Ric Flair. Ricky Steamboat. Bret Hart. Shawn Michaels. Kazuchika Okada. Kenny Omega. These wrestlers, along with a few others in wrestling history have been involved in matches that have either gone or surpassed one hour. And now, after the February 19 edition on Monday Night Raw, we can add Seth Rollins to that illustrious list. I will discuss the type of match which occurred on that momentous night, the men’s Elimination Chamber match, which transpired six days later, and what I believe will occur at Wrestlemania.

That episode of Raw began with Roman Reigns. I assumed he was going to come out and bloviate about the Gauntlet Match that night, the Chamber match and Mania. He did all that, to a loud chorus of boos. But, it turned out that he was the first entrant in the seven man Gauntlet Match. The second entrant was former Shield mate, and friend of Roman, Seth Rollins.

They put on a spectacular display of skills and athleticism. The match nearly came to a conclusion on numerous occasions, specifically after Roman nailed Seth with a Superman Punch. When his opponent kicked out, fans could see the frustration etched on Reigns’ face. The end came when Seth rolled up Roman for the pin to earn a hard fought and well deserved win, after a solid and entertaining twenty minutes of action. An exhausted Rollins was now awaiting the next participant in the Gauntlet, which was…..John Cena.

Seth wanted to make quick work of his opponent. He knocked out Cena with a knee, but John kicked out of the pin attempt. I am sure Rollins knew the kick out was going to occur. And, I completely understand why he wanted to end this in rapid fashion – he did not want to exert too much energy before the next competitor. During the match, there were many occasions that saw Cena become flustered, because Seth would not capitulate.

During the final few minutes, Seth performed Cena’s own move – the Attitude Adjustment. But, instead of going for the pin, which likely would have ended the match, he scaled to the top rope to perform a splash. John moved out of the way, got Seth up on his shoulders and attempted to perform his version of the AA. Rollins landed on his feet and executed a kick. Then, Seth Rollins hit his Curbstomp finisher for the pin. John Cena was eliminated and the crowd went crazy. Next up for Seth… Elias.

Seth tried his hardest here, but fans could tell he was running on adrenaline. Elias attacked his opponent’s knee. After a continuous attack, Rollins hit a superkick, but Elias kicked out of a pin attempt. Elias ended the match after he performed his finishing move Drift Away, to eliminate Seth Rollins. As Seth was vacating the ring, the fans gave him a standing ovation and a loud “Thank You Seth” chant erupted in the arena. This great competitor lasted 65 minutes, eliminating two of the WWE’s top talents – Reigns and Cena, in the process. The fact that Seth lasted that long is a testament to his endurance, strength, power and desire to become one of the best ever. In his post match interview, he stated that what he did will be meaningless, if he is unable to win the Chamber match. In my mind, and I am sure in the minds of many who witnessed what occurred on the night of February 19, despite what he says, it speaks volumes to remain in a match for over an hour. I hope Seth gets a significant, main-event level match at Wrestlemania for his efforts, skills and perseverance.

Elias then turned his attention to his next opponent – Finn Balor. This showdown was not a lengthy one. Finn hit a dropkick on Elias, scaled to the top rope and performed his double stomp – known as the Coup de Grace to eliminate Elias. Next for Balor – the WWE Intercontinental Champion, The Miz.

This was intense. The Miz attacked Finn shoulder for most of the match. The Miztourage (Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas) played a significant role in how this altercation played out. As Balor climbed to the top rope to finish off his opponent, the Miztourage jumped onto the ring apron. Finn landed punches to both his detractors. The Miz took advantage of the distraction and attacked Balor’s legs, causing Finn to fall off the top rope. The Miz then performed the Skull Crushing Finale to claim the victory. The Miz celebrated until he came to the realization that there was one more participant. He knew who it was…and so did the crowd. They chanted “we want Strowman.” When his music blared over the speakers, the crowd’s voices grew louder.

Braun dominated his battle with the Miz, to nobody’s surprise. The Miz was able to counter with a few big moves of his own, including his finisher. Strowman displayed his uncanny strength by powering out of the pin attempt. After hitting a huge clothesline, Braun ended it with a running powerslam. Braun Strowman emerged victorious in a Gauntlet match that lasted for two hours. Despite that, the true star of the match in my mind was Seth Rollins. The next time these seven met, was inside the daunting structure known as The Elimination Chamber, where the prize was an opportunity at Brock Lesnar’s Universal title at Wrestlemania.

There were four “pods” to hold four competitors. Each competitor entered the match after separate five minute intervals. Inside the pods were Elias, Braun Strowman, John Cena and Roman Reigns. This meant that Finn Balor, Seth Rollins and the Miz began the match. John Cena was out first. These four performed some amazing moves, and utilized every piece of the Chamber structure. Entrant number 5 was Reigns. At that point, nobody was eliminated from the match, but a few came close to being ousted. It became exciting when Strowman joined the fray. He quickly ousted the Miz. The four other competitors in the Chamber, at that point, began to strategize about how to eliminate the monster.

Rollins, Reigns, Cena and Balor quadruple teamed him. There was even a point where Seth and Finn hoisted Braun to allow Reigns and Cena to perform a Sheild-like powerbomb, but the big man kicked out of the pin attempt with authority. Braun then went crazy displaying his amazing power and speed. The final entrant was Elias, and he came in when everyone, including Braun was down. When Strowman recovered, he went into action and quickly eliminated Rollins, Cena, Finn and Elias. It came down to Braun against Roman.

These two know each other well from previous battles. The fans were ecstatic when Braun tossed Reigns over the ropes and onto the padded steel surrounding the Chamber. With Roman seemingly helpless, Braun charged at his opponent, but he moved, causing Braun to run into a pod. The end came after Roman hit a couple of Superman punches and a brutal spear for the final pin. As a result, Roman Reigns advanced to Wrestlemania for a match with Brock Lesnar. Some fans were thrilled, while most were disappointed.

I know the company has been positioning Roman to be “the man” over the past three years, despite fans’ wishes. It seems that WWE may get their way if Reigns dethrones Lesnar at Wrestlemania. I would be fine with that because I think it is time for a “full time” wrestler to become champion. I believe that fans would like to see that as well, instead of Brock retaining, and appearing on WWE programming when it is convenient for him. The WWE also wants Roman to be completely cheered. That will be a harder task. The fans have already made a choice to vilify the Reigns wrestling character, for no real reason, other than Vince McMahon has been trying to force people to cheer Roman. It is sometimes very hard to change people’s minds, if they have made their choice. It will be interesting to see how the fans treat Roman Reigns after Wrestlemania.

Those who viewed both the Gauntlet and Chamber matches will have varying opinions on which match was better. While I do not feel it was fair to have the seven guys compete for a total of almost two hours, a week before a showdown with a lot more at stake, both contests had their special moments. In my mind, the Raw Gauntlet match was more entertaining. All the wrestlers involved received sufficient time to display their skills, and a star was re-born. The only downside was that the fans who were there live, had to sit through a match that long. But seeing the guys get a chance to display their skills and actions in a long match, was quite entertaining. The Chamber match proved to be enjoyable as well. But, once Braun entered, he just ran through everyone. That match did not create a star, and the crowd knew Reigns was going to be victorious. But, because of the successes of Braun and Seth in those two matches, I hope they get significant matches at Wrestlemania. They both deserve it!!

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