(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31348385/?contentId=31348385&contextType=wwe-show&contextId=survivor_series)
In most cases, the original is always the best. There are few remakes and sequels out there that better the original. We can apply the same logic to wrestling as well. Take, for example, the Inaugural Money in the Bank Ladder match. There have been many after it, but few have reached the level of unpredictability and mayhem that the original entailed. By their very nature, the first example of a gimmick match is unpredictable. When Eric Bischoff announced the first ever Elimination Chamber in 2002, it was full of possibilities. They were all fully realised at Survivor Series, where six main eventers competed for the World Championship in the Inaugural Elimination Chamber…
You could argue that there were no duds in this Chamber match, a problem that daunted many later ones (The Great Khali and Big Daddy V were in one Chamber match if I remember correctly!). Kane could be considered a dud, but his inclusion here was necessary thanks to his main event feud with Triple H (and the infamous Katie Vick saga!). And he did what he does best: act like a dominating force. But all six wrestlers were among the top wrestlers of Raw at the time. Well, okay, Shawn Michaels was only competing in his second match since coming out of retirement, but he was still a Raw wrestler! Rob Van Dam, Booker T, and Chris Jericho could be relied upon to do the heavy lifting during the bout, and they didn’t disappoint.
Of course, going into the match, no one really knew what to expect. Would the wrestlers fight on the steel floor outside? Would anyone dare climb atop the chamber pods and leap off onto a prone body? Were those glass doors really bulletproof? We got answers to the first two questions, and found out those glass doors were not bodyproof. Within the first five minutes of the match, RVD had slammed HHH on the steel floor outside at least twice. They’d hurled each other into the chainlink surroundings. Later on, RVD performed a Five Star Frog Splash from the top of a chamber pod onto HHH (and crushed HHH’s larynx with his knee in the process. HHH’s sheer determination to finish the match through such an injury is another reason to love this match). Jericho was thrown through a glass door by Kane. All of these things were shocking at the time, but have been done so many times in the proceeding Chamber matches that their brutality is sanitised a little every time.
It’s not just the novelty of the match and the violence involved that made the match special: it’s the drama and wrestling as well. There’s genuine excitement and emotion throughout the match. At least four out of the six wrestlers could claim to be among the greats, and they prove it here. Admittedly, the match (and the crowd) sags a little after RVD is eliminated, but that’s after his awe-inspiring Frog Splash off a chamber pod. He was a genuine star at the time and the crowd were sad to see him eliminated first. Why not Booker T, or even Kane? But the match soon picks up heat and the final ten minutes between the final two competitors are packed to the brim with false finishes, big moves, thrills and spills.
You’ll rarely get better than the original. Every other Chamber Match has used this as a template. Wrestlers will get slammed onto the steel floor outside. Someone will jump off a chamber pod. Someone will get hurled through the bulletproof glass. I’m not denying that other Chamber matches have been good, or even very good, but none have attained the greatness of the original. It had everything: novelty, star power, drama, emotion, holy s**t moments and a feel-god ending…
VERDICT: 9/10. The Inaugural Elimination Chamber match is the best one yet. Many have come after it, but few have reached the peak of the original. It had everything you wanted in a gimmick match, plus a little bit more (it’s just unfortunate there’s a lull after RVD is eliminated…).
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Click here for my review of #44 Shawn Michaels vs. Mankind (WWE Championship Match, WWE In Your House: Mind Games)