But my goodness, when Kofi Kingston eliminated Randy Orton in the WWE Championship Elimination Chamber match, and it came down to he and Daniel Bryan, I was in lockstep with the fans in Houston: I wanted to believe he was going to win. Even if it was a little measly two-day Christian '11 reign that saw him drop it back to Bryan, I just wanted him to stand tall, and pay off one of the most electric crowds I've heard for a WWE main event in ages.
It's matches like that that make a decent show just a smidgen more memorable. Here's what I learned watching the 2019 Elimination Chamber...
10. Great Cruiserweight Title Matches Can Take A Backseat To Interviews
All told, I'd say that Buddy Murphy and Akira Tozawa's Cruiserweight title battle on the Kickoff show was the second best match of the evening. It was your typical Murphy match where he resiliently fights back from the babyface's most potent blows, dives, and drops, and ekes out the victory with a well-executed Murphy's Law. And by "typical", I mean, "It ruled the school," as the kids say.
But I know I wasn't alone when that mid-match split-screen interview with Big E and Xavier Woods irked me. No disrespect to the New Day members, but this has been a common occurrence on WWE programming, especially during go-home week, when they cut away from a match to show a 30-second PPV commercial. If we're watching the match, then it's probably because we want to watch the match, and making it feel secondary to an ad or a promo...well, it tells us that WWE sees it secondary as well.
9. Mark Henry Apparently Qualifies To Wrestle On 205 Live
It was great to see "The World's Strongest Man"/WWE's backstage enforcer/my kayfabe cousin Mark Henry pop up once more, making an appearance at the end of the Kickoff show. Mostly, Henry was there to plug his documentary, The Mark Henry Story, which aired on WWE Network right after the PPV concluded. Henry also threw in a few predictions for the night's events, and was his usual charming self before his fellow Texan fans.
What I took from this was just how much thinner Henry looks in retirement. We're all used to seeing the stout, broad-bodied Henry mow down the opposition, but here, he looked like he'd need to compulsively eat just to make weight for a fight with Daniel Cormier. It's good to see the big guy looking healthier - hopefully, he's managed to retain that insane strength that has been calling card.
8. Nia Jax Just Likes To Run Into Pods
The women's Elimination Chamber match to determine the first-ever* WWE Women's Tag Team champions ended up being a pretty good bout, first held together by meticulous sequences, before going more for genuine drama once down to three teams. The Bayley and Sasha Banks vs. Mandy Rose and Sonya DeVille mini-match was a lot of fun, and the right team won in the end.
Nia Jax and Tamina played their part as monster house-cleaners well, albeit with a few rough patches, like Tamina's terminally-awkward Superfly Splash (looks like me absent-mindedly falling out of my treehouse when I was eight). But the topper was the spot where Nia had to charge at Bayley, only to run through the pod after Bayley moved, wiping herself out. Problem was, Bayley wasn't in the proper position to be in front of the glass, so Nia kinda just ran right at the glass, like it owed her money. We may never know who the true target of her aggression was.
7. Nobody Loses Belts Like Shane McMahon Does
In the Shane McMahon/Miz formula, the full-time wrestler takes the Ricky Morton-style ass-kicking, before tagging in the 49-year-old boy wonder, who destroys both opponents like he's playing a WWE video game against a non-existent Player 2 instead of the computer. The match with The Usos was slightly better than the one against The Bar last month, however, and it was a genuine shock to see the Usos win, given Jimmy Uso's recent headline-making.
As far as Shane goes, consider this: he's been Tag Team, European, and Hardcore champion over the past 20 years. The European belt he handed off to Mideon as a way of jettisoning dead weight. The Hardcore title he lost after falling 40 feet to his apparent death at SummerSlam 2000. And now, he drops the Tag belts via his much younger partner getting rolled over on a fluke crucifix. Find another wrestler that has that exact resume of title losses. You really can't.
6. Finn Balor Is About To Double His Total Days With A Belt On The Main Roster
When lightweight loudmouth Lio Rush (that's said with the utmost appreciation) was inserted into the match as Bobby Lashley's tag team partner, the dots connected themselves - Balor was going to win the Intercontinental title by neutralizing the smaller foe, giving Balor the gold and Lashley an out, we reasoned, and we were right. As far as Balor goes, it's his first piece of gold in a while, and it unearths a rather startling fact.
If Balor can just make it to the end of Monday's Raw still packing the belt, it'll be his longest reign with *any* belt on WWE's main roster. You know, because he was only Universal Champion for a day due to the injury he sustained winning the belt. Man, people weren't kidding when they said Balor was underutilized.
5. Security Deems Ronda Rousey More Important Than Charlotte Flair
You can pretty much forget about Ruby Riott here - she was mobile scenery at best in her abbreviated loss to Rousey on Sunday night, an excuse to have Rousey in the building for the important post-match angle. Charlotte confronted Rousey after the match and, wouldn't you know, a crutch-toting Becky Lynch soon joined them, keeping the hottest angle over the roaring fire.
Lynch sprung into action, beating Charlotte senseless with one of her crutches. Really, she went to town on Charlotte with the weapon, while Rousey watched as though it were a live-action nature documentary. No other action there, just Lynch wailing away on Charlotte, unimpeded. But when Lynch whacked Rousey with the crutch, security guards suddenly materialized like an unexpected gust of wind. Betcha Ralphus would've had Charlotte's back.
4. Braun Strowman Can Deflect Thrown Office Chairs
The Strowman-Baron Corbin 'No DQ' match wasn't a particularly strong showcase, and felt especially dumb when Strowman was too paralyzed by the sound of bagpipes to pin an unconscious Corbin. Aside from matchmaking, Corbin feels like he's just as powerful as ever, flanked by Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley, so while some aspects of the road to WrestleMania feel exciting, this hardly does.
What *was* cool about the match was the spot in which Corbin launched an entire office chair at Strowman, only for Braun to casually deflect it like he was swatting away a mosquito. It's hard to even lift an office chair with one hand, let alone bat one away when a former NFL lineman puts a little velocity behind it, and it's hurtling at you. This one is just a casual reminder that Strowman is pretty goddamn strong, that's all.
3. Pod Glass Is A Quick Fix
Remember earlier in the night when Nia Jax barged through one of the glass pods in an act of blind rage toward said glass? Well, that was all well and good as far as brutal visuals go, but it came with one problem: there was another Chamber match still to come. What seemed like a potential issue was wiped away when Randy Orton went to occupy the pod for the main event - suddenly, the glass was pristine.
When did it get fixed? Did WWE lower a couple crew members on one of those painter's scaffolds, and they installed a new partition while Shane McMahon was clobbering the Usos like Popeye in a baseball jersey? Do the partitions simply regenerate like starfish limbs? The world may never know.
2. Daniel Bryan Makes You Forget He Was Ever A Babyface
Five full years have passed since WWE incurred the wrath of its fanbase by leaving Daniel Bryan out of the 2014 Royal Rumble match. The humble hero that should've main evented WrestleMania 30 earned a major boost from his vociferous supporters, those who would not let April 6 pass without Bryan getting his moment in the sun. Five years later, Bryan is once more part of an emotionally-compelling tale - only this time as the oppressor.
Bryan is so good as the opportunistic, cunning, self-righteous heel champion that WrestleMania 30 feels so remarkably distant, almost prehistoric. A lot can change in wrestling in five years, but seeing Bryan go from the people's choice to the wily villain that upends another people's choice is somewhat jarring. Not in a bad way, of course.
1. The Fans Can And Will Still Believe
When sentiment toward giving Kofi Kingston the WWE Championship picked up over the last few days, I kinda let out a slow exhale. I thought maybe people were setting themselves up for disappointment, as I didn't see WWE changing any plans just to give Kingston a quickie "lifetime achievement" reign on the road to WrestleMania. But the fans, they wanted Kingston to have it, and you can't blame them - he's long been one of WWE's most underrated talents.
The Houston crowd cheered wildly for Kingston throughout, and when it came down to he and Bryan, I found myself getting hooked into it. Like, "You know, maybe..." Because he could always lose it back to Bryan on SmackDown or at Fastlane, right? I wasn't the only one hooked when the fans in the Toyota Center were living and dying on every near fall, with Bryan and Kingston playing their roles masterfully. The final 12 minutes or so of this match reminded me of why I watch wrestling. There were no beach balls or self-indulgent chants or permeating jadedness from the crowd. Everything here clicked - great action got the best response, and a great response enhanced the best action. Maybe in a perfect world, Kingston gets the fairy tale finish, perhaps one day soon enough. And if that comes, I don't think I'll be the only one that's looking forward to seeing it.