WWE Elimination Chamber ends with women showing men how it's done as Smackdown proves times have changed

The likes of Becky Lynch, Nikke Bella, Natalya and new Smackdown Women's champion Naomi prove that the division can both open and close major pay-per-views

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The Independent Online

Smackdown Live's women stole the show on an historic night for the division at the Elimination Chamber pay per view event.

The main event aside which we'll get to shortly, a card that promised a great deal never really felt like it was hitting the straps until you factored in the efforts of the female side of the roster.

For the first time, a WWE pay per view boasted three women's matches - headlined in that respect by a championship win for long-serving superstar Naomi who toppled Alexa Bliss to win her first career title. The win sees the Orlando native set to feature at Wrestlemania - staged in her hometown this year - as a reigning champion. Just who she might face is one to ponder at the moment, thanks in a large part to the Chamber's other women's efforts.

The pick of the three matches was arguably the last candidate to be so - veteran Natalya and Nikki Bella put on a stellar performance in what was probably the match of the latter's career so far. Natalya plays the heel so very well but is as good a technician as you'll find, and the double count-out finish was just rewards to both superstars. Often the graduate of the Hart dungeon in Calgary has been made to look inferior against her more celebrity-friendly counterparts, but solid booking in this feud has seen her cemented as the equal to anyone on the roster when it comes to work inside the ring.

All this action followed the night's opening bout, Becky Lynch's victory over Mickie James. You got what you expected from these two - a solid match with the right finish. It wasn't necessarily anything to blow the mind - but this is an era where women's wrestling can open and close pay per views - high-quality matches are now the norm and thanks to some great storytelling from these two, this bout was no exception.

By comparison, much of the men's action for the night failed to compare. In terms of storylines, Dolph Ziggler's handicap match defeat to Kalisto and Apollo Crews was as necessary as his relentless beat down of both rivals either side of the bell. It was an attempt to cement Ziggler's heel status and while he's living up to his end of the bargain, the live crowd felt a little disinterested. As we edge towards Mania, a bigger programme should give the Show Off the lift he needs.

Luke Harper rarely gets the chance to shine on an individual basis, so his match with Randy Orton was a good watch. An Orton win was the only likely outcome here but the offence in this match was stacked largely in Harper's favour and it's clear he has a future as a singles star - and quite possibly a popular one at that.


Becky Lynch and Mickie James were a strong opening aat Elimination Chamber (WWE)

American Alpha retained their tag titles in a tornado tag match that only ever really came across as the filler match it was. They look destined or feud with the Usos after a post-elimination beat down from the Samoan pair, but their interaction aside, this collaboration of tag teams from the blue brand felt a little forced.

It would be left for the main event to really save the show from the perspective of the men's portion of the card and credit to each of the six individuals for pulling off a good finale. Chamber matches have too often been about the brutality of the structure and how it can be used, but on this night there was no talent wasted and each had a meaningful contribution. Seeds were well planted for the Miz and John Cena to take things from here while a battle between Baron Corbin and Dean Ambrose looks a dead cert. With the live crowd finally engaged, the night would end with Bray Wyatt revelling in the glory of clinching his first WWE Championship after pinning the ever-stellar AJ Styles. Orton would then appear for a brief showdown to tease the likely title bout between the two at Mania.


Neither Bella nor Natalya came out of their bout badly (WWE)

Smackdown Live is set for the biggest show of the year and the Eater of Worlds is the man at the helm. On this night, though, Wyatt wasn't the only first-time champ left bathing in deserved limelight. With Naomi's victory, Elimination Chamber was left to Feel The Glow on the way to Orlando.