Ain’t No Half Steppin’
WWE Hell in a Cell descended up Boston, MA on Sunday night. There was the promise of historic matches, blood(less) feuds finally coming to their logical conclusions, and a Triple Main event that would ramp up in brutality as the night went on. In the end, HIAC felt like the company didn’t want to fully commit to any one conclusion, opting instead to have the event feel like a stopgap, using unsatisfying finishes to close out otherwise great match-ups.
After damn near two weeks of calling Hell in a Cell a “Triple Main Event”, a decision made after Mick Foley (maybe accidentally) told the world that Sasha Banks v Charlotte for the RAW Women’s Championship was the main event, the women actually did end up closing the show. I’m sure it’ll come out soon enough just when that call was made, but in the moment, that billing only served to show just how much trepidation WWE has with fully getting behind women’s wrasslin’. Yes, they’ll allow them to “make history” just by showing up to the dance, but they clearly weren’t comfortable with the idea from the outset. Not enough to let them get top billing during the weeks of promotion. Even when that was the only obvious choice.
Taking the backstage shenanigans out of the equation, the women put on what will go down to be a great match in wrasslin’ history. A back and forth dance built around Sasha Banks seemingly, never ending back issues. Right out of the gate, she was powerbombed through the announce table, and the following stretcher job had my Twitter timeline awash in concern that the petite powerhouse had actually broken her back. It was, of course, a work. We all bout in. When she hopped off of that stretcher, smacking the refs like Bernie Mac in Head of State, it was obvious the match was using every emotional trick they had to live up to the hype. And it was working, riiiight up until the ending.
See, I get that they were going for. Sasha gave it her all, but never fully recovered from powerbomb through the announce table. Leading to Charlotte finally capitalizing on her injured opponent. Problem was, there was no final, devastating move. Sasha’s engine just quit running. It all just felt so half hearted given everything that led to the finish. What claim does Sasha have to that title after this? Given the constraints of the match, she lost clean. Why have the title change hands at all in this case? There’s so much left in the air, that none of this felt conclusive, and this was a running issue throughout the night.
Roman Reigns vs Rusev never felt like a Main Event match. Not a knock on the men involved, but there’s was just another match that happened to be in a cell. We’ve seen these two guys beat the holy hell out of each other before, in what will go down as both an underrated yet overexposed feud. Their work isn’t the issue, it’s the presentation.
Roman is supposed to be the good guy, but he’d been the one instigating the confrontations. Breaking up wedding ceremonies, insulting Rusev’s family, and being an all around dick-head. Then there’s the visual of the man, coming to a Hell in a Cell match, decked in tactical protection against a guy who’s only been wearing shoes to the ring for about a year now. It was all mismanaged visually. Until the end (notice a theme). I don’t know what doing a submission the stairs adds in terms of damage, but that chain to the mouth is self explanatory. Reigns, of course, fought out of that, then dispatched of the Bulgarian Brute soon after. You’d think this feud was finished, but I have a feeling Rusev is far from finished here.
The other “main event” match between Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens did its fair share to not only live up to the gimmick, but also the hype of two top-tier stars going at it. The spots were fast and frantic. Showcasing a brutality that, while devoid of blood, let you know that this was not a safe place to be. Then there was the fuck damn ending.
This one was an issue we’d seen sauntering toward us for months, and God love him, it’s not Jericho’s fault, but he’s been way too integral to this feud for any ending to feel satisfying unless he cost Owens the championship. Problem is, it’s too soon to take the belt off of him, and Seth Rollins isn’t quite over enough as a good guy for you to fully get behind. Don’t get me wrong, dude is quite popular, but his storyline boils down to a pampered star being upset at no longer being pampered and wanting to get that treatment back. The championship is just the vessel through which that happens. Not exactly the easiest guy to root for.
Jericho either needed to turn on Owens here, or get his true comeuppance, neither of which happened, so the background repeats itself, Flintstones style.
In all, Hell in a Cell wasn’t a bad PPV. Not in the slightest. It’s just that nothing felt definitive. New Day retained against the team of Cesaro and Sheamus instead of the dysfunctional team finding a win to win despite themselves, but that would cut off New Days run toward Demolitions record, which commentary needs to stop doing for all title reigns, because it boxes the storylines in once we know someone is poised to break a record. Hell in a Cell, by design, is supposed to lock people into a cage where they can potentially tear each other apart, and once and for all declare a victor. In the case of pretty much every match on this card, i’m sure we’ll not only see them go at it again, but they’ll all likely happen on Monday Night RAW tonight. Given how dangerous (yet neutered) this era of HIAC is for everyone involved, you never want the audience to walk away thinking it was a waste of time, but that’s what we were dealt. Moderately Temperate in the Cage.