We’ve had some godawful Raw’s in the run up to Hell in a Cell, so my expectations were diminished somewhat. However, I was still looking forward to the third and final Lesnar/Undertaker fight as well as the special PPV edition of John Cena’s U.S. Open Challenge against a mystery opponent. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait too long for the latter as Hell in a Cell opened with a familiar “BRRRAAAAAAPADOOOOO!”.
John Cena vs. Mystery Challenger for the United States Championship
Cena came out to the usual symphony of “John Cena sucks” but was short with his words. He lay down the gauntlet and long-time absentee Real Americans manager Zeb Coulter wheeled out on a mobility scooter. I prepared myself for a Jack Swagger appearance, but Zeb talked about Cena having the belt too long and surprisingly announced Alberto Del Rio as his opponent. It was great to see Del Rio back. He’s been gone for years and it looked like he would never work with WWE again.
The match got underway and it was enjoyable. The physical storytelling was on point. The two men have wrestled each other many times and it influenced some of the reversals/blocks in the fight. Del Rio got the upper hand by catching Cena with a kick to the hamstring that had him limping for the rest of the brawl. The match ended up pretty one-sided with Del Rio dominating Cena. Cena went for a trademark comeback, lifted Del Rio up and was countered, with Del Rio getting in a nasty Back Stabber and driving his knees into Cena’s back. Stunned, Cena ended up kneeling and Del Rio superkicked him in the head and covered, getting the three count. Alberto Del Rio is the new U.S. Champion. I can live with that.
Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt
The Wyatt/Reigns feud has been going on for a long time. It started as personal beef between Bray and Roman after Wyatt tipped Reigns off the ladder at Money in the Bank, escalated into tag war between the Am-bros and the larger Wyatt family and then came full circle with it culminating in a one-on-one battle at Hell in a Cell. It’s been fairly decent for the most part, although the meandering, improvised nature of the writing has muddied up some clear storytelling elements.
It was a quality match. Both Reigns and Wyatt put on a great show. The match soon devolved into a basic street fight where Wyatt thrived. It showed a great amount of variety and creativity, bringing out kendo sticks, chairs and best of all, tables. It was a great showing for Roman Reigns who finally started to resemble the smiling badass we’ve only been told he is. There were several great moments that proved how good Reigns can be. There was a cool bit where he paused after sliding a table in the ring and audibly said that one table wasn’t enough and he brought a second into the mix. Best one was when he rounded on Bray outside the ring and menaced him with two kendo sticks.
The momentum shifted into Bray’s favour when he hit a nasty looking Sister Abigail and set up two Kendo sticks to point directly out of the ringpost. He grabbed Roman and Reigns reversed it, grabbing one of the sticks and beating Bray with it before grabbing him and whipping him into the remaining stick. Blinded, Bray stumbled around and Reigns hit him with a Spear to get the three count. It was an earned victory, but I’d have liked Bray to win. I feel his character needs it more than future main event lock Roman Reigns does.
The New Day vs. The Dudley Boyz for the Tag Team Championship
The rivalry between these two teams hasn’t really convinced over the last month or so. Never thought I’d say it, but I’ve ended up wanting New Day to win more than childhood favourites The Dudleys. New Day are so much more fun and I feel they haven’t done anything with the Dudleys as characters. Anyway, the match was pretty decent, but not particularly exciting. Despite not being there in person, Xavier Woods was there in spirit as his trombone came into play at crucial points in the match. First Kofi Kingston chucked the trombone to a confused Bubba and fell to the floor, clutching his head like he’d been struck. The distracted referee turned around to the flailing Kingston and a red handed Bubba. Eventually, the ref decided that Bubba wasn’t to blame and the match continued. The turning point came when Big E hit Bubba from behind with it and the pained Bubba was hit by Kingston’s Trouble in Paradise, ensuring The New Day retained.
Charlotte vs. Nikki Bella for the Divas Championship
The Divas division has been a mess recently. The warring factions angle has worn out its welcome considerably and now it’s just a testament to the fact that the writing room can’t be bothered to invest any time and effort into it. Thankfully, the factions are starting to drift apart and I was heartened that both Charlotte and Nikki were unaccompanied, meaning that the fight wasn’t going to have some pointless catfight spots.
I really enjoyed the match. I like Charlotte, but I was more impressed by Nikki. She wrestled like a beast for the first time in a long while and reminded me why I used to like her before they gave her tons of terrible acting to do. There wasn’t much to it psychologically, but it was an entertaining bout nonetheless. I will always appreciate a reverse leg lock spot. Whoever came up with the idea that you could reverse the pressure in a leg lock and make the attackee the attacker is a goddamn genius. Charlotte retained and Paige and Becky Lynch came out to celebrate. Why is Paige there hugging and cheering? Fucked if I know. Didn’t she turn on Team PCB a few weeks ago? WWE Creative, everyone.
Seth Rollins vs. Kane for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
I’ve been digging the schizophrenic Kane angle that’s been going on for the last month or so. The storytelling has been scrappy though and there’s been no palpable build up to the match. Why is Kane challenging for the belt again? I guess the champ has to fight someone, but why Kane of all people? It was obvious that Kane wasn’t winning from the off. This one had “placeholder” written all over it.
The match was alright, but it didn’t have too much going on. The story of the match was always going one way, but it was the how they got there that I found disappointing. Rollins threw everything at Kane but The Demon kept kicking out. After a frog splash didn’t seal the deal (why exactly? It was Eddie Guerrero’s signature move) Rollins was left wondering what he had left to try and keep the big man down. He dug deep and kicked Kane in the face before managing to hit the Pedigree and win.
Kevin Owens vs Ryback for the Intercontinental Championship
I enjoyed the last match these two had together when Owens won the belt via an eye rake at Night of Champions. Having the babyface chasing for their belt back from a heel champion is about as simple as wrestling can get. As they were saving the rematch for Hell in a Cell, their interactions have been mostly on the mic, where Ryback struggles.
The match was of shruggable quality. It didn’t have the energy or psychology of their previous fight and there weren’t many points to write home about. What I found absolutely ludicrous was the fact that commentary failed to point out Owens resorting to raking Ryback’s eye again and winning in the same way as last time. The amount of shit they needlessly repeat and they couldn’t acknowledge an important story point. Sigh. Anyway, Kevin Owens stayed champ and I’m happy with that.
Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match
Looking back on Lesnar/Taker feud and knowing where it’s gone, I think it’s one of the better rivalries in a long time. It’s been a classic tale of a superhuman conqueror taking on the old guard and winning, only for the guard to show up months later and kick the conqueror in the dick. With this being billed as the final chapter between the two, it was worth a look purely on that basis. I was hyped and the event crowd mirrored my excitement, suddenly waking up after the IC match and getting involved in turning the atmosphere electric.
The match fucking ruled. The fight started slow, but soon built to both men bleeding profusely and hammering the other with everything they could muster. Since blood isn’t usually par for the course any more, when it is used, it adds extra drama to a match. Seeing Lesnar’s crimson mask at the hands of the Undertaker tells a ton of story without having to do anything. It was the most non-PG match I’ve seen since the PG era began. It was brutal. There were hefty chair shots aplenty as each man tried to batter the other into unconsciousness.
I loved Lesnar losing his mind over how to finally bury Taker. Ripping the canvas and padding away to expose the wood in the ring was a new and exciting thing. It felt dangerous. Lesnar eventually winning by lowblowing the Undertaker and F5ing him to the mat was a cool callback and a perfect way to end the feud. Lesnar has finally conquered the unconquerable once and for all. Who can stop him?
Brock left victoriously and Taker was given the ring to agonisingly stand out and soak in all the well-deserved “Thank You Taker!” chants. Will he be back? I hope so. He wrestled a fucking amazing match and I’d be up for more.
The entire Wyatt family came down to the ring to interrupt Taker’s moment. They set upon him and beat him down, drawing massive heat from the crowd. They then disappeared, taking Taker’s limp form away with them to the land of swamp and beards. God knows what this means. It felt suitably eerie though. Like Death and his entourage were finally coming to claim the Deadman.
Hell in a Cell was a great PPV. We had some brilliant match-ups as well as a Match of the Year contender in the main event. A couple of the matches could have been tightened up, but all in all, a satisfying PPV. Here’s hoping that now most of the storylines have been concluded that Raw shows a similar uptick in quality.