Twenty years of history and a few minutes show why SmackDown reigns supreme in WWE
Elimination Chamber is always a weird event because it feels like WWE is just killing time. Well, that’s because the company is just killing time. But sometimes we get dope matches and even better storytelling out of this event meant to put everyone in stasis.
Last night (Feb. 21) we got the best of both worlds in the SmackDown Elimination Chamber. The whole match was dope, but the Daniel Bryan-Roman Reigns-Edge trifecta was the best storytelling of the entire night and set the bar pretty damn high for WrestleMania.
Going into the Chamber, Bryan wanted redemption for not getting his hand raised and pointing to the sign at Royal Rumble. Possibly outside of anyone not named Edge, he needed to win this match. The plan was simple: survive the Chamber, rest up, and fight Reigns later in the night. Simple, right? Especially for a guy who defeated three-fourths of Evolution in one night to become champion not that many moons ago.
But nothing is ever easy for Daniel Bryan these days. Nor should it be. This is fan-favorite looking for one last hurrah before riding off into a realty TV sunset. How many heroes ever get the happy ending they deserve? Especially when said heroes are underdogs who continuously defy the odds with more heart in one pinky finger than most of us have in our entire bodies.
They always beat the odds until the odds overpower them. Surviving a fight with five other men while getting beaten into steel and chain fencing, plus getting your knee injured in the process? That may as well be the odds shouting this little tune by M.O.P. with no remorse.
When the bell rung and Daniel barely stood to his feet, visions of ‘Mania 30 danced in more than a couple heads.
And then Roman Reigns’ music hit.
Reigns is the biggest bully on the block. He doesn’t fight fair, and he does his best to convince you it’s for your own good. He believes the wrestling world revolves around him and is planted firmly on his shoulders. On the real, he’s the living embodiment of WWE. It’s all about him, and if it’s not, he’s going to do whatever it takes to make sure he’s the story at the end of the day.
Reigns saw what Bryan did at ‘Mania 30. He knows how dominant Daniel can be with just a little bit of rest, even with a bum knee. It’s that bully mentality that explains Reigns’ hesitation to enter the ring and fight the wounded former champion.
Then the bell rings, and Daniel baits Roman into the Yes Lock. Continuing the narrative that if anyone can do the impossible, it’s Daniel, Reigns looks like a man who finally let his arrogance get the best of him. Was he going to submit? Of course not. We weren’t born yesterday, nor are there any turnip trucks around to fall from. But it’s not about Daniel winning as much as it’s about Roman having a kink in his chiefly armor. We have to believe there’s even the tiniest possibility he can get dethroned at WrestleMania.
Perhaps the right situation can throw him off his considerable game. And maybe, just maybe, a smart, healthy, and dangerous wrestler can threaten the champion even more than his ego. Daniel fought valiantly, but it was never about him; it was always about Edge.
In 2021, Edge is a face because, well, duh, but he still maintains his heel tendencies. He has no problem telling Roman or Drew to watch their backs ’cause it’s hunting season. Bryan exploited Reigns’ arrogance earlier, only for Edge to use it to his advantage. If there’s one common thread between Drew and Roman, it’s Edge telling them both they’re not even close to ready for what’s coming.
They’re used to a particular type of competitor from a specific time and place. But Edge? Edge is a different type of cat from a completely different era. He gave Roman precisely what he wanted—to be the center of attention—and all the smoke that comes with such a desire. All it took was one spear for the artist formerly known as Sexton Hardcastle to relay a message to the champion: Edge is still the ultimate opportunist, so he better be focused.
In about ten minutes, WWE used 20 years of history to tell a succinct three-act play. It wasn’t flashy—well, minus the actual flashing fireworks—but it was layered and thorough. If they keep this up, SmackDown’s championship match at WrestleMania will easily be the most compelling of the night, and hopefully one for the ages.