit decided to jump to SmackDown! with the IC title around his waist (boy, that guy sure switches brands a lot). Luckily, RVD still had a title shot and managed to bring the belt back home to Raw, so Bischoff was very much in RVD’s debt. Meanwhile, former co-owner Ric Flair was feuding with the evil Chris Jericho, and even managed to get Jericho to submit on that hot summer’s night. Later in the evening, Shawn Michaels would get the pinfall victory over Triple H in an “Unsanctioned Match”. Triple H, though, would get the last laugh by hitting Shawn in the back with a sledgehammer and taking him out of commission for a while. But the most important thing that happened was the recently jumped Brock Lesner became the Undisputed WWE champion be defeating the Rock.

The next night on Raw, things seemed business as usual. Kane made his triumphant return to stop the UnAmericans from burning a US Flag with the help of Booker T and Goldust, who had also been feuding with the UnAmericans over the World Tag Team Championships. In the main event, Triple H defeated the Undertaker to become the #1 Contender to the Undisputed WWE Championship. But, a short time later, Stephanie McMahon showed up backstage at Raw to let Bischoff know that Brock Lesner was exclusive to SmackDown!, and so was the WWE Championship.

Things were looking grim, especially when the Undertaker jumped to SmackDown! that week and defeated Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle in a triple threat match (how poetic) to become the new #1 contender.

What was Eric Bischoff to do? Well, all though the weekend, there was much backstage wheeling and dealing, but McMahon would not budge. He had one choice. On Raw on September 2, 2002, Eric Bischoff said the Undisputed Championship was now in dispute. Since Brock Lesner refused to meet the #1 contender for the title, the rightful #1 contender Triple H would be awarded what made up one half of the Undisputed Championship: the venerable World Heavyweight Championship.

Debate all you want about the lineage of that belt (and we will in a later chapter), there is plenty of precedent for stripping the champion of the belt and awarding it to the challenger if the champion refuses to meet him. In 1929, the National Boxing Association withdrew its recognition of Gus Sonnenberg as World Heavyweight Champion when he refused to meet credible challengers. The NBA (and later the National Wrestling Association) then had a tournament to crown the rightful World Heavyweight Champion, which was won by Dick Shikat when he defeated Jim Londos. This branch of the title would remain disputed until 1948 and through 1952, when Lou Thesz started gathering all the World Heavyweight Championships to become a true Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion. Thus we can see from this example that Bischoff has plenty of history to look back on when it comes to withdrawing recognition of a champion and awarding it to someone who he thinks is the rightful and worthy title holder.

Still, a few more things happened that night. For starters, Ric Flair came out and let Triple H know he needed to earn that title, so Bischoff made the match between the two. The 16-to-42-time world champion lost, and Jericho came out for some revenge by locking Flair in the Walls of Jericho. IC Champ RVD then came out for the save, having found out earlier in the night that he was going to defend that title against Jericho at a later date. But because of his interference, Triple H demanded a match with RVD. As such, Bischoff made the match of Y2J and Triple H vs. RVD and Flair for later that night. And RVD pinned the newly crowned World Heavyweight Champion.

Now mind you, being the IC champ makes you the de facto #1 contender if there are no other #1 contenders around. On top of that, pinning the champ in a non-title affair does bump you up quite a few notches in and of itself. Not to mention that Shawn Michaels had also pinned the champion just a week beforehand, and Chris Jericho was #1 contender to the IC title. But the week before, he lost to Flair, so who had what standing?

It was a bit too much for Bischoff, so he set up a Four Way Elimination match for the #1 Contender spot on the September 9, 2002 edition of RAW. The participants were RVD (the seeming #1 contender), Chris Jericho (the seeming #2 contender), the Big Show (he’s big), and Jeff Hardy (he’s painted). In the match itself, Jericho got the Big Show eliminated by DQ when he feigned getting hit by a chair, and then pinned Jeff Hardy. Despite running down Triple H earlier in the night, Triple H decided to try to help Jericho by distracting RVD, but to no avail. RVD hit the five-star frog splash to become the absolute-definite-no-doubt-about-it #1 contender.

That brings us to RAW on September 16, 2002, where Bischoff was in a good mood after invading SmackDown! and pulling off a huge scam at Billy and Chuck’s wedding. He gave Rico a match versus Ric Flair, which Rico actually won! Backstage, Triple H let Flair know how pathetic he had become, and Flair let Triple H know that he didn’t know how to be a champion. Meanwhile, Bischoff also decided that both champion and #1 contender needed to defend their titles that night. So Triple H defeated Jeff Hardy for fun, but RVD lost the IC title to Chris Jericho after interference from Triple H (which also led to a Jericho vs. Flair rematch for the IC title at the next PPV). Now this is important: Jericho had defeated the #1 contender to the World Heavyweight Championship just a week before his championship match. Remember that.

Then it was September 22, and it was Unforgiven. You see, back then all PPVs were co-branded. But on the RAW side, two important things happened: (1) Chris Jericho defeated Ric Flair via submission (thus getting back his loss the month before, defeating someone who challenged for the title just a few weeks before, and holding the IC title he won from the #1 contender high) and (2) Triple H defeated RVD. Now, this is important, because RVD had Triple H pinned twice while the ref was knocked out, and then it was Ric Flair coming in and hitting RVD with a sledgehammer that helped Triple H win the match.

The next night on RAW, a whole bunch of things happen that set up some seemingly random matches. Just know that Jericho ended up pinning Booker T’s tag team partner Goldust, and RVD put Triple H through a table. Flair also explained that Triple H made him realize how low he had sunk and was the only one honest with him, and that he was going to rise up again and teach Triple H how to live the life of a WOOOOOOO Champion.

Oh, and Eric Bischoff introduced some kid named Randy Orton as the newest RAW superstar. How peculiar.

Now, on the following RAW on September 30, 2002, Bischoff let us know that IC and World titles were going to unify at No Mercy, so again the IC champ was the #1 contender. At this point in history, that man was Chris Jericho, who was having some arguments with that Booker T character. But that would have to be put on hold because Jericho had to face Kane later in the night for said title. And Kane managed to take the title away from Jericho, despite interference from Triple H. Meanwhile, backstage Bischoff asked Flair about some former SmackDown! talent he was bringing over, but the intrigue would have to wait, for the following week was RAW ROULETTE!!!

OK, let’s summarize here. Shawn Michaels and RVD both held pinfall victories over Triple H. RVD got his shot, but only lost due to mass cheating from Flair. While RVD was #1 Contender, though, Jericho pinned him and never got a title match. Jericho then became #1 Contender for about two hours until Kane pinned him. So Shawn Michaels held the last full pinfall over Triple H, RVD needed revenge from mass cheating, Jericho never got his shot, and Kane was the #1 Contender. Got it? Good!

That brought us into the fall and the RAW ROULETTE on October 7, 2002. As much as I loved this episode of RAW, only a few relevant things happened. First, Booker T defeated the Big Show in a Steal Cage and then Jericho beat him up afterwards, saying that Booker T’s taunting the previous week caused him to lose the match to Kane… SUCKAAAAA! But Kane was not to be made fun of, as he went through a whole mess of people in a TLC match to claim the World Tag Team Championships with the Hurricane (who was laid out in the back).

The next week was October 14, 2002, Jericho and Christian won the tag team titles, so again Jericho defeated the #1 contender a week before his championship match. And due to much stuff happening, it would be Jericho and Christian vs. Booker T and Goldust at No Mercy for the titles. RVD vs. Ric Flair was also made, but first there would be a Canadian Lumberjack match on RAW between RVD and Triple H. And then… OK, this gets to be a bit much, here it is in my original notes form:

Meanwhile, HHH has been teasing he knows something about Kane, and that he is a murderer of some kind. Shortly thereafter we learn about Katie Vick. Oh my. Big Show d. Booker T in a falls count anywhere match when Jericho hits Booker with a steal chair in the women’s shower. HHH meanwhile backs a forklift into a door, stopping most of the lumberjacks from making it to his match. RVD had HHH pinned, but Jericho pulled him out. The faces led by Booker T make their way out, a schmoz happens, and then Flair comes in, hits RVD with the title belt, and then HHH gets the pin. Kane comes in to destroy everyone.

Finally, it was October 20, 2002, and there was NO MERCY. Jericho and Christian defeated Booker T and Goldust; RVD defeated Flair; and last, but not least, Triple H defeated Kane with lots of interference from Flair and sledgehammers to unify the World and IC championships.

That brings us back to our first sentence: October 21, 2002, RAW. Of course the Elimination Chamber itself was announced, but other things were going on as usual. We’re going to ignore the start of the Katie Vic storyline except to say it made Kane upset. Kane and RVD also defeated Triple H and Flair when RVD pinned Flair.

On the October 28, 2002 program of RAW, there was a non-title casket match between Kane and Triple H, which Kane won when Shawn Michaels popped out of the casket to get Triple H. Earlier in the evening, Bischoff had offered a spot in the Elimination Chamber to Shawn Michaels, but he had one week to get back to him. Oh, and the Big Show got traded to SmackDown!

All right, time for another summary. Shawn Michaels had a legitimate pin over Triple H just before he “won” the Championship. RVD had a pinfall victory over Triple H and still needed revenge after Flair cost him the match. Since then, he had beaten Flair a number of times. He had also beaten Triple H in tag team contests (without pinning him, though). Jericho pinned RVD when RVD was #1 Contender, but never got his shot. Kane defeated Jericho when Jericho was IC champ and #1 Contender to take the spot from him. He lost to Triple H but then defeated him again in a casket match. Meanwhile, Booker T had defeated the Big Show, but Jericho had been harassing him and cost him a match against the Big Show. So Booker T was looking for revenge on Jericho and had some high profile wins. Jericho wanted revenge on Booker T and Kane, but also wanted his #1 contender’s spot. Kane wanted revenge on Triple H for the Katie Vick stuff and his #1 contender’s spot after beating Triple H in a casket match. RVD still needed revenge for his two losses to Triple H from insane outside interference and needed a closed in environment. Shawn Michaels wanted revenge on Triple H for the sledgehammer and had a right to the #1 contender spot as the man who pinned Triple H just before Triple H was granted the championship. Big Show might have had a spot since he pinned Booker T, but since he was moved to SmackDown! all of that was null and void.

And a few weeks later, we had the first Elimination Chamber.

Did you read all of that? Now that, my friend, is “buildup”. There was legitimately three months of buildup to the Elimination Chamber, including an incredibly complex interweaving of storylines to make the environment possible. And I left out a LOT of details and many of the subplots also going on (The UnAmericans, Buh Buh Ray Dudley, the Hurricane, Bischoff and Stephanie, etc…).

I started to do the same thing for the second chamber, and traced the storylines that led to it all the way back to April 7, 2003. Don’t forget that the Elimination Chamber II did not take place until SummerSlam! And I’m sure I could do the same with Elimination Chamber III, but we have simply run out of room and time.

Oh, and anyone who says that this was still thrown together, you need to realize how far back the Elimination Chamber was planned. That monstrosity took six weeks to build. Now, first it needed to be designed and conceptualized, then it had to be bided out to contractors, and finally made and transported. That’s not something you can do on a whim. The Elimination Chamber was planned for a long time, and these storylines were the culmination of that long-term concerted effort.

Still, the buildup was not the end of the impact of the Elimination Chamber. There’s always an aftermath. But first…

Another heading about planning? Aiya!

There is something important that happened with the RAW main event scene after the first Elimination Chamber:

There was one.

You have to remember, before Eric Bischoff became GM of RAW, SmackDown! was the show with the main eventers and heavily controlled the Undisputed Championship. After shaking up the rosters with the new GMs and splitting the championship, RAW had a lot to prove. Who was in the main event? What were the programs between these people? Could they draw?

The Elimination Chamber did a pretty concise job of answering these questions. We quickly saw that the top of RAW’s card had Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Kane, RVD, and Booker T. And directly with and after this we set up feuds and storylines that led to Jericho-Michaels, Vitamin C-BookDust, RVD/Kane tag team (and the eventual fallout), and the Triple H-Booker T WrestleMania program. Also, new (old?) blood was injected with Scott Steiner (no pun intended) and Kevin Nash, so at the end of the day, RAW became a credible place to dwell. And as we saw with the buyrates, RAW also made money.

The aftershock!

By the time the second and third Elimination Chambers rolled around, there were so many main eventers that you could not fit them all in the Chamber. While the second Elimination Chamber match was going on, Kane and RVD were fighting each other and by the third Elimination Chamber RVD and Booker T were over on SmackDown! and Kane was fighting Snitsky. Despite the fact that Nash, Goldberg, and Steiner were all gone, and HBK was a ref, there were still six people in the chamber to remind us just how good the RAW main event scene was, and to set up the angles for the coming months.

And that is something the Elimination Chamber has always excelled at. The second chamber led right into Triple H vs. Goldberg and Goldberg’s title reign which led to Goldberg vs. Brock Lesner at WrestleMania. Edge’s getting screwed by HBK in the third chamber led to continuing that feud and Edge’s heel turn and decent into insanity. The Elimination Chamber set the pace for months before with the storylines leading to it, and months after with its repercussions.

Still, there was always a little something going on in the middle.

Running Jokes

In each Elimination Chamber match, there have been a number of consistent stories. Now, I can’t say if that is because of creative writing, a person on the booking committee that has a good sense of continuity and sense of humor, or if it is all just happenstance. Either way, though, there are some running stories you can find across the Elimination Chamber:

The Evolution of Evolution

Every Elimination Chamber has been a major point in the development of Evolution. In the first Elimination Chamber, Ric Flair had just recently given his allegiance to Triple H, and Randy Orton had just re-debuted on RAW. Meanwhile, Ric Flair was touting that he had acquired a huge former SmackDown! wrestler, who we later would learn was Batista. The Elimination Chamber had all the blocks of Evolution forming, and also gave the major impetus when Triple H lost. Triple H saw that he needed a full group for backup because of all the challengers and dangers for him on RAW, and his loss in the chamber solidified that need. The Elimination Chamber really signaled the beginning of Evolution.

The second Elimination Chamber had the growth of Evolution. Randy Orton began his climb to the main event by being in the chamber and set up his long-term feud with Shawn Michaels. Also, the events of the chamber led to the Triple H-Goldberg match at Judgment Day (which Goldberg won), which led directly to the return of Batista to RAW and Evolution to try to take Goldberg out. The Elimination Chamber really signaled the beginning of the height of Evolution and the rise of Randy Orton.

When the third Elimination Chamber came around, Randy Orton had long since been gone from Evolution, but was still in the match looking for his title and revenge on Triple H. The match actually ended with Triple H, Orton, and Batista. Batista basically eliminated everyone else, until Orton RKO’d him while Triple H watched on in the corner. And then Triple H went on to pin Randy Orton. These events all led to the Royal Rumble a few weeks later that Batista won and then finally Batista’s big win at WrestleMania. The Elimination Chamber really signaled the beginning of the end of Evolution, and the final steps to the rise of Batista.

The Regulars

Besides just Evolution, three men have been inside every single Elimination Chamber: Triple H, Chris Jericho, and Shawn Michaels. Yes, Shawn Michaels was just a ref in the third chamber, but he was still inside. Triple H was always in there solely for defending/regaining the title; Shawn Michaels was always in there for a little revenge and super kicked someone that led directly to Chris Jericho pinning that person (One: Kane pinned by Jericho, Two: Nash pinned by Jericho, Three: Edge pinned by Jericho); and Jericho was always in there because he’s Chris Jericho.

Where’s my championship?

Aside from the regular cast, two people in the chamber always had never been a world champion in the WWE. In the first Elimination Chamber it was Booker T and Rob Van Dam. In Elimination Chamber II, those roles were played by Goldberg and Randy Orton. And finally, in Elimination Chamber III, Batista and Edge were the men. This always added a “darkhorse” level on intrigue to the chamber, as people would wonder if it was time for these guys to step up to the top of the ladder. And three out of six of those men have gone on to win a world championship in the WWE, and a fourth should be happening sometime this year.

Christian can’t get inside

Finally, there is always a story about Christian trying to get into the Elimination Chamber and just can’t seem to get in.

In the first Elimination Chamber, Christian initially challenged RVD for his spot in the chamber, but just could not pull off the victory. The next week, Christian’s tag team partner (and co-champion) Chris Jericho started taking everyone out, and Christian told him that Bischoff said he can take anyone’s place who doesn’t want to be in the chamber. Fearing for his spot, Y2J hit Christian in the back of the head with a steel chair.

For the second Elimination Chamber, Christian was the IC champ and was not even booked for the show. He sure let everyone know that he was upset that he didn’t have a match, and that he should have been in the chamber, too.

By Elimination Chamber III, Christian was back in the full swing of things. First, he lost a match to Chris Jericho on Raw during “Beat the Clock” night. At New Year’s Revolution itself, Edge offered Christian his spot because he knew the HBK was going to screw him (which he did!), except Bischoff would not allow the substitution.

Christian was always trying to get into the Chamber, as again it was part of his character’s long term story of always getting screwed out of title shots, except in a funnier version than Edge’s character.

The Pinfall Victory

You may not always agree with the short-term outcome (Triple H winning twice), but there is no denying the long term impact of the Elimination Chamber. It has shown itself to be a creative success, a monetary success, and a continual growth success. Each Elimination Chamber has been new and fresh, and they have spaced them far enough apart that there is no burnout yet. And look what can happen in the coming year: After the draft, who will be on RAW? What about guys who have been moving up the card like Shelton Benjamin and Christian? What about new possible players like Eddie Guerrero or Kurt Angle?

What happens over the next few weeks and months will certainly be interesting, and you can sure bet that someone is thinking of Elimination Chamber IV. Watch RAW closely, and you might just see the little things that are building up to this next momentous event.

Until then, the defense rests.

After the Trial

Hung Jury

IN THE CASE OF THE IWC VERSUS THE ELIMINATION CHAMBER, THE ELIMINATION CHAMBER HAS BEEN ACCUSED OF BEING A CHEAP PLOY, NO BUILD, BAD MATCHUP.

With 94% of the vote, the Elimination Chamber was found:

NOT GUILTY!

Response

While in the last case we looked at some of the pushback (some helpful, others quite painful), this case provided the opportunity to start to see how my writing was making an impact:

You are like a light shining in the vast darkness that is the IWC. I truely blame most of wrestling’s problems on an IWC that cannot see past their own nose. Sometimes, yes, bad decisions are made, but time tells the full truth. Thank you for defending wrestling and showing that it should be enjoyed and not torn apart.

- Rachel Hagan

I never realized how the booking in summer/fall 2002 really did lead up to the Elimination Chamber. I guess that’s the problem — it was never explained like that on TV. It was presented as just another “let’s stack the odds against Triple H” angle, and seemed to me at least like a great way to get the title of him while managing to make him look like MORE of a superman since it took so many guys (and a friggin’ crushed larynx, but I guess that was an accident — “true artists”, eh?) to beat him. Bischoff never outlined the complexities of the angles previous, but instead built the cage up as his own evil little creation to make Raw better than Smackdown. I would have much preferred your way.

- Steve Furmaniuk

Another interesting component of the article started here as well when I began to receive backstage information related to our cases:

My biggest problem with the Elimination Chamber has always been that wrestlers are constantly preventing one another from pinning anyone else.

This would make sense in the context of a first-fall-wins scenario, but when we’re talking elimination, it makes absolutely no sense for anyone else to be preventing anyone else’s pinfall attempt.

Eric Bischoff has also described the chamber’s glass as bulletproof… yet we’ve seen wrestlers put one another’s heads through it like it was papier mâché.

Two facts I politely pointed out to Stephanie McMahon’s assistant Jennifer a couple of years ago when they were interviewing me for a position on the creative team. It was my very first criticism of the product, and also my last; Jennifer stopped speaking to me after that, so don’t expect things to improve with regards to the Chamber anytime soon.

- Dusty the Fat Bitter Cat

The original version of this article appeared on 411mania.com and can be found on jpprag.com:

Part 1 — May 22, 2005 * Part 2 — May 29, 2005 * Part 3 — June 5, 2005

IN DEFENSE OF…

EXONERATING PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING’S MOST HATED

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