Although the annual Royal Rumble event is generally considered the official kickoff on the so-called "Road to WrestleMania" each year, it's not until the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view (PPV) that the picture becomes so much clearer.
Which is interesting because once "The Grand Daddy of Them All" is just a few months out, all reports indicate that the brain trust at WWE likes to set an end goal and book backwards. But has that happened this year?
Let's take a look at each match on the Elimination Chamber card and see if we can't figure out a clearer picture heading into the biggest show of the year on April 7 in New Jersey.
- The Rock vs. CM Punk
When John Cena won the Royal Rumble match, he announced he would be going after the WWE championship, which would be the winner of this match. The assumption is WWE is going with a rematch of last year's main event that may or may not have broken the record for the biggest buyrate in the history of the industry and that's the smart business play.
As for Punk, if Undertaker decides to work WrestleMania, it looks like that's what he'll be doing this year. But if he doesn't, things get really murky and we could conceivably see a triple threat for the title, though that would make little business sense. The story would fit, but money always wins, Cagesiders.
- Alberto Del Rio vs. Big Show
Del Rio is in the midst of a push as the babyface Latino holdover or whatever the hell WWE loves so much about having someone on the roster who can appeal to the Mexican demographic. His entire championship run is built on turning him into what Rey Mysterio always was, so he'll likely be champion heading into WrestleMania but what's waiting for him? That's a harder question to answer.
Big Show is another wildcard because performing at such a high level right now that he deserves something big but he's not a big drawing card. His role should be to put someone over huge, which I thought would be a role suitable for The Ryback but it's hard to know if that's the direction they're going.
- The Shield vs. John Cena, Sheamus, Ryback
The most likely scenario I can see for Ryback outside of working with Big Show is that he'll simply continue feuding with The Shield. They can find two guys with nothing to do on the show to team with him and make it a big blow-off match. There have been rumors he'll work with Chris Jericho but I don't see how that makes any sense at all right now. That can change quickly but this would take care of Ryback, and the Shield trio.
Cena, as noted previously, is heading for a match with Rock for the WWE title, Punk possibly included.
Sheamus was rumored for a long while to be paired up with Randy Orton after "The Viper" turns heel but after teasing a program between the two, WWE has largely strayed and gone in a different direction. They can always do a 180-degree turn of course but Orton hasn't even turned yet and there is little heat for it. Sheamus could be with Ryback against The Shield again, I suppose. Nothing seems worthy, though.
- Antonio Cesaro vs. The Miz
This one is easy. Expect the two to work together again.
- Rhodes Scholars vs. Brodus Clay and Tensai
A Money in the Bank ladder match would have done wonders for these four but because that's not likely to happen, there is currently no real direction for any of them. Perhaps a larger scale tag team match, like a four way?
- Elimination Chamber match (Chris Jericho vs. Jack Swagger vs. Mark Henry vs. Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Kane)
Jericho has been linked to Ryback in recent rumors but they haven't given that any time as of yet. He'll also be missing some time thanks to some commitments with Fozzy. He's an interesting case because he's got star power but not so much that he's vital to the card.
Swagger is clearly on his way to a feud with Del Rio, what with his new manager Zeb Colter being an ignorant racist clown against immigration. Obvious set up is obvious but how soon will WWE pull the trigger on it?
Henry is back and still as badass as ever. He's been booked strong and with his proven track record, he could be the short term answer for what to do with Del Rio if they don't want to pull the trigger on Swagger just yet.
Orton is the safest play, seeing as no one has a track record as good as his but the Sheamus match looms and he's been jobbing an awful lot lately. You wouldn't think he's strong enough to be going after a title right now, so he's off in No Man's Land.
Daniel Bryan and Kane have been teasing a break up for some time and the natural thought would be to have them pull the trigger on it at Elimination Chamber, drop the tag team titles before WrestleMania, and then work the match at the show. They've been building to it forever and the timing is right.
That's how things look right now, Cagesiders. What do you think?