Welcome to the second pay-per-view in two weeks! I actually got to see this one, so before we begin:
– If you give his a read, please share it with everyone you have ever met. I’m not kidding. Show it to your ex-girlfriends, your high school teachers, people you see wandering around out front of the community college, homeless people. I’m looking to spread the word about these reports and can use every Facebook share and Retweet and Spotify Spotification you can muster. And no, I don’t have any idea what Spotify is or how it works.
– Also, I’d really appreciate it if you’d leave a comment after you’re done to let us know what you thought of the show or the report. If I can become enough of a voice for the voiceless, Jim Rome will start thinking I’m real and let me on his show.
– If you aren’t familiar with the Hell In A Cell concept, be sure to check out The Masked Man’s excellent Hell In A Cell preview over at Grantland. Also, bug him on the Internet so he’ll fill in for me on one of these reports one day. I can return the favor to him by filling in for Chuck Klosterman and remembering Ninja Turtles.
The Best and Worst of WWE Hell In A Cell is after the jump. Enjoy.
Hilarious Worst, Right Out Of The Gate: GOOD EVENING I AM THE LIVING MAN KNOWN AS HELL IN A CELL
Whoever made the creative decision to give the Hell In A Cell structure a villainous inner monologue about how it “brings out the worst” in WWE Superstars needs to either be fired or given a raise, I haven’t decided. “Welcome to the unforgiving confines of HELL, my wicked children of the night! I am a Godless structure, providing a wall a few feet away from ringside into which wrestlers may be thrown! No, not the security railing. I have holes in me! ABANDON HOPE ALL WHO ENTER ME and spend most of the match in the ring about ten feet away from me at all times! And nobody bleed!”
Full disclosure: getting thrown into a big wall of chain-link fencing doesn’t hurt that much. You’re just jumping face-first into an uncomfortable trampoline. The idea behind the chain cage, as I’ve learned repeatedly from a childhood of watching Ric Flair’s hair turn orange, is that sure, you can toss them into the cage, but you’ve got to keep their face there and cheese-grater it back and forth. The jagged piece of cage catch and slice the guy open. If you want to hurt somebody by throwing them into a cage wall, you’ve either got to throw them into where the mesh pieces meet, or use the cage with the blue bars.
Also, you can’t call this “The Devil’s Playground” when you have an Elimination Chamber DVD called “Satan’s Playground”. Maybe Hell in a Cell used to be where the Devil swung on swingsets but now rides the little horse on springs at the Elimination Chamber.
Best: Sheamus, Christian and Three Stars Worth Of Wrestling
A lot of reports I’ve read this morning say they were underwhelmed with Sheamus versus Christian, and I couldn’t disagree more. This was my favorite match on the show, for almost the same reason it underwhelmed — nothing stupid happened. It was two guys having a great wrestling match based on the characters, motivations and movesets they’ve been building over the last few months. I’m a huge sucker for basic “signature moves” being avoided or reversed, and it’s a big factor in helping me believe what I’m watching is real. If you’re Sheamus and you’re signed to wrestle Christian, wouldn’t you know that he’s going to drape you across the middle rope, jump over the top, land on the floor and punch you in the face? Wouldn’t you really be looking for that if your first real feud in WWE was against Goldust? Of course you would, and Sheamus avoided it here, pulling Christian up into his rope-tangle forearms, something Christian had avoided earlier. That’s really all I ask for when I sit down to watch a match: wrestlers wrestling in a way that makes sense. Like almost every Christian match since his return from Instant Classic exile (and most of the ones IN exile), I got what I asked for.
I’ll take something simple and effective like this, something that ends with both guys looking good but one guy actually f**king winning, over an Attention Deficit Disorder WWE-Style Main Event Brawl™ any day of the week, pending said brawl including Stone Cold Steve Austin but not including the Undertaker.
Worst: That Killswitch Set-Up Took Up 2 1/2 Hours Of This 3 Hour PPV
I don’t want to keep ragging on this, but Jesus, Christian, speed up that Killswitch process. Or do a Matt Hardy “swatting away farts” taunt while you’re waiting for them to get up so we can get prepared for the reversal. Third suggestion: hit the Killswitch once after doing the super slow turn-around like that, so we don’t subconsciously see it as wrestler code for “get ready to push me away”.
Best: Sheamus, White Ninja
I will never get tired of seeing Sheamus slumped in the corner, grabbing the top ropes with both hands and monkey-barring himself upside down and onto the top turnbuckle. Never. It’s like 2011’s Diamond Dallas Page Frankenstein attack, where he’d be dead in the corner and suddenly he’s up like Donatello pantomiming a clown punching bag in Secret Of The Ooze and grabbing you by the neck. Sheamus and Mark Henry are both awesome right now and work as engaging foils for each other because they aren’t doing viral videos to get over, they aren’t trying to organize tailgate parties, they’re playing up their strengths, downplaying their weaknesses and doing a few cool things in every match so people can remember them and smile when they do.
Long story short, if I was ten years old and this stark white 300-pound muscly ginger dude with Scotty 2 Hotty hair was doing gymnastics up the corner and shoulderblocking people from the top rope, I wouldn’t be sitting on my hands when I watched it.
Best: What They’re Going For
Going back to that “if I were 10-years old” talking point, a mysterious, exciting guy in a mask having to do battle with his evil doppleganger is probably the coolest and best thing ever. Sin Cara II removed his blue mask to reveal a black one underneath. He comes out to a Boss Battle remix of the Sin Cara music. They do the same moves. How is this not amazing? This should be the very best thing happening in pro wrestling, period.
Worst: How They’re Going For It
If you told me two years ago that Mistico would be competing on a WWE pay-per-view and the fans would be chanting “boring”, I wouldn’t (and couldn’t) believe it. There are a lot of problems keeping this from being what it should be, and I’ve come up with a handful.
1. Lucha libre in Mexico is a different style of wrestling, and when I say “style” I don’t mean they do different moves and have different characters, I mean that it’s a completely different genre of pro wrestling. A lot of wrestling fans in the United States can’t get it through their heads that other interpretations of the Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin thing we cling to like a baby blanket exist, and that there is a world where selling doesn’t really matter. Nobody chants “you f**ked up” when somebody botches a spot, because the audience accepts that these guys are super heroes doing crazy sh*t and sometimes they aren’t going to land it. If WWE put a big Keystone Light logo in the middle of the ring, the Internet would berate them into unconsciousness and hashtag them to death until they changed it back. That’s not what happens in Mexico. When you have luchadores trying to add U.S. wrestling psychology to a very not-U.S. wrestling type of match-up, you shortchange lucha libre AND U.S. wrestling, and it comes out sounding like one of those country/rap efforts that sound good for a minute, but God, no.
2. Heel/face in the United States means “guy the fans like against guy the fans don’t”, and the reason fans don’t like the one guy is because he’s arrogant or cheats, or something. In Mexico, rudos and técnicos aren’t divided by “guy who cheats and guy who doesn’t”, they wrestle two very distinct styles. In WWE you’ve got Hunico playing Sin Cara 2, but he’s too big to be trying to match Mistico move-for-move. He’s not that guy. That’s why they’re messing up a lot. Sin Cara 2 should be wrestling a rougher, rudo style (like Averno, for example) to compliment Sin Cara 1 instead of detract from what makes him special. Hopefully they can move past the mirror image stuff now and get to some real rudo/técnico stuff, or Chico can come bumbling into frame as Sin Cara 3 and give us a punchline.
3. WWE fans and announcers don’t know what to look for. For example, Sin Cara went for an Asai moonsault and missed it. Michael Cole responds with “moonsault off the second rope, nobody home” and JR agrees with him. On the Internet you read that it was “botched in hilarious fashion” or whatever. That’s not what happened. THIS is what happened:
It’s a great spot, and it was missed and glossed over completely by the people watching, partially because Sin Cara 2 is jet black and lying down in blue and orange mood lighting. He didn’t get all of it (again, because he’s not Averno), but he got his foot up, and worst case scenario they could’ve just said “OH WOW SIN CARA 2 JUST KICKED HIM IN THE HEAD ON THE WAY DOWN” instead of “lol look at this f**kin guy”.
4. WWE fans are conditioned to remember everything WCW-related as being terrible and wrong, and mid-card junior heavyweight action featuring huge stars from around the world is an extremely WCW thing. You guys can pull “Vince Russo” and “fingerpoke of doom” and “bad nWo” all you want, but my twenty-ish years as an NWA and WCW fan put me in a crowd in front of The Great Muta, Jushin Thunder Liger, Akira Hokuto, CIMA before he was CIMA and Yuji f**king Nagata while you guys were cheering for goddamned Tugboat. You chant boring, but now you’re trained to only enjoy one kind of Not Boring.
5. Booker T is calling Hunico “Sin Cara Negro” and nobody seems to realize they’ve got a WWE Superstar named “Blackface”. I wish the movie Swing Time was sin cara negro.
Best: Booker T, Lucha Libre Historian
Speaking of Booker T, him referring to Sin Cara getting hit in the “mask area” is amazing. I want to see, like, Ted DiBiase get kicked in the face and have Booker refer to it as the “uh, mask area” and not be able to think of anything else to call it. His wonderful understanding of the human anatomy also gave us a brief reprieve from “boy” being his only available adjective. “SHEAMUS, SHEAMUS IS PUTTIN A WHIPPEN ON THAT BOY CHRISTIAN RIGHT NOW, AND THAT BOY CHRISTIAN NEED TO GET UP AND TAKE THE FIGHT RIGHT NOW TO THAT BOY SHEAMUS”. Maybe he just watched Kindergarten Cop and figured out the differences between boys and girls and has to make sure he’s clearly labeling them as he speaks.
Worst: Seriously Though, It’s Time To Kill The Mood Lighting
I cannot cheer for a wrestler whose ring ambiance would help Woody Allen get into the mood.
Best: Perfect American, or “Tag Teams Are Happening”
I don’t have much to say about the tag team match, possibly because Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston being that close to each other makes me black out, but it was fine, and I liked it. Jack Swagger and Ziggler being subbed in two weeks later for The Miz and R-Truth was a thematic downgrade and made the match feel a little too much like Raw, but Space Jam continue to wear matching tights and have combo moves and Ziggler and Swagger seemed to have stopped trying to shove each other every twenty seconds. Progress, I guess. Ziggler is still the most kinetic person on the roster and Evan Bourne can get kinda exciting when he moves beyond the shooting star press and the jumping knee. I wish he’d stop doing that, though. By now wrestlers should just be stiff-arming him every time he does his nimble jump attack. Just put your arm out in front of you and his leg won’t hit you, and you’ll inadvertently shove him down, it’s the easiest defense in history. It’s like putting your hand on top of your little brother’s head so he punches nothing but air. What I’m saying is that Ziggler should go full-on Wayne Arnold on the kid, including but not limited to sucking his hamster up in the vacuum cleaner. Kofi Kingston is that hamster.
Worst: Stop Acting Like You’ve Never Seen Things
Evan Bourne countered a Jack Swagger powerbomb off the ropes into a hurricanrana. Dolph Ziggler got pulled out of the ring from behind by Kofi and did his best impression of the ending to [REC]. The Ghan-Am Connection got the win, and the announcers (when Booker T was done pointing out Boys Right There) mentioned that they’d never seen that before.
That seems to be going around a lot lately. History has been retconned and recommissioned so many times that every somewhat exciting thing that happened is BRAND NEW. I refuse to believe a company that employed Psicosis long enough to put him on a riding lawnmower indoors hasn’t seen somebody reverse a powerbomb into a headscissors before. John Cena has been doing that awkward jumping leg drop from the top rope since like 1991 and they call it like it’s a Tiger Driver ’91 every single time. It’s like the “Full House” laugh track, where they f**king chortle at Joey saying “cut it out” and doing hand gestures like he hasn’t done that five times per episode since the show started.
It’s also a little like the CBS Sports football announcers, who think that whichever football player most recently completed a play is one of the best and brightest and greatest magical angels of all time. “No other quarterback in football history could’ve avoided a tackle and thrown a touchdown pass except for MICHAEL VICK!” is a lot like Booker T saying Evan Bourne can “do it all” because he backflipped. Kelly Kelly can backflip, Book, it doesn’t make her a five tool player.
Worst: John Cena Is My Sunshine, My Only Sunshine
The Hell In A Cell poster with the flaming John Cena head bugged me for weeks (literally two weeks) because it reminded me of something, but I couldn’t remember what. Then, it hit me: the “Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air” episode where Will has to sing at the graduation ceremony with a bunch of eight-year olds and dresses like a sunflower. Compare/contrast:
Tomorrow’s Raw should feature Cena singing “You Are My Sunshine”, featuring Bumpy Knuckles.
Best: L-O-F**king-L At Mark Henry’s White Guy Voice
Mark Henry broke out his best Eddie Murphy “white guy” voice to mock Matt Striker, and holy sh*t, he sounded like Madea. All I can say is halleluyer for Mark Henry.
Best: Mark Henry, Just Throwin’ People Around
Like I said before, Mark Henry is succeeding because somebody f**king woke up and said “oh, wait, Mark Henry is this enormous guy who can lift cars, maybe we should have him seem threatening once”. He’s downplaying his faults and highlighting his best attributes, which include picking up gangly dudes like Randy Orton, squeezing them to death, running them into cage walls and scooping them up out of punt attempts to World’s Strongestly Slam them to Literal Hell and winning. Orton brought what he does best — stomping — and did it from the apron and while hanging from a cage wall. There was a lot of “heh, wonder which part of the cage wall is gimmicked for Mark Henry to break tonight” on Twitter, but both Henry V Orton and the triple threat main utilized the cage in a very understated, TV-PG-adaptable sort of way. In the main, it was an obstacle. Here, it was the only thing keeping Mark Henry from scooping up Orton and throwing him into the sun. I liked them both.
A broken record approaches, but Mark Henry should keep the World Heavyweight Championship at least until Wrestlemania, where he loses it to Daniel Bryan or whatever terrible, taller guy they decided was more important than Daniel Bryan. Also, bring back Pete Rose so he can yell I’M NOT EVEN ELIGIBLE FOR THE HALL OF PAIN, HOW BOUT IT before getting body-attacked.
Worst: The Voices Are Telling Him To Pretend Like Nobody Just Beat The Sh*t Out Of Him For 15 Minutes
On that WWE Conditioning tip, WWE has trained me to expect the worst when things like a Mark Henry title run happen, and we’re at that point now where Orton faces him at five or six pay-per-views in a row and we’re never sure which one is going to be the “ugh, Randy Orton is the unprecedented 270-time World Heavyweight Champion he is SECOND BEST IN WWE KING” one. I keep bringing up “Henry should keep the belt forever” because it seems like a pipe dream. Nobody keeps the belt forever. Title changes have become an expectation rather than a milestone, and everything awesome about bell-to-bell Henry/Orton started to fade away when Orton dodged the Hall Of Pain induction and started Apex Predatoring all over the place.
I get that Orton goes to a place where he hears voices and his grandma is winning money on a slot machine and how that makes him impervious to pain, but man, would it have killed him to remember Match With Mark Henry + Demonic Structure = Limp A Little? Even a Hardy can remember to limp after he’s gone a-ladderin’. Orton’s apexical predatorial (those are not words) combined with Cena’s penchant for Not Ever Giving Up are the next step in WWE turning their entire business model into a Mattel playset. You can smash the Orton and Cena action figures together and make them do headfirst dives from the top of your couch to the floor and everybody is fine, and nobody gets hurt, and nothing ever bleeds.
You know that K-Mart commercial where Randy Orton is sitting Indian style on that guy’s dining room table? I think that was canon.
Best: The Intercontinental Championship
I think the only unanimous “best” I’ve read for last night’s pay-per-view is the return of the classic Intercontinental Championship, and by God, it deserves it. When Cody Rhodes stood in the ring delivering his super villain/physics teacher speech about how the belt was ugly and worthless I thought for sure we were gonna toss that belt’s legacy (cough) in with the European Championship and the Cruiserweight Championship and the Women’s Championship and the ECW Championship and this huge list of belts I can name when I wanted to keep the examples to two. He dumped it in a bag (which hopefully Randy Orton didn’t get to first), and when he slurred out HAHND ME THE VELVET BAHG I got excited. New championship belt! Will it be orange, or covered in holograms? Will it be made out of plastic that hurts more when you hold it than when you’re wearing it on your head? And then he pulled this out of the bag.
The classic WWF doesn’t do it for me like most people, but that Intercontinental Championship with the ill-colored strap reminds me of all the guys who WERE in the classic WWF that I loved. Ricky Steamboat, Bret Hart, Mr. Perfect, hell, even the Ultimate Warrior. Guys I learned to love as I got older like Randy Savage and Rick Rude. I think you mature as a pro wrestler the day you realize how awesome Rick Rude was. The WWE Championship has a big POLITICS and ARE YOU READY FOR THIS SPOT and all this other ulterior bullsh*t stamped on the front, but the IC title has been a big shiny happy spot for guys who knew they were good and could show it off. What does Cody’s previous belt represent? Jeff Hardy, Shelton Benjamin and Carlito. Carlito? #areyouseriousbro
Now Cody gets to be those guys instead of those guys. Give him a series of competent challengers (which you have, I’ve seen them) and preserve your most precious mid-card title, should Dolph Ziggler’s United States Championship get lost in the garbage and found a few years from now by Hacksaw Jim Duggan.
Also Best: Figurative Euthanizing
I’m still trying to figure out the logistics of how to figuratively euthanize somebody. I love how complex of a concept it is, and if you’re the kind of person who gets a front row seat at a WWE live event and doesn’t accept a Cody Rhodes brown bag, you couldn’t hope to understand and deserve whatever it constitutes.
Worst: I’d Be Upset If Somebody In My Employ Kept Making John Morrison Matches, Too
You know what doesn’t work about the power struggle between Triple H and John Laurinaitis? The fact that Laurinaitis was around for like a week and a half before Triple H took over. If they were doing this with Pat Patterson or somebody you could say, “okay, this guy’s been one of Vince’s stooges for years and he’s got a position high up in the company, so he’s making decisions based on x and y and gay”. Johnny Ace showed up just as Vince was being ousted, and the general public had no idea who he was until like four weeks after that. It’s hard to buy him as a power-hungry antagonist who’ll go behind Triple H’s back to make common decisions like a John Morrison match that shouldn’t be a big deal but are because of MOTIVES when he seems like he was only introduced to be that guy. He doesn’t exist outside of this storyline. Punk does, Triple H does, Miz and Truth do. Kevin Nash does. Why does Triple H care that this guy “went behind his back” and made a Cody Rhodes/John Morrison match to fill ten minutes of their pay-per-view, especially when H has already clearly given other people (Teddy Long) permission to do the same thing? Because there’s a power struggle, or whatever, but there should be a reason why in addition to that.
Also, I need a character to stand on my television and explain to me why he’s giving John Morrison a title shot out of nowhere when Morrison hasn’t won a match without the aid of an Office Max chair in the last four months.
Worst: Michael Cole, In And Around This Match
Michael Cole has been … okay recently. He hasn’t been great, and he’s still trying too hard to make us think he doesn’t like Jim Ross, but he’s been manageable, a fact made clear by his commentary during the Rhodes/Morrison match where he could not handle or move beyond an extremely basic pro wrestling trope. The GM guy (or whoever) gave a title match to a do-gooder at the don’t-gooder’s expense, and from an antagonist’s point of view, that is extremely unfair. Bobby Heenan would’ve ranted about it for a little bit, then added a “this isn’t fair! This isn’t fair!” when the bad guy was about to lose. Michael Cole started raising his voice in both tone and volume and WOULD NOT STOP SCREAMING ABOUT THE UNFAIRNESS OF EVERYTHING. He just wouldn’t stop. Booker and Jim Ross would be like “armdrag takedown” and Cole would just shout over them with THIS IS JUST LIKE THE WWE ALWAYS RUINING EVERYTHING WHAT A WORTHLESS COMPANY WHO WOULD PAY 50 DOLLARS TO WATCH THIS CODY COULDN’T EVEN CHANGE HIS PANTS EVERYBODY AND EVERYTHING IS STUPID.
And again, there’s a place for this, and that place is not “from the throat of a hyperventilating child”. I switched over to the Spanish feed after this, which cost me a lot of valuable Booker T awwwwwwwwwws and Fave Fives, which I don’t appreciate. WWE, please take note: I want to watch your product, but the only way I can get through it sometimes is to watch it in a language I barely understand. Cole carried on into the beginning of the Divas match, when they finally shut him up with “you’re going to get fired” (from Booker T) and “I don’t hear any fans complaining” (from Ross) and a moment of silence which I hope was everybody taking off their headsets and hitting him in the face.