WWE Survivor Series 2002: The Structure That Makes You Believe (Remembering The First-Ever Elimination Chamber Match)

When Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon embraced on the July 15th, 2002, edition of Monday Night Raw, it sent shockwaves throughout the wrestling business. The man who actively pursued (and almost accomplished) killing the WWE was just named the new General Manager to Monday Night Raw. Even more surprising, he was now hugging the man whose family business he tried to destroy. But therein lied the genius of the move. Bringing in a man known for being the ultimate enemy to the WWE and putting him in charge of your flagship show? Brilliant. It would immediately breathe fresh air into the life of a show that was growing stale fast in a post-attitude-era world. While there were plenty of kayfabe Bischoff-led inventions that flopped (still waiting for my HLA), there were plenty that worked. None made a more immediate and lasting impact than the announcement of the first-ever Elimination Chamber match.

Establishing new exciting match types in wrestling is hard. It gets harder every year that passes, as fans get accustomed to the structures and rules they’ve already seen. Trying to introduce something meant to TOP that, is even more difficult. You can see it in things like the 3 Stages of Hell Triple Cage in WCW or the WWF’s Kennel from Hell match. Two valiant attempts (okay maybe not the Kennel from Hell) at taking two staples and forming something new. The steel cage match is one of the first big gimmick matches to be introduced into the world of wrestling. Its roots go all the way back to 1937 when Jack Bloomfield defeated Count Petro Rossi in a match that saw the ring surrounded in chicken wire (https://www.onlineworldofwrestling.com/information/cage-match/). The match evolved over time with breath-taking moments like Jimmy Snuka’s splash off the cage against Don Muraco in October of 1983 in the Garden, or the bloody battle that saw Dusty Rhodes topple the World’s Champion Ric Flair in Greensboro, N.C. at the Great American Bash. The Steel Cage match main-evented many super cards and carried on its duty as a “feud ender”(a match that is used as the final encounter between two rivals) for decades.

Credit: WWE

However, just like anything in life, if you see something enough it starts to get stale. So, in 1997, the WWF decided to reinvent the wheel. Looking online, finding an inventor of the Hell in a Cell match is a little muddled. Jim Cornette claims he birthed the idea by morphing the famous War Games structure from WCW, and the cages in the Memphis wrestling territories. (https://kcvault.pivotshare.com/) Vince Russo does admit Cornette may have come up with the idea, but claims he was the one to christen it Hell in a Cell (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73iUbSJAvYw&t=4m21s) AND the WWE, for what it’s worth, seem to insinuate that the structure was actually based on the rare un-televised Georgia Championship Wrestling war between Tommy Rich and Buzz Sawyer called “The Last Battle of Atlanta” (https://www.wwe.com/classics/last-battle-of-atlanta-rich-sawyer) Regardless of who came up with the idea, it was a pretty simple one. Take the confines of a steel cage and both give more and less freedom to the competitors. Put the cage outside of the ring so the wrestlers can fight on the outside and innovate. But then put a roof on the cage, so there is no way out for the wrestlers and no way in for their running buddies! Well, it’s wrestling so there were some ways in and out.

The first-ever Hell in a Cell match had the perfect two combatants. In one corner you had a seemingly unstoppable phenom in the Undertaker, who for months had been trying to get his hands on the Heart Break Kid Shawn Michaels (he’ll be important later kids) for costing him the WWF title against Bret Hart. In the other, was the Heart Break Kid himself, desperately trying to avoid the wrath of the Deadman. A bigger and much scarier fighter, many would assume the Undertaker could get his hands on Michaels at any time. But HBK was surrounded by his ground-breaking group Degeneration-X that was willing to do anything to help Michaels stay far away from the Deadman. Michaels’s cohorts in DX were Chyna, Triple H, and Rick Rude, and they had made it so that HBK had made it to Bad Blood on October 5th, 1997, relatively unscathed. But on that night, the purpose of the Cell came into play early. With the door locked and a roof on the cage, all the members of DX were locked out. Shawn Michaels had nowhere to run, and no one to save him.

Credit: WWE Network/Peacock
Credit: WWE Network/Peacock

I mean he did, eventually. He got his ass kicked from pillar to post but as most of you know – the Undertakers supposedly dead little brother Kane debuted. He RIPPED the cell door off, and planted Taker with a tombstone piledriver. Michaels won, and so did the fans at home. The match type didn’t just work, it was so well received that it became a staple for the WWF going forward. The next HIAC match that was on Pay-Per-View is the infamous Mankind versus Undertaker match, where Mankind is hurdled off the top of the cell. I won’t go into it since it’s so iconic, but by that point, the match was MADE. There were still some stinkers (Taker/Bossman is a…pass) but matches like Triple H versus Cactus Jack at No Way Out 2000, the Six Pack Challenge at Armageddon 2000, and the passing of the torch with Lesnar beating the Undertaker at No Mercy 2002, all showed the health of this match type. Just six years in, Hell in a Cell had become iconic for the Federation.

October 2002 was also the time for change. Behind the scenes, the now WWE (get the F out!) was working on one-upping their best match type. Instead of waiting decades for the Cell match to get stale, they decided to go even a step further. You’d still have your Hell in the Cell matches for big blow-off one on one feuds. But what if there was a champion who had been ducking all his challengers? One that was winning by hook or by crook? Well according to Triple H, he was the one who drew up the chamber – envisioning a giant square and four boxes (https://www.wrestlingnewssource.com/news/33306/Triple-H-Says-He-Came-Up-With-The-Elimination/) It’s a real crude mock-up, but it makes sense. Triple H at the time was at the height of his “reign of terror.” He had been gifted the new World Heavyweight Championship and cheated to defeat the likes of Kane, RVD, and Chris Jericho. He had new challengers like Booker T breathing down his neck; and you couldn’t forget about his long-time best friend/turned bitter rival, Shawn Michaels. HBK had come back to wrestling after four years away with a severe back injury and fought the Game at Summerslam 2002. It was an incredible contest and one that Michaels won! But after the match, Triple H took a sledgehammer to the injured back of Shawn and seemingly ended his career for good.

Triple H was a champion skating by on the skin of his teeth. And he did it, mostly with the help of Sixteen-time World’s Champion Ric Flair. Flair acted for HHH as DX did for Michaels all those years back, making sure the Game would keep his championship by any means necessary. However, Hell in the Cell successfully kept out DX in 1997, and in 2002 it was time for a new structure to keep Ric Flair out and Triple H in.

I can still hear the words from the promos leading up to the first-ever Elimination Chamber. Eric Bischoff declared that it would feature “six Raw superstars all fighting for the World Heavyweight Title.” It was an “ingenious creation from the mind of Eric Bischoff.” And my favorite Bischoff quote “TEN tons of steel designed to PUNISH the human body.” Just goosebumps man. The match would feature the World Champion Triple H defending his title against five worthy contenders. Rob Van Dam, the man who HHH beat at Unforgiven earlier in the year with the help of Ric Flair. Kane, the man who the Game beat at No Mercy earlier in the year with the help of, you guessed it, Ric Flair. Chris Jericho, who Triple H had been at war with for most of the beginning of 2002, including a Hell in a Cell match. Booker T, the former FIVE-time WCW Champion who slowly but surely had been working his way up the ladder of contention. And then there was Shawn Michaels.            

I’ll warn you now, this is where the article turns from a review of the first-ever Elimination Chamber into a personal story. I got into wrestling AFTER the Attitude era. Sure, I had seen a show or two but I never jumped in fully. But when I finally fell in love with the sport, it was the week before Survivor Series 2002. I barely knew who Triple H was and I really didn’t know who Shawn Michaels was. But Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler were on commentary and did an excellent job explaining everything. Shawn Michaels was in the ring because that Sunday, he was going to compete for his first World Championship in over four years. He had a rough four years away from the sport but found God and legitimately cleaned up his life. The champion was Triple H – Michaels’s former best friend. But their friendship was destroyed when Triple H turned his back on Michaels and tried to end his career once and for all. All of this, little details thrown in between HBK’s promo were invaluable for this first-time watcher to pick up the story. I know it can be annoying when the announcers really hammer home stuff, but I always remember that for a new viewer it can be a necessity.

 At first, it was just Michaels in the ring. He talked about the significance of the moment, the fact that he really shouldn’t even be there. But his faith saw him through. He knew it was a long shot to become World Heavyweight Champion in the Elimination Chamber, but it wasn’t impossible because he believes. Because through God, anything is possible. That’s when Triple H, Shawn’s former best friend, and current champion walked out. HHH ran down Michaels and made it very clear that he, not Shawn, was walking out with the championship at Survivor Series. And then he dropped this line. If you’ve heard Triple H speak before, try and read it in your best HHH impression. “You believe you can become World’s Heavyweight Champion because God said so. Well, let me tell you this: in this arena…I’M GOD.” Then the capper, Jim Ross hits us with “Aw….that’s hideous.”

 That…that was the moment that hooked me. Line and sinker and all. Enough that I used that exchange in my college entry essay (yes I got in!) I just remember being so invested after only ten minutes. Regardless of my personal life at the time, the only thing that REALLY mattered to me? That Shawn Michaels won the World title at Survivor Series. Now I didn’t really know about ordering Pay Per View so I just sorta, waited. We didn’t have a computer either. I just knew I could watch on Monday. And sure enough, I saw the result. But I was able to see the show. About a month later, the DVD came out and I convinced my mom to buy it. So, Survivor Series 2002 was the first “current day” PPV I saw.

This show is unique in so many ways, it saw the reunion of the Dudley Boyz when D-Von rushed to the ring to save his long-time partner Bubba after being on different brands for months. This was after a really fun Elimination tables match that saw Bubba Ray and Spike Dudley along with Jeff Hardy defeat the team of 3-Minute Warning (another Bischoff creation) and Rico. Survivor Series 2002 also holds the distinction of being one of the few PPVs where every single championship that was defended changed hands. Usually, you’re lucky to get ONE title change on a PPV. Here we got FIVE.        

It starts with Billy Kidman (and his absolute BANGER of a theme song) capturing the Cruiserweight championship over the very underrated pairing of Jamie Noble and NiiiiiiDia. While that championship was never really taken seriously in the WWE, this was a period where it was at least devoted actually storylines and proper feuds to it. After that, we had a first, with Victoria dethroning Women’s Champion Trish Straus in a Hardcore match. This wasn’t the cleanest match, but it was great to see the first hardcore Women’s title match with an appropriate feud the likes that Victoria and Trish had.

Right before the Elimination Chamber main event, the incredible duo of Eddie and Chavo Guerrero beat both the WWE Tag Team Champions Edge and Rey Mysterio, as well as the inaugural champions Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit in a Triple Threat title match. This was an elimination tag match, and after Angle and Benoit were eliminated, Chavo used one of the titles to knock out Mysterio. That was all Eddie needed to lock in the Lasso from El Paso to “Lie, Cheat, and Steal” their way to championship glory. Speaking of cheating to win a championship…

The other world title on the line that night was undefeated rookie and WWE Champion Brock Lesnar taking on the returning Big Show. Paul Heyman had been by Lesnar’s side since Brock debuted earlier in the year. But the Big Show had been dominating Lesnar and others since showing up on Smackdown. There is a great bit in the promo package where you get footage of Big Show taking out wrestlers and Paul Heyman’s voice overlaying “You can’t manhandle the Big Show. You can’t suplex him. I don’t think you can get him up for an F5. And Brock, I don’t think you can beat the Big Show.” I bring that up because it’s for one, an awesome example of the WWE video production team. And two, a big old stinking foreshadow. Paul Heyman, ever concerned with his champion’s chances, watches in shock as Brock Lesnar ticks off every box on his advocates’ checklist. He suplexes the Big Show. He manhandles the giant. Hell, he puts him up for a THUNDEROUS F5. And just as the referee is counting to three, Paul Heyman yanks the ref out of the ring and decks him. In the time it takes Lesnar to realize he was screwed; the Big Show nails Lesnar with a chair. He then chokeslams Brock onto it, before pinning him to become the NEW WWE Champion. Four titles defended; four titles changed hands.

Credit: WWE Network/Peacock

I promise you I’m going to talk about the Elimination Chamber match itself, but two even shorter things. Scott Steiner debuts for the company and both: 1.) beats up both Matt Hardy and Chris Nowinski who had just determined that the New York City crowd was “Lupid” (both losers and stupid which, is hilarious looking back) and 2.) Immediately is heard on camera yelling “Give me a fucking mic!” Awesome. Welcome to the show Scotty. But there was one more thing, Shawn Michaels is asked about his chances in the Elimination Chamber, and before he can answer we get an RNN alert (Randy News Network of course). Young Randall Keith Orton, pre-evolution and pre-skull tattoo days, updates us on his injury. These were silly segments but really were great vehicles to let a young talent like Randy try some things out while on the injured list. Interesting how he interrupted Michaels segment. But okay, here we go.

Credit: WWE Network/Peacock
Credit: WWE Network/Peacock

The Elimination Chamber match itself has come a long way since its debut in November 2002. It’s evolved into its own Pay Per View and become a mostly consistent stop on the Road to Wrestlemania. In just a few days WWE will hold their 29th and 30th respective Chamber matches, including its 4th ever Women’s chamber match. It also, to a lot of fans dismay, has changed its look. Gone are the solid steel slates, now they are replaced with padding. I get it, I’m more emotionally attached to the Chamber than most and I had a visceral reaction to seeing them pad the outside. But the fact is it’s both A LOT safer for the competitors and allows them to do way more moves on the outside. It’s like with football. Are big hits fun to watch? Sure. But when I learn how bad they are for the players I love, I’m okay with trying to dampen their ill effects.

The first Chamber however had none of those protections. It also didn’t have any previous matches to look back on. Like the first Cell match back in ’97, these six men were writing their own history. Like any big main event, this match got the big video package treatment. I’m in the minority here, but to me, this is one of the best the WWE has ever done. I love the song “Always” by Saliva being used here. Lines like “I see the blood all over your hands. Does it make you feel, more like a man?” as a bloodied Triple H bashes Shawn Michaels with a Sledgehammer at Summerslam. “Was it all just a part of your plan?” as they wheel HBK out of the arena on a stretcher. And my personal favorite,” The pistols shaking in my hands and all I hear is the sounds…” to Shawn Michaels tuning up the band and NAILING Triple H with the Sweet Chin Music. It’s so worth three minutes of your time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whLn6TkJkgA

Credit: WWE
Credit: WWE
Credit: WWE

Triple H talks to Coach backstage and sets the tone by saying he has “a first-class ticket to hell, I just wanna know who’s coming with me.” Then “I’M BACK” blares through the speakers as Eric Bischoff comes to the ring with a steel pipe to bang against the Chamber. He emphasizes just how brutal this structure is. They really went all out in showcasing the danger and importance of this match, which I think was absolutely the right move. You can hear how real the steel is. There is no doubt, this is going to be dangerous. Now the match itself just had to hit a home run.

The rules are that the first four men to come out will be placed in pods at ringside, and the final two men will start the match. Every five minutes, a new entrant will randomly come out of the pod until everyone is in the match. The only way to win is to be the last man standing after everyone else has been eliminated by either pinfall or submission. Chris Jericho is the first lucky (well luckier) combatant out, however, he is not coming down to his normal theme song. Saliva is playing Jericho down to the ring to the song “King of My World” off the WWE Anthology album. However, Saliva is…not in Madison Square Garden. They are at the -soon to be closed and turned into a Hard Rock Café – WWE The World. Which is a few streets away from the arena. It’s…not great. And this is coming from a Saliva fan. Booker T is out next, no metal band to sing him to the ring but he seems fired up. Speaking of fire, Kane walks through hell, fire, and brimstone to be the third man to be placed in a pod. There is but one short-lived safe haven left. 

On commentary is the legendary duo of Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler, and this really is one of their best performances. Lawler is BIG time behind Triple H here, while JR is believing in Shawn Michaels. Though, Jerry is starting to get nervous that the Game hasn’t come out to be put in a pod. “Sexy Boy” hits and the crowd gets on their feet. Shawn Michaels is the fourth and final man to enter the pods. He is sporting an awful soccer mom haircut and what can only be described as shit-stain brown trunks. They weren’t even finished. They just say H on them. But it’s Shawn Freaking Michaels, so even these aren’t nearly as bad as they could have been. But Shawn and his poop pants coming out fourth also means that Rob Van Dam and Triple H must start the match. The champion draws the worst luck imaginable. 

Credit: WWE Network/Peacock

And oh boy does he draw bad luck. It’s booked beautifully, the World Champion who has survived all these challengers in underhanded ways is the first to taste the steel. He’s the first to get backdropped on it. The first to get thrown into the chain. The fans are here to see Triple H get his comeuppance, and the start of the match is giving them what they want. RVD was HOT before his match with Triple H in September. He had unified the Intercontinental championship with both the European and Hardcore titles. Yes, his loss at Unforgiven had cut his legs out a bit. But Rob Van Dam is SO talented that all he needs is two or three moves and the crowd is back to believing he is the top guy. They call him the whole F’N show for a reason. 

RVD monkey flips the Game onto the steel. And then, like a crazy person (this will not be the last time Rob does something wild), he runs the ropes in the ring and hits a ROLLING THUNDER out onto Triple H and the steel. RVD climbs the pod containing Chris Jericho and Van Dam flips Y2J off in the process. That…was a mistake. Van Dam makes it to the top but Jericho grabs his leg through the chain, which allows Triple H to pull RVD down to the ring. Lawler exclaims “I didn’t know you could do that!” The commentators, just like the fans are experiencing all the Chamber has to offer for the first time.

So are the competitors. The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla himself is the first out of the pods and goes right after Van Dam. HHH is a bloody mess on the canvas, while Jericho hacks away. And okay look. After almost 30 chamber matches, what I’m about to explain to you doesn’t seem that wild but trust me at the time this was otherworldly. RVD tries to jump off the ropes onto Jericho but Y2J ducks. Instead of crashing and burning onto the steel, Van Dam latches onto the chain like freaking SPIDERMAN. Everyone in the building is stunned, including Jericho, which leaves enough time for him to SPRING OFF OF THE CHAMBER WALL into the body of Jericho. There were so many great showings in this match, but RVD was absolutely the MVP. A debuting gimmick match needs defining moments, and Mr. Pay Per View did not disappoint.

At this point, JR and King are on a legendary tip. Triple H is a bloody mess wobbling in the ring as JR shouts “these men are playing Russian roulette with their careers in this environment.” Y2J and HHH are back working together but thankfully for RVD, Booker T is the next out of his pod and he CLEANS HOUSE. And a clear ring for Booker T means one thing. An Elimination Chamber sized spinarooni! Even by Survivor Series, you could tell the crowd was really getting behind Booker. He really was the right choice to face Triple H at Wrestlemania 19.

Credit: WWE Network/Peacock
Creidit: WWE Network/Peacock

With four men in the ring, there is no room for teaming up. Booker and Van Dam square up and show each other respect before trading punches. The stakes are just too high here. HHH finds himself in major danger, Booker T hits the Scissors kick on the champion and it looks like he has him out. He goes for the pin but Jericho nails Booker from behind. Those two brawl on the outside to give way to the biggest moment of the match. Triple H is laying in a prone position, ready for a top rope manoeuvre. But when Rob Van Dam goes high…he goes HIGH.

RVD goes from the top rope to the top of the pod. Because of the curve of the structure, he can’t stand all the way up. RVD seems to mistime the jump and hits HHH square in the throat with his knee and LEGIT CRUSHES HIS LARNYAX. At the time I thought it was just good selling by Triple H but no. Dude had his throat crushed. He couldn’t talk but finished the match. Just a crazy unfortunate accident but thankfully Triple H was able to avoid major injury (remind me to never get into a business when a crushed throat can be referred to as a minor injury.)

Credit: WWE Network/Peacock

 High-risk, high reward comes into play here and Van Dam has taken himself out of the match. Booker pounces and pins him for the 3 count. He then goes over to eliminate HHH as well but the champion is saved by a rope break. The lights flicker to bring out the 5th competitor and it’s….Kane. Which wasn’t the plan. It’s true, HBK’s pod was supposed to open and Kane would come out last and clean up. Instead, they had to call a complete audible and call it on the fly. If you go back and watch with the knowledge you can see some awkwardness, but they do a really good job of hiding it. Six world-class competitors dealing with multiple challenges, and they still were able to put on a classic. It helps that Kane picks Jericho up and lawn darts him headfirst into the chains and then tosses him through an empty pod to a HUGE POP. Lawler with a classic “The plexiglass might be bulletproof, but it ain’t Kane proof!”

Booker T gets back in the ring but Y2J meets him with a low blow. Kane chokeslams the five-time WCW champion and Jericho hits a lionsault to finish off Booker. This was a pretty nice way to protect Booker for the future. Even if they do mess it up. OH, I should shut up about it? Okay moving on. There are BIG HBK chants in Madison Square Garden as the final pod opens and the Heart Break Kid begins just his second match in four years. He and Jericho touch for the first time, an incredible rivalry lays ahead of them. Michaels is hitting everything that moves. “He’s not quick he’s SUDDEN” says JR. But Kane is the big red roadblock. He picks HHH up for a tombstone but it’s countered and Kane is pushed right into a superkick by HBK! Kane is out cold…or so it seems. He sits up but the cerebral assassin doesn’t waste any time and pounces with a pedigree. Jericho hits a huge lionsault and Kane is eliminated after taking all three men’s big moves.

Now it’s down to Triple H, Chris Jericho, and Shawn Michaels. HHH and Jericho are hurt since they came in early, but Michaels is quickly catching up as he is slammed onto the steel multiple times. JR and King are questioning if Michaels back can hold up to this punishment. It’s clear now that HHH and Y2J have decided to team up to eliminate Shawn. Triple H grates his former best friend’s head against the chain and HBK is busted wide open. Jericho is savoring this. Doing little shuffle dances. Shouting at Michaels “YOU WANNA MESS WITH ME HUH?” This is such a great precursor to their feud in just a few months that’s all about how Jericho used to want to BE Shawn Michaels. HBK fights with everything he has but every comeback is snuffed out by one of the two men. He is done. Jericho covers him but Triple H pulls Jericho off the cover. They could have eliminated Michaels right there but the Game wants to do it himself. What a surprise, their massive egos are getting in the way. Jericho and Triple H turn their attention to each other, completely ignoring the wounded Michaels. They trade blows and the fresher Jericho gets the Champion locked in the Walls of Jericho. There is no way that HHH escapes in his condition. And yet.

Credit: WWE Network/Peacock

Shawn Michaels hits a picture-perfect superkick on the jaw of Chris Jericho and pins him to bring the match down to just two men. Just like Triple inadvertently saved Shawn earlier, a well-positioned kick saved the world championship for the Game….at least for now. JR has fully lost his voice at this point, “Do you believe? Do you believe in that man? How can you not believe in Shawn Michaels?” The two friends turned enemies square up and Triple H hits a huge Arn Anderson style spinebuster on the bad back of Michaels. Even with all the pain and injury, the champion has been through tonight; this is Shawn’s second on match back after four years. You have to wonder if he can hold up. 

The cerebral assassin wants to finish it as he drags Michaels to the outside and onto the steel again. He catapults Shawn FACE FIRST into one of the pods and it explodes. Michaels looks done. HHH rolls him back in the ring. The one count. The two. But by God, not the three. Barely a kick out. But a kick out, nonetheless. Lawler is telling JR not to get too excited; JR thinks it’s over but you have to give Shawn Michaels a chance. You always have to. 

Credit: WWE Network/Peacock

Michaels is so out of it he must use HHH’s body just to try and get to his feet. Punch from Hunter. Shawn stays up. Another punch. Michaels wobbles but he is still up. A third punch is BLOCKED. Now a biiig strike by Michaels. JR is hollering “ NOTHING BUT GUTS AND INSTINCT FOR MICHAELS.” And somehow, maybe running on pure belief, Michaels is winning the exchange. HBK whips HHH to the ropes and bamA damn facebuster and clothesline to the steel. The last real flame feels like it was just extinguished. 

Triple H is going to pedigree Michaels on the steel. It’s the only way to finish it. But there is a funny thing about belief, it can take you further than you ever thought. Shawn reverses and catapults the Game right into the chain walls. It’s. Not. Over. 

 Jim Ross again is losing it “Don’t discount this man’s heart, don’t discount this man’s soul…he’s still breathing, he’s still in this thing.” Anyone who has watched the Heart Break Kid compete will tell you that JR is 100% right.  

And now HBK is climbing. Not just to the top rope but oh lord to the top of the pod. We saw this already, we know how this ends. Michaels puts all he has into one big move and hits a PERFECT elbow drop on the game. There are no words I can give that top JR’s “From the top of the chamber, he drove his elbow through the black heart of the champion!” 

Credit: WWE Network/Peacock

Look this melodrama might not be some of ya’lls cup of tea but this shit gives me CHILLS. I love all kinds of wrestling, but there is a reason I pop like a seven-year-old kid when Roman Reigns starts talking shit to his opponents during a match. And we are not short of drama here folks. Michaels does not go for the cover. He knows HHH. He knows he needs to hit one more move. But as he tunes up the band for the sweet chin music, King notes “He can’t help himself! He can’t stop the showstopper from coming out within him!” Should he have just gone for the cover?

HHH rises slowly to his feet. All of Madison Square Garden is stomping along with Michaels. Sweet Chin…blocked! Triple H catches his foot, spins HBK around into a devastating pedigree. Jim Ross calls it, “It’s over.” 

But both men are out. Triple H can’t get the cover. He is crawling. Lawler is literally begging on commentary for the champion to put one finger on Michaels for the cover. He makes it and the referee counts. ONE….TWO….NO. 

                    DO                                              YOU                                      BELIEVE???

Hunter is arguing with the ref now, he pushes him away and grabs Michaels for another Pedigree but is backdropped by Shawn. SWEET. CHIN. MUSIC. ONE….TWO….THREE! JR is on another planet “SHAWN MICHAELS. SHAWN MICHAELS. IS THE WORLD CHAMPION!” I got goosebumps watching it again. I’ve seen this match dozens of times and I still got goosebumps. 

Credit: WWE Network/Peacock

I’m not saying the upcoming Elimination Chamber matches are going to give us THIS level of drama. They most likely can’t for a variety of reasons. But the match structure has survived for so long partly because of just how good this first match was. And what it showed it could be as a storytelling device. Look at Santino’s near fall against Daniel Bryan in 2012. Edge’s two chamber heist in 2009, or Kofimania’s next step in 2019; they all were possible because of the Elimination Chamber. It’s a great match type that, when its strengths are maximized, can produce incredible moments. So go ahead and rewatch the first-ever Chamber match in 2002. And enjoy yourself because that’s what wrestling is all about. I’ll let JR send us home, just like he did twenty years ago.

“SHAWN MICHAELS IS BACK IN THE RECORD BOOKS. SHAWN MICHAELS IS BACK ON TOP. SHAWN MICHAELS IS THE MAN. SHAWN MICHAELS IS THE NEW WORLDS HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION….YOU BETTER BELIEVE. YOU BETTER BELIEVE. BELIEVE…WE GOT A NEW WORLDS CHAMPION!” 

Credit: WWE Network/Peacock

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