• Brock Lesnar's return, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair's chemistry and other things we learned from WWE's Hell in a Cell.
By Justin Barrasso
September 17, 2018

WWE’s Hell in a Cell pay per view ended where it started: inside the cage, but with the surprise addition of a returning Brock Lesnar.

Lesnar’s re-emergence caused the Roman Reigns-Braun Strowman main event to end in a no contest, leaving viewers searching for closure after an otherwise compelling show.

In addition to the Lesnar return, highlights included Jeff Hardy nearly breaking himself in half in his Hell in a Cell cage match with Randy Orton; a phenomenal tag team title match between Dolph Ziggler/Drew McIntyre and Seth Rollins/Dean Ambrose; and the crowning of a new SmackDown women’s champion in Becky Lynch. 

Here are the results:

· SmackDown tag team champions the New Day defeated Rusev and Aiden English on the pre-show

· Randy Orton defeated Jeff Hardy in a Hell in a Cell match

· Becky Lynch won the SmackDown women’s championship by defeating Charlotte Flair

· Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre successfully defended their Raw tag team titles over Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose

· AJ Styles retained his WWE championship against Samoa Joe

· The Miz and Maryse won a mixed tag match over Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella

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· Ronda Rousey tapped out Alexa Bliss to retain her Raw women’s championship

· Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman ended in a no contest 

Here are my takeaways from Sunday night’s pay per view: 

1. WWE was smart to open and close the show with the Hell in a Cell matches. 

Separation between the two cage matches was necessary in order to keep the unique feeling of the match, but there was a missed opportunity: AJ Styles should have defended the WWE title against Samoa Joe in the Hell in a Cell cage.

Styles will seemingly never headline another pay per view as champion, but the chance to put him in the cage against Joe would have added another element to the pay per view.

2. Jeff Hardy breaking himself in half in his Hell in a Cell match against Randy Orton opened the show, allowing Orton to show off his cold-blooded persona and give Hardy the chance to deliver another memorable spot as he dropped from the top of the cage onto a table. 

Later in the show, as part of the storyline, Michael Cole mentioned Hardy was throwing up blood at the hospital. There is clearly still more to this story, and the finish allows Hardy, who was stretchered out, to take some time off. It also restores Orton as one of the more heartless, malicious competitors in WWE. 

3. The red Hell in a Cell cage? 

I thought it was a great visual, and added a unique feel to the two Hell in a Cell cage matches.

4. The chemistry between Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair is undeniable, and it was on full display as Lynch defeated Flair for the SmackDown women’s title. 

The Lynch-Flair feud is not one of the best feuds in women’s wrestling, it is one of the best in all of wrestling. Lynch’s transformation from a steady babyface to an absolute badass of a heel has been nothing short of incredible. 

Unlike the Sasha Banks-Bayley storyline, which has spun in circles for months, there is a clear protagonist and antagonist in the Lynch-Flair feud, which has been executed in a perfect manner. 

5. I’m a fan of the New Day, and they are by far the highlight of the tag team division in WWE. But Big E—who teamed with Kofi Kingston on the pre-show to defeat Rusev and Aiden English—should have been on the main card.

Even with Big E focused solely on singles competition, the New Day would still be compelling with Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods. But Big E should be in the world title picture, preferably on SmackDown, where he would add a much different element to the AJ Styles-Samoa Joe storyline. 

6. The Raw tag team title match between champions Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre and challengers Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose only reinforced the obvious: McIntyre is a star.

Not only did McIntyre enhance his in-ring work during his time away from WWE, but he also worked significantly on his presence, which is critical for a star. The 6’5” monster also bumps and feeds in a manner that is rare for someone his size, adding legitimacy to whomever he is wrestling. 

WWE too often seems disinterested in the tag team division, but this match, which was won by Ziggler and McIntyre—and the time (just under 23 minutes) it was afforded—served as a perfect example of the compelling nature of tag team wrestling. 

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7. AJ Styles and Samoa Joe did a phenomenal job in telling the story that Styles is great but just not quite great enough to put away the menacing, dangerous Joe.

The ending of the match was designed to create controversy—and accomplished that far better than the finish of Roman Reigns-Brock Lesnar in their steel cage match at the Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudia Arabia when both men crashed through the cage. 

Joe forced Styles to tap to his Coquina Clutch, but it occurred while the referee, Ryan Tran, was counting to three for Styles’s pinfall atop Joe. Let’s ignore the possibility of SmackDown GM Paige restarting the match, which would have made the most sense, because the finish was designed to prolong the feud between Joe and Styles (and was done in a very convincing manner). 

My only critique with this match is that it should have been held inside the Hell in a Cell cage. Opening the card with Orton-Hardy, putting Styles-Joe in the cage in the middle, and ending with Reigns-Strowman would have still allowed enough time between the cage matches for the impact of each to sink in. 

8. The finish of Miz-Maryse/Daniel Bryan-Brie Bella, which saw Maryse reverse Bella pin into a victory pinfall, left something to be desired. But the ending sequence did not take away from two key points: The match highlighted the strengths of all four of the competitors, and The Miz should always, always defeat Daniel Bryan.

Miz has had Bryan’s number ever since Bryan was forced into retirement in 2016, and that has been no different since Bryan’s return to the ring at WrestleMania this past April. 

Bryan’s failure against The Miz will only lead to an even more memorable moment when Bryan finally wins back the WWE title, which, in my opinion, he should do by defeating The Miz for the belt sometime in 2019. 

9. Ronda Rousey and Alexa Bliss combined for a much different match at Hell in a Cell than they had in their encounter a month ago at SummerSlam. 

Rousey steamrolled Bliss in four minutes at SummerSlam, but the match on Sunday was far more competitive. The story was Bliss capitalizing on Rousey’s injured rib cage, until Rousey dug deep enough to find the strength to overcome Bliss. 

Rousey vs. Bliss is a significant mismatch (Rousey is a UFC Hall of Famer, while Bliss stands at a less-than-imposing 5’1”), but the match served its purpose. Rousey came from behind to successfully defend her title, and Bliss—who has a major match at October’s Evolution pay per view against Trish Stratus—looked solid in defeat. 

10. Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman are a perfect combination in the ring. 

Both are fortunate to have the other, as their feud over the past two years has been some of WWE’s best content as well as brought out the best in both of them. 

11. The visual of Ziggler, Rollins, McIntyre and Ambrose fighting on top of the cage was as captivating as it was gripping.

12. While it originally appeared the plan was to highlight Strowman as an unstoppable monster, or to see Reigns and Strowman destroy one another or for Strowman to attempt an attack on special guest referee Mick Foley, the finish was entirely different as Vince McMahon made the decision to bring back Brock Lesnar.

Lesnar, who returned by kicking the Hell in a Cell door off its hinges and then scaling the door to climb into the ring, delivered an exclamation point with his F5 of Reigns onto Strowman. 

13. The finish, with neither Reigns nor Strowman able to continue due to the punishment inflicted by Lesnar, was a frustrating end to the Hell in a Cell pay per view, but should pay off at the Survivor Series in a triple threat match between Reigns, Lesnar and Strowman for the Universal title.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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