The WWE Championship changed hands on Sunday night in Phoenix as Bray Wyatt emerged from the Elimination Chamber holding the most coveted prize in WWE for the first time in his career. The result wasn’t a surprise, but it was awesome to see Wyatt holding up the WWE Title to end the night as his “brother” Randy Orton stared at him to set up their WrestleMania showdown.

I will have plenty of thoughts on the main event Elimination Chamber match later. That was the last match of the evening, though, so here’s a look at everything that happened in the order which it took place.

Mojo Rawley defeated Curt Hawkins (Kickoff Match)

It was the battle of former Zack Ryder partners. Ryder is out with a knee injury, so Rawley is working singles matches. Rawley won clean with a forearm shot to the face followed by a tilt-a-whirl powerslam. The crowd didn’t care that much, but WWE will likely keep trying to get Rawley over. I don’t know if it’s going to work.

Becky Lynch defeated Mickie James

They worked hard for about 13 minutes with Lynch getting the pinfall win after James worked on her arm for most the match. It was good psychology because Lynch uses an armbar finisher, so James took it away from her by weakening the arm. I was surprised by the result because I thought James needed the win. Since she returned to WWE full time last month, she hasn’t won a match. Why bring somebody back and have them lose their first three matches? They may do the match again on Smackdown Live in a week or two with James getting the win since that’s how WWE likes to book feuds like this.

Apollo Crews & Kalisto defeated Dolph Ziggler

Ziggler attacked Kalisto before the match started, so it was a singles match instead of the handicap match as scheduled. Kalisto limped his way down to the ring, got the tag and got in a lot of offense on Ziggler. Crews tagged back in and hit a sitout spinning spinebuster for the win in less than 10 minutes.

The real story was after the match when Ziggler attacked Kalisto again to take him out of the picture. Ziggler grabbed a steel chair, put it on the ankle of Crews and stomped on it. The crowd cheered that. Ziggler did it again. They cheered some more. Even though Ziggler is supposed to be the heel, fans chanted “Thank You Ziggler” for him. It’s tough to be a heel in today’s WWE because fans cheer the guys who act like jerks way more than they should. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s just weird to see heels cheered so much.

American Alpha retained the Tag Team Titles in the Tag Team Turmoil Match

The turmoil match featured six teams competing in a match that went about 20 minutes. Heath Slater & Rhyno started against Breezango with Slater & Rhyno getting the easy win as Rhyno hit a Gore, much to the crowd’s delight. Next up were The Vaudevillains, but Slater & Rhyno also eliminated them quickly. The Usos followed and beat Slater & Rhyno, thanks to a superkick.

American Alpha, the Tag Team Champions, faced off with The Usos. This is the feud that I’ve wanted to see for months, but WWE hasn’t pulled the trigger on it. Chad Gable of Alpha managed to pin Jey Uso using his legs to keep Jey’s shoulders down for the pin. After they lost, The Usos attacked Gable and Jason Jordan with a vicious beating. The Ascension were up last. It looked like they might walk into the match to win the titles right away, but Gable and Jordan came back to hit Grand Amplitude to retain the titles.

The match was average, but it accomplished a goal because it does set up the American Alpha vs. Usos feud that can help carry the tag division for the next few months. It wouldn’t surprise me if The Usos won the titles soon.

Nikki Bella vs. Natalya ended in a double countout

I liked the match, but the ending was a surprise. Nikki was cheered a lot because she’s the face and because she’s from Arizona. She was rocking the Phoenix Suns purple and orange colors as well. Natalya was on offense for much of the match. Nikki kept fighting back. It looked like Nikki would find a way to get the pin in her home state. It didn’t happen because they took their fight out to the floor, leading to the double countout finish.

After the match, Nikki was interviewed backstage and Natalya attacked her. Nikki bumped into Maryse, who was standing there with some powder in her hands and the powder ended up on Maryse. Referees showed up to break up Natalya and Nikki brawling. The Maryse thing was likely done to set up the rumored Maryse & Miz vs. Nikki & Cena tag match at WrestleMania.

There will probably be another Nikki vs. Natalya match on Smackdown this week or perhaps the week after. The finish of that match could be a Nikki win or possibly a Natalya win, thanks to Maryse interfering.

Randy Orton defeated Luke Harper

My expectations were high for this match because I enjoyed their Smackdown match a few weeks ago. They topped that match with this performance as Harper reminded people how good he can be when he’s in a 15-minute match like he was here. I don’t think anybody watching this match believed Harper was going to win since Orton won the Royal Rumble, but Harper put up a fight to make it very interesting. It ended when Harper went for a discus clothesline, Orton shoved him away and dropped him with a RKO to win. It was clearly the second-best match of the night.

This is an example of having a guy look like a bigger star despite losing a match. It’s not always about wins and losses. What this match did for Harper was show that he belongs, while hopefully proving to WWE’s decision makers that he deserves a bigger role.

Naomi defeated Alexa Bliss to win the Smackdown Women’s Championship

The story going into the match was that Naomi pinned Bliss in two consecutive tag matches within the last two weeks. She had a lot of momentum going into this match, so I figured Bliss would get the win since that’s how WWE typically books these things. In my preview, I noted that WWE pushed the idea of Naomi carrying the title into WrestleMania in her hometown of Orlando and said that they might be going that route. I picked Bliss and got that wrong because Naomi got the win with a split-legged moonsault off the top rope to capture her first Women’s Title. It was a decent match that was shorter than the other women’s matches on this show. The loss for Bliss meant that her title reign lasted less than two months.

After the match was over, Naomi thanked the fans for their support and they chanted “you deserve it” for her. I was happy for her because she has improved a lot in the ring, has a lot of offensive moves that look awesome and she clearly has a connection with the audience as well. I’m glad that she is holding the title now.

Bray Wyatt defeated AJ Styles, John Cena, Baron Corbin, The Miz & Dean Ambrose to win the WWE Championship in an Elimination Chamber match

There was a new Elimination Chamber structure after WWE used the same Chamber for the first 19 of these matches going back to 2002. The structure was more of a square shape instead of an oval. In addition to that, there was a much softer landing outside the ring. Instead of the metal structure that was between the ring and chain link fencing, there was more of a rubber padding. I’m sure some fans will complain about that, but when thinking about the health of the performers it was a great decision to do that. Everybody in this match took some hard bumps outside the ring and there’s no way it hurt as much as it would have if it was the old Chamber.

The match began with Styles and Cena while the other four men started in pods in the four corners. The order of entrant is “random” in terms of how WWE says it, but it’s really determined by their creative team. That meant that the champion Cena would have a tough time retaining his title since he would have to outlast five others after starting the match. I’ll get back to those two later.

Baron Corbin was the first man eliminated. He had an impressive showing in the match as he dominated much of it only to fall victim to a rollup by Dean Ambrose leading to his elimination. After he was pinned, he attacked Ambrose. Corbin whipped Ambrose into one of the pods and used the chain fencing of the chamber as a weapon. Corbin dropped Ambrose with his End of Days slam and left. When referees finally got Corbin out of there, The Miz went over to Ambrose and pinned him to eliminate him.

The Corbin/Ambrose story should lead to an Intercontinental Title match. It may happen at WrestleMania, but the last two WrestleManias have featured ladder matches for the IC Title. I’m not sure if that’s what they’ll do again and have Corbin with the title there or put them in a singles match.

The Miz wasn’t in the match for very long. After pinning Ambrose, he fell victim to the Attitude Adjustment from Cena and was pinned. I thought we might see Miz attack Cena after the elimination because of their rumored mix tag at WrestleMania. However, if they did that, then it would be a repeat of what we saw with Corbin.

The final three men in the match were Wyatt, Cena and Styles. I thought this part of the match was outstanding, even though the winner was obvious. Styles was tremendous as the smaller guy bumping his ass off all over the ring to make everybody else look great. There were some big spots where Styles hit the Styles Clash on Cena and Cena kicked out. Moments later, Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment on Styles and Styles kicked out. Cena even did a high risk spot when he climbed one of the pods and jumped off with a cross body block on both Wyatt and Styles. When Cena went for the Attitude Adjustment on Wyatt, Wyatt slipped out of it and hit Sister Abigail to pin Cena.

Wyatt and Styles were the final two men in the match. They battled for a few minutes with Styles nailing a bunch of cool moves including the incredible springboard 450 Splash that earned a two count. When Styles went for a Phenomenal Forearm, Wyatt caught him in his arms and hit Sister Abigail, leading to the pinfall win. The match went about 35 minutes as Wyatt was handed the WWE Championship for the first time in his career.

After the match was over, Royal Rumble winner Randy Orton showed up by the entrance. With the arena darkened and cell phones lighting up the arena, Orton had a staredown with his “brother” Wyatt as the announcers yelled about how this would be a main event match at WrestleMania.

What I liked the most about the match was how Wyatt won. Cena and Styles proved how great they were as the previous two WWE Champions. By having Wyatt pin both Cena and Styles back-to-back, it showed that Wyatt is at their level now. If he won the match by a cheap pinfall or interference, then it would have hurt Wyatt. Winning in the way he did where it was clean in the middle of the ring really helped to validate the choice of Wyatt as the WWE Champion.

The booking of Wyatt during his nearly four years on the main roster has been hit or miss. There have been moments where he looked like the next top guy, but his failure to win feuds against the likes of John Cena, Roman Reigns and The Undertaker set him back. At other times, he was completely ignored by the creative team while fans complained about how deserved to have a bigger role. I’m glad that he’s in a featured role now because he has earned it.

The match was outstanding. It wasn’t as good as Cena vs. Styles at Royal Rumble, but still an awesome main event match. Styles was the best performer in the match like he usually is, but Wyatt did a great job and was booked well.

Wyatt will turn 30 years old this May. He tweeted on Sunday night that it was the #EraofWyatt and he’s right because he should be a major player in WWE over the next decade. I’m genuinely happy for him after he struggled as Husky Harris, transformed into Bray Wyatt (his creation, along with the late Dusty Rhodes) and now he’s the WWE Champion. He’s also the son of Mike Rotunda (aka Irwin R. Schyster) and grandson of the late Blackjack Mulligan. Neither one of them was a World Champion, so it was a big moment for their family.

As for Wyatt and Orton at WrestleMania, we have seven weeks worth of Smackdown to figure out what might happen. At this point, Wyatt would be considered the heel in the match, although the fans cheer him. Orton is an ally of his, so that should make him a heel too, right? Not really. Fans love him as well. As I noted earlier, it’s hard to clearly define performers as faces and heels these days. I think Wyatt will stay in the heel role, Orton will split away from the group because Wyatt will have loyalty from Harper and a returning Erick Rowan (due back any time now), so that’s where they may be headed.

I hope Wyatt holds the WWE Title for several months. Just because Orton won the Rumble doesn’t mean he must win the WWE Title too. He’s done it 12 times before. Let’s see what Wyatt can do as the long term champion.

Looking Ahead to WrestleMania 33

With WrestleMania set to take place on April 2, here’s a look at the rumored lineup for the big show that is seven weeks away.

Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title – The match was official last week on Raw. Goldberg is likely going to beat Kevin Owens for the Universal Title at Fastlane on March 5 as well. I think Lesnar will win the Universal Title.

Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker – The match was teased at the Royal Rumble. I don’t expect Undertaker back on television until after Fastlane. Could this be the start of heel Reigns? Maybe.

Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton for WWE Title – The match was set up at Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber. They can call it the “main event” all they want, but I think Goldberg vs. Lesnar goes on last.

Triple H vs. Seth Rollins – There is optimism within WWE that Rollins should be ready for WrestleMania, despite his knee injury.

Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho – This will probably be for Jericho’s US Title unless he drops it to Sami Zayn. I think Owens will be mad after he loses the Universal Title at Fastlane since Jericho was the one who agreed to Goldberg vs. Owens on Raw last week. Owens will likely blame and attack Jericho to set up this match.

John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse – They teased it with Nikki bumping into Maryse backstage. Cena also pinned Miz in the Elimination Chamber match. It’s not confirmed, but very possible.

AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon – Styles needs a big match and the rumor is it might be against Smackdown’s Commissioner since he will probably want a match.

Big Show vs. Shaquille O’Neal – The rumored celebrity match has been teased for nearly one year.

Andre the Giant Battle Royal – I think Braun Strowman is the favorite to win that.

Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley vs. Nia Jax for the Raw Women’s Title – Bayley could get her big Raw Women’s Title win here unless she gets it on Raw tonight.

Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin for the Intercontinental Title – They may opt for the ladder match for the IC Title like they did the last two years. If it’s not a ladder match, Ambrose vs. Corbin makes sense.

Gallows & Anderson vs. Enzo & Cass for Raw Tag Titles – Just a guess on my part, based on what was teased on Raw.

Other than that, we don’t know. It’s hard to fit that many more matches because I just listed 12 matches. WrestleMania might be six or seven hours counting the Kickoff Show, so we don’t know how many matches WWE may choose to do. Finn Balor should be back too and a match against Samoa Joe makes sense. The Cruiserweight division could have a match with Neville defending the gold against Austin Aries. The Smackdown women deserve a match too. There are also the Smackdown Tag Team Titles as well. The current roster is huge and it’s going to be hard to satisfy everybody.

In Closing

I enjoyed Elimination Chamber a lot. I thought it was very good, thanks to the awesome main event match and the memorable moment that happened for Bray Wyatt. Orton vs. Harper was also an awesome match that helped Harper a lot, even though he lost. The three women’s matches were all interesting, but had finishes that I wasn’t expecting. The rest of it was average. I thought the crowd in Phoenix was loud for most of the night and did a great job reacting to all of the key moments.

The Smackdown Live brand is better than Raw. They proved it again on Sunday night.

The next WWE pay-per-view event is Raw’s Fastlane event on March 5. That is followed by WrestleMania 33 on April 2. I’ll be back tomorrow with a review of Raw.

About John Canton

John has been writing about WWE online since the late 1990s. He's written for WhatCulture, Bleacher Report, Layfield Report, Rajah.com and many other places. You can follow John Canton on Twitter @johnreport or email him at mrjohncanton@gmail.com with any comments or questions. For more of his wrestling opinions, visit his website at TJRWrestling.net.