WWE Hell in a Cell 2015 (WATCH)
Location: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
Commentators: Michael Cole, John “Bradshaw” Layfield, Jerry “The King” Lawler
Nobody saw that coming, huh? The one guy who just put his hand up is lying. All joking aside, the return of Alberto Del Rio was a true surprise. There’s a fair debate to be had on whether he was the right guy to finally truly topple Cena, but there’s no denying that the crowd cared. If the crowd is invested, you’ve already won half of the battle.
Now for the match itself. It was fun and energetic. There is a case to be made that it didn’t live up to the epic duels of past open challenges, but I think the argument can also hold true that Cena was both mentally unprepared for such a shocking challenger and physically worn out by such a gruelling slate of defences. As I see it, not every Cena match has to behave like a video game with an unlimited finishers cheat enabled. It was a solid contest that the audience reacted to and that made Del Rio look strong on his return. How often is Cena beaten completely cleanly? It may be more common than hen’s teeth now, but it’s still a big deal.
Finally, I’m happy to see Zeb Colter back. I hope he and Del Rio can make a good package. I also want his scooter.
Result: Alberto Del Rio via pinfall (Kneeling superkick)
At this point, I really cannot support the Roman Reigns hate bandwagon any more. In the past, I’ve taken a fairly neutral stance. I’ve always felt some of the hatred was overblown, but I could accept that he wasn’t the polished article that he needed to be for the position he was shoe-horned into. Well, I feel like this match was a true breakout moment for Reigns. Along with Wyatt, we were treated to a chaotic, fun brawl. They were creative and hard-hitting and some of the counters displayed were pleasingly crisp. A lot of people like to compare Roman Reigns to John Cena. That’s understandable. However, I feel like this match is a good example of why Reigns is different.
When Cena is in Superman mode, he tends to absorb punishment for 20 minutes, before getting the victory in 2. In contrast, Reigns always feels like he’s scrapping to fight back, and as iffy as his mic work is, Roman really knows how to take a beating in a convincing manner, yet still have some realistic impact in his comebacks.
So, what about Bray Wyatt? Well, he played his role perfectly here. He beat on Reigns mercilessly and was twisted enough in his offence to fit his character. This wasn’t his moment though. This was a showcase for Roman Reigns to finally overcome the thorn in his side and that was achieved in a very memorable way.
Result: Roman Reigns via pinfall (Spear)
Rating: Very Good
Well, I didn’t see that result coming. Everything seemed geared towards a 10th Dudley Boyz reign, especially once Xavier Woods was taken out of the picture. He seemed to be the one thing stopping a title change. The match even seemed to be heading that way too, as none of the tricks New Day tried were paying off. Even some Guerrero-style DQ baiting couldn’t stop the momentum building to the seemingly inevitable crescendo. The crowd knew it too, they were ready to cheer. They were ready to see those Damn Dudleyz break their own record. Then somebody flipped the script and Kofi helped his team retain with Trouble in Paradise.
You may think that I didn’t like this outcome. I should be saying that the fans deserved a payoff. I’m not going to though. The New Day is hot right now. They should keep the belts either until their momentum wanes or a better option presents itself. I will say though that Woods’ presence was sorely missed and it would have likely added an extra spark to the proceedings. Also, there was a bad double team botch by The Dudleyz which stalled things for a little while.
All things considered, it was a solid contest where the right team won.
Result: The New day retains via pinfall (Trouble in Paradise)
Rating: Above Average
While this still had some rough edges, I will happily state that this was the best main roster women’s match in a decade. I insisted on sitting back and waiting when it came to the “Divas Revolution”. It’s easy to condemn something when results aren’t immediate. Especially when NXT effortlessly flaunts what could be possible. However, I could see glimmers of change and undeniable effort. Finally, tonight was the first signs of true progress. Surprisingly, it wasn’t all down to Charlotte.
There are many reasons to be dismissive of Nikki Bella. However, taking tonight as evidence, I don’t think claiming she’s unable to put together a good match is a fair criticism. For the company’s part, plenty of time was given. On the part of the performers, they told a coherent story and really pushed their aggression up a few notches. The crowd even ended up caring. Yes, the selling was briefly patchy and the big highspot went very wrong (even if it was still very hard-hitting and memorable) but I can honestly say that hours after watching, this is the first main roster women’s match in years that I can clearly remember highlights from. It definitely deserves props for that alone.
Result: Charlotte Retains via submission (Figure-eight)
Rating: Very Good
This match was never meant to steal the show. WWE doesn’t put a WWE Championship match third from the bottom of the card if they expect it to set the world on fire. Honestly, I don’t feel like this match was bad. It was just there. Rollins continues to be the MVP of the company as he squeezed every last drop out of the situation that he could. I also feel like Kane was trying his best, but age has seriously diminished his skills at this point. It just dragged a little.
On the positive side, Rollins got another solid victory with zero interference. While this will never go down as one of the most dominant reigns in history, a combination of amazing in-ring work and a steady increase in straight forward match finishes means he’s risen well above Rey Mysterio levels. While I can’t recommend this match, it wasn’t offensive either.
Result: Seth Rollins retains via pinfall (Pedigree)
Put simply, Ryback and Kevin Owens have not clicked. It’s a shame really. While I never expected any classics, I do think they have the potential for something solid. Maybe if Owens used a bit more power offense. Unfortunately, what we got was very pedestrian and a step down from last month. It was very paint-by-numbers and was short enough where it wouldn’t feel out of place on a RAW. It lacked any of the energy of the rest of the card. It also followed the same basic story of Owens doing anything he could to survive Ryback’s onslaught before using (slightly unclear) heel tacticts to set up a weak looking Pop-up Powerbomb.
While I’m not sure where Ryback goes from here, I hope Owens gets an opponent who can help show how awesome he can be again. I still think this title reign has very good potential.
Result: Kevin Owens retains via pinfall (Pop-up Powerbomb)
Rating: Below Average
I watched this show live while discussing on-going events through instant messaging with a fellow WDN writer. We both admitted to feeling a real buzz about this match heading into the show. While neither of us could really put our fingers on why, we just felt like something magical was on the horizon. We both just assumed we were setting ourselves up for disappointment.
Boy, were we wrong…
Here we sit in the PG era. Hell in a Cell is bemoaned as a pointless shell of its former self by many. Why create an image of brutality when everything is sterilised for the kids? Because, when you least expect it and everything is just right, that brutality can return. Like all absences, that return is even more potent. We got blood. We got steel stairs literally bouncing off skulls and the kind of low blow that would have you choking on your own gonads for a month. Everything was gritty. Every punch felt pushed to the edge of realism. It felt like a street fight in a cell.
However, more importantly, it told an epic story. It was about a beast who wanted to finish a job he started 18 months ago and a Phenom not ready to admit defeat just yet. I get how people say Lesnar should be able to destroy Undertaker easily, but all I can tell you is in that moment, I believed in them as equals. In that moment, you could have told me I’d travelled back to 2002 and I would believe you. Whenever people count out the Phenom, he reminds us why he is just that.
However, there were some blemishes. The initial blood stoppages were awkward and a poor choice of camera angles exposed the fact that Lesnar’s head was far clear of the exposed ring boards during a Tombstone Piledriver. However, the use of the doctors later led to a homage to the first ever Hell in a Cell and the attack of non-wrestlers, so it balances out.
All told, this is a minor classic that uses all the past encounters between the two men to weave a modern masterpiece of psychology in professional wrestling.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the post-match angle involving the Wyatt Family and the apparent abduction of The Undertaker. Truthfully, the whole deal seemed intentionally vague, so I can’t theorize too much. At the very least however, it was a good example of ending a “special event” on a cliffhanger. It may even help RAW’s viewership numbers this week.
Result: Brock Lesnar via pinfall (F5)
I have no hesitation in recommending this show. We had a huge surprise return in the opener and two very good Cell matches that still managed to be very distinct from each other. Add in a surprisingly impressive Divas Championship match and I’ve already praised over half of the card. Even the “bad” content is unlikely to really offend. However, if you really must limit your pro wrestling time, you owe it to yourself to watch the main event.
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