With hours notice, WWE decided to make the first ever women’s Hell in a Cell match the main event… fantastic planning!
Of course, a triple-main event with three Hell in a Cell matches was a millstone around this event’s neck going in, so whomever’s going on last would have had a lot to overcome, especially in terms of having a fresh match! We’ve got Rich Swann on the pre-show panel for some reason before the kick-off match, and since the ropes are purple, we’ve a six-man Cruiserweight match! Hey, we’ve got Mauro Ranallo and Corey Graves doing pre-show commentary on a Raw pay-per-view? I’m not complaining…
Sin Cara, Lince Dorado & Cedric Alexander vs. Tony Nese, Drew Gulak & Ariya Daivari
Sadly, a lot of silence for these guys, but then again, what has WWE done to build the cruiserweights aside from throwing a lot of bodies at it? Some decent lucha-style stuff early on, with Nese landing on his feet from a monkey flip, before Sin Cara took it back to an American style with a trio of tiltawhirl backbreakers.
A Quebrada from Sin Cara took out Daivari, before a crossbody from Dorado got him into things with Tony Nese. Dorado nailed a shooting star press for a near-fall, before we got a pair of clotheslines to the outside that acted as a set-up for a release suplex as Nese threw Dorado to the outside.
Back from commercial, we had Gulak working over Dorado with a version of Paige’s old PTO submission, before Nese log-rolled into Dorado en route to a double-jump springboard moonsault for a near-fall. A ‘rana gets Dorado back into it, before the crowd popped for a hot tag to Cedric, who then sent Gulak to the outside with a handspring roundhouse kick.
We get triple dives – a tope and two tope con hilos – towards the hard camera, before Alexander found himself caught in a Dragon sleeper with body scissors in the middle of the ring. A leaping legdrop from Dorado cut-off Gulak’s submission, before Sin Cara rolled up Daivari into a powerbomb.
Gulak nearly gets it with a sunset flip, before promptly falling to Alexander’s Lumbar Check for the win. Good little opener that warmed the crowd up, but Cedric was the only name here that got anything out of this match. ***
Hell in a Cell – WWE United States Championship: Rusev vs. Roman Reigns (c)
Just like at No Mercy, we open with a main event… they started by trading shots before blocking each other’s attempts to use the cell as a weapon. Reigns got the first strike in, shoulder barging Rusev off the apron and into the cell with the Tim White tribute spot… to little reaction.
Rusev gets thrown into the cell wall a few more times, before an Irish whip from the Bulgarian is reversed as he’s sent into the ring steps. The tables quickly turn as Rusev squashes Reigns against the wall, then into the ring post. After a series of corner charges in the ring, Rusev ends up missing, before missing a body splash on the champion.
Reigns follows up with a series of corner clotheslines – and gets some boos after failing to complete the set of ten – before Rusev scurried to the floor to avoid a Superman punch. The Drive-By (apron dropkick) comes up short, and Reigns gets thrown shoulder-first into the ring steps. Those steps come into play again when Rusev drills them into Reigns’ head, before they’re taken into the ring and placed on the top turnbuckle… where they’re teased for a spot, before Rusev’s clotheslined to the outside.
Reigns baseball slides Rusev into the cage, but the tables turn again as Rusev lawn-darts the champion into the cell wall. Rusev looks for a table, but instead pulls out a Kendo stick… but he took too long and took a Drive-By dropkick and lost the stick. You know what happens next, Reigns went to town on Rusev, including with a shot that looked to hit him flush in the mouth.
Back in the ring again, Rusev traps Reigns in the ropes and gets some receipts. By hitting Reigns in the chest protector with a kendo stick. Erm? How’s that meant to help? The stick gets snapped across Rusev’s knee, but he ends up taking a lariat by Reigns for a near-fall.
More back and forth sees Reigns connect with a Superman punch, before a kick cut-off the spear as Rusev finally threw Reigns into those steps on the top turnbuckle, only to get a near-fall out of it. Rusev ties up Reigns with the Accolade, but the champion crawls his way to the bottom rope… before Rusev lets go and drops Reigns with a kick instead. Rusev grabs a chain from under the ring, but he can’t use it as Reigns punches away on the outside. It’s not long before Rusev gets to use the steel chain to whip Reigns with, before he grabs the other half of the ring steps, which Reigns takes shoulder-first for a near-fall. We then got an Accolade on the ring steps, with a steel chain, which in wrestling maths is instant death, surely?
Reigns powers up out of the Accolade though, then drops Rusev on the steps with a Samoan Drop, before finishing him off with a spear off of the ring steps to retain. This started really slowly, and picked up towards the end, but I cannot get over the indifference towards Reigns here. Still, if you’ve been booked as a heel whilst being a babyface, that’s got to have been expected… ***¼
They replay what happened on Raw, with Seth Rollins beating Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho in a triple-threat match, before Owens gave him an apron powerbomb…
Bayley vs. Dana Brooke
They started off with some basics, Dana targeting Bayley’s taped up shoulder, throwing Bayley into the turnbuckles by the shoulder, and then working the arm into the ropes.
Bayley made a comeback with dropkicks, only to have her arm hung up in the ropes. She made a comeback with a hotshot across the middle rope, then a suplex, before a back elbow off the middle rope took down Brooke. Brooke blocked the Bayley-to-Belly, but second time was lucky as Bayley took the win. A really short match, and unfortunately the crowd didn’t get into anything after Bayley’s intro. *¾
Hey, Raw’s got a new post-show. Can’t think of another of their shows they got that idea from…
Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows
Good news: Enzo and Cass got a monster reaction coming out for their schtick. Just like Bayley, it ended there…
Anderson launches into Enzo at the bell, who replied with a cross body and a series of punches. Enzo and Cass go through their usual spots, including having Enzo launched into Anderson and Gallows outside the ring. On the outside, Enzo took a lariat that turned him inside out, before a suplex earned Gallows a two-count. Enzo took a big boot on the apron from Anderson, but recovered to land a flying DDT off the middle rope. Cass got the tag in, then landed a big boot to Gallows before being forced to fight two-on-one.
Another boot knocks Anderson off the apron, as Cass led up to an Empire Elbow drop, then a fallaway slam. Gallows low bridged Cass as he caught himself on the top rope, but Enzo’s blind tag led to him peppering Gallows with punches. A superkick from Gallows knocked Enzo down, and then the Magic Killer out of nowhere earned the former Club the win. This was like an average TV match, nothing special, but at least the heels got a PPV win… **
Hell in a Cell – WWE Universal Championship: Kevin Owens (c) vs. Seth Rollins
Owens started outside and was immediately met with a kick from Rollins, before he was thrown into the cell wall early on. Rollins connected with a Slingblade for a one-count, before a Blockbuster neckbreaker off the top got him a near-fall. From there, Seth set up a table between the ring and the cell wall, which prompted Owens to run far from the table. Instead though, whipped Rollins into the turnbuckle and connected with a pair of of sentons to the injured back. Owens takes Rollins to the outside, where his face is ground into the cage, before a simple kick to the face got Owens a near-fall.
Owens lawn-darted Rollins from inside the ring and into the cell wall, and the offence continued from there with an avalanche in the corner, then a cannonball dive. Another cannonball follows as Rollins was sat against the cell wall, but Seth looked to turn the tables by flipping out of a pop-up… before they end up trading shots briefly, until Owens’ superkick and lariat knocked the challenger down.
With Seth down, Owens went back outside and set up another table, propping it above the one that’d been set up earlier. They don’t use the table immediately, as Rollins dropped Owens with a brainbuster on the apron, before he flies with a series of topes, knocking Owens into the cell wall. We get our plunder here was Owens grabs a fire extinguisher, and “accidentally” blasts the referee in the eyes with it… that forces a second referee to come in, and whilst the door was open Chris Jericho rushes in and padlocks the cage shut with him inside it. Almost immediately, Rollins shoved Jericho into the cage wall, before turning around into a package powerbomb.
Rollins tried to follow up with a Pedigree, but Jericho ended up interfering and taking the Pedigree himself… but again, Owens looked to capitalise by powerbombing Rollins through the table set up, only for Seth to reverse and drop the champion through two tables.
After the powerbomb, Rollins went up top for a frog splash, but Jericho pulled the referee out to break up the count. Rollins retaliates by powerbombing Jericho into the cell wall, but that just leaves him prey for a pop-up powerbomb as Owens scored a near-fall. This descended into a two-on-one beating for a spell, with Owens rattling Rollins with chairshots. Seth returned the favour, but found himself DDT’d on a chair, which was the beginning of the end, as Owens then set up a pair of chairs, which Rollins took a powerbomb through as Owens retained the title. A decent match, but again, the booking of this feud really hurt fans’ expectations, as it seemed that few people cared until Jericho emerged. ***½
With everyone seemingly having problems unlocking the cage door after the match, Jericho dropped Rollins with a Codebreaker for the hell of it.
Before the next match, they replayed a promo from the kickoff show where Brian Kendrick told TJ Perkins that he “needed him to let him win”. Okay then? Despite all of this, they were still taping up the ring ropes as the wrestlers made their entrance… Why do they need to do the ropes for crying out loud?!
WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Brian Kendrick vs. TJ Perkins (c)
They started at a fast clip, with Kendrick looking to end things early – playing off of the story where Kendrick was hoping that his former trainee would end throw the match for him. When that didn’t happen, they traded shoves, with Perkins just about getting the advantage.
Kendrick kicks Perkins off the apron, before he unpeels TJ’s wrist tape to tie him to the ropes. Surely a veteran of his stature would know that Perkins getting counted out wouldn’t get him the title? Oh, nevermind, TJ instantly rolled back into the ring…
Perkins gets floored with a neckbreaker, but the champion responds with a springboard dropkick then a corkscrew pescado to the outside as someone in the crowd yelled at Kendrick to get a haircut. Yep, they’re wrestling in front of a soul-destroying dead crowd. TJ goes for a rolling vertical suplex, then a belly-to-back suplex, before Kendrick dropkicked him in mid-air.
After an exchange of kicks, Perkins almost won the match with a Detonation Kick (fireman’s carry dropped into an overhead kick), but Kendrick fought back with a back suplex from a wheelbarrow bulldog attempt, before rolling through into the Captain’s Hook. Perkins made the ropes, and went through into a kneebar on Kendrick, who was also able to break via the ropes.
Kendrick looked for Sliced Bread, but was thrown off and landed awkwardly… so he sold the knee injury, which the crowd booed. The crowd booed even louder when Perkins fell for the sell job, earning himself a headbutt, before Kendrick slipped into the Captain’s Hook and earned the title via submission. The finish, and the storyline in general, did little for Perkins, but at least the Cruiserweight title is on someone who the wider fans recognise. If only they could build up new names, rather than just throw bodies onto our TV screens? **¾
WWE Raw Tag Team Championship: New Day (Big E & Xavier Woods) (c) vs. Cesaro & Sheamus
Cesaro took down Woods early on, but quickly found himself on the defensive… at least until Sheamus ran Woods off the apron and onto the floor.
The match saw plenty of blind tags and other “partners who can’t get along” moment, including frequent tags as Cesaro and Sheamus argued over who should uppercut Xavier. An Irish Curse backbreaker got Sheamus a near-fall, before Big E came in and started throwing Sheamus around with belly-to-belly suplexes.
Xavier went flying with a tope con hilo to Cesaro, before Big E caught a brogue kick and powerbombed Sheamus for a two-count. Sheamus rolled through a crossbody from Woods for a near-fall, before a double stomp by Cesaro got another near-fall from Sheamus’ Finlay roll. Cesaro followed up by trying to take Woods on a Giant Swing, but Xavier fought out, and managed to almost win it for the New Day with an elbow drop off the top rope. A series of European uppercuts from Cesaro rocked Woods, before the Giant Swing took the New Day’s regular trombonist for a ride. Big E broke up the subsequent sharpshooter, before getting the tag in, which led to the New Day’s Midnight Hour attempt… but Sheamus accidentally Brogue kicked Cesaro after he broke it up.
Woods crawled over to make the pin, but Sheamus broke it up at the last second, and followed up with a flying body press off the top rope and onto the New Day on the floor. Cesaro’s thrown back in the ring to beat the count-out, and he rolls through an on-rushing Woods to get him in the Sharpshooter once more… but on the outside, the referee catches Kofi Kingston dropping Sheamus with the Trouble in Paradise, right as Xavier taps to the Sharpshooter.
Cesaro thinks he’s won, but the crowd saw through it, and the official decision is a DQ win for the challengers, but of course, there’s no title change. The finish was what they needed to keep the storyline going, but you could tell the crowd weren’t thrilled with it. **¾
Hell in a Cell – WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks (c)
They dug up King Mabel’s old chariot, as Charlotte made her way on a throne, carried by four local guys. Sasha got the monster hometown pop, as you’d expect, but bizarrely, the cell wasn’t lowered as either woman made their entrance.
The cell finally was lowered after the ring announcements, but Charlotte attacked Sasha and threw her outside as the cell was on its way down. They went outside of the cell’s confines for some pre-match action, but Sasha threw Charlotte into the crowd – and after some brawling as the cell lowered, they returned to tease a table spot.
Sasha dismantled the German announce table, as Charlotte climbed up the cage… Sasha joined her, and eventually knocked Charlotte down, but she quickly ended up taking a powerbomb off the cake and into the announce table. After being helped to her feet by the referees, Sasha was sort-of escorted to the back, although eventually they called for medical help after Sasha collapsed near the aisle.
Medics started to load Sasha onto a backboard, and somehow managed to put on a neckbrace whilst Sasha had a camera cable tied around her… Corey Graves on commentary harped on that Charlotte should get the title by default. Didn’t we have a recent precedent when Roman Reigns killed Rusev at SummerSlam? They even announced that Charlotte would win by forfeit – and take the title… but Sasha fought her way off the gurney and into the match.
After the bell rang, Sasha threw Charlotte into the cell walls, before some ground and pound forced the challenger to try and flee the match. Once Sasha had been pulled into the ringpost, Charlotte took control, with a monkey flip that sent the champion into the wall. Sasha hit back with the back cracker into the Bank Statement, but Charlotte powered up with ease and tossed Sasha to the outside with a backbreaker-like throw.
Charlotte hunted under the ring for a chair, but took a pair of baseball slide dropkicks into the cell, before Sasha flew into her with a tope suicida. We get a series of chops from Charlotte to a cornered Sasha, who replied by giving the challenger a drop toe hold into a folded-out chair. Sasha’s back looked to take a pounding when Charlotte dropped her through a chair with a backbreaker for a near-fall.
Following a spell where Charlotte used the ringpost to stretch Sasha, the champion hit back with a leaping double-knee strike off the cell wall, catching Charlotte flush in the head. The cell wall’s used more as Charlotte’s thrown into the mesh, with Sasha adding in a pair of double knees. Sasha busts out the old Three Amigo suplexes as a tribute to Eddie Guerrero, before a frog splash gets hear a near-fall.
Sasha immediately goes for the Bank Statement after the kickout, but Charlotte wriggles to the outside, before she’s dragged across the middle ropes in the corner and in place for the double knees (with a chair below Charlotte on impact) for another two-count. After the kickout, Charlotte pulled Sasha out of the ring and smashed her head into the ring steps, before another table came into play… except Charlotte fell off the apron through it and the table legs buckled, rather than the traditional table crumple.
Back in the ring, Sasha got a near-fall from the anticlimactic table, before going back out for the last remaining table… except she got it thrown into her neck-first, as Sasha was trapped against the cell wall. Charlotte recovered to set up the table in the ring, then drop Sasha with a backbreaker and a big boot. The Figure Eight followed, but Sasha grabbed a chair and used it to break up the hold.
They traded forearm strikes, before Sasha tilt-a-whirl’d into a Bank Statement attempt, only for Charlotte to counter it with some backbreakers. Charlotte tried to moonsault Sasha through a table, before she got crotched on the top rope, allowing Sasha to reposition the table into the opposite corner. Sasha’s back gave up as she went for a Liger bomb, before Charlotte threw her onto it. And again… yet the table still didn’t break, as the Natural Selection ended up getting the surprise win for Charlotte. That… was anticlimactic. ***¾
As a match, it didn’t deserve the criticism it got… then again, there’s a lot to be said for being able to improvise. If your finish depends on having a table break, and your tables don’t break… have a plan B. Don’t just go to a secondary finishing move that the crowd’s not used to you winning matches with. This match had a lot to live up to, and with it being the third Hell in a Cell match on the same show, it was always going to be an uphill struggle.
Imagine how much better this main event would have felt had we known going in that this was going to be the first time that a women’s match headlined a WWE pay-per-view, let alone inside a cell? Instead, a last-minute call, along with some unfortunate spots meant that it’d be quite easy to have left this match with a sour taste in your mouth.
As a show, there wasn’t much wrong with Hell in a Cell. There weren’t any standout matches that made you go “I really want to see that again,” and yes, having three cell matches on the same card felt like overkill, particularly when none of them felt like their storylines felt like they “deserved” to be in a cell. But that’s another argument for another time – WWE having themed pay-per-views that force matches rather than have them create organically has been a problem for a while…
In three weeks, we’ll see whether the brand-only PPVs have been a hindrance or a help, and whether the Survivor Series truly is special as a “big four” show, or whether it comes across as just another show.