Repeatedly criticized for an extremely weak build to the show, WWE’s Hell in a Cell ended in disarray, delivering one of the weakest main event finishes in company history.
While it initially appeared that no thought was put into the card—as of Saturday, only three matches were advertised—it turned out the same could be said for the finish.
The referee called for the bell after Seth Rollins used a sledgehammer on “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt in their Hell in a Cell match, even though multiple weapons were already used in this no-disqualification affair. The crowd in Sacramento at the Golden 1 Center immediately voiced their disapproval, and the finish signaled a complete lack of awareness from Vince McMahon to his own fan base.
Here are the results
• Natalya Neidhart defeated Lacey Evans on the preshow
• Becky Lynch retained the Raw women’s championship against Sasha Banks inside the Hell in a Cell
• Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns defeated Erick Rowan and Luke Harper in a tornado tag team match
• Randy Orton defeated Ali
• The Kabuki Warriors defeated Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross to become the new women’s tag team champions
• Braun Strowman and The Viking Raiders defeated AJ Styles, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson by disqualification
• Chad Gable defeated “King” Baron Corbin
• Charlotte defeated Bayley to win the SmackDown women’s title, making her a 10-time WWE champion
• “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt defeated Seth Rollins by disqualification in a Hell in a Cell match
Here are my takeaways from a pay-per-view that will not be remembered fondly
1. Main event did no favors for Bray Wyatt or Seth Rollins
If there was no intention of ending with a clear winner, then why even have the match?
WWE could have easily inserted someone else in Wyatt’s spot (AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura or even Sami Zayn all immediately come to mind), especially considering this pay-per-view took a distant backseat to the premiere of SmackDown on Fox this past Friday.
The decision to dim and redden the lighting felt forced and unnecessary, even calling to mind memories of the disastrous special effects used during the Wyatt-Randy Orton match at WrestleMania 33. Why would something so significant change during a title match? If anything, the lighting detracted from the match.
The match itself told an interesting story, with Rollins unable to hurt Wyatt. Impervious to repeated Curb Stomps from Rollins (I suppose we should forget that was the maneuver that defeated Brock Lesnar on two separate occasions?), Wyatt continues to present himself as a monster. Wearing his mask added another frightening dimension to his match, but all that will be remembered from this encounter is the horrific finish.
Rollins hit Wyatt with a sledgehammer despite the referee passionately pleading with him not to do so. The bell was immediately called for, either signaling a no-contest or a disqualification.
The finish would have made some semblance of sense had a number of weapons not already been used repeatedly throughout the match. There are no rules inside the Hell in a Cell cage, so for WWE to expect the fan base to understand the decision is absurd.
Wyatt quickly recovered and then continued his beating of Rollins, making the finish even more difficult to comprehend.
Ultimately, if there was no plan to put the belt on Wyatt, then Rollins should have had a different opponent. Wyatt still could have destroyed Rollins after that match, but it would have avoided a finish that ruined the entire show.
2. Becky Lynch defeated Sasha Banks in opening match
Considering the pay-per-view had almost zero build, opening with this match was a perfect way to entice people to watch (especially considering that it was followed by a tag team match featuring Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns). The match was fantastic and felt fresh despite the fact that Hell in a Cell matches are nothing new in WWE.
Lynch was part of the highest rated segment on this past Friday’s SmackDown that featured the WWE return of The Rock, and all signs point to her moving full-time to Fox. In order to do this, she will need to drop the Raw women’s title.
While it made the most sense for her to drop the title at Hell in a Cell to Banks, WWE desperately needs to include more women in high-profile storylines. Losing the title to someone outside of Banks, Charlotte Flair or Bayley could do more for the women’s division.
Flair won the SmackDown title from Bayley, which immediately makes me think that WWE is looking to move the Lynch-Flair feud to Fox.
3. Daniel Bryan-Roman Reigns faced Erick Rowan-Luke Harper in awesome tornado tag team match
The tornado tag stipulation was perfectly implemented, as it allowed all four wrestlers to be in the ring at once and eliminated the possibility of a disqualification or count-out.
Bryan never turned on Reigns, and the two stars complimented each other in spectacular fashion. Along with Lynch-Banks, these were the two best matches of the night. Credit also needs to be given to both Rowan and Harper, who are incredibly versatile for their size.
If Bryan returns to the babyface side of the card, it allows WWE the chance to finally right a wrong and have him win the Royal Rumble and then defeat Brock Lesnar for the WWE championship in the main event at WrestleMania 36.
4. Where was Kevin Owens?
Owens was a key part of this past Friday’s SmackDown premiere on Fox, with Owens ending Shane McMahon’s in-ring WWE career by defeating him in a ladder match.
Owens needs to be inserted into the WWE title picture. His career has been in neutral ever since an entertaining win against McMahon this past August at SummerSlam. Since then, the storyline with McMahon continued, weakening what they had built to at SummerSlam. So much of the roster is in limbo until the Raw/SmackDown draft begins on Friday, but Owens having some role on the show—even if it were stunning someone backstage—would have worked to his benefit.
5. Where was Kofi Kingston?
It was telling that Kingston did not have an opponent listed for Hell in a Cell despite being champion less than 48 hours before the show. Of course, it made more sense after Brock Lesnar defeated him for the belt on SmackDown.
An extended absence from Kingston could turn out to be a major benefit. Xavier Woods and Big E are successful on their own, and Kingston does not need to be at the draft in order to be selected. After a nearly six-month title reign, Kingston should be off camera for a month. Not only would it be a benefit to someone who works nonstop for the company, but also, how can you miss someone if they are always present? A short break would be good for Kingston.
Kingston’s title loss to Lesnar has also been a major topic of discussion.
Over the past six months, Kingston was one of the strongest booked babyface champs in the past 10 years. He also served as a tremendous role model, but so much of that was forgotten the moment he was jobbed out in nine seconds.
If Kingston had went down as a fighting champion instead of Lesnar rolling over him, how would that have changed the Lesnar-Cain Velasquez narrative? And wasn’t Kingston getting demolished a glaring lack of consideration to the fan base?
A big part of Kingston’s title reign was representation for wrestling fans who have not always had representation, so it should not be a surprise that, as his title run ended suddenly with seemingly no consideration to that, all to build a match at a show people will boo solely because in takes place in Saudi Arabia, that there would be backlash from the fan base.
Randy Orton makes headlines for the wrong reasons
Orton was online early Friday morning playing Call of Duty on Twitch.
He discussed a myriad of topics, including AEW’s premiere on TNT, performed a spot-on impression of AJ Styles and singled out Will Ospreay as someone he would like to wrestle.
But Orton also used a racial slur during the Twitch session.
The word is not acceptable. No apology has been issued from Orton, nor has any action been taken by WWE.
There cannot be a double standard at play here. Orton, regardless of WWE’s actions, should apologize. He is a role model, whether he chooses to be or not, and that is not a word that should be used. WWE should also address this, as Orton’s carelessness undermines all of the company’s credibility.