The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of WrestlingInc or its staff
When you watch a wrestling PPV, what do you expect to see? No matter what promotion it is, I am assuming there are some universal expectations for each show that you are being asked to pay for. They may include:
* World title matches
* The biggest stars in the promotion in matches
* Angles that have been built up over the past few weeks
Well, WWE's Elimination Chamber has NONE of that. I am not going to assume that Elimination Chamber is going to be the worst WWE PPV of all time, because it won't be. It probably won't even be the worst WWE PPV of the past ten days. However, Elimination Chamber appears to have had the worst build out of any WWE show I can remember, and seems incredibly skippable from a fan perspective, since WWE has put in almost no effort to make it seem important. Honestly, it feels like WWE forgot that they had a show this Sunday.
For starters, almost none of WWE's major stars are going to be wrestling on the show. Despite the fact that in recent weeks SmackDown and RAW have revolved around Drew McIntyre, Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, Goldberg, Becky Lynch, John Cena, Randy Orton and The Fiend, none of them are going to be wrestling on Sunday, barring a last second announcement on SmackDown Friday night. Consequently, none of the world titles are going to be on the line on the show as well.
What makes this so baffling is the show's proximity to WrestleMania. In theory, a PPV event one month away from WrestleMania should be the perfect staging place for the major angles that set up the matches at WrestleMania. Instead, most of the major stars for WrestleMania appear to be skipping the event entirely, and all of the major angles for WrestleMania are being shot on television. Really, Elimination Chamber feels like a PPV event solely designed to set up some mid-card matches for WrestleMania, with the major stars essentially taking the night off.
The main event is likely to be the women's Elimination Chamber match, with the winner wrestling Becky Lynch at WrestleMania. That isn't nothing, but the problem is that WWE has already been doing the angle for the Becky Lynch WrestleMania match for the past month, with her interactions with Shayna Baszler. Every wrestling fan knows that Baszler is facing Lynch at WrestleMania, so why even have this kind of match? It is possible that Baszler does not win at Elimination Chamber, and it becomes a three-way at WrestleMania, but of course that would be stupid because WWE has already built the match to be between Baszler and Lynch.
The rest of the card is a bunch of dreck. A Elimination Chamber match for the SmackDown tag titles, which should be entertaining but WWE values the tag titles so little that it will feel like an undercard match no matter how hard the guys try. The same can be said for The Street Profits vs Seth Rollins and Murphy, a rematch from RAW.
Then you have Braun Strowman in a 3-on-1 handicapped match, which you just know is going to be Strowman beating up three guys WWE fans have expressed interest in (Shinsuke Nakamura, Cesaro and Sami Zayn). There is also a singles match between Adrade and Humberto Carrillo, which should be good, but is also a match fans have already seen a bunch of times before.
The last match is AJ Styles vs Aleister Black, which again should be good, but also seems to be a stand-in for AJ Styles vs The Undertaker, which is happening at WrestleMania. Unfortunately, that makes it seem likely that Black is going to lose at Elimination Chamber, since Styles has to be prepped for The Undertaker. That wouldn't be a huge problem, except that Black already was pinned by Styles on RAW, and after being carefully protected for months and months, two losses in less than a week are not going to help a guy on his way up.
Some fans may note that I keep using the term PPV, and in reality Elimination Chamber is not a PPV. It is not a stand-alone event that WWE is asking fans to pay for. It is more like a special on the WWE Network that fans can watch if they want, but skip if they don't want too and they won't miss much. In the WWE Network Era, WWE can produce shows that in the past would have died on PPV; but since most fans have a yearly subscription to the Network and will tolerate a lackluster show here and there. There is no way in the past WWE could have had this show on traditional PPV and expected fans to pay $50 for it.
The WWE Network ERA may be coming to an end, though. WWE is reportedly in negotiations with platforms to have the shows streamed through a service, such as ESPN+ or DAZN. If that happens, WWE will almost revert back to the traditional PPV model, where fans will be asked to pay to purchase individual PPV events, similar to how UFC sells PPVs on ESPN+.
If that happens, WWE will no longer be able to get away with marketing such shoddy shows as PPV events. If ESPN+ or a similar buyer is willing to shell out millions for these events, WWE is going to have to make all of them look as important as possible. The idea that all of the major stars in WWE could be off a show would never fly.
Of course, I doubt WWE strategically decided to produce a show with such little interest. The reason the card feels so boring and half-hazard is because WWE's planning is incredibly poor. Plans change all the time, feuds are added and dropped at a moment's notice, and there doesn't appear to be much long term vision for the product. This isn't necessarily a case of WWE electing to keep all of their top stars off of the show, but rather WWE not being capable of planning and executing in advance of a show. Will they become more focused when they land a deal with a streaming service? They are going to have to.