Thursday, 14 May 2015

Iron Will - The Anthology Of The Elimination Chamber

Image Source: Wrestling 101
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 513 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: August 18 2010

Having recently reviewed The Ladder Match and Hell In A Cell, I now review another DVD based on a match type, the Elimination Chamber. A 16-foot domed structure of chains and steel which includes pods to hold incoming wrestlers, the stipulation was an immediate success and, for many years, the Chamber match was guaranteed to raise interest and PPV buy rates.

Like HIAC, the PG era and the decision to give the Chamber its own PPV hampered this stipulation, and nobody knows when the next such bout will be. Since the cage cost either $250,000 or $500,000 to build (reports vary), one imagines that we will see it again, and I hope we do: unlike Hell In A Cell, you can have a great Chamber bout in PG conditions, and even the 2013 and 2014 clashes were both really good.

As things stand, then, this DVD (called Iron Will in the UK, but named Satan's Prison in the US, as evidenced by graphics which aren't changed for the European version of this release), captures the Elimination Chamber in its prime. The original match at Survivor Series 2002 is very good and would be remembered more fondly had Triple H not been in his loathed-for-real phase (look out for the very serious throat injury that Rob Van Dam accidentally inflicts upon him here). But it is a great match, and Shawn Michaels wins to become World Champ in only his second WWE bout since 1998 (by the way, Shawn and Kane were apparently meant to come in at the opposite times that they did).

Match two from SummerSlam 2003 sees Goldberg at his dominant best, destroying everything in sight. But the ending was a downer at the time and remains baffling today: one sledgehammer shot by HHH beats the then-unbeaten-in-WWE Goldberg and, whilst Da Man became World Champ at the following month's Unforgiven, he really should have triumphed here. Match three is, to me, the best Chamber match ever: an absolute super brawl from New Year's Revolution 2005 for the then-vacant World Title that features loads of big moves and drama, advances the brilliant Triple H-Batista storyline and even has Shawn Michaels as special guest referee!

The fourth bout is from New Year's Revolution 2006. It's good, but the weakest so far at the time (although we do get Edge's cash-in of Money In The Bank as a bonus match which is a nice touch). But that's nothing compared to the following Extreme Elimination Chamber at ECW December To Dismember 2006. On paper, it should have been the most violent yet, and I don't think it was as bad as some made out. But it is the worst to date, largely because it served as an insult to the diehard ECW fans and talent. Explaining why would be a story in itself (I shall write in full when covering a DTD review), but just know that the booking of this match screwed Sabu, gave CM Punk a cheap first loss in WWE, played a big role in Paul Heyman leaving WWE the next day, and helped to convince Rob Van Dam to also leave when his contract expired the following summer.

From there, we go to No Way Out 2008. Two Chamber matches in one night felt weird at the time, but both were for World Title opportunities at WrestleMania XXIV, and both are great matches. One sees The Undertaker and Batista renew their epic rivalry in grand fashion (and Taker hits a stunning chokeslam on MVP), whilst the other is a collection of stunning moves (Umaga and Jeff Hardy hit the best ones) and helps to establish Jeff as a future WWE Champion despite HHH winning.

This starts the era of two Chamber bouts on the same card. Both of those at No Way Out 2009 are superb: one is carried by The Undertaker, Triple H and Jeff Hardy, and the other sees Edge at his Ultimate Opportunist best. He actually loses the WWE Title early in the first one, before attacking Kofi Kingston to enter and eventually won the second one. At the time, this was all unexpected, and even though you know it's all scripted, it's one of those moments where the fan inside you says "Edge is awesome!"

The DVD ends with the stipulation having officially gotten its own PPV in 2010, a bad thing in hindsight, but we do get two good Chamber matches to end the compilation. John Cena's victory and subsequent loss to Batista are a bit too similar to the 2006 experience but fun nonetheless, whilst the World Title bout from the same show is enjoyable but a little disappointing, although its ending was a great way to build to WrestleMania XXVI, despite its predictability at the time (by the way, Undertaker was accidentally set on fire during his entrance due to a pyrotechnic malfunction; imagine being the guy responsible and having Taker confront you after that mishap).

I think the Elimination Chamber is a bit underrated as an actual concept: it is the storylines surrounding it having weakened and the reduced star power in recent times rather than in-ring performances and a lack of violence which have damaged its reputation (and the poorly-promoted PPV). Its future is unknown, other than knowing that it probably will have one; here, though, we get to relive the glory days of the Elimination Chamber, and I came away thinking it was a great wrestling DVD and a nice snapshot of WWE from the post-Attitude Era period to the modern PG times.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 - Excellent

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