Here’s my final thoughts on Raw and SmackDown Live’s WWE Hell in a Cell 2018!
The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston, and/or Xavier Woods) (c) vs. Rusev Day (Aiden English and Rusev (with Lana) (WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship)
Reactions: What started out as your basic tag team match eventually blossomed into something a bit more worthwhile. Once Big E got into his “big man fiery comeback” routine, the match as a whole ratcheted up a few notches. There’s still trouble in paradise between Rusev and English, which is a storyline element that got played up during this bout.
The miscommunication between the Rusev Day stable made the in-ring proceedings even more interesting. The near-falls were a a bit hotter since the audience thought Rusev and English had a chance at defeating The New Day, even while facing inner team turmoil. A title change would have been ideal, but I’m not mad at The New Day retaining here. This was a pretty fun and solid affair.
Rating: 2 & a Half out of 5 Stars
Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton (Hell in a Cell)
Reactions: With the names Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton being associated with this HIAC match, I set my expectations pretty high. Jeff’s known to pull off superhuman feats during big time speciality matches. And Orton’s equally known for being sadistic when he’s locked inside the cell with a supremely hated foe. While this match had a couple of bright spots sprinkled throughout, it was a step down from what I expected it to be.
It played out like your usual Extreme Rules brawl as both men clobbered each other with steel chairs, tables, ladders, and belts. The HIAC itself wasn’t really utilized all that much – it was another instance where it was mainly there to keep both Superstars enclosed. Two of the standout moments that made this HIAC incredibly brutal were Orton’s earhole torture to Jeff with a screwdriver and Jeff’s “crash and burn” table spot. This match was good, but the finish was a bit deflating as Orton simply pinned Jeff after he took himself out the match. Was I expecting Jeff to pull off a death defying Swanton Bomb from the top of the cage? Yes…and I know that’s pretty insane. Even still, I wanted a little bit more innovative brutality from this match. It was good, but featured a lot of action that’s been done before.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Becky Lynch (WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship)
Reactions: Out of all the announced matches for this event, I was most looking forward to this grudge/title encounter. Like me, the crowd were clearly behind Becky and cheered her on for the entirety of the bout. Once the bell finally rang, Charlotte and Becky started things off at a methodical pace.
As time passed on, Becky made sure to wear down Charlotte’s arm even more. Charlotte made her comebacks at certain points of the match, but Lynch was in control for most of it. Near the middle portion of the bout, both women let their hate for one another take over and cause them to bash each other even more than before. The cool and clever finish saw Charlotte land a sick Spear on Becky, but Becky flipped over and immediately pinned her former best friend. A good match that ended in unique fashion is always fine by me. I LOVE YOU, BECKY!
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins (WWE Raw Tag Team Championship)
Reactions: I wasn’t expecting to come across a MOTY candidate at HIAC 2018. But I’m always down to be pleasantly surprised. All four men are responsible for competing in some of the best matches the Raw brand have put on during the Summer. It all culminated in a classic tag team match that started off slow and built to a satisfying conclusion. This is the type of two-on-two contest that harkens back to the glory days of tag team wrestling.
It featured everything – hot tags, smart heel work, intense babyface comebacks, and shocking nearfalls. Ziggler and McIntyre provided the perfect foils for The Shield’s two members. Rollins gets MVP honors here for pulling off the most crowd-popping moments. Kudos goes to the other men for doing their part in making sure this encounter brought the crowd to its feet. The unique ending was the perfect finish to a quality bout such as this one.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
AJ Styles (c) vs. Samoa Joe (WWE Championship)
Reactions: AJ and Joe put on arguably the best match at SummerSlam the month prior. At HIAC, they delivered another entertaining outing that’s a slight step above their aforementioned contest. They stuck to what worked before – stiff striking, smart counters, brutal slams, and painful submissions. AJ took even more of a beating here and even leaked a few droplets of blood due to Joe’s relentless assault. But AJ responded in kind with the best maneuvers in his arsenal.
The pace slowed down at times, but both Superstars made it a habit to pick up the pace and wake up the crowd. Joe’s nasty Lariat, AJ’s springboard assault, and the added element of a little spilled blood took this one from good to exceptional. The controversial ending put a slight damper on things, though. It’s clear that this matchup was used as a way to hype up their third meeting at Super Show-Down. Even with all that being considered, AJ vs. Joe: Part Two was still a hell of a WWE Championship match.
Rating: 3 & a Half out of 5 Stars
Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse (Mixed Tag Team Match)
Reactions: And now for the weakest match of the entire show. I kinda figured this wouldn’t be as good as Daniel and The Miz’s Summerslam match. The inclusion of Brie Bella and Maryse didn’t give me much confidence in this match being anything more than average. And I was right! This Mixed Tag Team Match was full of cheap heel tactics and the same repeated action we’re used to seeing from Daniel and The Miz.
While not necessarily a bad thing, it just felt a bit stale this time around. And watching Brie and Maryse engage in some tame exchanges didn’t make this match any more interesting. This was nothing more than a stop gap placed in between Daniel and The Miz’s next singles bout. I’m already looking past this letdown of an encounter towards Daniel and The Miz’s upcoming Super Show-Down.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Alexa Bliss (WWE Raw Women’s Championship)
Reactions: Ronda Rousey’s streak of well-worked matches continues! Not only did this go longer than their SummerSlam bout, it actually ended up being even better. Bliss played it smart by ducking in and out of the ring, plus her reliance on Alicia Fox and Mickie James also did her some good. Ronda’s amateur nature as a pro wrestler led right to her falling into Bliss’s trap. Bliss smartly played her role here and finally got the better of the seemingly unstoppable Rousey.
Watching Rousey squirm in pain was a nice change of pace. We finally witnessed Rousey in a weakened state against an opponent she’d usually dismantle in seconds. I figured Rousey would perform well here. She did just that and sold her storyline injury well. Once her face switched into killing mode, her entertaining comeback sequence kicked off. And a few minutes later, Rousey took Alexa’s arm with her and retained her title. Rousey and Bliss pulled off a good match here that had the added elements of more time, outside interference, and smart limb work.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Roman Reigns (c) vs. Braun Strowman (Hell in a Cell Match for the WWE Universal Championship; Mick Foley Will Serve as Special Guest Referee)
Reactions: This wasn’t much of a complete match, honestly. It had your usual HIAC crash and burn moments as Strowman and Reigns used everything except the kitchen sink. But they didn’t go the distance and engage in some outside madness. As soon as the match looked like it was set to enter its third gear, the true shenanigans kicked off.
Ziggler, McIntyre, Rollins, and Ambrose ran out to continue their issues. And instead of witnessing Strowman or Reigns crash through the table, Rollins and Ziggler took their spots. The majority of the madness behind this HIAC match didn’t really include Strowman and Reigns much, shockingly. It was all about the outside personalities who chose to make an appearance. Then things really got exciting once Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman ran out to cause even more mayhem. Lesnar evoked the spirit of Kane as he kicked through the cell door and laid waste to his two most hated rivals. The little bit of in-ring action we got coupled with the pure spectacle of everything happening around it made this one an entertaining watch. The ending, though? Pretty damn trash considering that a HIAC match should never end in a no contest.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Match of the Night
Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre vs. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins!
Hell in a Cell 2018 managed to be worth a watch. The Raw Tag Team Championship match stole the show in the best way possible. The rest of the title matches played out pretty well, too. Becky Lynch and Charlotte competed in a good grudge bout that delivered a satisfying ending. Props also has to go out to the SD Live Tag Team Championship, WWE Championship, and Raw Women’s Championship bouts as well.
I didn’t really care for the Mixed Tag Team match much, plus the HIAC matches we were treated to were pretty tame considering the match simulation. While not bad bouts per say, they didn’t really live up to the quality HIAC bouts of the past. The show ending HIAC focused less on the competitors themselves and more on the outside personalities who chose to interfere during it. Even with two good but still somewhat disappointing HIAC matches, the show as a whole succeeded. See what happens when you don’t overstuff a wrestling card and give each match appropriate time, WWE? You get good results!
Final Score: 3 & a Half out of 5 Stars