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From this point forward it looks like RAW and SmackDown exclusive PPV's are going to be released in double-disc sets, which is probably a good decision and offers more content for your money. The first one of these hit UK shelves at the start of the month and features the final stops for both brands on the Road to WrestleMania as SmackDown presents Elimination Chamber in Phoenix and Milwaukee hosts RAW's Fastlane. There's 18 matches across over six hours, including an Elimination Chamber featuring John Cena defending the WWE Championship against Dean Ambrose, Baron Corbin, The Miz, Bray Wyatt and "The Phenomenal" AJ Styles, Heath Slater & Rhyno, Breezango, The Vaudevillains, The Usos and The Ascension chasing American Alpha's SmackDown Tag Team titles in a Tag Team Turmoil match, Roman Reigns clashing Braun Strowman, RAW Women's Champion Bayley looking to end Charlotte Flair's PPV streak, The Wyatt Family exploding as Randy Orton takes on Luke Harper and Neville putting the Cruiserweight title on the line against Jack Gallagher. Elsewhere, Cesaro, The Big Show, Universal Champion Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe and Dolph Ziggler are all in action.
But is the first Double Feature worth your time? Let's take a look.
Our SmackDown event begins with a solid wrestling match between Becky Lynch and Mickie James, with the string together some nice sequences in a technically sound bout. The finish, however, is uninspired and some of the commentary ends up hurting the wrestler's work, as it's at odds with what is actually happening in the ring. I'm still trying to work out why Dolph Ziggler faced Apollo Crews and Kalisto in a Handicap match and majority of the match is the competitors trying to make the best of a terrible situation. The Tag Team Turmoil match with Heath Slater & Rhyno, Breezango, The Vaudevillains, The Usos, American Alpha and The Ascension is lengthy in total, but no single match gets enough time to fully realise it's potential. As a whole, it's watchable stuff, especially once American Alpha get involved, whilst the popularity of Heath Slater and especially Rhyno helps to carry the first ten minutes or so. The ending comes across as a little forced, although the work from The Usos heading into it is probably the strongest action of the whole match.
Nikki Bella vs. Natalya features some decent moments, but doesn't grab the crowd, with things not being helped by an inconclusive finish. It comes together after the match concludes, with a physical altercation that sells the dislike the have for each other. The best non-Chamber match of the night is a brutal clash between Luke Harper and Randy Orton as the two slow-build and manage to pull the initially wary crowd along for the ride. The two brawl all over the ringside area, trade big strikes inside the ring and bring things to a conclusion with an exciting exchange. Alexa Bliss defending the SmackDown Women's Championship against Naomi has some cool ideas in the early goings, but struggles towards the end of the match.
The main event with Dean Ambrose, Baron Corbin, The Miz, Bray Wyatt, AJ Styles and John Cena inside the new-look, worker-friendly, Elimination Chamber for the WWE title is the best match across the two discs. The best Chamber matches for nine or ten years, the bout makes the most of it's six combatants, beginning with a continuation of one of the hottest feuds of the last year as Cena and Styles collided to kick things off. There's some big highspots spread throughout, including Cena bumping from halfway up the Chamber and a wicked super Tower of Doom spot with Ambrose, Wyatt and Styles. Everyone comes out looking better for having took part in the match with Corbin dominating and then destroying Ambrose post-elimination and The Miz looking like a dick with pretty much every move he makes. The final stretch of the contest matches it's start with lots of slick back and forth reversals and a number of potentially convincing near falls from the final three onwards.
Curt Hawkins vs. Mojo Rawley from Elimination Chamber Kickoff is not a good match, basic and boring, at times sloppy and awkward with a lame finish to boot.
The RAW event opens with Sami Zayn vs. Samoa Joe in a dissapointing outing and that whilst there is nothing particularly wrong with it, it will disappoint most people aware of what the two can do together. Enzo & Cass challenging for Gallows & Anderson's RAW Tag Team titles is of a similar quality, keeping things simple and allowing the heels to look strong, after a hot promo from Enzo. Keeping with the theme, Sasha Banks and Nia Jax have a match that is very much alike to the opener and although the crowd is hot for when Banks locks her submission finish on Jax, the actual finish is rushed and leaves the bout lacking something special. The crowd is then utterly dead for a bonus match between Cesaro and Jinder Mahal and whilst there is some good selling work from the Swiss Superman, it's hard to argue with their apathy. Another bonus match see's The Big Show batter Rusev in a match that happens for reasons no one is quite sure of.
After five matches of mediocre, at best, wrestling, Jack Gallagher challenging Neville for the WWE Cruiserweight title is a step up as the two dish out big strikes and moves, like Neville's wicked snap German suplex. Gallagher's gentleman underdog character really shines, especially in the closing moments and in front of a different crowd I get the feeling this bout would have felt even better. Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman produces the best match of the night as the two have a big hoss war of a contest, lobbing each other around the ring and beyond. The finish brings their story to a satisfying conclusion for the time being, whilst also leaving the door open for the future. The RAW Women's Championship match with Bayley and Charlotte Flair makes a real pigs ear of it's conclusion, throwing away elements like Charlotte's PPV streak amidst a confusing heel/babyface dynamic. The earlier parts of the match are above average, but the two still don't hit the heights of their February match on RAW.
The final bout of the evening is Goldberg challenging for Kevin Owens' WWE Universal title, although it's more of an extended skit than match.
Akira Tozawa and Rich Swann tagging against The Brian Kendrick and Noam Dar on Fastlane Kickoff provides a fun tag bout for the solo special feature, with the last few exchanges allowing the match to really come into it's own.
ATPW Scale Rating - 6/10
Elimination Chamber offers the strongest action of the two shows, with the eponymous bout being the strongest across the two cards. The show however is dragged down by the length of the average Tag Team Turmoil bout, as well as the weak Ziggler v Crews & Kalisto match and Hawkins v Rawley special feature. Fastlane isn't as strong, featuring mostly average action and being hurt further by the random Mahal v Cesaro and Show v Rusev bouts, as well as the non-match between Goldberg and Owens. It does however feature two strong bouts, as Reigns v Strowman and Neville v Gallagher which are both worth a watch.