With Hell in a Cell taking place in late October, the WWE looks to set up its storylines for not only Survivor Series, but for most of the storylines for the rest of the year. The WWE made a lot of creative changes tonight, and the company looks a lot different than it did going into the PPV.
Before I continue, I just want to announce that I am adding a star rating system to my review of PPVs. Each match will be rated using the same system Dave Meltzer uses for the Wrestling Observer, on a scale from -5 (Hogan vs Warrior in WCW) to 5 stars (Steamboat vs Flair). A "DUD" refers to a match that does not get positive or negative stars, or simply, zero stars.
Randy Orton vs Daniel Bryan-**** (4 stars)
Easily the most anticipated match going into the show, we finally got a WWE Champion in Randy Orton, although of course, it was not without controversy. Anytime a special guest referee is involved in a match, there is always a likely chance that the referee is going to turn on one of the competitors. I think we all knew that Shawn Michaels was going to pick a side for this match; it was just unclear on which side it was going to be. It ended up being Randy Orton, and Daniel Bryan was once again denied the WWE Championship.
The match was unusual for a main event for a PPV in that there was not an extended feeling out period to start the match. Both guys came out and hit their heavy stuff right from the get go. The match as a wrestling contest was pretty good, and I think it has been the best match yet from Bryan and Orton. Bringing all the chairs into the ring and having the superplex onto the chairs was a unique touch, and there were no noticeable botches.
It may be too early to say, but I do believe that losing the WWE Championship tonight is going to really hurt Daniel Bryan. Bryan has been the most popular face the WWE has had since at least Summerslam, yet he is routinely denied the WWE Championship to the point that it is almost comical. All those losses could very well have an impact on Bryan's overall popularity as a face, so I am very unsure about having him get screwed out of the title AGAIN.
Another cause for concern is how they are going to handle Michaels screwing Bryan. If they make it seem like Triple H forced HBK's hand and made him do it, then it will be okay. However if they do it because HBK and HHH are buddies and HBK becomes a full-fledged heel, then I think they may encounter some trouble. HBK is at the point in his career that he is such an Icon that no matter what he does, he is going to get cheered. We love us some HBK, and him heeling it up again? That will just remind us of how cool of a heel he was back in his prime. If they are going to try and get the crowd to boo HBK, I think that they are going to be sadly mistaken.
John Cena vs Alberto Del Rio- **3/4 (2.75 Stars)
John Cena made his triumphant return to the WWE, and in insanely predictable fashion, conquered Alberto Del Rio to win the World Heavyweight Championship in his debut match. Cena taking the WHC off of the mostly lame-duck ADR should have both positive and negative impacts on the WHC.
The match was pretty mundane. They got a lot of time, but since both guys do not really have expansive wrestling arsenals, the match seemed to sputtered to a boring pace. I can only watch ADR work the arm for so long before my interest begins to waver. Cena did his typical schitck, taking a large amount of abuse, only to persevere using his strength and fighting spirit.
Cena has the WHC will certainly increase the interest in the title. ADR was not really setting the world on fire, and Cena, love him or hate him, does create an interest in that title that normally would not be there. You can be damn sure that the WHC will see A LOT more television time on both Smackdown and Raw as well. The negative side is that instead of creating new stars to main event Smackdown, the same old faces are in that slot. Dolph Ziggler or RVD couldn't have won the title, but John Cena can? A questionable move on their behalf.
CM Punk vs Ryback and Paul Heyman-**1/2 (2.5 Stars)
I really did not care for this match for a variety of reasons. First, the match was very lame for a Hell in a Cell contest. Mostly, we saw the same stuff that we would get in a standard street fight. Kendo shots, chair shots and a table spot. Ryback pushing Punk into the steel just was not that entertaining to me.
Secondly, I thought that the finish and the aftermath was pretty basic. Punk beat up Heyman and hit the GTS on the roof of the cell and that was it. Was all that build-up, all the damage that Heyman did to Punk, worth that spot on the top of the cell. I don't think it was, and personally, I am just excited that this feud appears to be finally over.
The Rhodes Family vs The Shield vs The Usos- **** (4 stars)
An excellent way to kick of the PPV. The crowd was really interested in this match, which is a testament to the effort the WWE has put into revitalizing its tag team division. The triple threat idea led to a lot of fast action in the ring, and there were a lot of cool moments that took place in and outside of the ring.
I would like to point out the strides the Uso brothers have made since their debut. Originally they were a tad sloppy and were pretty boring performers. Now they get a decent reaction with their "Us-OOOO" bit and their in-ring work has improved a lot (that elevated Samoan Drop was sublime).
When it comes to getting a PPV started and getting a crowd going, you have to have a match that fans are invested in. The WWE tends to rely on the WHC to be that match, but with the continued development of the tag team division, I think they have a new go-to match to kick off PPVs.
Dean Ambrose vs Big E Langston- ** (2 stars)
A little bit of a disappointment for me. I have been a big fan of Langston, but you could obviously tell that this match was thrown together at the last minute because of Axel's injury. The match was void of a lot of excitement, except for the brilliant selling of Dean Ambrose. They kept both guys strong, so hopefully we will see more from them down the road.
AJ Lee vs Brie Bella-*3/4 (1.75 Stars)
Typical divas match that is becoming extremely predictable of AJ's title reign. Brie appeared surprisingly competent in the ring, and this was actually one of the better wrestled women's matches that you are going to see in the WWE. The issue is the very confusing heel/face roles between AJ and the Bella Twins. The admittedly sloppy turn of the Bella's has led the crowd to not really be invested in them as faces.
You know how the tag match was perfect way to start the show? This is the opposite of that. After a good match and a big return that got the crowd excited, the WWE rolls an unnecessary match that basically dares the fans to go get a snack or use the restroom.
As a whole, I think that Hell in a Cell was a big step up for the WWE compared to Night of Champions and Battleground. Instead of staying the course and keeping the same tired feuds, the WWE had the gumption to make some decisions and switch some things around, which is always nice to see.