Hello friends and neighbors, that time is upon us once again as tomorrow, February 17th, 2013, WWE proudly presents the Elimination Chamber Pay-per-view LIVE from New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, LA. If you follow this blog regularly, then you know that I was not able to go into detail on my picks for last month’s annual Royal Rumble. I didn’t do too bad on my picks though. I got 4 out of the 5 matches right. I only missed the Tag Team Championship match, so seeing as there isn’t of those booked here maybe I’ll score a full card. My predictions for Elimination Chamber, and the ideas behind those picks are as follows:

1. Pre-Show: Brodus Clay vs. Team Rhodes Scholars       This match seems to just scream “Brodus and Tensai,” but i would be surprised if this “one night reunion” of Team Rhodes Scholars would serve as our last exposure to the most intellectually groomed tag team since Evolution. Nevertheless, any time WWE has given us a newly turned superstar- especially a fresh (baby)face like Tensai- that trailblazing direction has come out the winner at the pay-per-view match. I’m going against my preferences with this one.

WINNERS: Brodus Clay and Tensai

2. Divas Championship: Kaitlyn vs. Tamina Snuka
Since Kaitlyn won the Divas Championship on January 14th in her hometown of Houston, Texas, she hasn’t done much in the form of compete- much less defend her championship. Her current feud, her first since winning the title, is against Tamina Snuka. These divas have gotten so much TV time that their pay-per-view match was booked…on the WWE Active feature of the WWE Mobile App. With as little build as this match has had, I don’t see anything major coming out of this bout.

WINNER and STILL Divas Champion: Kaitlyn

3. United States Championship: Antonion Cesaro vs. The Miz
Heels always manage to find a way to impress me, and Antonio Cesaro is no exception to that. Granted when he first started as the tag-along boyfriend of Aksana to make Teddy Long jealous, I had my doubts about this gimmick, but once the Neutralizer started dropping guys like The Great Khali and Brodus Clay, I began to like what I see. As a Mizfit from day one, I have also been a fan of The Miz even back when it wasn’t cool to like him and I was the only to care about the “TRUE STORY of when The Miz came to Armageddon…” He lost to The Boogeyman that night, but he won me over as a fan. This recent face run for Miz hasn’t looked as “clean” as it could have been, but I do believe The Miz can work as a face, especially here where he can be in mid-card, second tier title feuds to put over the build of a conquering heel. There are only a handful of strong heels in WWE today. Off the top of my head I can think of Big Show (until recently), CM Punk (until Rock came along), The Shield (until Cena, but that will be discussed later), Jack Swagger and Mark Henry (but they just came back recently), and Antonio Cesaro (current US Champion) . Cesaro looks the strongest out of all the top heels previously mentioned. I strongly believe this match to be one of if not the easiest to predict based solely on that principle. There is no way, no how that one of my favorites The Miz will walk out of New Orleans a 3 time United States Champion. Sorry, Miz. Watching him toss you into that barricade like he’s taking your lunch money doesn’t scream “the guy upside down could take that title.”

WINNER and STILL United States Champion: Antonio Cesaro

4. The Shield vs. John Cena, Sheamus, and Ryback
As stated previously, I believe The Shield falls into a short list of the strongest heels in WWE today, and with all the face turns we’ve had in the past 2 years that list continues to dwindle. Nevertheless, if this match was booked in any other month, I’d be pulling for The Shield all the way, but this is the Road to Wrestlemania and it wouldn’t make much sense to book the Royal Rumble winner in a match and NOT have him win. Whether the Rumble winner was Cena, Sheamus or Ryback, the result would still be the same. I wish this match could take place in a Chamber and maybe it still can, but either way I still believe The Shield will look strong, but I can’t take this one away from Cena. The guy wins a lot when he shouldn’t, but in this case the Rumble winner does need to look strong heading into Wrestlemania.

WINNERS: Cena, Ryback, and Sheamus

5. Elimination Chamber for the #1 Contendership of the World Heavyweight Championship: Mark Henry vs. Kane vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton vs. Chris Jericho vs. Jack Swagger
In this match, I see many possible outcomes. On one hand, Mark Henry wins going on to face either Big Show or Alberto Del Rio. If he goes on to face Big Show, that would throw up the flag of “heel vs. heel” and that is highly unlikely to think that either of these men could turn face. Mark Henry has developed a following when he attacks the likes of Sin Cara or Hornswoggle, but to go against Randy Orton, he is still a bad guy, so Mark Henry vs. Big Show is out of the question in my opinion. Mark Henry vs. Alberto Del Rio however is a different story. Alberto Del Rio walked away from two Last Man Standing matches against Big Show since earning his first World Heavyweight Championship in January. To go into Wrestlemania against the World’s Strongest Man with three consecutive wins of the The World Largest Athlete to his name, The Pride of Mexico would certainly have a claim to state could he topple Mark Henry on the Grandest Stage of Them All. That match would look great for Del Rio, which would look great to the Hispanic fans.
I highly doubt Kane or Daniel Bryan will be winning this one. Instead, I could see them facing each other at Wrestlemania whether they LOSE THE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS ON MONDAY FEBRUARY 18TH, 2013 (Bold prediction, literally) or not.
Randy Orton is another frontrunner. He has been in the background mid/main spot for months- granted there was a wellness violation involved, but still the point is Randy Orton hasn’t held the World title in what seems like a considerable amount of time. For him to go into MetLife Stadium to face Big Show for the World Heavyweight Championship- that match could carry in promotion as strongly as Del Rio vs. Mark Henry. Dirtsheets have reported that Randy Orton has lobbied for a heel turn and that he may get it soon (for at least 6 months), regardless of whether that happens or not. A World Title match with Randy Orton would not be a sleeper match. It very well could go under the radar, but I believe just like Orton vs. Kane at Wrestlemania 28, it could steal the show…especially if Dolph Ziggler decides to grace his presence and cash in on his Wrestlemania moment.
Speaking of The Show Off, Chris Jericho recently returned (to everyone’s shock and dropped jaw) at the #2 entrant in the 2013 Royal Rumble opposite that of his summertime rival, Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler was responsible for terminating Jericho’s contract at the time back in August following their matches both at SummerSlam and the “MitB Contract vs. WWE Contract” match on the next night’s RAW. With Dolph Ziggler still in possession of the blue briefcase, he still has the chance to cash in and (if history holds true) become the NEW World Heavyweight Championship anytime, any place, anywhere until July 2013, and with that in mind the only place I could see Jericho being useful in the World Heavyweight Championship picture on the Mecca to the Meadowlands would be in one of two options: 1) Jericho wins the Chamber and faces The Big Show at Wrestlemania, only to have Dolph and/or his posse attack following the match which leads to a cash-in and Dolph Ziggler walks out of Wrestlemania 29 the NEW World Heavyweight Champion and carries there ongoing feud into a new level with gold on the line. 2) Chris Jericho wins the Chamber, Big E Langston attacks to send a message from Dolph. Later in the night as Alberto Del Rio retains his title over the Big Show, Dolph Ziggler’s music hits and we see The Show Off’s bodyguard do the same thing he did to Y2J to The Essence of Excellence, Dolph takes his time getting into the ring, passing his briefcase to a reluctant referee, and simply lays over Alberto Del Rio for the pin- granted Del Rio would try to put up a fight at first but Dolph would merely use his superior freshness (seeing as Del Rio would have gone through not just a match against the Big Show but also a beatdown by the hands of Big E before getting to this point), so it would only be a matter of time before Dolph could just outlast Alberto long enough for his tank to empty before delivering the final blow in the form of multiple Super Kicks to finally end the Mexican’s reign as champion and usher in the Era of the Show Off, knowing full well that if Chris Jericho wants the World Heavyweight Championship, he will have to go through Dolph Ziggler…basically anything to do with Chris Jericho coming close to the World Heavyweight Championship has to deal with Dolph Ziggler.
My dark horse for this match would have to be Jack Swagger. Mark Henry is comparable to him in the sense that they are both heels who have recently returned to television. Jack Swagger now has Zeb Coulter by his side. Mark Henry is getting more of a spotlight, while Jack Swagger is bullying Zack Ryder. Jack’s new “Real American” gimmick picked up some edgy steam with Zeb’s comments about immigration on Monday Night Raw. At the time I wondered how something so family friendly could go so far, but with Alberto Del Rio in the position of World Heavyweight Champion and Jack Swagger being in the #1 Contender’s Elimination Chamber match, this story seems to write itself. Alberto Del Rio is the Hispanic hero holding the World Championship while Jack Swagger is the racist, xenophobic heel hellbent on making sure “Real Americans” take back the power and control of their own country. I sense a KKK-esque “white Nation of Domination” could form from this, but I don’t know how far WWE would be willing to let something like that go. I do know that this one idea of a match where the foreigner is the good guy and the American is a bad guy is so far out from what the consensus used to be on nationality and crowd alignment in professional wrestling that one of the main reasons I’d love to see this match actually happen is because of how backwards it appears. Normally, the roles are reversed. When nationality is applied to a character, Americans are cheered and foreigners are typically booed. I mean, Sgt. Slaughter sided with the Iron Sheik during the Persian Gulf War and he got jeered louder than ever. I personally would LOVE to see Jack Swagger vs. Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship with a race angle thrown in. That would add some much-desired spice to the WWE product. Smackdown is beginning to look like the stronger brand and with this feud leading the show, it’s hard to see otherwise. Not to mention, with race in the feud, Ziggler could cash in whenever the title needed to change feuds and these two (Swagger and Del Rio) could keep going on solely the personal aspect alone.

WINNER and #1 Contender to challenge the World Heavyweight Champion at Wrestlemania 29: “The All American American” Jack Swagger

6. World Heavyweight Championship: Alberto Del Rio vs. Big Show
        I completely disagreed with this feud when it first began. It just seemed rather forced, and the whole point was that Big Show was World Champion while Del Rio was a “fresh face”. There was little to no pure build in this match leading to the Royal Rumble. Then they had the Last Man Standing match on Smackdown which was rather refreshing. That hadn’t happened in a long time, and it featured a unique use of the announce table to ensure David Del Rio’s victory over the towering Goliath that is Big Show. I got nervous for this feud again when the match was finally booked at the Royal Rumble as (yet again) a Last Man Standing match. When I saw that match play out, I felt like the duct tape angle was more of a one time deal and they just simply burned it off as a way to keep the championship on Alberto Del Rio. Then the following night on Raw, I watched during Raw Roulette as Big Show used his own roll of duct tape to secure the Mexican Aristocrat to the ring rope while The World’s Largest Athlete destroyed his friend and ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez, which added a sense of personality to the feud that I found to be the epitome of “The Walking Dead” since its inception. Nevertheless, it has picked up stem even through its childish prank of orange paint and the hotel attack scene that seemed thrown together. The Big Show has lost a lot of the force that he once was at the start of the year.
The “iron clad contract” has essentially run its course, and I am still in favor of a “Loser Leaves WWE” type stipulation that could see Big Show lose thus eradicating the contract only to return roughly 6 months later refreshed and possibly even a babyface in a world where his contract is just like all the others.
Regardless of what I want to see, I believe that on this night we will see major things happen on the Road to Wrestlemania, one of those things will definitely be Alberto Del Rio standing tall over the  Big Show and also Dolph Ziggler could easily cash in his Money in the Bank contract (especially if Chris Jericho wins the Elimination Chamber)

WINNER and STILL World Heavyweight Champion: Alberto Del Rio

7. WWE Championship: The Rock vs. CM Punk (If The Rock gets counted out or disqualified, CM Punk wins the WWE Championship)         Very few fans I follow seems pleased to hear or see that The Rock won the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble Pay-per-view. As a fan, I never like jumping on the “Well, this sucks.” train. I never write anything off until I’ve seen it play out as far as it can. It’s sort of a retrospective attitude, but it works for me. It keeps me from simply giving up on something like wrestling that I love putting so much time and money into. Nevertheless, that is a different blog for a different time….As I was saying, this match has about as much possibility as any the Elimination Chamber match does. CM Punk wins if The Rock gets disqualified: The Shield (possibly led by a heel John Cena- as many seem to be assuming could happen) could attack CM Punk if not to just take the title off the People’s Champion. Brock Lesnar may or may not seek some kind of statement to be made for some reason. I don’t even know if Brock really knows why Brock does what Brock does. Paul Heyman used to be able to explain his behavior, but not as of late. Brock Lesnar is a crazy outlier, but The Shield (with or without Cena) could obviously attack especially if they lose earlier in the night. CM Punk wins if The Rock gets counted out: The referee is not prone to getting a little too close to the action, on this night that doesn’t change. The ref takes a bump and goes down, then the Shield run in to attack The Rock. They triple powerbomb him (or if Cena is with them, AA) through the announce table and scatter as the ref revives. The Rock then gets counted out and CM Punk escapes with the championship. I highly doubt Punk would get screwed by The Shield. The Rock would be the direct target. CM Punk taking anything from the shield in the form of an attack would have to be classified as collateral damage. The obvious consideration would be that The Rock would win the match and walk out of New Orleans still holding close to the WWE Championship where he will face Royal Rumble winner John Cena at MetLife Stadium on April 7th, 2013. With the status of The Undertaker in question, I would love to see CM Punk win the Championship back before the night was done, but that too may be just a dream. In the end, many roads to Wrestlemania have already been paved on the planning stage and its all about getting out on television. In the end any prediction has to be less of “where do I see this going?” and more of “where do I see WWE sending this?”

WINNER and STILL WWE Champion: The Rock

Out of all of the possible outcomes on this card, I feel like I will enjoy whichever path these matches take. Whether it’s Mark Henry, Jack Swagger, Randy Orton, or someone gets taken out and replaced by an unknown name, that Elimination Chamber match will be intense simply because it is an Elimination Chamber match. Whether Dolph Ziggler cashes in his Money in the Bank briefcase or not,  this night will be full of shock and awe and I for one cannot wait to see how things play out tonight LIVE in New Orleans, Monday LIVE in Lafayette, or anywhere else along the way in the final month of Raw and Smackdown on the way to Wrestlemania 29.