Monday 26 October 2015

WWE Hell in a Cell 2015 review

Hell in a Cell was always going to struggle to be a fully satisfying show. The reliance on rematches made it seem a very familiar card. And if there's one thing that hinders a wrestling card more than anything else it's bouts feeling overly familiar. The main event was actually something first seen thirteen years ago, for example. There was no way to disguise it and so WWE didn't bother, they simply didn't acknowledge it. Which was the smartest thing they could do in the circumstances but longer term it may be nice if they could maybe plan ahead and change things up a little to avoid something like this happening again.

The opening segment saw John Cena stride out and issue his Open Challenge. He didn't spend too much time getting to it and it was accepted by... Zeb Colter. Yes, really. Zeb Colter in John Laurinaitis's scooter. He cut a promo about people with differing views and from different countries coming together before introducing his new client: reigning AAA mega champion Alberto Del Rio. Guess they came to terms after ADR realised he was burning through bridges too quickly outside of WWE.

Another former world champion taking a backwards step in terms of titles.
 'Mexico's Greatest Export' was given a hero's welcome by the LA crowd, getting chants of "Si!" and "Welcome back!" as Michael Cole hyped him up to remind viewers why they should care about him being Cena's challenger. Sadly the crowd died down early in the eight minute match and didn't seem interested in waking back up, despite some good work from Cena and Del Rio, before the finish. That saw ADR slip out of an AA to hit Cena with a backstabber and a super kick, pinning Cena clean.

The pairing of ADR and Zeb Colter is peculiar but there's time for it to be fleshed out and given context. Del Rio doesn't do a huge amount for me as a wrestler but it's nice to see someone being added to the roster who can freshen things up a bit. WWE's improved considerably over the last year but additions are always welcome in a company so keen on recycling. He was introduced in a strong fashion too: not just anybody gets to pin Cena clean. Notably not even WWE champ Seth Rollins has been permitted that honour.

We were then treated (and I use that term loosely) to a backstage segment with The Authority. Rollins hyped himself up and Triple H and Steph mentioned his match with Kane. The Director of Operations then showed up, showed us his marvellous take on a multiple personality gimmick, and was dismissed by Trips. It was boring.

The long-running rivalry between Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt was settled after that in the night's first Hell in a Cell match. Don't let the fact that they've only had two singles matches on pay-per-view fool you, these two have been at odds for a while. Specifically since June when 'The Eater of Worlds' returned from a TV absence and cost Reigns the briefcase. After a few weeks of awkward but well-produced segments revolving around Reigns' daughter (awkward mostly because of how clearly uncomfortable Reigns was with the situation) the pair settled into a more natural take n the family feud, specifically the revival of their Shield versus Wyatt Family dynamic. Wyatt brought Luke Harper back into the fold and debuted Braun Strowman while Reigns called on his bessie mate Dean Ambrose and a string of ragtag helpers to wage his war.

The long-running Wyatt v Reigns spat is finally over. Breathe a sigh of relief.
Basically this HIAC match had to pay off a fair bit of story, the vast majority of which had been underwhelming, in addition to the standard requirement of keeping Roman looking strong and giving him a hot match. Pleasingly, it accomplished both. This was all down to the keenness of both men to make the match good. This wasn't the best Cell match ever, nor did it break the years-long trend of these matches being a bit pointless, but it was engaging and accomplished everything it needed to. They used chairs, tables and kendo sticks to make an impact en route to Reigns going over with a spear.

The awkward post-Cell lull spot was handed to the Dudley Boyz and New Day. Big E and Kofi cut a typically entertaining pre-match promo about Xavier Woods being injured. They also danced. Then the Dudleys came out and we were subjected to another subpar match between the two teams (the highlight of which was a spectacular inverted Rocker Dropper botch by the Duds). New Day won after E hit Bubba with a broken trombone and Kofi hit Trouble in Paradise.

I like both of these teams but this feud has been uninventive after an initially good week or two and we've yet to see any good matches come out of it. It may be time to accept they don't have especially good chemistry, switch the belts in a tables match, and do something new. Continuing like this will achieve nothing.

Nikki bella got her Divas title rematch against Charlotte after that. All seconds were banned from ringside to ensure a fair match. The storyline reason was that this created a fair playing field. I suspect the real life reason may have been some sort of test to see how Charlotte did in a singles pay-per-view match with just her, an opponent and a referee.

Nikki telling a story there. Great stuff.
If it was a test she did fine, but Nikki handled the bulk of the work. She was on offence for the majority of the match, with Charlotte only firing up and hitting certain moves at select points. Anyone doubting Niki's ability to lead and construct a good match should really just pay attention to this. She was very, very good and told a different story to their previous matches. I'd like to see what she could do in a pay-per-view match with someone more talented than 'The Nature Girl', like Sasha Banks for example. Charlotte overcame Nikki's targeting of her back and managed to apply the figure eight long enough to get the submission victory.

That was followed by a scene in which Dean Ambrose congratulated Roman Reigns on his Hell in a Cell victory. They said they'd celebrate and also referred to knowing where they had to go next. They said that would be discussed on RAW. It seemed like the weirdest teaser WWE's done for TV in  while.

Kane challenging Seth Rollins for the WWE world championship came next. Kane dominated at the opening before Seth slowly turned things around, starting with an opportunistic attack as 'The Big Red Machine' lumbered onto the top rope. They did the standard issue ringside brawling, including a table spot, before Rollins went over with two top rope knees, two super kicks, a frog splash and a Pedigree (because Kane must be kept strong for whatever reason). It was the best Kane match I can remember seeing in ages but Rollins is capable of, deserves and needs, if he is to be the valuale asset he so clearly can be, so much better.

The semi-main event spot went to Ryback and Kevin Owens. They had a fun enough match but it was too short to amount to much more. KO went over with a pop-up power bomb on 'The Big Guy'.
One last time.
Finally we had the evening's main event: the Final Ever Confrontation™ between The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar. Within minutes Lesnar had found a suplex attempt blocked and been busted open. A foray to the outside of the ring was controlled by 'Taker, with 'The Beast' taking over with a chair back in the ring. 'Taker regained control and used the chair himself, placing it against Lesnar's throat and sending him down into the mat.

Lesnar sold for maybe a minute before bouncing out of a corner and nailing a German suplex. Then he hit another. And another. Then an F5. 'Taker kicked out. Another F5. Another kick out. Lesnar used ring steps to Undie's head. He kicked out again. Lesnar tried caving his foe's head. Undertaker moved.

Undertaker kicked up at Lesnar, sending him falling backwards with the steps landing on top of him. A desperation Hell's Gate was applied. Lesnar forced his way out and clubbed away at 'The Last Outlaw' with left and right hands. With his foe subdued Lesnar ripped up the mat covering only for 'Taker to sit up and choke slam him onto bare wooden boards. Brock kicked out so 'Taker hit him with a Tombstone.

Lesnar kicked out. Undertaker sold utter disbelief and struggled back to his feet. He signalled for another Tombstone but Lesnar low blowed him, paying Undertaker back for SummerSlam. Following up with an F5 Lesnar got the pin, winning his feud and, in Michael Cole's words, cemented his legacy as 'The Conqueror'. It was a slow starter but once they started breaking into the finishers this was a good match.

After the match Lesnar walked up the aisle and 'Taker gave him a knowing look before lying back in the ring and accepting his defeat. After a few attempts 'The Dead Man' did his bolt upright sit up spot. He just looked like a knackered old bloke but I think we were meant to see it as his magic failing him. The crowd played along and chanted "Thank you, Taker!" as he staggered up to his feet.

Newest recruit or next opponent? Next opponent, obvs.
Sinking down to his knee, UT went for his signature pose. But he was interrupted by the Wyatt Family. Harper, Rowan and Strowman swarmed him and took him down to the mat. Then they held him up for Wyatt to give him a few punches and carried him out of the arena. Going completely overboard JBL bellowed about honour and Undertaker being a warrior as the show went off the air.

Despite the number of rematches I thought Hell in a Cell was a worthwhile watch. It's not something that will make any show of the year polls but it had some memorable moments and only one out-and-out dud bout (the tag title match). It was a basic PPV offering form the Fed, but sometimes that's okay. It helps you appreciate the better stuff that little bit more.


Results summary:
Alberto Del Rio defeated John Cena to win the United States championship
Roman Reigns defeated Bray Wyatt
New Day defeated the Dudley Boyz to retain the tag team championship
Charotte defeated Nikki Bella to retain the Divas championship
Seth Rollins defeated Kane to retain the WWE championship
Kevin Owens defeated Ryback to retain the Intercontinental championship
Brock Lesnar defeated The Undertaker

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