Powell’s WWE Hell in a Cell Hit List: Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman in an HIAC match for the WWE Universal Championship, AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe for the WWE Championship, Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy in an HIAC match

By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)

WWE Hell in a Cell Hits

AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe for the WWE Championship: My favorite match of the night. The intensity of their storyline was matched by their actions in the ring. I was surprised the live crowd was flat for long stretches. Even so, I loved the finish. It was confusing initially when it seemed like Joe was pinned clean. The second camera angle that showed Styles tapping out gave it a new wrinkle that explained why Joe didn’t kick out and even celebrated the win initially. This type of finish usually results in the referee looking like the biggest idiot in the building. That wasn’t the case here, as the referee had to count the pin while Styles tap occurred in a location that he simply could not see. This was really well done and left me looking forward to seeing the rematch in Australia. As much as I enjoy Styles, I’m ready for a Joe title reign with Styles and eventually Daniel Bryan chasing him.

Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy in a Hell in a Cell match: This was the better of the two HIAC matches. It was essentially a hardcore match that happened to be fought inside the HIAC structure (by the way, the red cage is a turnoff in that it looks like it’s out of a WWE toy set). I could have done without so many weapons, but both men worked hard and delivered a satisfying HIAC match. Fortunately, the big Hardy stunt that we all knew was coming turned out to be fairly tame by his standards and yet was still innovative and satisfying.

Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler vs. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose for the Raw Tag Titles: The second half of the match was terrific. It was marred a bit for me in that I had zero reason to expect a title change. The possibility of The Shield holding all the men’s titles on Raw felt counterproductive in that it was hard to believe they would achieve this so quickly after reuniting again because that would have been the peak for the trio.

Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch for the Smackdown Women’s Championship: A minor Hit for a solid match and the Lynch title win. I just couldn’t help but feel like this could have been a much bigger moment if they had taken the fans on a journey with Lynch playing the babyface character she plays so well and eventually beating a heel Charlotte for the title after a good chase. It’s interesting that they haven’t gone full heel with Lynch lately. She hasn’t been badmouthing the fans in promos, nor did she do anything to mock the fans after she won the championship. I’d love to believe they are changing course, but recent history suggests that the powers that be will simply dig their heels in rather than actually listen to the fans.

New Day vs. Rusev and Aiden English for the Smackdown Tag Titles: A rare Kickoff Show match that actually felt relevant. The outcome was never really in question and yet the wrestlers did a good job of developing a measure of suspense with some quality near falls. Rusev showing frustration with English tagging himself in and ultimately losing the match for their team is interesting. Are they breaking up soon or is English being cast as the lovable loser who tries too hard to do right by his buddy?

Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse: A fun match that was laid out nicely. They built toward Brie getting her hands on Miz, which wisely allowed Bryan and Miz to handle the bulk of the actual work. Maryse had some rough moments, but this was a fun match that ultimately put heat on the heels heading into the Bryan vs. Miz match in Australia, and perhaps a Brie vs. Maryse match at Evolution. I worry about that second one if it comes to fruition.

Ronda Rousey vs. Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship: The rib injury storyline required Rousey to sell consistently throughout a match for the first time. Her work was impressive in that she had good facial expressions and sold the injury even while she was in the midst of throwing a series of punches. Despite her best efforts, the fans never seemed to buy into the possibility of Rousey dropping the title. And that’s going to be an issue going forward. None of the heel wrestlers have been built up as being realistic threats to take the title from Rousey. I don’t think the fans will buy into a babyface Nikki Bella in a showdown match with Rousey at WWE Evolution, so hopefully a heel turn is coming for Nikki. I assume the plan is to turn Natalya on Rousey at some point, but it’s not like Natalya has been positioned as a world beater over the years. These feuds and an eventual rematch with Nia Jax would get WWE by, but I’m still holding out hope that they will eventually call up Shayna Baszler to serve as the hired gun of Stephanie McMahon.

WWE Hell in a Cell Misses

Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman in a Hell in a Cell match for the WWE Universal Championship: Roughly ten minutes of Superman Punches and a lumbering brawl followed by a long rest period with Drew McIntyre, Dolph Ziggler, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose brawling around and on top of the cage. We’ve seen better performances from Reigns and Strowman in the past, and they didn’t do enough to explain why they presumably laid around all that time while their buddies brawled. The surprise appearance by Brock Lesnar was well received by the crowd and presumably sets the stage for a Triple Threat match even though I can’t say I’m anxious to see Lesnar back in the title mix already. The finish of the match was atrocious. We’ve seen Lesnar beat the hell out of Reigns during lengthy matches that went on and on, yet this attack was somehow enough to justify calling of a match? And not just any match, a Hell in a Cell match? WWE raced off the air at SummerSlam to avoid live crowd backlash to Reigns winning the championship, and they followed that up by racing off the air at HIAC to avoid live crowd backlash to this copout finish. The HIAC gimmick was tarnished long before Sunday night and it’s gone the way of the cage match in that no one buys the idea that it will always produce feud ending matches. My bigger disappointment is that WWE ended one of its better shows in such an unsatisfying manner that I was left feeling disappointed on a night that was otherwise highly entertaining.

The Best of The Boom features Eric Bischoff joining Jason Powell in this March 20, 2019 discussion on whether there are similarities between Verne Gagne's booking during the AWA's dying days and Vince McMahon's WWE booking today, AEW, a Turner network shakeup, and more...

Readers Comments (5)

  1. Whoa. Careful with the Bazsler suggestion. Just bring her up on her own terms. Anything to keep Steph (who invented women) off our screens.

    • Stephanie is a terrific talker when she goes for heel heat and it’s not at the expense of a group of wrestlers standing on the stage. It fits from a storyline standpoint and promos are Shayna’s weakness. If Shayna is aligned with Stephanie then you know she’ll be positioned well. So that’s my line of thinking. You’re obviously welcome to disagree, but I thought I’d at least explain where I’m coming from.

  2. I loved that Joe vs. Styles finish. THAT is how you protect two top wrestlers – not having them lay down for half an hour until someone comes to attack them. Didn’t Reigns kick out of 147 F-5s at Wrestlemania? Surely that one should barely have caused a scratch?

    On another note, does anyone know if that counts as Strowman losing his MITB shot? I have a feeling some shenanigans will see him given the briefcase back.

    • I believe, since the bell rang, that’s it, he cashed in. Traditionally that’s how they’ve always played it. Of course, we all know they’re not afraid to erase history if it’s convenient for a current story, too. Lol.

  3. I thought this was a pretty solid show, and I really didn’t mind the main event ending the way it did. They booked themselves into a corner by having the match in the first place. That said, they at least kept Braun’s shoulders off the mat. I wonder when it’s going to dawn on them that they won’t be able to dance around Roman’s crowd reactions forever, when he’s not with his Shield brothers?

    I was disappointed Bliss lost. They gave her a lot of offense though, so I won’t go raging bull over it.

    I’m happy Lynch won, but I didn’t love the post match. They’re once again trying to frame Becky as a heel, when they could’ve just let the crowd celebrate her win with her. The fact that they took away the “Boo the Woo” signs pretty much means they’re also going into Reigns mode on this, and they’re going to try to hide any and all evidence that the crowd is rejecting Charlotte.

    I don’t know who decides what as far as the face/heel thing goes, but they should really examine the fact that a lot of their heels are more popular because they connect better with their audience.

    Again though, I enjoyed the show. And major, major props to Styles/Joe. Just wow!

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