If you're not caught up on the current ins and outs of the WWE ... what the heck are you doing? It's the Road to WrestleMania, you goober. The most thrilling time of the year to be even the most casual of wrestling fans. The Elimination Chamber PPV takes place on Sunday and not only is it the last major event to take place before WrestleMania -- and the event that should get all the pieces in place before "the grandaddy of them all" -- but it is the last event (the last day) before the launch of the WWE Network ... which, if you haven't heard, is going to be A Big Damn Deal.
So here's your full card and preview for the event. We'll encapsulate everything you need to know in easy-to-digest chunks, tell you why you should care and even identify these briefs-wearing sides of beef, should you be completely lost.
Cody Rhodes & Goldust vs. Ryback & Curtis Axel (Kickoff Match)
What am I looking at here? We've covered this before in this column, but the guy in the gold paint and the rubber bodysuit is Goldust. His partner is the guy who looks like an Olympic swimmer. They're both the sons of Dusty Rhodes, in defiance of genetics. Their opponents are the sometimes-team that the Internet has (ironically-)affectionately dubbed "Rybaxel." They big, Absorbing Man-looking dude with the enormous trapezoid muscles and the quasi-RVD singlet is Ryback, a self-proclaimed bully (who hates bullies). He may get some "Goldberg" chants. Ignore those. The last guy in the match -- the guy who is thoroughly unexceptional in every way; the guy who has his hair combed straight forward like a goon -- is the son of Mr. Perfect. No, seriously. Ryback and Axel may be accompanied by Paul Heyman, who is incredibly entertaining. But who can say?
Why you should care: Hang on, give me a second here. I'm sure I can come up with a reason. Hmmm ... oh! Hey! I'll give you TWO reasons:
1. This is the free, pre-PPV match that you can watch on WWE.com, Facebook and YouTube. Free wrestling!
2. This might be the breakup of the Rhodes Bros., leading to a BROTHER AGAINST BROTHER match at WrestleMania. Fans have waited years for this Cody vs. Dustin feud. This might be the breaking point that gets us there.
Darren Young vs. Titus O'Neil
What am I looking at here? The guy who looks like a bigger Terry Crews is Titus O'Neil. The guy with an afro is Darren Young.
Why you should care: These two used to be a tag team called Prime Time Players until betrayal. BETRAYAL MOST FOUL. Now Titus O'Neil is looking to make a name for himself, starting with beating his former partner. (Another reason why you should care: Darren Young became the first openly gay WWE wrestler last summer and the WWE has never once brought it into storylines or used it as on-air fodder for any talking points. They still haven't. That doesn't seem like something we should still be commending in the year 2014, but it's really rare for WWE to actually get that sort of thing 100% right, so dammit, we're still proud of them for that.)
Intercontinental Championship match: Big E (c) vs. Jack Swagger
What am I looking at here? The guy who is 90% chest and looks like his name would be "Big E" is Big E (neé Langston). He's also the champ. The guy who looks like all the kids from Home Improvement standing on each others' shoulders is Jack Swagger.
Why you should care: Because Big E (neé Langston) SHOULD by all rights be a big star someday. Jack Swagger should give him a terrific match. If everything goes right, you'll be able to say, "Oh man, I remember that Big E vs. Jack Swagger match at Elimination Chamber 2014" and have INSTANT RASSLIN' CRED. In a perfect world, anyway. Fingers crossed.
Tag Team Championship match: The New Age Outlaws (c) vs. The Usos
What am I looking at here? You know who the New Age Outlaws are. (If you don't know, we recommend calling somebody.) They're like 60 and wrestle in shirts. Billy Gunn looks like if Mickey Rourke were a Mogwai. The Usos are the two young, athletic Samoan dudes (hey, it's part of their gimmick) who are Rikishi's kids, somehow.
Why you should care: Because the Usos are wonderful and exciting and deserve the Tag Team titles and the New Age Outlaws should probably not be wrestling in the year 2014. Let's hope this is some official passing-of-the-torch type stuff. Or, y'know, you can just have fun saying the New Age Outlaws' catch phrases along with them. Whichever.
Batista vs. Alberto del Rio
What am I looking at here? See that loose bag of muscles? That's Batista. The smug (okay, more smug) guy is Alberto del Rio. He's in the gold shorts.
Why you should care: Because WWE brought Batista back to be a returning hero and win the World Heavyweight Championship and be A Huge Deal before his big Hollywood movie Guardians of the Galaxy comes out. Unfortunately, just about every fan HATED this plan and have been booing Batista out of the building everywhere. As things currently stand, Batista is set to challenge for the championship in the main event of WrestleMania, against whoever leaves Elimination Chamber as champ. This match against del Rio just might be a litmus test to see whether we could be looking at Goldberg vs. Lesnar levels of "fans crapping on a match."
The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family
What am I looking at here? The Shield are guys in flak jackets and combat boots with a big guy who looks like Khal Drogo (but more dreamy). The Wyatt Family are the big hillbilly beardos whose leader looks like he should be selling you "enchanted" alligator teeth on Bourbon Street.
Why you should care: Because this is the biggest and most exciting heel vs. heel feud, possibly ever. Because Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns (the Khal Drogo guy) are maybe a year or two (if that far) away from being the biggest things ever. Because these six guys are going to wrestle their butts off and beat the crud out of each other. Keep your eye on Seth Rollins, the guy with the half-bleached hair. He just may land on his head or neck in a way that will make you cover your mouth with your hands. And then laugh like a loon.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Elimination Chamber Match: Randy Orton (c) vs. John Cena vs. Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Cesaro vs. Christian
What am I looking at here? The first thing you may notice is the Elimination Chamber itself. It's a massive, domed cage that encircles the entire ringside area and features a metal-grate platform that lifts the "floor" of the cage up level to the ring apron. It also features four "pods," which house four of the six participants in the match. Two contestants will begin in the ring. At a set interval (general either every two or every five minutes), a random participant will be "released" into the match. It's single elimination rules until only one winner remains. The participants are John Cena (who you probably know), Randy Orton (the champion, with bad tattoos and a pants allergy), Sheamus (the troublingly white guy who looks like Beaker from the Muppets), Daniel Bryan (the little guy with the beard who keeps yelling "YES!"), Cesaro (neé Antonio Cesaro, a really-in-shape guy who wears thighbands somewhat inexplicably) and Christian (who looks like one of the Golden Girls) (not Blanche).
Why you should care: Because one of these six guys is going to leave this match as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion and will go on to defend that title in the main event of WrestleMania XXX. Because the Elimination Chamber is usually the second-best gimmick match in the WWE (after the Royal Rumble). Because Daniel Bryan is setting the world on fire right now and will make you flip the heck out by doing something spectacular. Because Cesaro will do something ridiculously strong and blow your mind. Because it's a DANG SIX-PERSON ELIMINATION CAGE MATCH, sheesh. You people are hard to please.
In short, this is a STACKED card and should be absolutely phenomenal. If there's any event that is worth you paying for your last PPV ever before you start getting them for free with your WWE Network subscription, it sure looks like this one.
The Elimination Chamber will begin at 8 p.m. ET Sunday and is available only on pay-per-view. The pre-show and opening match will begin at 7:30 p.m. ET and will stream live on WWE.com, Facebook and YouTube.