The Elimination Chamber, for what it’s worth, is among the better of WWE’s gimmick match concepts. Elimination matches are always interesting in general—they promise more pinfalls (obviously) but also the chance of pinfalls coming in more unorthodox ways, which is a refreshing change of pace. If Sami Zayn ever manages to get a pinfall off a Blue Thunder Bomb, you can be sure it will probably be within the context of an elimination match.
With that said, the Elimination Chamber itself seems to emit a certain field of incompetence that makes things within it go terribly wrong. It’s as if the competitors routinely forget the rules of the match as soon as they set foot within the cage, so let me give you a very brief primer:
1. It’s a six-man match. Two men begin the match in the center of the ring, which is surrounded by four pods containing other wrestlers.
2. Every few minutes, a pod opens, releasing another competitor into the match.
3. The match continues until everyone has been eliminated (by pinfall or submission), and only one survivor remains.
Simple, right? Well no, not at all, if we’re looking at the 2015 Elimination Chamber. The event featured two chamber matches, and was immediately unique in the fact that they were being used for the tag team titles and Intercontinental Championship rather than the world title. What unfolded was an absolute mess, as both of the matches more or less came off the rails entirely. And although the tag team chamber match was bad, filled with wrestlers inexplicably forgetting the rules and stopping OTHER TEAMS from being pinned, it was the IC TItle match that shines as one of the most top-to-bottom sloppy, hilariously botched matches in recent WWE history. This match was so messed up that the WWE didn’t even hold an Elimination Chamber PPV in 2016, snapping a streak of hosting them every year since 2010. They literally messed up so badly that the company reconsidered even doing this type of match again.
Therefore, on the eve of the 2017 Elimination Chamber event (now a Smackdown Live exclusive PPV), let’s look back on an annotated journey into everything that went wrong in the 2015 IC Title Elimination Chamber match.
Everything That Went Wrong in the 2015 WWE Elimination Chamber Match
- Before the match has even begun, we’re off to a bad start. Rusev, who was one of the only announced chamber match participants with any kind of storyline (he’s feuding with Dolph Ziggler, who is also in the match), breaks his foot in advance of the match and is replaced at the last minute by Mark Henry. One of the immediate favorites to win the match has been replaced by a guy who has had no time to prepare … which will pay dividends later on.
- The designated jobber of the match, R-Truth, who has a zero percent chance of winning and is only there to fill another pod, for some reason doesn’t enter with his usual rap performance. No idea why; it’s like someone just forgot to hand him a mic. His face says “I do not want to be here.”
- JBL describes the pods: “These pods are made of Lexan glass, which is the exact same material that is used for armored vehicles.” So by all means, keep that in mind.
During the Match
- The match starts pretty conventionally, with Wade Barrett largely dominating both Ziggler and R-Truth until the first major accident occurs and sends everything spiraling out of control. Seeking to punish Ziggler, Barrett shoves him back into the pod containing Mark Henry … and the cheap plexiglass “armored vehicle” panel immediately pops out of place, collapsing to the ground with Ziggler. There’s now nothing to keep Mark Henry in his pod, and he takes a tentative step outside, only to freeze because he has no idea what he’s supposed to do or whether he should exit or not. He asks the ref what he should be doing, and the ref helpfully signals a ”shrug, I dunno, man!” The equally confused cameraman drifts between different competitors until Henry decides “fuck it” and awkwardly enters the match.
- While Ziggler and Barrett brawl, Henry stands rigidly in place like a zombie, watching them in confusion over what he should be doing. Barrett then hits a signature move on Ziggler and goes for the pin … only to have the pin BROKEN UP BY HENRY, who is so flustered that he’s apparently completely forgotten that he’s in an elimination match. Announcer JBL immediately lambasts him, saying that he should have climbed on top of Barrett to HELP make the pin instead.
Henry: “So I’ll just lurk here for a while, then. I’m not on camera, am I?”
- JBL, confused about the circumstances of Henry’s entrance, wonders aloud whether this means that Henry’s pod is could still be the next one chosen to “randomly open,” because “he’s not officially in the match yet,” then suddenly cuts off (probably because there’s someone in his headset yelling at him) and changes topics.
- Ziggler, seeing that the match is completely descending into chaos, decides he needs to become the official play-caller and stalls the action while screaming orders to the other participants, and even to the referee! The announcers try to cover by suggesting that Dolph is somehow trying to “negotiate a deal in there” while four participants mull around not doing anything, but then concede “I don’t think any deals were struck.”
“Okay ref, you go over in that corner, and I’ll stay here. Henry, Ryback, R-Truth, you guys just stand there and don’t do anything.”
- The buzzer sounds, signifying the opening of the final pod containing Sheamus. However, the heel Sheamus has craftily wedged the door shut by using the Celtic cross necklace around his neck, so he can avoid entering the match until later to pick up the scraps. It’s an excellent heel strategy, except for one thing—none of the announcers can see that he’s rigged his pod not to open, so they just say “the door’s stuck!”
- Ziggler continues running the match in the interim, yelling things like “clothesline me!” for the entire audience to hear.
- Sheamus goes out his way to reveal his ruse to the audience, removing the cross, showing it off and theatrically opening the pod door to join the match. But once again, the announcers completely miss what is happening. JBL says “he fixed it!”, ostensibly playing a heel announcer, but Jerry Lawler (who is supposed to be a good guy) has no idea what’s going on and says “did he pick the lock with that Celtic cross?” In doing so, the commentators completely fail to get Sheamus’ heel move over to the audience watching at home.
A Moriarty-level deception.
- Sheamus’ first action after leaving the pod is to throw Ziggler back into his pod, which immediately and effortlessly knocks ANOTHER indestructible armored car Lexan glass panel out of place for the second time in one match.
Wow, folks. What a match, and what a bungled mess of an event, with only Dolph Ziggler making any kind of concerted effort to keeping the match from just grinding to a halt. It goes without saying that the crowd is for the most part completely dead throughout—they could not have cared less about what was going on in the ring, and you can’t blame them for it.
It’s tough to imagine any way that Sunday’s Elimination Chamber match could possibly be worse, but if it somehow manages to accomplish that feat, you can bet that it will be a lot of fun to break down.
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and wrestling geek. You can follow him on Twitter.