We are less than two months away from the biggest WWE show of the year, which means that Sunday night's SmackDown-exclusive Elimination Chamber pay-per-view should have some huge WrestleMania 33 implications.
John Cena will defend his WWE World Championship against five other stars inside the Elimination Chamber, and two other championships will be put on the line in Phoenix. (Check out the start time and streaming information here.)
Here are our full predictions for Sunday night’s show, match-by-match:
Kickoff show: Mojo Rawley vs. Curt Hawkins
Curt Hawkins is a fact machine, so here’s a fun one: He’s lost 48 of his last 50 matches, with one untelevised victory at a live event and one draw. Do not bet on Curt Hawkins.
Pick: Mojo Rawley
Kalisto and Apollo Crews vs. Dolph Ziggler in a 2-on-1 handicap match
Ziggler has been smacking Crews and Kalisto with steel chairs for the last few weeks on SmackDown and eventually boasted that he could beat both men at the same time, landing him in a handicap match at Elimination Chamber.
Ziggler winning outright would make both Crews and Kalisto look bad, and it seems unlikely Ziggler could pull off the win without the use of some illegal objects. He either loses and snaps after the match, or loses via disqualification.
Pick: Kalisto and Apollo Crews win, but suffer brutal consequences
Nikki Bella vs. Natalya
Natalya’s ongoing feud with Nikki Bella has given us some ruthless barbs in arguments - Natalya told Nikki Bella that’s she’s a nothing who will die alone - and even a brutal brawl at a merchandise stand.
You’d probably have to favor Natalya in a standard wrestling match, but there’s a good chance this fight doesn’t remain in the ring, as both women want to punish the other. This is perhaps the closest call of the night.
Pick: Nikki Bella
Tag team turmoil match for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship
American Alpha enter a six-team turmoil match as the champions, but you could make the argument that four of the six teams could conceivably leave Phoenix with the titles Sunday night.
The Vaudevillians are the longest of long shots, and The Ascension haven’t won a match since last September - but Breezango are a very entertaining duo that haven’t been given much of a spotlight outside of the WWE YouTube channel, and The Usos are far better since ditching the facepaint and rebranding themselves as the “urban Usos,” as Mauro Ranallo sometimes calls them. American Alpha are great, but they’re still very new and aren’t hugely popular yet. It could be time to give someone else a shot.
Pick: The Usos
Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James
Lynch can exact a small amount of revenge against the woman who posed as La Luchadora for weeks and interfered with Lynch’s matches at Elimination Chamber. After James proved she can still deliver great matches back at NXT TakeOver against Asuka, this is a sleeper pick for one of the bouts of the night.
Pick: Becky Lynch
Luke Harper vs. Randy Orton
Do you really think the winner of the Royal Rumble and the guy who will main event WrestleMania is going to lose to Luke Harper?
That being said, it will be interesting to see what role - if any - Bray Wyatt plays in this match. Wyatt could potentially end the night as the WWE World Champion, or the total implosion of his family could be complete.
Pick: Randy Orton
Alexa Bliss vs. Naomi for the SmackDown Women’s Championship
Naomi has been deservedly thrust back into the spotlight on SmackDown after an extended absence, but it seems a bit quick for her to dethrone the champion (who has now had a longer reign than inaugural SmackDown Women’s champ Becky Lynch). I expect a furious Mickie James, having lost to Lynch earlier in the night,to interfere and help Bliss retain her title.
Pick: Alexa Bliss
Six-man Elimination Chamber match for the WWE World Championship
The Elimination Chamber match will be fascinating, mostly because we should have a clearer idea of what the WrestleMania 33 card might look like after Sunday night.
In one corner (pod?), you have 16-time World Champion John Cena, who only just won the title a couple weeks ago in a classic against A.J. Styles. It would be shocking to see Cena lose the belt so quickly, but the six-man Elimination Chamber is perhaps the toughest match to defend your title in outside of the Rumble itself (see Reigns, Roman).
While it still seems too soon for Baron Corbin, he’s become a monster on SmackDown Live over the last few weeks and WWE clearly wants him to be a main event player for a long time.
Styles, meanwhile, is the consensus “best wrestler in WWE,” if not the world, and he has immense fan support. Dean Ambrose is a fan favorite and has the potential to become a dual champion. The Miz is the best heel in the company, and fans have long been wishing for Bray Wyatt to have major success on a pay-per-view main event level (where is record is not great).
Each potential champion could lead SmackDown and the WWE down a different interesting path, but I still can’t pick against Cena - unless The Undertaker appears to cost him the title and set up a WrestleMania 33 headliner for the ages.