It's less than a month out from WrestleMania 36, and Sunday's Elimination Chamber in Philadelphia should represent the last landscape-shifting night along the way. That said, it feels a little bit anticlimactic in the wake of Super ShowDown and the week of shows that followed.
Still, spots on the April 5 WrestleMania card get assigned quickly this time of year, and at least one more key match will be locked in by the time this show closes.
Here are some of the big lingering questions hovering over WWE as it enters the final leg of the road to WrestleMania.
Can anyone other than Shayna Baszler win the Raw women's championship No. 1 contender match?
Considering everything that's happened since the Royal Rumble, all of WWE's efforts have gone into making Baszler the presumptive challenger to Becky Lynch at WrestleMania. And while there's nothing wrong with laying breadcrumbs along the way, removing the drama of an uncertain outcome heading into a big match lets some of the air out of the balloon.
With the exception of Asuka, who renewed tensions with Lynch at Royal Rumble, and then again on Raw in mid-February, no one else in this match outside of Baszler has had so much as a passing interaction with the champion.
Charlotte Flair winning the Royal Rumble and heading toward NXT removed a valuable cloud of uncertainty surrounding the match. The three former members of the Riott Squad have been wrapped up in battling each other, and Natalya has had a grand total of two matches since the Royal Rumble, dropping losses to both members of the Kabuki Warriors. In reality, having Kairi Sane in this match would have at least tilted things slightly in the favor of the de facto dark horse, Asuka, and at least cast a little doubt over the proceedings (and also allow for an In-Sane elbow from the top of a pod).
Don't get me wrong: Having a WrestleMania match that has a backstory that traces back to November and Survivor Series is a good thing -- as long as it doesn't lean too hard into Baszler's efforts to bite Lynch's neck. Baszler's connection to Ronda Rousey, another key former Lynch foe, is another unmined element that could further enhance the story over the next few weeks. But not putting the effort into building out at least one other potential outcome to this match is indicative of the kind of frustrating storytelling we've seen of late in WWE.
Will any of the four major singles titles be on the line at Elimination Chamber?
As of Saturday evening, none of the top men's or women's titles are scheduled to be defended on Sunday. Lynch, the Raw women's champion, will presumably be on hand to face down her challenger once that Elimination Chamber match ends. But the chances of seeing either Brock Lesnar or Goldberg on the show are virtually nil, and with no roadblocks standing in either of their ways, Drew McIntyre and Roman Reigns have little reason to show up, either.
The one wild card in the equation is the SmackDown women's championship, which we'll get into momentarily. But at a bare minimum, the last major show ahead of WrestleMania will be missing three of the top four titles and two of the most heavily featured performers on Raw and SmackDown in McIntyre and Reigns.
Truth be told, there's no tension left in building up either the WWE or Universal championship matches at WrestleMania. Outside of Lesnar and Paul Heyman getting some measure of revenge on McIntyre for his three-Claymore attack on Monday with an attack of their own, or a staredown and perhaps a battle of spears between Reigns and Goldberg during a predictable contract signing, what more could there be? There's a complete lack of the kind of buildup we saw between Kofi Kingston and Daniel Bryan, or Lesnar and Seth Rollins, that helped make the payoffs at WrestleMania 35 so enjoyable.
What else could Elimination Chamber tell us about WrestleMania 36?
The silver lining of having the biggest titles out of the picture at Elimination Chamber is that it offers a chance to have some buildup for the matches that are lower down on the WrestleMania card.
These are the matches that are either already confirmed or that can reasonably be intuited (although, as WWE always likes to remind us, card is subject to change):
WWE championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Drew McIntyre
Universal championship: Goldberg vs. Roman Reigns
NXT women's championship: Rhea Ripley vs. Charlotte Flair
Raw women's championship: Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler
That leaves the SmackDown women's championship, all three of the Raw, SmackDown and women's tag team titles, the United States and Intercontinental championships in play, as well as the men's and women's battles royal that have become Kickoff Show staples. Whether WrestleMania will be a 16-match card remains to be seen, but many of the key players who will fill out those matches will be featured on Sunday night.
The tag team Elimination Chamber match could easily steal the show. It's being overlooked in a lot of ways, because The Miz and John Morrison just won the SmackDown tag titles and don't seem likely to drop them this quickly. But disregard a tag team match featuring The New Day and The Usos at your own peril, as they showed for the better part of the past two years. Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler carry a perpetual chip on their shoulders as well. And don't underestimate the power of a major showcase after a breakthrough night for Heavy Machinery on SmackDown in a revelatory gauntlet match performance, or the potential for the Lucha House Party to make the Chamber their playground.
You can also look at the history of tag team Elimination Chamber matches. The women's tag team match that crowned Bayley and Banks inaugural champions of the division was a lot of fun, and the 2015 Chamber match is an oft-overlooked gem in its own right.
Then you get to the Intercontinental championship handicap match featuring Braun Strowman defending against Sami Zayn, Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura. This trio of broken toys with no storyline place to go have built tremendous chemistry, and I'm not just talking about the incredible double suplex/Helluva Kick combination that put Strowman through a table on SmackDown. It would be nice to see them as more than cannon fodder for Strowman, as you have a triumvirate that could quickly roll into some momentum if given even any chance to shine.
What's going to happen with the SmackDown women's championship?
That brings us to the key question still floating in the air. Bayley has already gone through Carmella, Naomi and Lacey Evans. After Naomi pinned Bayley in a tag team match on SmackDown a week ago Friday, Sasha Banks returned the favor on the go-home show by pinning Naomi. Bayley gleefully celebrated a weekend off for Elimination Chamber, and even posited that she could take WrestleMania off, having torn threw the rest of the women's division on SmackDown. There's an argument to be made that no matter what happens on Friday and Sunday, Bayley seems headed toward some kind of multi-way match at WrestleMania.
I'd like to offer a counter-proposal: instead of a Fatal 4-Way match at WrestleMania, or a 5-Way or 6-Way for that matter, let's make Bayley vs. Sasha Banks on a WrestleMania stage.
Once Banks emerges as the only true contender after Elimination Chamber, and she asks Bayley for her rightful shot at the belt, Bayley attacks Banks and closes the loop on their initial rivalry, setting up a tremendous revival of tensions.
Having Naomi, Carmella and Evans involved in reviving the long-forgotten women's tag team titles would add serious depth to a potential multi-way match, making those titles more than just the props they've been as Asuka chased Lynch for the Raw women's championship. WWE could easily fast-track a Bayley vs. Banks rivalry in a month, even though a longer build would have been more ideal. Their shared history and their era-defining NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn I match offer strong base upon which a stellar WrestleMania match could be built.
Neither Banks nor Bayley has had a one-on-one WrestleMania match, and it would be a strong message to put the women's titles and men's titles on the same level with one-on-one matches across the board. It's the biggest women's title match they could make by a wide margin on the SmackDown side, clearly eclipsing the level of interest a potential multi-way match could draw.