This Sunday “The Devil’s Playground” gets dusted off for the 17th time in a little under 12 years. It’s hard to believe the Elimination Chamber has been around that long. To me, it doesn’t have the cache most other major World Wrestling Entertainment gimmick matches have — Royal Rumble, Hell in a Cell, even the old Blue Cage seemed more important and more impactful than the Chamber.

It could be my bias, but I have a more emotional attachment to Hell in a Cell than I ever had with the Elimination Chamber. This has waned in recent years, as the Hell in a Cell has become less of the feud blow-off blood bath and more of the match inside a cage with a top on it. Still, it just feels more important than the Chamber ever has.

What’s funny, is the Chamber has been the better match over the course of its life. The 25 PPV Hell in a Cell matches have averaged 3.4 stars according to Dave Meltzer’s star ratings. The 16 Chamber matches: 3.69. That’s not a huge difference, but a difference none-the-less.

Hell in a Cell has had its shining stars, most notably the five-star The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels match from Badd Blodd 1997. It has also had its fair share of complete DUDs including one of my least favorite matches of all time, WrestleMania 15’s Undertaker vs. Big Boss Man…thing and a laughably slow and awful Undertaker vs. Kane Hell in a Cell from 2010.

The Elimination Chamber, however, is like pizza. Even when it’s bad, it’s still kind of good!

Five Chamber matches are tied at the top with 4.25 star ratings including the original from the 2002 Survivor Series, 2005 New Year’s Revolution, two from 2009’s No Way Out and 2011 Elimination Chamber. The most interesting fact is even the bad ones, in this case the famed 2006 ECW December 2 Dismember Chamber match, still received a 2.5 star rating.

I could write an entire article about this Elimination Chamber match, that PPV and the fallout from it but that’s for another day. Either way, that’s the absolute worst Chamber match of all-time and, hey, it’s still pretty okay.

Maybe that’s why the Chamber has assumed a state of malaise from myself and what seems like a large percentage of the WWE fan base. It’s never been a Match of the Year contender but it’s never been painfully awful — it’s always just kind of there.

Here’s a snapshot of Elimination Chamber star ratings all-time:

As you’ll see, it’s very plain without a lot of noise. There’s a few bad ones the 2006 December 2 Dismember and a 2008 Chamber featuring Batista, Big Daddy V, Finlay, The Great Khali, MVP and The Undertaker. I have no memory of that 2008 contest and I don’t want one.

For the most part though, it’s consistent. Look at Hell in a Cell’s star rating and you’ll see a much different story:

There are peaks and there are valleys, oh, there are valleys. As mentioned the two huge falls are Taker and Boss Man from WrestleMania 15 and Kane vs. Taker in 2010. There’s a few other bad ones but the bigger story is the number of ones above the 4.25 threshold.

As mentioned, that’s the highest any Chamber match has received, yet seven Hell in a Cell’s scored higher:

  • The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (10/5/1997)

  • The Undertaker vs. Triple H (4/1/2012)

  • The Undertaker vs. Mankind (6/28/1998)

  • Triple H vs. Cactus Jack (2/27/2000)

  • Six-Pack Challenge (12/10/2000)

  • Batista vs. Triple H (6/26/2005)

  • The Undertaker vs. Edge (8/17/2008)

Without getting into a ton of specifics, it’s easy to see why this would happen. One-on-one matches have more room for creativity, intrigue and there isn’t the need Chambers have to fill out the five-man requirement. If The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels invited The Patriot, Vader and Bret Hart into their first Hell in a Cell, chances are it doesn’t score as well.

Obviously, there’s an exception with the Six-Pack Challenge but that was a star-studded group of guys with the only real non-worker being Rikishi, who did little in the match except for the mega-spot, getting tossed off the cage. It was more endearing than, say, Chris Masters or Carlito’s contributions to the 2006 New Year’s Revolution Chamber match (3.5 stars).

A fun aspect of the Elimination Chamber I want to explore further is the diversity of participants. This is bound to happen due to the parameters of the match which require five wrestlers, one to fill each pod. This will lead to a larger diversity than a Hell in a Cell match but the range of names is still quite startling.

Of the 45 all-time participants in the Elimination Chamber, 24 participated in only one: Booker T, Goldberg, Kevin Nash, Chris Benoit, Chris Masters, Kurt Angle, Carlito, Bobby Lashley, Hardcore Holly, Test, Big Daddy V, Finlay, MVP, JBL, Umaga, Vladimir Kozlov, Mike Knox, Ted DiBiase Jr, The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, Cody Rhodes, Santino, Mark Henry and Jack Swagger.

The wrestler with the most Elimination Chamber appearances may surprise you. I initially thought it was Triple H and I’ve long associated him most closely with the match but actually Chris Jericho leads the pack with an insane eight appearances including the very first and the most recent one in 2013.

Out of those eight appearances though, Jericho has only won 1. A number matched by the likes of Shawn Michaels, CM Punk, The Undertaker, Daniel Bryan Bobby Lashley and Jack Swagger. Oh, did you forget that Jack Swagger won the last Elimination Chamber? It’s okay, so did I.

There are some interesting names in the one win category, you would assume The Undertaker would be more successful in his three tries but his only win came in 2008 as a member of the Smackdown brand.

Triple H is the most successful Elimination Chamber participant, winning the match four times in six tries. John Cena, who won three of four Chambers and Edge, winner of two in four tries, trails triple H.

Here’s a quick plot detailing Chamber winners. Swagger and Lashley (hiding behind Swagger’s plot) are the most efficient winning in their only appearances while Chris Jericho is the most inefficient.

The ECW Title is 0-for-1 as far as title defenses with The Big Show dropping the title to Bobby Lashley as the infamous December 2 Dismember Chamber match.

Surprisingly, both World Heavyweight Championship and WWE Championship defenses have a 50% success-rate. The World Heavyweight Title was defended in six Chamber matches, and successful defended three times (Triple H, Edge and Daniel Bryan). The title was won by Triple H at 2005’s New Year’s Revolution but was vacant going into the Chamber.

The WWE Title was defended far less with only four with the champion emerging victorious twice (John Cena and CM Punk).

Every Chamber match has had some level of championship implications, even if not directly for the title. Four of the 16 were for a spot in the championship match at WrestleMania — twice for the WWE Championship Match and twice for the World Heavyweight Title.

I had planned on going into further detail regarding eliminations and entrances in Chamber history but I would only be doubling up on some great work being done at Reddit, more specifically r/SquaredCircle and redditor Slyguy46. You can check out his series starting with #1 and #2.

So, what about this Sunday’s pay-per-view? Randy Orton defends his title against John Cena, Sheamus, Daniel Bryan, Cesaro and Christian. For one, I think this is arguably the best collection of in-ring talent in Chamber history. The only one that I believe comes close is the 2012 Raw Chamber match between CM Punk, Kofi Kingston, The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, Chris Jericho and R-Truth. Next closest would be 2005’s New Year’s Revolution with Batista, Chris Benoit, Edge, Chris Jericho, Randy Orton and Triple H.

Otherwise, you may have a Kurt Angle, John Cena and Shawn Michaels but you also have a Chris Masters. In 2009, you had Edge, Big Show, Jeff Hardy, The Undertaker, Triple H…. and Vladimir Kozlov. Yup, this is the most talented in-ring. I’m saying it.

My best guess is Randy Orton emerges victorious en route to a WrestleMania matchup with Batista, but the lukewarm reactions to both as of late may alter WWE’s decision-making.

The sudden emergence of Cesaro coupled with the red-hotness of Daniel Bryan will make this Sunday’s Chamber match one for history. Will it finally be able to top the 4.25 star threshold? We’ll have to wait and see, if anyone could do it — it’s these five men.