A review by Nicholas Hanks
This past Sunday, WWE’s annual Hell In A Cell PPV event took over the new, and rather nice-looking, Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit, MI. This is Smackdown’s first pay-per-view since coming off of a rather underwhelming Summerslam, and it’s clear that the stars of WWE’s Tuesday Night show arrived ready to prove to Motown which is the premier brand in the company. Let’s get down to it.
Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable vs. Hype Bros (Kickoff Show)
Chad Gable has been floundering about ever since Jason Jordan took up his new role as Kurt Angle’s baby boy, but he seems to have found a rather exciting replacement in Shelton Benjamin, who hasn’t participated in a WWE pay-per-view event since 2010. (I couldn’t help but take a moment and wonder what Charlie Haas was doing). They both work really well together, despite a couple small hiccups during the match that will go away if creative decides to keep this thing going.
The match itself was fine; not great, not awful. It was a very by-the-book tag team match. Some more dissention between Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley came out in the form of miscommunication between the two. The ending came after Benjamin got out of the way of a Hype Bros double team, then tagging in Gable for a double team of their own, allowing Gable to pin Ryder.
I get the feeling that Mojo and Ryder are going to end up going the way of Cryme Tyme here soon.
Winners: Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable
The New Day vs. The Usos (Smackdown Tag Team Title Hell In A Cell Match)
My wife is not a wrestling fan. She knows who most of the people are just from the sheer amount of exposure I put her through on a weekly basis, lovingly giving up the TV twice a month so I can watch the pay-per-view. As the kickoff show was ending, they ran the promo for this match, and I commented on how excited I was about it, how it was exciting that this was the first tag team title match in Hell In A Cell. Then she said, “I don’t get it. What’s so special about Hell In A Cell?” I know she’s seen her fair share of these matches, and I just assumed the allure was obvious. However, I had trouble answering the question. The best I could come up with was, “Well, back when they first started doing these matches…” and “It’s supposed to be an end to things…” It had me wondering if I had fallen victim to the ol’ Vince McMahon light and magic show. But after seeing this match, I was reminded of what was supposed to make Hell In A Cell a spectacle. Both New Day and The Usos brought the fire to this match and burned the house down.
Xavier Woods and Big E represented New Day in the match, with Kofi Kingston playing cheerleader outside the cage. Woods and Big E wasted no time in pulling out the weapons and wailing on Jimmy and Jey Uso. After obtaining the upper hand, New Day began doing their New Day thing, nailing The Usos with trombones, rainbow-colored kendo sticks, gongs, and cowbells. New Day being New Day. It’s hard not to smile and chuckle a bit when you see that. Then after a little back and forth, the match got pretty brutal and violent, with the high point being Jimmy and Jey handcuffing Wood’s hands above his head, over the ring post, and just beating the shit out of his chest and stomach with the kendo sticks. It was rough. Seriously. Go look up the short video Woods posted on his Twitter account showing his battle scars from the beating. The New Day didn’t go by without showing some of their more aggressive sides either, with Big E hitting an overhead belly to belly on Jey into the cell, and again to Jimmy, into Jey into the cell.
However, The Usos were not to be denied, taking advantage of a broken Woods to hit a two splashes, one after another on Big E. Woods breaks up the pin on Big E, only to get another savage beating with the kendo sticks for his trouble. Then The Usos go for the double splash again, this time with a chair teetering on Big E’s chest. Smash, bang, 1-2-3, and The Usos are now 5-time Tag Team Champions. Wow. What a match.
Winners: The Usos
Randy Orton vs Rusev
I felt bad for these guys having to follow that last match. Even so, this whole rivalry has felt pretty tacked-on since the start. I suppose it was in there to keep both guys somewhat in front of the public, but who knows.
I thought for sure Rusev was going to pull this one out. I thought maybe they were going to start to set him up for something bigger, maybe another US Title run, or even eventually an Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal win come WrestleMania season. But Orton manages to squirm out of The Accolade twice, and hits the RKO outta nowhere the second time. Rusev does the job. Not quite sure what this is supposed to accomplish.
On an afternote, Rusev looked uncharacteristically sullen and defeated as he made his way back up the ramp to the back. It was odd.
Winner: Randy Orton
AJ Styles vs Baron Corbin vs Ty Dillinger (US Title Match)
This match started off in a rather interesting fashion, with the faces Styles and Dillinger ganging up on Corbin in an effort to take the Lone Wolf out early. They succeeded momentarily, and proceeded to go head-to-head for a short bit before Corbin re-entered and took out Styles for a little one-on-one of his own against Dillinger. The match pretty much went this course for quite some time, with each participant taking a rest while the other two went at it. Then we get to a pretty phenomenal ending, when Styles reverses the Tye Breaker into the Phenomenal Forearm. Just as Styles is going for the pin, Corbin jumps in, and gives Styles a couple of rather rough kicks to push him out of the ring. Corbin covers Dillinger and grabs his first US Title. Of course, this is a rather simplified cover of the match, which had some great spots and close calls to it. I’m really hoping this thing isn’t over, and Tye gets to stay in the picture with Corbin for a bit.
Also, Tye really knows how to add that extra something to the Ric Flair chest chop, which is something I can always appreciate. The Nature Boy himself would be proud.
Charlotte vs Natalya (Smackdown Women’s Title Match)
Speaking of The Nature Boy, his own daughter is back, and immediately back in the title hunt. I had some high expectations for this match, mostly because I’m a sucker for the whole Hart vs Flair thing, but this match fell a little short for me, strictly because of the knee injury that Charlotte ended up selling a knee injury for most of the match.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing with selling an injury and using that as part of the story of the match, but I personally dislike when that selling point is there for the majority of the match. Maybe have it come in a bit past the halfway point? Maybe it’s just me?
Knees aside, I really like how Natalya plays that heel role. Constantly gloating, giving the confident grins to the audience, she’s good at it. Even til the end, when she gets herself disqualified by hitting Charlotte with a chair outside the ring after a couple of failed Sharpshooters and taking a great-looking top rope moonsault to the outside. After the match was declared for Charlotte, Nattie gave her a swift kick to the stomach for good measure before strutting back up the ramp with her title held high.
Winner: Charlotte (by DQ)
Jinder Mahal vs Shinsuke Nakamura (WWE Championship Match)
This match ended up looking a lot like a repeat of the WWE Championship match from Summerslam, which isn’t a bad thing. Shinsuke, a lot like AJ Styles, has an ability to make his opponents look good. Not to say that Jinder Mahal doesn’t look good on his own, but he can certainly benefit from the experience of somebody like Shinsuke.
After some basic chain wrestling, Nakamura grabs the upper hand, punishing Mahal with Good Vibrations and some of those vintage stiff knees and kicks. Jinder retreats to the outside of the ring and lures Shinsuke into some good old bumps into the ring post and barricade. By the way, I’m not sure how those ring posts are put together now, but the sound they make really accentuates those hits against it quite nicely. A little more back and forth between the two, along with some very well-timed near misses and the like, filled in a good portion of the match.
Much like their last match, the Singh Brothers were there to help the Modern Day Maharajah retain his title at any cost. Shinsuke did a pretty good job fending them off on his own, until they got involved one too many times, and the referee ejected them. With the distractions gone, things really began to look up for Shinsuke. He nails the Kinshasa, but is late on the pin because the referee is still busy kicking the Singh brothers out. The ref makes his way back to the ring and hits a two-count before Jinder grabs the bottom rope. Shinsuke gave chase as Jinder rolled out of the ring. Mahal gets the best of the chase, and ends back up in the ring, setting Nakamura up for the Khallas. Shinsuke counters into another still kick, only to end back up in the clutches of a Khallas, which land. Jinder covers Shinsuke and goes over clean.
It’s nice to see WWE giving some more weight to Jinder’s reign as champion. It was really getting old seeing the Singh Brothers handing Mahal the win every single time. I hope creative decides to do more of this in the future.
Winner: Jinder Mahal
Bobby Roode vs Dolph Ziggler
Bobby Roode comes out with his classic entrance, which just doesn’t get old. Honestly, it’s fantastic. Dolph Ziggler’s theme hits as Roode is standing in the ring, then the screech of a record needle fills the arena, and everything stops. The music, the lights, the Titantron, everything, and Dolph makes his way down to the ring in a single spotlight with nothing but boos from the audience to accompany him. Shades of R-Truth anyone? Still, it’s pretty great. I’m really enjoying this heel turn from Ziggler.
Dolph continued his heel streak with some excellent heat-grabbing, pulling out all kinds of dirty tricks on Bobby. Ziggler holds onto control of the match until he pulls out that sleeper hold he’s so fond of. Roode counters, and begins a flurry of his own. Bobby goes for the Glorious DDT, and Dolph counters into his own DDT for a two-count.
The reversal chain goes back and forth until Dolph gets into the corner and starts “tuning up the band”. (Sigh…) Roode ducks the inferior Sweet Chin Music, and a chain of roll-ups starts, with each wrester pulling the tights for leverage. Bobby wins the tug-of-war, so to speak, and gets the three count. Roode immediately gets up and celebrates, and Dolph jumps up a second later and hits a stiff-looking Zig Zag. Ziggler stomps up the ramp as Bobby sells in the ring.
Not all that bad for a cool down match, and it did a great job establishing both characters’ paths for the near future.
Winner: Bobby Roode
Kevin Owens vs Shane McMahon (Hell In A Cell and Falls Count Anywhere Match)
First of all, I don’t know if it’s smart or not to just go ahead and admit this thing is going to end up outside the ring by calling it Falls Count Anywhere. Sure, we all expect it, especially with Shane McMahon in this, but is it necessary to go ahead and show your hand? Anyway, I suppose it’s not all that important.
In true Shane O’Mac fashion, this match was a 100% spot-fest, with both Kevin and Shane taking some pretty rough bumps. Kevin took every opportunity in the beginning to taunt Shane’s family, especially his kids, who were front row for the event. All this yelling at the crowd and constant trash-talking during the match I feel is a lost heel art, and Kevin Owens is a pro at it. He makes getting heat look so easy.
After some traditional Hell In A Cell stuff like grating against and smashing into the cage and the like, Kevin Owens tries to cannonball Shane through a table on the floor from the ring apron, only to have Shane roll out of the way, leaving Owens to smash into the floor. Shane wails on Kevin with the broken table for a bit before setting Owens back up in the ring corner with a trash can in front of him. Shane goes up for a Coast To Coast, which always has me thinking “There’s no way he’s going to make that”. I’m delightfully surprised every time.
With Owens down, Shane leaves the cell with a pair of bolt cutters. The fight eventually makes its way to the top of the cell. Owens and Shane traded drops and slams on the cell’s roof, which looked like it was ready to give way with every impact, especially with Owen’s hitting his running senton. Owens tried to throw Shane off the top of the cell, but Shane dropped to the ground as he neared the edge. After trading a couple more shots, Kevin begins to climb down off the cell, much to the crowd’s displeasure. Shane attempts to stop him, but ultimately chooses to follow suit. Shane catch’s up halfway down, and forces Owens to go crashing through an announce table from halfway up the cell wall.
Shane watched as medical staff surrounded Owens. He eventually made his way over to his opponent, and picked him up. Shane lays Owens on the second announce table, and begins to make his way to the top of the cell again. This seems familiar, doesn’t it? Once at the top, Shane prepares himself, says a little prayer, and drops an elbow off the top of the cell. When Shane lands, it’s alone. Kevin is not among the carnage. A separate camera angle shows none other than Sami Zayn (remember that guy?) pulling is rival’s body off the table and out of harm’s way. With Shane down and medical staff trying to tend to him, Zayn shoos them off and drags Owens body over to Shane for the cover. He then forces the referee down to count. The referee objects slightly, but ends up obliging. 1-2-3. Kevin Owens wins over Shane O’Mac.
Surprise to see a heel turn from Sami Zayn, but I suppose it’s not surprising in the end. He’s been kind of stagnant for quite some time, so maybe this will get him out of that slump and into some real meaningful rivalries.
Winner: Kevin Owens
Not a bad event at all. It’s definitely one of the better ones of the year. It’s going to be real interesting how Smackdown winds down the year and begins to head into WrestleMania season.
Tune in next week for a breakdown of Raw, Smackdown, and NXT, as Raw continues to gear up for TLC in a couple of weeks!
Author: Nicholas Hanks