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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Hell in a Cell 2014.
Best: The WWE Live Experience, Most Of The Time
As many of you might’ve noticed while watching an obnoxious guy in a Goldust shirt yell for Nikki to take Brie Bella “to the woodshed,” I attended Hell in a Cell live. This was the view from my seat. My Prince Zuko Dean Ambrose commemorative seats.
The reason I’m putting this first is because it explains away a few issues with my live report. One, when you’re sitting this close, a WWE pay-per-view could be a tap dancing orangutan in a jaunty hat pinning Cesaro clean in 30 seconds and you’re still gonna enjoy it a little. Two, I got to watch the entire show without commentary. WWE’s easy to like if you’re close enough to feel like you’re a part of it, but not “camera up their noses” close where you can hear John Cena calling his spots between self-congratulatory, chuckly bullshit from the Lemon Party on commentary.
I was second row on the side with the camera, where they put all the family and friends and special guests. And, uh, most of the plants. More on them later. It’s an interesting psychological study, because most of the people allowed to sit that close don’t even want to be there, or are only there out of obligation. When Cena’s match was over, about 1/3 of the section cleared out. There were a few people there in Big Show hoodies who had to be family members, because even Big Show doesn’t own a Big Show hoodie. They gave me the stinkiest stink-eye ever for cheering Rusev. The Make-A-Wish kid in the front row kept making “shhh” gestures at me for cheering for Cesaro. When it was time for Cena’s match we sorta figured out that he was intensely Pro-Cena, and he’s a Make-A-Wish kid covered in Cena gear so of COURSE you’re gonna support him, right? So in a show of fellowship we cheered Cena and booed Orton, and he got mad at us. I guess he liked everybody? I spent most of the rest of the night staring down the barrel of Sign Guy, who is contractually obligated to stand up and start a clappy chant for whichever wrestler is currently the face. One time I left to get a drink, and when I came back, Sign Guy was standing up at the end of my row trying to start a chant. Security made me walk all the way around to the other side, so his chant wouldn’t be disturbed.
So yeah, long story short, sit this close if you get the chance. It’ll make you rethink your entire life.
Best: History’s Hossiest Superplex, And The Rest Of This
The opening match was the 2 out of 3 Falls match for the Intercontinental Championship, and it was fantastic. Cesaro and Ziggler compliment each other well, as Ziggler kinda has a koala bear’s offense (he just jumps at you and hugs onto you from every direction) and Cesaro is Pope Francis of the church of catching and swinging around jumping dudes.
The highlight, of course, was the sequence involving Ziggler ending up with Cesaro in a guillotine choke, avoiding a couple of counters and ending up getting piggybacked (piggy-fronted?) up the ropes and superplexed off. The amount of physical strength and dexterity to pull that off is superhuman. It’s one thing to be talented enough to run really fast and jump really high to clear a rope and land on people, but it’s a whole new f*cking ballgame to hook a 200+ pound human being onto your torso like you’re playing Barrel Of Monkeys and climb up ascending pairs of perpendicular cables. Have you ever tried to climb the ropes in the corner? I can barely even do that. Cesaro’s navigating body weight, awkward angles, sweat-to-sweat ratios, random flashes of light, the works. And he’s not only doing it, he’s DOING IT. Capital letters.
Even without the flashier highlights, it was a good match. It made sense, which is almost always enough for me. Ziggler knows Cesaro uses big European uppercuts, so he works the arm. Cesaro not only sells the arm throughout the match, it comes back into play on the finish. He goes for the Neutralizer, but Ziggler’s able to break it because of the compromised grip. One big move to the arm stuns Cesaro, leaving him open to a superkick that spins him around, and a Zig Zag that puts him away. Great stuff.
Worst: The Smaller Complaints
1. It was nowhere near long enough. Couldn’t we have given them 10 extra minutes, and taken away 10 minutes from Cena/Orton? If that sounds too smarky, maybe take away Nikki Bella making dinner reservations, Mark Henry not turning heel but taking forever to do it, and a couple of video packages you already showed on the pre-show?
2. I like 2 out of 3 falls matches ending in two straight. It’s good for the stipulation, because you can’t always assume it’ll go to three. That gives subsequent matches a second fall drama they need. On top of that, it’s a strong win for Ziggler, and at least attempts to justify the whole “always losing non-title matches” thing by saying, “no, I’m BETTER than my challenger, because I’m the CHAMPION.” Plus, hey, it was an exciting match. I’ve gotta say though, the conspiracy theorist in me wonders how much this had to do with Cesaro’s “Cena and Orton are boring” comments. And if I do that, I’ve got to wonder if it’s legit, or part of some vague, social experiment where they want me to THINK the front office is burying him for speaking the truth so my Internet Sense will tingle and I’ll cheer him more.
3. All the champions retained tonight. Ziggler, Sheamus, Goldust and Stardust. Brock Lesnar, technically. Maybe it’s time to retire the non-title matches to build to title matches gag? It’s become a parody of itself. Put a little more effort into writing stories for these guys, because they’re good as shit at the wrestling parts.
Best: THE WRONG KID DIED
Note: Brie Mode is even worse in person. It was like a robot had snuck up behind me and started fingerf*cking me in the ear.
Brie vs. Nikki, though? Pretty good. Apart from cromulently performing in the ring, the Bellas have a story. That’s better than Paige and AJ. It’s not complex. They’re sisters. One of them thinks she’s gotten a raw deal from her family and has never been appreciated, so she’s thrown in with the evil characters. The other thinks the bad sister’s that way because she throws everyone else under the bus and won’t stop making excuses. The bad one’s sense of self-worth has gotten more and more inflated, and now she’s claiming team music and exclusive rights to their last name to protect her brand. They’re in relationships with people we recognize, and they have catty interpersonal drama on a loosely-related reality show. What’s the Paige and AJ story? “Women be crazy?” It goes to show how good writing can elevate poor characters to goodness. And yes, when I say “good writing” I mean “any writing whatsoever.”
I spent most of the match cracking up at their ring gear, though. They need to get that under control. Brie’s wearing Brutus Beefcake tights made out of Fruit Roll-up and drawn-on kickpads. Why do you have on kickpads at all? You dropkick people. The only part you ever connect with on kicks is the bottom of your foot. Nikki’s gone from wearing a sexy baseball player Halloween costume to sexy baseball player lingerie, and it doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination. At one point I think I saw her kidneys.
Best: Nikki Bella Actually Getting To Be The Heel In This Feud
The good news is that Nikki won the match, meaning Brie has to be her personal assistant for a month. Up until now, the feud’s been set up so I could justify Nikki as the face. The Pre-Crisis Bellas were both awful people who did awful things. They break up, and suddenly Brie’s been the “nice one” all along? The entire point of them is that they were identical, but they break up and suddenly they’re Felix and Oscar. Brie quits and slaps her boss and gets into these awkward “ARREST HER” stories, and Nikki gets punished for it. Eventually Nikki gets tired of it, stands up for herself and reveals that Brie’s been cruel to her their entire lives. Brie never refutes it, and just yells WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS NIKKI between comical soap opera sobs. Then she starts yanking her husband’s popular moves and taunts, which makes me like her less because it reminds me that her husband isn’t on the show, and might not ever come back. So yeah, I’ve been cheering Nikki.
But now Nikki’s won the goofy stipulation match and is already heeling it up. She gets Brie in the weeds making her do a bunch of asinine errands and chores, and dumps a smoothie on her head for no reason. Nikki is now clearly and obviously the “mean” one, beyond what Michael Cole demands we think and the Divas “point at the crowd/hands on the hips” face/heel dichotomy. We can build actual sympathy for Brie watching her go through all this, and want to see her get to day 31 and beat Nikki’s ass.
Let me see if I can still spin this to be Pro-Nikki.
Okay, Brie agreed to the stipulation. 30 days of being Nikki’s assistant if she loses. She loses — just straight up loses — and is now bound by the contract. In WWE terms, “being an assistant” means being constantly humiliated, because there’s nobody WWE higher-ups think less of than “an assistant.” So instead of just saying “pick up my laundry, make my dinner reservations, drive me to this place,” you’re dumping food on her. That’s either part of the contract (“you have to be okay with anything I do for a month”), or Brie’s dumb for not claiming an unsafe work environment and figuring out how to get out of it. Nothing in the contract says you have to be a GOOD assistant, right? If you don’t comply you’re “fired,” but Brie should technically still be able to kick her in the face. It either goes both ways or neither. Pick up her laundry, make her dinner reservations, scream, dropkick to the head.
Best: Stardust Selfies
In case you missed it, that’s King Dork himself taking a selfie with Stardust. It helps to know everybody’s mannerisms and where they’re going to pose. Here’s the opposite angle:
If you’re wondering why I’m making that face, it’s because I only had a few seconds to get the angle right, and about a quarter of that with Stardust’s face turned my way. That’s my deep concentration face.
As for the match, it (like most of the show, honestly) was a lot of fun. There wasn’t really a point to it, with the Dusts retaining after losing to the Usos for a month, but as a Rhodes Family homer I’m totally okay with it. The double superplex was great, even if Cesaro had just redefined the genre. I liked how the teams seemed to be learning from their mistakes … if Goldust got caught with something and the Usos tried it again on Stardust, he’d pick up on it and counter. All four guys are good at what they do, and are maybe the four biggest victims of creative abandonment in WWE right now. What was their story? That the tag titles exist, and they’ve had a bunch of matches before? Michael Cole tries to get over the Usos “historic” run with the titles, but it was shorter than the one The Colóns had back in 2008. Remember the epic title reign of The Colóns?
If the Wyatt Family is free of Bray’s control (or whatever they’re doing), I’d bring them back as whatever they are and position them against The Usos. It’s not a fresh match, but we don’t have a lot to work with. You can’t put them in a program with Los Matadores, although a bull in a sheep mask would be magic. Anyway, no, put them in a thing against The Usos, a team they’ve worked a billion times before, to highlight whatever it is you’ve got planned to make them different. Once that’s established, run them into the weirdest-possible interpretation of the Dusts. I’m talking full-on spaceships, promos from outer space, whatever. If Harper and Rowan have any of Bray’s magical powers, have them use magic to get into space. I don’t care. Just be full-on bonkers with it, because “two tag teams exist and that’s it” is never, ever good enough.
Worst: We’re Doing The Main Event Whether We’re In It Or Not
During the build to Hell in a Cell, John Cena vs. Randy Orton was supposed to be the main event. It’s what everyone was reporting, and on Raw they gave it a “winner gets an opportunity against Brock Lesnar” caveat to make it more important. The Internet complained (or was worked into complaining), and here we are four matches into a pay-per-view with WWE’s two most browbeaten names going one-on-one in WWE’s “most dangerous match” with championship implications.
Don’t worry, though, they still wrestled like it was the main event. Not in the good way.
I’m not saying they tried hard and stole the show. I’m saying they wrestled the exact same match they would’ve if this had been last. They got the melodramatic video package comparing them to history’s great sports rivalries, they got all the time they wanted, and they kicked out of so many finishers. That was a problem all night. The Bella Twins kicked out of each others’ finishers. Ambrose kicked out of a Curb Stomp. Cena took MULTIPLE RKOs and was fine. Orton was countering and kicking out of everything. It’s fine in moderation, or when you’re Shawn Michaels and Undertaker kicking out of tombstones and superkicks in minute 28 of your 30-minute WrestleMania Moment. Hell, it’s fine if you’re in the main event and you want to build some unnecessary drama. See Rock vs. Cena. Either of them.
Orton and Cena basically watched Rock/Cena I and II before this and said “let’s do that, but with a cage nearby.” That’s the match we got. If it’d gone last, I would’ve gently complained about the inevitable Cena victory and the boring oncoming of Lesnar vs. Cena III, but I would’ve said “it was fine!” One of those dismissive, “I don’t care where we eat”-style This Is Fines. Here, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s like you paused the pay-per-view to watch their match from Hell in a Cell 2009, then came back.
Worst: Check Out That Grueling Toll Hell In A Cell Takes On The People Who Dare Step Inside It
As we heard on Raw from Mick Foley, Hell in a Cell is supposed to be this grueling, life-altering career moment where you walk into the match one way, and leave another. John Cena is stepping into a Hell in a Cell match against Randy Orton, one of his deadliest opponents ever, his “biggest rival” and one of the only Superstars kayfabe ranked on his level. During the match he’s forced to withstand having his face raked across a cage, table spots, and two RKOs. One RKO is enough to beat 99% of the roster. After all this, Cena guts it out and connects with a desperation Attitude Adjustment off the ropes through a table for the victory.
He is totally fine.
When I say “totally fine,” I don’t mean wrestling’s fake and he’s gonna go backstage and have pizza with Orton, I’m saying John Cena the character is visibly 100% unharmed. He’s gone into the worst imaginable situation against the toughest opponent they have outside of UFC part-timers and he’s just PEACHY. After the match he’s posing and jogs over to the Make-A-Wish kid to give him his headband. It’s sweet, but dude, can we at least SORTA sell the “hell” aspect of this? We’re reaching “Hulk Hogan gets his neck broken twice in one month and can still defeat a 7-foot tall guy and 8 of his giant friends by himself” territory. Maybe Bray Wyatt should work on a hologram of a mummy.
Best, But Also A Very Small Worst: Damien Mizdow
Damien Mizdow was spectacular. Everyone in my section (and I’m assuming the arena) was watching him and laughing. When he leaned into the ropes to take the Beats of the Bodhrán, it brought down the house. We chanted for him during Mizdow TV and Miz’s “stand in the ring and watch the video package” deal before the match, and booed handily when Miz accidentally knocked him down. When the match was over, we laughed and happily clapped for him.
Here’s the problem: I don’t remember a single thing about the match.
That’s … not good, is it? Mizdow is a killer act, but the role of the guy (or lady) at ringside should NEVER be to fully distract from what the guys in the ring are trying to accomplish. Maybe at this point Mizdow IS the point, and WWE’s just coming right out and saying Miz challenging for the US title is like watching paint congeal, but it’s a question worth asking. Certainly not throwing any shade at Sandow.
Worst: The Predictable Sheamus Worst
all right I’ll throw a little over here
After the match, Sheamus plays with the idea of the stunt double in a cute bit where he manipulates Miz’s unconscious body to make Mizdow do YMCA. Sandow’s commitment to a bit is top shelf. Then ol’ Sheamus has to ruin it by Brogue Kicking an already Brogue Kicked and defeated Miz for no reason. Barf. It’s right behind Mark Henry beating up Bo Dallas for losing a match and not getting depressed about it for Worst WWE Babyface Moment Of The Night.
A supplemental Best to the referee, though, for checking on Sandow after the kick, but not Miz.
Best: Bulgarian Kurt Angle Should Be Your Favorite Wrestler
Rusev is the best babyface in WWE right now.
Think about it. He’s the guy you should support, and want to be. He’s out John Cena’ing John Cena. Remove the nationalism. Rusev is a strong, athletic guy who fairly wins all of his matches. He’s beating BIG DUDES, too. Mark Henry, Big E, Big Show. He’s beating them with a submission hold in the middle of the ring. When he’s injured, he fights through it and adapts his offense. He loves his country. He’s an IMMIGRANT to that country, which is basically the American dream, right? Coming to a land of opportunity to make something of yourself. He’s got a beautiful girlfriend who thinks he’s awesome and supports him. He’s BELOVED BY HIS PRESIDENT and was given a GOLD STAR MEDAL because of how hard he’s worked, and how well he’s done. Why would you want to be anyone but Rusev?
In contrast, Big Show’s a guy who has never gotten over the deaths of his two fathers (Andre, and the poor guy Big Bossman dragged around in the Blues Brothers car). He switches allegiances like he changes hats. Sometimes he likes the fans, sometimes he hates them. He’s made bad movies. He’s cried in the ring more times than I can even name, and once completely sold out to get an “ironclad contract” that turned out to not be any more protective than the one he’d had before. He wears camo and beanies. Broke Hulk Hogan’s neck a couple of times. Once lost a monster truck sumo battle. Once lost an ACTUAL sumo battle. He’s just getting older and fatter and sadder.
Rusev wins, because Rusev crush. Rusev should be on the cover of Tiger Beat.
Worst: Shit Or Get Off The Pot, Mark
Big Show’s not doing too badly in the match, so here comes Mark Henry. Henry’s just like Show, in that he’s changed allegiances about a dozen times and shouldn’t ever be trusted. He’s been on the verge of turning heel (and/or becoming Russian, I hope) for weeks now, because he and Show are locked in this self-imposed “disappointment to America” story. Henry shows up, proves to be bad luck, tries to get into the ring (because Rusev is the face and they’re the heels) and nothing works. Show loses, and Rusev wins another 2-on-1 fight against guys twice his size.
Everyone in the crowd was like, “okay, now here comes the turn. No? Oh, he’s getting in the ring here’s where he’ll … no? Okay. Oh look, he’s getting in the ring after the match, I’m sure he’ll … nope.”
If you’re gonna turn, turn already. What is this, Dragon Ball? You’re a disappointment to America AND episodic storytelling.
Worst: A Quick Reminder On The Awfulness Of WWE Fan Plants
Just wanted to take a second to say that the worst part of any WWE live experience are the “fans” who are paid to be there and sit on the corners to make sure nothing bad happens. In my section we had “WWE’s Biggest Fan,” an average guy who just loves WWE and has been to the last 40 consecutive pay-per-views and picks up his tickets from a special guest list. He was next to the guy in the Randy Orton Party City costume. On the other end was Sign Guy, who I’d still choose in a Fight Club celebrity scenario.
Sign Guy hates women. Hates the shit out of them. When Lana was near him, he’d yell for her to “go back to the truck stop.” Because she’s a whore, get it? After AJ vs. Paige, he loudly proclaimed to anyone who’d listen that the match “proves that all women are crazy!” He spent most of that match critiquing their appearances, and yelling at them to look different no matter how they already look. After the show I cornered him and told him to stop being a garbage person, and that if he’s going to be a paid representative of the WWE Universe, he needs to be a representative of the WWE Universe and not encourage them to yell shit a hateful 11-year old might. He just made a bunch of exaggerated cartoonish grumpy gestures, like clenching his hands and making “aw dang” arms. I don’t think he was listening. Pretty sure he’s Hornswoggle on stilts inside a horrible old man suit.
Best: What Little We Got Of AJ vs. Paige, Or
Worst: THE CURSE OF THE TOTAL DIVAS *ghost noises*
Paige and AJ was pretty good, but short, and a thing with no story we’ve seen several months in a row. It could’ve been Savage/Steamboat and it wouldn’t have gotten any crowd heat, because hell, how are you supposed to get excited for it? Paige fell into a nexus of character development where she’s Alicia Fox 2 (managed by Alicia Fox Prime), and AJ looks like she’d rather be anywhere else. After the match, Paige slaps Alicia, which means absolutely nothing.
It doesn’t prove that “all women are crazy.” It proves that we write out our matches and decide which characters are doing what, we should employ a person who spot-checks and it asks “why?”
We should also hold up our palms and slowly back away from Total Divas. I’ve seen that show. I know how it works. WWE should retire the Divas championship, put all the women on Total Divas and have the “Women’s Championship” be a bald, muscular guy with tribal tattoos in an ill-fitting shirt with GIRL BELT written across the chest.
Best: I Just Headbutted You Off The Cage, Might As Well Jump Off Myself
I don’t know why he thought “now I ALSO fall off the cage” was a reasonable sell for his own headbutt, but he went to Coney Island in the middle of Raw to steal a hot dog cart to use as a weapon on a wrestling show, so maybe he’s just on another level of consciousness.
I’m happy Ambrose vs. Rollins got the main event spot, and I’m happy they remained as violent as they could within the confines of a TV-PG Mattel playset cage. I think the randomness of the violence is what made it work. The giant pile of chairs introduced at the very beginning and then barely paid off. Ambrose climbing the cage with a kendo stick strapped to his back to start the match, then having to fight three guys with it. The cage bump, which didn’t make a hell of a lot of sense in concept or execution, but was still two crazy motherf*ckers falling 15 feet off the side of something through tables. The always cool “get up off the stretcher and continue the fight” moment, followed by the always BETTER “we’ve been fighting for 20 minutes but the bell’s just ringing now” thing. Surprise cinderblocks! Cactus Jack tribute elbow drops! SUDDEN KANE, NOW WITH MIST POWERS*.
The visual continuity of the match was great. They brought back all the stuff they needed to. The screwdriver, even though they can’t actually use it. The aforementioned cinderblocks, and Ambrose attempting to get final vengeance with a Curb Stomp through them. So much of what they did referenced their feud without it being heavy handed, which is great because they are FIGHT WITH WEAPONS INSIDE A BIG, LABELED CAGE.
(Note: I choose to believe Kane didn’t spray a fire extinguisher at them, he sprayed a garden hose and just stuck his finger over the end and it came out as steam because of his fire powers.)
Best: My View Of The Thing
Best: Let’s Get Crazy
And then, the ending.
If I’d watched this on TV, I might’ve had a different perspective. I haven’t watched the feed all the way through again, so I don’t know how it played. When the lights went out, my brain went “oh, right, the Wyatt Family.” I expected BLEARP~ and the lights to come back on and them to be in the ring wearing slightly different clothes. What I did not expect was a steam-spewing lantern and an EVIL HOLOGRAM. Brother is using DEADLY HOLOGRAMS.
I think the best and quickest way to help us get over the March-September dry spell of Bray Wyatt material is to give him SPOOKY POWERS. He’s already exhibited a few of them, but I want them to go full Undertaker. I don’t want it to feel like Wyatt orchestrated some children’s choir to show up and trick John Cena with a toy microphone. I want him to command demon children. I want him to be THE DEVIL. I want that longstanding theory that he’s a timeless evil spirit inhabiting the body of Husky Harris to be canon, and I want him to be able to create mysterious smoke doppelgängers and materialize from nothingness. I want that weird thing he wears on his hand to be dug up from the same place they unearthed The Yeti. Anything insane, give it to Wyatt.
Worse case scenario, I left the show with an image I’ll never forget. Granted, that’s not always a good thing. The last time I was at a show that ended with a cage match full of smoke, it was that “every man for himself” War Games with Ultimate Warrior teleportation. We get Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt, though, and that DEMANDS to be awesome. If we can keep Bray from saying the same thing every week and keep Dean away from those corny, scripted backstage promos where he’s saying stuff he’d never say, it’ll be a classic.
Plus, it helps me pretend that Shield/Wyatts feud from the beginning of the year is still happening. Maybe Harper and Rowan both have their own sets of magical powers now, and their power grows and grows until Ambrose can only find two people strong enough to stop them: Overpowered Roman Reigns, and dastardly leatherman Seth Rollins.
(I still believe.)
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Tupac looks terrible.
GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY! GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY! THEY’VE BRUISED THEM! WITH GOD AS MY WITNESS, THEY ARE IN MILD DISCOMFORT!!!
It figures a fake Cowboy would LOVE the Village People.
Cena/Orton was a cool-down for Mizdow.
Ima represent America
Ima beat Rusev
Ima talk black in front of my black friend
Should have known this would happen when I woke up and “I’ve Got You Babe” played on the radio.
Orton should use the ring steps like Mjolnir and put them on top of Cena to pin him. He’ll never be able to kick out!
whenever cena launches his body, he looks like a block of cheese
Cena (reads script of commercial): So, you’re saying it’s a poem?
Director: Yeah, by Dylan Thomas. It’s a villanelle.
Cena: Sorry, I thought I was clear that I’m never turning heel.
Director: No, John, not villain. Villanelle.
Cena: So you’re calling me a heel *and* a girl?
Let’s face it, Dean was confused by the end of that match because he finally thought Andre the Giant’s ghost had returned to take him up on his previous challenge…
Thanks, everybody. Let’s enjoy Monday Night Raw!