Sometimes, overthinking can lead to poor storytelling. Take Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte at WWE’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, a strong match marred by a questionable finish. Sasha, the defending champion, in her hometown of Boston, was jumped by her nemesis before the match started and tossed across the ring and outside of it. She went through an announce table and crashed into crowd barriers. She was about to be carted off on a stretcher when she hopped off and limped her way back into battle. The back and forth between the two women went on for more than 20 minutes minutes, and logic would dictate that, in her hometown, during the main event of a major show, after overcoming tremendous odds, the hero would defeat her nemesis and go home with the title.
That did not happen. Instead, Charlotte hit her finishing move and pinned Sasha clean in the middle of the ring, leaving the hometown crowd confused and a little annoyed as the show went off the air.
Having Sasha win that match was the obvious choice. Vince McMahon, as he often does, opted in this case to avoid the predictable and end in a shocker. But sometimes the obvious choice is also the most satisfying, and Sunday night’s Elimination Chamber main event proved just that.
The Elimination Chamber match, sort of a mix between a steel cage and a battle royal, is one of the more fun gimmick matches in WWE history, in part because of the cage itself, but also because it offers a bit of originality into what is sometimes an otherwise stagnant booking process. But this year, the outcome seemed pretty clear. The winner of the match—which included John Cena, AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, Baron Corbin, the Miz, and Bray Wyatt—would become WWE Champion, facing Randy Orton at Wrestlemania. Orton, who had just won the Royal Rumble to earn his No. 1 contender’s spot, joined Wyatt as a member of the Wyatt Family at the end of 2016, and a confrontation down the road between the two men seemed obvious. Logic would therefore dictate Wyatt winning the title, and battling Orton at Wrestlemania.
And that’s exactly what happened: After one of the better Elimination Chamber matches in the gimmick’s history, Wyatt was victorious after pinning AJ Styles, becoming WWE Champion and winning the first singles championship of his career. For Wyatt, it was a long road of missed opportunities, some caused by injury and some caused by his own string of bad booking: While trying to pass off Wyatt as a monster heel, he was often put in situations where he had the opportunity to defeat a major player—John Cena, the Undertaker—only to have the older star defeat the “New Face of Fear” handily.
The true “fear” amongst fans was that the company would never successfully capitalize on Wyatt. He seemed doomed to midcard feuds and 50-50 booking. Now, finally, he had won the WWE Championship in a match everyone expected him to win. And the response was not bored silence, or anger at a predictable outcome. The Phoenix crowd, which stayed largely silent throughout the entire event, exploded upon Wyatt’s victory. When Orton came out from the back in a staredown with his leader, it was a great moment.
Sometimes predictability can be boring: The string of “Super-Cena” title reigns throughout the 2000s, for example, started to wear thin on some fans who wanted something different. But Wyatt’s victory at Elimination Chamber was proof that you don’t always have to overthink it; that, sometimes, the most obvious story is also the best one.
Paul DeBenedetto is Paste’s assistant wrestling editor.