Sports Entertainment Review: WWE Hell in a Cell (2018)
It’s that time of year again- Hell in a Cell! It’s kind of funny- when WWE decided to make its “Holy Shit Match” an actual PPV, I thought it was a bad idea. However, after 10 years, I can honestly say it has become a go-to event. The 2018 version didn’t disappoint.
And can we talk about that new, red Cell structure? I dig it. I just can’t help myself. Professional wrestling a.k.a. sports entertainment has always been about the next great idea, the next big thing, packaged in a steeple of tradition. That red Cell just pops! It’s visually striking and brings something new to the table. That’s a win.
Alright, on to the show:
Smackdown Tag Team Title Match: Rusev Day (Rusev & Aiden English) (challengers) vs. The New Day (Kofi & Big E) (champions): There’s a reason that WWE puts those straps on The New Day as often as they do: the “Freebird Rule” works (that and they’re highly entertaining). It gives you something a little different every time. Choosing two out of three possible wrestlers allows for a variation in style. In this case, the unorthodox dynamism of Kofi and the power of Big E are a great counter for the criminally underrated Rusev and shifty English. Nothing groundbreaking here, but a solid match with the classic “can’t you follow the gameplan?” screwup on the the finish for Rusev Day. Winners and still Smackdown Tag Team Champions: The New Day
Hell in a Cell Match: Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton: Can I bitch and praise at the same time for a minute? Good. I wanted so much more from this match. In two decades of wrestling, I’ve waited to see “The Charismatic Enigma” Jeff Hardy get inside the Cell and do something crazy. He did just that in a spot that felt slightly anticlimactic. The highlights of the match actually came from the brutality laid into Orton by Hardy and his studded belt. Orton is the gold standard for what a truly soulless heel looks and acts like, while Hardy showed a darker side that we need to see more of. The screwdriver twist in the piercing was nice, but could have been so much nastier. Fuck you, PG! God, I miss blood in wrestling. Winner: Randy Orton
Smackdown Women’s Title Match: Charlotte Flair (champion) vs. Becky Lynch (challenger): A highlight of the night for me. Becky’s epic heel turn at Summerslam was one for the ages, and Flair is the perfect champion for this story. These two have natural chemistry and a great history that translated well to the ring despite a couple of sloppy exchanges. It would have been easy to keep the title on “The Queen”, but Lynch is ready for the big time and earned it in spades tonight. She’s a natural heel, so much so that it’s almost problematic to have her in a rivalry with Flair (a stellar heel in her own right). I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED seeing the old-school finish! Winner and NEW Smackdown Women’s Champion: Becky Lynch
RAW Tag Team Title Match: Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose (challengers) vs. Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler (champions): For sheer in-ring performance and false-finish fun, this was the match of the night right here. That’s not a shocker, after all: three of the four men involved (Ziggler, Rollins, and Ambrose) are the top three workhorses in the company, and the fourth (McIntyre) is rapidly getting there. The pace was frenetic, and I love the idea of a Drew vs. Dean rivalry in the future. Heel retention makes perfect sense here, as Ziggler and McIntyre are the hottest combo in WWE right now. Rollins’ nasty frog splash to the spine of Drew would’ve made Latino Heat proud. Classic “heel steal” finish. Winners and STILL RAW Tag Team Champions: Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre
WWE Championship Match: Samoa Joe (challenger) vs. AJ Styles (champion): An excellent next chapter in a rivalry that WWE will be leaning on for years. You’ve got it all here: the reliable “don’t bring my family into it” angle, two freakish athletes with high motors, contrasting styles with a deep history of familiarity, and the controversial finish. AJ Styles has been the definition of consistency and steadiness as WWE Champion. He is truly phenomenal with a gas tank that’s nearly endless, and Samoa Joe is the picture-perfect foil, a preternaturally athletic big man with a repertoire that regularly amazes. I could watch these two go at it PPV after PPV. They would’ve been right at home in the Attitude Era. Winner and STILL WWE Champion: AJ Styles
Mixed Tag Team Match: Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse: While it was my least favorite match of the night, it wasn’t exactly a “piss break” match. The Miz is such a natural heel! I could take or leave Maryse, but the combined character of the supposed “It Couple” is fucking hilarious. It’s just so silly. Daniel Bryan still has that organic (pun intended) connection with the crowd that you just can’t manufacture, and the whole Bella thing will seemingly always be over with everyone except me. Sorry to sound bitchy; I just don’t find them interesting. I prefer women wrestlers and not Divas…which is probably why neither of the women in this match do it for me. Winners: The Miz and Maryse
RAW Women’s Championship Match: Alexa Bliss (challenger) vs. Ronda Rousey (champion): Far better than I expected it to be. The WWE seems to be handling the utterly one of a kind property that is “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey in the right way. She was human in this match, with Bliss on offense most of the match exploiting the champ’s rib injury. Rousey can’t always be the damn Terminator, and Bliss is far too talented and unique in her own right to waste as a glorified jobber. Solid selling by Rousey. She’s learning at an alarming and believable rate. Winner and STILL RAW Women’s Champion: Ronda Rousey
Hell In a Cell Match for the WWE Universal Title: Braun Strowman (challenger) vs. Roman Reigns (champion): Braun cashes in his Money in the Bank briefcase on advance notice so that he can have Roman all to himself. It won’t be remembered as the best Cell match by any stretch, but these two animals brought the heavy offense for a solid 15 minutes before their respective packs got involved outside the ring for entertainment value (you know Rollins and Ziggler have been waiting to come off the side of that Cell for their entire lives). It was nice to see Mick Foley as the ref, though he was a general non-factor. Then the roof blew off the place, and I was genuinely shocked. I really thought The Beast Incarnate would be gone for a while, but everyone was reminded that there never has been or will be anyone on his level. The dude is just too damn freakish. The music hit, and I marked out. Sue me- I’m a Lesnar fan. The question is: where does the title picture go from here? Match ends in a NO-DECISION….because of Brrroccccckkkkkk Lesssssnarrrrr!!!
All in all, it won’t be remembered as WWE’s greatest PPV of the year, but the creative side of things is much more active than it usually is at this rather historically stagnant time of year. I have no major complaints about this show. The status quo still holds true: Smackdown has the clearer and more logical title picture, but RAW has the big names and big stories.
And even if you wanted to bitch you really couldn’t: we all got to see Paul Heyman!!