I was surprised regarding how sparse this year’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view was booked. While I’m fine with only 2 of the 6 matches being conducted in the structure, it did strike me as somewhat lacking in truly big matches. The match for the WWE Universal Champion did take place in Hell in a Cell but it happened on Smackdown and not on the pay-per-view. None of the tag team titles were booked for the show either. Neither were the Intercontinental nor the United States championships were slated to be defended in the show. Seemed like it was going to be a lame show.
Boy, was I wrong. This year’s Hell in a Cell, while lacking in some big name matches, made up for it with some spectacular in-ring action for all involved. Well, that is, until they got to the finish at times. I’ll go into detail when we do get to each individual match.
They started off the night with Bianca Belair defending her Smackdown Women’s Championship against Bayley in Hell in a Cell. I had super high hopes this was going to be a great match and I wasn’t disappointed. Both competitors put together some really unique match which focused on their abilities. We had Bianca Belair display her freakish power by lifting the steel steps over her head. They also used Bianca’s braid is some really creative spots, such as Bayley trying to tie Belair’s hair to a chair and The EST of the WWE knotting it around The Role Model’s arm to prevent her from escaping. They even played up how Bayley has been in this type of match before and even offered some callbacks, like the botched taped kendo stick spot with Sasha Banks some time ago. That’s some attention to detail!
Too bad they tried to do a little too much at times and it messed up the finish a bit. Bayley had Belair trapped in-between a ladder and she went for some kind of head slam but she landed badly on the knee she hurt during the match. The pain was enough so she couldn’t cover Belair in a timely manner and the reigning Smackdown champ managed to avoid getting pinned. The spot just looked sloppy. After some more back and forth, Belair attempted a backslide but Bayley attempted to reverse it. The EST transitioned into a Glam Slam into the turnbuckles. Belair stacked the latter on top of the Role Model and attempted a splash but Bayley rolled out of the way. However, Bianca landed on her feet and connected with a senton on Bayley who was lying on the ladder. One KOD onto the ladder and Bianca Belair gets the 3-count and gets to keep her Smackdown Women’s Championship.
This was a fantastic way to start out the night. Both Bayley and Bianca Belair put on a good show and some of the spots were entertaining as all heck. There were a few sloppy moments, like the aforementioned tweaking of Bayley’s knee as it wasn’t really clear what happened. They weren’t all that distracting but they were there. Still definitely worth your time.
The next match had Seth Rollins once again take on Cesaro. It’s weird to me how long this feud has lasted but, come to think of it, when has Seth Rollins ever had a short feud? Thankfully, the length has allowed these two WWE Superstars to have some really good matches and this one is no exception. They didn’t do anything they hadn’t done before so it may seem repetitive on the surface. They made up for it by pure in-ring storytelling and some really good back and forth between the two. I also can’t help they did some adlibbing. I can’t help but think the spot where Cesaro removed Seth’s glove and force fed it to The Messiah was thought up on the spot.
Once again, though, the finish left much to be desired. The Swiss Superman managed to lock a Sharpshooter on Rollins after a Giant Swing. Rollins tried crawling towards the bottom rope to break the hold but Cesaro transitioned into a crossface. Rollins tried a rollup but Cesaro got out and locked in another Sharpshooter. The Swiss Superman, seeing the Messiah reaching for the ropes again, grabbed his foe’s outstretched arm and repeatedly slammed it into the mat. Cesaro then tried another Sharpshooter but Rollins rolled him up into a small package to get the pinfall victory.
The match itself was really good but the finish was super anti-climactic. It does keep Cesaro from looking weak as the victory was stolen by Rollins in a way. I think that was the purpose anyway. To me, however, it makes Cesaro look foolish for dipping into the well too many times by insisting on using the Sharpshooter over and over. It also shows how ill-prepared for Seth Rollins wily tactics despite beating him several times before. It left a bad aftertaste in my mouth on what could have been a spectacular match.
We then go to Alexa Bliss taking on Shayna Bazzler who had both Nia Jax and Reginald in her corner. While I wasn’t expecting a pure scientific wrestling match, I didn’t expect something as kooky as this. Alexa Bliss did her entire “I’m not human” shtick and everyone just played along. Basically, it had a very unrealistic and kooky vibe but still tried to be mystical and spooky. They just didn’t mix the two well and it just felt unbalanced.
The finish was extremely weird but a weird I both liked and disliked. Bliss managed to knock Bazzler out of the ring and Reginald went to check on her. Bliss locked eyes with Jax and the Irresistible Force was sucked into her influence. Reginald went to check on Jax next only for Bliss to command Jax to slap him. Bazzler rushed back into the ring and attempts to lock in her Kirafuda Clutch but Bliss gets out of the hold and performs an underhook version of Sister Abigail. One Twisted Bliss splash later and Alexa Bliss gets her hands raised in victory.
This is going to be a very polarizing match for a lot of wrestling fans. On one hand, you have the entire “she’s using hypnosis” strangeness which makes professional wrestling look stupid. On the other hand you have the entire “she’s using hypnosis” strangeness which makes professional wrestling charming and fun. I’m mixed in my opinion here. I both liked and hated it for the same reason.
Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn was next. These two can never have a bad match when they’re together and this was no different. While I will say I’ve seen them do better, they did do enough to put on a really good show. Lots of nice little touches, like Zayn seemingly injuring Owens’ shoulder and KO selling it throughout the match. Then again, I’m not really sure if he was selling it because I honestly think he got hurt and was just fighting through the pain. I haven’t seen any injury reports on Owens, thank god, but it goes to show you how good an in-ring performer he is.
The finish came after the duo had a slugfest in the middle of the ring. Owens eventually got the upper hand and started to stomp on Zayn onto the ring apron. Zayn then draped Owens’ injured arm over the top rope, enabling the conspiracy theorist to strike KO from behind and knocking his throat into the bottom rope. Zayn then connected with his Helluva Kick on Owens to get the pinfall victory.
This was a pure wrestling exhibition and a classic mano-a-mano fight between two guys who work well with each other. While I’m glad they put both guys together for this bout, I do hope they don’t do it too often. They may work well together to put on entertaining match but, if they dip into the well to frequently, things may go a little stale. Right now, though, I’m happy they still can put of a great match.
The next match had Rhea Ripley defending her RAW Women’s Championship against Charlotte Flair. I do understand the appeal of Rhea Ripley, a tall and powerful lady who doesn’t look like the typical pretty WWE Diva. I just don’t like her that much because she comes off as fake to me. Personal biases aside, this was a terrible match for Ripley and, in effect for Charlotte. The entire match was just Charlotte dunking on Ripley for most of the match with Ripley hardly getting any offense in. However, they didn’t make it a squash match as Ripley still got enough offense in to make her look like she was getting some licks in.
The finish was awful. It basically had Ripley and Charlotte climbing back into the ring and the announcers talking about how “valiant” Ripley was for not getting herself counted out to retain her RAW Women’s Championship. The Queen then takes out Ripley’s legs out and applies a Figure Four but Ripley finds her way out of the ring. Charlotte chases Ripley to the outside but Ripley rips the top of the announcer’s table and smacks Flair with it. This leads to the match called in favor of Flair due to disqualification but Rhea Ripley is still your reigning RAW Women’s Champion.
This match was terrible for a couple of reasons. It’s like they wanted it to be one-sided but didn’t want it too one-sided as it’ll make Ripley look weak. Well, she looked weak either way so giving her whatever offense wasn’t the way to go. They also wanted Ripley to look like someone who didn’t want the cheap way out to keep her title… but she did anyway as she intentionally got herself disqualified! I know they’re going to extend the feud and possibly make them go at it again with something like a No Disqualification stipulation but, if that is their plan, it just made Ripley look cowardly during this match. Terrible, terrible match.
The final match of the night pitted Bobby Lashley against Drew McIntyre for the WWE Heavyweight Championship inside Hell in a Cell. While this might be the nth time these two have tussled over the belt, I like that they’re putting them in a Hell in a Cell as I believe the two can take it… and I was right. This was a good match with enough unique elements, like back body drops into the Cell walls, imprisoning Drew in between a kendo stick and the walls of the Cell and using previously set up objects like tables later on to create dramatic spots.
The finish was a screwjob but one I’m fine with. The referee was accidentally taken out with a chair shot so the Cell had to be opened to allow for a replacement to get in. In the confusion, MVP managed to sneak in as well. After some back and forth, the Scottish Warrior connects a Glassgow Kiss headbutt on the All Mighty to stun him enough to connect with a Futureshock DDT. Drew sets up for a Claymore kick but MVP stops him by holding his leg. This allows Lashley to get Drew in the most devastating move in the WWE, the rollup, to get the pinfall victory and retain his WWE Heavyweight Championship.
It may be a screwjob finish but it was the right tone. MVP managing to interject himself even in Hell in a Cell is brilliant but I do hate the rollup for the win. If Lashley speared him and then had MVP help him pin Drew, it would’ve been better. However, the overall match was really good and there were enough spots to make this worth watching.
Overall, I was shocked how good Hell in a Cell was. The card may look thin but they made up for it with the quality of the matches.
What did you think of this year’s Hell in a Cell? Let me know in the comments section below!