It’s a fool’s game loaded with landmines, an unrelenting temptation that can never be resisted. Unfortunately, no matter what anybody says, only the supremely intuitive can clearly see the future well before it becomes the present. (Sadly, it’s not a very big group.)
Despite one’s best efforts, no one, not even the world’s most sophisticated minds can always know exactly how everything will turn out. (Life would be horrifyingly predictable if that were the case.) But does that ever stop any of us from pretending to have an insight no one else possesses? No matter how many times we’re completely off-base with our prognostications are we ever dissuaded from making more “educated guesses” about people and events both trivial and significant?
Of course not. Humans are a stubborn lot. We think we know it all. In the end, we know very little, if anything.
I’m living proof of that. I once predicted The Ottawa Senators would win the Stanley Cup (whoops) and that Avatar would win Best Picture (whoops again). At the risk of looking like a dummy once more, it’s time to do something that’s never been done in this space before.
I’ve been a fan of professional wrestling off and on since I was 10 years old. At some point in the ’90s my seemingly unextinguishable passion for it (which had been going strong since the summer of 1985) started to flame out. Although I had continued to watch it on occasion, for the most part I wasn’t following it as intensely and continuously as before. Movies and music ended up filling the void.
But gradually, as far back as 2004, I’ve found myself slowly getting sucked back in again. Around 2009, Raw and Smackdown were just programs to watch (joined in progress) while I ate my supper. But now, I’m pretty much watching these shows (plus Vintage Collection) on a full-time basis and I’m borrowing countless WWE DVDs from the library. (I just reserved eleven more new titles the other day.) I now know all the storylines and match-ups heading into every pay-per-view (even though I never order them). Hell, even my Dad’s tuning in again.
Tonight is the fourth annual Elimination Chamber. Originally, a concept match introduced at the 2002 Survivor Series and booked on a semi-regular basis on other supercards in the years that followed, the Chamber eventually found a permanent home in 2008 at No Way Out. By 2010, that February event was renamed after the match itself.
The 2013 edition is most unusual. No titles will be defended inside the Chamber this time around. And, unless there’s a last-minute change, there’ll only be one Chamber match, period. But based on the bookings we know will be taking place it still has the potential to be a terrific show. (Last year’s Chamber matches were very entertaining even in this bloodless PG era.)
So, let’s look at the card and see what I think will actually happen:
Pre-show tag team match: Brodus Clay & Tensai vs. Team Rhodes Scholars
Since WrestleMania 28, the WWE has started airing what would normally be a dark match for the live crowd as a free-for-all bonus during a special 30-minute pre-show presentation before the pay-per-view begins that you can see smoothly (if you have high speed internet) on YouTube and WWE.com. Once in a while, something important happens like Antonio Cesaro winning the U.S. title from Santino Marella. But usually, it’s just a convenient way to get more wrestlers on the card. (WrestleMania aside, why aren’t these matches included on the DVD versions of these shows?)
When he returned to the WWE nearly a year ago, Matt Bloom (formerly A-Train and Prince Albert) was repackaged as a Japanese-influenced villain named Lord Tensai. He had a cool outfit, lots of tattoos (real and fake), a worshipper who he didn’t treat very well and a tendency to destroy guys in the ring to the point where the match would sometimes be stopped before a possible pinfall or submission.
Unfortunately, the audience never responded to him the way the company had hoped. (They kept chanting “Albert” over and over again.) So, after losing the worshipper, the cool outfit, even the “Lord” from his name and a brief period where he was losing to guys he used to easily annihilate (like R-Truth), he became the butt of jokes. The most recent one (dressing up in women’s lingerie; don’t ask) has somehow led to a babyface turn teaming with The Funkasaurus Brodus Clay. As someone who needed time to get used to a big monster like Clay dancing around for reasons I still don’t understand, I love this new pairing. Watching Bloom dance around unabashedly with Clay and his back-up dancers slays me. (But it could get tired over the long run.)
At any event, they’ll be squaring off against a team that actually announced they were splitting up not that long ago. Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow (funny old-school villains that I have a lot of respect for) looked like they were going to be pushed for the tag titles but that didn’t happen. I’m actually disappointed by the split and hope that this match changes the minds of the bookers who probably have more single-oriented plans for them.
Regardless, because of the size difference and the fact that this is likely a one-time reunion, expect the big men to prevail.
Prediction: Tensai & Clay by pinfall.
U.S. Championship: Antonio Cesaro vs. The Miz
The Swiss-born Cesaro who cut his teeth in the indie circuit for years has really come into his own since he split from Aksana and became the United States Champion during the pre-show at last year’s SummerSlam (but not in that order). His in-ring work has been increasingly impressive and the company clearly believes in him since he’s been champion now for about six months. The Miz, on the other hand, has been floundering.
I used to love his villain character when he had a sense of humour, less so when he started variations of “the most must-see superstar of all-time” schtick which he is still using despite being a good guy now. Once in a while, he still knows how to be funny and acerbic but it’s hard to root for a guy who hasn’t really changed his personality that much.
Miz and Cesaro have been feuding for a while now and thanks to the champion’s astonishing series of leg swings during a recent Raw assault that sent the challenger reeling against the thankfully padded railing at ringside there is some interest in this return booking.
Two years ago, Miz was heading into WrestleMania 27 the WWE Champion. Now he’s back to where he was before Money In The Bank 2010, a mid-carder hoping for a B title.
I wasn’t happy when Miz beat Christian for the InterContinental title at Raw 1000 last year. And I won’t be happy hearing of him winning the U.S. title tonight. Something tells me though that Miz is just another guy booked to make Cesaro look more impressive than he already is. There’s always a chance of a title change here but truthfully, with the possible exception of Ryback, no one but Cesaro really deserves to be U.S. Champion right now.
Prediction: Antonio Cesaro retains the U.S. title by pinfall.
Divas Championship: Kaitlyn vs. Tamina Snuka
Easily the lowest-profile match on the show. You know you’re in trouble when the set-up for this title match is only seen (and probably not very widely) on a phone app and only talked about in passing on free TV. Kaitlyn, who has potential, is essentially champion by default. With no Kharma, Beth Phoenix, Eve Torres, Kelly Kelly or the Bella Twins in the company anymore, she’s anchoring a division in dire need of recruitments.
I like Tamina Snuka a lot. The fact that she’s a heel again and using her father’s Superfly splash as a finisher is fantastic. (It always looks nasty when she hits it.) But I would hate to see her get the inevitable push for the Divas title in a situation that’s given little to no importance. By all means, have these two fight over the title for a while. But for God’s sake, give it some TV time and some much-needed emphasis so it feels like it matters. Anyway, regardless of its under-the-radar status, I don’t see a title change here.
Prediction: Kaitlyn retains the Divas title by pinfall.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, February 17, 2013