WWE Elimination Chamber 2023
February 18, 2023
Montréal, Québec, Canada
Meet Our Reviewers
Sean Sedor: So Sean has decided to take a break from all of the NASCAR action at Daytona this weekend to review his 2nd WWE PPV of the year. The Elimination Chamber is one of his favorite gimmick matches, so he’s hoping those matches turn out well. You can find Sean on Twitter @SASedor2994. If you’re interested in some of his other escapades, you can watch him play the Formula 1 games on YouTube (just search his name), and you can also go to the Be The Booker forums if you’d like to check out his EWR Diary, where he plays as WCW (started in 1998, currently in 2001).
Griffin Peltier: Bonsoir! Griffin is a reviewer at Voices of Wrestling, mostly covering AAA. You can follow him on Twitter @Hollywd12.
Number One Contendership for the WWE Raw Women’s Championship, Elimination Chamber Match
Asuka def. Liv Morgan, Nikki Cross, Raquel Rodriguez, Natalya, Carmella
Sean: Given what’s on the line here, there’s only two people (in my mind) that have a realistic shot of winning, so we’ll see when the dust settles if one of my picks to win takes it. Natalya and Liv Morgan start this one off. The first five minutes were….fine. Morgan controlled things for a bit before Natalya took over shortly after they spilled to the outside. Raquel was the first person to enter from one of the pods and she cleaned house. Nikki Cross comes out next and she has her chance to run wild. She hits a crossbody off one of the pods before Carmella enters the bout, and almost immediately goes back to hiding in other pods. Meanwhile Raquel puts Cross through one of the pods and eliminates her.
Morgan hits a big sunset flip powerbomb off one of the pods before Asuka enters to “Asuka’s gonna kill you” chants. The aforementioned Morgan was soon eliminated thanks to a double submission from Natalya and Asuka. Two more quick eliminations followed as Carmella eliminated Natalya, while Raquel was eliminated by both Asuka and Carmella. From there, Asuka quickly eliminated Carmella to secure the victory, meaning it will be Bianca Belair vs. Asuka at WrestleMania. I figured Asuka and Raquel were the only two choices here, with the former being my first choice. As for the match itself, it was….perfectly fine for what it was. It wasn’t extraordinary by any means, but I don’t think it overstayed its welcome, and there was some decent action as well. The hot crowd in Montreal certainly helped. Again, a solid bout, but one that I will forget about in twenty-four hours. All you need to know is that Asuka won. ***
Griffin: Natalya has to start this match from the opening bell. Once again a Hart is screwed in Montreal. “I love the feel of steel on my skin” – Michael Cole. Liv and Natalya started the match and it wasn’t that good. They moved in slow motion and did basic Chamber wrestling while waiting for the next entrant. Raquel was the next entrant and did some basic power moves while they all waited for the next entrant. Nikki Cross added some much needed energy to the match when she jumped off the top of a pod with a crossbody on the three others. Carmella entered and tried to take advantage but failed to pin Liv and Natalya. Raquel drove Nikki Cross through a pod to eliminate her. Liv hit a cool super sunset flip on Raquel for a near fall. Asuka entered and didn’t do much until she and Natalya both submitted Liv – who passed out instead of tapped because of course she did. Asuka and Carmella did a double pin on Raquel to eliminate her. Asuka then tapped out Carmella right after. This was quick for a Chamber match but very boring. **½
Kevin: The Women’s Elimination Chamber feels like a pariah among WWE matches. Never good or memorable, shoehorned before Wrestlemania because the company feels the match must accompany the men’s match. Natalya and Liv started with some slow motion spots, exchanging mat wrestling and Irish whips. I was expecting someone to press play on the remote like an old Chikara match to get these two moving at normal speed. Then I realized, they WERE at normal speed. Raquel Rodriguez entered next. The wrestling felt very pedestrian through Nikki Cross’ entrance. It is hard to describe how lifeless this match felt for the opening portions. The crowd quieted while the wrestling just plodded along. Nikki climbed to the top of a pod for the first pod crossbody of the night, forcing the crowd to wake up. Carmella was the 5th entrant. Carmella locked herself in a pod to escape the frenzied Nikki, but was interrupted when Raquel tacked Cross into the same cell, our first cell destruction of the night. Raquel eliminated Cross, even though the camera somehow missed something as unimportant as a pinfall. Liv hit a big sunset flip bomb off the pod onto Rodriguez. The crowd exploded, perfectly setting up Asuka’s entrance. She viciously attacked Carmella with a flurry of spinning elbows and kicks. Asuka has felt revitalized singer her return, a bit more vicious and nasty. Natalya and Asuka eliminated Liv with duel submission, and soon after Natalya was eliminated by a superkick from Carmella. After an awkward chopblock by Carmella to Raquel’s knee, Carmella and Asuka had their own superkick party for Rodriquez and eliminated her. Carmella’s outfit and offense at this point both rip off the Young Bucks, but she realized the only thing the Bucks do that she can also do is superkick. Asuka pinned Carmela and ensured her spot against Bianca Belair at Wrestlemania.
This match was very average. There were some hot spots as the match went on, but they all felt like paint by numbers spots required for any Elimination Chamber match. On the other hand, while the work was pretty slow and sometimes the wrestlers looked like they were moving through mud, there wasn’t too much that was brutally bad. It was just a match, and it existed. **1/2
Bobby Lashley def. Brock Lesnar via DQ
Sean: The previous singles bouts between these two had pretty indecisive finishes (Lashley beat Lesnar the first time after Paul Heyman turned on Lesnar, while the second match saw Lesnar reverse the Hurt Lock into a pin). This has the potential to be a lot of fun if it’s a short sprint. Brock takes control straight away with a belly to belly, but Lashley responds a few moments later with a pair of spears. Lesnar would avoid the Hurt Lock and hit a F5 for a two count. He hits a second one and gets only two again. Lashley avoided a third F5 and hit a third spear.
Lashley gets in the Hurt Lock, but Lesnar gets out of it via a low blow, and that’s it. The crowd loudly boos as Lashley is awarded the win via DQ. Lesnar then goes nuts after the match as he destroys both Lashley and referee Chad Patton with a series of F5’s. Seems pretty obvious that they did this finish because they didn’t want to beat either guy clean, which begs the question of why they even booked this match in the first place. Still, even with the screwy finish, this was a ton of fun while it lasted. This is exactly what I wanted to see out of a match involving these two guys. Just exchanging finishers for five minutes. Super fun to watch until the crappy WWE booking reared its ugly head. Given that Michael Cole called Lesnar “one of the scariest men in WWE” after the match, I’m guessing that’s the setup for Brock to wrestle Bray at Mania….Lord help us all. ***1/2
Griffin: Rooting for Canada’s Brock Lesnar in this one! I love these Brock Lesnar matches. There’s no feeling out process, no chain wrestling, just two dudes doing dude things. Lesnar absorbed two Spears and hit two F5s for two near falls. Finisher spam galore continues with a 3rd Spear from Bob that can’t put it away. Brock kicked Lashley in the dick to get out of the Hurt Lock but the ref called for the DQ so Lashley kicked his ass and then F5’ed Bob Lashley again and then he did it through the announce table. The ref eats another F5 for the hell of it. Brock rules. The match was fun until the stupid finish. ***½
Kevin: It feels good to see that Brock Lesnar still blows the roof off a building when he enters. We are more than a decade into his return. He still has the mystique and aura, remaining almost unchanged year after year. He exploded at the bell in typical Lesnar fashion, with quick throws and suplexes. Lashley quickly countered with two spears of his own. The action was quick and explosive from the beginning. Brock hit an F5 about two minutes in. Another F5, another kickout. This felt like a diet version of the famous Lesnar vs. Goldberg match at Wrestlemania 33, which is no slight. Just finishers and big moves over and over. Lashley’s offense consisted almost solely of spears and Hurt Lock attempts. Sadly, when Lashley finally locked in the Hurt Lock, Lesnar kicked behind and hit a low blow on Lashley, causing the ref to dq Lesnar. After the bell, Lesnar distributed F5s to both the ref and Lashley. Then, he took Lashley outside to the announcer’s table and F5’d him through it, then did the same onto the rubble to the ref.
The match was a lot of fun until the abrupt and disappointing finish. It appears that we have to get another match between these two, despite this feud seemingly lasting years already. However, the post-match felt very hot. A rematch in the same style at Wrestlemania may take the same formula here to another level. ***1/2
Edge & Beth Phoenix def. Finn Balor & Rhea Ripley (with Dominik)
Sean: The Grit Couple has to be one of the worst tag team names of all time. The fact that they now sell shirts with that name on it is kind of embarrassing. The crowd sang along to Edge’s Alter Bridge theme (pretty cool, not gonna lie) while Beth had a Bull Nakano inspired look. Beth and Rhea had a fun clothesline exchange that was immediately ruined when Beth seemed to get lost, so….off to a great start! The crowd broke out into a loud “Fuck You Dominik” chant which shows that at least the remaining audience WWE has left is really into this Dominik storyline. Speaking of Dominik, his interference allowed Rhea to take control, while Finn Balor took out Edge on the floor to prevent a tag. Beth finally fought back with a big superplex, and tagged in Edge, who ran wild on Balor.
Edge and Beth both locked in the Edgecator on Balor and Rhea respectively. We then get another botched spot from Beth as she was late to break up a pin after Rhea hit Edge with brass knuckles behind the referee’s back. The babyfaces are eventually able to recover from this, with Beth hitting Rhea with the Glam Slam on the floor while Edge hit Balor with a spear in the ring, They then scored the win after hitting Balor with FTR’s tag team finisher. The crowd was into it, but the match itself was….solid, I guess. I don’t know what was up with Beth. She was fine at some points, but at other points she was completely lost. Those spots definitely took this one from being above three stars to being below it. Much like the opener, the hot crowd definitely lifted this one up. Worst match of the night so far, but by no means awful. **3/4
Griffin: The Grit Couple is an awful team name. Embarrassingly awful. THE GRIT COUPLE had the upper hand early and then Beth seemed to forget what to do so things got awkward. Props to Rhea for selling for Beth and making things look good because Beth did not help in any way possible. Dominik was pretty over and got some jeers from the crowd because they weren’t interested in what was happening in the ring. Beth hit a superplex and then botched a bunch of stuff, including being late on breaking up a pin. THE GRIT COUPLE hit the Shatter Machine on Finn to get the win. This was quite boring for most of the match and Beth’s botches made it look sloppy. This might have been better if they focused a bit more on Edge and Finn because their spots looked good. **3/4
Kevin: The Edge and Judgement Day feud feels like it is never ending. Over and over, we are just destined for this match over and over. That said, Judgement Day has revitalized Rhea. She seemed lost, the confidence beaten out of her, before joining the faction. Now, she feels refreshed and has the makings of a real star. Meanwhile, Beth and her hair feel like complete caricatures. Corey Graves said the hair was a tribute to Bull Nakano. Corey Graves has also apparently never looked at a picture of Bull. Beth screamed “YES I AM READY FOR THIS” like the Ultimate Warrior. After some hard clubbing exchanges, Beth and Rhea were on separate pages, Beth awkwardly running the ropes while expect Rhea to be in a different position. Loud “Fuck You Dominik” chants broke out. This was Dominik’s que to get involved in the match, knocking Phoenix awkwardly off of the ringpost before Edge chased him to the back. He returned only seconds later to massive boos. Phoenix and Ripley continued to nail each other with hard-looking strikes. This segment lasted a really long time, culminating with a massive Phoenix superplex. Edge was finally tagged in. Dominik’s interference was continuous. He threw brass knuckles to Balor, who used them on Edge. Edge obviously didn’t kick out in time. The ref noticeably didn’t count the three and awkwardly kept his hand raised. The crowd was noticeably displeased and were taken out of the match for a minute. Both men brawled on the turnbuckles, leading to both women powerbombing them simultaneously. Outside, Rhea tried to murder Beth with a concerto onto the steps, but Beth escaped and hit the Glam Slam. In the ring, Edge hit the Edgecution and then a dive onto Dominik. A few minutes later, he hit the Spear on Balor, then the couple hit the Shatter Machine for the win.
There was a lot going against this match. Judgement Day is over the top and cringey. Edge and Beth are over the top and cringey. Dominik is a bad wrestler. There were multiple obvious miscommunications and missteps. The narrative was pounded over and over and over by the commentators. Still, the crowd was into this, the story was pretty clear, and the match was decently fun. ***1/4
WWE United States Championship, Elimination Chamber Match
Austin Theory © def. Seth “Freakin’” Rollins, Johnny Gargano, Bronson Reed, Damian Priest, Montez Ford
Sean: The last time Austin Theory was in an Elimination Chamber Match, he was given a F5 off one of the pods by Brock Lesnar. We’ll see if he has better luck this time around. Gargano and Rollins start, which was a smart move. The two had a fun opening exchange before Austin Theory was the first to enter the match from one of the pods. He takes control of the match for a minute before the tables quickly turn. Theory tries to hide in one of the pods, but gets the crap kicked out of him by both Gargano and Rollins. Damian Priest comes in next, and runs wild on all three guys. They all then take turns exchanging moves before Bronson Reed enters next.
Reed destroys Gargano, Rollins, and Theory before setting his sights on Damian Priest. They brawl on the floor before Reed sends Priest into the chamber wall with a wheelbarrow German Suplex. Montez Ford is the final entrant, and he gets some quick shine before getting taken out while trying for a People’s Elbow. This was followed up by a great Doomsday Device/Poison Rana spot with Rollins, Gargano, and Reed that looked pretty sick. We then got another great spot where Ford climbed up one of the chamber walls and hung off the roof for a wacky inside out crossbody….thing that looked totally nuts.
It wound up taking a barrage of offense from Ford, Gargano and Rollins to eliminate Reed. An attempt by Rollins to powerbomb Gargano off the top of one of the pods gets foiled as Gargano counters with a rana off the pod! Another insane spot. Gargano ran wild with a few superkicks before getting eliminated via a Razor’s Edge from Priest. A powerbomb/blockbuster combo from Ford and Rollins eliminates Priest moments later. Ford has a fun exchange with Rollins before running wild with a series of dives. However, his momentum gets cut off when Theory countered a splash, and Rollins followed up with a stomp. We got this weird angle where referees came out to help Ford (who I guess was selling a concussion), but this gave Logan Paul the chance to come out and cost Rollins the match.
On the whole, I thought this match was pretty fantastic. Some pretty incredible action from start to finish, with all six men getting many opportunities to shine. As far as Elimination Chamber matches go, it was definitely one of the best they’ve done in many years. The execution of the finish could’ve been done better (they didn’t really need to have Ford do an injury angle, as Logan could’ve just snuck in when they took him out normally), but that didn’t hurt the match too much for me. This was the best main roster WWE match of 2023 by a country mile. ****1/2
Griffin: Every single WWE Superstar who enters the Elimination Chamber must do their rounds to stare at the other WWE Superstars in the pods. Gargano and Rollins started the match. Gargano actually got a reaction from a WWE crowd. Wild! Gargano and Rollins had a pretty good opening part of the match. Austin Theory was the next to enter. Just like Carmella did in the earlier Chamber match, Theory hid in his pod. It didn’t do much because Gargano and Rollins just beat the crap out of him in the pod. Damian Priest was the next one in. Priest cleaned house right away but was taken out before the next entrant was released from the pod. Bronson Reed kicked ass and took names until Montez Ford entered the match. He looked great and was a breath of fresh air until Reed took his head off with a lariat. He came back and hit the first big spot of the match by hanging from the top of the Chamber and dropping down to take out everybody below. Reed ate triple superkicks from Rollins, Gargano, and Ford, a Curb Stomp, and a Ford Frog Splash that led to his elimination. Booked strong despite being the first guy gone. Gargano and Seth made FACES~! when they released they were both sitting on top of a pod. Gargano hurricanranaed Seth off the top of the pod! Despite that, Gargano was the next one out after a Razor’s Edge from Priest. Priest was then eliminated by a combo from Seth/Montez. Ford went on a tear taking out Seth and Theory. He looked like an absolute star and should be booked as such going forward. Lots of potential there… and he was eliminated as I typed that. Oh well. Ford did an injury angle and was helped out of the cage which allowed Logan Paul to enter the Chamber and hit Rollins with a Buckshot and a Stomp to let Theory win the match. This was pretty good until the dumb finish. A pattern. Why would you cost someone a title match if you want to wrestle them? Wouldn’t it make more sense to beat them and get a title out of it too? ***½
Kevin: Every single entrant in both of these matches has to walk to each cell and stare down every other participant in the match. It feels so forced. Gargano and Rollins started. I’m not sure I disconnect more with a crowd’s endearment towards a wrestler like I do Seth Rollins. His mannerisms annoying, character annoying, everything annoying. They traded pretty standard matwork and spots until Austin Theory entered and attacked both. Eventually, mimicking Carmella earlier, Theory tried to hide in a pod. Gargano and Rollins teamed up to brutally beat him in the pod. Priest, then Reed, entered. He did standard big man spots like slamming Rollins and Gargano at the same time. Reed splashed Priest onto a pod that shockingly didn’t break. Considering Reed got no reaction to start, he felt like a beast here. Ford came in and immediately quickened the pace. Weirdly, he went for his own version of the People’s Elbow, which just felt second rate. Reed cut him off before he hit it. Reed put Garagno on his shoulders, but Rollins hit a Doomsday device that Garagno turned into a poisonrana on Reed. This was a little clunky but still pretty cool.
Ford climbed to the top section of the Chamber and did a flipping crossbody off of the chains. The crowd erupted. Rollins, Ford and Gargano teamed up on Reed and eventually eliminated him. Gargano and Rollins made their way onto a pod and brawled a bit. Rollins went for a powerbomb off the top, but Gargano countered it into a hurricanrana onto the group below. Sadly, he was eliminated by a Damien Priest Razor’s Edge minutes later. Ford hit a Doomsday Sliced Bread #2 onto Priest to Eliminate him. Ford got hot, hitting some big dives until he tried a big frog splash that was countered by Theory. After taking a curbstomp from Rollins, Ford was rolled back into the ring by theory and eliminated. Multiple officials were called into the ring to help remove Ford after the curbstomp. After Ford was helped away to major cheers, Rollins hit a pedigree on Theory. Logan Paul entered through the opened door, hit an incredibly clean Buckshot Lariat on Rollins, then curbstomped him. Theory hit his finisher for the win as Paul looked on.
Most Elimination Chamber matches feel the same these days. Big spots off the cage, big double teams, etc etc. This didn’t break that mold. But still, it was a fun chamber match where everyone got a chance to shine. Reed looked like a monster and Ford looked like it is finally time for that singles run people have been expecting for years. The Paul vs Rollins feud feels hot. Conversely, Theory squeaked his way to victory but was one of the least notable guys in the match. Overall, a good chamber match. ****
Undisputed WWE Universal Championship
Roman Reigns © def. Sami Zayn
Sean: Well, this is the match and the storyline that everyone’s been talking about. Following the angle at the Royal Rumble that people have said was the best thing that the WWE has ever done….the angle that was supposedly better than any Greek Play or Shakespearian work….the angle that made grown men cry to insane degrees. In all seriousness though, this has been a good storyline, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect with this PPV in Montreal. The big question coming in, of course, is what will the finish be.
Roman Reigns came out first, and he got legitimate boos for what felt like the first time in his entire title reign. The crowd then does the “Ole!” chant before Sami made his entrance. Of course, Sami got a huge reaction. The first minute or two of the actual match is just Roman and Sami soaking in the crowd as they went nuts. Once they actually start wrestling, Sami gains the early edge as he sends Roman to the floor and hits a big dive. He got a little bit more offense in the ring before Roman fought back and slowed down the pace of the match. Roman went to the floor and talked trash to Sami’s wife. The crowd was still hot, but the bout itself had absolutely slowed to a crawl at this stage. Sami did manage to break the Roman control period up with a clothesline and a sunset flip powerbomb. He avoids the Superman Punch and hits an exploder in the corner, but Roman avoids the Helluva Kick and hits the Superman Punch for two.
Roman’s control periods (as per usual) haven’t been great, but the crowd is still very much invested, which obviously helps mitigate that shortcoming. Zayn goes on another offensive flurry, and hits a Superman Punch before the Helluva Kick for a really good nearfall. Sami avoids the barricade spear, and hits a Blue Thunder Bomb for another close nearfall. THEN we finally get the referee bump that we’ve all been waiting for, and Sami gets a visual pinfall off the Helluva Kick. Jimmy Uso runs down and takes out Sami, but Roman is still unable to get three even with a new referee. Sami kicks out of the spear and the crowd goes nuts again. ANOTHER REFEREE BUMP. Paul Heyman gives Roman a chair, but then Jey Uso appears. He confronts Roman, who hands him the chair. He refuses to use it, and when Sami goes to attack Roman, he accidentally takes out Jey. Roman then hits the spear….and gets the pin to retain. We do get a post-match angle with the return of Kevin Owens, who takes out Jimmy Uso, Roman Reigns, and Paul Heyman. Sami stands tall to close the show, but it’s not the result a lot of people were hoping for.
The match had two things working against it. Firstly, Roman’s control periods are boring as all hell, with him grinding the pace of the match to a halt and doing a lot of talking (what some idiots might call “storytelling”). The talking was definitely present, but the control periods weren’t as boring as usual (we have the crowd to thank for that). The other problem is you knew you weren’t getting a finish until the referee bumps, and we ended up getting two, so that did hurt the match. Now while the action itself was by no means spectacular, the crowd being so hot for Sami definitely made up for it. As for the finish itself, we didn’t get Jey Uso turning on Sami like most expected, but the involvement of The Usos still led to Sami’s ultimate downfall. I know some people (including some wrestling media members) are going to be very upset with this finish. Me? I honestly don’t care that much. Again, the story has been pretty good (no question), but it just hasn’t captured me to the degree that it has others. Could they have put Sami over here, even if it’s a short Mick Foley-esque title win with Roman winning it right back before Mania? Sure, you could’ve done that, but this result clearly shows that WWE is sticking to their guns with Roman vs. Cody as the Mania main event. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens will likely win the tag team titles, but I doubt Sami will ever get that win over Roman that people have been craving for. There might be a new guy in charge of creative, but this is still WWE people. As a well-known King Of Banter has famously said many times before….You have to keep this company at arm’s length. ***1/2
Griffin: Roman Reigns was out first and le Centre Bell was absolutely buzzing in anticipation for their hometown favourite. Once that music hit, a wave of cheers started in CBoundary Peak 187, Yukon and went all the way to Cape Spear, Newfoundlad. Sami has the seventeen thousand in Montreal and every Canadian wrestling fan in his corner for the biggest match of his life in the same city where he made his debut in 2002. Just over twenty years later and he’s wrestling for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship.
The crowd was molten as the bell rung and both champion and challenger stood there soaking it in. Montreal switched back and forth between “Olé” chants for Sami and “Fuck you Roman” chants against Roman. Lockup pop! When was the last time WWE had one of those? Sami started off hot but Roman got the upper hand and grinded the match to a halt with an extended beatdown and community theatre smack talk.
Sami fought back, got the crowd back, and kissed his wife for good measure. A sunset flip powerbomb from the top rope led to a really close near fall. Sami caught the Superman Punch, hit an Exploder in the corner but then ate a Superman anyway for another 2.9 count. A Superman from Sami followed by the Helluva led to one of the closest 2.999999 counts in WWE history which the crowd bit on. Lots of great near falls so far.
Sami sidestepped the Spear into the barricade and hit a Blue Thunder Bomb for another 2.9 count. Montreal is ready to explode for a Sami win. The referee was taken out of the match but that didn’t stop Sami from hitting another Helluva Kick. With the ref down, Jimmy Uso hit the ring to take out Sami and pull Roman on top for a pin. A new ref slid into the ring right in time for the count but somehow Sami kicked out at the very last moment with everything in his being.
Zayn took out Jimmy Uso on the apron but ate a Spear for another really close near fall. Sami defiantly slapped Roman but a Superman Punch missed its target and another referee is down. With no official in the ring, Paul Heyman threw a chair in the ring for Roman to use but he’s stopped in his tracks by none other than Jey Uso. Roman directed Jey to end Sami with the chair but he refused. Sami accidentally Speared Jey but then took a bunch of chairs shots, a Spear… and then was pinned.
Stupid fucking finish. You have a chance to make a guy in front of one of the hottest WWE crowds in recent memory but you need to keep Vince’s golden boy strong. And now Kevin Owens is finally here to stop The Bloodline after the match. Where were you when they interefered in the match? An awful friend. No logic.
This was great and was very close to being the WWE Match of the Year if they went for the smart finish. The one a good booker would do. Instead we got a flat finish that silenced the crowd – and not in the good way.
For a company that loves creating Moments™, they sure don’t remember how to do it. Trended towards the full five mark, but ended up being ***3/4
Kevin: The appeal of WWE is that it can do “big” bigger than everyone else. It is a company built on stories and spectacle. Most times, WWE does not deliver on this. There’s been years of missed opportunities and blown payoffs. Sometimes, though, they strike that magic. And when they do, it cannot be replicated anywhere else in the same way. The build to this match was one of those moments. The Bloodline story is not one that has resonated with me much, but it has with the core WWE fanbase. This is where the company should excel but rarely does. You can count on your hands the matches that have felt like this in the past 15 years. Punk at Money in the Bank. Danielson and Wrestlemania 30. Kofi at Wrestlemania 35. Maybe not many others. Finally, we are there again. The atmosphere during the entrances was reminiscent of that Punk Money in the Bank match. Reigns, with only Paul Heyman by his side, came out to resounding boos. Deafening Ole chants began to ring out. Sami’s classic ska theme hit. Sami came out walking slow and determined, taking in the moment. The term “big match atmosphere” can be overused. It was appropriate here.
Sami’s wife watched from the front row. The bell rang, the crowd and atmosphere allowed to soak in. Standing ovation after standing ovation before they even touched. The crowd was behind their hometown boy Sami Zayn like few have ever been. Especially here, WWE, a company that routinely beats down those hometown favorites. Finally, after what felt like at least 5 minutes, they locked up. Every piece of Reigns offense was mightily booed. Zayn’s offense, cheered. “Fuck You Roman” chants echoed through the Bell Centre. Finally, after sending Reigns to the outside, Zayn hit a flipping dive to the outside to an absolutely astounding pop. He continued to get his own offense in, trying to chip away at Reigns. Reigns eventually was able to counter a Zayn top rope strike and went into his control segment. Reigns would beat down Sami, Sami would get a slight comeback, and get beaten down again by Reigns. Rinse repeat. Reigns took Sami outside in front of his wife and continued to decimate him in front of his family. The paced slowed, with Reigns jawing at the crowd. Still the crowd never wavered and were right there when Sami made a big comeback. Sami then kissed his wife to major cheers. Sami hit a major sunset flip powerbomb off of the top rope for the first major nearfall of the match. We settled into a series of hot nearfall sequences, with plenty of spears and Helluva kicks and counters. Jimmy Uso entered the ring and gave a series of superkicks and splashes to Zayn. A new official entered the ring, but Sami kicked out. The ref was almost taken out a second time, but was avoided. Sami took out Jimmy on the apron, but walked right into a spear. It felt like this was finally it, but no. Zayn kicked out. No matter what, he never gave up. Reigns became more desperate and unhinged. He went for another Superman punch and took out the second referee. Heyman threw a chair into the ring. Jey Uso entered the ring and stared at Roman. Roman tried to hand him the chair. Jey stared for a while, and didn’t hit Sami. Sami then tried to spear Roman, but hit Jey instead. Roman used the chair on Sami, hit the spear, and that was it. Crowd deflated. After the match, Jimmy attacked Sami, only for Kevin Owens to make the save and cleared house. Owens allowed Zayn to hit one last Helluva kick on Zayn, and the two seemingly reconciled afterwards.
This is a weird match to properly rate and think about. At points, it was an all-time WWE match. The kickouts all worked, the characters worked, the crowd was an all-timer, and Zayn’s performance was otherworldly. Reigns was a good foil even if he may have talked too much. It all worked. Until it fell apart, Jimmy stared a lot and Sami eventually lost. They did get the crowd back afterwards with the Owens and Zayn reconnection, but it is hard to not be left disappointed with how close this came to being an all-timer. ****1/4