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It's not quite time for The Boss to pick up gold.
It's not quite time for The Boss to pick up gold.
Photo by Mike Brooks

Where Does the Road To WrestleMania Lead After Houston?

Long-term storytelling is hard. We've been hustled a bit by the "golden age of television," but the truth is for every Breaking Bad or The Sopranos there's a Heroes or any number of shows that exist but you've never come across. But the thing that episodic dramas have going for them is that they don't have to air 52 weeks a year. True, sometimes you get shows like Lost that stretch eight episodes of story to 20 episodes, but the best shows know how to make even the filler interesting.

This is to say that for the WWE the road to WrestleMania is long. Between January's Royal Rumble and April's Wrestlemania there are many weeks of television that have to be produced, in addition to two pay-per-views. Fastlane will take place next month, giving the WWE a chance to do any last minute course corrections to the event, while this weekend's Elimination Chamber, taking place on Sunday at the Toyota Center, is just sort of a thing that's happening.

To their credit, the WWE has at least thrown Houston a bone with a match to crown the first modern-era Women's Tag Team Champions, but the rest of the card is unlikely to shape things up to much. After all, there's still so much time on the clock before WrestleMania itself, so there's no hurry to set things in stone yet.

Rather than get into the great "who should headline WrestleMania this year?" debate — the answer is so clearly Becky Lynch versus Ronda Rousey (versus Charlotte) that it's hard to imagine that anyone, anywhere realistically thinks Seth Rollins versus Brock Lesner is the real money match — let us instead look at the two big matches in Houston and where the WWE should go from here.

Elimination Chamber: Nia Jax and Tamina vs. The Riott Squad (Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan) vs. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville vs. The IIconics (Billie Kay and Peyton Royce) vs. Bayley and Sasha Banks vs. Naomi and Carmella
Who Should Win: The Riott Squad
Who Will Win: Nia Jax and Tamina

Now, it's obvious that Bayley and Sasha Banks need someone to chase as Mania season really heats up, and whether they're the first champions or the second isn't really going to change the pop they get when they do secure the belts. Plus, with the titles post-Mania, they'll have an excuse not to chase Lynch's Raw Women's Championship.

The Riott Squad holding the titles would make for a better Mania match, and would be a nice reward for the first women's stable in ages that actually feels like a real unit. The Riott Squad are awesome, and with Ruby Riott certain to lose on Sunday, would give them an edge; let them hold the titles under Freebird rules and you'll have plenty of fun matches to kill time on Raw over the next month and a half.

But alas, Nia Jax — who I like quite a bit — also needs something to do at Mania, and with sponsors allegedly turning their nose up at the idea of letting her do intergender matches, the Woman's Tag Team Championships seem as good a place as any to put her. The WWE clearly love her, so her and Tamina picking up the win here appears like the most natural thing in the world.

Elimination Chamber Match: Daniel Bryan (c) vs. AJ Styles vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton vs. Samoa Joe vs. Kofi Kingston
Who Should Win: Daniel Bryan
Who Will Win: Daniel Bryan

This is not a match that exists to clarify what the Mania card will look like. In fact, up until about a week ago, I would have argued there wasn't really anything compelling about the match; Daniel Bryan is going to win, and at the time none of his opponents would make for a particularly interesting Mania match. Bryan versus Styles has been done to death, a match with Jeff Hardy would be fine but nothing earth-shattering narratively, heel versus heel means no Orton or Joe, and while a match with Mustafa Ali would be next level great, no one would believe Ali had a chance.

But Kofi Kingston, there might just be gold in them hills. The New Day has been one of the most popular acts in the company for ages now, and their constant stream of merchandise would actually make them perfect foils for a champion is a bad guy because he thinks consumerism is bad (the WWE is a weird place). And a Kofi championship win? Long overdue. The New Day could compete with Bryan in the ring and on the mike, plus there are plenty of tag team matches on the table now that Bryan has his own heavy in Rowan.

It's the most interesting option on the table, unless the plan is Bryan versus Rey Mysterio, hair (and title) versus mask, because if there's one thing we know about Daniel Bryan at this point is that do would love to be in a match where he could maybe lose his hair. Either of those two options would make for a really fun match likely to be stuck in the second hour of a five-hour broadcast.

The Elimination Chamber is Sunday, February 17 at 5:30 p.m.  at the Toyota Center, 1510 Polk. For information, call 866-446-8849 or visit houstontoyotacenter.com/events/detail/wwe-elimination-chamber. Doors open at 4 p.m.  $25-$500.

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