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 2015.
Best: WWE Bought Alberto Del Rio A First Class Ticket
The story has been that WWE desperately wants a strong, marketable Hispanic star, but they treated one of the two they had like a hostage and fired the other for smacking down a guy who made a racist joke. At some point you get tired of trying to make Sin Cara happen and give one of them a bunch of cartoon money bags with dollar signs on them to bite their tongue and come back.
It’s interesting that they’ve paired Del Rio with Zeb Colter of all people, because they’re almost directly saying, “Del Rio has learned to work with racists and shut up to make money.”
Worst: John Cena Mails It The Hell In
If you didn’t know John Cena was taking time off after Hell in a Cell, all you had to do was watch this match. Dude might as well have been wrestling in a Hawaiian shirt and flip flops. He should’ve hit an AA with a piña colada in each hand. This was easily the most mailed-in Cena match I’ve seen in ages, which is unfortunate, because his United States title reigns have been these symbols of in-ring excellence. Why does that vanish when it’s time to lose?
Think about it. The first time he won the U.S. title, he was all about his weird personal prophecy that one day, a young WWE Superstar would step up, challenge and defeat him, and become “the future.” He lost to Seth Rollins — a guy who already had the one title that out-ranked Cena’s — via retired cable comedy show host interference. He gets the belt back and goes right back into the YOU WANT SOME COME GET SOME, and ultimately loses to 38-year old Alberto Del Rio, who is great and all but not exactly a Young Lion.
And how does he lose? Via a transitional move, in less than 10 minutes. Cena’s spent the past how many months kicking out of every finisher ever, sometimes multiple finishers per match, and he goes down like a chump to The Kick That Won Del Rio A Championship? You know why that kick won him the championship? Because Dolph Ziggler was supposed to be severely concussed. Cena’s just jobbing to a f*cking hiptoss.
Of course, some of you are gonna read that and think, “Ugh the internet, if Cena wins you complain, if he loses you complain!” I urge you not to think of that way. You know me, I love seeing Cena get totally murked. This just didn’t feel like it was earned, or like Del Rio had powered up or anything … he was just regular-ass WWE Del Rio, the one who throws Jumping Nothings and sleepwalks his way through matches. It felt like Cena wasn’t gonna tap, so they had him lose to the backup finish with no drama. I don’t know. If you move past the surprise of Del Rio showing up, this was barely even a match.
I hope Raw opens with a tear-soaked Jack Swagger, wrapped in a Gadsden flag, hyperventilating about how he just doesn’t know anymore.
Best: Reigns Vs. Wyatt, At Least Until Taker vs. Lesnar Happened
I talk about it every year, but the problem with having a Hell in a Cell pay-per-view in the PG Era is that you can’t actually use the Cell for anything. You just have a normal hardcore match with a cage around you. Sometimes it isn’t even hardcore. Sometimes you’re Randy Orton and you wrestle a normal match and maybe throw in a table at the end.
Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns had that kind of match. It was a good one, too, I’m just not sure it needed the cage. I wish they’d done more with it. The story was that Wyatt was trapped in the cage with Roman and couldn’t get out, and the Wyatt Family was on the outside and couldn’t get in, right? Why didn’t we play with that more? Is it because we established that the Wyatts have teleportation powers, which sorta nerfs the “can’t get in/can’t get out” thing? Is it because Braun Strowman should, for all intents and purposes, be able to do the WWE STRONG GUY thing and rip the door apart? WWE’s got refs down there to politely open and close doors for people in cage matches, maybe they wouldn’t even have to do that.
I honestly think Roman Reigns would be one of the best wrestlers in the world right now if:
1. He’d never spoken, especially not about beanstalks, and
2. He wasn’t part of a famous WWE family, which caused WWE to notice his upside and overdo it before he was ready.
That “he wasn’t ready” argument causes a lot of problems in wrestling conversations sometimes, but it’s the truth. Roman’s ready to be a cool character and wrestle fun, exciting matches. He’s not ready to be a guy on a souvenir soda. He’s not the guy you put into a WrestleMania main event. Surprisingly, being handsome and good at wrestling is not all you need to be the WWE Protagonist, even if it bubbles you into the role.
Anyway, I liked this a bit. The Zombie spots with kendo sticks poking out of the corners always pop me. If you think about it, they’re no more dangerous than just poking a guy really hard with a stick, but it’s a good visual.
Best: Put Your Unicorn Horns On Your Unicorn Heads
I really thought the New Day were toast.
+1 to whoever at WWE realized the Dudley Boyz do not need additional tag title runs to validate themselves, and can just use that “most decorated team in history” line to accomplish anything the belts would. The New Day may be the best thing on the show during a time when fewer and fewer people are watching, but they’re good as sh*t, and I honestly hope they keep a stranglehold on the tag titles indefinitely. The WWE tag division kinda died, didn’t it? The Prime Time Players lost all their hit points, the Usos have been halved, Los Matadores turned on El Torito and then vanished … are there only two teams left?
I want to make sure I give out a special supplementary Best to Big E for existing, and also for suggesting that the spirit of Brother Woods (who … died, I guess?) now lives in a broken trombone. XAVIER WOODS IS A HAUNTED TROMBONE, YOU GUYS. If that wasn’t enough, TND gave us the imagery of them playing music on the Dudley Boyz’s bodies against their will, cartoon-style, and called Bubba Ray the “Caucasian Kamala.”
Note: The Caucasian Kamala exists, and his name is Honkey Kong. Yes, that is great. Yes, he is a fat white guy dressed like Donkey Kong. Yes, that is great.
Worst (Or Maybe Best?): The Phantom Leg Slap
I’ve been going back and forth about this in my head all night, so I’m opening it up for discussion.
I remember Sabu talking about how he will sometimes work botches into a match to make them “more realistic.” It’s probably a bullsh*t excuse for him never being able to hit moves, but the rationale is that these guys are performing big, amazing, physical feats, and in theory wouldn’t be able to hit them perfectly every time. If you stumble once or twice or have to try again, that brings the absurdity of, say, jumping off a folding chair onto the top rope and to the outside through a table a little closer to reality.
During last night’s Charlotte/Nikki Bella match, Nikki goes for that thing she does out of the corner where she jumps backwards, turns in the air and kicks you in the face. A Disaster Kick, I guess? Anyway, she does it, Charlotte dodges, and Nikki crashes and burns. Even though she didn’t connect, Nikki slaps her thigh to make the kick sound.
My first thought is, holy sh*t, Nikki doesn’t understand why she’s slapping her leg on the kick and kicked the sh*t out of a ghost. It’s embarrassing. It’s the same kind of embarrassing that makes you crawl for the ropes and pretend you’re in pain when you’ve reversed the figure-four and have control, but I digress. She slapped her leg to kick NOTHING.
My second thought was … was that the right call?
From a creative standpoint, doing that’s a disaster. If you look at it through the Sabu lens of making garbage wrestling realistic, SHOULDN’T Nikki slap her thigh on a kick she missed? She does it on the kicks she lands, right? That makes it part of the kick. Part of the animation. If she slaps it when she connects and doesn’t when she doesn’t, doesn’t that draw more attention to it? God, I hope this makes sense. Like I said, I’ve been going back and forth in my head about it, and I think I could go either way. Drop down into the comments and let me know what you think.
Worst: Team CB-The-What-Now
After the match, Paige and Becky Lynch run out to hug Charlotte, and Team PCB is “stronger than ever.” The best part is Paige pulling a WWE Creative and pretending Becky doesn’t exist.
I’m gonna guess this is a setup for Natalya to show up on Raw with a big, dramatic Invasion of the Body Snatchers finger point and say PAIGE IS THE ONE WHO ATTACKED ME, and that WWE did not just say f*ck it to a month of storytelling and reunite the team they just broke up. Paige was out there tagging with them a week after dragging them, though, so who knows?
It’d be interesting if the point here was that Paige got jealous (boo jealousy stories, but stay with me here) and turned on the team, but saw Natalya just swoop in from oblivion to replace her and got protective. That’s a real emotion. It’s why you get mad when somebody starts dating your ex, even if you don’t want to be with them anymore. Paige doesn’t want to be on a team with Charlotte, but she doesn’t want NATALYA of all people getting her spot, so she’s being a scumbag and taking the long way around. That could be fun. That requires more of an explanation than, “Paige is jealous,” though.
Best: Clean Finishes! Or,
Worst: Okay, No More Kane Title Matches
We’re all okay moving the hell on from the Kane story now, right?
Someone on Twitter pointed out to me that even the bad stories need to be told to completion, so that’s how I’m choosing to see Seth Rollins vs. Kane. As a match, it was a big red pile of nothing. It was poor Kane being asked to be an anchor in a title match in 2015, in that Kane Feud Death Slot between WrestleMania and Survivor Series. It’s an annual tradition!
Rollins is good in the ring, but his character’s been booked as a hapless chickensh*t all year. “The Demon Kane” is strong enough to fix broken bones by stomping really hard, but he’s spent a good portion of the past decade losing to everybody on the roster in throwaway matches on Raws and Smackdowns. So while the story of the match looked great on paper, the reality is that we’re watching a guy who can’t win matches try super, super hard to beat a guy who never wins matches.
At least it’s over, and Rollins won clean. That should happen more often. I actually liked that a lot about Hell in a Cell in general … there weren’t a lot of screwy finishes, bait-and-switches and sh*tty takebacks, they just wrestled matches and finished them.
Worst: Ryback’s Got No Ups
Remember on Raw when Kevin Owens pop-up powerbombed Mark Henry, who is both over 40 and over 400 pounds, and Henry got all the way the hell up for it? Watch Ryback kick up his legs and still only get up to Owens’ navel.
I honestly think that’s the only part of the match I remember. I just kinda see Kevin Owens and Ryback like they’re video game characters, standing still for several minutes, and then the pop-up powerbomb happens. That’s probably not good. If you look at Ryback, that guy should never, ever lose wrestling matches. He’s the perfect dream of a 1980s superstar wrestler. The fact that he feels like he should never win matches is the ultimate failing of Ryback.
I hope we can move on from the Ryback beef now and give Owens a more compelling foil. As much as I like KO as the avatar for pissed-off, out-of-shape wrestling fans living their dreams against the hairless, hypermuscular WWE ideals, let’s get him into a program with someone fresh who can talk and wrestle. He needs his main roster Sami Zayn. Can we, uh, can we use Sami Zayn?
Best: Let’s Just Kill Each Other
And finally, two guys say nuts to WWE convention and try to legit murder each other for half an hour.
The thing I love most about the Undertaker and Brock Lesnar matches is that they never feel like WWE main events, even when the finisher kickouts start. They don’t have a feeling-out process. They don’t do a bunch of Irish whipping and wristlocks. They are THE UNDERTAKER and BROCK LESNAR. When the bell rings, they run at each other and punch until one or both of them is covered in blood, and when that’s done, they start breaking sh*t.
This was the finish we needed for the story. It hasn’t made a lot of sense, has it? The entire thing’s been built around the idea that Taker’s on his last legs, and has resorted to cheating and cheap shots because Lesnar’s just beyond him. Lesnar wrestles with too much confidence, and Taker can use his wily veteran cowboy stuff to catch him by surprise. That’s how you beat Lesnar. That’s how Reigns almost beat him at WrestleMania … you stay in the fight long enough to surprise him, like punching King Hippo in the belly bandage, and unload. Instead of that story, we’ve come back around to Taker being this noble legend, and Lesnar wrestling him like he’s being overpowered. It’s weird. The heel and face alignments just kinda drifted away. They don’t matter, I guess, because it’s THESE GUYS, but it would’ve been nice to follow a narrative from beginning to end.
Regardless, this was brutal and cool, and seeing both guys bleed actually made Hell in a Cell seem like Hell in a Cell for the first time in years. YEARS. I of course loved the ripping up of the canvas and the exposing of the boards. The Beast of Big Japan! Those spots are kinda the “deadlift suplex” of hardcore spots, though. You know how a guy will do a deadlift suplex and everyone will love it and marvel at how strong he is? Every suplex is supposed to be a deadlift suplex. There’s never supposed to be a “the guy jumped with me” suplex. When you expose the boards, it’s COOL AS HELL, but you’re also kinda-sorta saying, “this will hurt now because I’ve removed the padding.” It’s best not to think too much about it.
Best: Time Is A Flat Cycle
After the match, the Wyatt Family jumps the Undertaker to set up (we’re all assuming) a Survivor Series match. Bray, Harper, Rowan and Strowman vs. Undertaker, Kane, Reigns and Ambrose, right? That’s what makes sense. Is this the first time we’ve seen the Wyatt Family at full strength?
Undertaker should feud with Bray until WrestleMania, and then attack Brock Lesnar at Battleground for breaking his undefeated streak at WrestleMania 30. WE’RE GOING AROUND AGAIN, BOYS!
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
You can look but you you can’t touch …the Takeover: Respect 30-minute iron woman match
Charlotte’s ring attire tonight is made out of genuine Nitro interstitials.
Nikki’s really inspiring. She makes me want to be terrible at my job for six years, then put in effort for a few months and act like I’m some kind of hero.
The Real Birdman
WWE #HIAC: How is anyone caring?
Who knew? Seth was Abel to beat Kane
Best pure stiker in the history of the WWE? I think Marc Mero has something to say about that.
Full Nelson Reilly
“And went down like a hero should.”
Clutching his balls. Just like Achilles.
Mantis Toboggan MD
What Taker hasn’t realized yet is that the bouquet is actually for him.
Stop Staahahahp! He’s already undead!
I expect to see that blood stain on Harper’s shirt tomorrow, if he doesn’t want to break character.
Thanks for reading, everybody. See you tonight for Raw!