The Road to WrestleMania 35 will run through Satan's Prison this Sunday when WWE Elimination Chamber 2019 comes live from the Toyota Center in Houston.
The ninth installment of the event promises to be nothing short of stellar and surprising considering what will be on tap.
As has often been the case since its inception in 2010, the pay-per-view will host two Elimination Chamber matches. One will determine the inaugural WWE women's tag team champions, while the other will see six of SmackDown Live's finest fight for the WWE Championship.
Elsewhere on the card, The Miz and Shane McMahon will defend their SmackDown Tag Team Championship for the first time against The Usos, while Ruby Riott vies for Ronda Rousey's Raw women's title. Braun Strowman will also have revenge on his mind when he takes on Baron Corbin one-on-one.
Although events slotted between the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania tend to be the most predictable, nothing is stopping WWE from pulling out a swerve or two at Elimination Chamber, drastically shaking up the landscape of both brands in the process.
The card for Sunday's show is all but set in stone, save for any last-minute additions. As Elimination Chamber looms large, these will be the predictions that matter most.
Buddy Murphy vs. Akira Tozawa (WWE Cruiserweight Championship)
Buddy Murphy has been on quite the roll in recent months as WWE cruiserweight champion, knocking back challenges from everyone who has posed a threat to his title.
Akira Tozawa, on the other hand, has quietly been building momentum alongside The Brian Kendrick.
His last big victory saw him become the No. 1 contender to the Cruiserweight Championship by winning a massive Fatal 4-Way match on 205 Live, so he may prove to be more than a filler opponent for Murphy come Elimination Chamber.
As a former cruiserweight champion himself, Tozawa knows what it takes to reach the mountaintop. In fact, he was actually among the few people to pin Neville during his time on top two years ago, and he's never been beaten by Murphy one-on-one.
Their match should surely be a blast (likely on the Kickoff show), but there's no reason for WWE to take the title off Murphy at this point in his championship reign. The Australian is just beginning to hit his stride and should continue to reign supreme over the cruiserweight division for months to come.
Expect this outcome to be as obvious as it seems.
Prediction: Buddy Murphy retains the WWE Cruiserweight Championship
Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush vs. Finn Balor (Intercontinental Championship)
Finn Balor came close to becoming a two-time universal champion when he battled Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble, but he ultimately fell short. However, his strong showing served as a reminder to fans that he was a real player on Raw.
Bobby Lashley took exception to the Irishman's rally speech on the next night's Raw and proceeded to lay him out. The two have been at odds over the Intercontinental Championship ever since, and at Elimination Chamber, Balor will have the deck stacked against him when he faces both The Almighty and Lio Rush for the belt.
Then again, it has already been confirmed that Balor can capture the championship if he is able to pin Rush, which he has done already once before. Handicap matches should have been eliminated completely when the McMahons took charge again late last year, but this one could be interesting.
It should go without saying that Balor would be the perfect fit for the Intercontinental Championship. He has contended for the gold on several occasions over the years, but the time never seemed to be right for him to win it.
Despite his recent career resurgence, Balor needs to stay in chase mode for a little while longer. After all, WWE having him finally clinch the title at WrestleMania 35 would make for a far better moment.
Prediction: Bobby Lashley retains the Intercontinental Championship
Ronda Rousey vs. Ruby Riott (Raw Women's Tag Team Championship)
Lost in all the chaos and controversy surrounding the Raw Women's Championship at the moment is Ruby Riott, who couldn't care less about the constant bickering between titleholder Ronda Rousey and Becky Lynch. Instead, she has her sights set on becoming champion at Elimination Chamber.
Rousey made short work of both Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan recently on Raw, but before Riott could suffer a similar fate, she backed down from the challenge. The bout was later added to the Elimination Chamber, even though The Riott Squad leader did nothing to earn the title opportunity.
On the bright side, this is a relatively fresh match. Yes, fans have seen the former UFC star annihilate the entire Riott Squad on her own at times, but Riott is rarely featured in the title scene, and this will be her chance to shine.
Much like the previously mentioned matches, there is nothing bold about picking Rowdy to retain her title on Sunday. Lynch vs. Rousey has long been the desired main event for WrestleMania on April 7, and aside from potential involvement from Charlotte Flair, no one is getting in the way of that mega match.
The Riott Squad have been booked to look like glorified enhancement talent more often than not, but Riott pushing Rousey to her limit would do a lot to cement her as a perennial player in the championship picture.
Prediction: Ronda Rousey retains the Raw Women's Championship
Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin
The bad blood between Braun Strowman and Baron Corbin dates back as far as November's Crown Jewel event when the latter cost the former the Universal Championship by ambushing him from behind.
Since then, the two have been heated rivals and have been determined to make life miserable for each other.
The two were originally scheduled to face off at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs, but due to Strowman not being medically cleared to compete by that time, it was changed to a Handicap match instead.
The majority of the WWE Universe didn't seem too upset over the bout not happening as advertised, but WWE kept the feud alive anyway, which leads us to their latest encounter at Elimination Chamber.
As of this writing, nothing is on the line in this matchup. Therefore, the fans have virtually zero incentive to care, regardless of who has their hand raised in the end.
It's unknown where either of these guys will wind up on the WrestleMania card, let alone what purpose this match serves. Corbin has hardly been relevant as of late, while The Monster Among Men typically fails to win whenever it matters most.
A victory for Strowman on Sunday is only academic, as it would make no sense for him to lose to one of Raw's least credible heels so close to The Show of Shows.
Prediction: Braun Strowman wins
The Miz and Shane McMahon vs. the Usos (SmackDown Tag Team Championship)
The SmackDown Tag Team Championship match is where things will start to get interesting at Elimination Chamber, if only because of how both tandems possess an equal chance of walking away with the gold.
The Miz and Shane McMahon came together on a whim late last year and weren't the favorites to emerge victorious in their title outing against The Bar at the Royal Rumble. Despite that, they put their differences aside, formed a cohesive unit and were able to take home the belts.
As for The Usos, they have been on the back burner of SmackDown Live's tag team division for months and have been anxiously anticipating their next shot at the straps. They'll have the opportunity to regain the gold on Sunday, and Miz and McMahon losing the belts isn't as far-fetched as some may think.
As Marc Middleton of Wrestling Inc noted, The Usos may be looking to leave WWE when their contracts expire in April.
Likewise, Cassidy Haynes of BodySlam.net reported The Revival were also rumored to be unhappy with their spot in WWE and recently won the Raw Tag Team Championship, so it's possible WWE will do the same with The Usos to keep them around.
For the sake of switching things up, not only am I predicting an Usos win at Elimination Chamber, I also see the seeds being planted for an eventual McMahon vs. Miz match at WrestleMania.
Prediction: The Usos win the SmackDown Tag Team Championship
WWE Women's Tag Team Championship Elimination Chamber Match
WWE should have instituted titles for its women's tag teams long ago, but now is as good a time as any for them to be created considering all the female tandems the company has across its two brands.
That said, not every duo taking part in Sunday's Elimination Chamber match has much of a chance of coming out on top. For example, the sole reason Naomi and Carmella are involved is so the former can further her feud with Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville, so neither team should win.
Additionally, The IIconics have won only a handful of matches during their stint on SmackDown Live and lack credibility. The Riott Squad are also a joke at this point following the many losses they've endured over the last year-and-a-half.
That leaves Sasha Banks and Bayley as well as Nia Jax and Tamina.
The Boss 'n' Hug Connection would make the most sense to be crowned the inaugural champs after everything they've been through as friends and as foes, but Banks' injury could cause those plans to change.
The Boss was clearly seen nursing some sort of problem on Monday's Raw. She and Bayley are set to open the Elimination Chamber as a result of their latest loss, and just as they're closing in on the gold, look for Jax and Tamina to spoil the party and take the titles for themselves.
Prediction: Nia Jax and Tamina win the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship
WWE Championship Elimination Chamber Match
With Daniel Bryan's WrestleMania 35 opponent still unknown, there's a real possibility the WWE Championship could change hands at Sunday's pay-per-view, and odds are that it will.
Bryan has escaped Satan's Prison with his title intact before (2012), but he isn't likely to get that lucky again this year. He and AJ Styles have been waging war over the title for months, but for The Phenomenal One to get the belt back so soon would be premature.
Kofi Kingston was recently added to the bout as a replacement for the injured Mustafa Ali. Needless to say, he stands no chance in the Chamber against these elite athletes and should be eliminated fairly quickly.
Jeff Hardy is a human highlight reel and is bound to have the most memorable showing out of everyone involved before falling short. Moreover, Randy Orton's recent run as a heel has been fun, but it shouldn't lead to him walking into another WrestleMania with a world title around his waist.
And then there's Samoa Joe, a Superstar who has always been on the brink of becoming champion but never managed to break through that proverbial glass ceiling. Elimination Chamber would be the perfect place for him to run roughshod and emerge from the carnage as the new WWE champion.
Bryan could always retain his title, but that wouldn't make for as exciting an ending to the event as Joe celebrating his grand championship victory.
Prediction: Samoa Joe wins the WWE Championship
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.