By William Math

The next stop on the road to WrestleMania comes to us from Minneapolis on February 23rd, in the shape of Elimination Chamber. The main event of the show of course will be the chamber match itself, where Randy Orton will defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against five men inside the hellish structure. It’ll be Orton’s seventh appearance in the match, and he goes off against opponents with varying degrees of experience. John Cena has been in four, Daniel Bryan two and Sheamus two. This will be the first time Antonio Cesaro and Christian have stepped foot inside Satan’s Prison.

There have been 16 Elimination Chamber matches in the 12 years it has been on the scene. 45 different men have entered, and 10 different men have walked out victorious. Only three men, Triple H, John Cena and Edge, own multiple victories. The winners mostly read a veritable who’s who of modern day WWE, with names like CM Punk, Triple H, Edge, Chris Jericho, The Undertaker and Daniel Bryan all represented.

As the match itself is still fairly young in pro wrestling terms, the question as to who is the greatest Elimination Chamber winner of all time rarely comes up. In a similar way to the analytical approach to the Royal Rumble though, the structure of an Elimination Chamber match makes this an interesting discussion. Out of the 10 winners, I’ve chosen seven to look at to try and decide just who has the greatest Chamber pedigree and no, that is not a hint. I’ve discarded Daniel Bryan (winner in 2012), Bobby Lashley (2006) and Jack Swagger (2013). Lashley and Swagger only entered the single match, and despite Bryan featuring twice he’s only eliminated one single person in that time. Their statistics don’t match up to the other seven, not by a long way.

We’ll start with the man who won the very first Elimination Match back in 2002, ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ Shawn Michaels. Including that first, Michaels has entered a total of four chambers but hasn’t been victorious since his debut appearance. Truth be told, he hasn’t made too big a dent in the three unsuccessful appearances either. After eliminating Chris Jericho and Triple H on his way to victory in 2002, HBK has only eliminated a single individual in his three other runs, that man being Kurt Angle in 2006. The flipside of this is that Michaels has started the match off in his three non-victorious appearances, so he has done a lot of the grunt work. Still, his numbers in this respect don’t stand up to a man later on in this list. Outside of his win, Michaels’ most influential appearance came in 2010, and he wasn’t even an entrant in the match. In this year he appeared out of nowhere (well, the floor) to super kick The Undertaker into oblivion and hand Chris Jericho the win.

Another man who has four entries for a single win in the Elimination Chamber is the man who walked out two weeks ago, CM Punk. Things would be very different for his record if Paul Heyman had gotten his way at December to Dismember in 2006 however. Heyman wanted Punk to win that match, if so his record of one win and five eliminations would invariably be better as he was first out in that match. Punk won in 2012, eliminating R-Truth and The Miz (as well as incapacitating Chris Jericho). He also had a great showing in 2011, coming up short to John Cena after getting shot of Randy Orton and John Morrison. Punk might not feature in another Chamber match, and his record will always be one of what could have been.

John Cena’s record in Elimination Chamber is exactly what you would expect. Played four, won three. He’s only eliminated three people as well, and this has always been the decisive fall in the match. Carlito was dispatched in 2006, Triple H in 2010 and Punk in 2011. You know a man’s chamber record is uneventful when Carlito (3 eliminations) outperformed him in a match. Indeed, Cena’s biggest chamber moment arguably came after the 2006 bout, when Edge cashed in the first Money in the Bank briefcase on a prone Cena.

Speaking of Edge, his record is fairly strong, all be it similar to Cena. After going winless and elimination-less in 2005 and 09, Edge returned at the end of the No Way Out PPV in 2009 to win his first Chamber match, eliminating Cena and Rey Mysterio in the process. His tussle with Rey was particularly impressive, and would be repeated two years later in 2011. That same year he went from beginning to end in the Chamber, making him one of only three men to start the match and win it.

One other in that short list is The Undertaker. The Undertaker has only been in three Elimination Chamber matches, winning in 2008, but he has made a total of six eliminations overall. The names he has dispatched aren’t exactly of the highest caliber, but you can only beat what is put in front of you, even if it is Vladimir Kozlov. He would have a similar win percentage to Cena, had Shawn Michaels not cost him victory and the World title in 2010 to set up their WrestleMania rematch. Still, Taker’s record of a two elimination per match average is the best out of the men discussed here.

Quite unsurprisingly, the man with the most Elimination Chamber victories is Triple H. He’s entered in six and won four, and the two he failed to win he was the decisive fall to end the match. After coming up short to Shawn Michaels in 2002, he would go on to win the next four chamber matches he was in, eliminating a list of greats along the way. Goldberg was defeated, all be it in dodgy circumstances, in 2002. Randy Orton fell in 2005. HBK and Jeff Hardy were pinned in 2008 and 2009 saw Hunter dispatch The Big Show and The Undertaker. His grand total of seven eliminations puts him second on the all-time list.

The man who has undoubtedly been the MVP of Elimination Chamber matches to date heads that list, and most others. Chris Jericho has been in eight chamber matches all together, a record. He has a total of 10 eliminations, a record. He is the only man to lose the Chamber match without being defeated, when Punk knocked him out in 2012 to further their WrestleMania beef. Last years match was the first he had entered where he failed to eliminate a single opponent. Chris Jericho has also started the match in six out of his eight appearances, a clear sign of his in-ring abilities and experience. He only holds a single win, coming in 2010 thanks to Shawn Michaels, but Jericho’s record in the EC is tough to top.

So what does all of this mean for the forthcoming PPV? Well, not much. The history of the incumbent champion is mixed, with the champion retaining on five of the 12 occasions a title has been on the line. One positive for Randy Orton to hang his hat on though is that a champion hasn’t lost their title in the Chamber since 2010, when both Undertaker and Sheamus came up short. Orton, along with Kane, has entered more Chamber matches than any other without being successful. My money would be on him retaining this year.

What about Christian and Cesaro, entering for the first time? Well, six men have won the Chamber in their first appearance, not a great number considering 47 different men have entered. I would suspect one of them will start the match off. They can take slight heart from knowing that first time winners happen more often than any other repetition.

Unlike the Royal Rumble, history doesn’t give much away with regards to the Elimination Chamber. It hasn’t been around long enough, to be blunt. It’s always fascinating though, as the structure itself encourages creativity, meaning there’s always the possibility of seeing something completely new. Either way, it should be fun.

That’ll do for now. What do you think? Who do you consider the greatest Elimination Chamber participant of all time? Was any particularly match your favourite? Did you know that Santino Marella has more eliminations than Kurt Angle? Drop a comment in the lonely comment box below, we’ll duke it out. Find me on twitter (@pingvinorkestra). Slight shill, my own blog (travel mostly) has a new domain, so go look at Slavic history at www.haraldmath.com. Laters.