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Will Austin Theory retain his title at Elimination Chamber?

You really have to give Triple H and the rest of the WWE Creative Team credit. They are really starting to hit their stride at the most important time of the year for the company. The road to WrestleMania is white hot coming out of Royal Rumble and the last major detour on the trip to Los Angeles is next weekend at Elimination Chamber.

No disrespect to Roman Reigns, Sami Zayn or anyone else booked on the card in Montreal so far, but one match in particular has my attention more than the others.

You could not ask for a more eclectic collection of talent than the six men that have been booked for the Elimination Chamber match for the United States Championship. Each man brings something different to the table and it’s going to be so much fun watching this dance unfold.

Maybe more importantly, this is a difficult match to predict. I’d say a large majority of those competing next Saturday at least have a puncher’s chance of leaving the Bell Centre with the most beautiful title belt in WWE on their shoulder.

The official betting odds for Elimination Chamber have yet to be released, but allow me to try and handicap the field for this certified banger that’s about to go down.

Seth “Freakin” Rollins – Chance of winning: < 1%

I feel like I need to start my explanation off with a disclaimer. This has nothing to do with Seth Rollins the performer or the person. He’s one of the best in the world at what he does and, despite the more than occasional viral comment, seems like a genuinely good dude.

This all comes down to the story folks.

Granted, it does seem odd to say that WWE’s resident revolutionary has almost no chance of walking out of Elimination Chamber with the United States Championship, especially when he’s spent the past several months feuding with Austin Theory. But unlike a majority of the men in this match, Seth’s WrestleMania plans appear set in stone.

Rollins is known for dancing along that blurred line between reality and kayfabe, and his recent social media comments about Logan Paul, seem to confirm the rumors that he has a date with one of YouTube’s biggest stars in Los Angeles.

“It’s probably the coolest thing Logan’s ever gonna do in his life is throw me out of the Rumble, but I just advise him to stay in his lane I guess is what I would say because he’s a freak, no doubt about it. At the end of the day he’s just not a wrestler you know, he doesn’t want to be a wrestler, he just wants to be famous.”

The visionary then took it a step further while a guest on The Pat McAfee Show on Super Bowl Row this week:

“The guy doesn’t care about nothing but himself,” Rollins said. “I can respect the hustle alright. I respect the hustle, I really do because it takes hustle to get where he’s at and to get the opportunities that he’s got. But at the end of the day, it’s about passion. No one is just going to suit up and be an NFL superstar, they’re going to get creamed. So he’s going to step into my world and he’s going to get creamed.”

Rollins’ is an absolute master at building a WrestleMania program. He did a spectacular job of selling many a ticket with his match last year, without having an opponent until seconds before the bell rang. He’s at it again. This rivalry is heating up and we haven’t even seen Logan Paul return to television for his rebuttal yet.

Adding the United States Championship to this program would just gum up the works. It’s not needed here. This match-up is going to be much more personal than fighting for a Title. Hence my conclusion that Rollins is not winning the belt back.

Montez Ford – Chance of winning: 3.5%

Here’s a match that I’d like to see at WrestleMania 39: Montez Ford defending his newly won United States Championship against… Angelo Dawkins.

Now, before you jump to conclusions Mr. Smykowski — No, I’m not saying that WWE creative should split up the Street Profits. Every tag team in the history of tag teams, outside of the New Day, has turned on one another at some point. I don’t want to see that happen here.

The Profits are just too damn good together and they have plenty left to offer WWE as a team… just not at the moment. The popular belief is that The Usos are headed toward a showdown with Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. So, instead of leaving two of your most entertaining Superstars on the back burner with no high profile tag team program in the works, give them a spotlight all their own during the latter half of ‘Mania season.

Look at Dawkins with Byron Saxton and Montez Ford after he failed to qualify for the Elimination Chamber match on Raw. Yeah, he and Ford hugged it out at the end, but he’s starring his tag partner down with all of the “not now dawg” energy when Tez starts singing.

There’s a story to be told here. For years Dawkins has had to hear about the potential of Montez Ford and how he has singles star written all over him. Just this week on The Bump, Big E was heaping praise in Ford’s direction:

“It’s hard not to be a Montez guy. You talk about someone who has all the tools, charismatic as hell, absurdly athletic. He has everything, so it’s about time for Montez to get his. I’m excited to see his rise and see his run. Talk about a star. Guy has screamed ‘star’ for a long time, so it’s time to get Montez cooking.”

Yet not nearly as much love is sent Dawkins’ way. It should, btw — people need to stop sleeping on my fellow Cincinnatian.

I’d love to see this play out on TV. Maybe a little jealousy brews up if Ford captures his first ever singles gold. Maybe Dawkins gets a little tired of all the Montez hype and that competitive fire starts burning up inside of him. Maybe Dawkins decides he needs to show the world that he has just as much star power as his brother in arms.

You could easily build a United States Championship program between these two and give them a chance to show out on the biggest stage. Let the competitive juices flow between these two at ‘Mania and then they can continue to support one another once the final bell has rung – regardless who wins.

Will it happen? Probably not. I’m willing to bet that Tez will get a chance to shine inside the Chamber, but I’d be shocked if he walks away with the biggest dub of his career.

Damian Priest – Chance of winning: 10%

Edge is right. Damian Priest is in a much better spot now than he was before the creation of The Judgment Day. His main roster run started off strong, which included a run with the United States Championship, but interest in Priest started to slide once the creative team took his first name a little too literal and saddled him with easily triggered anger issues.

It was a less than brilliant decision by the old regime to take one of the most naturally cool people on the planet and give him a gimmick that was centered around him bulging his eyes out of his head during matches.

A change was desperately needed and Edge threw the man a lifeline. Priest thanked him a few weeks later by knocking his head off his shoulders. Another necessary change.

Judgment Day just didn’t really start to click until Edge was booted from the group in favor of Finn Balor, and eventually Dominik Mysterio. Not saying it was Edge’s fault. Growing pains are a natural part of the creative process and it just took time to find the right combination to make a successful faction.

Fast forward to today and ex-con Dom is a nuclear heat magnet, Finn Balor has been embattled in a months-long feud with the Rated R Superstar himself, and Rhea Ripley is headed to WrestleMania after winning the Royal Rumble. Judgment Day is nearly firing on all cylinders.

Damian Priest has been in the background just a little too much for my liking. The man has all the tools to be a future World Champion. He needs his own arc while other members of the group are tied up in other stories.

A United States Championship run could be just what the doctor ordered. Considering how much the creative team is leaning on Judgment Day these days, I give Priest a pretty good chance of walking away with the gold.

Johnny Gargano – Chance of winning: 15%

Don’t look now, but Johnny Gargano is starting to build some momentum and the Elimination Chamber match is the perfect opportunity for him to reintroduce the world to Johnny Wrestling.

Gargano re-signed with WWE last fall and started off hot, getting the better of Austin Theory is his first major feud on the main roster. But then he became the secondary character in the reintroduction of his old buddy Dexter Lumis, a storyline arc with The Miz that many felt drug on just a little too long.

Johnny did his best with the material and he was able to showcase his comedic chops, but at the same time the losses started to pile up… Otis, Baron Corbin, The Miz, Omos. His stock started to fall and then he got injured.

The injury though, was a blessing in disguise. It gave Gargano a chance to reset before making his return at Royal Rumble. He lasted just shy of a half hour before two members of Judgment Day threw him over the top rope.

It was the following Monday that Gargano avenged one of his earlier losses and defeated Baron Corbin to qualify for the Chamber. And more importantly you could hear the familiar, albeit faint, “Johnny Wrestling” chants from the audience.

His first night back in the company, Gargano talked about his dreams in WWE and one of the reasons he re-signed was to capture the United States Championship. He has his opportunity to do just that next weekend and I truly believe he’s one of the favorites to win the match.

Gargano would be an excellent babyface champ and could really build upon the Johnny Wrestling legacy on the main roster by bringing back the United States Championship Open Challenge and having incredible successful title defenses all the way through WrestleMania season.

If that’s not the direction that WWE decides to go with Gargano, I’m not sure where his place on the card in Los Angeles will fall.

Bronson Reed – Chance of winning: 20%

Bronson Reed has to be considered a favorite to win this match. Simply put — who is beating this man?

Some fans were initially worried when Reed made his return to WWE. Coming off a Summer where big JONAH defeated Kazuchika Okada in NJPW’s G1 Climax, he debuted on Raw as Bronson Reed by helping the Miz win back his money from Dexter Lumis.

Much to the delight of the concerned, it turned out that Reed was not being brought in to join forces with the Miz, but instead was simply a hired gun. Since then, Bronson has competed in three matches and won them all in dominating fashion. The latest, an Elimination Chamber qualifying match where he made quick work of Dolph Ziggler.

Reed has been booked as a colossal monster so far and I can’t imagine that the WWE creative team wants him to take a loss this quickly.

If he’s not being booked to win, how Bronson Reed gets eliminated is the most interesting part of this match to me. I imagine it will take quite a lot of damage to keep the big man down. And which of his smaller opponents is going to be able to get the job done?

My guess is we see a great feat of strength from the powerhouse of The Judgment Day, Damian Priest, or it’s a collective group effort. Several finishers in a row capped off by a stomp by Rollins when they finally get him down on all fours.

That said, I would not be shocked at all to see Bronson Reed win the United States Champion next weekend. It would definitely send a clear message to the WWE Universe that Bronson Reed isn’t back in WWE to play second fiddle to anyone.

Win, lose, or something unforeseen, I just ask for one thing.

Please give me a massive Tsunami off the top of one of the chamber pods. I truly pity the poor soul who ends up underneath that mass of humanity.

Austin Theory – Chance of winning: > 50%

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news to many, but I’m taking the Champ against the field on this one. And once again it all comes down to the story.

You could make the argument that it would be beneficial to the rest of the locker room to take the title off of Theory before his heavily rumored clash with John Cena at WrestleMania 39.

Theory vs. Cena would be high profile enough without the gold and putting the United States Championship on someone else, opens up a new avenue to get other Superstars on the WrestleMania card. Like a multi-man ladder match or the Ford v. Dawkins scenario I laid out earlier.

I attempted to make that argument on this week’s episode of the Bleav in Pro Wrestling Podcast, before my co-host SP3 talked me out of it.

SP3’s case centers around the idea that the United States Championship only enhances Theory’s rivalry (even if it’s just in head) with Cena — once again creating another parallel between the two competitors.

It would also give Theory the ability to build toward a match, without Cena even being involved until the night of the show.

“Theory retaining the championship at Elimination Chamber allows him to continue his John Cena teases and make his WrestleMania match an open challenge. That would naturally be accepted by the man he’s been making references to and the man who created the US Title open challenge in the first place. Cena will be available for limited dates, so Theory holding onto the title and making multiple defenses provide WWE with an easier route to their eventual Mania showdown.”

You have to admit, it would be an incredible touch for Cena to answer a U.S. Open Challenge at WrestleMania. Would it be a bit predictable? No more so than Cody being Rollin’s opponent last year. Rhodes still got a hell of a pop, and so would the 16-time World Champ.

So, does John Cena return at WrestleMania to challenge for the Championship he help put on the map (repeatedly) in WWE? I think the odds are very likely in favor of that happening.

Where do the rest of the competitors in the Men’s Elimination Chamber Match go from here? I genuinely do not know.

Who do you think is coming out on top in the Men’s Elimination Chamber Match? Let us know in the comment section below. You can follow Rick Ucchino on Twitter and subscribe to the Bleav in Pro Wrestling Podcast Channel for more of his work.

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