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The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: Hell In A Cell 2018


Our editor-in-chief Romeo Moran is in Singapore for some official business this week, so I'm stepping in to take on the (unenviable) task of reviewing this month's PPV, Hell In A Cell. I was (un)lucky enough to have gotten hit with pharyngitis over the weekend, which meant I had to sit out my radio show yesterday, allowing me to catch the event live. Without further ado, my semi-unfiltered thoughts on the show.

If you take the Hell In A Cell card sans the main event, I'd actually say it was a solid show. In fact, prior to the Universal Championship Match, the main show clocked in at just a little over three hours, which was a nice little return to the standard non-Big Four WWE PPVs we wish we'd gotten back. What was weird about this year's HIAC was that of the eight advertised matches, only three of them were from RAW, while everything else was a SmackDown Live match. But when it was all said and done, the card structure proved that RAW is still considered as WWE's A-show, with the last two matches being the RAW Women's Championship and that craptastic main event.

Before we get into that last match, though, let me just put out there that WWE may have actually figured out how to put together a PPV card under their current formula without tiring us out too much. I'm glad they realized that HIAC isn't a Big Four show and didn't necessarily need to go four hours. I also appreciated that there weren't any impromptu matches or throwaway No Way Jose/Elias segments. I'm fine with the backstage interviews they'd do in between matches. Those serve as fine cooldown moments on their own. But for what it's worth, WWE was on to something with the formula that they had for this show.

On the other hand, you can tell from the way the show turned out that it wasn't meant to be a blowoff show. Instead, it was just another stepping stone to an even bigger pair of shows in two different countries. Sigh.

Okay, let's talk about the big elephant Beast in the room.

You'd think WWE will have learned its lesson by now after how it's booked the entire Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns feud over the last four years, or after how the Becky Lynch heel turn isn't going as well as they'd planned. You'd think that WWE has finally learned that fans generally aren't so keen on Lesnar showing up anymore, let alone being part of the Universal title picture once again. You'd think that WWE will have learned to actually let a match (and story) come to a merciful end. But nope, you'd be wrong on all three counts.

Now let's be a little fair to WWE here. When Brock Lesnar's music hit towards the end of the main event, the San Antonio crowd erupted. When he entered the Cell and laid waste to Reigns and Braun Strowman, they chanted, "THANK YOU BROCK!" Those aren't exactly responses that should convince the old man not to bring Brock back for the foreseeable future.



But here's the problem with that blue ballsy ending. Brock Lesnar basically came in and took a humongous shit all over everyone involved in the main event.

Let's start with Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman. They came in hot and looked like they really were going to murder one another. But as soon as their respective teammates interfered and fought among themselves outside (and on top of) the Cell, they just laid there like they'd already finished each other off, without either competitor attempting a pinfall. As soon as Lesnar came in and decimated both Superstars—with only a piece of the Cell, a piece of a table, and an F5 each—the referee deemed them both unable to continue the match.

Man, did that make them look weak—especially because the third element in the match was Mick Fucking Foley, the guy who was tossed from the top of the Cell to the floor, went through the roof of the Cell down to the ring, got concussed and lost a few teeth in the process twenty years ago. Yeah, that Mick Foley. If Mick Foley could handle all that and still finish his match with The Undertaker, while these two jabronis were so easily taken out by Brock Lesnar, what does that say about their credibility? Forget Roman, Braun's supposed to be a fucking MONSTER AMONG MEN. He's supposed to be more invulnerable than that.
Brock reinserting himself into the title picture makes some storyline sense. After all, he is owed a championship rematch—something Finn B├ílor never got until 2018, by the way—and this was supposed to happen if he were to return in the first place. But bringing him back now while you're trying to see how far the Shield vs. Dogs of War storyline could go just disregards whatever momentum you'd built for that story. That's because when Brock Lesnar's part of the story, it will always orbit around him, regardless of his physical presence on the show.

So as announced on RAW today, at WWE Crown Jewel this November in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the Universal Championship will get contested in a Triple Threat Match for the Universal Championship and it will involve Lesnar, Strowman, and Reigns. What a step down from the Hell In A Cell Match, which should traditionally be a feud-ender, and not just a stepping stone to another supposedly larger chapter. I get that WWE's after the business of Saudi Arabia, but to have pursued that at the cost of your top two full-time Superstars' credibilities and the Hell In A Cell Match may not be worth it. It's bad enough we have to get the Cell at least twice every year. It's even worse that it's been diluted to a plot device that essentially meant nothing by the end.

Hell In A Cell was on its way to being one of the sneaky-good WWE PPVs of the year. But the main event was such a huge letdown that I can't blame you if your reaction was to toss your controller at the TV and walk the fuck out. We deserved better than that, and frankly, so did the Cell. C+.

Quick Hitters

  • Former RAW reviewer Nicole Le Saux observed that since the Cell match between Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks in 2016, no woman has been part of a Hell In A Cell Match. So much for changing the game and empowering women, she said. She's actually right. But that's also a result of WWE's inability to execute long-term booking by planning right and planning ahead. Of the two women's feuds on the show, Charlotte/Becky would have deserved the Cell over Ronda/Alexa. However, Charlotte/Becky had only just begun last month and won't crescendo for another month or two. Had Charlotte not needed to have her breast implants repaired after WrestleMania, maybe that story could have begun much earlier and we'd be within Cell territory today. 
  • I already ranted about how the Cell itself has gotten diluted over the years because it's no longer the rarity it used to be. Let the Women's Cell matches retain that mystique. Let's not force them to have matches inside HIAC every year so it doesn't get as watered down as the men's Cell matches already are. This should be a challenge for WWE's Creative team to have a blood feud between two women that is so heated that only the Cell can settle it once and for all.
  • Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair was the Match of the Night for me. God damn, am I glad that Becks finally won the title again after two years? That was at least one year too long. Becky fought with a desperate air through that match, but she wasn't as desperate as Christian was during his feud with Randy Orton over the World Heavyweight Championship in 2011. You could see that Becky didn't see the need to resort to underhanded tactics. It gives me hope that she's somehow being painted in shades of gray, even though the on-screen booking makes it obvious that Creative doesn't seem to understand how that's possible. In any case, I'm glad Becky stood her ground and refused to shake Charlotte's hand. No, Charlotte, you don't get to be the bigger woman after all of this. Don't you realize this is all your (and Paige's) fault anyway?
  • Speaking of Alexa vs. Ronda, that match was longer than it needed to be. I get that Alexa Bliss shouldn't be reduced to a jobber next to The Rowdy One. But if you want to build her up to be the Baddest Woman on the Planet, I'm sure we'd understand if Rousey can quickly dispatch Little Miss Bliss in a few seconds.
  • That red cell looks disastrously ugly. IN WHAT UNIVERSE CAN YOU FIND A BLOODY RED CELL? Oh wait, the WWE Universe. Ugh.
  • Now that Matt Hardy has announced his retirement, I'm beginning to wonder when Jeff Hardy will announce his. Hell, I'm surprised Matt retired before Jeff did, considering all the crazy shit Jeff has done to his body over the years. That should include that screwdriver spot with Randy Orton—which almost made me throw my breakfast back up yesterday—and that silly finish, where he faceplanted onto the table after hanging from the ceiling of the Cell. I'm so done with Orton/Hardy. And Jeff, please stop taking these risks at your age. 
  • I was surprised that the Danielsons didn't get their win back against the Mizanins. I wasn't surprised that seeing Mrs. Danielson and Mrs. Mizanin scuffle in the ring may have been cringeworthy for some of you. Can we please go back to the singles feud between Bryan and Miz now?
  • At first, I was mad that Samoa Joe still couldn't win the WWE Championship from AJ Styles. But now, it's looking like he's receiving the Shinsuke Nakamura—who wasn't booked at all, by the way—treatment. That said, I'm fine with how that match turned out since it could lead to a bigger match where Joe could finally win it decisively. Then again, we also said that about Nakamura and the Last Man Standing Match last June. And where did that get us? Anyway, the bigger crime is that the WWE Championship got relegated to literally the middle of the card.
  • The New Day and Rusev Day had a great Kickoff Match. It was the right match to place there, but if they were on the main card, I'm sure they would have stolen the show. I wanted Rusev Day to win, but that finish was so entertaining, I came away not minding the outcome at all.
  • No surprises about Dolph and Drew retaining against Dean and Seth. That match was pretty hot, but for some reason, it just didn't have the big fight feel I was expecting it to have. Maybe they'll make up for it when all three Shield members team up against the Dogs of War in that 6-man main event at Super Show-Down in Melbourne. Speaking of which, it's "MEL-BUHN," Michael Cole. You're welcome.
What did you think of this year's Hell In A Cell? Were there any hits or misses we missed? Let us know in the comments section below!

Images from WWE

*****



Stan Sy (@_StanSy) is the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also a radio DJ on Wave 89.1, an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of The Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He also used to be one of the hosts and writers of The Wrestling Gods on FOX. He enjoys watching WWE, NXTLucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. You can ask him questions about wrestling, Survivor (yes, the reality show), or whatever you like on his CuriousCat account.

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