In defense of Shayna Baszler’s dominant performance at Elimination Chamber 2020

Shayna Baszler, Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke on the Nov. 6, 2019 edition of WWE NXT. Photo:
Shayna Baszler, Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke on the Nov. 6, 2019 edition of WWE NXT. Photo: /

Shayna Baszler’s supremacy over her opponents, while making for a bad match at Elimination Chamber, will add to her aura as a true threat to Becky Lynch’s title reign.

Sunday night at Elimination Chamber, the main event saw a historical feat achieved. In the Elimination Chamber match to determine Becky Lynch’s challenger at Wrestlemania, Shayna Baszler dominated the competition and proceeded to eliminate the other five women in the match, making her the first competitor to ever do so.

Now, there was plenty of outcry about the match, both in terms of the match quality and in how it was booked. And I certainly wouldn’t defend the match itself — it stunk. The opening competitive sequences were not great, and Baszler’s rapid demolition of the competition was both boring in and of itself and led to long downtimes while waiting for the next entrant that were even more exhausting to sit through. Even the last stretch of the match, where Asuka finally pushed Shayna to compete, was merely decent and certainly not enough to salvage the match.

The booking of the match wasn’t perfect either. Ideally, Liv Morgan would’ve offered at least a tiny bit of offense, and maybe Ruby Riott could’ve done SOMETHING other than just get immediately choked out. Or, in a different world where WWE doesn’t do gimmick PPVs for most of their shows, maybe this could’ve just been a gauntlet match where Shayna runs the table, without the long periods of dead space.

Ultimately, however, I think the outcome and structure of this match are good for the company as a whole. The priority of the match was to build Baszler up as a credible challenger to dethrone Lynch and build hype for their storyline, particularly since the first shot fired in this feud (Baszler biting the back of Lynch’s neck, drawing blood) might not have worked for everyone. This match succeeded in achieving both goals.

Lynch has been champion for a year since defeating Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair in the first-ever women’s Wrestlemania main event. For her defeat to be believable, whoever dethrones her must be believed to be miles ahead of all of her previous challengers. Baszler becoming the first competitor ever to sweep the Elimination Chamber offers that legitimacy for those who don’t actively follow NXT and know Baszler’s exploits and dominance there.

The match where she showed that dominance being among the worst Elimination Chamber matches ever might actually help in shoring up Lynch’s support, in a meta sense. Lynch’s support outside of her diehard fans has been flagging in recent months, but facing an opponent who many fans don’t believe is good (she is, but that’s a debate for another day) might help rally fans to Lynch and in opposition to Baszler.

WWE sorely needs another top star in their women’s division beyond Rousey (absent since her loss at last year’s Wrestlemania) and the Four Horsewomen of NXT. Baszler represents the best chance since Asuka’s debut from NXT to finally fill that need. Whether they ultimately fumble that opportunity, like they did with Asuka, or they actually manage to succeed, last night’s Elimination Chamber match helped pave the way for success.

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