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The most treacherous bump in the Road to WrestleMania 37 looks to be Elimination Chamber, as even the planned lineup of matches took a hit before it could happen.
Despite the fact that this should be one of the most planned-out events during the most important stretch of the year, most of the card needed altering just days ahead of the event, leaving fans questioning what will even be on the show.
At least for now, two of the titular cage matches are advertised, with the WWE Championship on the line in one and an immediate shot at the Universal Championship up for grabs in the other. Other belts are being contested, and no matter what happens, Sunday’s pay-per-view should have major ramifications for the biggest show of the year.
Before the pay-per-view begins, let’s go through one final round of picks and predictions for WWE Elimination Chamber.
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With Paul Heyman’s help, Roman Reigns found a loophole that prevented him from having to defend the Universal Championship inside the Elimination Chamber. All that was required was that he put the title on the line at the event itself.
That fantastic bit of character work is why The Tribal Chief is so great, and the way this all plays out will undoubtedly reflect that story.
It makes no sense for Jey Uso, Reigns’ ally, to win this. Nor would King Corbin or Sami Zayn winning make sense, as they are heels and this is a babyface wrestler’s gig.
One of the three faces on the left in the picture above needs to win so that they will be beaten down prior to the title match. Reigns, fresh from not having gone through the prior battle, will easily retain in an unfair set of circumstances.
As far as who is the best patsy goes, it’s Cesaro. Daniel Bryan makes the most sense because he’s the biggest star of the bunch. Kevin Owens, meanwhile, has unfinished business with the champion. But Bryan is best left for a different title match down the line, and Owens has already had his fair share of shots.
Cesaro, on the other hand, would be an interesting newcomer to the title hunt. He’s fresh to the one-on-one title scene, and fans would get behind him putting up a fight against The Tribal Chief.
It may be asking too much for WWE to finally pull that trigger, but it’s worth getting your hopes up this time.
Prediction: Cesaro wins the Elimination Chamber match and loses to Reigns for the title.
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The original match scheduled for the United States Championship was a Triple Threat with Bobby Lashley defending against Riddle and Keith Lee. However, multiple times on Monday Night Raw, WWE alluded to injuries that could prevent Lee from competing.
Nothing has been clarified about Lee’s standing. That may be a sign that he’s good to go, meaning there’s nothing to announce, or an omen that he’s not going to wrestle and that WWE doesn’t want fans to know this will instead be the fourth time Lashley and Riddle go at it one-on-one.
If the latter scenario happens, it’s an easy call that Lashley retains his title—just as he’s done every other time.
If Lee is in the match, though, that becomes less of a guarantee. It’s still likely Lashley wins, as he could retain by making Riddle tap out so that Lee can still have a singles title shot down the line. Or Lee could upset the odds and overcome Lashley, who has been a dominant champion the past few months.
Since Lee might not even be involved, the smart bet is to stick with the champion, who has been protected well and hasn’t lost many times in the past year.
Prediction: Lashley retains.
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Just as it isn’t clear whether Lee is in the United States Championship match, nothing has been announced for what WWE has in store with the Raw Women’s Championship.
Asuka was set to defend her title against Lacey Evans. However, Evans revealed she’s pregnant, so she’s out of the match.
Rather than come up with a replacement on Raw or announce who would take her spot by the time SmackDown aired, WWE has kept hush. Is that to keep it a mystery and hope fans will tune in to find out, or is it because WWE has no idea what to do and is waiting until the last minute to come up with a solution?
Without knowing whether The Empress of Tomorrow even has a match here, let alone her opponent’s identity, it’s difficult to predict with any certainty. However, if she finds herself standing opposite the ring from Charlotte Flair, history has shown The Queen is always the favorite to win any match, particularly if a title is on the line.
Prediction: Flair wins the title if she’s involved. If Asuka fights someone like Peyton Royce, she will retain.
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Lana and Naomi won the right to be the No. 1 contenders for the tag team titles. Then Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez won the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic to earn a title shot of their own, scheduled for the March 3 edition of NXT.
However, Reginald pinning Nia Jax on SmackDown somehow earned Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair a shot at the belts before the other two teams. It defies logic, but the reality is that this isn’t about the tag team titles at all. This is just a means to get The Boss and The EST of WWE on the card.
Jax and Baszler are a means to an end. They will wrestle a match to eat up some time, and by the end of the segment, Banks and Belair will be arguing with each other to the point it will cost them the match.
That will deepen their animosity so that when Belair challenges Banks to a match at WrestleMania, there’s more to build on.
Prediction: Baszler and Jax retain.
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As great as AJ Styles, Kofi Kingston and Jeff Hardy are, they stand no chance at winning this match. They are there to hold down the fort, provide some great moments and entertain.
Randy Orton doesn’t have much more of a shot, either. There’s a possibility he wins and defends the title at WrestleMania against The Fiend. But it’s more likely that Bray Wyatt and/or Alexa Bliss interfere here and cost him the win.
This is down to Drew McIntyre and Sheamus.
The former has had a better run in the past year and could run the gauntlet so that he looks even stronger heading into WrestleMania. The latter is set to enter last and might have a storyline reason for winning.
If WWE’s plan is for The Scottish Warrior to fight The Celtic Warrior at WrestleMania, it’s more interesting if McIntyre is fighting to win back his title.
Since WWE is expecting fans to be in attendance at ‘Mania, the game plan might be for McIntyre to regain the title so he gets to experience the crowd pop he didn’t get when he beat Brock Lesnar last year. That’s less likely to happen if he simply retains the gold.
But despite Sheamus being a multi-time former champion and having the advantage, there’s nothing saying that’s what WWE will do for WrestleMania. It’s doubtful the WWE Championship match won’t involve McIntyre in some fashion, but it doesn’t necessarily have to include Sheamus.
If one party is a shoo-in to be in the match while the other isn’t a guarantee, it’s wise to pick someone like McIntyre to win in this scenario.
Prediction: McIntyre retains.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.