In the history of the WWE, many if not a majority of the most memorable moments in the company’s history have happened at January’s Royal Rumble event or March/April’s WrestleMania card. However, a surprising number of events have occurred at the pay per view that started in 1996 that takes place between Royal Rumble and WrestleMania. Though the name of WWE’s February PPV has changed frequently (debuted under the generic “In Your House umbrella”, then Final Four, then No Way Out then St. Valentine’s Day Massacre then No Way Out again and now known as Elimination Chamber), it’s managed to prove to be almost as important as the PPVs its wedged between. Let’s take a look back at some of the most memorable moments in its history.
5. Edge Loses WWE Title in opening WWE Title Elimination Chamber, sneaks into World Heavyweight Title Elimination Chamber and wins it (No Way Out 2009)
Let’s start off the list with one of the more shocking moments in the event’s history. It was a shocker that Edge was eliminated as quickly as he was in the WWE Title Elimination Chamber Match at the last No Way Out in February 2009. Almost as soon as he entered the match, he was eliminated by his hated rival Jeff Hardy, ending Edge’s WWE Title reign.The Rated R Superstar was undeterred. He brutally attacked Kofi Kingston before the main event, the Elimination Chamber for the World Title, and took the
Jamaican Ghanan superstar’s place in the match. Edge then improbably won the World Title, eliminating John Cena and Rey Mysterio in the process. This shocking turn of events helped solidify Edge’s reputation as the ultimate opportunist in the history of WWE. And also taught Kofi Kingston to be more careful and aware of his surroundings when he enters the Elimination Chamber!
4. Triple H Vs Steve Austin—Three Stages of Hell (No Way Out 2001)
Next, we got to a match that ended a year and a half long feud, which would go down as one of the most memorable feuds of the Attitude era. I think this match swung the pendulum from this being a memorably bad feud to a memorably good feud. The Triple H-Steve Austin feud like oh so many feuds in the late ’90s/early ’00s was ridiculously over the top. After all, this was the storyline where both guys attempted to murder the other (Triple H hired Rikishi to run over Steve Austin with a car at the 1999 Survivor Series, Steve Austin picked up Triple H’s car with a forklift with Triple H inside and dropped it off the forklift from 30 feet in the air at the ’00 Survivor Series). The feud finished at No Way Out 2001 with a 2 out of 3 falls match with a hardcore twist; the first fall would be a normal singles match, second fall would be a street fight, and the third and final fall would be a steel cage match. They absolutely needed to deliver an epic, hate and blood filled brawl in order for finish the feud on a right note. There’s really no better person for that job than Steve Austin. And for all of his politicking, if there’s one thing that Triple H is great at it’s, putting together epic, feud ending brawls.
Needless to say these two delivered and then some. It was one of the greatest matches that WWF had ever seen and absolutely solidified Triple H as one of the greatest heels in WWE history and Austin’s reputation as the toughest SOB in WWE history. The Three Stages of Hell was an absolute masterpiece and one of Austin’s last truly great matches (He’d follow this up with the epic main event at WrestleMania X-7).
3. The Final Four Match/Bret Hart wins his Fourth WWF World Title (In Your House: Final Four)
We go from the end of Austin’s run as a WWF main eventer to the very beginning. In Your House: Final Four took place right as Steve Austin was really to starting to come into his own as one to watch in WWF. The month before, he had controversially won the 1997 Royal Rumble after illegally eliminating Bret Hart, The Undertaker, and Vader. In order to address the controversy, Austin, Hart, Vader, and The Undertaker were placed in a four corners battle royal with the winner receiving a WWF World Title shot at Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XIII. Only Shawn Michaels “lost his smile”/hurt his knee/took his ball and ran home a few days before the show and vacated the WWF World Title. So, the match was suddenly changed from a match to compete for a title shot to a match for the WWF World Title (with the winner facing #1 contender Sycho Sid the night after in a steel cage match on Monday Night RAW…this was right around the time Vince Russo started booking…)
The Final Four Match ended up being one of the more underrated influential matches in WWF history. It definitely helped pave the way for the Attitude era. Austin, Undertaker, Hart, and Vader delivered an absolutely brilliant, chaotic brawl that was unlike anything seen outside of the quasi underground Extreme Championship Wrestling promotion at the time. All four men played their part brilliantly; Undertaker as the seemingly unstoppable phenom, Austin as the unpredictable, unhinged badass, Vader as the ruthless monster (this was one of the only times Vader was great in WWF), and Hart as the egomaniacal but hard working veteran. Everybody busted ass, Undertaker busted Vader’s face which was unfortunate but made for a great cover of RAW Magazine (WWF Magazine’s “edgy” sibling), and delivered one of the more memorable pay per views of the era. Ultimately, Bret Hart scratched and clawed his way to victory and his fourth WWF World Championship. That title reign was short lived as Sycho Sid would defeat The Hitman (with the help of Austin) in a memorable/controversial steel cage match the next night on Monday Night RAW. It was the third WWF World title change in four days. While I think the frequent title changes would prove to be slightly detrimental in the long term, I think it was a nice jolt to the arm at the time. The cartoonish New Generation era was long overdue to end and by ’97 had all of the appeal of stale breakfast cereal. Matches like this and Bret Hart and Steve Austin’s classic match the next month at WrestleMania XIII were like an adrenaline shot to the heart of the World Wrestling Federation.
2. Triple H “ends” Cactus Jack’s career (No Way Out 2000)
Mick Foley was a great worker throughout his WWF career but I don’t think anybody truly appreciated how truly special of a worker he was until the end of his first WWF run in the early months of 2000. It’d be harder to find a better pairing than Triple H and Mick Foley. Triple H was the blue blood, ruthless “Game” who was willing to do anything to make it to the top even if it meant stabbing someone in the back. Foley was the blue collared, lovable loser who was willing to risk life and limb to please the fans. This feud/match has been written about extensively recently on Culture Crossfire so I’m not going to use many more words to describe it. Their Hell in a Cell match at February 2000’s No Way Out PPV where Triple H put his title on the line against Foley’s career is another classic bout. Even though it’s less spectacular than Foley’s most famous Hell in a Cell match (against Undertaker at King of The Ring 1998), I’d argue that this match with Triple H might be a little bit better. The match/feud helped establish Triple H as a legitimate main eventer while giving Foley one of the more memorable sendoffs in WWF history.
Yeah, I know Foley came back a month later (and a zillion times after) but WrestleMania 2000’s main event has sort of been retconned anyways and Foley’s exit in this match is a nice moment regardless.
1. Eddie Guerrero defeats Brock Lesnar to win the WWE Title. Becomes first Latino World Champion. (No Way Out 2004)
When Eddie Guerrero began wrestling in 1987, I’m not sure if he ever dreamed of even competing in the WWE let alone becoming a champion. He was too small, he was the wrong ethnicity. Eddie Guerrero was the opposite of a traditional WWE main eventer. Yet somehow through sheer skill and determination, Eddie began climbing the ladder of success in the pro wrestling world. He became a star in Mexico and Japan, he translated that into success in Extreme Championship Wrestling, he turned that into making a name for himself in World Championship Wrestling during the years that WCW was actually beating WWF. He managed to do this while battling personal demons and overcoming a near career ending injury due to a car wreck in 1999. It was never easy for Edde Guerrero. He entered WWF in January 2000 and earned modest success, becoming a Intercontinental and European Champion.
Unfortunately, his demons got the best of him again and he was sent to rehab in May 2001 and then released six months later after he was arrested for drunk driving. Guerrero sobered up and battled back, becoming one of the biggest stars on the indy circuit, battling his old Mexican/WCW rival Rey Mysterio and up and comers like CM Punk (boy, that guy sure went on to do diddly squat). He was signed back to WWE, won the Intercontinental Title again, won the United States Championship, won the tag team titles with his nephew Chavo. Despite the fact that he had won virtually every other title there was to win in WWE, very few thought Eddie Guerrero would beat Brock Lesnar for the WWE Title at No Way Out 2004. Brock Lesnar was every thing WWE wanted in a main eventer, a bleach blonde lily white behemoth.
Over the course of Lesnar and Guerrero’s epic, thirty minute title match, people began to believe that maybe, possibly Guerrero could pull off the impossible. With a little bit of help from an interfering Goldberg and Guerrero’s “Lie, Cheat, and Steal” method of wrestling (even when WWE’s putting over a Mexican dude, they can’t help but be kind of racist), Guerrero managed to slay the dragon and win the WWE Title. It was one of the most surprising, most heartwarming moments in WWE History. It would sadly be a bittersweet moment as less than two years later, Eddie Guerrero would be dead, passing away from a heart attack at the age of 38 on November 13th, 2005. Nonetheless, Guerrero’s victory would prove to be one of the greatest moments in the history of WWE’s February PPV event.