WWE Hell in a Cell Review: What the Hell (in a Cell) Was That?

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Hello, ProWrestling.com readers. If you’re reading this, you have more than likely watched WWE’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view from Sunday night at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. I’m sure you have a lot of emotions based on what happened in the main event between Seth Rollins and the Fiend. Instead of me introducing the show highlights into the introduction like I normally do, let’s get right down to business and break down the show because I have a lot to say about the main event later on.

Becky Lynch (C) vs. Sasha Banks

It was an interesting choice to have the match begin before the cell was even lowered to the floor with Sasha doing everything she could to knock off Becky. However, I loved the spot with Becky taking the chain from the referee responsible for locking the cell door and using it to punch Sasha’s ribs. Becky would get rid of the chain by locking the cell door, but from the inside, showcasing that she is the one who makes the rules and sets the standards for this encounter. I really liked that move and thought it went right in line with her gimmick. Like most cell matches we’ve seen in recent years, this match made great use of the cell as a weapon and other weapons under the ring. Sasha hit this sick-looking Meteora from the top of the ring apron into an upright ladder resting on the cage, cracking Becky’s head between the ladder and the Boss’ shins. The Boss would use this momentum to focus on the champion’s left hand and arm via jamming the arm into an open slot in the cell and slamming Becky’s hand into a chair. But, all of Sasha’s efforts only resulted in near-falls and two-counts as Becky would take back control by utilizing a Bex-ploder into the cell and executing a running dropkick into the cell corner on a chair. This was a very back-and-forth match with Meteora’s onto tables and top-rope Bex-ploder’s on top of piles of chairs. Great action. This was a perfect choice for an opening match.

Winner: Becky Lynch  Time: 21:50  Rating: 4 Stars

Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns vs. Erick Rowan and Luke Harper

I don’t know who decided to change this match to a Tornado Tag match, but give them a raise. I absolutely love tornado tag matches because they just seem a lot more chaotic and exciting than a standard tag match. On top of that, their rarity makes you pay even more attention to everyone in the match to make sure you don’t miss any action. It was interesting to see Bryan still wrestling like a tweener trying to take down Harper and Rowan any way he could (although admittedly, it’s easy to look like you’re in danger and wrestle like an underdog babyface against a guy who has a good eight inches in height on you). A majority of this match was dominated by the former Bludgeon Brothers, who were able to squash any momentum the Planet’s Champion and the Big Dog would try to muster. That being said, there was a lot of “dead time” between one guy being knocked out of commission followed by a few minutes of the former SmackDown Tag Team Champions taking out the other babyface. It makes sense in storylines building up Harper and Rowan as unpredictable intellectual monsters, but it didn’t really create riveting television here in the match’s middle. Shout-out to Erick Rowan for the not-so-subtle symbolism of breaking a pencil in two right in front of the camera. Harper took a wicked hurricanrana from Bryan on the outside of the ring and Reigns speared Rowan right through the announce table where it looked like the former got a nice connection and contusion to his knee. An exciting end to a fine match. I was a little surprised we didn’t see a full heel turn by Bryan here, but I won’t be upset by the return of a face Daniel Bryan (or a Bryan-trademark hug between tag team partners). 

Winner: Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns     Time: 16:45  Rating: 3 Stars

Ali vs. Randy Orton 

I don’t know why this match was thrown on the card, but I will not complain seeing more of Ali flying around my television. With the exception of a pre-show backstage segment, this match would have had a lot more investment from the Sacramento crowd if it had a few more weeks of storytelling behind it. Orton just dominated the match in the beginning, setting the pace of the contest to his liking by chopping Ali into the corner, knocking him off the top rope and suplexing him into the announce table. After Orton attempted to stomp through Ali’s abs, Ali got some offense back by using his body to fly through the air to knock Orton off his feet. I’m not sure where this was earned, but Ali earned a nice, bright red bruise on his right side after Orton’s original beatdown. At times, this felt too much like a SmackDown match and not a pay-per-view match. The top highlight here was the creative handstand of a counter Ali broke out for Orton’s initial RKO, but this match was just okay to me.

Winner: Randy Orton Time: 12:10  Rating: 2 Stars

Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross (C) vs. The Kabuki Warriors

This was a total slap- and chop-fest. One thing that stood out to me in this match was the subtle introduction of heelish moves used by both of the Kabuki Warriors. Above all, I laughed out loud at Sane eye-poking Nikki Cross on the ring apron before the former delivered a running knees strike to Alexa Bliss. Bliss took a majority of the Kabuki offense in this match, specifically by way of ankle-based submissions from Asuka. Speaking of the Empress of Tomorrow, I was shocked and had a huge nostalgia pop for Asuka using the trademark green mist used by superstars like The Great Muta and Tajiri in years past. I loved that surprise and I loved even more seeing the Kabuki Warriors winning the Women’s Tag Team Championships. This team is filled with so much talent that was not being used the last few months, but now they have a reason to have a brighter spotlight shown on them on whichever show they end up being drafted to. I for one can’t wait for their next feud and match.

Winner: The Kabuki Warriors Time: 10:25  Rating: 2.5 Stars

The O.C. vs. The Viking Raiders and Braun Strowman

I don’t really have a lot to say here. AJ is still one of the best in wrestling today and I’m glad Gallows and Anderson are getting more television time as part of this fearsome faction. Another thing I’ll say: I’m happy that the Viking Raiders are getting more television time as of late. It seemed like they debuted for a month, vanished, and then only recently returned to pillage and plunder as babyfaces this time around. This was pretty cool to see the former War Machine (plus Braun Strowman) against the former Bullet Club in a little bit of New Japan action in a WWE ring. This was fine, but again, another RAW match not really up to a pay-per-view quality between the Viking acrobatics and treacherous heel antics of the O.C. God bless AJ for selling that Strowman right hand like it was thrown by…well…Tyson Fury! 

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Winner (by DQ): The Viking Raiders and Braun Strowman  Time: 8:15  Rating: 2 Stars

King Corbin vs. Chad Gable

The lazy “short” jokes aside, Corbin has made a solid turnaround over the summer as a prominent annoying heel character. I was never a big fan of him going back to NXT, but now, I can recognize him coming into his own as a “get under your skin” type-heel (especially now that he has a legitimate air of false-supremacy after winning the King of the Ring Tournament last month. Gable is the perfect choice to pair off with Corbin in order to give the latter some more heel heat since Gable is a great wrester and can sell incredibly for the taller Corbin. I was a fan of the ending with the referee playing into the finish, taking all of Corbin’s attention to set up Gable to roll-up the King. Not as good as their previous matches, but not a bad match at all.

Winner: Chad Gable   Time: 12:40  Rating: 2.5 Stars

Bayley (C) vs. Charlotte 

Bayley is still at an interesting point in her character development in 2019. She comes off on television like a tweener (similar to Daniel Bryan as of the last few weeks) where she will come out into the arena with her usual music and Bayley Buddies and face moveset, while also sprinkling in some heel moves like poking Charlotte in the eyes early in the match. I still like this “mean streak” that the Hugger is showing off, but I’m curious if she’ll go “full heel” sooner or later, especially given her frustrated reaction to losing her championship.

Truth be told, I liked this match a good bit more than their shortened Clash of Champions match. Bayley focused a good bit of her offense on Charlotte’s left leg, but it wasn’t enough to prevent her from falling into the spider web of the Queen, enveloping her in a particularly nasty looking Figure Eight Leg-Lock. Congratulations to Charlotte on earning her 10th Women’s Championship. Say what you will about her ability or constant positioning on the card, but you can’t argue WWE sees a lot of upside and promise with her going into the future. 

Winner: Charlotte       Time: 10:15  Rating: 3 Stars

Seth Rollins (C) vs. The Fiend

If I have to sum up my thoughts into one sentence on this match, it would be this: I liked 75 percent of this match, but absolutely, positively, without-a-shadow-of-a-doubt, never-been-so-positive-about-anything-in-my-life, HATED the ending.

The essence of a Hell in a Cell match is to create an environment where a cowardly bad guy (I.E., Shawn Michaels in 1997 or Edge in 2008) can’t possibly escape from a brute force trying to ground him into dust (funny enough, both of those aforementioned situations involved the Undertaker). WWE kind of had that dynamic here with a scared and overwhelmed Seth Rollins trying to figure out how to beat an inhuman force like the Fiend, just with the babyface and heel playing reversed roles. The one thing I’ll critique about Rollins’ demeanor specifically was he was very “night and day” with his reactions to the Fiend. One second, he would appear in awe of the Fiend no-selling his strikes and kendo stick shots, but then immediately do his regular offense like he was fighting Dolph Ziggler. Speaking of that, why did all of that offense have no effect on the Fiend? Seth is a guy who has beaten Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman, two of the biggest human beings in the WWE. How is it that four or five Curb Stomps (on top of other offensive maneuvers) can take out a former UFC champion and a 6’8” giant, but not a manifestation of evil who is shorter than Rollins? I know this might be one of those situations where kayfabe has to take over, but that just really bugged me watching live.

Then you have the ending. An ending that saw Rollins throw damn near everything he could find around the ring (ladders, chairs, a toolbox) at his opponent to keep the Fiend down for a three count. After seemingly going through everything he could find, Seth grabbed a sledgehammer under the ring. Before the moment of impact, the referee tried to stop Seth from “going to that dark place,” as stated on commentary. If this interaction would have ended there, this would have made sense for Seth doing something usually reserved for a heel and the referee playing up some kind of moral compass reminder for the Beastslayer. But instead, Seth connected hammer with the stack of debris…and the match was stopped by the referee. A Hell in a Cell match ending in a referee stoppage (or a no contest like last year) goes completely against the point of the match. There’s supposed to be no rules, no stipulations and a way to blow off a blood feud with as much sheer violence as possible. This is WWE quite literally forgetting their own rules in the effort of trying to keep their champion and hot new star over at the same time. For their efforts, Rollins received loud boos and uninterrupted jeers for minutes before the show faded to black. While I liked the ending segment with the Fiend playing possum and literally choking Rollins to the point of the latter coughing up blood, that in no way can save the abomination of a decision to have someone like the Fiend withstand all of those Curb Stomps and weapons shots from the top champion on RAW, only for a match we have been led to believe for over twenty years is no disqualifications is stopped by a referee. The performances by Wyatt and Rollins are the only thing preventing this match from receiving a lower rating than Goldberg-Undertaker from Super Showdown back in June. The Fiend started out looking like an imposing force and Rollins at least attempted to make a valiant babyface effort against seemingly insurmountable odds. I’m sure many of you will rate this match lower, but I only want to hand out a low rating when the majority of a match is atrocious, not just one part. That being said, this was one of the worst endings to a match I have ever seen, WWE and beyond.

Winner: No Contest    Time: 17:30  Rating: 1.5 Stars

Overall Thoughts: This show had the unfortunate luck of following two big season premieres on RAW and SmackDown this week, as well as WWE putting a majority of their creative eggs in the basket of promoting their first SmackDown show on Fox. Because of that, many of the matches on this show seemed thrown together at the last minute to kill time and build a show based around four matches. One of those matches, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch inside Hell in a Cell, excelled and was what I would considered to be my match of the night. My least favorite match of the night was the main event purely due to an ending that literally spits in the face of the intelligence of the fan’s in the audience.

Final Hell in A Cell Rating: 2 Stars