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   August 21, 2014



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Live, Elimination Chamber didn't live up to its billing
By STEVEN JOHNSON - SLAM! Wrestling




NEW ORLEANS -- WWE's Elimination Chamber extravaganza is the last stop on the road to WrestleMania. The question is: Which WrestleMania?

The press in New Orleans is chock full of reports that the city will host WrestleMania 30 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in 2014. An official announcement could come from WWE and city officials Monday -- after all, there is a WWE press conference scheduled.

If that's the case, then the Feb. 17 pay-per-view was a lead-up to WrestleMania 29 on April in East Rutherford, N.J., as well as a successful dry run for wrestling's signature event a year from now.

An hour before the doors opened at the New Orleans Arena, fans waited in 200-yard-long lines and stood 50 deep at merchandise tents. Those numbers certainly paled in comparison to crowds around "Da Dome" at Super Bowl XLVII two weeks ago, and the intensity couldn't match the early '80s glory days of Junkyard Dog and Bill Watts' suspense-packed Mid-South promotion.

But WWE appears to have a good base to work with in a city that is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina 7-1/2 years ago.

In the main event, The Rock bested CM Punk in a heated main event to retain the WWE championship and move on to face John Cena at WrestleMania 29.

The headliner -- the 16-foot-high Elimination Chamber -- didn't live up to its billing, many fans said, and certainly fell short of the "10 tons of steel" described by Randy Orton in a pre-show interview.

Fans sitting at any of the four diagonals to the chamber, which is 36 feet in diameter, craned their necks to see around chains and wrestlers. A lot of them turned their attention to the more visible video board, so no doubt it played out better on TV screens at home. Within the arena, the match dragged at times -- a few "boring" chants were audible as five wrestlers lay prone on the mat at once.

And the outcome, which saw Jack Swagger pin Orton, was a definite letdown. The cheers for Orton were exceeded only by the pops for The Rock and John Cena.

Fans in the turquoise-paneled arena, which seats 18,500 and had about 15 percent of its seats blocked off, were started to catch fire with a six-man tag team match in which the upstart Shield beat Ryback, Cena and Sheamus.

Part of that was attributable to a late gate opening -- the pre-show started at 6:30 pm. CDT, but doors to the arena didn't open until about 5:40 p.m.

That meant fans were getting into their seats during a four-minute dark match that pitted the offbeat team of Brodus Clay and Lord Tensai against Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes. Tensai took a bit of a beating before Clay joined him for a double headbutt and double big splash on the prostate Rhodes.

Tensai and the Funkasaurus broke into a dance routine with the Funkadactyls, to the delight of kids in the crowd. If there was any doubt that WWE is playing at times to that audience, half-a-dozen WWE Power Slammers ads on the video board reinforced the message.

And for those who thought the golden age of managers -- Lou Albano, Bobby Heenan, Jim Cornette -- was dead and gone, the demise might be premature. Three of Elimination Chambers biggest names had managers, though they didn't officially use that moniker. Paul Heyman, adviser to Punk, got involved in the main event by sneaking the title belt into his man's hands.

Ricardo Rodriguez, Albert Del Rio's personal ring announcer, carried on at ringside like any manager devastated when his charge hits the mat or exhilarated at a fantastic comeback. And Zeb Coulter, the xenophobic mouthpiece for Swagger, was greeted with a chorus of "What?" when he started his anti-immigrant spiel, though New Orleans is only about 5 percent Hispanic or Latino.

Biggest pop of the night? Indisputably The Rock, when he pinned Punk; a false finish a few moves before on a People's elbow was almost as loud.

Biggest moan? Big Show held a gimmick bucket to the side of his head, but it took Del Rio two tries to kick it successfully and topple the big man.

Biggest T-shirt seller? Who else but John Cena. Cena shirts on men, women and kids wildly outnumbered other wrestler-related apparel. It's probably safe to assume there will be more Cena gear on Canal Street when New Orleans lands WrestleMania 30.

RELATED LINKS

  • PPV Report: Rock holds off Punk at Elimination Chamber
  • Countdown to WWE Elimination Chamber
  • February 16, 2013: Elimination Chamber matches have been memorable
  • February 15, 2013: Mark Henry aims to win the Elimination Chamber

    With Greg Oliver, Steven Johnson is co-author of The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame series, including The Tag Teams and The Heels, as well as the new Heroes & Icons. He is a reporter and editor in Virginia.