In Defense of… 05.29.05: The Elimination Chamber (Part 2 of 3) [REPOST]
In Defense of…
By JP Prag
THE ELIMINATION CHAMBER (Part 2 of 3)
Hello my friends, and welcome back to the fifth issue of In Defense Of…! We are entering the mid-life crisis of the Elimination Chamber, that being Part Deux. But remember when the little guy was just a ten ton baby? No!? Well go read In Defense of the Elimination Chamber (Part 1 of 3)!
For those new to the concept, this article has a pretty simple premise: Certain people, events, organizations, and storylines in wrestling history have gotten a bum wrap. Some negative writers have presented overtly critical comments and outright lies as fact, and others have followed suit. Well no more! “In Defense of…” has one reason: to bring the truth to the wrestling fan!
Me? I’m the one and only JP, and I am wicked tired after being on the road for eight days and now my mother is coming to visit so I really can’t sleep because I totally need to clean my place. But enough about how I stayed up half the night after traveling 300 miles just to get this article done even though I haven’t even unpacked yet, let’s find out what you already know.
Will the stenographer please read a synopsis of our first day in court?
Well, first we messed up a major point in the article because the image we were pointing to that showed a picture of the Elimination Chamber toy disappeared from when I wrote the article to when I sent it in. But that brought us to the early paragraphs, where we said we were defending the Elimination Chamber because too many in the IWC crap on a gimmick before it is ever seen, and then continue to live and spread their hatred without ever seeing that gimmick in action. We took a trip down memory lane to show the unfair treatment the ten tons of steel got right here on the 411 message boards, before anyone had even seen it, including the wrestlers! But the wrestlers involved proved they were true artists, making a brand new match on the fly without ever getting to spend a moment even looking at the chamber.
Still, that hunk of steal costs a good $500,000 to construct, but the buyrates proved it was worth it, even at the lowly New Year’s Revolution. CEO Linda McMahon made sure the stock holders were happy with the purchase, and it gave us something to do while the brand extension (I’m thinking issues 18-20) was still in its own infancy. Besides, as the picture that you didn’t see noted, there was plenty of other money to make from the licensing!
But I get it. Many of you aren’t into the whole business end like I am. You think about it as just being a fan…
It’s a last minute thrown together match… with six months of planning
The outright worst lie I have heard about the Elimination Chamber is that it is just a thrown together match to pop buyrates with no long term planning or booking. It has been said that the Elimination Chamber just serves to get as many guys in the main event as possible.
Yes, the Elimination is good for business (see the buyrates in Part I), and yes, it does get a lot of people in the main event.
But thrown together it is not!
To prove this we will examine all of the events that led up to the first Elimination Chamber. I would do this for the second and third, but as you can see, this is pretty huge by itself. Here we go!
Establishing the Brand
As you know, our story began on October 21, 2002, when Eric Bischoff first announced the Elimination Chamber match.
Except that’s not where our story began.
Jump back in time with me to August 25, 2002. The event was SummerSlam, and a lot was going on. Eric Bischoff had recently been brought in as GM of Raw, and the brand split was taking a new direction. The GM’s (Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon at the time) were starting to put more control on their talent, keeping them locked into one show. This became a problem when Chris Benoit decided to jump to SmackDown! with the IC title around his waist (boy, that guy sure switches brands a lot). Luckily, RVD still had a title shot and managed to bring the belt back home to Raw, so Bischoff was very much in RVD’s debt. Meanwhile, former co-owner Ric Flair was feuding with the evil Chris Jericho, and even managed to get Jericho to submit on that hot summer’s night. Later in the evening, Shawn Michaels would get the pinfall victory over Triple H in an “Unsanctioned Match”. Triple H, though, would get the last laugh by hitting Shawn in the back with a sledgehammer and taking him out of commission for a while. But the most important thing that happened was the recently jumped Brock Lesner became the Undisputed WWE champion be defeating the Rock.
The next night on Raw, things seemed business as usual. Kane made his triumphant return to stop the UnAmericans from burning a US Flag with the help of Booker T and Goldust, who has also been feuding with the UnAmericans over the World Tag Team Championships. In the main event, Triple H defeated the Undertaker to become the #1 Contender to the Undisputed WWE Championship. But, a short time later, Stephanie McMahon showed up backstage at Raw to let Bischoff know that Brock Lesner was exclusive to SmackDown!, and so was the WWE Championship.
Things were looking grim, especially when the Undertaker jumped to SmackDown! that week and defeated Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle in a triple threat match (how poetic) to become the new #1 contender.
What was Eric Bischoff to do? Well, all though the weekend, there was much backstage wheeling and dealing, but McMahon would not budge. He had one choice. On Raw on September 2, 2002, Eric Bischoff said the Undisputed Championship was now in dispute. Since Brock Lesner refused to meet the #1 contender for the title, the rightful #1 contender Triple H would be awarded what made up one half of the Undisputed Championship: the venerable World Heavyweight Championship.
Debate all you want about the lineage of that belt (and we will in Issue #45), there is plenty of precedent for stripping the champion of the belt and awarding it to the challenger if the champion refuses to meet the challenger. In 1929, the National Boxing Association withdrew it’s recognition of Gus Sonnenberg as World Heavyweight Champion when he refused to meet credible challengers. The NBA (and later the National Wrestling Association) then had a tournament to crown the rightful World Heavyweight Champion, which was won by Dick Shikat when he defeated Jim Londos. This branch of the title would remain disputed until 1948-1952, when Lou Thesz started gathering all the World Heavyweight Championships to become a true Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion. So we can see from this example that Bischoff has plenty of history to look back on when it comes to withdrawing recognition of a champion and awarding it to someone who he thinks is the rightful and worthy title holder.
Still, a few more things happened that night. For starters, Ric Flair came out and let Triple H know he needed to earn that title, so Bischoff made the match between the two. The 16 to 42 time world champion lost, and Jericho came out for some revenge by locking Flair in the Walls of Jericho. IC Champ RVD then came out for the save, having found out earlier in the night that he was going to defend that title against Jericho at a later date. But because of his interference, Triple H demanded a match with RVD. So Bischoff made the match of Y2J and Triple H vs. RVD and Flair for later that night. And RVD pinned the newly crowned World Heavyweight Champion.
Now mind you, being the IC champ makes you the de facto #1 contender if there are no other #1 contenders around. On top of that, pinning the champ in a non-title affair does bump you up quite a few notches in and of itself. Not to mention that Shawn Michaels had also pinned the champion just a week beforehand, and Chris Jericho was #1 contender to the IC title. But the week before, he lost to Flair, so who had what standing?
It was a bit much for Bischoff, so he set up a Four Way Elimination match for the #1 Contender spot on the September 9, 2002 edition of RAW. The participants were RVD (the seemingly #1 contender), Chris Jericho (the seemingly #2 contender), the Big Show (he’s big), and Jeff Hardy (he’s painted). In the match itself, Jericho got the Big Show eliminated by DQ when he feigned getting hit by a chair, and then pinned Jeff Hardy. Despite running down Triple H earlier in the night, H decided to try to help Jericho by distracting RVD, but to no avail. RVD hit the five-star frog splash to become the absolute definite no doubt about it #1 contender.
That brings us to RAW on September 16, 2002, where Bischoff was in a good mood after invading SmackDown! and pulling off a huge scam at Billy and Chuck’s wedding. He gave Rico a match versus Ric Flair, which Rico actually won! Backstage, Triple H let Flair know how pathetic he had become, and Flair let H know that he didn’t know how to be a champion. Meanwhile, Bischoff also decided that both champion and #1 contender needed to defend their titles that night. So Triple H defeated Jeff Hardy for fun, but RVD lost the IC title to Chris Jericho after interference from Triple H (which also led to Jericho vs. Flair rematch for the IC title at the next PPV). Now this is important: Jericho had defeated the #1 contender to the World Heavyweight Championship just a week before his championship match. Remember that.
Then it was September 22, and it was Unforgiven. You see, back then all PPVs were co-branded. But on the RAW side, two important things happened: (1) Chris Jericho defeated Ric Flair via submission (thus getting back his loss the month before, defeating someone who challenged for the title just a few weeks before, and holding the IC title he won from the #1 contender high) and (2) Triple H defeated RVD. Now, this is important, because RVD had Triple H pinned twice while the ref was knocked out, and then it was Ric Flair coming in and hitting RVD with a sledgehammer that helped Triple H win the match.
The next night on RAW, a whole bunch of things happen that set up some seemingly random matches. Just know that Jericho ended up pinning Booker T’s tag team partner Goldust, and RVD put Triple H through a table. Flair also explained that Triple H made him realize how low he had sunk and was the only one honest with him, and that he was going to rise up again and teach Triple H how to live the life of a WOOOOOOO Champion.
Oh, and Eric Bischoff introduced some kid named Randy Orton as the newest RAW superstar. How peculiar.
Now, on the following RAW on September 30, 2002, Bischoff let us know that IC and World titles were going to unify at No Mercy, so again the IC champ was the #1 contender. At this point in history, that man was Chris Jericho, who was having some arguments with that Booker T character. But that would have to be put on hold because Jericho had to face Kane later in the night for said title. And Kane managed to take the title away from Jericho, despite interference from Triple H. Meanwhile, backstage Bischoff asked Flair about some former SmackDown! talent he was bringing over, but the intrigue would have to wait, for the following week was RAW ROULETTE!!!
Ok, let’s summarize here. Shawn Michaels and RVD both held pinfall victories over Triple H. RVD got his shot, but only lost due to mass cheating from Flair. While RVD was #1 Contender, though, Jericho pinned him and never got a title match. He became #1 Contender for about two hours until Kane pinned him. So Shawn Michaels holds the last full pinfall over Triple H, RVD needs revenge from mass cheating, Jericho never got his shot, and Kane was the #1 Contender. Got it? Good!
That brought us into the fall and the RAW ROULETTE on October 7, 2002. As much as I loved this episode of RAW, only a few relevant things happened. First, Booker T defeated the Big Show in a Steal Cage and then Jericho beat him up afterwards, saying that Booker T’s taunting the previous week caused him to lose the match to Kane… SUCKAAAAA! But Kane was not to be made fun of, as he went through a whole mess of people in a TLC match to claim the World Tag Team Championships with the Hurricane (who was laid out in the back).
The next week was October 14, 2002, Jericho and Christian won the tag team titles, so again Jericho defeated the #1 contender a week before his championship match. And due to much stuff, it would be Jericho and Christian vs. Booker T and Goldust at No Mercy for the titles. RVD vs. Ric Flair was also made, but first there would be a Canadian Lumberjack match on RAW between RVD and Triple H. And then… ok, this gets to be a bit much, here it is in my original notes form:
Meanwhile, HHH has been teasing he knows something about Kane, and that he is a murderer of some kind. Shortly thereafter we learn about Katie Vick. Oh my. Big Show d. Booker T in a falls count anywhere match when Jericho hits Booker with a steal chair in the women’s shower. HHH meanwhile backs a forklift into a door, stopping most of the lumberjacks from making it to his match. RVD had HHH pinned, but Jericho pulled him out. The faces led by Booker T make their way out, a schmoz happens, and then Flair comes in, hits RVD with the title belt, and then HHH gets the pin. Kane comes in to destroy everyone.
Finally, it was October 20, 2002, and there was NO MERCY. Jericho and Christian defeated Booker T and Goldust. RVD defeated Flair. And last, but not least, Triple H defeated Kane with lots of interference from Flair and sledgehammers to unify the World and IC championships.
That brings us back to our first sentence, October 21, 2002. RAW. Of course the Elimination Chamber itself was announced, but other things were going on as usual. We’re going to ignore the start of the Katie Vic storyline except to say it made Kane upset. Kane and RVD also defeated Triple H and Flair when RVD pinned Flair.
On the October 28, 2002 program of RAW, there was a non-title casket match between Kane and Triple H, which Kane won when Shawn Michaels popped out of the casket to get Triple H. Earlier in the evening, Bischoff had offered a spot in the Elimination Chamber to Shawn Michaels, but he had one week to get back to him. Oh, and the Big Show got traded to SmackDown!
All right, time for another summary. Shawn Michaels had a legitimate pin over Triple H just before he “won” the Championship. RVD had a pinfall victory over HHH and still needed revenge after Flair cost him the match. Since then, he had beaten Flair a number of times. He had also beaten Triple H in tag team contests (without pinning him, though). Jericho pinned RVD when RVD was #1 Contender, but never got his shot. Kane defeated Jericho when Jericho was IC champ and #1 Contender to take the spot from him. He lost to Triple H but then defeated him again in a casket match. Meanwhile, Booker T had defeated the Big Show, but Jericho had been harassing him and cost him a match against the Big Show. So Booker T was looking for revenge on Jericho and had some high profile wins. Jericho wanted revenge on Booker T and Kane, but also wanted his #1 contender’s spot. Kane wanted revenge on Triple H for the Katie Vick stuff and his #1 contender’s spot after beating Triple H in a casket match. RVD still needed revenge for his two losses to Triple H from insane outside interference and needed a closed in environment. Shawn Michaels wanted revenge on Triple H for the sledgehammer and had a right to the #1 contender spot as the man who pinned Triple H just before Triple H was granted the championship. Big Show might have had a spot since he pinned Booker T, but since he was moved to SmackDown! all of that was null and void.
And a few weeks later, we had the first Elimination Chamber.
Did you read all of that? Now that, my friend, is build-up. There was legitimately three months of buildup to the Elimination Chamber, including an incredibly complex interweaving of storylines to make the environment possible. And I left out a LOT of details and many of the sub-storylines also going on (The UnAmericans, Buh Buh Ray Dudley, the Hurricane, Bischoff and Stephanie, etc…).
I started to do the same thing for the second chamber, and traced the storylines that led to it all the way back to April 7, 2003. Don’t forget that the Elimination Chamber II did not take place until SummerSlam! And I’m sure I could do the same with Elimination Chamber III, but we have simply run out of room and time.
Oh, and anyone who says that this was still thrown together, you need to realize how far back the Elimination Chamber was planned. That monstrosity took six weeks to build. Now, first it needed to be designed and conceptualized, and then it had to be bided out and finally made and transported. That’s not something you can do on a whim. The Elimination Chamber was planned for a long time, and these storylines were the culmination of that long-term concerted effort.
Still, the build-up was not the end of the impact of the Elimination Chamber. There’s always an aftermath. But first…
That brings us to the end of this week’s session. We spent a lot of time on background information, but I could not just say, “A lot of stuff happened” and have you believe me. There is the evidence, right there in kayfabe format. Next week, we’ll wrap up this case with at least two sub-sections! Probably more. Be prepared for the aftershock, more planning, a pinfall victory, and a little piece I like to call Running Jokes.
Until then, the defense rests.
Know a particular person, event, organization, storyline, etc… in wrestling history that needs a defense? E-mail the One and Only JP at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll be glad to hear your case.