By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Triple H © vs Shawn Michaels vs Kane vs Rob Van Dam vs Chris Jericho vs Booker T 11/17/02
Elimination Chamber Match for the WWE Title
Whilst the WWE strikes out occasionally on the gimmick match front – looking at you, Punjabi Prison match – they struck gold with the Hell in a Cell in 1997, with the Elimination Chamber following five years later in 2002 and offering a further extension to the promotion’s repertoire. Sold on television as a cross between Survivor Series, War Games and the Royal Rumble, it would see six men enter periodically into the Chamber and wrestlers being eliminated until one was left standing.
Introduced by Eric Bischoff as a means to showcase the Raw brand in a match deemed more exciting than the Hell in a Cell contest that was due to main event the Smackdown No Mercy pay-per-view, the six men who were chosen had all crossed paths in recent months. Most notably, Shawn Michaels had defeated the reigning champion, Triple H, at Summerslam in his first match back from a back injury that had almost retired him. Post-match, Triple H would blast him with a sledgehammer, leaving him on the shelf for a further three months.
The first two men, via the luck of the draw, to fight in the Chamber were the champion and Rob Van Dam. The cynic amongst fans might argue that the Chamber match allowed Triple H to lose the title whilst fighting to overcome almost insurmountable odds in the process, which would be the case as he’d have to see his way past all five challengers to retain the gold. Getting busted open by a whip into the cage further highlighted the difficulties HHH would have in retaining his championship, whilst Van Dam showcased the exciting potential offensive manoeuvres possible in the Chamber by landing a Rolling Thunder to the outside. It would take Jericho grabbing Van Dam’s leg from within the Chamber to halt a potential frog splash from the top.
It would be Jericho himself who ended up in the ring next with a spirited brawl seeing Triple H ignored and more aerial gymnastics from Van Dam as he jumped from the ring, managing to springboard off of the cage and onto Jericho. The number’s game caught up with Van Dam though, as Jericho and Triple H formed a mutually beneficial alliance to double team Van Dam, running him hard into the cage backwards multiple times. It took the arrival of Booker T into the contest to even the odds. After clearing the ring of the heels, a crowd-pleasing Spinaroonie had the fans in raptures. Unlike the heels, Van Dam and T then took center stage as they traded offense whilst Jericho and Triple H recovered.
One of the most remembered spots of the contest saw Van Dam leap off of the top of a pod and hit the Five Star Frog Splash on Triple H, only to catch Hunter in the throat and legitimately hurt the champion. Unfortunately for Van Dam, a missile dropkick from T as he tried to recover saw the first elimination of the night. T also tried to take advantage of Triple H’s incapacitation, but a rope break stopped the pinfall at two.
With no-one on top, Kane’s arrival at number five was advantageous as he took out everything that moved, including pitching Jericho straight through the ‘bullet-proof plexiglass’ of one of the pods. Still, Jericho would earn the next elimination, capitalising on a Kane chokeslam to T in order to land the Lionsault for the three count. Kane and Jericho’s fighting helped Triple H once more attempt to take a break, though the decision to head to the top turnbuckle saw the champion chucked to the canvas by Kane.
Finally, Michaels would enter the contest to the biggest pop of the match. Initially, Michaels would enter the ring with great momentum, yet Kane swiftly halted him, even dropping him with a chokeslam within the opening minute of his arrival. Kane managed to sit up after a Sweet Chin Music out of nowhere, only for a Pedigree and a Lionsault to put him away. This left HBK in a position where the numbers left him handicapped; Triple H and Jericho began to work over the recently returned fan favourite, turning him into a bloody mess.
Whilst Triple H was trying to overcome the odds, Michaels was eschewing fate just by being in the ring. Kicking out of the Lionsault, Michaels would take advantage of Triple H being in the Walls to superkick Jericho in the face and pin him for the elimination. Now, there were only two – two that truly hated each other. Shortly after Jericho’s elimination, Michaels would be sent through the plexiglass of another pod, but once again surprised everyone by kicking out, with a further nearfall from a Pedigree almost blowing the roof off of the building.
The reaction for Michaels’ Sweet Chin Music and subsequent pinfall saw a ridiculously loud ovation from the fans in attendance. Not only did they cheer for the fact that someone had defeated Triple H, but they cheered for Michaels’ return; not only had he beaten the back injury that forced him into retirement, he had come back to win the world title. It was a legitimately special moment, the sort that can’t be manufactured. Not only that, it set up the Elimination Chamber as another great gimmick match, one that WWE would use multiple times in the future.