At Hell In A Cell last week, the show ended with the live audience booing the finish of the main event. After taking eleven Curb Stomps and much more punishment, The Fiend still could not be put down. Seth Rollins resorted to using steel chairs piled on a ladder, stacked on top of Wyatt to keep him down. Rollins then took a full tool box from under the ring and beat on the pile with the tool box until the tools spilled out. Rollins was still not satisfied with the beating, so he slid out of the ring and found a sledgehammer under the ring. Rollins took the sledgehammer and re-entered the ring with the intent of using it on The Fiend. Referee Rod Zapata warned Rollins repeatedly not to use the sledgehammer on The Fiend saying "This isn't you!" Zapata could be heard using Rollins real name, Colby, seemingly to get through to the human being inside the monster that Rollins had become.
Zapata's protests were for naught as Rollins swung the sledgehammer onto the pile of metal on top of The Fiend resulting in Zapata ending the match in a stoppage. No winner was declared by the announcer while a stretcher was rolled in to take Wyatt out of the arena. As the fans booed the stoppage, Rollins looked horrified at The Fiend and he looked like he couldn't believe the lengths he went to in order to take down The Fiend. While Wyatt was being tended to, he popped up and attacked Rollins again with full strength. At this point, the fans booing changed to chants of "Restart the match!" because The Fiend seemed like he had recovered fully and that the referee had misjudged the situation.
The Fiend delivered Sister Abigail's Kiss to Rollins on the exposed concrete floor and followed up with The Mandible Claw on Rollins, who spit up large amounts of blood. The show ended with Wyatt on the stage looking back at the carnage he created while the fans chants changed to "AEW!", "REFUND!", and more boos as the program faded to black. This was the most booing for a main event finish since the 2015 Royal Rumble when the fans in Philadelphia booed Roman Reigns winning in spite of WWE bringing out The Rock to help Reigns get cheered.
The YouTube video of the match is now the second most disliked video on WWE's channel with 48,000 dislikes - The most disliked is Vince announcing Charlotte Flair will replace Becky in her match with Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania 35 with 73,000 dislikes. X-Pac reacted with dismay to the finish of the match on WWE Watch Along, his sentiment was shared by tens of thousands who made their disappointment known on various social media outlets. The next night on RAW absolutely no mention was made of the main event from the previous night. The Universal Champion was left coughing up large amounts of blood to finish the show the night before and no one updated the audience on his condition or made a comment on the match at all. It's as if it didn't happen.
No mention was made of the main event by WWE until their new program "The Bump" aired Wednesday morning. Everyone on the show shared their feelings on the match as Kayla Braxton introduced the first bit of news from WWE on the main event: WWE referee Rod Zapata released a statement saying, "I had to think of the competitor's safety and at that moment I did what I thought was best..." The panel shared their feelings some more on the situation before welcoming former NXT Champion, Tommaso Ciampa, to the program. Ciampa, without being asked about the match, shared his dissenting opinion as well "From a performer standpoint, if Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano at TakeOver: New Orleans ended by a ref stoppage, it's something that just doesn't fly in NXT. That's what makes NXT the A-show."
WWE did not comment further on the issue, leaving us to wait until Friday's SmackDown to see if it would be addressed. The show opened with Rollins facing Roman Reigns with the winner securing the first overall draft pick for their respective brand in WWE's draft. That match ended with The Fiend breaking through the ring and dragging Rollins into the hole he created by locking him in The Mandible Claw. The match resulted in a disqualification giving Rollins & RAW the first overall pick in the draft. FOX's draft room did not complain at all about this finish at all. Everyone seemed completely fine that the draft order was decided this way. FOX's draft room was shown celebrating that Roman Reigns fell to them after RAW chose Becky Lynch first. SmackDown drafted Bray Wyatt later in the evening while we'll have to wait until Monday's RAW to find out where Rollins ends up.
WWE seems to have been caught with their pants down after this week and they haven't been able to adjust. Fan frustration is at its highest in years while alternatives to WWE RAW & SmackDown have popped up on TV in recent weeks: WWE's own NXT on USA, AEW on TNT, NWA Powerr on various streaming platforms, Impact Wrestling on AXS TV & Twitch, WOW on AXS TV, NJPW on AXS TV, and more. In the past, WWE has been able to take fan reactions and capitalize on them to make an even more interesting story, but after an entire week of programming they have not really done anything with the heat generated from the finish to HIAC.
Wrestling doesn't have to be ridiculous or complicated. It doesn't have to insult the audience's intelligence or make them feel silly for caring. Below are five ways WWE could have capitalized on the heat from the HIAC finish. In the comments below, share what you want to see from Rollins & Wyatt in the future. Feel free to share how you wish the story would have gone instead of not acknowledging it or argue why no one should ever speak of that terrible finish again. If you're one of the few who love what's going on, please explain to the rest of us why this is all great so we can try to understand it.
1. Have the rematch on RAW
WWE referee Rod Zapata released a statement to WWE morning talk show The Bump, "I had to think of the competitor's safety and at that moment I did what I thought was best..." WWE could have an authority figure declare that the referee, Zapata, clearly misunderstood the recovery powers of the fiend and declare a rematch between Rollins & The Fiend will take place on RAW next week.
In December of last year, the McMahons and Triple H came out on RAW and said they'd give the people what they want and that they would listen to the fans. This is a perfect moment to listen to the audience and make an adjustment.There is historical precedent for putting a big rematch on RAW: weeks after Shawn Michaels loss to John Cena at WrestleMania 23, WWE recognized that a large portion of the fans really wanted Shawn Michaels to get the victory and he got it on RAW in a fantastic 45 minute match. The match wasn't for the title, but HBK got his win and everyone went home happy. Vince McMahon also corrected the finish to the 2005 Royal Rumble when Batista accidentally was eliminated at the same time as John Cena. McMahon ran from the back with such purpose that he tore both of his quadriceps muscles on his way to the ring. McMahon ordered the match be restarted with Cena and Batista while sitting on the ground nursing the horrible injury.
Although the fans did want Wyatt to win HIAC, more importantly they wanted a definitive winner. A rematch on RAW would allow WWE to continue with whatever story they have in mind while still giving the audience what they truly want and should get out of a Hell In A Cell match: a winner.
2. Turn Rollins Heel
Hardcore WWE fans have never been able to trust Rollins since he turned his back on his brothers in The SHIELD. During his run with The Authority, Rollins proved to be one of the most conniving, crafty, and desperate heels in wrestling. Who could forget when he threatened to kill Edge on RAW? Rollins' lust for power might even be greater than his love for wrestling.
Although The Fiend has been positioned as a heel, he has the number one quality you want in a babyface: he doesn't give up. The Fiend keeps coming at you no matter if you throw chairs, ladders, toolboxes, or sledgehammers at him. The Undertaker had a similar evolution, albeit through a much slower burn, as the people who feared him for years gained a respect for his resilience. He also wasn't given a title shot until a year after debuting his character. The Fiend doesn't have to be the hero forever, but people definitely like spooky things around Halloween season and Bray Wyatt's Fiend certainly fits the bill.
Rollins thrived as a heel in 2015 and can do so again. There are plenty of talents in WWE to fill babyface spots if needed but a heel that knows how to get heat and capitalize on it is something that has been missing on the RAW brand. Rollins has done that by mistake on Twitter already but because of his babyface status, he couldn't capitalize on the buzz he generated by mentioning how much more money he makes than Will Ospreay by working for WWE instead of NJPW. Rollins could use every corporate loophole in WWE to avoid a rematch with The Fiend. This angle could also serve as an allegory for the legal loopholes that are being manipulated in the current US & British government crises. People want action and they want it swiftly, with Rollins positioned as a heel avoiding actions he would immediately become the most hated man in WWE.
3. Wyatt doesn't want the title, he wants Rollins' soul and he'll take it in another gimmick match.
Instead of having Rollins address the crowd in an in-ring promo, WWE could have Firefly Funhouse interrupt RAW with a message from Bray. Wyatt could go over how his goal was to mentally break Rollins and he succeeded for a brief moment when Seth tried to crush Wyatt's skull with a sledge hammer. Wyatt could go on to say that he's not concerned about championships, trophies, or titles but he's concerned with taking souls. Wyatt wants to put out Seth Rollins' fire - this could be taken literally or figuratively leading to the return of the Inferno Match or the First Blood Match. Both matches served Kane's story against Stone Cold Steve Austin well aside from not being the greatest practical wrestling matches. A more successful gimmick match could be a Buried Alive Match. The Buried Alive Match has worked for both heel characters and face characters and once was used to give The Undertaker some time off to revamp his character a bit.
After HIAC, an adjustment should be made to Rollins or Wyatt to solidify their positions moving forward and the gimmick matches of Buried Alive, Inferno Match, or First Blood Match could be used as effective devices to achieve WWE's creative goals for the characters.
4. Bray Wyatt tortures every WWE official until he gets his rematch.
There were a few weeks before The Fiend finally showed up in-person on a WWE program where members of The Firefly Funhouse would be seen in the background of scenes taking place backstage on RAW & SmackDown. Wyatt and his friends could torture and kidnap various members of WWE throughout October as he demands a rematch with Rollins. This would give WWE a horror story arc to carry through the month that horror films and spooky things are the most popular. WWE has told stories like this effectively in the past with The Undertaker, Papa Shango, Mankind, The Brood, Kane, and Edge. There's plenty of precedent for this and it could make for a nice visual changeup from the usual action in-ring and backstage.
5. Rollins threatens to kill Zapata until he gets a rematch with Wyatt.
This would be a big shift in character from the Seth Rollins we know now, but Seth Rollins five years ago was happy to kill Edge to get John Cena to reinstate The Authority. Referees have been threatened and involved in various storylines throughout WWE history and with the company throwing Zapata's name out there on "The Bump", it certainly made it seem like they were going to include him in this story but no mention was made of any of it on SmackDown last night. Rollins threatening to kill a referee wouldn't necessarily have to be a heel turn since multiple good guys such as Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple H have put their hands on referees many times with the audience feeling they were justified. It's unclear as to how the audience in 2019 would react to something like this, but trying something different can be a lot more interesting than just pretending this mess of a finish didn't happen.