The SmarK Rant for WWE Hell in a Cell 2018 – 09.16.18
Live from San Antonio, TX
Your hosts are Michael Cole, Corey Graves & Renee Young.
HELL IN A CELL: Jeff Hardy v. Randy Orton
They don’t even give us a video package for this one, so I’m left somewhat confused about how we got from “Randy Orton coming out at Summerslam and walking away” to a giant cage match. From what I can tell based on the commentary, the storyline is essentially “Jeff Hardy is wrapping up his career and wants to do a Cell match before he retires.” Jeff attacks at the bell and Orton quickly sends him onto the apron and into the cell. Jeff runs Orton into the cage in response and Orton takes a silly bump into the post on the rebound. They fight over a table and Jeff baseball slides it into Orton outside, then finds a ladder under the ring. Orton, however, counters with a chair and they continue slowly brawling on the floor. Jeff hits the Whisper in the Wind into the cage and they head back in for Jeff’s mule kick in the corner for two. Jeff goes up and Orton brings him down with the superplex for two. Jeff goes outside and sets up another ladder into a V on the floor, but Orton suplexes him onto it as Jeff kills himself in the world’s most boring Cell match. Back in, that gets two. Orton finds another chair and beats on Jeff with a couple of weak-ass chairshots and whips Jeff with his own belt as this strays closer to kink. Orton wraps Jeff up into a ladder in contrived fashion and stomps him for a bit, and that gets two. And since the match is already dragging so badly, what better than a chinlock? Jeff makes a comeback with the legdrop and low dropkick for two, but Orton gets a powerslam for two. Next up, he finds a toolbox and brings a screwdriver in, which he uses to pull on Jeff’s earlobe in an icky spot. Seriously, who wants to see shit like that? And maybe I’m old-fashioned, but in my day, if you’re sticking a fucking screwdriver through someone’s soft tissue, that should be the FINISH. Jeff escapes with a low blow and beats on him with a chair for two. He goes up and Orton crotches him and follows with the vintage DDT. Jeff blocks the RKO and hits the Twist of Fate, then puts a chair on Orton and hits the swanton for two. So he gets another table and another ladder and sets up a complicated layout of furniture, which leads to Orton getting put on a table and Jeff climbing to the top of the cell and completely missing, putting himself through the table. The ref calls for EMTs and yells for the match to be stopped, but Orton demands the pin at 25:00 anyway. This was total bullshit, way too long and with a couple of broken down guys wandering through a boring match filled with smoke and mirrors and no real issue, and then a Russo-esque finish where Orton is supposed to get heat because Jeff Hardy is “really” hurt instead of just fake wrestling hurt. And why is the ref trying to stop the match? That’s the whole POINT OF THE MATCH! Also, Jeff is stupid to be taking those kinds of bumps at his age. No buys, this sucked. **
Meanwhile, in Australia, it’s HHH v. Undertaker for the last time…for the last time!
Meanwhile, AJ Styles can’t wait to stop talking and start fighting.
Smackdown Women’s title: Charlotte Flair v. Becky Lynch
Becky is supposed to be a heel, but she still does her usual babyface entrance routine. Details like that really bug. Even so, Becky gets cheered and Charlotte gets booed here. Charlotte wins a takedown battle on the mat and tries the figure-four, but Becky goes for the arm and settles for a top wristlock. Charlotte works a leglock and pounds away in the corner, but misses a charge and lands on the apron. Becky beats on her outside and goes to work on the arm in the ring, including a variation on Pentagon’s arm-breaking spot that gets two. Charlotte rolls her up for two, but Becky puts her down with a forearm for two. Becky gets a bridged hammerlock as the match already has more heat than at any point in the opener, although most of it is the crowd cheering on the heel. Becky clotheslines her down for two, but misses a legdrop and Charlotte puts her on the apron, but Becky goes after the arm again. Charlotte with a baseball slide and they slug it out on the apron before Becky runs her shoulder into the apron, which is the HARDEST PART OF THE RING! That sets up the armbar, but Charlotte rolls her up for two and suplexes her to escape. They slug it out and Charlotte backslides for two and beats on her with chops and then puts her down with the big boot to set up the moonsault. That misses and Becky goes for the armbar again, but Charlotte breaks it up with a powerbomb for two. They slug it out for the boo/yay bit and Becky wins that battle, and a hammerlock slam gets two. Becky goes up and lands in a Boston crab, but Becky powers out and goes back to the arm again, wrapping it around the post. Another armbar, but Charlotte is in the ropes this time and they fight to the floor. Back in, Charlotte spears her, but Becky takes advantage of the bad arm and rolls her into a cradle to win the title at 13:55. Excellent match, with tremendous heat and a real issue that ran just as long as it needed to. And they pulled the trigger on Becky at the right place and right time, which adds a lot. ****1/2 I daresay this was better than the Wrestlemania match, in fact. Charlotte wants to offer congratulations, but Becky tells her off because she doesn’t want the moment to be stolen again. Good for you, Becky Lynch! It’s your moment, not Charlotte Hogan’s.
Meanwhile, they made another goddamn Marine movie with the Miz? How am I ever gonna get caught up with the series now?
Meanwhile, Jeff Hardy has been transferred to the dreaded local medical facility for further observation.
Earlier tonight, Rusev Day fails in their efforts against the New Day.
Meanwhile, the New Day are all wacky and celebrating with pancakes. Even the announcers can’t even pretend to understand or laugh with it.
RAW tag team titles: Drew McIntyre & Dolph Ziggler v. Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose
Seth trades headlocks with Dolph to start and the Shield double-teams him and drops elbows for two. Seth tries the curb stomp and Dolph bails for some advice from Drew. That advice: “If they pitch you an idea about being in a band, just fucking say no!” Drew comes in and overpowers Rollins and offers Dean a free shot, but Ambrose dropkicks the knee and cradles for two. He stops to chase Ziggler and McIntyre clobbers him from behind to get the heat and they go to work in the heel corner. Dean manages to fight back with a stungun on Dolph and brings Rollins back in, and he runs wild with the sling blade on Dolph and the enzuigiri to put him on the floor. He tries a dive and Drew trips him up, which allows Ziggler to hit a leaping DDT for two. So Rollins is now face-in-peril and Drew does some SMALL JOINT MANIPULATION, my personal favorite kind of joint manipulation. Dolph lays the quality trash talk on him and grabs a sleeper, but Rollins escapes with a backdrop suplex. Drew tries to cut him off, but Seth tosses him, so he takes out Dean to prevent the tag and then heads back in with a whiplash slam for two. Seth fights back and dives for the tag, but the ref is distracted with Ziggler and the heels get some quality clubbering in the corner as a result, which just makes me smile. I fucking love tag team wrestling. And the crowd is pissed at the ref! IT ALWAYS WORKS and no one has to go through a table headfirst. Ziggler tries a superplex and Rollins fights him off and hits a blockbuster on Drew, and that finally is enough to make the HOT TAG to Ambrose. Dean runs wild and he’s the perfect hot tag guy as he hits the lariat and cradles Drew for two. Armtrap slam gets two. He tries to hit Dirty Deeds on the apron, THE HARDEST PART OF THE RING, but it’s broken up and they all fight on the floor. Back in, Drew suplexes Dean into the turnbuckles to cut him off. Back to Rollins, who comes in with a flying clothesline and tries the suicide dive on the champs, but they catch him. So Ambrose hits his own dive onto everyone and takes them all out. Everyone is out on the floor but both teams make back in, at which point Seth gets the falcon arrow on Dolph for two. Seth with the superkick, but Dolph evades the curb stomp, so Seth gets the turnbuckle bomb instead for two. Drew clears the ring and Ziggler rolls up Seth for two and hits the Zig Zag for two in an incredible near fall. That could have been the finish. Drew goes for the kick, but Ambrose saves and Seth goes up with the frog splash for two. The Shield double-teams Drew with a double superplex, but Ziggler saves and takes out Rollins, leaving Ambrose alone for a McIntyre flying clothesline. The champs try a Doomsday Device, but Ambrose escapes it and brings Rollins back in, for a superplex into the Falcon Arrow, but McIntyre hits him with the Claymore Kick mid-move and Dolph falls on top for the pin to retain at 23:09. This was unbelievable tag team wrestling and one of the best matches of the year in WWE, easily. If we’re not counting NXT, it’s probably the best. *****
Meanwhile, Braun makes sure that Mick Foley knows that his job is only to count the pin and award him the Universal title.
WWE title: AJ Styles v. Samoa Joe
They slug it out to start and Styles puts him on the floor with a dropkick, then follows with a running knee off the apron to put him down. He follows with a baseball slide into the announce table, and sets up for the forearm in the ring, but Joe escapes to the floor again. AJ follows with a dive and Joe boots him on the way down and follows with a trip to the stairs that gets two. They slug it out and Joe gives him a vicious legsweep to take him out again and follows with the boot wash in the corner. AJ works the knee in response, but AJ gets the enzuigiri out of the corner and just kicks him out of the ring like the proverbial yesterday’s garbage. He follows with a dive and works a neck vice in the ring, and then WALLOPS AJ with a shoulderblock for two. AJ comes back with the backfist and seated forearm for two, then moonsaults into the inverted DDT for two. Lionsault is blocked by Joe’s knees and a powerbomb gets two, into the Boston crab. Joe moves to the STF and a crossface, but AJ makes the ropes. AJ somehow powers Joe into a torture rack and powerbomb for two. Springboard 450 gets two. Joe fires off a lariat for two and AJ is bleeding from the mouth, so Joe keeps coming with the muscle buster and follows with an euzuigiri for two. AJ comes back and tries the forearm, but he lands in the Coquina Clutch, and rolls over on top for the pin to retain at 19:13. Joe contends that AJ tapped before the pin, so I guess THIS FEUD MUST CONTINUE. And in fact the replay shows that AJ tapped while the ref was counting, but it was where the ref couldn’t see it. Hey, guess what, that’s how the rules of wrestling work. Too bad, so sad for Joe. Make sure your shoulders aren’t on the mat next time. ****
The Miz & Maryse v. Daniel Bryan & Brie Bella
I feel like this will sadly break up the four-star match streak this show has established. Bryan gets distracted and attacked by Miz to start, but he comes back with a clothesline. Tom: “Some believe that Brie Bella has the hardest punch in WWE…” Corey: “NO ONE BELIEVES THAT!” Miz runs away and Bryan tags in Brie, which forces Maryse in, but she immediately tags out to Miz again and thus Bryan has to come in. Miz catches him with a knee and dropkicks him into the corner, but he goes up and Bryan crotches him and brings him down with a rana. Yes Knee misses and Daniel switches to the Yes-Lock instead, but Maryse makes the save. Bryan reverses the Skull Crushing Finale into a rollup for two, but misses a blind charge and crashes in the corner. Miz with a chinlock and he hits the Miz Kicks in the corner, but Bryan blocks a superplex and comes back with a diving headbutt attempt that misses. Bryan dumps Miz over the top and makes the hot tag to Brie, so Maryse is forced in and they all brawl at ringside. Bryan hits Miz with the knee off the apron and Brie gets a missile dropkick on Maryse for two, but Miz saves. Bryan gets all pissed because Miz laid hands on his wife, and we get stereo Yes Kicks as a result before the heels bail. Miz decides to walk out, but Brie hauls Maryse in for whatever her Brie Mode thing is supposed to be, and they manage to fuck up a rollup to put Maryse on top for the pin at 13:00. Decent midcard comedy, but this is just killing off Bryan by the day and they were doing everyone possible to keep Brie and Maryse out of the ring and couldn’t quite pull it off. **1/2
RAW Women’s title: Ronda Rousey v. Alexa Bliss
Ronda ties up Bliss with a couple of holds for two, then punches her down, but Bliss kicks her in the ribs. Ronda tries for the armbar, but gets distracted by the entourage at ringside and they’re able to rescue Alexa. Bliss tries to run away and then takes a comedy bump into her friends while missing a dive. And then she comes back and works on the ribs, because you totally want Ronda Rousey to be selling for a 3 foot tall gymnast. Bliss with an abdominal stretch and the double knees to the ribs for two. Ronda fights back with a superplex attempt, but Bliss hangs her in the Tree of Woe and dropkicks her down for two. More selling from Ronda, but she fights back and takes out the various women at ringside before colliding with Alexa for a double down. Ronda with a small package for two and a backslide for two, but Alexa kicks the ribs again, only to talk a little too much trash, and Ronda makes the comeback. Blind charge misses, but Ronda hits her with the samoan drop and finishes with the armbar at 11:40 to retain. This really should have been another quickie win for Ronda because no one buys Bliss as a serious threat anyway. **3/4
Universal title, Hell in a Cell: Roman Reigns v. Braun Strowman
Foley’s looking good and moving good after all the operations, I have to say. They slug it out to start and Braun sends him into the post and then runs him into the cage to take over. He helpfully informs Roman that “his boys” can’t get into the cage to help him. Because lord knows no one has ever done a run-in in this match before. Roman fights up and Braun runs him into the cage again and then survives two Drive-Bys and chokeslams Roman onto the apron, THE HARDEST PART OF THE RING. Braun finds a kendo stick and shakes off that signal, but Roman steals it from him and gets some shots in, which do nothing. Back in the ring, Roman uses a chair like a real hero and evades a charging Braun, and follows with a DDT for two. Roman with a superman punch, but Braun gets a chokeslam for two. Another chokeslam is countered with a superman punch for two, and Braun bails to the floor to regroup. So this gives Roman a chance to find a table under the ring (hell, he could have BUILT his own table given how long he had) but then he decides to charge at Braun like a moron and gets hit with the stairs as a result. Back in, Braun hits him with the stairs and follows with the powerslam for two. Braun sets up a table in the corner, but Roman spears him through it in a cruel twist of irony, and that gets two. And then the run-ins begin, as the Shield and Dolph and Drew all head down to provide the smoke and mirrors. The tables are prepped and Dolph ends up on top of the cell with Rollins. Like, if they wanted to do all this shit, why not just book this as a six-man and be done with it? So all four end up on top of the cage and Ambrose beats on everyone with a kendo stick while Roman and Braun literally lay in the ring for minutes doing nothing. Then we get the requisite table spot from Rollins and Ziggler. Is there even a World title match going on any more? And then for the bullshit topper, Brock Lesnar comes back yet again and kicks in the door while Heyman maces Mick Foley. So then Brock destroys both guys with pieces of the table, gives them both an F5, and show goes off the air without a winner at 24:00. Guess his drug testing must not have gone so well. Match was going fine until the unholy overbooking kicked in, but that “ending” was a complete dumpster fire. *** So Braun joins the ignoble ranks of those who cashed in and failed to win the title, which only further devalues the briefcase.
Realistically, this was an amazing show for the first half and an OK one for the second half. But man, that run of matches from the women’s title to AJ v. Joe was something else entirely and overall it’s an easy thumbs up overall and probably would have been a clear cut winner for best show of the year if that main event had…what’s that thing I’m thinking of…oh yeah, A FINISH.