Despite receiving a build that you could best describe as “Hey, it’s a show on the schedule and it has the WWE logo attached to it, so just tune in!”, Elimination Chamber 2021 ultimately provided more enjoyable moments than it did head-scratching ones.
Of those highlights, these three stood out the most.
These were the three things WWE got right at Elimination Chamber 2021.
3. The execution of The Miz’s cash-in on Drew McIntyre
Listen, when it comes to credible WWE Champions, The Miz is only ahead of Mr. McMahon and Jinder Mahal. But if you’re going to put the most hallowed title in your promotion on him (again), especially with how WWE has booked him for most of 2020 and 2021, this is how you do it while maintaining any suspension of disbelief.
Miz did not go back and forth with McIntyre in a 20-minute main event or Miz dominating a fresh McIntyre; he waited until McIntyre endured a 30-minute Elimination Chamber match AND an extended beatdown from Bobby Lashley before he pounced, and even then, he still needed to hit McIntyre with the Skull Crushing Finale to win his second WWE Title.
There are plenty of things to critique about WWE using Miz as the modern version of a transitional champion, but the execution of this match/angle isn’t one of them.
2. Spots/Storytelling in the SmackDown Elimination Chamber
Given the collection of talent that WWE packed into the SmackDown Elimination Chamber match — where the winner earned a WWE Universal Championship match later in the show — it’s no surprise that this opening bout stood above all the other ones on the PPV.
These six men accomplished this by balancing shrewd psychology with innovative spots.
Yes, we saw the usual highspots — like Jey Uso attempting a splash from the top of a chamber pod or a hanging Cesaro knocking Sami Zayn to the floor before doing some pull-ups — but we also saw smart uses of the Chamber, like when Uso sandwiched Kevin Owens’ arm between the Chamber door and superkicked him multiple times to eliminate the prizefighter or when King Corbin drove Daniel Bryan’s knee into the chamber pods.
The latter fostered the larger narrative of Bryan fighting through a knee injury to win the match and earn a Universal Title shot, a great story that led to our best moment…
1. Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns execute an all-time great hope spot
The Universal Championship match that immediately followed the SmackDown Elimination Chamber lasted for a little more than a minute and a half, but Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns made it the most exhilarating minute and a half you’ll see on television (or however you watched this show).
With Bryan barely able to stand thanks to the knee injury he sustained in the chamber, a Reigns win seemed like a formality. However, when Reigns went for the Spear, Bryan caught the champion’s right arm mid-move and transitioned into the Yes Lock!.
For a few seconds, it felt like Bryan would pull off the upset and win his first Universal Title, but the much fresher Reigns eventually powered out of the hold and pummeled Bryan with forearms before applying his guillotine choke for the ref stoppage victory.
It’s rare to use the term “perfection” and WWE in the same sentence, but this was as close to it as you’ll get in this company. Reigns overwhelming Bryan helps maintain his domineering aura while establishing his relative cowardice for manufacturing a situation where he didn’t have to face a fresh challenger for the PPV. Meanwhile, Bryan loses nothing due to him surviving a grueling Chamber match (similar to McIntyre) and him nearly beating Reigns builds intrigue for a rematch with both men at 100 percent physically.