I took a look at this year’s WWE Hell in a Cell and I was surprised with the card they put together. Only 2 matches out of the 7 matches were going to be a title defense and none of them were going to be defended by either the WWE Universal Champion nor the WWE Heavyweight Champion. Granted, both of the belts are currently being held by one man, Roman Reigns, but it does seem rather anti-climatic if the main event, the namesake Hell in a Cell, was essentially a rematch of a rematch of a bout which happened all the way back at Wrestlemania.
Still, I was curious as all of the matches were, shockingly, story driven matches. It wasn’t your usual “I want to be champion” pay-per-view event. No, most of the matches were grounded because of actual feuds. I really wanted to see how some of the stories were going to conclude, if they were going to be concluded at all, at this year’s Hell in a Cell. I did watch the entire thing and here are my thoughts on the matches.
The first match of the night was a big one as it had Bianca Belair defending her RAW Women’s championship against Asuka and Becky Lynch in a Triple Threat match. This was actually the match I was looking forward to the most because I already know how good all 3 ladies can work together and they certainly didn’t disappoint. While this still generally followed the tried and true Triple Threat formula of one WWE Superstar recovering outside the ring while the other two duke it out in the ring, it did feel like there were a lot of moments were all the participants were actually duking it out together. Spots like Bianca Belair performing a springboard backflip splash on both Lynch and Asuka and Asuka locking an ankle lock on Belair and Lynch at the same time. Lots of chaotic moments here and it really felt like anything could happen.
The finish, admittedly, was a little disappointing. After the EST of the WWE smashed the Empress of Tomorow’s face into the corner turnbuckle, Big Time Becks rushed in and tossed Belair to the outside and hit Asuka with her Manhandle Slam. Lynch went for the cover but Belair quickly climbed inside, toss Lynch to the outside to cover Asuka for the pinfall victory and retain her RAW Women’s champion. It’s a rather disappointing finish as it wasn’t clever or anything. It also felt really weird as Belair immediately recovered from being tossed to the outside but Lynch couldn’t do the same? It was a good match overall but with a fairly lackluster finish.
The next match of the night had Bobby Lashley taking on both Omos and MVP in a handicap match. While I have enjoyed this feud for what is was, two powerhouses going at it, it has lost a lot of its luster by now. I was interested in seeing MVP in the ring after not competing for a long time and I have say… he’s okay. He wasn’t bad or anything and he was able to impress me as he was still flexible enough to do his running boot without pulling a hammy. Omos also seemed to be doing a lot better in the ring. He still comes off as very stiff but he’s much better than he was when he first competed in a WWE ring. I guess pairing him with Lashley has been a good thing overall.
The finish was, well, weird. MVP went for his Playmaker neckbreaker finishing move but Lashley got out of the hold and smashed Omos off the ring apron. The All Mighty then speared MVP and went for the cover but broke the pinfall attempt. The Nigerian Giant then went to beat on Lashley but Cedric Alexander, who’s been trying to get the Hurt Business back together tried to blindside Omos but he was shoved out of the ring by Omos. Lashley then took out Omos with a spear and dodged a big boot from MVP. This enabled Lashley to lock in the Hurt Lock full nelson submission and MVP had no choice but to tap out.
I can’t really say I hated this match and I can’t say I liked it. I was mostly indifferent to it because I just feel the feud has lasted long enough and it looks like it’s going to continue with the re-introduction of Cedric Alexander in the picture. It was a fine match but it could have been something on RAW or Smackdown and it would’ve been a fine match there as well.
The next match had Kevin Owens take on Ezekiel… because KO wants to prove his opponent is actually Elias? I’m not really sure how this feud managed to get this far, in all honestly. I do have faith with Kevin Owens pulling off a good match but I just haven’t gravitated towards the entire Ezekiel gimmick. I also have to add I was never really impressed with Elias/Ezekiel’s in-ring ability. Not like he was bad or anything; he just wasn’t remarkable. He was able to do a few good moves during the match but it did seem like it was Kevin Owens basically carrying both of them.
The finish was rather blase. Ezekiel hit Owens with a knee strike and went to the ropes to deliver a top rope elbow like he had done during the very start of the match. KO was saw this and countered by falling on the top rope, causing Zeke to slip. Owens then nailed Ezekiel with a couple of superkicks before smashing his opponent with his cannonball splash. One Stunner from Owens later and KO gets his hand raised in victory after a 3-count.
This was an okay match through and through. I do have to question the clean loss for Ezekiel at this moment in time but I don’t think this feud is going to be ending right here and now. I would’ve loved it if Ezekiel did some of Elias’ tendencies just to really mess with Owens’ head but nothing of the sort happened. I guess we’ll see these guys have another match down the line?
The next bout had the team of AJ Styles, Finn Balor and Liv Morgan joining forces against The Judgement Day, which is composed of Edge, Damien Priest and Rhea Ripley. Like Kevin Owens and Ezekiel, this feud has gotten a little long in the tooth as AJ Styles has lost to Edge’s new faction time and time again. It’s time to move on! Still, I can’t front because mostly everyone here is talented. The exceptions are Liv Morgan and Damien Priest but they can still hold their own for the most part, which they did here. I mean, Liv did perform that neat little springboard hurracarana to Rhea Ripley at the start of the match. Probably her biggest highlight in the match, though.
I will say the biggest weakness of this match was it being a Mixed Tag match, which meant that only the men could fight the other men and the woman of each team could only fight each other. This did dispel some of the drama, like Liv Morgan getting the “hot tag” when Edge already tagged in Rhea Ripley. I mention this because this was the prelude to the finish.
Rhea Ripley did eventually get the upper hand against Morgan but couldn’t put her away even after a brilliant looking DDT-to-suplex move. She then tried a Riptide but Morgan squirmed out of the move and tagged in Finn Balor, which led to the male faces beating down on the heels. Chaos erupted and, when the dust settled, Finn Balor got the upper hand against Edge. Balor attempted his Coup De Grace on Edge but Ripley went between him and the leader of The Judgement Day. Liv Morgan did take Ripley out but this allowed Edge to recover enough to avoid Balor’s finisher. Edge then speared Balor to get the pinfall victory to win the match for his team.
This match was a little all over the place. While there was a lot of action in general, the general in-ring storytelling was messy. It was entertaining, for sure, but it just came off as a little too chaotic because it was a Mixed Tag match and there was just too many people in it.
The next match had Madcap Moss taking on his former ally, Happy Corbin in a No Holds Barred match. I am actually happy (no pun intended) with how the WWE is handling Madcap Moss. It was very hard to take him seriously because of his old gimmick. However, the downside is he’s not acting like your generic WWE tough guy. Anyway, this was supposed to showcase Madcap Moss’ in-ring ability and he was generally able to impress me. No real signature moves yet but he still has time to develop some now. Making it a No Holds Barred did disguise the lack of a unique moveset, though.
The finish was a little more brutal than what I expected. After Corbin used the announcer’s table to smash a chair into Madcap Moss’ throat, he tried to finish the job by rolling the metal staircase and hinted at powerbombing Moss on top of it. Moss got out of the move and reversed it by grabbing Corbin and performing a fallaway slam into the stairs instead. Moss then connected with his Punchline neckbreaker but, instead of going for the pin, he wedged Corbin’s head in-between a steel chair before slamming the steel steps into the chair’s legs, squishing his opponent’s neck and chest area. Moss then got the pinfall victory and Corbin was stretchered out of the ring.
The No Holds Barred stipulation did make this much more interesting and probably covered up some of Madcap Moss’ in-ring deficiencies. The use of all the tools and the brawling outside the ring was exciting but nothing really fresh and new. The finish was just a tad too vicious than I expected but it does really add the exclamation point to this feud.
The next match had Austin Theory defending his United States championship against the hometown hero Mustafa Ali. Yes, I will still be calling his by his complete name because just calling him Theory feels icky to me. Anyway, there was a lot of fast-paced action with Austin Theory really playing up the heel role. Mustafa Ali, unfortunately, while a very gifted wrestler, came off as very bland with his offense. There were a few highlights but not really too many considering what a high flyer he is.
The finish was kind of lame, in my opinion. Theory manages to break up an STF submission by making it to the ropes. Ali connects with a tornado DDT and climbs to the top turnbuckle to hit Theory with his 450 splash finisher. Theory rolls out of the way and chop blocks the knee Ali banged up earlier in the match. One Town Down facebuster later and Austin Theory gets the pinfall victory and retains his United States Championship.
This was a good match but nothing that needed to be shown on a pay-per-view. A RAW or Smackdown show would’ve sufficed. I do wish they either gave Ali the belt to make the hometown crowd happy or have Theory get himself disqualified or counted out to allow Ali to save face.
The main event was the actually Hell in a Cell featuring Cody Rhodes facing off against Seth Rollins. This may be the 3rd time these guys have competed against each other. I should be sick of them but they’ve managed to put on such good matches, it’s hard to complain. I do have to mention the added drama of this probably being Cody Rhodes’ last match for the year because of his recent injury. Even if you didn’t know about it, well, the WWE made sure you were aware of it the minute Cody took of his jacket! Wow, that looks painful!
Despite his injury, both Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins put on one heck of a Hell in a Cell bout. There was a lot of drama automatically with Rollins targeting the very obvious injury and Cody selling it as well. Rollins also did a phenomenal job of not really trying to hurt The American Nightmare whenever it looked like he was attacking the injury. Even with Seth Rollins taking it relatively easy, Cody still took a whole lot of really hard bumps, like being smashed through a table once or twice.
I also loved how there was a surprise bullrope match during the Hell in a Cell. That was indeed creative and a fun way to use the entire No Disqualification stipulation as well as really placing the “anything can happen in the WWE” ethos. I also have to mention the really good in-ring storytelling, like how Rollins dressed up like Cody’s dad by wearing pokla-dots and even grabbing Cody’s jacket and hitting The American Nightmare with his own weightlifting belt.
The finish came after Rhodes managed to kick out of a Curb Stomp. The Visionary went for another Curb Stomp but Cody dodged it and went for his Cross Rhodes neckbreaker finish. Rolling reversed it and hit a Cross Rhodes on his own to his foe. Despite getting hit by his own finisher, Cody kept the headlock applied and then he hit Cross Rhodes on Rollins, downing both men. Both scrambled for the sledgehammer which was brought into the ring earlier. Cody got to it first but couldn’t hold onto it because of his injury. Rollins grabbed the weapon and swung as Cody but Cody kicked it out of Rollins’ hand and hit a couple of Cross Rhodes neckbreakers on The Visionary. Rhodes then grabbed the sledgehammer and nailed Rollins with it. 3 seconds later and it’s Cody Rhodes exiting Hell in a Cell as the victor.
Simply put, this was a fantastic match. It technically didn’t have to be a Hell in a Cell match as it wasn’t really utilized in that sense. Your regular No Holds Barred match would’ve sufficed. However, making it in Hell in a Cell did add to the drama. Tons of action here and both Rollins and Cody did a great job throughout the match. Props go to Cody for actually going through it and more props to Rollins being so game about it all.
Overall, I would have to say this year’s Hell in a Cell was just above average. The majority of the matches, like Lashey against Omos and MVP as well as Kevin Owens against Ezekiel, were just okay. What did keep this year’s Hell in a Cell stand out a little was the Triple Threat for the RAW Women’s championship as well as the only