Pre-show notes: If you missed the show, you can watch it here on WWE Network. You can find past editions of The Best and Worst of Hell in a Cell on its tag page.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Hell in a Cell 2016.
Worst, But Only From My POV: Roman V Rusev, Part A Lot
Are you the type of WWE fan who enjoys watching Roman Reigns wrestle for 25 minutes, before doing something superhuman and illogically winning? Are you the type of fan who doesn’t necessarily like that, but you’re used to it, so you’re judging the match on everything that came before the finish? If the answer to either of these is, “yes,” you probably loved this Hell in a Cell match opening Hell in a Cell. If you answered, “no,” well … hello darkness my old friend, or whatever.
Roman Reigns and Rusev have wrestled a lot at this point — a lot — but to yank an axiom Scott Keith yanked from Goldberg’s Pizza Book, their matches are like sex. When they’re good, they’re good. When they’re bad, they’re still pretty good. Also, like sex, I don’t get them.
At the end of this one, Rusev goes for the most Murder Death Kill version of his finish he can imagine: the chain-assisted Accolade he used to hurt John Cena last year, performed on the steel steps using Paige’s submissions hurt more when they’re done on unusual surfaces corollary. Again, this is 24-ish minutes into a Hell in a Cell match. Roman decides that he’s able to power out of this, evoking imagery of when the Lord John Cena was crucified by Randy Orton at Breaking Point, and hit the Injure Ouch Hurt version of his finish. That’s a spear while Rusev is standing on the steps. So Roman Reigns’ thing about how Rusev can never understand the torturous pain and anguish of the Hell in a Cell translates to, “a spear where you fall from chest height instead of waist height.”
To recap, it’s a fun match that a lot of people probably enjoyed, but was ultimately free of consequence, kept everything we’ve been doing for months in a holding pattern without any real development beyond an unstoppable winner being free enough of drug test failure stigma to unstoppably win again, and was emblematic of the weird selling issues that made Hell in a Cell feel more like watching someone play a video game than watching a wrestling show. It’s the Best kind of Worst, I guess, because I see why you might’ve liked it, even if it makes me feel like my brain’s in a sauna.
Worst: That Match Took A While, So The Next 30 Minutes Will Be The Second Hour Of Raw
Up first is Bayley vs. Dana Brooke, which was a major improvement on their actual Raw match, but that’s damning it with faint praise. I’m not sure it could be objectively worse than Dana’s little leg developing its own sentient consciousness and trying to get to the rope.
This one (I assume) asks Dana to follow the simplest-to-tell in-ring story there is: Bayley’s arm is hurt, so keep trying to hurt her arm. That’s it. Dana does this respectably enough until Bayley fights through the pain, hits a Bayley-to-Bell out of relatively nowhere, and wins strong. It’s exactly what the match should be. It’s a make-up that justifies the Raw match, Bayley does some good work selling on offense, and Dana gets through it without accidentally sawing herself in half.
The problem is that it’s super forgettable, to the point that you might forget it’s happening while it’s happening. We’d probably be better off treating these brand-specific shows not as “pay-per-views” in the classic sense, but as slightly improved episodes of their shows. But then the question becomes, why isn’t Raw already trying to be a slightly improved version of Raw?
The other match is The Club vs. Enzo Amore and Big Cass. Here’s a clip of Cass having what appears to be an anal aneurysm calling Luke Gallows a “sloppy jalopy,” and saying he’s going to “go yard upside his head” like he’s “frickin’ Big Papi.” And, just like Big Papi, he lost.
What, too soon? (Go Tribe.)
Best: Real Quick, Just To Say It, The Club Actually Won A Match
Holy shit, how long have we been waiting for this to happen? In our predictions for Hell in a Cell we pointed out how much of a layup this should be for Gallows and Anderson. They needed a win probably worse than any To Be Taken Seriously tag team ever, and Enzo and Cass are basically manufactured to be lovable losers. They can lose every match they wrestle and people will still love to sing along with them, laugh at Enzo, and politely wait for Cass to say “soft.” They never won anything important in NXT, either, and we loved them. Meanwhile, The Club’s like one and a half emasculating losses from opening this year’s WrestleMania weekend at a fucking WrestleCon.
So in the interest of at least temporary positivity, +1 to The Club for winning, +1 to their post-match interview Okada name-droppage, and plus at least half of 1 to Enzo and Cass for being able to dance out on Raw the next night completely unchanged.
Worst: The Tag Team Division
How much better would everything be if The Club had beaten New Day for the Tag Team Championship at Clash of Champions?
Let’s start from the beginning and try to work it out.
Sheamus and Cesaro get into a best-of-7 series, somehow ended up tied, and were forced to be a tag team if they wanted the winner’s promised title opportunity. So they don’t get along, and the build is (presumably) to them finally figuring it out, coming together and winning the Tag Team Championship. Otherwise they’ve had this best-of-7 for nothing, really, and we’re back to square one with them hating and blaming each other.
The problem is that they can’t win the tag titles until New Day breaks Demolition’s record of 478 days as champions, for two reasons:
1. Demolition is part of a concussion lawsuit against WWE, and WWE’s extremely vindictive about stuff like that. Remember when AJ Lee made them mad, so they had to keep the Divas Championship on Nikki Bella for six days longer to break her record? Remember when Brock Lesnar originally left the company, so Randy Orton won the championship so Brock wouldn’t be the “youngest champion ever?” It happens.
2. WWE is suddenly obsessed with creating and observing “records” and “streaks” with no real reverence so they can break them for story drama. More on that in a bit.
So the timing of Sheamus vs. Cesaro is fucked, because they kinda sorta have to win the tag titles to complete their story, but New Day’s still got about six weeks left in their reign before they beat Demolition. That means this match has to end in a disqualification and push a rematch to December or January, which means we’re in for another month or two or three of the “Sheamus and Cesaro can’t get along” story. Which could mean that another part of Raw stays the same for months, which Jesus Christ, no.
The Club lost to New Day at Clash, which put The Club in dire straits. They HAD to beat Enzo and Cass here. If they’d won the tag titles at Clash, we could’ve in theory ended up with The Club defending against Enzo and Cass (which would’ve given that match a ton more heat, and had us talking about it in happier tones), and Cesaro and Sheamus could’ve had their first real test as a tag team by taking on the former champs. You could’ve done that Raw match here, or you could’ve even done the disqualification you did and made it feel like another step in their story, rather than a booking decision to exacerbate personal grudges and avoid your shitty backlog of bad booking decisions.
Worst: Super Seth
When Seth Rollins was WWE Champion, he couldn’t win a match. His Championship match with Brock Lesnar ended with him fleeing and literally vanishing in the darkness of an Undertaker teleportation attack. That’s how important he was. Now he’s … well, he’s Roman Reigns. I don’t know a better way to say it.
Rollins was on an Ultimate Warrior selling tip at Hell in a Cell. I don’t know if we missed the backstage segment where Mick Foley injected him with a Super Soldier serum or whatever, but the guy was no-selling EVERYTHING. Chris Jericho sneaks into the cage and attacks him, and two guys are attacking him with chairs, and he’s just like NOPE, NOPE, PEDIGREE, NOPE, KICK, NOPE. And this is all after Monday’s Raw, which featured him pinning two dudes at once (including the champion) and ended with him getting powerbombed into the apron. That move was ending careers in NXT, and the main roster version was at least powerful enough to put John Cena on the shelf for a week. Seth Rollins not only no-sold that, he’s no-selling further attacks from two people for TWENTY MINUTES INSIDE HELL IN A CELL. BRUH.
Oh, sorry, he had some kinesiology tape on, it’s fine. Honestly, an ironic supplemental Best for the announcers treating the removal of kinesio tape like they’d just ripped off Rollins’ leg. What, did y’all crush an invincibility star and roll the tape around in it before you put it on?
So finally, after powerbombing the man into the apron on Monday, a Hell in a Cell, ref bumps, continued interference from a friend, a pop-up powerbomb, five goddamn chair shots to the already injured back, a DDT onto the chair and a powerbomb through TWO chairs, the Universal Champion defending in the middle of the show is able to put away the challenger. Good grief. After the match, Jericho moseys back to attack Rollins one last time, I guess to deflect Rollins into a dedicated feud with Jericho so Owens can actually be champion for a while and do literally anything else.
Best: Let’s Say Some Nice Stuff
Because honestly, I mean it. Rollins and Owens are obviously top-level performers, whether I liked what they went with with the super-babyface never-selling and the meandering between spot set-ups or not, and they were clearly busting their asses to give the crowd something special. It’s hard sometimes to detach “wrestling I like” from “wrestling” — it’s a three-ring circus, especially now that WWE has three very different brands … I just got stuck writing the popular column about the one made for fans the most different from me — and I don’t ever want my constant nitpicky bullshit to make it sound like I don’t see these guys killing themselves to entertain a crowd. Even when I hate it, I get that, and I respect it. I just also want to watch it with a critical eye, because SOMEBODY needs to.
Anyway, fantasy booking for Raw: the show opens with Rollins missing his head, and Jericho standing over him with a bloody clipboard.
Worst: LOL TJP
TJ Perkins is the only person on the fucking planet who couldn’t tell Brian Kendrick was faking an injury to lure him in, right? Like, pulses in mommies’ bellies were like, “got damn, dude, dropkick him.”
So ends the inaugural run of the Cruiserweight Championship, held by a guy who loves video games so much he never learned how to speak, interact with other humans or develop even basic personal safety skills. Pretty hilarious that Perkins lost the belt to the only guy he ever defended it against, right? Here’s hoping we move on to Kendrick vs. Rich Swann, or Kendrick vs. Cedric Alexander, or Kendrick vs. James Ellsworth in a loose-at-the-bottom Sin Cara mask for all I care, just not to Kendrick vs. Perkins IV. You lost, TJ. No more title matches. Now you have to live in your car.
“You know, 18 years. 18 years to get Brian. And you know, Brian will always be by his side. That’s just how it is. 18 years though, that’s how it goes. You know. And that’s what I think, because Brian. Call of Duty.”
Best: Charlotte’s Entrance
I was really hoping one of those guys carrying her out was gonna be Triple H in a sexy skeleton mask.
Sasha Banks ran out of ideas for big match entrances — (1) Eddie Guerrero, (2) Snoop Dogg raps about me, (3) ??? — so she recycled the one she did at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn. It’s still pretty cool. I just wish they’d filled the back of the Escalade with hay and let one of them bump off the cell.
Best: These History Makers Historically Make History
It’s not a perfect match, but I wanted to take a second to give a formal Best to WWE finally letting women main-event a main roster pay-per-view. Progressively I think that puts them behind every other promotion in the country — TNA’s had multiple all-female PPVs — but it’s a good step. Charlotte and Sasha deserve the spot, and they made the best of it. It’s a hell of a thing.
To point out the positives, holy shit they’re in here trying to kill each other. While I think Becky Lynch and Bayley are the two actual best physical pro wrestlers in the Four Horsewomen, Charlotte and Sasha are the accomplished, theatrical, dangerous-as-shit ones. I say that in the good way and the bad way. That Spider-Man bit she did where she clung to the cage and jumped back with a Meteora was pretty great, and they didn’t shy away from just fighting in the crowd, going through tables and bashing each other with weapons for 20 minutes.
To point out the … less than positives, they probably should’ve brought in Bubba Ray Dudley or somebody and done a table breaking workshop at the Performance Center, because Charlotte looked shared as hell to go through anything, and Sasha’s fearless, but too light to BREAK anything. They managed to go through the Spanish announce table pretty well because those things are cardboard and propped up with Jenga towers, but the actual inside-the-cell stuff was brutal. Sasha bounced off the table twice at the end, and I feel like she could’ve done it a hundred times and not broken it. It’s like trying to break your kitchen table by dumping out a box of raw spaghetti onto it. The worst moment in the entire match was Charlotte not jumping back into the table at ringside, coming down off the ropes and just kinda lying onto it as gently as possible. It makes a creak sound and collapses halfway, and the crowd’s like, “wehhhh.” Because, seriously.
I also wasn’t a fan of the opening match stretcher job. It went on forever, and I don’t think anybody bought it as the finish. Even TJ Perkins was in the back like, “it’s not gonna end like that, she’s gonna get up off the stretcher and continue the match.” 3.0 was so bad at being fake EMTs that they caught the damn TV cables in Sasha’s neck brace.
That said, the best part of the match was the story they told. Sasha has a history of getting hurt, so Charlotte tries to hurt her before the match even starts. She manages to put her down, seemingly permanently given how Sasha sold it, with the powerbomb “from the cell” (kinda sorta) through the announce table. Sasha ain’t goin’ out like that, though, so she fights off the stretcher and makes it back into the cell. So the match starts and they beat each other to death, with Charlotte repeatedly targeting the back. At the end, when it looks like Sasha’s about to powerbomb CHARLOTTE through a table and get her revenge, her back gives out. Charlotte’s able to capitalize by tossing her into a table a couple of times, then Naturally Selects her and pins her to become the new champ. That actual in-ring storytelling is very well done.
So all in all, I’d give this match a thumbs up. It’s certainly worth watching for historical value, whether they manufactured the hell out of that history and congratulated themselves for it for weeks ahead of time or not.
One last problem, though:
As I mentioned earlier, WWE (or Raw, specifically) is suddenly obsessed with streaks. New Day can’t lose the Tag Team Championship because they have to beat Demolition’s record. Charlotte can’t lose on pay-per-view because she’s won 13 times in a row. Records are a big deal in pro sports, and people who get close to breaking them (and then break them, or fail just before they do) are good sports stories.
I complain a lot about WWE telling us how we should feel instead of actually doing the work and MAKING us feel that way, and these records are the same thing. It’s all about being able to say something, rather than making the thing they’re saying actually matter.
New Day is set to break Demolition’s record, but how? They’ve been on the ass-end of every feud they’ve had this year, and mostly seem to retain their titles by disqualification. They lose a ton of non-title matches, including one this past Monday. So what’s the point of keeping the belts that long? They aren’t being dominant. They aren’t involved in any engaging feuds, or rivalries. The matches aren’t that good. So why is it so important that they have this record? Why should we be forever impressed that a team that loses all the time and rarely gets strong wins when it matters are the longest-reigning tag champs? Because most people don’t care WHY anything is, they just care what is?
Charlotte has won 13 straight singles pay-per-view matches. Nobody else in WWE history has done that. What a streak! A lot of the booking forgiveness here that I’ve been reading is that they can keep Charlotte’s “streak” going until WrestleMania, where she’ll finally lose it to Bayley (or, let’s be honest here, Sasha). But the thing about that is that they have to modify the description so much to even make it a thing. Undefeated on pay-per-view, because she loses a ton on the weekly shows. She’s lost the title twice on Raw in the past three months. Undefeated on pay-per-view in singles matches, because she and Dana Brooke lost that tag match on pay-per-view. So what streak is there? She’s the only second generation woman with blonde hair to win a match over 20 minutes on a brand-exclusive pay-per-view in 2016! She’s wrestling’s Joe DiMaggio!
And now we enter into a pre-Survivor Series period where the women, tag teams and men are all getting slotted into Traditional Survivor Series matches against Smackdown to further a rivalry that (to be generous) only exists in the minds of WWE, and the Raw-centric build gets to be nothing but Hell in a Cell rematches. Perkins can exercise his rematch clause on Kendrick. Banks can exercise her rematch clause on Flair. Cesaro and Sheamus will probably get another match because they lost by DQ. Rollins will still want the Universal Championship because he lost via Jericho. Bayley and Dana will probably wrestle again because the women’s division only has four people in it. There’s a 70% chance The Club faces Enzo and Cass again “in a Hell in a Cell rematch!” on Raw. Same with Reigns and Rusev. Like, who else can they even wrestle?
I really hope I’m wrong, and that we head into Survivor Series with a fresh take on … everything. We need it so, so badly.
Best: Top Comments Of The Night
You know, I’d take Ziggler way more seriously if he was always Colonel Sanders
This PPV just made the list
To all the peeps on my stream asking “Where can I find better quality?”
Try Lucha Underground.
I see Bayley’s getting in the Halloween spirit early by cosplaying as Cesaro.
With the new facial hair and the quantity and effectiveness of his super-kicks Rusev completed his transformation to Gamma-irradiated Matt Jackson.
They’ve tried reporting Kendrick to Jack Tunney, but he’s not picking up his phone.
Good guy Owens giving Renee genuinely good advice when he told her to go back to Smackdown.
well, i’m dejected confused and angry. must be the end of a wwe ppv.
Did this match really need the histrionics? Excuse me, hertrionics
These extended stretcher bits are never as compelling as WWE thinks they are
True to the wage gap, this match had 156% of the Hell but 0% of the Cell of the men’s matches.
“Video Games!!!” Isn’t really a persona, right?
Say what you will about Duke Droese, at least he had a job.
Thanks for reading, everybody. Let’s hope Raw makes a little more sense.
Give the column a share if you haven’t already, and be sure to drop down into our comments section and let us know what you thought of the show. Remember, this is just what we thing — well, what I think, personally — so it’s fun to hear dissenting points of view. We also love blind agreement!