67. Cody Rhodes vs Seth Rollins (Hell in a Cell Match, WWE Hell in a Cell 2022)

There were only two contenders for match of the night at WWE Hell in a Cell 2022. The opening bout, a triple threat match for the Raw Women’s Championship between Bianca Belair, Becky Lynch and Asuka, or the main event, a Hell in a Cell match between Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins. To be honest, these were the only two bouts I watched. But I doubt Madcap Moss vs Happy Corbin would be anything above a 3* match. Between the opening and closing bouts, there’s only one that will linger in my mind for a long time. And that’s the main event.

There were rumours that Cody Rhodes had been injured the morning before Hell in a Cell. Something about a torn pectoral muscle. During his entrance, Rhodes seemed reluctant to use his right arm. The crowd went deathly silent as Rhodes entered the Cell and took off his entrance coat. His right pec and upper arm were covered in one ugly, purply-black bruise. Only Rollins was making any noise, laughing at his opponent’s obvious weakness.

Triple H was notorious for wrestling whilst being injured during a bout. Not once, not twice, but thrice, he fought through a torn quad (twice), and a torn pec (in that infamous bout pitting DX against Brothers of Destruction in Saudi Arabia). I’ve looked at the match where Vader broke his orbital bone and his eye popped out (which he then shoved back in with his hand). And I presume most, if not all, wrestlers go into matches with minor injuries. But you don’t see many wrestlers go into matches with major injuries, do you?

I can think of two examples from the WWE: HBK and Kurt Angle. HBK went into the WrestleMania XIV main event with a severely injured back. But the one I remember watching behind the sofa was Kurt Angle wrestling in the WrestleMania XIX main event with a broken neck. He may have won Olympic gold with a broken freakin’ neck, but I watched him fight Brock Lesnar in absolute terror. He’d injured his neck the month before, but refused to give up his chance at main eventing WrestleMania. Every clothesline, every slam had me gritting my teeth. A truly heroic performance from one of the best wrestlers of all time.

And I felt something similar here. Of course, you can’t see a broken neck, but you could visibly see the effects of Rhodes’ torn pec. He could barely move his right arm. The pain of simply moving around the ring was evident in his face. I can’t imagine the pain of actually taking a wrestling move.

Did the two wrestlers shy away from the injury? No. Rollins actively targeted the injury, with his fists and with a kendo stick. If it wasn’t already difficult to watch, this made it excruciating. And would they have a quick ten minute match? Of course not. This went over twenty minutes. I don’t care what painkillers Rhodes took, he must have been in unimaginable agony by the end. Through it all, he managed to put on a gutsy, enthralling performance.

But what of Rollins? He deserves just as credit as Rhodes. The onus was on Rollins not only to protect Rhodes (and himself), but to work around Rhodes’ injury. It was a carefully constructed bout, ensuring Rhodes didn’t have to exert himself too much, but also ensuring Rollins didn’t put himself in too mucu danger. With the injury Rhodes had, the simplest sequence could have gone badly wrong…for both competitors.

Undertandably, this was not on the same level of quality as their previous two Match of the Year candidates. But this was a Match of the Yeat contender in a different sense. While Rhodes’ debut is one of the moments of 2022, and their two matches were awesome, no one will forget the image of Rhodes’ horrific bruised pec and upper arm. They won’t forget his sheer grit and determination, his sheer courage in even walking to the ring with such an injury.

Yes, it was hard to watch at times. Yes, it was slow-paced at times. It was obvious that both wrestlers were working around Rhodes’ injury. But it seemed fitting to have the bout take place in Hell in a Cell, a gimmick bout meant to he full of unflinching violence and brutality. Their previous two bouts were engrossing in their grace and fluidity; this was engrossing in its uncomfortable violence.

And that’s what Hell in a Cell matches have lost in the past decade or so, haven’t they (with a few exceptions, such as Banks/Bayley, Lynch/Banks, and Taker/Lesnar)? Compelling, hard to watch, a tale of unbelievable courage (Rhodes) and a majestic guiding hand (Rollins), this bout may not be as good as their previous two matches…but the images will remain for a long, long time.

Get well soon, Mr. Rhodes! And Mr. Rollins…keep being one of the best in the world.

Hammy’s Rating: **** (out of 5)

(Click here for more of ‘A Wrestling Match A Day‘)

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