Long before anyone got their hands raised, Sunday night’s Elimination Chamber pay-per-view matchup between The Shield and the Wyatt Family was clearly a signature victory for WWE’s creative team.
Instead of either of these rogue factions becoming a 30-man old-timer-dominated fraternity sucking the air out of anything else on the card (see NWO, Aces & Eights), WWE stayed disciplined in their approach and allowed the match’s participants to establish stardom outside of suffocating shadows.
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Mission accomplished. Up until Sunday night inside the Target Center in Minneapolis, it still wasn’t fully clear which Shield member would take the lead when the “Hounds of Justice” eventually split, even with Roman Reigns’ dominating performance in the Royal Rumble match.
The Wyatt Family has more resembled the formula of Edge and his doppelgangers (Long Island’s own Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder), where a leading man/supporting actors structure was established from the start. Regardless, the ultimate goal of pushing Bray Wyatt into WrestleMania premier match legitimacy has been successful while Erick Rowan and Luke Harper developed into solid hands if nothing else.
In a sense, the main goals of these teams have already been met, creating the potential of Sunday’s match being nothing more than the anticlimactic blow-off of the partnerships so the singles pushes could begin.
But the crowd wouldn't allow the energy to wane, chanting "This is awesome!" and countering chants of "Let's go Wyatts" and "Let's go Shield" before the matchup even began. At one point the crowd's biggest cheers were for the Sheild's Seth Rollins as his high-flying attack took down Harper. Rollins has excelled in the ring despite often being the third wheel creatively compared to Shield counterparts Reigns and Dean Ambrose, showing the real-life competitive nature of young grapplers trying to get ahead within the the writer-manipulated storylines.
Rollins eventually took a beating from the Shield, but in an ensuing melee delivered a flip outside the ring onto Harper that was anything but the work of an also-ran.
Rollins would eventually pay for his efforts, as Harper and Rowan put him on top of the main announcer table and double-chokeslammed him onto to the Spanish announce table.
With both Rollins and Ambrose incapacitated outside, the Wyatts caught Reigns in a three-on-one attack. Reigns escaped one Sister Abigail finisher from Bray Wyatt, but the odds were too much for Reigns, and Wyatt finally landed his finisher for the win.
In other matches:
* Batista, who will be in the main event title match at WrestleMania thanks to his Royal Rumble win, survived a premeditated attack by Alberto Del Rio to get the win Sunday night. Alberto came to the ring in his street clothes feigning injury, but took the early advantage by nailing Batista with a crutch.
* In the Elimination Chamber pre-show match, brothers Cody Rhodes and Goldust got the win over Ryback and Curtis Axel. The crowd in Minneapolis was treated to an appearance by local icon and former AWA star Larry "The Ax" Hennig, who accompanied grandson Axel and Ryback to the ring.
* Big E (nee Langston) retained his Intercontinental Title with a win over Jack Swagger.
* The New Age Outlaws retained the WWE Tag-Team Titles with a win over Jimmy and Jey Uso. Billy Gunn got a rollup pin in the end after the Usos had controlled a good portion of the match.
* In the battle of former Primetime Players tag-team partners, Titus O’Neil pinned Darren Young.