The Elimination Chamber is the final Raw-exclusive pay-per-view before WrestleMania 34, and by the end of the night in Las Vegas, the winners of the two Elimination Chambers will have punched their tickets to New Orleans. There's also the official contract signing for Ronda Rousey, Nia Jax getting her own shot to clinch a WrestleMania title match against Asuka, a Raw tag team title challenge for Titus Worldwide and the latest chapter in the war between Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt.
Matt Wilansky and Sean Coyle offer their live recaps and ratings throughout the night.
(c) - Indicates defending champion
Men's Elimination Chamber match: Roman Reigns def. The Miz, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Elias, Braun Strowman and John Cena
A full recap of this match can be found here.
Ronda Rousey makes a statement
The one thing you know about a "contract signing" in WWE is that if there's a table set up in the ring, it's almost certain somebody's going to go through it. It's the easiest way to put an exclamation point on a moment, and six weeks out from WrestleMania 34, Ronda Rousey made her intentions for the biggest show on the WWE calendar crystal clear.
Before Raw general manager Kurt Angle could utter a single word to set up the festivities, however, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon charged out to take over the spotlight and set the stage for Rousey's official contract signing.
"I can't recall an athlete like this walking through the doors of WWE since the Olympic gold medalist, Kurt Angle," Triple H, said in his first televised appearance since attacking then-teammate Angle at Survivor Series. "She has earned the right to be called the baddest woman on the planet."
Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" hit, and in the beginning it was all about niceties -- handshakes for Triple H and McMahon, and a hug for Angle.
McMahon was even deferential. "These people don't want to hear from me -- they want to hear from you."
Rousey was a bit quiet and overwhelmed in the opening moments of her first words on WWE TV, but immediately gave credit to others. "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't my hero, Rowdy Roddy Piper," Rousey said.
It was a bit of a rough go in the early stages, and an impatient Las Vegas crowd did her no favors, but the four performers in the ring pushed through. They each hammered home that there were no special perks to come for Rousey, and made it clear that she would not be competing in a championship match at WrestleMania -- but she would be competing.
As the signing seemed to be winding down toward a rather peaceful end, Angle finally spoke up.
"They want to put their thumb on you and keep you down," Angle said. After no retribution or explanation post-Survivor Series, Angle was set on getting some measure of revenge on Triple H.
"Didn't you say earlier, 'Three years in the making and now we own the b----?," Angle said, referring to WrestleMania 31, when Rousey and The Rock got the better of Triple H and Stephanie at Levi's Stadium. Triple H tried to walk Angle backstage, and McMahon tried to walk it all back, but from the moment a scowl crossed Rousey's face, business began to pick up.
Angle had one more quip to add. "Didn't you say Ronda was a has-been?"
Ronda went face to face with Steph, only for Triple H to step in the middle of it all. Just as it had happened at WrestleMania 31, though, a face-to-face between Triple H and Rousey didn't end well for the former.
Rousey put Triple H through the table, bringing McMahon back into the ring to deliver a slap across the face to Rousey. McMahon quickly realized what she had done, but it was too late. Rousey reached over the fallen Triple H, picked up the contract, signed it, and Rousey's Road to WrestleMania officially became clearer.
Whether WWE is able to bring The Rock back for New Orleans, or Angle ultimately ends up as Rousey's partner at WrestleMania 34, the match that will grab the most mainstream headlines is set.
Elimination Chamber match for the Raw women's championship: Alexa Bliss (c) def. Bayley, Mandy Rose, Mickie James, Sasha Banks & Sonya Deville
What better way to kick off the final Raw pay-per-view ahead of WrestleMania 34 than with a history-making match like the first women's Elimination Chamber?
The expectations were high, but the six women involved kicked off the show with a tremendous collective performance as Alexa Bliss walked out as she walked into the chamber -- with her Raw women's championship intact.
About 30 minutes before the start of Elimination Chamber, during the Elimination Chamber kickoff, Raw general manager Kurt Angle was asked about his predictions and said, while he believed Bliss, who has been the women's champ more than a 180 days remained the favorite, this match was "up for grabs."
The good news for Bliss was that she began the match in a pod. Sonya Deville and Bayley, however, did not enjoy the luck of the draw as they were the first two competitors in the ring.
Deville and Bayley exchanged strikes throughout the first five minutes of the match, but as Bayley struck Deville with a flying elbow from the top rope to gain the advantage, Mandy Rose -- Deville's Absolution partner -- entered the ring. Bayley fought valiantly for a couple of minutes in what essentially became a temporary handicap match, but the numbers game eventually caught up to her.
Bayley got some backup as Sasha Banks entered the match fourth, and as Banks cleared house Bayley earned a temporary reprieve. Banks struck Deville with her knees, and then threw Rose into the outside of the turnbuckles with her legs; Deville was out of play long enough for Banks to lock a Banks Statement on Rose that earned the first elimination of the match.
Next in was Mickie James, a six-time women's champ in her own right. She began by taking out each of the three remaining women in kind, and after James and Bayley climbed up the chamber and exchanged blows, Bayley fell off. Then, in the first amazing moment of the match, James stood at the top of one of the pods and jumped 15 feet right to hit a modified Thesz press on Deville -- securing the three-count and the second elimination. Both Absolution members were gone.
But the joy was short-lived. Within a minute, Bayley came charging back and took out James with a Bayley to Belly, reducing the field to three before Bliss had ever set foot in the ring.
Finally, the champ entered. It became a hide and seek moment, as Bliss climbed tried to keep her pod shut and then climbed all over the chain link structure to escape the unified force of Bayley and Banks. But when Bliss was finally cornered, Banks took the opportunity to once again lash out at her long-time best friend, who she kicked from atop one of the pods.
Eventually, after all three women were on firm ground, Banks and Bayley went at it in a way they haven't since their NXT wars of yore, clobbering and kicking each other incessantly. Banks then climbed the rope and landed a frog splash on Bayley, nearly getting the pinfall.
Bayley got some revenge by landing a Bayley to Belly from the top rope on Banks, but Bliss took advantage of the chaos and rolled Bayley up for the 1-2-3. Now it was down to just Banks and Bayley.
In the course of climbing, Banks' leg became entangled in the chamber and Bliss took advantage. Bliss then climbed to the top of the pod, and hit Banks with a Twisted Bliss, but Banks rolled it right through into a Banks Statement on the outside of the ring.
They'd both roll in, but as Banks tried to lock the Banks Statement back in, the last shuffle of the match set Bliss up for a match-ending DDT while Banks' legs were draped over the top rope.
Afterward, Bliss stood in the ring in disbelief. She told the audience this was for all the "little girls who dared to dream big" and seemed moved to tears, but her face quickly shifted and morphed into something far more evil -- fooling the crowd once into believing her briefly sentimental statement. But even as she derided them, the crowd chanted and cheered in appreciation of her and every other performer in the match.
Her opponent is still yet to be determined, but Bliss has all but punched her ticket to WrestleMania 34 with the Raw women's championship in hand.
Raw tag team championships: The Bar (c) def. Titus Worldwide
Titus Worldwide hadn't had much success since the stable's inception. Titus O'Neil and Apollo, while entertaining at times, have not found a way to elevate themselves past the lower mid-card -- but in recent weeks there has been a bright light at the end of the tunnel. In addition to a pair of showcases in which Apollo had the chance to shine, Titus Worldwide held an unusually one-sided edge over The Bar.
Sheamus and Cesaro attempted to gain an early advantage before the match began by attacking Apollo and O'Neil before the opening bell, but the challengers turned the tables and sent The Bar to the outside of the ring -- allowing Apollo to nail a beautiful top-rope splash onto both champions.
However, after the bell did ring, The Bar established control the action in fairly formulaic tag team fashion throughout the first half of the match. They traded tags, wore down Apollo and taunted the crowd as good heels do -- refusing to allow him to make the tag to O'Neil.
After an extended period of rest holds and double-team maneuvers by The Bar, Apollo eventually found a way to create some distance when he dodged a charging Sheamus, who went shoulder-first into the ring post as the hot tag was finally made.
O'Neil unleashed a flurry of offense onto both Sheamus and Cesaro, including a massive hip toss to Cesaro, followed by a well-placed boot to the jaw. In what was a close near-fall, O'Neil caught Sheamus, who came off the top rope and turned it into his Clash of the Titus finisher -- but Cesaro was able to break up the pinfall just in the nick of time.
Shortly after, with the Bar on the outside of the ring, Apollo took to the air again and hit a somersault plancha onto both of the champs. But Titus Worldwide's advantage was short lived. Sheamus snuck in a blind tag to Cesaro, who delivered a springboard version of their White Noise / Bulldog combo finisher onto Apollo for the pinfall victory.
The Raw tag team title picture remains unclear, with teams like Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson and The Revival potentially poised for shots, but with just over a month of shows to come, everything will become clearer soon.
- WWE (@WWE) February 26, 2018
Perfection versus the irresistible force. In some ways, you could make the argument Asuka taking on Nia Jax was the most interesting match of the Elimination Chamber card coming into Sunday night, as it had the realest stakes and the highest chance of an unusual outcome.
Asuka had not lost a match in 2.5 years since joining the WWE (including her time in NXT). Her record was 142-0 -- the greatest run of dominance this side of Goldberg.
Meanwhile, Jax is far and away the most powerful woman in the WWE, and it has been clear that she's a high priority on Raw with a renewed push to thrive. So much was on the line; Jax would gain entrance into the Raw women's championship match at WrestleMania, joining Alexa Bliss (and possibly Asuka, if she should so choose) with a win, while Asuka had a streak to defend and her own title hopes to think of.
With Bliss looking on from backstage, Jax threw Asuka around like a lightweight as the action began. The one-sided affair continued as Jax landed a backbreaker and an elbow drop, taunted Asuka, then drove her into the turnbuckle.
Asuka looked to lock in a guillotine from out of nowhere, but Jax somehow countered that by dragging Asuka up into a vertical suplex, followed by a Samoan drop. Finally, Asuka mustered the energy to land a series of devastating kicks to give herself some breathing room. Asuka tried to turn the match into a game of cat and mouse, and while that strategy worked for a little bit, as she locked in a painful-looking armbar, Jax deadlifted Asuka and threw her into the ring post.
Just as the match was starting to hit its sweet spot, Asuka turned it around in an instant by reversing a power bomb into a roll-up for a fluke pinfall victory. Devastated and exasperated after a match she had dominated, Jax took her frustration out on Asuka -- driving her through the barricade before stalking off in anger.
All that remains to be determined is which title Asuka will pursue when given the chance -- but for now, it appears that Nia Jax will not be a part of that equation.
Matt Hardy def. Bray Wyatt
When this rivalry began, the outlook appeared promising. It was a legitimate conflict for Wyatt to sink his teeth into and it was the beginning of Hardy's "Woken" phenomenon in the WWE.
Unfortunately, the program has been filled with an excess amount of video promos with little substance or progression and has ultimately fell flat. The two looked to either provide some improvements to the conflict Sunday night or put an end to it and go their separate ways.
The encounter began in intriguing fashion. Hardy made his entrance first. When he stepped into the ring, the beginning of Wyatt's music hit and the lights went out. When they turned on, Wyatt was in the middle of the ring with one problem -- Hardy was gone.
Wyatt began looking around the ring for Hardy as Hardy sang his "Obsolete" tune for an undisclosed location. Eventually Hardy appeared on top of the ring steps and kicked the battle off with a double axe handle.
They made their way into the ring to officially begin the match where Hardy established early control with a Russian leg sweep and strikes in the corner. Wyatt tried to overcome his early missteps, but missed a splash into the corner. He then bent backward and taunted Hardy with his signature upside-down stare, a move that typically intimidates his opponents, but Hardy clapped and smiled.
Wyatt followed that up by hitting the ropes and delivering a charging cross-body block to Hard, and slowed the pace down a bit.
Hardy tried to fight back, but ate a DDT by Wyatt. Shortly after, Wyatt utilized the DDT once again, this time on the ring apron as the two tumbled to the outside of the ring. At that point, Wyatt set Hardy up for a Uranage slam onto the ring steps, but Hardy squirmed away only to be met with a vicious clothesline by Wyatt.
Back inside the ring, Hardy was able to catch a charging Wyatt with a boot in the corner and hit a tornado DDT followed by a side effect, but only got a two-count. Wyatt was finally able to nail his Uranage slam and a senton splash, but couldn't keep Hardy down for three.
A frustrated Wyatt pelted Hardy with strikes and climbed to the second rope and missed an elevated version of his senton splash splash.In an attempt to put the finishing touches onto Hardy, Wyatt set up him for his Sister Abagail finisher, but Hardy reversed it into a Twist of Fate and claimed victory.
While the match wasn't great, it was solid and was the best effort these two have put forth together. However, as mentioned, the rivalry has underwhelmed. It's time for both superstars to move on and see if they can catch fire with other rivals.
- WWE (@WWE) February 26, 2018