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The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review (10/25/15): Hell In A Cell 2015




Welcome to the Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review! Hell In A Cell has come and gone and it was actually a pretty fun PPV, so fun that I just had to sit down and write about it stat. Hell, I actually miss writing these reviews right after a PPV because the whole experience of watching a PPV and writing about it afterward isn’t as tiring as the RAW ordeal.

Today, we got one hell of a return, a hell of a main event, a hell of a lot of letdowns, and so much more, so let’s jump right in!

Kickoff: Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro, and Neville def. King Barrett, Sheamus, and Rusev

As we predicted at the Ruthless Roundtable, Dolph Ziggler and Team No First Name got their win back against the European Ultras, as King Barrett has dubbed his band of rogues. 

Despite being given a meaningless match in the pre-show, these guys all went to work, particularly Cesaro, who roused the Los Angeles crowd at the Staples Center by being the Mr. Pure Energy we’ve come to know and love. He carried his team through much of their offense in the beginning and towards the finish of the match, which ended with another beautiful Red Arrow from the Man that Gravity Forgot.

Move over, Gary V. There's a new Mr. Pure Energy and it isn't Gary David.
I have to point out the continued presence of Stardust and the Ascension during Cesaro’s matches. It’s clear they’re setting a feud up between these guys, but it’s strange that they haven’t gone further than having the Cosmic Wasteland sit at the “Stardust Section.” I’d expect some trash-talking or whatever shenanigans they’d have up their sleeves, but they must be saving it for RAW. Whatever this is, I hope it doesn’t culminate in a traditional Survivor Series elimination match.

John Cena’s U.S. Championship Open Challenge

Up until hours right before the show, we at the Smark Henry offices have been wondering who would answer John Cena’s U.S. Open Challenge. We had narrowed it down to several NXT guys (Baron Corbin, Samoa Joe, James Storm), Tyler Breeze, Dolph Ziggler, or Dean Ambrose. When other sources told us that it was very possible that the challenger would be a huge letdown, we prepared for the worst.

Once John Cena came out and cut his pre-match promo, I was all excited, but when Jack Swagger’s music hit, I began to think that it really was a huge disappointment. Nothing against Jack Swagger, but he isn’t on a level that would merit that much hype before the PPV. Zeb Colter made a surprise return on a scooter and addressed Cena and the WWE Universe by telling them that the challenger is someone who can do more for the U.S. title than Cena has ever done. That got me thinking about even Zeb overselling Swagger if he indeed was the challenger. 

Not exactly the first person we imagined to answer Cena's Open Challenge. Or make a WWE return to begin with.
And then, Zeb gave the big reveal. He was indeed the man behind the challenger…







...and his name is…

ALBERTO!

DEL!

RRRRRRRRRRIO!

It's great to see you, too, El Patron!
Del Rio and Cena had a straight up wrestling match, one that wouldn’t count as the best that they had since they’ve faced off multiple times over the years. It was neither here nor there. For the most part, it was actually an exhibition of what Alberto could do as a reminder to fans that Mexico’s Greatest Export had returned.

I’m still unsure if Del Rio was meant to return as a babyface or as a heel since his pop at Los Angeles is more because of the sizable Hispanic community. The way he won the match was anticlimactic, too, as he hit Cena with a Backstabber, and followed up with the Mule Kick. I would have expected him to use the Cross Arm Breaker, or to go stiff on Cena to swing over to the dark side.

After the match, he shook Zeb’s hand and walked to the backstage area with him, signifying their alliance. Again, it’s still unsure where they’re going with this, but Alberto’s stock has risen so much since his firing last year, and I completely approve of the move to bring him back as the new U.S. Champion. Hell, I think he can have a great run and continue where Cena left off with restoring the title’s prestige.

Mexico's Greatest Export is a champion in WWE once again.
Needless to say, El Patron’s WWE return is the biggest news in the world of pro wrestling all month! He’s still the reigning AAA Mega Champion, but with rumors having come out that he had been dissatisfied with Lucha Underground’s handling of his character, it all but sealed his fate as a free agent once more. It’s the second straight year that ADR has become the hottest free agent pickup, and in a way, is poetic justice for a guy who was wrongfully fired in the first place.

Staples Center gave him a great pop, and Alberto looked happy to be back in the big leagues. Plus, he looks like he’s in the best shape since he first debuted in the E five years ago. That says a lot. 

It’s also funny that WWE finally realized that they already had the Latino star they were looking for and let him slip through the cracks. Here’s to hoping that they don’t make the same mistake again. Welcome back, Alberto. We missed you.

Roman Reigns def. Bray Wyatt in a Hell in a Cell Match

Having one of the night’s main events barely halfway through the first hour was quite shocking, especially with the way they had been building Roman Reigns’ feud with Bray Wyatt. It could be argued that this match would have fit well as the main event of the PPV, but with Taker vs. Lesnar happening, there was no way this would close the show. Still, it was surprising to see them dish Reigns vs. Wyatt out right off the bat.

If there was one thing that was worth commending in this match, it’s that Roman and Bray finally figured out that they were in a heated blood feud. Unlike their match at Battleground, they kicked this one off by just laying into each other with vicious strikes instead of locking up. It’s the little things that make all the difference.

The match had everything you’d expect out of these two guys’ debut inside the Devil’s Playground. They brought in chairs, tables, and kendo sticks, and used it on each other with reckless abandon. There were several spots worth pointing out, particularly Wyatt driving Reigns through two tables, and Reigns spearing Bray Wyatt through a table propped up outside the ring on the cell wall. The latter spot was actually executed well such that it made me legitimately fear for Wyatt’s well-being.

Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, and Braun Strowman were all conspicuous by their absence, which didn’t make sense to me because having the three of them roaming outside the Cell would have made it a more menacing environment for Roman. I get that the idea was to make it Bray vs. Roman one-on-one, but since when did Bray Wyatt ever make it a fair fight for anybody?

This should have ended the match right here.
I have an issue with the match ending the way it did: Bray Wyatt had set up two kendo sticks on one of the corners of the ring so as to make it like they were spikes. His idea was to whip Roman into them face-first, but Roman blocked it, grabbed one of the sticks and hit Wyatt with it, and then he sent Wyatt into the other one face-first. He then followed it up with a Spear to end the match. After all of the punishment these two put each other through, all it took was for Roman to block something relatively less painful and use his finisher? Really? They’d been through multiple tables, and they couldn’t up the ante for the finish? That was awful because they’d already built up to a crescendo, only to end the match with a floundering final sequence.

Moving forward, Roman Reigns was the right pick to win. This feud needed to end, and it’ll be interesting to see where Reigns goes from here. I’d love to see him either go up against Del Rio or Owens for the midcard championships. As for Bray Wyatt, we’ll get to his immediate future in a bit.

The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston) def. The Dudley Boyz to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship

The New Day continued to sell Xavier Woods’ injuries at the hands of the Dudley Boyz by keeping him out of Hell In A Cell, and so, for the first time since Money in the Bank, the New Day actually looked vulnerable in a high-stakes situation. They seem to have developed this layer to their characters where they’re only really strong when they’re complete. Take out one member and you expose their weaknesses, much like when Kofi was busy with the Money in the Bank Ladder Match last June, leaving Big E and Xavier to defend their tag titles unsuccessfully against the Prime Time Players.

All four men had a solid match, but this one wasn’t as good as their match at Night of Champions. What was nice about this one though was Xavier Woods’ presence being strongly felt despite his absence. Big E and Kofi kept “paying tribute” to him by doing the unicorn hand signal, their “XW” arm bands were just the right amount of OA, and his trombone ended up being the difference-maker towards the end.

Puta, anong gagawin ko dito?!
It was impressive to see them really protect the 3D because if the New Day was meant to retain, Bubba and D-Von didn’t even see the point of hitting the move because it wouldn’t create that big of a moment in that match. Hence, it was understandable to see a thwarted 3D attempt, only for Big E to hit Bubba with the trombone, leading to a Trouble in Paradise from Kofi to D-Von and the pinfall.

I hope WWE doesn’t overdo this feud and ends it right here. I’d be happy to see these two teams go against each other again with one or two more teams in the mix at WrestleMania. But for now, I want to see other teams step up and vie for the penny belts. Whichever team it is—and there are a lot of teams to choose from right now—they could really benefit from separate rub from the New Day and from the Dudley Boyz.

Charlotte def. Nikki Bella to retain the Divas Championship

Before this match started, Eden suddenly announced that nobody from Team Bella or Team PCB is allowed at ringside. It was strange since I didn’t remember this stipulation being announced at either of the weekly TV shows, only for the commentary team to mention that this was announced at the kickoff. Great. 

Then again, this is a stipulation that doesn’t make sense because (1) it’s not like anyone who interferes costs the match for their teammate. I mean, even if everyone was banned from ringside, if Foxy and Brie really wanted to run in, then they could have done so, and Nikki wouldn’t have been disqualified as long as Foxy and Brie didn’t put their hands on Charlotte. (2) What was stopping Team B.A.D. from coming in and spoiling the party? They were very noticeable via their absence just the same.

Nikki spent much of the match working on Charlotte’s back, which makes sense because the Rack Attack does target the midsection. As for Charlotte, it completely boggles me why she still doesn’t incorporate chop blocks or other moves that target the lower extremities. After all, her finisher is the Figure Eight, which clearly targets the legs. What worked, though, was the story of Nikki having a bad knee after missing a springboard kick, which helped Charlotte apply the Figure Eight with a bit of nuance.

Now, Charlotte is still one of the most talented and athletic wrestlers in that locker room and I really don’t want to turn on her, especially after how brilliant she was down in NXT. But if she keeps making comebacks that make Super Cena’s look like epic underdog stories, then there’s something seriously wrong. I mean, one minute, Nikki hits Charlotte with the Alabama Slam on the apron, the next minute, Charlotte’s able to hit a flimsy-ass Spear on Nikki into a Figure Eight for the win? That just crapped on the story they were trying to tell in the ring!

This Alabama Slam would have made Hardcore Holly break out a rare smile.
I hope this feud has also reached its end because I can’t stand it anymore. Having Paige and Becky Lynch come out to celebrate with Charlotte was a nice touch because it subtly adds to the tension brewing between Paige and Becky/Charlotte. I thought it was right to just tease it a bit by showing Charlotte’s facial expression upon Paige being the first one to hug and congratulate her, and we should see more of this and Paige’s beef with Natalya this week on RAW.

Seth Rollins def. Demon Kane to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Corporate Kane has been relieved of his duties as Director of Operations as a result.

Here are a few Seth Rollins fun facts for you:


  1. Seth Rollins has defended the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in 2 matches on TV or PPV.
  2. Kane was the first person to challenge him since winning the title at WrestleMania Play Button.
  3. Of all those title defenses, this one may just be the most unmemorable one.

Seth and Kane have faced each other so many times in the last year alone—hell, they had a Lumberjack Match just a few weeks ago on
RAW—that this PPV match felt like a regular TV match. It’s a shame because they wasted the heat Seth should have created for himself and for this storyline.

The only thing that made this match stand out were certain spots like Rollins “bouncing” Kane off the Spanish announce table. This was actually a pretty weird spot because it’s the first time I’ve seen the Spanish announce table have no give whatsoever. I’m pretty sure that just made the bump hurt more for Kane.

Aruy!
The other spot that was noteworthy was Rollins’ tribute to the late Eddie Guerrero with a high-arching Frog Splash on Kane. I’m sure the Los Angeles crowd appreciated the gesture. How apropos since Los Angeles was the territory of the Guerreros during their heyday.

Now that Rollins has officially defeated Kane, we’re no longer seeing the Director of Operations, and as I said last week, it’s not really that big of a deal. You know what is a big deal, though? We still haven’t gotten the official answer as to whether Kane was actually in control of his dual personalities or if he was being Kanely Ipkiss. I mean, we all know the answer from connecting the dots ourselves. But all this story ever did was blur the lines so much so that nobody could care anymore because the story was too fucking unclear. Good riddance.

Kevin Owens defeated Ryback to retain the Intercontinental Championship

Well, wouldn’t you know it? Kevin Owens is in the second-to-the-last match on the card! Who’d have thunk it? The downside is that he and Ryback didn’t get a lot of time to beat each other up, and it’s a shame because for as much crap as I’ve given this story—and Ryback’s white meat babyface run—I know these two guys can go and put on a show if given enough time.

The thing about this match not having enough time is that not long after the bell rang, both guys immediately went for the big moves. There wasn’t a slow buildup that led to a climax. It was more of the bell rang, they began hitting each other, big move 1, big move 2, boom, boom, finish. I felt that was actually a waste of both men’s talents because they could have told a better story.

This is also the face Kevin Owens makes when he's on a roller coaster.
Speaking of stories, the big story here is obviously Kevin Owens using another rake to the eyes to get one over Ryback. While Owens hasn’t been shy about his power game, he’s also able to mix it up with some craftiness and trickery in order to defeat his opponent, which makes him the perfect mix of a brutal and wily villain. Here’s to hoping his next opponent can challenge him on the mic as that appears to be the next step of Owens’ evolution as a complete package.

Brock Lesnar def. The Undertaker in a Hell In A Cell Match

What a match.

What Brock and Taker did out there was just a pure display of brutality that made you wonder just what the hell they were going to do next. These guys knew that this was the curtain call for their feud and they were right to pull out all the stops. For all of this feud’s misgivings and lack of hype, Lesnar and the Undertaker sure did what they could to make up for it by giving all of us something worth talking about.

To borrow a line from Jim Ross, Brock Lesnar was wearing the crimson mask early on into the match, even necessitating a trainer to enter the ring and tend to his cut while Taker was down. Taker himself would end up bleeding later on during the match, and it was all the proof you needed to believe that these two weren’t going for a fancy technical masterpiece.

Lesnar and the Undertaker are throwbacks to a bygone era, and WWE acknowledges it, which is why they get a little bit more leeway with regards to juicing and steel chair shots. I’m pretty sure one or two of those shots from Brock hit Taker square in the jaw or on the head, and it was all in the name of maximizing the impact of these shots.

When Lesnar finally got to take the Undertaker to Suplex City, I won’t deny that there was a part of me that was actually gleeful. Watching Brock Lesnar physically decimate his opponents is a thing of beauty, and seeing the Undertaker in the best shape since the 2010s is something worth marveling at. Lesnar tearing up the ring and exposing the boards underneath the mat was a nice touch because it opened up the possibility for both of them to take bumps on the exposed surface. 

And don’t count Paul Heyman out because he was still a presence you could feel at home even though he was locked outside the Cell. You have to hand it to Paul E. for finding a way to still be part of this spectacle even as a literal outsider. He is just amazing at what he does.

Hey, Taker. You're gonna pay. You're gonna pay. There's no forgiveness this time.
I absolutely loved the finish, which involved Taker hitting the Tombstone on Lesnar on top of the exposed boards. Taker cut his throat, signaling the end of Brock. The Beast laughed and hit Taker with a lowblow that could be heard all the way in San Francisco. That was the opening Lesnar needed for the decisive F5 and the three-count. There’s no better way to end their rivalry than that. I’m just glad there weren’t any shenanigans to fuck up this finish. A clean victory for the Beast is what we needed and a clean victory for the Beast is what we got.

What happened afterward was actually a pretty cool moment. After Lesnar and Heyman had left, Taker struggled to get up. When he finally did, he soaked in the adulation of the Staples Center crowd, who kept chanting, “THANK YOU, TAKER!” Hell, if I were there myself, I would do the exact same thing. And then, the Wyatt Family’s music hit, and they ruined the celebration.

'Eto gameplan natin ha. Wag kang papalpak. Gurang na 'tong jojombagin natin.
I find it funny that Bray Wyatt would wait half a year to exact revenge against the Deadman. And then our fuhrer reminded me that Taker himself waited 18 months to avenge the loss of the Streak against Brock Lesnar. What is it with these supernatural characters being petty as fuck? And what’s with all these WrestleMania rematches? Is this really how Undertaker’s farewell tour is going to go?

The Wyatt Family surrounded all four sides of the ring, and then proceeded to lay it in to the Undertaker, beating him down, until they could just carry him out of the arena. I thought it was a brilliant way to get him out of the arena, plus, it also reminded me of the end of Muhammad Hassan in WWE. Poetic. 

Uwian na! Uwian na!
With Survivor Series (and the Undertaker’s 25th anniversary in WWE) just a month away, I am totally in on having Team Undertaker face Team Wyatt in November. The Wyatt Family is four strong, and Taker can easily field a team featuring himself, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Randy Orton. But just the same, I would actually love to see Taker go through the locker room like Stone Cold Steve Austin did in 2003 to recruit his own team to face the Wyatts. I’m sure there are too many guys in there would cower and run away, so it’d be interesting who actually takes up the challenge alongside the Undertaker.

*****

And that brings us to the end of our official Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review of Hell In A Cell! There were too many forgettable matches and sequences, but at the same time, the PPV made up for it with big moments like the return of Alberto Del Rio, the two Hell In A Cell matches, and the Wyatt Family’s attack on the Undertaker. That being said, it’s sad when your world title match ends up being a glorified TV match, so I’m going to have to rate this show a B.

What did you think of Hell In A Cell 2015? You can catch the replay tonight on FOX at 9:50 PM! Watch it and let us know your comments below!

*****

Stan Sy is a radio DJ, an events host, a freelance writer, one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast, and Smark Henry's official PPV reviewer. He enjoys watching WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. Every now and then, he dresses up in fancy suits to book matches as PWR's longest-tenured General Manager to date. Follow him on Twitter: @_stansy

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