The WWE Elimination Chamber match started in 2002. The idea behind the match was to create a structure we had never seen before rather than use an idea that somebody else created. It’s the same reason why they created Hell in a Cell five years earlier. In this case, they set up a match where six men would compete in a “demonic structure” (the phrase WWE loves to use for the Chamber) to see who the better man was. Most of the time there was a title on the line, but sometimes it was done to find a contender to a title.
What I will be doing here on TJRWrestling from now until this year’s Elimination Chamber is post my review of the first 20 Elimination Chamber matches leading up to this year’s event on February 25. This year’s show will feature another men’s Chamber match and the first women’s Chamber match. I have reviewed most of them already, so I will just re-post those reviews where needed and write new ones where I have to. There are 17 days until then, so there will be some days where I post two in the same day.
These reviews will be posted in the order they take place.
Who created the Elimination Chamber? Triple H apparently. Here’s how he explained it in a WWE.com article from 2014 that is no longer on the website, but I wrote about it back then and found the quote.
“I’m the one who invented it. I drew a square cage and put four other squares in the corners, and I said, ‘It’s six guys. Two start and every few minutes, another cage opens and one more guys enters the fight, and everyone fights until there’s one guy left.’ I thought it could be interesting because, if the Superstars involved have issues, then there’s intrigue.”
“In typical WWE form, it was twice as big as I envisioned it and twice as elaborate. We don’t do anything small, so I should have known better. When I stood in it for the first time, I thought, ‘Jeez. Please don’t tell anybody this was my idea!'”
That’s a different answer than what I heard on Bruce Prichard’s “Something to Wrestle” podcast about Survivor Series 2002 when he credited Michael Hayes with the idea. I don’t know whose claim is more accurate, but I’ll go with the Triple H story in this case.
The storyline creator was Eric Bischoff, who was the General Manager of Raw at the time, but Bischoff had nothing to do with it.
The Story Going Into The Match
Triple H was the heel World Heavyweight Champion that was handed the title by Bischoff on September 2, 2002. It was after SummerSlam 2002, which is when Shawn Michaels wrestled his first WWE match in over 4 years when he beat Triple H. After the match was over, Triple H attacked Michaels with a sledgehammer and this match led to Michaels having his second match since his return. Triple H also had a feud with Kane, which was the story that led to the infamous Katie Vick angle that is one of the worst storylines in WWE history.
The trio of Booker T, Rob Van Dam and Chris Jericho were upper midcarders on the Raw brand at the time, so they were there to take up the rest of the spots into the match. Going into the match, the story was clearly about Triple H’s rivalry with Michaels. The big question going in was could Michaels win the World Heavyweight Title? It was a big match and the build was good. Here’s the video package for it.
WWE Survivor Series
New York, New York
November 17, 2002
The video package aired to set up the Elimination Chamber match for the World Heavyweight Title held by Triple H. The main storyline was that Shawn Michaels was in his second match since he returned from a back injury. His previous match was a SummerSlam 2002 win over Triple H, who attacked him after the match. Triple H was handed the World Title by Eric Bischoff about two months before this. He had that awful Katie Vick feud with Kane and then it built up to this match.
Triple H was interviewed by Jonathon Coachman backstage with Ric Flair standing at Hunter’s side. Triple H talked about how he’s going to go up against five of the best wrestlers ever in this business and he’s going to walk out of MSG still the best, still The Game and still the World Heavyweight Champion because he’s that damn good. For right now, he’s got a first-class ticket to hell and he wants to know who is coming with him.
Analysis: Hunter was the true top guy by this point in time. He married Stephanie McMahon 11 months after this.
The Raw GM Eric Bischoff went inside the Chamber to put over the brutality of the structure and he went over the rules. This took a few minutes.
Analysis: The storyline was that Bischoff created the Chamber, but it was really Triple H and others on the creative team.
The order of entrants: Chris Jericho, who was a heel that was one half of the Tag Team Champions along with Christian. Saliva sang his “King of the World” song from The World. Booker T was up next as a face. Kane was a masked face. The unmasking happened in 2003. Shawn Michaels received a huge ovation as the crowd went wild for him. He had a weird look with his hair not really that long and he wrestled in brown pants because his regular pants weren’t ready. JR noted HBK was 5-5 at the Survivor Series prior to this and his last Survivor Series was 1997.
Analysis: I was excited about Michaels being in this match. He’s my favorite wrestler ever and I was amazed by his performance at SummerSlam three months earlier. We had no idea how much longer he would wrestle or how often.
Rob Van Dam was next up. He received the second biggest ovation after Michaels. Last man up was the World Heavyweight Champion Triple H, which put him at a disadvantage. JR noted that Triple H was winless at Survivor Series with a 0-6 record.
Elimination Chamber Match for the World Heavyweight Championship: Triple H (w/Ric Flair) vs. Chris Jericho vs. Booker T vs. Kane vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Rob Van Dam
Pre-match notes: Triple H was the heel World Champion with Jericho as the other heel in the match. Michaels was the biggest face followed by RVD, Kane and Booker.
RVD started with Triple H with a spinning heel kick early on. Knee smash by Hunter. Van Dam with a back body drop over the ropes that sent Triple H onto the steel outside the ring. RVD whipped Hunter face first into the steel wall of the chamber. Hunter was bleeding already. It took him about two minutes to blade. Van Dam hit Rolling Thunder from the ring over the top onto Hunter on the steel grating outside the ring. Van Dam tried to climb the pod above Jericho, but Jericho grabbed his leg to stop him. Van Dam jumped off the top rope onto Hunter on the steel grate. Nasty fall for RVD doing that move. Hunter staggered back in the ring with RVD right on him. The five minute interval was up for the next man in the match.
The #3 entrant was Jericho, who walked right into a spin kick by RVD. Standing moonsault by RVD gets two on Jericho. RVD jumped off the top with a standing side kick and a clothesline sent Jericho over the top. RVD jumped at Jericho, who moved and RVD hung onto the side of the chamber as if he was Spiderman. RVD jumped back onto Jericho to take him down. Hunter hit a clothesline on RVD to knock him down. Back suplex by Jericho on RVD. The heels worked together on RVD for a few minutes. They whipped RVD back first into the steel chamber several times. RVD tried a comeback, but Hunter dropped him with a DDT.
The #4 man was Booker T. He had punches and kicks for Hunter and Jericho as he knocked them out of the ring. Spinarooni time by Booker. Spin kick by Booker on RVD gets two. RVD came back with a step over heel kick for a two count on Booker. Jumping side kick by Booker on RVD gets two. Hunter got back and was dropped with an axe kick by Booker. RVD dropkick on Jericho. Van Dam went up top, but then he saw an empty pod. He jumped to the top of the pod. Van Dam jumped off the top and it was an awkward landing with his knee crushing the throat of Triple H.
Analysis: That was a nasty looking move. He wasn’t able to extend his legs out like he normally would on a Frog Splash or just a regular splash because of the chamber above his head. As a result of that, his knee hit the throat of Triple H, who suffered a crushed larynx, yet was able to work another 20 minutes in this match. The good thing is Triple H didn’t miss much in-ring time.
Triple H was down in the ring grabbing his throat and kicking his feet into the mat. Referee Earl Hebner held up the “X” sign for an injury. Booker hit a missile dropkick on RVD and pinned him to eliminate him as JR wondered if RVD had a knee injury.
Rob Van Dam eliminated by Booker T
Jericho with a bulldog on Booker, he missed a Lionsault and Booker nailed a huge spinebuster on Jericho for a two count. Triple H was trying to get his wind back after his throat injury.
Kane is the #5 entrant in the match. He had clotheslines and punches for Jericho and Booker. Kane worked on Jericho on the grate outside the ring as he sent Jericho face first into the cage. Kane whipped Jericho through the plexiglass that was used as a cover in a chamber. That’s a huge bump. It sounded nasty.
Booker was in the ring working against Kane. He bounced off the ropes, Jericho hit a low blow and Kane hit a Chokeslam on Booker. Jericho hit a Lionsault on Booker to eliminate him.
Booker T eliminated by Chris Jericho
Kane tossed Jericho out of the ring. Jericho was bleeding from the forehead. He didn’t do too many blade jobs, but in order to put over the severity of this match it made sense for him to do it. They were outside the ring and then Kane slammed Jericho into the ring. A Kane punch knocked down Triple H. Suplex by Kane on Jericho gets two. Triple H climbed the top rope for some reason, so Kane slammed him off the top as if he was Ric Flair. Jericho with a missile dropkick on Kane as fans chanted for HBK.
Shawn Michaels entered as the #6 and last entrant in this match. Michaels was on fire as he nailed a flying forearm smash to knock Kane down. Kane whipped Michaels into the corner as HBK did an upside down bump. Kane double choke into a slam on Jericho. Kane with a Chokeslam on Michaels and a Chokeslam on Triple H. Kane hit a Chokeslam on Jericho as well, so that’s three in a row. Triple H avoided a Tombstone from Kane, shoved Kane and Michaels hit a superkick. Triple H hit a Pedigree and Jericho hit a Lionsault to eliminate Kane.
Kane eliminated by Chris Jericho
Analysis: Kane hit three Chokeslams in a row and it took three straight finishers to eliminate him.
Jericho sent Michaels over the top rope with a clothesline and whipped him into the cage a few times. The heels worked over Michaels a bit with Jericho hitting a running splash to the back of Michaels. The heels kept working over Michaels by sending him into the cage and punching him repeatedly. Michaels was busted open. Michaels came back with a clothesline on Triple H that sent him over the top back into the ring. Jericho with a back body drop that sent Michaels back first onto the steel. Back in the ring, Michaels hit a flying forearm smash on Hunter and did a kip up to a big pop. Jericho with a bulldog on Michaels followed by a Lionsault for a two count. Nice nearfall there. Michaels got his foot up to prevent a corner attack and he hit a moonsault off the top leading to a two count on Jericho. Michaels with a Boston Crab on Jericho, but Hunter showed up with a DDT on Michaels leading to a two count as Hunter pulled Jericho off. Jericho and Hunter started brawling with Hunter nailing a clothesline and a facebuster for two. Hunter set up Jericho for a Pedigree, but Jericho fought out of it and applied the Walls of Jericho submission. Michaels back to his feet and he nailed Jericho with the Sweet Chin Music superkick to eliminate Jericho.
Chris Jericho eliminated by Shawn Michaels
Analysis: The story of that elimination was Jericho and Hunter worked great as heels against Michaels, but ego got in the way and Michaels took advantage of it to get rid of Jericho.
It’s down to Michaels vs. Triple H as most people expected. Spinebuster for Triple H followed by a back body drop over the top rope that sent Michaels crashing onto the steel outside the ring. Triple H gave Michaels a slingshot into one of the plexiglass pods that shattered. On the replay of the spot, you could see Shawn used his hands to really crash into the pod. Both guys were a bloody mess. Back in the ring, Hunter got a two count. Hunter nailed a facebuster followed by a clothesline that sent Michaels over the top to the floor. Michaels hit a slingshot that sent Triple H into the cage and a clothesline sent Hunter back into the ring. Michaels climbed to the top rope, then went up more and stood on top of a pod. He jumped off the top with a Flying Elbow drop to the chest of Hunter. Michaels set up for Sweet Chin Music. Hebner kept walking over to him to give him some cue. Hunter caught the boot and he hit a Pedigree. The crowd was booing a lot. Hunter was too tired to cover. He slowly crawled over with a one arm cover for the one…two…and Michaels got his shoulder up. Michaels with a back body drop out of a Pedigree. Michaels back into the corner, Hunter up and Michaels hit the Sweet Chin Music superkick for the one…two…and three. Wow! What an ovation! MSG was going crazy. The match is over at the 39:20 mark.
Triple H eliminated by Shawn Michaels
Winner by pinfall and new World Heavyweight Champion: Shawn Michaels
Analysis: ****1/4 Great match. It was a violent, physical match with some huge spots and a legit injury that Triple H fought through. The story of Michaels coming back to win the World Title in his second match back in over four years is awesome. Plus, doing it in MSG in the first Elimination Chamber match made it seem that much more special. It was no surprise that the four other guys were eliminated in order to leave it to Shawn and Hunter at the end. Triple H showed a lot of toughness by working with a crushed larynx for over twenty minutes. There were several times in the match where you could tell he had trouble catching his breath, yet he kept on going. Three guys bled in the match, which is something we will never see again in a match in WWE today.
The arena was full of confetti as Michaels celebrated with the World Heavyweight Title.
Replays aired of the finish. Michaels posed with the World Title more as JR freaked out about Michaels making the big comeback to win the World Heavyweight Championship. The show went off the air that way.
Analysis: I’m glad it was treated as a big celebration. Shawn deserved it.
THREE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– The right guy won. I don’t think anybody can dispute that. At the time, I remember thinking that Michaels should win, but I had no idea if he would because I figured WWE would want to keep the new title on a heel like Triple H. What ended up happening was Triple H won it back at the next PPV, so Michaels’ title reign ended up being short. What we didn’t know at the time was that Michaels would wrestle for over seven more years before retiring at WrestleMania 26. This was Shawn’s last World Championship win even though he definitely could have won it a few times in the mid-2000s since he was wrestling in main events often.
– I don’t know if I explained how difficult it was for Triple H to finish this match, so I’ll go to this oral history of the first Elimination Chamber on ESPN for some quotes from Triple H talking about the injury.
Triple H: “It seemed good when we put it together. He landed on my throat, and I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t speak.”
They sent a doctor into the ring, who was talking to me through the grates, and I was like ‘Do not stop this, I got it.’ But I couldn’t talk.”
Here’s what happened to Triple H after the match.
Triple H: “We came out of the ring, I gave him (Shawn) a hug, got on a stretcher, they took me to the hospital and I stayed there for 24 hours. I went to the hospital, and I was pissed that I even had to go. I wanted to leave, they wouldn’t let me. The doctor tells me, “So, let me tell you what’s going to happen [if you leave]. You’re going to leave here and you’re going to go to bed and then in the night, that’s going to swell up and you’re going to choke to death. So go ahead, you want me to get the paperwork?” And I was like “Yeah, no.” So I stayed for 24 hours, they partially cut it, they medicated it, they got the swelling down, they did all this stuff. I left there, went to the hotel, picked up my bags, went to the airport and got on a plane.”
It was an incredible performance by Hunter when you think about how hard it must have been to talk during the match. Even simple things like catching his breath were hard because of the throat injury as well. When you think about this injury as well as the one from 2001 where he tore his quad and finished the match, there’s no way anybody can question Triple H’s toughness.
– My rating for the match when I reviewed it a few years ago in my Survivor Series reviews was 1/4* higher. When I watched it again today it was still a very good match, but maybe I overrated it a bit when I did the other review. Any time you can get over four stars out of five for a match that’s pretty awesome and for that to happen in the first Elimination Chamber match showed how well the concept worked.
FACTS & OPINIONS
Wrestler that lasted the longest: Triple H – 39:20
Most Eliminations: Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho with 2 each
Best Performers (3): Triple H – He didn’t win, but he really carried the match as the champion and main heel. Plus, it was a gutsy performance considering the throat injury.
Shawn Michaels – We had no idea how well he would do and if his body could handle it. He did great. The pop for his win was huge.
Chris Jericho – It was obvious he wasn’t going to win, but he had his working boots on and had some memorable moments in there.
Most Memorable Moment: I think Michaels hitting the Sweet Chin Music and winning the match leading to a massive ovation stands out the most. The image of RVD’s leg crushing Triple H’s throat stands out too.
Match Rating: ****1/4 out of five.
For additional content on this match, I recommend the following:
– Here’s an ESPN article from November 2017 about the origins of the first Elimination Chamber match and plenty of comments from the men that were a part of it.
– I already mentioned it earlier, but Bruce Prichard’s podcast about Survivor Series 2002 is great for more info about this match.
There’s also this video about the match.
Next up: SummerSlam 2003.
Thanks for reading.