Hell In A Cell came off one of the worst Special/PPV builds in WWE history. Does the WWE want us to care about their storylines? From 2015 alone, it appears not. Barely an ounce of effort went into promoting Hell In A Cell. Maybe it’s the WWE’s plan, though? It worked with WrestleMania 31: that was also terribly built up, yet the event itself was a pleasant surprise. It wasn’t the best WrestleMania of all time, far from it, but it was a great leap in quality from the build that preceded it. Maybe WWE want to lower our expectations so dramatically that even an average Special/PPV will look brilliant in our jaded eyes? It’s just a theory…and it worked with Hell In A Cell! It was, overall, a very good PPV. The good far, far outweighed the bad. And it started off with John Cena’s US Title Open Challenge…
John Cena (c) vs ??? (US Championship Open Challenge)
And the mystery opponent was….Alberto Del Rio! I admit: my dream of Kurt Angle returning was a far-fetched one. But a man can dream, right? When one of the announcers said that Del Rio vs Cena was one of the great rivalries of WWE history, I had to laugh. Who remembers that dodgy feud in 2015? Del Rio was a legitimate surprise, to me anyway. I was a little disappointed, but maybe Del Rio will live up to the potential he certainly possesses in his second WWE run. The match also disappointed. It was surely one of Cena’s worst Special performances of 2015. He looked like he couldn’t be bothered. Del Rio looked as crisp and precise as ever, but the match was too short. It was almost a squash match, the likes of which we haven’t seen in relation to Cena since Lesnar destroyed him at last year’s SummerSlam. There was nothing wrong with the match, just nothing memorable about it either. But we have a new US Champion, and will be Cena-less until 2016! So there’s cause for celebration!
WINNER: (And New US Champion) Alberto Del Rio
VERDICT: 5/10. Totally average bout from the very good wrestler, Del Rio, and Cena, who’s at a career-best in terms of in-ring performance. Why such a mediocre match, then?!?!?
Roman Reigns vs Bray Wyatt (Hell In A Cell)
Finally, their feud came to an end at Hell in a Cell! It felt fitting that their long feud ended in the structure that was built to end feuds. In the PG era, it’s surprising that they also gave us a Hell In A Cell match that (almost) lived up to the sheer brutality of Attitude Era Hell In A Cell matches. This must be a Match of the Year contender. Neither wrestler have looked better, or worked harder, than in this match. There seemed to be a little miscommunication in the early stages of the match, when Reigns tried a Driveby and Wyatt ‘dodged’ it, but apart from that, there was rarely a flaw in sight. It was certainly hardcore, with kendo sticks, chairs, and tables all brought into play. I daresay it was the best Hell In A Cell match since Taker/HHH at WrestleMania 28. It was stuffed full of highlights, such as Wyatt sitting down, taunting and hitting Reigns with a kendo stick, and Wyatt’s slamming of Reigns through a table from the apron. Of course, the best spot was Reigns spearing Wyatt off the apron through a table! But it was far more than just a spotfest: the two workers put every ounce of effort they had into this match, and it paid off tremendously. The end was tempered by the fact we’ve seen the kendo in the corner spot before, but apart from that, brilliant! Now each man can go on to bigger and better things.
WINNER: Roman Reigns
VERDICT: 9/10. A Hell In A Cell match that lived up to its name. Brutal, barmy, brilliant. Match of the Year contender!
The New Day (c) vs The Dudley Boyz (Tag Team Championship Match)
This feud has failed to bloom in the ring, and it certainly failed at Hell In A Cell. A poor match that proved the nostalgia bubble of the Dudleys has burst. They botched a tag team move early on. The crowd weren’t into them at all. Even the classic ‘hot tag’ didn’t rouse the crowd. The end fell as flat as the trombone used to execute it. Hopefully both teams can move on now from this uneven feud. Let Bubba work as a singles competitor! We know he can be a great heel. As for D-Von…jobber supreme?!?!? There wasn’t even any relief from a singing and blowing Xavier Woods on the outside!
WINNERS: The New Day
VERDICT: 3/10. Poor. The teams have no chemistry together, and the Dudleys are stale already.
Charlotte (c) vs Nikki Bella (Diva’s Championship Match)
Best woman’s match of the year (on the main roster, of course!)? Without a doubt. Their first match was very good, but this rematch bettered that fine effort. Working with Charlotte has elevated Nikki’s ring work, no doubt, but all the plaudits for this match cannot rest of Charlotte’s shoulders alone. Nikki has improved a lot since winning the Diva’s title all those moons ago. This match followed a similar story to their previous bout: Nikki worked on a particular area of Charlotte (this time, the back) to wear her down. It was replete with impressive sequences, such as Charlotte’s neckbreaker off the ropes and Charlotte’s flip off the top rope (although that didn’t entirely go to plan). There was a few spots that they couldn’t pull off precisely, but it’s a testament to their ambition that the wrestlers tried them. However, once again, the quick ending besmirched the match. Nikki Alabama slammed Charlotte on the apron in a wince-worthy spot, but in the ring, Charlotte escaped the Rack Attack and locked in the Figure 8 for the victory in a comeback worthy of John Cena. She couldn’t lock in the Figure 8 midway through the match because of her back, but after a devastating move she easily locks it in? Charlotte no-sold the move after Nikki tapped out as well. It affected a great woman’s bout. Wrestlers need to sell! Charlotte is usually an expert at selling, but she must have forgotten after her victory. Even so, the work before it was the best we’ve seen in the main roster Diva’s division. Long may it continue!
VERDICT: 8/10. The best women’s match of the main roster in 2015, and a very good match in general. Spoilt a little by the ending, but that can be glossed over!
Seth Rollins (c) vs Kane (WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match)
Has there been a WWE Title match this year least looked forward to than Rollins and Kane? Absolutely not! Kane, like Big Show, needs to retire sooner rather than later. They add nothing to WWE’s product. In many cases, they take away from the product. Case in point: Rollins’ feud with Kane! The Corporate Kane/Demon Kane duality was irritating, as was the moment when Demon Kane dragged Rollins ‘to hell.’ However, the match was decent enough. Rollins worked his backside off to get the fans involved, and it worked. Kane made a worthy effort as well. But it never felt anything more like a glorified Raw main event, due to the limitations of Kane. It was an easily forgettable match that drew a line under their middling feud. And at least Rollins won cleanly, for once at a Special! Although the Pedigree looks terrible on a guy like Kane…it’s time for a new finisher for Rollins, I think!
WINNER: Seth Rollins
VERDICT: 6/10. Decent effort by Kane, great effort by Rollins, but Kane’s limitations in the ring never made this more than slightly enjoyable.
Kevin Owens (c) vs Ryback (Intercontinental Championship Match)
Isn’t the pre-main event match usually reserved for the Divas? It’s traditionally the graveyard spot in most Specials, where the wrestlers are there to warm the fans up for the main event. This match was no different. Ryback wrestled like the Ryback of old, and Owens wrestled like he didn’t care much about anything (which I wouldn’t blame him for, after WWE dropped the ball with him during his main roster promotion). This was a Raw-level squash match, over in under ten minutes. There was no chance for the wrestlers to make any impression at all. But at least Owens won cleanly, without resorting to heel tactics!
WINNER: Kevin Owens
VERDICT: 3/10. Boring!
Brock Lesnar vs The Undertaker (Hell In A Cell)
I predicted that this match would not be superior to their 2002 Hell In A Cell match. I wasn’t proved wrong, but only by a smidgeon. Like the Reigns/Wyatt HIAC match, this match felt out of place, an Attitude Era match that tore through the PG Era. Both wrestlers bled, Lesnar heavily. Chairs and stairs were thrown into the mix (the latter literally). It was chockful of stiff offence and even stiffer chair shots. ‘Taker looked even better than he did at SummerSlam. With Lesnar, there’s an air of predictability about a match (Eat, Sleep, Suplex, Suplex, Suplex…and so on), but this maintained an atmosphere of unpredictability that added to the sense of danger and thrill in the match. Lesnar punched his way out of Hell’s Gate, and pummelled ‘Taker in an MMA fashion that looked totally realistic. A few spots looked dodgy, such as Lesnar’s chair shot to Taker’s head that Taker clearly blocked with his hands a half a metre away, and the spot where ‘Taker kicked the stairs into Lesnar’s head. Apart from those two spots, the rest of the match was brilliant. It sold both men as nigh-on invincible warriors. When Lesnar started ripping the ring mat up, I was on the edge of my seat! The chokeslam on the board was brutal. The match had the perfect ending, with Lesnar lowblowing ‘Taker and F5’ing him for the victory. It was on a par with the Reigns/Wyatt match.
WINNER: Brock Lesnar
VERDICT: 9/10. Another Attidue Era Hell In A Cell in the PG Era, with all the brutality and blood involved. Simply brilliant!
Post-Match: The Wyatt Family came down and carried The Undertaker off after beating him down. What a way to end a PPV! Yes, we’ve seen ‘Taker beat Bray before, but this was still brilliant. It ruined ‘Taker’s post-match moment and can only lead to good things at Survivor Series!
OVERALL VERDICT: 7/10. There was a lot of turgid waste to wade through, like the Tag Team Title match, the opening bout, and the IC Title match, but the two HIAC matches made it worth the slog. They could both qualify for Match of the Year. They were flashbacks to the Pre-PG Era WWE, in their brutality and unpredictability. The Special also showcased the best Women’s match in the main roster of 2015. Three out of seven matches were great, which is less than half, but when they are of the quality that they were, it doesn’t matter! The Special also ended several feuds with logical endings, which is surprising in modern day WWE!
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(Click here for my review of Night Of Champions 2015)