Premiere week has finally come to an end. We’re all older, wiser, and a little more ready to embrace the sweet release of death. Yesterday morning, somebody in Connecticut woke up in a cold sweat and went “oh shit, we have a pay-per-view tonight,” then shoved a handful of new matches onto an already short card and called it a job well done. And some of it was! While the internet may tell you otherwise, Hell in a Cell was not a total bust. I was pretty darn sports entertained by some of it. I know we all had a lot of feelings last night, but we’ve slept on them, and surely we must be feeling at least a little bit better. Right?
Lacey Evans vs Natalya (Kickoff)
The first of many rematches on HIAC’s card, this was a fine time. Like Baron Corbin’s testicles, I’d call it perfectly adequate. The two seemed evenly matched for most of it. After Evans attempted the Sharpshooter again, Natalya finally got the win with her family’s submission, and even laid Evans out with a big Canadian Woman’s Right.
Evans has become a very solid heel. It looks like she’s grown a lot since debuting on the main roster this year, and even with a loss here, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her in the title picture again soon. Natalya is Natalya, and she’ll hold this job forever.
Verdict: Women can have baseless, boring mid-card feuds too. We’ve truly come so far.
Becky Lynch (c) vs Sasha Banks for the Raw Women’s Championship: Hell in a Cell
Honestly, match of the night right here. Both women giving it their absolute all and taking some brutal beatings made for a hot opening of the show. After the inclusion of chairs, tables, kendo sticks and more, Becky delivered a Bexploder from the top rope onto a stack of chairs, then forced Sasha to tap to the Disarm-her. This felt like a proper war in the cage, like the intensity Hell In a Cell is supposed to bring. Really fantastic match. All of the cell spots felt worthwhile, particularly Chekhov’s chair that was set up in the early stages and finally used by Sasha. Banks has always been known for bumping like a lunatic, but Lynch was right there with her last night. Both women put their bodies on the line and made the title feel like it was the only thing worth fighting for.
These two came out of the cell looking great (figuratively speaking, literally they looked like they wanted to lay down for 6 years). Becky ultimately got the win, but it feels clear Sasha is destined to be at the top of Raw soon. Crowd was mixed on the reaction to Becky’s victory as well. You could argue it was a perfect time to make Sasha champ. A huge return and a big victory after a tough match like this would have cemented her as a champion, but I, personally, don’t hate Becky retaining. I’m looking forward to seeing these two go at it again soon.
Verdict: Hell yes, I’d watch these two tear each other apart for the rest of my life.
Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan vs Erick Rowan and Luke Harper: Tornado Tag Match
This felt way more entertaining than it had any right to be. The story of who tried to take out Roman has gone a little off the rails, but at least it gave us this banger. The match stipulation worked great here. Much of the match felt like total chaos as all four men just pummeled each other. After withstanding some serious bludgeoning from two large brothers, Bryan and Reigns picked up the win with a spear. Roman went for a handshake but Bryan refused…. Only to turn around and ask for a hug. AO3 search: enemies to friends, 13k words, fluff.
Verdict: Nothing brings two people together like attempted vehicular homicide.
Randy Orton vs Ali
Earlier on the kickoff show, Orton interrupted an interview with Ali to call Ali lucky, not talented, leading to this match. For such a last minute build up, these two managed to deliver. Ali put up a good fight, and even looked like he might snag a win a few times. Ali’s counter to the RKO was particularly great, and the match made a point to showcase his athleticism. He worked well with Orton here, forcing the bigger man to keep him grounded. Orton ultimately got the victory with the surprise RKO.
Verdict: Please put Ali back on TV, look at what he can do in ten minutes with Randall Keith!
Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross (c) vs the Kabuki Warriors for the Women’s Tag Team Titles
This tag title match was another last minute addition that ended up being really entertaining. There was some good back and forth for a while, with Sane and Asuka taking every advantage they could. The finish came with Asuka spitting green mist at Cross and pinning her to win the Kabuki Warriors their first gold. I wasn’t expecting them to get the belts just yet, but it’ll be very interesting to see what they do as champs. Kabuki Warriors beginning their heel turn to get the win was well done here. I’d love to see a cutthroat Asuka and Kairi terrorizing the women’s division.
Verdict: A solid match with a surprising finish.
Viking Raiders feat. Braun Strowman vs The O.C
I actually forgot this match happened until I went back and rewatched some this morning. Did I sit through this? Was I in the bathroom? Was I too busy tweeting? We’ll never know, but it wasn’t that memorable the second time around either. Five big dudes and AJ Styles tossed each other around for a few minutes before The O.C was DQ-d for attacking Strowman to save Styles from probably having his back broken. The teams brawled for a bit more, before Strowman finally took a stand for the round earth and punched AJ in the face.
Verdict: Big boy season has (hopefully) finally given us an end to this repetitive feud.
Chad Gable vs Baron Corbin
I’m really into this rivalry and I don’t care who knows it. This was more of the David vs Goliath, where we all have to pretend 5’8” is the shortest we’ve ever seen a man and not actually closer to what many male wrestlers actually clock in at, instead of the 6’ they try to skate by with (Adam Cole, I’m looking at you). Corbin used the size advantage, manhandling Gable for a while, who refused to stay down. Gable got the win with a roll up after Corbin tried to use that scepter again.
Corbin is on a run as a fantastic heel. This feud with Gable is building Chad up as a lovable underdog, and letting us see Corbin at his absolute asking-for-the-Forever-21-manager snottiest. I’d love to see more between these two.
Verdict: Short kings stay winning.
Bayley (c) vs Charlotte Flair for the Smackdown Women’s Championship
Kind of a mixed bag here. Some good stuff from both women with Flair on the attack and Bayley as the cowardly heel. She went for the eye poke, feet on the rope, anything to hold onto her title, but the Char10tte prophecy couldn’t be avoided. Charlotte won with the Figure Eight, but it was Bayley the camera focused on after the match. She threw a little tantrum and then just sat down outside the ring and cried, lamenting that this always happens to her.
Verdict: The character stuff for Bayley was the most interesting part here, while Charlotte locks in her 10th championship reign.
Seth Rollins (c) vs The Fiend Bray Wyatt for the Universal Championship: Hell in a Cell
Oh boy! Here we go. The match that launched a thousand fake rioting videos. Was it really all that bad? Or are we all just being little baby marks about it? Let’s discuss.
The beginning was pretty solid. Some back and forth with the Fiend dominating for a while, punishing Rollins for being a Louis C.K fan. The Fiend delivered his greatest hits: Sister Abigail, the neck snapping move, a huge hammer with a cool design on it. Seth wouldn’t stay down, and fired back with his own best moves: 96 curb stomps in a row. The Fiend kicked out at one for each of them.
Rollins then started going for the chairs, but the Fiend continued to kick out. Seth even grabbed a ladder and a tool box, which felt like a weird escalation but apparently worked, as The Fiend was left lying motionless under all that and a stack of chairs. Finally, Rollins dug out Papa H’s sledgehammer, but the referee had had enough. He urged Seth not to do it, but overcome by the B-movie power of the red lighting, Seth said he was the final girl and Peter Gabriel.mp3-ed The Fiend right then and there. The ref called for the bell.
The Fiend suddenly popped up and choked Seth with the mandible claw before dragging him to the outside and delivering a Sister Abigail. The crowd chanted for refunds and AEW while The Fiend applied another mandible claw. Seth coughed up some blood to a chorus of boos. Fade to black. End scene.
We’re left with a lot of questions here. I’m not the first to say it and I won’t be the last, but how do you get DQ-d in a HIAC match? Or if it was referee stoppage, is the ref meant to be that bad at his job that he really thought Wyatt was completely done for? What acting school did The Fiend go to? Are they accepting applications for winter semester? Further, is the story here that The Fiend is too stupid to realize he was playing possum for so long he ended the match and ruined his own career? Hilarious, but maybe not a great look for the character.
Scratch that, what is the story for either of them? The idea seems like Seth was pushed to his limit and forced to become someone he left behind, which is fine. That’s a fine story for a boring babyface. But that wasn’t what was happening in the build to the match. The Fiend didn’t seem interested in pushing Seth to his limits, or trying to play psychological games. He just seemed like a nasty man with an oral fixation who wanted to tear Seth’s limbs off.
Verdict: Let’s all just go outside and hug our grandparents.