By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Hell in a Cell Hits
Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks in a Hell in a Cell match for the Raw Women’s Championship: WWE opened the night with the show’s most entertaining match. Lynch and Banks created the right tone for a Hell in a Cell match and worked in some innovative moments along the way. They came across as two hating one another and were willing to do whatever it took to win. That’s what an HIAC match should be and we just haven’t seen enough of it since the concept became watered down by becoming an annual event with multiple versions of the match on the annual show. I was legitimately surprised to see Lynch go over, as I assumed the weak booking of Banks going into the match was done in part because the creative forces figured they could make up for it by putting the title on her. It may still happen, as it would be odd to feature Lynch so prominently in all of the Smackdown advertising only to keep her on Raw.
Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns vs. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan in a Tornado Tag match: WWE followed the women’s HIAC match with a hot tag team match. At this point, the show was off to a great start, but you had to know it was going to be downhill from there given that the the majority of the remaining matches were announced on the day of the show and mostly consisted of matches we’d seen before. Harper and Rowan had a great outing and were made to look strong despite taking a clean loss. This was a top notch brawl. I wasn’t sure what they were going to do with Bryan, but his post match hug seemed to suggest that he’s truly a babyface again unless the idea was to tease that it’s cemented only to pull the rug out on television.
Randy Orton vs. Ali: A soft Hit for a match that was actually made more interesting because of Kickoff Show panelists Sam Roberts and Booker T mocking the idea of Ali having any chance to beat Orton. They laid it on so thick that I actually thought Ali was going to score the upset pin. On a side note, what was the purpose of all those Ali vignettes? He did a great job and it seemed like the company had a plan for him before the vignettes stopped and he started losing most of his matches.
Lacey Evans vs. Natalya: A soft Hit for the Kickoff Show match. It was Natalya’s turn to win in this back and forth feud that will presumably come to an end with the Last Woman Standing match on tonight’s Raw. And it better come to an end. It’s time to wrap this up with a decisive finish and then find something new for both characters.
WWE Hell in a Cell Misses
Seth Rollins vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt in a Hell in a Cell match for the WWE Universal Championship: I stand by my live review assessment of this being one of the most idiotic finishes I’ve ever seen. WWE could have done a slow build with The Fiend persona, but they rushed him into the title picture without bothering to come up with an acceptable finish to his title match. Rollins was the biggest loser in all of this. He was frozen in fear whenever Wyatt came after him during the build, and the live crowd made it well known during the match that they wanted to see a title change. Rollins is a decent babyface, but he’s just not clicking as the top babyface no matter how many times he tells people that WWE is his life. As bad as all of this was, Wyatt should actually come out of this okay. The backlash to the bad finish was fueled in part by fan frustration over Wyatt not winning the championship, meaning the fans are passionate about his character. So was this meant to be a double turn? The fans have picked their side so either WWE will play into this or we’re in for yet another top babyface that’s disliked by a good portion of the audience. How many top babyfaces have to be rejected before Vince McMahon recognizes that his bad booking is to blame?
“King” Baron Corbin vs. Chad Gable: Baron Corbin was showing some signs of life when he ditched the bad bartender shirt in favor of the Dean Ambrose attire and because he delivered some good in-ring work. The King gimmick has already defined him down as a mid-card comedy figure. It was fun when Rock heeled on Corbin, but that strikes me as the peak of the tired WWE King gimmick. And while we’re on the topic of limiting gimmicks, Gable being labeled “Shorty” is about as cornball as it gets and left me wondering what decade Vince McMahon is living in.
Braun Strowman and The Viking Raiders vs. AJ Styles, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson: A Raw-like six-man tag team match that concluded with a lousy finish, meaning this six-man tag match probably will find its way to the Monday night show. Strowman is suddenly a knockout artist just in time for his angle with Tyson Fury. It will be interesting to see if they end up having a singles match or they somehow end up aligned in a match against The OC. A Strowman vs. Fury singles match is where the money is, but WWE officials may not care if this is being done for Saudi Arabia and they will get their big payday either way.
Bayley vs. Charlotte Flair for the Smackdown Women’s Championship: A minor Miss. The realization of just how meaningless the Smackdown Women’s Championship has become really set in during this match. Bayley was positioned as a soft champion and the title feels like a B-title compared to Becky Lynch’s Raw Women’s Championship. Charlotte winning her tenth title says more about WWE’s chaotic booking and quick title changes than it does about her mystique as a legendary figure. I am intrigued by Bayley’s post match meltdown, which looked a lot like Chad Gable’s reaction to being called short prior to this event. Here’s hoping that Bayley’s breakdown will lead to an overhaul of the character because what’s she’s doing as a heel still playing to the fans isn’t connecting.
Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross vs. “The Kabuki Warriors” Kairi Sane and Asuka for the WWE Women’s Tag Titles: A minor Miss. Sane and Asuka are apparently heels even though they were cheered even when Asuka sprayed mist at Cross and pinned her. It would have been nice if the broadcast team had framed them as heels, but they seemed to be as confused as the rest of us while watching this play out. The finish was lazy in that the referee didn’t see Asuka spray the mist, yet he did a double take when he saw the mist on Cross’s face. It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist for the referee to see the remainder of the mist on Asuka’s chin to figure out what happened, but WWE referees are portrayed as the dumbest people on the planet.