The stars of WWE prepare to enter hell in more ways than one as this years’ Hell in a Cell PPV comes around. Did the PPV succeed in its devilish namesake or was it just hellish?
Kick-off: Natalya defeated Lacey Evans by submission
This match had the misfortune of having been showcased too much on TV to have any impact on a PPV, even if it was relegated to the preshow. Natalya started off strong but Lacey Evans quickly began to bully Natalya and keep her on the backfoot. Evans showed some strong offence here with a well-performed slingshot elbow drop and some great character work with her Southern Belle heel persona demonstrated in every move she made.
Evans wouldn’t be able to secure a win however as she missed an impressive looking springboard moonsault that Natalya capitalised on to put in the Sharpshooter for the win. Natalya would seal the deal by hitting Evans with her own version of the Women’s Right after the match. A serviceable TV level match that suffered from overexposure on TV to the point it’s hard to care about the in-ring action on display.
Becky Lynch defeated Sasha Banks by submission
Lynch and Banks stole the show with an absolutely brutal Hell in a Cell match where the 2 women knocked ten bells out of each other. Banks didn’t even wait for the cell to come down and smashed Lynch on the half-descended cell. Lynch would come back fighting to storm into the cell with a thunderous offence before using the chain used to lock the fence as brass knuckles on Banks before using the said chain to lock the two in herself.
The match was full of savage spots that were full of creativity. Baseball dropkicks from Lynch making Banks bounce off the cage walls, a Meteora from Banks from the apron to a ladder propped against the cage wall to Lynch and Banks even ate a facebuster onto the legs of a steel chair which looked positively vicious. The most interesting of them all was a set of kendo sticks used in the corner of the cage to prop up a chair. Lynch placed Banks on the suspended chair before nailing her with an apron dropkick.
It was an embarrassment of riches of both creativity and brutality that set the crowd alight and no match came even close to matching the quality on display from these two women. The finish saw Lynch kick out of another Meteora but this time through a table. A frustrated Banks buried Lynch in chairs but she couldn’t capitalise as Lynch managed to counter delivering an avalanche Bexploder onto the chairs and putting Banks in the disarmer for the submission victory. A stunning opening match that set a high bar for the matches that followed and showed off how great the chemistry and ring work is between these two women. If you watch one match from this PPV, make this it.
Daniel Bryan & Roman Reigns defeated Erick Rowan & Luke Harper via pinfall
It was nice to see WWE pull out a Tornado Tag match that has become somewhat of a rarity in recent years and was fitting for the anarchic brawl this needed to be. Rowan and Harper spent a large portion of the match dominating both Bryan and Reigns making use of the steel steps and their weight advantage to keep the faces on the backfoot.
The added story here was the isolation of Bryan allowing him to pull back as the plucky underdog. The redemption of Daniel Bryan reached its crescendo in this match which has been building on the lead up to Hell in a Cell. The crowd were fully behind him and he hit all the ques of his classic babyface comebacks bar the yes taunt. As great as Bryan has been as an obnoxious heel, it feels like a homecoming to see him play the face here and it was expertly built by Bryan and everyone in the match with Reigns even taking a relative backseat to allow Bryan to take the spotlight.
Rowan and Harper tore apart the outside area before trying to drive Bryan through the announce table. Bryan countered with a hurricanrana as Reigns bolted across the announce tables spearing Rowan through them. A superman punch, running knee and spear combination from Bryan and Reigns took out Harper and gave them the pin victory. As icing on the cake, Reigns and Bryan put aside their differences and hugged it out to close out the match.
Randy Orton defeats Ali by pinfall
In a match that felt like it was booked via a tombola draw, Orton took on Ali in what was actually a rather enjoyable match. These two are of very disparate styles, so you’d be forgiven for thinking they wouldn’t mesh. However, the two gelled well with Orton’s methodical beatdowns and dissection of his opponents working well as a means of keeping the fast-paced cruiserweight style of Ali at bay and making it all the more surprising when Ali managed a burst of offence.
On top of this, Ali sells moves like he’s being hit by an articulated lorry which only made you want to see him overcome the odds. Ali had a great chance to show off his unique offence here with two attempts of the 540 and a truly unique counter to the RKO with a handstand kip-up followed by a roll-up. Sadly, Ali couldn’t secure the win with Orton countering the rolling neckbreaker with another RKO for the victory.
The Kabuki Warriors (Kairi Sane & Asuka) defeated Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross via pinfall to become the new Women Tag Team Champions
The last-minute booking of this match caused some inconsistencies in the show as Alexa Bliss, who had been clearly heel on the pre-show, was suddenly the babyface with Nikki Cross against the Kabuki Warriors who were really dialling up the heelwork. Despite this inconsistency, it was actually enjoyable to see the two Japanese stars take on a darker edge. Asuka has the viciousness in her offence that works well for a heel and Kairi Sane was surprisingly endearing as a bad guy, keeping her pirate-themed shenanigans intact with the odd eye poke thrown in for good measure.
The Kabuki Warriors dominated most of the match keeping Bliss isolated and targeted Alexa’s legs. This gave the build-up for the hot tag to Cross who cleaned house. Bliss would keep Sane at bay with a senton from the apron but Asuka took advantage with a surprising use of green mist to allow Asuka to land a stiff kick on Cross putting her away with a 3 count. An odd finish to a less than memorable match but hopefully the heel turn of the Kabuki Warriors is used to some effect to add some life to the women’s tag division.
The Viking Raiders & Braun Strowman defeated The O.C. by disqualification
A surprise opened the match with Braun Strowman being revealed as the partner of the Viking Raiders which at least gave the match some intrigue as it seemed a given that Cedric Alexander was going to show up as their mystery partner. Ivar was the MVP of this match who moves with a bizarre level of grace considering his size and is consistently an electric presence in the ring. It’s a shame that the match didn’t live up to the talent on display as it became clear that this was simply an avenue to put over the Strowman and Tyson Fury confrontation coming on RAW.
The match ended when Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows double-teamed Strowman with stomps resulting in a DQ. The Vikings Raiders returned the favour by throwing the pair out of the ring and planting them with tandem suicide dives. AJ Styles then had Strowman to himself but Strowman countered a Phenomenal Forearm with a right hook as a subtle way of reminding the audience that boxing involves punching and that’s what Tyson Fury does. It’s possible to build a feud between Strowman and Fury without having to sacrifice the O.C. to do it. War Machine vs the former Bullet Club should have been a dream match but, instead, it’s being used as a cheap means of building to a celebrity cash grab, somewhat of a trend for WWE at the moment.
Tamina defeated Carmella for the 24/7 Championship by pinfall
In a bizarre series of events, The Street Profits Greek chorus was interrupted by Carmella and R-Truth. Tamina appeared and knocked over Truth leading to Carmella being pinned for some reason. Tamina then ran into Tyler Breeze who smirked for a bit before Tamina laid him out and ran away with the belt. Unfortunately, this was not even the most confusing series of events to happen on this PPV.
Chad Gable defeated King Corbin by pinfall
This is a feud that hangs around like a bad rash, even when it seems like it’s gone it just comes back. Corbin started out by berating Gable about his height going as far to make a royal decree that Gable will now be referred to as “Shorty Gable”. This is a mill WWE consistently go to with their shorter stature stars and it needs to stop. It doesn’t build heat and it only serves to make the babyface look weak and remove their personality. At least the match was relatively enjoyable as Corbin is so easily detestable that you can’t help but get behind Gable. On top of that, Gable is one of the most gifted technical wrestlers currently on the roster even if Corbin is a terrible partner to try and showcase that with.
Corbin controlled most of the match using his height advantage to dominate Gable. The highlight of the match was a counter by Gable that saw him land a gorgeous Chaos Theory German Suplex that he always makes look stunning in execution. The match ended when Corbin attempted to use his sceptre to attack Gable which Gable countered into a roll-up for a surprise win. Greg Hamilton announced the winner to be “Shorty Gable” so it seems this nickname is sticking around, unfortunately.
Charlotte Flair defeats Bayley via submission to become the new WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship
Before this match could get going, the 24/7 Championship reared its head as Tamina stood around gormlessly, clearly awaiting her cue. R-Truth chased down Tamina before using Funaki as a human shield. Truth busted out some borderline offensive Kung Fu towards Funaki before Carmella hit Tamina with a superkick allowing R Truth to win the 24/7 Championship once again.
Starting with a joke was fitting for this match as it’s akin to the way, Bayley has been treated as SmackDown Women’s champion. WWE have had no idea what to do with Bayley for her entire run and she’s consistently been eating losses as a sacrifice to the Lynch and Banks feud. The two stars at least had a good showing in the ring. Charlotte and Bayley have had many matches over the years all the way back to NXT so they know each other inside out and that chemistry shows in their matchups, even when the story going in is poor.
The two traded momentum back and forth throughout with Charlotte coming across as the veteran competitor whose offence was undercut by underhanded tactics from Bayley with attacks to the eyes and heavily targeting the legs of Charlotte. Charlotte would get her own back by targeting Bayley’s legs as well. Knees up by Bayley countered a moonsault from Flair but it wouldn’t stop Flair who managed to make her comeback and lock in the figure-eight, making Charlotte a 10-time Champion. A match that suffered from having such an obvious outcome after the poor booking of Bayley killed any excitement this match could muster.
Seth Rollins (c) vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt ended in a Referee Stoppage
No, you didn’t read that wrong. The main event of Hell in a Cell ended in referee stoppage. Things started off shaky as the match was bathed in red light for the duration, something that must have made it near impossible for the live crowd to see through the red cage. Rollins sold the fear and confusion of facing the Fiend well and featured an early spot where the Fiend shrugged off a number of Kendo stick blows much to Rollin’s horror.
The Fiend then took control throwing Rollins around the cell like a ragdoll and saw a nasty spot where the Fiend countered a suicide dive from Rollins into a Sister Abigail against the cage wall. A crossbody through a table barely kept the Fiend down as Rollins began laying into him with a series of superkicks and curb stomps that again were shrugged off by the Fiend. With the Fiend back in control, there was a surprise appearance of the Funhouse mallet Wyatt used to pulverise Rambling Rabbit that the Fiend used to attempt to impale Rollins.
Rollins resolve kept him in the match as he mounted a comeback landing knee strikes, superkicks, curb stomps and even a Pedigree but the Fiend would not be stopped going as far to kick out at 1. All this was working well and it seemed the optimum time for the Fiend to destroy Rollins but it was not meant to be.
Rollins continued to do more stomps much to the chagrin of the crowd and started to utilise chairs, ladders and even a toolbox to beat the Fiend into submission. A last-ditch effort by Rollins saw him pull out a sledgehammer which the referee attempted to prevent Rollins from using. Rollins would not be convinced however as he blasted the prone Fiend which led to the referee calling off the match.
The METs came down to take the Fiend away on a stretcher but the Fiend shot back to life grabbing Rollins with the mandible claw causing him to bleed profusely from the mouth to close out the show. This was an absolutely atrocious finish to the main event of the show and the crowd were thunderous with their disapproval. The crowd booed, demanded the match restart and were very audibly chanting for AEW.
There were so many ways that this match and its finish was awful that it seemed appropriate to make a list.
- The Fiend not making a comeback made the match boring and led the crowd to lose all faith in the idea that the Fiend would win
- All the getting up in the world won’t make up for the fact that the Fiend was laid out for ten minutes and made his prior offence look worthless
- Apparently, a giant mallet is legal but a small mallet is a reason for calling off a match?
- The bloody mouth at the end was vile and gratuitous in all the wrong ways and did nothing to get the crowd back on the side or build heat
- A Hell in a Cell match ended in referee stoppage. That statement needs no further explanation.
Hell in a Cell started strong but the quality slid lower and lower with every match culminating in one of the worst finishes to a PPV since last year’s Hell in a Cell that may have irreparably damaged the heat Bray Wyatt had built for himself. A flagrant disrespect for their audience will do WWE no favours, especially with AEW eager to present a fan-focused counter product. The chants spoke for themselves and it will be interesting to see how WWE recover from an abysmal main title picture.
All pictures courtesy of WWE.com