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Througout the undercard, Hell in a Cell was looking like one of the better shows WWE has produced in 2018. Each match had been given a good deal of time and the performers had risen to the occasion. Maybe the storylines were not perfect, but the performers worked very hard and were producing a noteworthy show. However, the last three matches all had significant flaws that kept Hell in a Cell from reaching it's potential as one of the best shows of the year. On a positive note, I thought the show was nicely paced and easy to watch; I appreciate that it didn't end at 11:30 p.m. and I would like to see similar B PPVs conducted in a similar manner.
Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman: **
This was awkward. The portions of the match that involved Strowman and Reigns were not particularly engaging, a lot of two guys running into each other and rubbing against the cell. Everything really memorable that took place in this match didn't really involve the two guys in the main event; which doesn't seem like a sign of confidence in either Strowman or Reigns to carry a main event match. Obviously WWE is high on both guys, but clearly WWE wasn't interested in having them close this show with a regular contest between the two men.
The real nonsense began after Reigns speared Strowman through a table in the corner. Remember, that at different points in time both Reigns and Strowman have been positioned as indestructible. They proceed to both lay on the mat, for ETERNITY. Long enough for McIntyre and Ziggler to come down, and Ambrose and Rollins to chase them off, and then slowly climb up the cell, and then brawl at the top, and then all fall down at the top, and then have Ziggler and Rollins take forever to climb down the cell and take a big bump through the table, and then for Brock Lesnar to come down to the Cell, and then for Heyman to pepper spray Mick Foley (in a no DQ match, why would Foley have to be pepper spayed?) and then for Lesnar to FINALLY beat up both Strowman and Reigns. Then the show just ended.
I guess this is going to be used to set up a triple threat match at Survivor Series, or something like that. Lesnar is still an attraction for WWE, and even after WWE spent months trying to bury the guy when he was the Universal Champion, he is still more over than anyone else on the main roster. I'm just not sure this moves WWE forward in any real positive direction; after years of Reigns chasing Lesnar, the next few months look like more of Reigns chasing Lesnar. It's also possible that Lesnar is gone for a while and WWE just wanted to "shock" fans by having him show up and ruin the Hell in a Cell main event. Whatever it was, it's more of the same from WWE and that doesn't get me that excited about the product.
AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe: ***3/4
Styles and Joe had a strong, back-and-forth match but it lacked the storytelling that their match at SummerSlam had. WWE has spent a lot of time on SmackDown hyping up this personal rivalry between Joe and Styles, and yet they came to Hell in a Cell and had a very normal match. It was hard-hitting and well-executed, but there was nothing in this match that suggested this was an extremely personal rivalry between the two men; not like at SummerSlam where Styles lost his cool and got his disqualified. To me, it shows that all the stuff with Joe going after Styles' family was just some filler WWE created to fill time on SmackDown and set up the title match, but they don't have any major creative plans for. The rivalry has a lot of potential and the right angle could get them there, but I don't know how this match helped them tell that story, other than to set up another title match.
Becky Lynch vs Charlotte: ***
Solid match between two women who have a lot of experience working with one another. Lynch winning the title was interesting, since WWE is probably reacting to the fans' support of Lynch, which isn't something they often do. Additionally, they had Lynch go over Charlotte clean, as opposed to giving her a fluke victory. That being said, for all the talk that Lynch was super-over, it wasn't like she got a massive pop for the title change. Part of me thinks that the ideal move would have been Lynch capturing the title on SmackDown, either on the episode right after SummerSlam, or the week after that. I'd argue that Lynch's popularity may have peaked right then and there, and now that she has the title, I wonder how long she'll be allowed to keep it.
This was a lot of fun and the best match on the show. I was a big fan of the pacing of the match; everything happened very quickly but not in a way that felt rushed. They did a spot where the heels beat on one of the babyfaces, but it lasted only a few minutes instead of 5-10 minutes which often happens on WWE shows. They had a long match and all four guys got a ton of stuff in. There were a great series of near-falls and I loved the finish, with McIntyre winning it for Ziggler by interrupting Rollins' with the Claymore kick. Outside of the overall quality of the match, the most memorable thing about this match was just how good McIntyre looked. For the first time since he came back to the main roster, he really looked like a superstar here and someone worthy of a big push.
Jeff Hardy vs Randy Orton: ***1/2
The fact that this match was inside the cell was puzzling, and putting it in the opening match kind of tells fans that it isn't this amazing, unique attraction. The match was designed for the latest Hardy stunt, this time a spectacular spot where Hardy faceplanted after hanging from the roof of the cell. While the move was fantastic, it's hard to see a guy as old as Hardy with as many bumps on his career, in addition to substance abuse issues, take these crazy bumps and not feel like he's seriously jeopardizing his long term health. That being said, the match was fun and featured a lot of the trademark cell spots that people expect to see in such a match. Orton as good selling the finish, and I did like that the match immediately ended after the crazy bump.
This was an odd match. Bryan, who when he came back to the main roster seemed like a gift from the wrestling gods, spent this match getting beat up by The Miz so he could make the hot tag to his wife. The crowd was into it and Brie getting the hot tag got a good pop, but you can't watch this match and not think that Bryan has the potential to do so much in WWE, and this isn't really maximizing that potential. Also, watching him do that diving headbutt was a little bit uncomfortable. I'm sure Bryan isn't doing that move without knowing he can take it perfectly safely, but as a fan it hits a little too close to home, and it kind of gives me the same feeling I got watching Hardy take that huge bump; that your afraid for the wrestlers' well-being.
Ronda Rousey vs Alexa Bliss: *1/2
This match may have been indicative of a future issue for Rousey in that the novelty of seeing the former UFC champion compete in WWE is declining and eventually watching her buzzsaw her way through the roster is going to become boring. Now, WWE has things they can do to avoid that becoming an issue, they have a more serious feud with Natalya in their pocket, and can eventually put her against more intriguing opponents, such as Asuka and Charlotte. This match though, exposed some flaws and didn't do a lot for me. Bliss is a poor worker and lost a significant amount of her mystique when Rousey squashed her at SummerSlam, and Rousey is a very green wrestler despite her popularity. This felt like a bad wrestling match and not a special attraction, and the more we see Rousey, the less special her matches are going to become unless WWE hits on a successful storyline. Rousey selling for large portions of the match for Bliss will also not help her stand out as a special star.
Must Watch Matches
Naomichi Marufuji vs Hideo Itami: ****1/4