Hell in a Cell just ended. Before I delve into my match reviews and grades, here is the scoring system that I’ll be using.
5 Stars = Mr. Tito – Simply put, the gold standard for which to strive for.
4 Stars = Samuel Plan – Top quality stuff across the board, although not quite as appreciated as he should be.
3 Stars = Sir Samuel – He’s the boss’s wife’s favorite columnist, but the general public isn’t sure what to think of him yet.
2 Stars = The Doc – He’s the Jinder Mahal of columnists. Not quite the worst you’ve ever seen, but he makes you want to change the channel.
1 Star = Rich Latta – Does he even still write here?
Without further ado:
The Eternal Optimist Presents: An INSTANT Hell in a Cell Review.
The New Day v Rusev Day – WWE Smackdown Tag Title Match.
Man, what a way to start the show! I thought the ceiling for this match was quite low due to Rusev Day not being a credible threat to win the straps and the likelihood that we’d see Lana-based shenanigans decide the outcome.
While both statements proved true, both teams did a tremendous job of making the outcome feel as if it was in doubt. Instead of a paint by numbers tag match to open the show, we got a star-making performance from Aiden English and a tremendous back and forth match that left me on the edge of my seat.
There were high spots, swings in momentum and just the right amount of teamwork issues between English and Rusev to advance the story line. I really love that The New Day uses a different finisher depending on which combination of wrestlers are in the match. It’s a fresh twist that we don’t often see.
No real complaints about this match. It wasn’t a classic on the level of The New Day v The Usos from a year ago, but it was damn good.
Match Rating: Samuel Plan.
Jeff Hardy v Randy Orton – Hell in a Cell.
Full disclosure – this match was always going to live and die based on how crazy and memorable of a spot that Jeff Hardy put his body through. Otherwise, this match didn’t belong in a cell compared to some of the better story lines that were omitted from the structure.
Flat out – I didn’t get what I wanted. The missed splash through a table while swinging from the top of the cell was cool, but it just didn’t have that wow factor that it needed to have in order to meet my expectations.
I’ll try not to harp on that any more than I already have. As for the match itself, I feel that we saw the troublesome qualities of both wrestlers rear their ugly heads. The match was slow and plodding at times, a staple of disinterested Randy Orton. The match was entirely too spotty and lacked psychology – Jeff Hardy 101.
I felt that it was a smart decision to try and emulate Edge v The Undertaker from Summerslam 2008 in the sense that they turned it into a glorified TLC match. However, whereas that match was loaded with ingenuity, this match had far too many rest periods to set up spots that just weren’t all that good.
Not everything was bad. There were some particularly brutal moments. That screwdriver to the ear was just cringe-worthy in a way that very little in the WWE ever is. The blood from Orton’s back as a result of the belt whipping and absolutely horrendous gash on his leg post Swanton Bomb both looked incredibly realistic. In addition, the crowd was plenty into the match. There were “this is awesome” chants so the live audience clearly enjoyed it more than I did.
With the absence of the high spot I was craving, I can’t help but feel that all of the spots that made this match interesting could have been accomplished without the gimmick. That leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Match Rating: The Doc.
Charlotte v Becky Lynch: Smackdown Women’s Title Match.
The WWE isn’t messing around tonight, as they put possibly the two most interesting matches on first. Becky v Charlotte was everything that I had hoped it would be. I was surprised to see such a smart, psychologically driven match. I expected a bit of a brawl to show the heat between the two, but instead we got a borderline technical masterpiece.
There were a couple of botches for sure, but there were also a ton of great sequences. I thought the arm-work was top notch and the crowd was eating it up with a spoon. The pop for Becky winning the belt was insane, and well deserved.
I was floored at how weak the WWE allowed Charlotte to look. It wasn’t the match outcome itself, but the way she came off like a chump post-match. She sure didn’t look like someone being protected for a potential Main Event headliner against Ronda Rousey. I can’t help but to wonder if a double turn is on the agenda.
The match wasn’t without its flaws. Charlotte shouldn’t have been able to dead lift Becky from a triangle into a power-bomb with her arm in that state. The finish was botched and came off as a bit fluky. I think the WWE would have been better served to give Becky a more built up finish for the title conquest, but I can’t argue with the way the crowd responded.
Although it had some points to critique, Charlotte v Becky was one of the more compelling women’s matches in the history of the main roster. That goes a long way.
Match Rating: Samuel Plan.
Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose v Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre – WWE Raw Tag Team Title Match.
Being that this match was part of the main event angle on Raw, I was surprised at the match placement on the card. This was almost a death spot after the emotional roller coaster that was Charlotte v Becky.
I thought that the four men executed the face in peril routine to a T. The crowd got hot in anticipation for the Ambrose tag and the payoff popped everyone. That should have been the jumping off point for the build to the finish, yet it wasn’t. They went with another round of face Ambrose in peril only for a second hot tag to Rollins. I didn’t love that, as the psychology just felt off.
I really wanted to give this match a so-so grade as a result, but wow! From the second hot tag to Rollins to the finish, every second was absolutely bananas. Just unreal action and drama – some of the best I’ve seen in a tag team match in a long time. The cherry on the sundae was an amazingly creative finish that saw the right team win.
My hat goes off to all four men involved. They took what felt like a bad spot on the card and turned it into the match of the night thus far.
Match Rating: Mr. Tito.
A.J. Styles v Samoa Joe – WWE Title Match.
I liked how A.J. went right after Joe at the onset. This feud has been extremely personal and I appreciated the added intensity that Styles brought to the table.
These two have such good chemistry together. You can tell that they are so comfortable working with each other. This match was stiff and brutal. It reminded me more of what I’ve seen from NJPW than a WWE-style match.
The extent that Samoa Joe has stepped up his game in this feud has amazed me. It reminds me of Seth Rollins’ rebirth at the beginning of the year. We all knew that Joe used to be great, but we hadn’t seen it in a long time. He finally found it again, and I couldn’t be happier.
HOLY COW! That torture rack into a spinning power bomb that Styles blasted Joe with was insane. 2018 hasn’t been A.J.’s best year in the ring, but moves like that remind me that he’s the best in the world. Unreal. The follow up springboard 450 had me jumping out of my seat. I thought for sure that it was a wrap for Joe. What a great near fall! Joe absolutely killed him with that clothesline too. What a stretch of action!
That muscle buster into a rollup/Styles clash only for Joe to counter and eventually drill A.J. with a kick to the head was nuts. I’m just marking out non-stop at this point. This one is right down my alley.
What a finish! It’s hard for me not to just do play by play with a million exclamation marks. I loved the creativity and especially Joe’s reaction post-match. They re-did the Undertaker/Lesnar Summerslam 2015 controversy, only far better.
For my money, this was the best WWE main roster match all year. The finish tells me that we’re getting more, and I can’t wait.
Match Rating: Mr. Tito.
The Miz/Maryse v Daniel Bryan/Brie Bella – Mixed Tag Match.
There was good and bad here.
The good – Daniel Bryan and The Miz carried the entire match. They were better tonight than they were at Summerslam. They found some chemistry and more important, it looks like Bryan is FINALLY kicking off some of the ring-rust. Everything built to the hot tag for Brie and the crowd loved every minute of it.
The bad is obvious isn’t it? Daniel Bryan and The Miz should be the hottest feud on the brand. Instead, they are playing second fiddle to their respective wives. The finish to the match was absolutely horrendous. Brie and Maryse had such little that they needed to do tonight, and they couldn’t even get it right.
Still, the right team won and most of the action was really good. I’ll give them a pass and land somewhere in the middle on this one.
Match Rating: Sir Samuel.
Ronda Rousey v Alexa Bliss – Raw Women’s Title Match.
Kudos to Ronda Rousey. I find myself interested in matches that I’d otherwise never care about simply because she’s involved. If you removed her from this entire story, this would have been considered a bathroom break.
Alexa isn’t the right opponent to try to get Rousey to the finish line in a match like the one that they tried to pull off tonight. Bliss isn’t horrible, but she generally needs an experienced dance partner to put together a good match.
This match was awfully clunky in spots. I get that Alexa needed to be booked strongly since she’ll be opposing Trish Stratus at Evolution, but her and Rousey’s match could have benefited from being five minutes shorter.
On the other hand, I thought Rousey performed admirably and once again did a solid job selling the rib injury. Although the action was largely bad, the crowd was extremely hot. Ronda Rousey is a star, even if she’s a work in progress in the ring.
It was sloppy, but I thought the match built to a pretty good climax. Rousey continues to improve and impress. This was far from a masterpiece, but could have been much worse.
Match Rating: Sir Samuel.
Roman Reigns v Braun Strowman – Universal Title Match – Hell in a Cell.
Allow me to start by stating that I am a big fan of Roman Reigns. I think he’s criminally underappreciated by our portion of the audience, and his in-ring body of work is pretty stellar. I also advocated for this match being a good thing with Strowman’s heel turn being factored in.
That said, this wasn’t one of their better efforts. I found myself invested in the outcome and bored by what was happening in the ring. It’s not their fault. I am starting to wonder if the Hell in a Cell gimmick is too limiting to be viable in today’s WWE.
Ok, rant time. So the tag interference was amazing and I can even overlook Strowman and Reigns being DEAD for like ten minutes in the ring. I popped huge for Lesnar’s somewhat unexpected appearance. BUT WHAT THE HELL WWE! A HELL IN A CELL MATCH CANNOT END IN A NO CONTEST! JEFF HARDY FELL OFF A CAGE THROUGH A TABLE AND THAT MATCH CONTINUED, YET LESNAR F5s REIGNS AND BRAUN AND IT’S OVER! YOU’RE BETTER THAN THAT! End rant.
I wish I had designed scoring for zero stars. An oversight that I’ll surely correct in the future.
Match Rating: Rich Latta.
There were two classics and two other excellent matches on the show. Unfortunately, both Cell matches completely missed the mark for me. I think it’s time for the WWE to put the gimmick out to pasture for a while. Hell in a Cell was the definition of a mixed bag.
Show Rating: Sir Samuel.
That’s a wrap kids. Thank you for reading. Get in touch with me on Twitter @The Eternal Optimist. Agree or disagree? Sound off below!