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WWE Elimination Chamber 2017: WWE Championship Elimination Chamber match preview

Six of SmackDown Live’s biggest stars vie for the ultimate prize in sports entertainment—inside the brutal Elimination Chamber.

John Cena, AJ Styles, The Miz, Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, and Baron Corbin

Elimination Chamber match for the WWE Championship

Newly-crowned 16-time WWE Champion John Cena will defend his title tonight (Feb. 12, 2017) in the eponymous match at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view in Phoenix, Arizona.

In many ways, this Chamber match is a perfect encapsulation of SmackDown Live’s impressive run since the brand split. Consider who is included in the match:

  • Cena
  • AJ Styles
  • Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose
  • The Miz
  • Baron Corbin
  • Bray Wyatt

SmackDown Live’s unofficial catchphrase might as well be "The Land of Opportunity." Indeed, it has been rather deliberately presented as an alternative product to Monday Night Raw—as a show where under-appreciated and underutilized talents get their proper due. In fact, all five of Cena’s challengers fall into that category. That the blue brand has succeeded in raising the profile of so many Superstars proves it has wildly exceeded creative expectations.

If you had announced on the day of the brand split draft (July 19, 2016) that a Chamber match with the above six contenders would be damn near mouthwatering, you’d likely have been laughed out the room:

  • Cena hadn’t held the top title since August 2014, and more and more seemed to be an afterthought in any main event picture.
  • After losing feuds to Chris Jericho and Roman Reigns, Styles was battling with Cena, with no certainties that he’d emerge a made man.
  • Ambrose was WWE World Heavyweight Champion, but was only months removed from being thoroughly geeked by Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, and then followed that up with a worst match of the year candidate with Jericho in the "Ambrose Asylum."
  • The Miz was Intercontinental Champion, but nowhere near as featured or important as he would soon become after his famous first promo on Talking Smack.
  • Corbin was going nowhere fast on the main roster, having 50-50’ed his first feud with Dolph Ziggler.
  • And Wyatt was, well ... he was Bray Wyatt, who had lost every big feud he’d contested.

To suggest that a contest between these six would not only be hugely anticipated, but that all participants would have storyline reason to be included in the match and have legitimate chance to emerge victorious, would have been asinine.

Yet here we are.

While it’s always risky to venture such high expectations (and especially for a gimmick match such as this one), SmackDown’s in ring storytelling and thoughtful booking, combined with the immense collection of pure wrestling talent on display, mean that the battle inside the Chamber has a very good chance to find its way into match of the year consideration.

The road to the Chamber

Much to the chagrin of then-champion AJ Styles, SmackDown Live Commissioner Shane McMahon announced Jan. 17 that the WWE Championship would be defended inside the Elimination Chamber, and two weeks later finalized the participants.


WWE Champion John Cena.

It just sounds right, yeah?

Cena has been away for lengthy periods of time since the brand split, causing people like Dean Ambrose to call him a lazy part-timer and having multiple people suggest he no longer can get it done in the ring anymore. His pinfall losses to Styles at both SummerSlam and No Mercy seemed to confirm that thesis ... but it wouldn’t be John Cena if that were the end of the story, right?

The champ proved his valor once more at Royal Rumble, overcoming arch-rival Styles and becoming a 16-time WWE Champion. Only two days later, he noted that it was hardly time for celebration, given that he had to defend the title inside the Chamber. He was then confronted by Bray Wyatt and Royal Rumble winner Randy Orton—but was bailed out by an an unlikely ally in the form of Luke Harper. He was again helped out by Harper only five days ago, beating presumptive WrestleMania opponent Orton in the process.

So once again John Cena is atop the mountain. But if he were indeed to retain tonight, the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania would be Cena vs. Orton. That doesn’t seem very New Era, does it?


AJ Styles has been The Guy, The Face That Runs the Place, and more or less Mr. SmackDown Live, since the brand split. He won the WWE Championship off Dean Ambrose at the blue brand’s first pay-per-view, No Mercy, and has run with the ball ever since. Given the vast difference between Styles’ first and second halves of 2016, it seems readily apparent he’s been the Superstar most helped by the brand split.

Just two weeks ago, he lost his title to Cena at Royal Rumble in one of the greatest matches in WWE history. As of now, he has been denied a 1-on-1 rematch for the title, which surely must grate on The Phenomenal One’s nerves. If Cena loses the title tonight—putting AJ’s rematch clause on shaky ground—it is not hard to imagine Styles having serious gripes with SmackDown management.


The Intercontinental Champion has been perhaps the second-most featured player on the blue brand since the split. One month after the brand extension, he retained the WWE Championship against Dolph Ziggler at SummerSlam, and was then placed into a lengthy struggle with Styles—during which he enlisted the help of, and was ultimately betrayed by, James Ellsworth. He then began a brief program with The Miz, winning the Intercontinental Championship, and it seemed like an angle was brewing between Ambrose and Renee Young pitted against Miz and slap-happy Maryse.

But plans change, of course, and that narrative seems to have been dropped, especially given that Ambrose retained his title against Miz in a lumberjack match on the Jan. 24 episode of SmackDown Live. The Lunatic Fringe’s current WrestleMania plans seem up in the air—but having the WWE Championship over his other shoulder would surely illuminate his near future.


The man who returned the Intercontinental Championship to its prestige of yore now has a chance to begin his second reign with the world title. If Styles has been reason 1 to tune in to SmackDown Live, The A Lister is certainly 1a. His ring work, long criticized, now is clearly among the best in the company, and he is far and away the greatest talker in WWE. He was already Intercontinental Champion when the brand split began, but the idea of The Miz again holding the top title seemed farfetched. Now, it seems almost inevitable.

Since the brand split, The Miz has won a feud with Dolph Ziggler (he may have lost the career vs. title match at No Mercy, but he ended the struggle with the Intercontinental Championship) and then lost his feud with Ambrose in the aforementioned lumberjack match. All the while, he has incessantly struggled against what he perceives to be unfair treatment at the hands of SmackDown GM Daniel Bryan.

As of now, he also has no active program with another wrestler, so expect his influence on tonight’s event to signal just whom he will feud with next.

The wily, opportunistic veteran will surely pick his spots wisely, and don’t be surprised if he ends up with at least one major, major elimination. But without his great equalizer in Maryse, it seems unlikely he’ll be walking out champion tonight.


For months now, The Lone Wolf has insisted he belongs in the main event picture. He has berated General Manager Daniel Bryan several times on Talking Smack that he deserves a greater platform on which to display his talents—and truthfully, he’s not wrong in the least bit.

His victory over Kalisto in a chairs match at TLC convinced Bryan, and since then Corbin has found himself in headlining spots, including in a main event, triple threat match for the WWE Championship against Styles and Dolph Ziggler last Dec. 27—the only week in which SmackDown has beaten Raw in the ratings since the brand split.

In addition, his victory in last Tuesday’s Fatal Four-Way between himself, Styles, Ambrose, and Miz—in which he pinned former world champion Styles—means he has momentum entering the contest.

SmackDown has helped a great many Superstar break out, but Corbin surely must be among the first names on the list. Without the brand split he’d likely be stuck in a midcard morass. But his performances since his move to Tuesdays have stood out in a big way, and a spot in the Chamber is reward for that breakout.

The key word, though, is "spot." Corbin has been placed into the main event picture, but lacks a defining win that would suggest he’s on the brink of holding the world title. Even if he doesn’t walk out champion, he can definitely further his claim this evening.


The Patriarch of the Wyatt Family is the wild card in the Elimination Chamber match, coming into the hellacious structure without gripes with any of the other contenders. Instead, The Eater of Worlds has been in the middle of a feud-turned-partnership with Randy Orton, including a brief reign with the SmackDown Tag Team Championships—his first ever WWE gold. But the addition of The Viper to the Wyatt Family has been far from seamless, and has prompted Wyatt’s brother Luke Harper to stray from the flock.

Orton and Harper will square off earlier in the night, and The Viper’s end goal remains to be seen. But a Wyatt victory tonight would set up a very interesting WrestleMania match between the newest member of the Wyatt Family and its leader.

After being convinced to kick Luke Harper out of the Family, the question is now, "Who is the leader of the Wyatt Family?" Is it Bray, the titular man, or is Orton the true power player behind the throne?

Wyatt can seemingly answer that question in the Elimination Chamber tonight.

What’s at stake

Obviously, the WWE Championship. But there’s more than just the gold on the line tonight—given this show’s placement in the calendar, the winner of this match more than likely will main event (more accurately, be in "one of the main events") WrestleMania against Royal Rumble winner Randy Orton.

Moreover, expect the blue brand to not only set up the winner’s date with Orton, but various other feuds that will stretch to WrestleMania and beyond. As well noted above, most of the men in tonight’s title match currently don’t have an active feud—and what better launchpad could there be than taking away someone’s opportunity for the championship inside the unforgiving Chamber?

The Royal Rumble match, despite being won by a member of SmackDown’s roster, was largely a Raw affair (only three of the 29 eliminations were by SmackDown Superstars, and only 11 of the 30 participants were from Tuesday nights). The Elimination Chamber, though, will go a long ways to shaping SmackDown Live’s 2017.

Elimination Chamber airs tonight, starting at 8 EST live on the WWE Network. Vote in the poll below to let us know who you think will walk out of the Chamber with the WWE Championship—and stick around for much more coverage of Elimination Chamber right here on Cageside Seats, including ReverandKain’s legendary live blog and recaps of match results as they happen.

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