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Hell in a Cell: The Good, the Bad and the Weird

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Hell in a Cell has come around once again with a new look, Hellraiser-esque graphics and an interesting card. This year saw WWE paint the cell a bright red. The reasoning for this hasn’t really been released but it wasn’t really a big deal. It looked nice and suited the horror aesthetic that WWE wanted to go for. Decorations aside though, let’s answer the big question, was the PPV any good? Here’s the breakdown.

The Good

Starting off Strong (Jeff Hardy is a Madman)

To call Jeff Hardy mental is almost the same as calling water wet, it’s common knowledge and you won’t shock anyone saying it. With that in mind, everyone expected him to pull off some kind of insane and no doubt costly spot once the news he was going to be in a Hell in a Cell match reached their ears. And guess what, they weren’t wrong. As far as starting matches go, this was amazing. A grudge match that used the cell and multiple foreign objects to emphasise the pure hatred these men have for each other.

We saw chair shots, ladder spots, belts and a screwdriver used to pry at Hardy’s ears once again. There were so many wince inducing moments as both men would batter each other with anything that wasn’t nailed down. The finish saw Hardy go for a high risk finish after a chair assisted Swanton Bomb failed to keep Orton down. He pulled out a table and set up two ladders. He laid Orton on the table and began to climb. He reached the top of the tallest and ladder and started to shimmy across the cell rafters and set up for a splash, swinging menacingly above Orton. Orton moves and Hardy falls from the rafter and smashes through the table, taking himself out of the match. Orton orders the ref to count a pin and wins, sauntering off carrying several wounds of battle. Hardy is stretchered off and we are given health updates throughout the rest of the PPV. This was an amazing starter match and felt like a street fight in a cell.

Lynch Gets Revenge

After being robbed of her opportunity at Summerslam, it was understandable that Becky Lynch would be mad at Charlotte. She went one step further and launched a campaign of unfiltered aggression against her former best friend resulting in their match here. Unlike the match that preceded it, this was a straight up technical wrestling match.

Both women are gifted technicians and this would be on show throughout the match. There were plenty of submissions and wear downs as both women would trade holds. This would transition into power moves and eventually a roll up type finish for Lynch. It wasn’t the most satisfying win but it gives Lynch the title and a lot of vindication for how she was robbed. Charlotte attempted to show respect but Becky was having none of it, holding up her title and letting Charlotte know she will never take her title again. It now feels like the right person has the title, even if we had to wait a bit longer for her to receive it. A heel Becky champion is certainly going to be interesting to watch as we work out how her feud with Charlotte continues and if we see any new challengers emerge.

Pack Warfare

For once the RAW tag division had an amazing match between two elite level teams. After the Shield and Dogs of War feud escalated last week, the new tag champions were forced to defend their titles against Dean and Seth. This on paper sounds like and excellent match and in practice only surpassed expectations. There was the usual use of heel tactics, the ring cutting and the wearing down of one opponent, this time it being Seth. Dolph and Drew brutalised, cutting Seth off every time he would almost get the hot tag. This meant that once Dean was tagged in the crowd went wild. He took both men out and was mostly after Drew as he had shown interest in fighting Dean early on.

The match was given plenty of time to breathe and by the end of all four men had been beaten to hell. Everyone got a chance to shine and we got multiple false finishes and move reversals. Both teams were taken to the limits as their opponent would find ways to counteract or escape their offense. There was a real edge of your seat feel to it. The eventual finish saw Seth setting up for a Falcon Arrow only for Drew to hit the Claymore as he was mid move and Dolph got a lucky pin by landing on the knocked out Seth. It was a sneaky victory for the heel team as they withstood the face team’s assault. Drew was the MVP of the match and he carries the exhausted Dolph Ziggler across his shoulders backstage.

AJ Nearly Went Night Night

Oh what could have been? It hurts to write about this match as technically it was another brilliant showcase of what happens when you put AJ Styles and Samoa Joe in a ring and make it personal. This match felt like a pure fight. There were stiff strikes a plenty, submission wrestling and a lot of limb targeting from both men. This time there was no crude family comments and no attempts to make Styles mad.

This was all about pure wrestling and another match where momentum could and often did switch on a dime. Both men know each other incredibly well and this would show in how they would counter one another. Once again the match was given room to breathe and by the end of the match both men were exhausted. They really did have to try everything to win. Joe went for the Muscle Buster, only for Styles to reverse it and Joe would reverse attempts at the Styles Clash and Calf Crusher. Both men were at a stalemate. The finish saw Joe start to lock in the Coquina Clutch as he got Styles in a Sleeper only for Styles to roll Joe up as he was locking in the hold. The ref counts three and rings the bell. Styles wins and Joe is furious, but it’s not for the reason you think it is. We’ll discuss the finish later on as it puts a damper on the rest of the match.

Bliss Gets an Actual Match This Time

Alexa Bliss was annihilated the first time she stepped into a ring with Ronda Rousey. Her opponent squashed her in minutes, taking her title and leaving the Goddess humiliated. At Hell in a Cell she wanted payback and had created a means to do so. Ronda had undergone several attacks to her ribs over the past couple of weeks, leaving them vulnerable. Bliss exploited this at every chance she got, changing up her move set to go after her opponent’s weakness. She was shown as a clever and cunning heel who was playing it smart to beat a stronger opponent. She also had her usual entourage to run distractions if the match didn’t quite go in her favour. Because of her tactics she had a long stretch of the match where she dominated Ronda, hitting her with signatures and cutting off any comebacks Rousey would attempt to make. Unfortunately as the match went on her ego started to get the better of her.

In the end her overconfidence would be her undoing as she mocked Ronda once too many times causing her to snap. Ronda would mount a comeback, rag doll Alexa around and then hit the Samoan Drop. She locks in the Arm Bar and Alexa taps instantly. Ronda wins but at the cost of a lot of damage to her ribs. Natalya has to help carry Ronda away from ringside. Ronda continues to grow as a performer and this match really tested her selling abilities. She may be a rookie, but the hype is worth it.

An Overbooked Mess… But in a Good Way

Where to start with the main event? So Mick Foley comes to the ring in his ref garb and both wrestlers make their entrances. Both men receive mixed responses as crowds will still not fully boo Braun or fully cheer Roman. They meet in the ring and Braun snatches the belt off Roman and taunts him, raising it above his head. Roman wastes no time and punches Strowman and the match begin as Foley scrambles to move the belt. They trade blows and moves and before long a kendo stick is brought in. Braun tosses it aside in favour of a chair only for Roman to break it on him, it seems to have no effect though and Braun snaps it over his leg. They trade more shots with several Superman Punches being thrown and a Spear attempt ends up with Roman eating the steel steps. Braun hits Roman with more steps shots including a crushing one to the chest. There have been numerous near falls by now and Braun is getting annoyed with Foley’s counting. He hits a Running Powerslam and once again gets a 2.9 count. Braun picks up a table and sets it up in the corner. He sets up to Powerslam Roman through it only to be countered with Superman Punches and speared through the table. Both men are out now.

As Strowman is knocked down, Dolph and Drew make their way down to the cell trying to get the ref to let them in. The ref refuses and Dean and Seth appear behind the Dogs of War, clearly here to stop them getting into the cell. They fight around the cell; throwing one another into it before clearing two announce tables. In an act of panic Dolph starts to scale the cell with Seth in hot pursuit. They fight on top of the cell for a bit and are soon followed by Drew and finally by Dean who has brought a kendo stick along with him. They all fight on the top and knock each other out. Dolph is the first to stir, trying to climb down the cell. Once again he is pursued by Seth and they now fight on the side of the cell. They both ram the other’s head into the cell and crash into the announcer’s tables below. Drew and Dean are motionless atop the cell and Dolph and Seth have destroyed each other at ringside.

With broken bodies everywhere another piece of entrance music fills the stadium, the music of former champ Brock Lesnar. He strolls to the ring accompanied by Paul Heyman, who tries to get the ref to open the door for his client. Once again the ref refuses and takes a load of verbal abuse from Heyman. Brock gets impatient and kicks the door in, carrying it into the ring with him. Foley gets hit by pepper spray courtesy of Heyman and Brock starts hitting both Roman and Braun with bits of broken table. He then hits Braun with an F5 and follows up by F5’ing Roman on top of him. Brock leaves the cell and another ref runs into the ring to ask for the bell. The match is called off and no one has won. The beast has left his mark and cost Strowman the title.

Many people will easily write this off as a waste of a main event but I cannot call this bad. It was fun and it made a no contest slightly more bearable to take. The pack warfare on display also added a fun dynamic to the match and allowed us some out of the cell spots without using Braun or Roman. Was it the result I wanted? No. Was it fun to watch? Yes. Sometimes that’s all that really matters. Plus we will now probably get a triple threat between Roman, Braun and Brock, which does sound rather enticing.

The Bad

Pre Show Blues

Firstly, why was Rusev Day vs The New Day on the pre-show? There was plenty of time left on the main show to accommodate this match. Considering WWE have allowed extensions of PPV’s it confuses me that this match wasn’t included. The New Day are exceptionally popular, Rusev Day remain fan favourites and it was a title match so why was it left to fester on the pre-show?
Anyway, that small gripe aside, the real reason this match is in the bad section is because of the finish.

After weeks of Aiden English redeeming himself and Rusev Day looking like a competent team it would make sense that the finish would either give them the titles or have them lose because the better team won. Instead we got a miscommunication finish where both men suddenly got confused as to who was going to attack. Considering both men acted like a well-oiled machine last week to earn their title shot, it seems quite unlikely they’d fall this quickly out of sync. They stumbled over a double team attack, taking Rusev out of the match and leaving Aiden English to try and win the match. He would lock in the Accolade only for Rusev to try and get tagged in, distracting English. Kofi would take advantage and hit Trouble in Paradise for the win as Rusev is restrained at ringside. The match was fine but the finish seems like bad booking to keep the titles on the New Day.

Shenanigans for the Sake of Shenanigans

Much like the problem with Rusev Day vs New Day, Joe and AJ also suffered from a needlessly wonky finish. So AJ won with the roll up but technically had already lost to Joe. When the ref rang the bell, Joe was elated. AJ had tapped to him but the ref hadn’t seen it so had just counted the roll up. When Joe heard AJ named the winner, he was furious and instantly called the ref out. Everyone at ringside and on commentary was confused. No one had seen AJ tap but Joe was adamant. Eventually another camera angle was shown and AJ had in fact tapped to Joe as the ref counted two. Joe should technically be champion but no one reverses the ref’s decision. Instead he is given another title shot at the Super Show Down. Much like the AJ/Nakamura feud, this story is relying on DQ finishes and other no contests as a way to prolong the feud. I wouldn’t normally be against this but this is two feuds in a row for AJ.

Shenanigans were also a massive part of other victories too, including one I am about to talk about. There were too many screwy finishes so Hell in a Cell felt more like a filler PPV than a meaningful show. Sure it was fun to watch but once again booking has sacrificed match satisfaction in favour of prolonging feuds and stories. In some cases merely for Super Show Down. It isn’t a massive negative, just worth noting as it happens a lot these days.

A Miz-ed Opportunity

Daniel Bryan was probably the last person anyone thought to be included in a negative segment. Unfortunately his match was a missed opportunity for WWE. Him and the Miz have an excellent natural rivalry that should be fully utilised. Bringing Maryse and Brie in is a creative way of giving us something different whilst the feud progresses. Or at least it would have been if they’d actually had a mixed tag match. Now, there was a point to not including Brie and Maryse til the end as Miz was taunting Brie by keeping Maryse out of harm’s way and beating up Bryan. The problem is this could have been achieved in a singles match with them ringside. Instead we got a standard Miz/Bryan match where Miz mainly dominated and there was an eventual hot tag that saw Brie lose to a roll up. It was another quick finish that didn’t really give the match a satisfying conclusion. This match could have been on an episode of Smackdown instead of on a PPV. Again it was fun for what it was but it is hard to ignore what could have been had they utilised the match type more.

The Weird

Where Was Everyone?

There were a lot of missing faces from this PPV. Considering Hell in a Cell was shorter than recent PPV’s, there could have been another match or some type of segment to involve a few more people on the show. It was nice to let matches breathe but there was still extra time that could have been used to move the Smackdown Tag Title match up from the pre-show or add another match to the card. There was no Balor or KO or Lashley. Even Elias didn’t get a chance to show up and insult the crowd a bit. This is normally a great Segway and usually involves him getting beat up. The card seemed to be missing a lot of the big names. It’s nice to have focused cards and there were big stories going on throughout the show but once again it’s just worth observing some of those who were missing.

In Conclusion

For all the nit-picking and minor complaints, Hell in a Cell was a lot of fun. Orton and Hardy put on an absolutely brilliant match to warm up the crowd and it is once again nice to see the RAW Tag Titles actually mean something. There were lots of moments to enjoy and even though it may feel like a prelude to the Super Show Down next month, it’s still worth a watch. It would have been nice to see some proper finishes to matches but this is sometimes what we have to put up with as wrestling fans. The stories they are trying to prolong are worth telling and a final Joe/AJ match is always welcome.

Lastly, whoever did the graphics for this PPV deserves a raise, the screen transitions were amazing and the Hell Raiser Cube like match graphics were incredibly well done. They could have had a “good” all to themselves.

John is a UK based wrestling obsessive who still wants to believe the Bullet Club is fine. He is always tearing the business apart and first realised wrestling was for him when he saw Mankind fall from the top of the cell at King of the Ring 1998.

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