While I agree with those who believe that the Hell in a Cell match has lost its shine in recent years, I am willing to go out on a limb and say that this year’s event may have saved the stipulation as a whole. After back-to-back bullshit finishes in the main event, this year’s event had some well-deserved hesitation among the fanbase, and fortunately, the E have managed to steer this ship back onto course. It’s a shame, however, that the overall Pay-Per-View wasn’t nearly as triumphant. With two matches being added last-minute, a hot-and-cold undercard, and a weird match order, this show was great in parts, but as a whole leaves a bit to be desired.
Before we dig into the matches proper, this opening package had major OG Halloween vibes, and proves that when it comes to production values, few can touch WWE.
Kickoff Match: R-Truth (c) def. Drew Gulak to retain the 24/7 Championship
Was this much more than a comedy match? No. Is Drew Gulak better than the 24/7 title? Also no, cuz I mean, he’s been relatively entertaining since he began vying for the green and gold strap. That said, he’s going against the Crash Holly of the 24/7 title, and for this in-ring match, the 24/7 rule is suspended, so all bets are off. While I’m amazed and dumbfounded that Little Jimmy is still a thing some ten years later, here we are, and he’s getting punted by Gulak to start the match off properly. There’s not much else to report here, though Truth’s invasion of the Kickoff panel before and after his match is a head-shaking, “what the fuck” uttering good time.
“I Quit” Hell in a Cell Match: Roman Reigns (c)(w/ Paul Heyman) def. Jey Uso to retain the Universal Championship
Why in the fuck did this go on first? How is anything supposed to follow this? There’s a reason their Clash of Champions match was the best main event of 2020, and this should have given that match a run for its money. This was tough to watch, as Roman and Jey beat the hell out of each other with superkicks, splashes, Spears, and straps. At a couple of moments, it felt like the bastards were actually going to get away with a non-finish for the match, as each man had one moment of incapacitation, though the referee and commentary both insisted that the match could only end with those two fatal words. And on the subject of fatal, Jesus unicycling Christ, that Drive-By with Jey’s head sandwiched between the steel steps and the corner post was a pit in your stomach, “oh my god did I just watch a man get concussed?” spot if ever I’ve seen one.
The shocking ending to the match only came when Jimmy Uso threw himself in harm’s way, despite his leg injury, and was caught in Roman’s guillotine until Jey uttered the words and sold his soul to the Tribal Chief, and still the Universal Champion, Roman Reigns. The biggest shock was the Wild Samoans, Roman’s father and uncle, respectively, acknowledging him as the leader of the Anoa’i dynasty definitively. Again, that would have been a visual fitting of a show closer, but so be it. This match was damn near flawless, flirting with absurdity in moments without jumping the shark. If there’s a main roster match that deserves a five-star rating, this is one of two on this show that do.
And throwing it out there now: if this leads to the highly-rumored Roman. vs The Rock match at WrestleMania… just bring it.
Rating: 5 out of 5, Match of the Year contender, but it should have closed the show.
Elias def. Jeff Hardy by disqualification
Well, this match was sent to die. There wasn’t much to this match, other than I really thought that we were past this junkie/DUI storyline since Jeff Hardy won the Intercontinental title in the advent of the Thunderdome era. While I will say that the finish was a welcome surprise, it means we’re likely getting more of this feud, so damn it.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5
The Miz (w/ John Morrison) def. Otis (w/ Tucker) to win the Money in the Bank contract
Yet another heel turn, because sure, let’s have more of an uneven face/heel divide, why not? As sad as I am to see the Otis experiment come to an end, I don’t appreciate the fake-out here. Otis has new theme music here, which would suggest that he’s going for an honest solo run, which would at least briefly imply that maybe he’s walking out with the briefcase. Granted, if it had to be Miz to win it, at least he does seem like a more competent and believable title contender, and as I expressed before, the briefcase is a heel prop, but damn, poor Otis. Of the undercard and non-Cell matches, this one might have been the best, but that’s only so high of a bar to clear on this night.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Hell in a Cell Match: Sasha Banks def. Bayley (c) by submission to win the SmackDown Women’s Championship
The main event scene on SmackDown hasn’t been this good since the SmackDown Six era of 2002, you heard me. This was the most feel-good moment of the last few months, as The Boss proved herself and broke her winless record inside the cell. Bayley went for weapons, and Sasha cut her off, instead using the cell walls to punish the Role Model. To say these two got creative in this match is an understatement, even if not every idea stuck (especially the duct-taped kendo sticks, which Bayley would sadly trip over and ruin whatever was planned).
The ending seemed set in stone after what transpired on Friday’s episode of SmackDown, but sometimes the predictable just works. This match was intense and game-changing, and between this and the Universal Title cell match, the stipulation might have been revived.
Rating: 5 out of 5, Match of the Night, Match of the Year contender, sweet jeebus, I need a cigarette.
Bobby Lashley (c) def. Slapjack to retain the United States Championship
RETRIBUTION leader Mustafa Ali laid down a challenge to The Hurt Business in the Kickoff show, asking for one member of each team to have a singles match on the main show. MVP raised the stakes and made two amendments to the challenge: the match would be one on one, no cornermen or accompaniments, and the match would be for the United States title, as Bobby Lashley would be representing The Hurt Business. There was much potential now, as the renegades known as RETRIBUTION could make a statement in their Pay-Per-View debut, taking a title away from the rest of the established roster…
Except Slapjack found himself in the Hurt Lock in a matter of minutes, and in the post-match brawl, Ali found himself outnumbered and flat on his ass. The Hurt Business is now ambiguous in alignment, as is RETRIBUTION, and somehow the United States title has suffered more than it did when it was contested in the aftermath of The Horror Show at Extreme Rules. Right when Sasha and Bayley reminded me why I love wrestling, these guys remind me that I’m stupid for thinking that.
Rating: 2 out of 5, but points to Slapjack for bumping his ass off for Lashley and making him look like a proper monster.
Hell in a Cell Match: Randy Orton def. Drew McIntyre (c) to win the WWE Championship
While this was the least exciting of the Cell matches, at least all three of the matches that took place inside the big red cage felt like they belonged there, no matter how long their respective feuds have run for. After everything that happened in the first two, there was nowhere to go but up… the side of the cell, and McIntyre took a tumble off the side and through the announce table. Somehow, a bump like that was underwhelming, and that’s damn depressing given what we’re used to seeing. If we’re honest, the bit where Drew hoys the steel steps at the cell wall was more of a shock than anything in this match, and that didn’t require any actual bumping.
And honestly? The wrong man one. The time to switch the title was SummerSlam, and they waited too long, feeding Orton two losses before the eventual title change really softened the blow. A moment like this, in which we’re seeing the end of the stellar WWE Title reign of McIntyre end, should feel bigger, and it just didn’t. Hopefully, whenever he gets the belt back, it’s in front of fans, and we can feel that catharsis that we maybe should have when he won it at WrestleMania.
This show was up and down, hot and cold, yes and no, and my head is spinning. If you ask me, I think the match order should have been this, from open to close:
Jeff Hardy / Elias
Lashley / Slapjack
Otis / Miz
Orton / McIntyre
Sasha / Bayley
Jey / Roman
The two SmackDown Cell matches were incredible, and as I mentioned before, redeemed the stipulation in my eyes. Even the WWE Title cell match, the least exciting of the three, had some great moments and believable brutality that made it better than most of the Cell matches in the last several years. Shame about the undercard, though, relying on swerves and shockers to try to get over. At the very least, we know that WWE can book a feud that is Cell-worthy, and hope that they can keep that up for the next Hell in a Cell event and beyond.
WWE Hell in a Cell is available on-demand on the WWE Network. All clips come from the WWE YouTube channel.