Cena It All Before?
There was a lot made about this being John Cena and Randy Orton's 121st match against each other, which let's be honest is a bit silly. That number includes house show matches (and even a match in HWA back in 2001!), the number that gives the clearest view of the situation is 21. This was Cena and Orton's 21st televised match, which is obviously still a ridiculous number and with 10 of those coming on PPV, I can understand why many were not particularly looking forward to this bout and why this, as well as the outcome, will have clouded the judgment of many of the online wrestling community. But I went into this one with a fairly open mind, as more often than not Cena and Orton have put together good matches when called upon on PPV.
That's exactly what we got this time out. This was a good match, possibly the match of the night. I enjoyed the early storytelling, with Orton dominating most of the match up and going for a pin after hitting every offensive maneuver, whilst continuing to cut off Cena's come back attempts. Orton was on top form throughout, bringing an aggression that the majority of his heel run has been missing. The look of frustration on his face everytime he failed to put Cena away really sold those moments and the importance of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship for me.
Almost more importantly was that the pair produced something different, which had been my major complaint of their bouts at TLC and Royal Rumble, as well as using enough of the Cell structure to warrant the stipulation being used. A lovely Inverted Headlock Backbreaker using the ringpost from Orton and Orton reversing Cena's familiar shoulder block comebacks into an RKO were particular highlights for me, alongside Orton's block of the Five Knuckle Shuffle before hitting his Snap Scoop Suplex for a near fall.
My only real problem with this match were the final few minutes, as it didn't seem to suit the style the pair had used for the majority of the match, ending up in a finisher fest similar to Cena's WrestleMania 29 match with The Rock. At times the timing was off, such as Cena not giving Orton enough time to recover from Orton's near fall off of an RKO, before hitting an Attitude Adjustment for another near fall, meaning the false finish got almost no reaction from the crowd.
However, Cena picking up the win after a dramatic series of reversals on the top rope lead to an Attitude Adjustment through was a satisfying conclusion to the bout, although I still think it would have had more impact if a handful of the other AA attempts earlier on were taken out. Personally, I believe Cena was the right guy to win this match, as a bout with Brock Lesnar so early into (what is believed to be) a babyface turn for Orton, would have essentially crushed Orton's face run before it even began, whilst Cena has a legitimate reason to face Lesnar after a strong Night of Champions showing against the Beast Incarnate.
If Ambrose Wins, We Wyatt
This match needed to be significantly different enough from the previous Hell in a Cell match. Not only to differentiate itself from it predecessor, but also because there was a different dynamic between the competitors. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins have been having one of the fiercest and most believable in WWE since the break up of The Shield in June. This needed to look, feel and sound like a grudge match and that's exactly what we got.
It was clear from the opening of the bout that this is exactly what we were going to get. Ambrose battling Rollins and his lackeys Joey Mercury and Jamie Noble on top of the Cell was a great way to start the bout, as whilst it was a great spectacle, it also allowed Rollins to get plenty of heat for sending Mercury and Noble up before him, whilst the crowd quickly sided with Ambrose and stayed vocal throughout the rest the match.
With the crowd clearly choosing their favourites, this gave the pair a canvas on which to place a series of impressive spots (especially for WWE in 2014). Starting with the pair battling on the side of the cage and both ending up crashing through the announce tables (monitors conveniently removed), and running through Ambrose front kicking Rollins off the apron into the cell, a back suplex from Rollins onto a pile of chairs, a terrific Cactus Elbow from Ambrose with Rollins laid out on a table bridging the apron and the cage and Rollins powerbombing Ambrose through a table propped against the cell. This match had some of the most impressive Hell in a Cell spots of the PG Era.
I thought about bringing up the huge amount of interference on Rollins' part, with Mercury and Noble involved earlier on, with Corporate Kane firing a fire extinguisher through the cell later on (Nice metaphors and some really good camera work here). But I think a quick series of moves towards the end of the match, with a number of reversals, made it look like Rollins could hold his own against Ambrose, yet chooses to take the cheap road because it's easier. I'd have liked to have seen this developed a little more in the match to make this assumption a little more solid, but it's not a massive criticism.
The finish is another one that is a funny one to gauge as things stand. In case you can't tell from the picture above, Bray Wyatt interfered hitting Ambrose with a huge Ura-Nage, allowing Rollins to pick up the win. This was after it seemed like Ambrose was about to hit Rollins with a Curb Stomp on a pair of flimsy cinder blocks. It was a freaky moment with some smoke and a bizarre chant, that perhaps took a little to long to set up, but it certainly built a level of intrigue going forward. It allows for a potential Ambrose vs Wyatts feud, whilst keeping the door open for Rollins and Ambrose to lock up again later down the line. Yes, I'd have prefered to have seen a conclusive ending tonight and if I were doing a star rating the ending would lose the match at least half a star, but without knowing what is exactly going to happen in the future, I wouldn't want to condemn this ending just yet.
One of the most-oft cited criticism of WWE over the past few years has been that it's too predictable, but I'd love to know how many people had Dolph Ziggler to win two straight falls against Cesaro to retain the Intercontinental Championship in their Two Out of Three Falls opener.
The opening fall was quick and pacy, with a handful of roll ups early on, before Cesaro managed to get Ziggler into the Cesaro Swing, which still get's a big pop from the crowd. As soon as Cesaro went for the pin however, Ziggler managed to slip out and catch Cesaro with an small package to gain the first fall. It was just over three minutes for the first fall to take place and this kind of finish is why Two Out of Three Falls Matches are one of my favourite gimmick matches, they force the wrestlers to come up with creative ways to get have early falls without the fans feeling cheated.
It was however, the second fall where this match really came into it's own. With Ziggler hitting a gorgeous Leaping DDT variant on Cesaro's arm, this quickly became the focus of the match. Cesaro's selling of the arm was top drawer throughout and gave the match a rather interesting slant. It was clear the match was being used to showcase Cesaro's strength and aggression, with a terrific submission sequence that saw Ziggler transition from a Guillotine choke-esque move into a double wristlock, before Cesaro scaled the ropes and pulled out a Dead-Lift Superplex. A truly incredible sequence of moves. Cesaro earns extra points for the holding the injured arm and therefore being unable to get the three count.
The finish came after the pair had gone back and forth following the superplex, with Cesaro attempting the Neutralizer, only for Ziggler to get free and hit a Stunner on the arm, followed up with a Superkick and a Zig Zag to allow the Show-Off to get the second fall and retain the Intercontinental title. Having the arm play a major part in the finish made me very happy indeed. This match was also cleverly constructed to help both men, as whilst Ziggler looked great winning in straight falls (and his post-match selling made it seem like he'd been an absolute battle, helping both he and his opponent), Cesaro was allowed to look like a beast using his strength despite an injury to the arm. With the way this match was booked I wouldn't be surprised to see a Cesaro face turn in the near future.
Elsewhere, Stardust and Goldust put their tag titles on the line against former champs The Usos in a decent tag team bout. The majority of this match operated a fairly basic tag team psychology, as The Cosmic Twins isolated Jimmy Uso. The crowd were almost silent at this point, however, with the action being kept fairly basic and none of the four guys in the ring attempting to draw the live audience into the match. It would have appeared that the veteran Goldust noticed this as he did try a bit later into the match to get the crowd to turn on him, it's a shame Jey Uso on the other side hadn't got the message.
Luckily, once Jimmy did get the hot tag, a series of exciting moves and quick paced sequences did liven the crowd up and luckily for The Usos they sided with them over the Cosmic Twins. A couple of nice near falls later, and the finish saw the referee distracted by the interfering Jimmy Uso, allowing Stardust to kick the legs from underneath Jey who was attempting a Samoan Drop on Goldust, and allowing Goldust to get the pin and retain the titles for his team. This wasn't exactly a good match, but I think the two teams could have done much jobs at getting the crowd involved earlier.
Given the unenviable task of following the first Hell in a Cell match, Sheamus and The Miz' United States Championship bout was a dull affair... is what I would have been saying had it not been for the involvement of Damien Mizdow at ringside. Mizdow brightened up a fairly mediocre bout, with some hilarious antics at ringside, as he mimicked Miz's every move in the ring, highlights included when Miz took Sheamus' Beats of the Bodrin and using the steel steps to represent a Steam Roller from Sheamus on the outside.
The action in ring saw Sheamus almost completely dominate Miz throughout, and whilst a few sequences managed to grab my attention, like Sheamus blocking Miz's Figure Four Leg Lock attempt by sending him into the ring ropes and hitting a nice Tilt-a-Whirl Powerslam. The closing section also went a way to keep this match from bombing, with a good false finish off a Skull Crushing Finale for the Miz and a well-timed Brogue Kick as Miz attempted an Axe Handle off the top rope, that allowed Sheamus to get the win. It's good to see the United States Champion being booked strongly, and I'm looking forward to the upcoming Miz vs Sandow feud, but I'd still like to see Sheamus get a real feud to get his teeth into before dropping the belt.
I'll make it clear that I have absolutely no interest in this USA vs Russia feud, but this was a jolly good match. It did exactly what it needed to do, telling a good story and using sound psychology to allow Rusev to keep control of Big Show by working his legs. Of course, this made it much easier for Rusev to lock in the Accolade. Rusev hitting a Suplex on the World's Largest Athlete was also an incredible sight. Big Show got in enough offence to make Rusev's win feel even bigger, getting near falls off a Spear and a "Chokeslam for America". I'm not quite sure the reason for Mark Henry coming out half way through the match, only to eat a Superkick from Rusev in the closing stages, and then hug Show at the end, but the main body of the match was much much better than I had expected.
AJ Lee and Paige delivered an enjoyable Diva's Championship bout. Plenty of back and forth action, that allowed both women to show their aggressive side. It was great to see Paige working closer to the gimmick she had in NXT as she delivered a vicious giant swing into the barricade, a series of nasty corner elbows and some tasty knee drives on the apron early on. The finish worked nicely for me, as AJ tripped Paige off the barricade causing her to crash to floor, Alicia Fox then rolled Paige into the ring to break the 10 count, only for AJ to lock in the Black Widow to retain the Diva's title. A nasty looking spot allowed Paige to remain looking strong, whilst AJ retained the title and a potential reignition of the Alicia and Paige feud we saw earlier in the year, which with Alicia as a babyface should work a lot better this time round. I would however have liked this match to receive an extra five minutes or so, as there were parts of the match and ideas that were dropped way to quickly as they simply didn't have the time.
The match I was least looking forward to on the show, and I'm sure many felt the same, was the Bella vs Bella match. The feud has done absolutely nothing for me for months and months and I genuinely couldn't care less about either women. But I'll give credit where credit is due, this match didn't stink the place up. It was kept nice and short, told a decent story with a clear heel and face divide and there wasn't a botch insight. It was disappointing see the Rack Attack move used twice, once for a false finish before returning as the actual finish, I would have liked to have seen something extra, but maybe that was asking too much.
I have to say that I rather enjoyed this PPV, as you probably will have been able to tell if you've read the review up to this point. The two Hell in a Cell matches and the Intercontinental Championship all had a lot to enjoy and presented something different from each other. Those were the three matches that needed to deliver and they did. The undercard was perhaps not as strong as it could have been however, with Rusev and Big Show's match being the stand out match. Both Diva's matches were of a passable quality. Damien Mizdow's performanced saved Sheamus and The Miz's match, whilst the tag team title bout felt like one of missed opportunities, whilst still being a decent encount. Certainly this PPV beats the passed three years Hell in a Cell PPV's into a cocked hat, whether I'd consider it the best one since it's 2009 inception has a lot to do with how Bray Wyatt's involvement in the main event is covered going forward.