It’s War Games, Survivor Series, and Royal Rumble all in one – it’s the Elimination Chamber? Devised in kayfabe by Eric Bischoff over a decade ago, the Chamber has been used to decide both championships and championship opportunities. The oft-stated forboding nature of this domed structure is palpable enough to have spun off its own annual PPV each February.
There have been 16 such Elimination Chamber matches to date, and here they are, from worst to best.
The Godawfully Ghastly
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Lashley, Test (2)
Any hopes that ECW diehards had of their resurrected brand fulfilling the lost appeal of the original, died in Augusta, GA on this night. Vince McMahon monkeyed with Paul Heyman’s creation one last time before dismissing Paul E one day later, and the result was, in some ways, the beginning of the end of McMahon’s teflon-coated characterization
Crowd favorites Punk and Van Dam were eliminated early to set the stage for Lashley’s (in theory) Superman finish, where he plowed through Test and Show to win the gold. A mixed reaction met Vince’s next big thing, and Vince would soon enter a feud with him that was lukewarm at best. The addition of weapons to this Chamber couldn’t save it.
15. World Heavyweight Championship: Triple H (c) vs. Goldberg vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Kevin Nash vs. Chris Jericho vs. Randy Orton (8/24/03, SummerSlam)
WINNER: Triple H
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Goldberg (3)
Helmsley was saddled with leg injuries, and a noticeable gut, from a lack of his usual workout regimen. He performed exactly 2 minutes of physical work in the match, and scored the victory over Goldberg to retain the gold. Had WWE not been in a rut of dwindling ratings and putrid creative in 2003, Goldberg’s loss would have rivaled his WCW loss to Nash at Starrcade.
Many expected Goldberg to be what they knew him to be from day one: a muscle-bound bulldozer. And he was, mowing through Orton, Michaels, and Jericho to leave himself with the champion. But Ric Flair slid a sledgehammer to his charge, and after one simple knock to the head of “The Man”, a rather dismal SummerSlam ended on such a disappointing note.
14. WWE Championship: John Cena (c) vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Carlito vs. Chris Masters vs. Kurt Angle vs. Kane (1/8/06, New Year’s Revolution)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Carlito (3)
Journey back with me over 7 years to a time when Cena “overcoming the odds” was a fairly novel concept. Cena became the first man in the Chamber’s history (to be fair, this was the fourth such incarnation) to win the match from one of the two starting spots. The match is known more for its aftermath (Edge cashing in the briefcase) than the actual bout.
Angle was gone quicker than a flash, and Carlito and Masters would take over the match. Cena was busted open, and the midcard duo summarily eliminated Kane before Carlito scoring a surprising pin on Michaels. Then Carlito backstabbed Masters with a roll-up pin before Cena, in his crimson mask, rolled up Carlito seconds later to retain the title.
13. World Heavyweight Championship: John Cena (c) vs. Edge vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Jericho vs. Mike Knox vs. Kane (2/15/09, No Way Out)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Edge, Mysterio (2)
This was during the annoying period where both World Titles changed a combined 65 times in 3 weeks (give or take a dozen switches), and Cena’s 3 month reign (an eon in this era) ended in one of the rare times where you knew for sure he was cooked. And it all began when Edge attacked original entrant Kofi Kingston, and Vickie Guerrero allowed Edge his entry.
See, Edge was WWE Champion headed into the show, and he lost the Chamber earlier in the night in a matter of minutes (minor spoiler). So he, being the “Ultimate Opportunist” just finagled his way into this match, and you knew Edge would somehow win. Cena didn’t record a single elimination, amazingly, and Edge speared Mysterio to gain the other title.
The Appropriately Audacious
12. WWE Championship: Sheamus (c) vs. John Cena vs. Triple H vs. Randy Orton vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Ted Dibiase (2/21/10, Elimination Chamber)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Everyone but Orton (1)
This may have leveraged its way up the list a little bit, had Cena not lost the title minutes later to Batista, per Angry Vince’s impromptu booking. As it was, this one was stocked with its share of interesting plot developments, notably in the form of Cody Rhodes interfering for Dibiase to get Orton out first, and a grueling Cena/HHH finish that coulda gone either way.
Sheamus’ first run as champion, before he was a grinning doofus with a latently racist mindset, ended after 2 months, when his real-life mentor Helmsley Pedigreed him. With the Celtic Warrior gone, HHH and Cena had a race to the wire, but Cena proved to be too much, and made Helmsley tap to the STF. And then it was off to put Batista over.
11. World Heavyweight Championship: Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Big Show vs. Great Khali vs. Santino Marella vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Wade Barrett (2/19/12, Elimination Chamber)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Marella (2)
What began as a very mundane, very bland Chamber match (with the crowd even chanting their displeasure) turned into a rather exciting contest by the end, thanks to some surprising booking. Khali and Show were eliminated early on, leaving Marella as the only babyface if you don’t count the love for Bryan. And that’s when things began to get interesting.
Marella surprised Rhodes with a roll-up to eliminate the Intercontinental Champion, and then cooperated with Bryan to get rid of Barrett. In many cases, Santino Marella is merely the comedic patsy, but here, he won the crowd over as he nearly defeated Bryan on several occasions, building to a fever pitch where he finally tapped to the Yes/No Lock.
10. #1 Contender’s Match: Undertaker vs. Batista vs. Finlay vs. MVP vs. Big Daddy V vs. Great Khali (2/17/08, No Way Out)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Undertaker (3)
For the very first time, a Chamber match had merely the opportunity for a title match at stake, as opposed to actual gold. The idea that Khali and the former Mabel would be in position to have a chance to become champion is frightening enough, but they were fortunately done away with before they could bog down the works. With them gone, the real fun began.
It was Undertaker’s showcase, and not since he battered Mick Foley inside Hell in a Cell had he looked so violently dominant. MVP was killed off via a chokeslam off a pod, and Finlay met his end with a chokeslam on the grating. Taker remained with the man he had the best feud of 2007 with, and after brawling it out with his nemesis, a Tombstone put Batista way.
8. #1 Contender’s Match: John Cena vs. CM Punk vs. Randy Orton vs. John Morrison vs. R-Truth vs. Sheamus (2/20/11, Elimination Chamber)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Punk (2)
A chance to face The Miz at WrestleMania XXVII, and a chance to be overshadowed by The Rock, hung in the balance. Consolation prizes included: teaming with Snookie, having your US Title match bumped from the big event, and being relegated to the pre-show battle royal. But rather than focus on the bass-ackward booking, let’s talk about the fun of this contest.
In a creative moment, Punk was eliminated seconds into his entrance, but was allowed to stay per the anonymous GM (remember that?) who ruled that Punk’s faulty pod door unfairly hindered him. Morrison landed a bizarre dive off the chamber’s concave roof onto Sheamus, which coincided a short push for him. Cena, of course, won in the end after AA’ing Punk.
The Excitingly Extreme
7. World Heavyweight Championship: The Undertaker (c) vs. Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk vs. Rey Mysterio vs. John Morrison vs. R-Truth (2/21/10, Elimination Chamber)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Everyone but R-Truth (1)
Although Jericho’s victory would lead to a forgettable angle with Edge for the title (“SPEEEEEEEEAR”), and ultimately a title switch to Jack Swagger, this Chamber provided not only some fast-paced, brutal action, but the ending set up WrestleMania even moreso than Jericho’s title win, and it would lead to the exodus of one of wrestling’s greatest stars.
Truth and Punk were early exits, leading to Mysterio and Morrison to carry the body of the match with their typical stuntwork. Once they were gone, Undertaker was fixing to finish off Jericho, but Shawn Michaels popped up through the grating, and superkicked Undertaker, allowing Jericho to win. HBK got his rematch; the focal point of WrestleMania XXVI.
6. WWE Championship: Edge (c) vs. Triple H vs. Jeff Hardy vs. The Undertaker vs. Big Show vs. Vladimir Kozlov (2/15/09, No Way Out)
WINNER: Triple H
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Undertaker, Triple H (2)
As mentioned previously, this is the era where you’d wake up to a new champion seemingly every other day until Randy Orton, of all people, provided some stability over the spring and summer. But at least the matches weren’t always shoddy. Some of them, like this one, featured a number of main eventers at their hard-working peak. Also, Vladimir Kozlov was involved.
Edge was eliminated in under three minutes via fluke pin, so a new champion was guaranteed. Once Kozlov bit the bullet, you had four credible stars that could have each potentially walked out with the gold. The proceedings whittled down to Undertaker and HHH, who did more in 7 minutes than they did with 30 inside Hell in a Cell. A Pedigree gave Hunter his final World Title.
5. World Heavyweight Championship: Triple H (c) vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho vs. Booker T vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Kane (11/17/02, Survivor Series)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Jericho, Michaels (2)
The first incarnation of the Chamber was not without its glaring botches. For one, Triple H had his throat sandwiched by an errant RVD dive, and could barely speak afterward. In another case, the production crew messed up the order of entrants, so Kane entered one spot early, throwing things into disarray. Otherwise, the match was fueled by a hot MSG crowd, and a great story.
It was Michaels’ second match back and, despite his turd-brown tights and Peter Stormare-hairstyle, the crowd was aching for a great comeback story. Michaels eliminated Jericho to bring it down to he and his old DX buddy, who’d brutalized him over the summer. Michaels won his final World Title with Sweet Chin Music, while the Garden, and Jim Ross, rejoiced loudly.
4. WWE Championship: CM Punk (c) vs. Chris Jericho vs. The Miz vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. R-Truth (2/19/12, Elimination Chamber)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Punk, Jericho (2)
Jericho was unable to fulfill his “end of the world” proclamation at the Royal Rumble, being Brogue Kicked off the apron by Sheamus to send “The Great White” to WrestleMania. But fans felt that Jericho’s consolation prize would be to unseat Punk inside the Chamber, to pay off his highly unusual behavior since his return. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t happen either.
Jericho was a house of fire inside the Chamber, eliminating Ziggler and Kingston (the latter with a retro-fantastic Lion Tamer). But Jericho chose to remove Kofi from the Chamber himself as a grandstanding gesture. During this sequence, Punk roundhouse kicked him out of the door, and a wounded Jericho couldn’t continue. Punk then took Miz out with the GTS to win.
The Hallmark of Hellishness
3. World Heavyweight Championship: Edge (c) vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Big Show vs. Kane vs. Wade Barrett vs. Drew McIntyre (2/20/11, Elimination Chamber)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Edge, Kane (2)
It doesn’t necessarily look like the lineup of a classic cage match, given the occasional lethargy of the 2 big men, and how McIntyre’s fallen down the card. While Edge and Mysterio put together the best finishing sequence in the match’s history, the rest of the match was pretty solid in its own right, with McIntyre shining in particular, baring a rarely-seen aggressive side.
The early eliminations were all rapid-fire, concluding with Rey and Edge doubling up to take out Kane. Once alone, the two traded near-falls for close to 10 minutes before Edge speared his former partner-turned-rival to retain. As a bonus, Christian made his return after the match saving his brother (not “friend”) from an assault by number one contender Alberto Del Rio.
2. #1 Contender’s Match: Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Chris Jericho vs. Umaga vs. JBL (2/17/08, No Way Out)
WINNER: Triple H
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Jericho, Triple H (2)
Proving that the Chamber is every man for himself, Triple H eliminated Michaels, after Hardy had stuck Shawn with the Twist of Fate. After that, Hardy hung in there, surviving one Pedigree, and nearly struck with a Twist on Helmsley, but would fall victim to a second one onto a chair (JBL had brought chairs into the cage after his elimination) to give HHH the shot.
1. For the Vacant World Heavyweight Championship/Guest Referee: Shawn Michaels: Triple H vs. Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho vs. Edge (1/9/05, New Year’s Revolution)
WINNER: Triple H
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Batista (2)
It was a lousy show before this match, but it’s not hard to see why: the entire main event tier was tied up with this one. Triple H dropped the title after a controversial finish in a triple threat match with Benoit and Edge, and had to go through Hell to get it back. His main henchman Batista, on the verge of a crowd-demanded face turn, was also at odds with him.
After Batista dispatched of Benoit and Jericho with assertive ease, “The Animal” worked with his boss to try and rid their former ally, Orton. But Orton dropped Batista with an RKO to eliminate him. Triple H, cunning as he is, didn’t make the save when he easily could have. Instead, an unknowing Batista took Orton out, and made it easy for Triple H to reign once more.