Tim Fiorvanti recaps every match in Sunday's WWE Elimination Chamber pay-per-view card, which takes place from Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix. Senior stats analyst Sean Coyle offers ratings worth a maximum of five points. Criteria for ratings is based on storytelling, in-ring execution, match psychology, timing and innovation -- worth up to one point each.
The following was updated in real time.
Elimination Chamber match for WWE championship: Bray Wyatt def. AJ Styles, John Cena (c), Baron Corbin, Dean Ambrose and The Miz (34:20)
For full recap and ratings, click here.
WWE SmackDown women's championship: Naomi def. Alexa Bliss (c) by pinfall (8:20)
Naomi got a quick two-count and started jawing with Bliss right off the bat, which led to Bliss getting annoyed and throwing her gum at her title challenger. Bliss took the resulting aggression from Naomi to trap her and set the early pace. Naomi was given a face full of ring post at full momentum and, despite Naomi talking about "snatching" Bliss' hair, Bliss was the one utilizing Naomi's hair against her.
Things finally started to turn around for the challenger when they both fell in the middle of the ring following a simultaneous punch and kick. Her surge led Naomi to hit a blockbuster off the top rope, but after earning a two-count, a rear-view ended the exact same way, with Bliss getting up before the three count.
Bliss hit a backflip knee combination, and set Naomi up in a spot where she could hit Twisted Bliss. But Naomi hit a step-up kick to knock Bliss to the outside. A snap-DDT earned Bliss a two-count of her own, which led her to throw a childish tantrum complete with flailing limbs and almost led her to lose after Naomi hit an "eat-de-feet"-esque move and just narrowly missed her split-legged moonsault. Bliss rolled Naomi up and nearly retained her title by putting her feet on the ropes, only to get caught red-handed.
The champion went up to the top rope once again to try for Twisted Bliss, but Naomi got her knees up, nailed her split-legged moonsault, and earned a shock SmackDown women's title victory.
"I've envisioned this moment for many years, and it feels really good to be in it," Naomi said immediately following her victory. "Alexa Bliss has been one hell of a champion -- she snatched me bald tonight, literally -- but I snatched that title, and I'm taking it home to Orlando, and WrestleMania, baby!"
If she does indeed hold the title until WrestleMania 33 in Orlando, there's only one question remaining: Who will be there to meet her for the title?
Randy Orton def. Luke Harper by pinfall (17:15)
After a creepy backstage promo from Orton and Bray Wyatt, in which they promised the beginning of the "Era of Wyatt," Orton took to the ring against former Wyatt Family compatriot Harper.
Both men stalked each other in the early going. Harper took control outside the ring with a series of open-handed palm strikes to the face and body of Orton, and then showed signs of agility with a big drop-kick and a fall from the top rope to the outside that left him with a face full of ring apron.
Rather than leave the ring and stay on Harper, Orton merely waited for his opponent's return. They once again left the ring as Orton hit his patented side suplex onto the primary announcer's table. Orton hung onto a rear chin lock for several minutes, and then dropped Harper belly-first onto the top rope -- and he showboated again as he climbed to the top rope in his signature arms-spread pose, mocking his opponent and letting him recover.
Orton went right back to the well with that reverse chinlock, but Harper fought out briefly with some more palm strikes and forearms. A senton atomico, which sent Harper springboarding over the top rope, was followed by a massive boot and the first two-count for Harper in the match. As Orton set up his hangman's DDT, Harper countered and sent Orton throat-first into the middle rope; it only got more impressive after Harper hit a topé suicida through the middle rope that sent Orton flying over the announcer's table. As Harper contemplated putting Orton through the table, or perhaps hitting a discus clothesline, Orton hit a power slam on the floor.
A massive superplex, shades of Orton's father "Cowboy" Bob Orton, left Harper prone in the ring (not to mention both men worse for the wear). An RKO attempt got thrown by the wayside, but a full nelson slam allowed Orton to pick the momentum back up, leading to a dramatic edition of the hangman's DDT that seemed poised to set Orton up for the victory. He showboated too much, though, and ate a pair of superkicks to the face, nearly giving Harper a three-count.
Harper stalked around the ring, looking to finish off Orton, and dodged another RKO attempt with a sit-out power bomb for yet another near-fall. Both men, exhausted, traded stiff shots to the face while on their knees, with Harper getting the edge and setting himself up for his finishing discus clothesline. Orton denied his arm and hit the RKO out of nowhere to get the pin. There's no denying this was the greatest in-ring showing in Harper's WWE career, promising big things ahead for this agile big man.
Nikki Bella and Natalya fought to a double countout (13:40)
After a lengthy video package showcasing the good (and many, many bad) times they've had together in recent months, Bella and Natalya finally locked horns in the middle of the ring. After Natalya got things going with a slap to the face, she and Bella surprisingly exchanged some chain-wrestling in the early going.
Natalya got the crowd against her by talking to the camera with lines like "I'm the wrestler" before mocking the signature taunt of Bella's boyfriend John Cena by saying, "You can't see me." After several more submission efforts from Bella, a clothesline from the apron to the floor earned Bella big cheers. While Bella's technical showing in the ring may have surprised some, Natalya reminded anyone who forgot just how good she can be in the ring with some sharp maneuvers including a beautiful snap-suplex.
After stepping on Bella's stomach, Natalya took her heelish approach to another level by openly mocking her opponent's mother, who was ringside in the Bella's hometown of Phoenix. After Natalya loudly disparaged her again, Bella had enough and briefly slapped on Cena's signature STF. Natalya wouldn't stay down for long, though, hitting a Michinoku driver for a two-count, only for Bella to hit a massive forearm to the face.
A spinebuster also earned Bella a two-count, and she similarly failed to capitalize on a springboard Enziguri kick. It turned around in a hurry for Bella as Natalya hit a superplex, but as Natalya attempted to apply the sharpshooter, Bella turned it around into a fearless lock. Both women spilled outside of the ring, leading to a non-finish in an otherwise great match, and then Natalya got in some extra-curricular activities with a cheap shot and a number of blows to the back of Bella's head. Bella hit a massive spear on the ramp, and, as it quickly became clear, this conflict is far from over.
WWE SmackDown tag team championship: American Alpha (c) def. Heath Slater & Rhyno, Breezango, The Usos, The Ascension and The Vaudevillains in a tag team turmoil match (21:10)
Former SmackDown tag team champions Slater and Rhyno kicked things off against Breezango, with Tyler Breeze and Fandango decked out in almost blindingly all-white ring gear. Slater and Fandango started in the ring, with Slater delivering an atomic drops to Fandango and Breeze, followed by a tag to Rhyno, who took Breeze apart step-by-step before tagging Slater in, which proved to be a mistake. A blind tag by Fandango gave Breezango control of things, highlighted by a strong double-team kick to Slater's head. After a roll-up attempt went awry, Fandango missed a blind tag-in by Rhyno and received a Gore for his troubles, as Breezango was eliminated via pinfall.
The Vaudevillains came out next, with Slater hitting a top-rope leap onto both Simon Gotch and Aiden English. In the chaotic aftermath, The Vaudevillains trapped Slater in the corner. But after Rhyno cut down Gotch with a Gore, Slater hit his patented elevated DDT before The Vaudevillains were eliminated via pinfall.
Next out were The Usos. Jimmy Uso started with Slater, but after spending a significant stretch in the ring during the first two matchups, Slater had to tag out and leave it to Rhyno. The Usos kept Rhyno isolated from his partner for a stretch, forcing him to tag out to an exhausted Slater. After a Samoan drop led to a two-count, a blind tag allowed Jimmy Uso to hit a superkick, as Slater and Rhyno were eliminated via pinfall
American Alpha, the SmackDown tag team champions, came out to revive hostilities from a few months back. With only The Ascension left to go, undoubtedly the two strongest tag teams in the division on SmackDown were surprisingly not left to the end. The Usos kept the fire on Chad Gable, using double-team attacks and under-handed tactics behind the referee's back to make sure they kept him broken down and away from Jason Jordan.
Gable took out both Usos, but he and Jimmy ended up double-clotheslining each other in the middle of the ring. Jordan got the tag and suplexed The Usos all over the ring as he took down the straps on his singlet. A hot tag to Gable ultimately led to a roll up on Jimmy as The Usos were eliminated via pinfall. Clearly unhappy, however, with the way things had gone, The Usos laid an extended physical beatdown on both Jordan and Gable, including a top rope splash on Jordan to leave them prone and vulnerable for The Ascension -- the final team in the match.
Konnor and Viktor quickly hit The Fall of Man on Jordan and it took Gable diving in to save him to prevent American Alpha from losing the titles. At several points during this final confrontation, it appeared that The Ascension was destined to pick up the victory, but a head-first dive off the top rope missed for Viktor, followed by a late blitz for both teams led to American Alpha hitting Grand Amplitude, which allowed Jordan and Gable to retain their titles.
2-on-1 handicap match: Apollo Crews and Kalisto def. Dolph Ziggler (7:20)
It looked as if Ziggler had outsmarted everyone again by removing the troubling aspect of a heel playing the underdog in a handicap match by taking out Kalisto before the match started. Ziggler blindsided him during his entrance and threw him into one of the video boards on stage. Crews, still anxious to get his revenge, got started in earnest and dove right into the match with Ziggler.
They traded blows back-and-forth, perfectly displaying the animosity that has formed between the two of them, and Ziggler hit a hangman's neckbreaker to bring things down to a much slower pace. Just like in the opening contest, this match had an old-school feel, as Ziggler concentrated on breaking down the head and neck of Crews. A big elbow and a rear chinlock wore Crews down more, and Ziggler hit a back elbow as Crews started to make a comeback. Strike after strike to Crews' upper-body worked counter to Ziggler's typically brisk pace, helping him establish more of a heel persona.
Ziggler went back to the rear chinlock, Crews fought his way out but Ziggler worked him back down with a swinging neckbreaker. Kalisto stumbled out to try to get involved in the match, and that distraction allowed Crews to hit a nasty-looking spinning kick to the back of Ziggler's head. Kalisto hit a springboard reverse-seated senton and a handspring spinning roundhouse kick . Crews got the hot tag before Kalisto hit a superkick, and then Crews hit a spin-out powerbomb to earn the victory.
The mounting losses for Ziggler in such a brief window aren't befitting of a believable monster heel, but the post-match beatdown of Crews, which included trapping Crews' ankle in a chair and stomping on it multiple times, took some sting out of that blow.
Becky Lynch def. Mickie James by pinfall (11:40)
Both women spent time outside of the ring in the early going, but Lynch enjoyed the biggest offense in during that stretch. She mocked James, and even bordered on some heelish behavior by preventing James from getting back into the ring with a big kick.
James ambushed Lynch, however, and took over the momentum with a trapped-arm DDT. She proceeded to concentrate on breaking down the left arm for several minutes, keeping the pace slow and measured. Lynch got a brief moment of a comeback, but James hit a big kick directly to the face, followed by her signature top-rope Hurricanrana to bring it back to her pace.
The match picked up as Lynch and James traded forearms, and Lynch finally seemed to take back control with a leg lariat and a Bex-ploder suplex for her first two-count of the match. But James once again wouldn't be denied, hitting a flapjack, kipping up and then hitting a top rope seated senton, followed by a stiff elbow. Lynch turned it back around again with a missile dropkick from the top rope, but James swung it back around yet again when she reversed a pump-handle slam and then hit a Mick kick that looked like it would end the match, only for Lynch to roll under the ropes to avoid that fate.
Lynch reversed a DDT attempt into back-body drop, went for the Dis-arm-her, and then both women traded roll-up attempts. The jack-knife cover gave Lynch all the leverage she needed for the pinfall victory to kick off the pay-per-view. James looked dominant for much of the match, looking good despite the loss, and the back-and-forth nature raised the atmosphere and excitement in the arena.
Lynch's win allows her to move back towards working with Alexa Bliss in a SmackDown women's championship match. It was also nice to see Danilo Anfibio, the newly-promoted referee from NXT, making his pay-per-view debut.
Mojo Rawley def. Curt Hawkins by pinfall (8:05)
This match was exactly what you would have expected going in. Zack Ryder's tag team partners, past and present, had a backstage confrontation that only appeared in an online video based around Rawley's friendship with Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots. Rawley began the match firing on all cylinders, only for Hawkins to continuously duck under the ropes to avoid conflict. After a couple of quick hits, Hawkins outsmarted Rawley with some veteran wits and took control for much of the midway point.
In what was far and away the most offense Hawkins has gotten in during any match since his return, Rawley took all Hawkins could deliver and thensome, only to pop back up and "hulk up" with imperviousness. Rawley got all his biggest offense in, including a massive Stinger splash. And after Hawkins briefly regained control after a referee distraction, a poke to the eye and a Downward Spiral, Rawley absolutely leveled Hawkins in the corner with a full-on sprint into a right hand, and finished it all off with a spinning Dominator for the pinfall victory.
A solid showing from both men, for what it was. Rawley certainly got the crowed "hyped" before the start of the pay-per-view.