WWE Hell in a Cell
September 16 2018
We’re in San Antonio, Texas. We have rolling hosts all night.
Hell in a Cell
Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy
Maybe it’s because I don’t care about Orton and haven’t for years but this feels stale and old. Why is it even a HIAC match? Is it because Jeff hadn’t wrestled in one? I’m the same age as Jeff and wanting to be in an environment where I may get badly hurt isn’t on my bucket list. Having a nice glass of wine on the sofa is about the pinnacle of my ambition nowadays. Both these guys look road weary but to their credit here they bring a tonne of effort. The aim is to steal the show from the opening match and for two veterans that’s pretty admirable. In particular Jeff taking a sickening chest first bump through the supports of a ladder. I’m quite fond of Orton using Jeff’s stupid studded belt against him and I may have yelled “Yappapi Strap Match” at the screen. I have reached that stage of life where I would rather watch a Country Whippin’ Match than a Hell in a Cell. WWE is so guilty of resting on their laurels when it comes to stuff like this.
An issue with HIAC – with it occurring at the same time every year they need to time their feuds so they’re hot enough to occur in the HIAC. Plus you can’t randomly throw one out during the year to surprise people.
And this is why you don’t mess around with piercings and make your ears all flappy. Couldn’t Randy just stab in the head like a normal person? WWE’s daft ‘no blading’ policy is why shit like this has to happen. It’s not like there’s no blood as Orton bleeds hardway from Jeff’s stupid belt.
There’s no doubting the unpleasant visceral nature of the match and I applaud the violence. Somehow a Swanton with a chair involved manages to cut Orton’s leg open. You can see him looking at it. How the fuck did that happen? I don’t like Hardy building the match’s finale while Randy just lies there watching. When Jeff finally gets up there and falls face first through a table it makes him look like a complete dingus. Match was suitably violent and Jeff got to fall off the Cell, albeit inside. When I saw this come up as the only recommended match on this show I was somewhat shocked but having seen the violence in it I totally get it. I could have lived without the long setup sequence before the finish. That took the match down a little.
Final Rating: ****
SmackDown Women’s Championship
Charlotte (c) vs. Becky Lynch
I’m still flabbergasted that WWE shoehorned in yet another big Charlotte title win at Summerslam. It’s getting to be as bad as Roman Reigns at this point. I’m also confused as to why Becky has sat in the shadows for so long on SD.
I’m also slightly irked that a match of this magnitude is hidden away second on a B PPV. The match has some teething issues but luckily Becky is one of the best women’s wrestlers for finding a way out of a tricky situation. What alarms me is that these two profess to be best pals and yet have limited chemistry in the ring. You’d think they would have been rolling around working a match out for the past few weeks in their down time. Instead its sloppy at times and almost all of that falls on Charlotte who’s either late or just untidy in her execution. While I applaud Charlotte for taking women’s wrestling to another level in WWE I suspect it won’t be long before she’s surpassed by an array of up and coming talent. Stuff that still works: freaky rope moves, selling and that big boot. As the match progresses the crowd becomes even more pro-Lynch, jeering Charlotte’s comebacks with vigour. WWE just don’t learn do they? Another troublesome spot; Charlotte failing to catch Becky on a missile dropkick. Her timing has been woeful tonight. The finish is bizarre too. Charlotte, who’d had her arm worked over all match, goes for a spear and gets rolled up. That’s it. New champ. Charlotte inadequate all match hopefully away from the title picture for the foreseeable future while Becky Lynch carves out her own legacy. Long overdue. There’s a beautiful moment post match where glory hog Charlotte refuses to leave the ring and offers a handshake but Becky shoves the belt in her face. Totally deserved.
Final Rating: ***
Video Control take us to the New Day fucking around with Kofi Kingston in a blonde wig pretending to be an interviewer. They yell about pancakes and stuff and as they cut back to ringside Cole says “what was that?” Quite.
RAW Tag Team Championship
Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose
Renee Young joins commentary with her mans in action. I’m glad she’s getting a shot at comms. The crowd reaction to “burn it down” speaks volumes. The people want Seth as The Guy around here. That’s been abundantly clear for some time. Well, Braun Strowman before WWE dropped that particular ball. The Rollins/Ziggler feud has bored me, frankly, but throwing them in with other guys and mixing it up reveals how great their chemistry actually is. Maybe it’s just Ziggler. He’s been such a flop for so long that I find him impossible to take seriously. Being Shawn Michaels to Drew’s Kevin Nash makes sense. Only Ziggler is far more obnoxious than Michaels ever was and he didn’t even need the drugs to do it!
The guy I’m most excited to see here is McIntyre. I want to see him bring that Indie skillset to a big boy match on a major event. You know he can go! He does the work and “Shawn” draws the heat. They run formula on Seth and Ambrose gets a wicked hot tag. Dean is incredibly motivated, having not been in a big match since, what, Survivor Series last year? After they’ve moved past that phase and into the stretch the match gets super-hot. Unfortunately, Cole feels the need to scream “what a sequence” into his microphone like a donkey vomiting into my ears. The Seth/Drew sequences down the stretch are magic. I think they had the wrong guy trading the belt with Rollins over the past few months. They have an absolutely superb finish where Seth does his roll through superplex into another move (probably a Falcon Arrow) but Drew kicks him in the face in the middle of it leaving an unconscious Dolph on top for the pin. Beautiful. Finish kicks this up over four flakes.
Final Rating: ****1/4
AJ Styles (c) vs. Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe has been killing the build to this match. Just killing it. AJ has it easy. He just has to turn up, look mad and get a measure of vengeance. Joe has the hard work in the bag.
AJ brings a tonne of aggression, which he needed to. A man riles you by going after your family and you’ve got to fuck him up. Joe’s response is equally aggressive but that’s just Joe. Nobody takes a beating like AJ Styles and Joe knows how far he can take this. Their experience together is an ideal template for them to carry that match into WWE. It’s a shame they weren’t doing these matches here 13 years ago when they were both in their prime. Joe, for all his other excellent attributes, got here after his body had started to deteriorate. In NXT I honestly thought he was done. I’m glad he came back and this might be his best outing in WWE to date. An exciting, expansive performance only slightly hindered by his need to rest after an assortment of abusive spots. It’s the manner of Joe’s performance that impresses. He commits to spots in a way I thought had gone for good in the big Samoan. AJ tempers his performance to match Joe’s and he’s so good at existing at the same level as his opponent. Taking it up a gear when he needs to, taking it down a gear when his opponent needs him to. Joe’s big moves and AJ’s selling of those moves is just sensational. The big lariat pops me huge and leaves AJ bleeding from the mouth.
I love Joe getting all wild-eyed and crazy. The championship within his reach. His opponent emotionally and physically beaten down and ready for that one big spot. Joe goes for the Coquina Clutch but AJ rolls backwards and gets the pinfall. Joe thinks his won the title because AJ tapped. I love Joe refusing to break the hold and pinning himself because he’s the one who’d emotionally lost it. Beautiful. I loved this. A replay shows AJ Styles tapping out during the count. Joe should have won!
Final Rating: ****1/2
The Miz & Maryse vs. Daniel Bryan & Brie Bella
Remember when Brie retired two years ago? Shame that one didn’t stick.
Miz looks like a complete dickbag. I feel for Daniel Bryan. Years on the shelf. Now obsolete in a blown feud with a can’t miss opponent. Delayed by a pointless feud with a departing Big Cass. I just don’t understand any of this. Now he’s playing second fiddle to Total Divas. Again. Miz can do this shit. That’s his oeuvre. You throw any old shit at Miz and he can make it work. Production isn’t even watching Daniel here!
It’s all about Brie. Not only that the crowd wakes up when Brie gets a hot tag! How have you dropped this ball? Maryse sort of rolls up Brie for the win. At least Bryan didn’t take the job. Miz goes 2-0 versus Bryan since his return! This was patchy. I’m still staggered at Bryan’s booking since he came back. Like, when are they going to do something with him? Or is this entirely a ‘they don’t trust him because he gets injured’ scenario? I would have been fine with another Miz match to be honest. Bringing the wives in here didn’t help them.
Final Rating: **3/4
RAW Women’s Championship
Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Alexa Bliss
Bliss has a game plan and that was to soften up Ronda’s ribs before the show. She has Mickie James and Alicia Fox backing her up too. Ronda has Natalya, who still hasn’t turned on her. Credit to Alexa here btw, she’s getting those heel reactions even when she’s facing someone bigger and stronger. Ronda continues to look good. She’s trying new things and look smooth on the mat, for the most part. She clearly wants to be more than just a WWE Superstar. She wants to be a great wrestler, not just a great women’s wrestler but a top tier star. Her takedowns and mat work are super. I know she’s getting a lot of time to work on this but WWE have a big investment; they want a big star. There’s a little added joy for her here; her selling of those bad ribs is effective.
It stops her doing that wacky judo throw and she shows a lot of pain too. It’s a necessity for having a long match with someone she clearly is superior to in Bliss. It’s either that or Alexa doing a lot of shenanigans. They could have mixed both in but keep it simple. The weird thing is despite Ronda having a more rounded performance than usual this is actually her worst match. Simply because her offence is so dynamic and she’s so exciting in charge of a match that her eating heat from Alexa doesn’t do it for me. They do tell a coherent storyline though with Alexa going to the ribs to save herself during the inevitable comeback. It only delays the inevitable and Alexa taps as soon as the armbar goes on and then rolls out of the ring to give the champ her spotlight (hey Charlotte!) Ronda continues to show progress and Alexa is a good learning partner for her more serious bouts to come.
Final Rating: ***
Hell in a Cell
WWE Universal Championship
Roman Reigns (c) vs. Braun Strowman
Attracting the interest of Vince McMahon is bad news for you. You get the main events but your booking is covered directly by him so you get horrible old man booking. Speaking of which; Mick Foley is the referee because it’s been 20 years since he fell off the Hell in a Cell. Braun is cashing in his Money in the Bank contract. Apparently because the Shield can’t interfere inside the Hell in a Cell. It’s logical, I guess. Until Mick gets injured and the Cell has to be opened to let him out.
This match is all about the Big Dog finding out there are bigger dogs. Should have made it Kennel from Hell match. When Roman was on top of his game the crowd reaction didn’t matter but now he’s struggling again and stuck in with big monsters it’s an issue. He has better matches with smaller opponents. This is sluggish with various plunder to create a way for Braun to effectively sell as Roman can’t just punch him. “Why won’t you stay down you moron?” Braun yells at Roman when he won’t stay down on a near fall. The match rumbles on until a spear through a table creates the most convincing near fall and then we get Dolph/Drew/Shield antics outside the cell for a bit. Ziggler and Rollins then climb onto the cell for reasons best known to themselves.
This results in Ziggler and Rollins both taking horrible bumps through announce tables. And then Brock Lesnar!!
Brock smashes his way in and goes on a rampage with a broken table and that’s it? What kind of horseshit finish is that? They threw absolutely everything at the wall here and even surprised me with Lesnar’s bizarre return but I still don’t know what they’re hoping to accomplish with any of this and why on earth are Ziggler and Rollins taking that nonsensical Cell bump? Just because the Cell is there so someone must die?
Final Rating: **
The main event represents WWE and why so many people actively seek an alternative to it. The undercard however was very strong and good enough for me to refer to this as WWE’s best PPV this year. In particular Joe/AJ, RAW tag, Becky winning and the Orton/Hardy Cell match. Everything was going so well. Despite the overbooked and strangely off-key main event the show still delivered.