Recalling The Action: WWE Hell In A Cell Review

Joel Harvey

Imagine if every match at a Hell in a Cell pay-per-view was an actual Hell in a Cell match? Even the pre-show matches. That’d be the kind of booking that Vince Russo, or an eight-year-old child, would pull off.

Like a grown-up though, this year’s SmackDown branded HIAC event would be responsible and only have two cell matches which both spectacularly book-ended a rather functional show in the middle. Here’s how the whole event went down…

Hype Bros vs. Benjamin & Gable

With very little back-story, this pre-show match could’ve been a throwaway on SmackDown. But it was notable for one thing: Shelton Benjamin’s first WWE PPV since 2010. Good lord, it’s great to see him back in the ring and basically pick up where he left off. Teaming him with Chad Gable is a nice fit, too, as the World’s Greatest Tag Team Mk.2 see off a malfunctioning Hype Bros in a nice filler match to kick things off.

New Day (c) vs. The Usos (Tag Title Match)

We hoped this would be good. The crowd hoped this, too, how else can you explain why they were chanting “this is awesome” only a couple of minutes in? Thankfully, no-one was disappointed as these two teams closed off their rivalry inside a cell. It’s been a fun feud with some great matches and promos, including a much talked about rated R rap battle. But all good things must come to an end, and this Hell in a Cell match was a worthy conclusion.

In essence, this was a glorified hardcore match. But the New Day made it their kind of hardcore match; multiple trombones, a cowbell, and a gong were all used as weapons by the champs. This did make it somewhat of a gimmicky contest, one which couldn’t quite live up to the pureness of their first title bout at SummerSlam (which is still the tag match of the year). But the denouement to this rivalry was sheer entertainment, and yet another title change was as a surprise as The Usos became (extremely Booker T voice) five-time, five-time, five-time, five-time, FIVE-TIME SmackDown tag team champions.

Rusev vs. Randy Orton

We wish it could be Rusev day everyday. Sadly, Gregorian calendars won’t allow for such a change; guess we’ll have to make do with him facing Randy Orton again. Their first PPV match was at SummerSlam, when Orton squashed the Bulgarian brute in seconds. This time round, though, and with a slightly less stacked card, the WWE needed a longer match. And the two ably delivered in a no-frills contest which did a better job of showcasing Rusev’s talents than at SummerSlam. But the end result remained the same; an RKO and another defeat for Rusev. All of which means you can put away your Rusev trees, because Rusev day festivities are on hold once again.

AJ Styles (c) vs. Tye Dillinger vs. Baron Corbin (US Title Match)

A last-minute change-up to the card saw Dillinger added to Corbin’s title challenge, making this a triple threat match for Styles’ US belt. Adding Tye into the mix was a no-brainer decision, as the Perfect 10 has been long overdue a PPV title match. He’d come up short, though, in this surprisingly flat fight, but those who had this marked down for another AJ win were in for a shock.

The actually good Corbin proved he was the absolute boy by stealing a win over the two experienced hands. We’re intrigued now by how the WWE will play a bigger Corbin push, after they made him the worst Money in the Bank winner since Damien Sandow.

Natalya (c) vs. Charlotte Flair (Women’s Title Match)

History was always going to be a big player in this match, as we saw the current generation of the Flair/Hart rivalry. It was a little disappointing addition to this series, but seems likely to be an on-going chapter, too.

Flair sells a knee injury early on which would give Natty the edge in the bout but as a result, the match didn’t quite live up to its promise. Instead of a proficient technical contest, we were left with Flair hobbling around the ring for the most part. And this had a disappointing finish, too, because if Flair is selling an injury, why does Natalya deliberately DQ herself by using a chair? It doesn’t quite make sense, but it feels like we could get a better match in the sequel to this one.

The Fashion Files

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. And when the WWE gives you very few matches, you make the Fashion Files. Or at least you do if you’re Tyler Breeze and Fandango. The pair have been the backstage highlight of SmackDown for months, getting themselves over with the fans thanks to their funny skits and nailed-on Twin Peaks references. And now they have a new case (literally) in the form of Pulp Fashion. Which means we can expect a few weeks of risque Tarantino jokes and the Ascension wearing stupid outfits. Again.

Some purist wrestling fans might hate the silliness of it all, but we’re always arrested by the department of Breezango.

Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (WWE Title Match)

If you’d have pitched this match a couple of years ago, you’d have been laughed out of the building. The rise of the modern-day Maharajah (thank god we don’t have to hear JBL say that anymore) from 3MB member to WWE champion has been quite unbelievable. And the WWE seem to love having him as their heel champion, just as much as they love dishing out some more lazy casual racism.

It was plausible that Mahal could carry on his reign after HIAC, leaving Nakamura to wait for his first WWE title. And guess what? That’s exactly what happened as Jinder held onto the belt, even without the help of the Singh Brothers. A result which makes you wonder what direction the WWE will take Nakamura next; another title shot seems unlikely for him, but a program with KO or Zayn could be an exciting possibility.

One thing’s for sure, though, the Mahal era is continuing whether you like it or not. And if you don’t, that’s kind of the point anyway.

Bobby Roode vs. Dolph Ziggler

The WWE PPV debut for Bobby Roode was glorious. Well, gloriously OK, at least. This match was always going to have a difficult position on the card as the lead-in to the main event. Even for the hot Detroit crowd, this contest never quite got going. Roode picked up the win using the tights (a heel move but let’s face it, Roode is a natural heel) but Ziggler’s post-match attack likely ensured this was just a start to a developing feud between the pair. Hopefully the next match will be a bit more glorious.

Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens

We shouldn’t let Shane McMahon near a Hell in a Cell match ever again. Seriously, he needs to have a restraining order against them because he just can’t help himself. Following that match with the Undertaker at WrestleMania 32 and that leap of faith, he’d always struggle to better such a memorable spot. And yet, here he is again, leaping off the top of the cell. Like an addict to the insanity of it all.

It was a match that was always building up to a big moment. In this case, it was when the two men started taking 20ft high bumps on top of the chain-link cell. This was as nervy as you’d expect, with every suplex and powerbomb making you flinch twice and invoking Foley-esque memories.

Of course, the WWE is far too safety-conscious these days to let anything that crazy happen again. And yet, they still let Shane-O jump from atop the structure again, as he attempts to land a sky-high elbow drop on KO through an announcer’s table.

Much like at WM32, we knew he wouldn’t actually connect with it. But unlike Undertaker at ‘Mania, KO didn’t move out of the way on his own accord – he had help from a certain Sami Zayn. Yes, the long-awaited heel turn for Zayn has finally materialised and it managed to steal the whole damn show. It’ll now be great to see an Owens/Zayn stable running riot over the blue brand, hopefully giving Zayn that push he finally needed to reach the top of the card.

As for Shane, we’re still not sure if he suffered genuine injuries from this stunt (it looks quite possible, he hit that table hard). But even if he hasn’t, the time has definitely come for him to stop the madness and stay away from Hell in a Cell matches. He’s got kids.

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