Thursday, 29 October 2015

PPV Review: WWE Hell in a Cell 2015

18 days after the last WWE Network special, NXT Takeover: Respect, WWE presented the seventh edition of the Hell in a Cell PPV. With Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker tangling for the final time in the main event, inside Hell in a Cell, whilst Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns got their chance inside as well. With Seth Rollins also defending the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Kane, was this PPV any good? Let's have a look.

I wish I'd had a camera recording my reaction during the open segment of the show. Firstly, I was buzzing to see John Cena make his way out, his United States Open Challenges have been a highlight of a rocky 2015 for WWE, and with this being the first one on PPV and Cena rumoured to be taking time off, surely we'd get something special? Then Jack Swagger's music hit and I repeated the phrase "Fuck Off" a fair few times, not because I particularly dislike Swagger, but even Swagger's nearest and dearest must admit that the Real American would have been a major let-down. Quickly, my face changed into utter bemusement as Zeb Colter made his first TV appearance since early December. The return of the current World Heavyweight Champion for both AAA (Mexico City, Mexico) and WWL (San Juan, Puerto Rico) took me completely by surprise, got a big pop from the crowd, even if his new partnership with Colter is questionable at best. Funnily enough it was Del Rio's first WWE match since a loss to Jack Swagger on Main Event in early August 2014

Match 1 - United States Championship - John Cena (C) vs. Alberto Del Rio with Zeb Colter 

After the hype, the pop for Del Rio's return and Cena supposedly wrestling his last match for month, this match was always going to be amazing, wasn't it? WRONG MOTHERFUCKER! The crowd remembered they never gave a fuck about Del Rio during his 2010-2014 run and didn't even seem that bothered for Cena. The two hardly gave them much to cheer about, going through the motions for eight minutes, before Del Rio won with a superkick. Which I'm pretty sure no one brought as a finish, even if Cena did a decent job of selling a potential concussion post match. There was nothing to get your teeth into in terms of narrative and no spots that stood out either (despite about seven replays of the Mexican's tilt a whirl backbreaker). Del Rio even managed to hit the Flying Nothing, which may be a world first. As an end to Cena's magnificent open challenge, this was as flat as a witches tit.

Winner - Del Rio via pinfall (Superkick) in 7 minutes, 48 seconds *NEW CHAMPION!*

With the Staples Center still subdued for Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns' entrances for the first Hell in a Cell match of the night, we were somewhat lacking in the big match feel that this contest deserved. Maybe it was the decision to have this match go on second, and have it follow an opener that didn't get the crowd warmed. For a while, I thought it was maybe just Los Angeles being a little bit lazy and just wanting to watch, rather than participate but they picked up later, so it's definitely not that. Simply put this card wasn't put together with the care and attention that it needed to manipulate the audience for the right moments and at times the performers bore the brunt of that, as Bray Wyatt's spooky Raven-esque pose in the corner and Reigns staring him down as great bit of work.

Match 2 - Hell in a Cell - Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt

Two talented performers getting the chance to let their creativity flow and put on a fine spectacle, that would hold up well against the two veteran performers tasked with having the other Hell in a Cell bout on the show. A strong spot-based encounter, this felt like a fitting conclusion to Reigns and Wyatt's twenty week feud, as the two men battered each other with a variety of weapons. WWE staples the Singapore cane, steel chair and table were all out in force, and the match very easily could have became a case of "We've seen it all before" but the two men (and whichever agent was involved in putting this together) came up with some innovative spots, making good use of the enclosure. A personal favourite would have to be the chair that Wyatt wedged into the cage, but ended up getting sent into, as well as the Singapore cane slotted in the corner of the cell that The Eater of World put Reigns head through!

The storytelling was decent, with just enough narrative to hold the attention between the highspots, with Reigns spending the majority of the contest fighting from underneath. Reigns must have breathed a sigh of relief when mid-way through the crowd began to get behind him (even if the Roman Reigns chants were met with "Sucks" an octave lower). As soon as the crowd became invested in the bout, it was much easier to watch as a viewer at home and gave the final stretch that much needed boost. An electric sequence which saw Reigns get a near fall off a School Boy reversal off Sister Abigail was some of the slickest work I've seen from either man, whilst when Wyatt finally hit his move it looked devastatingly good and got a big reaction as a false finish.

A little extra - Despite this being a terrific contest, I have to say it was let down by the commentary team who were weak throughout (ranging from an unconvincing Michael Cole to a desperately over-the-top Jerry Lawler), whilst the production was also poor. The camera giving as clear view a table, a second before Reigns speared Wyatt off the apron through it, was amateurish and took away the shock value of what was one of the biggest spots of the match  

Winner - Roman Reigns via pinfall (Spear) in 23 minutes, 3 seconds

Despite being without Xavier Woods due to a storyline injury, Tag Team Champions The New Day's Kofi Kingston and Big E were on top from with their pre-match promo. Their trombone-based rhetoric certainly seemed to hit the spot with the live audience, and they got a good chuckle out of my when referring to Bubba Ray Dudley as the "Caucasian Kamala", as well as Kingston's reference to WWE's social media venture and massive flop Tout. Considering I had been down beat about this contest heading in, the duo got me hyped to see more New Day action inside the ring.

Match 3 - WWE Tag Team Championship - The Dudley Boyz vs. The New Days' Big E & Kofi Kingston (C)

I should have stayed down beat, I really should. The New Day got me hyped for a match that never turned. The four men involved looked like they'd never met each other before and jolted from one clunky moment to the next, even the hot tag for the Dudleyz was weak and barely gained a murmur from the crowd, as it came out of the blue with barely any build. Kofi Kingston chanelling Eddie Guerrero with his trombone, throwing it to Bubba Ray and hitting the canvas with the ref distracted, was a pretty cool moment until it lead to Bubba pleading with ref and the crowd to not disqualify him. Kingston flying into vision as Bubba Ray was about to order his brother to bring in the furniture, was the bouts strongest moment, before a flat finish saw the New Day manage to grab the victory via Kingston Trouble in Paradise. A pancake of an end to a feud that never managed to get into second gear. 

Winners - Big E & Kofi Kingston via pinfall (Kingston on Bubba Ray (Trouble in Paradise)) in 8 minutes, 24 seconds *STILL CHAMPION*

Match 4 - WWE Diva's Championship - Charlotte (C) vs. Nikki Bella 

This was the strongest non-HIAC bout on the card for me, with Charlotte and Nikki combining well once more to put on a compelling slice of action. The psychology of this was spot on, with Nikki focusing her attention onto the lower back of Charlotte, in an attempt to counteract the bridging of The Nature Girl's Figure 8 hold. After the previous two title bouts between the two had seen Nikki work the arm and leg and still come out on the losing side, it made perfect sense for her to focus on a different body part here, with the back being the logical next step. With Nikki pulling out a Spinebuster, as well as an Alabama Slam onto the ring apron, this felt very different from the kind of women's matches that were being put on 12 months ago. I did feel that the finish was a little sloppy, and having Charlotte still win with the Figure 8 was a little unimaginative. There was scope for a different kind of finish (similar to the point that I made about their Night of Champions clash), but I suppose it has put Charlotte over (and especially her ability to lock in the hold no matter what) superbly heading into her post-Bella feud. 

Winner - Charlotte via Submission (Figure 8) in 10 minutes, 39 seconds

Match 5 - WWE World Heavyweight Championship - Seth Rollins (C) vs. Kane

After what has felt like an age of building towards, the match that no one particularly wanted to see anyway, was unsurprisingly a bit shit. The action was pretty sloppy and most the matches big spots were botched, or, at least, didn't look as good as they could have done. Rollins' powerbomb onto the announce table standing out in particular, with the table not breaking and Kane rolling off as the table fell over, even the set up to the move looked contrived. Despite having a career year, it felt like Seth Rollins was trying way too hard. The selling of his frustration at being unable to put Kane away would have been a nice touch, but it wasn't just a touch, it was a frying pan across the face. Hitting two superkicks' exactly the same as the ONE Alberto Del Rio used to put away John Cena earlier, and then a Frog Splash, and still only get two, was as frustrating to watch as a viewer as Rollins tried to get across with his over-the-top actions. The best thing about this match was that it was the end of the rivalry between the two, and that Rollins can hopefully move onto better things.

Winner - Seth Rollins via pinfall (Pedigree) in 14 minutes, 35 seconds *STILL CHAMPION*

Match 6 - WWE Intercontinental Championship - Kevin Owens (C) vs. Ryback

Another disappointing encounter, the Intercontinental Championship bout wasn't a patch on the previous bout between Ryback and Kevin Owens from Night of Champions. The action was slow, scrappy and never seemed to get going. Ryback's reversal of Owens' Pop-up Powerbomb attempt into a Meathook clothesline was the standalone highlight of the outing. The finish was another underwhelming one, with Owens holding onto the ropes and then hitting a Pop-Up Powerbomb to get the win. Without a doubt one of Owens poorest bouts since joining WWE, at least the talent performer held onto the Intercontinental Championship. Here's hoping just like Seth Rollins that Owens is handed a more inspiring feud heading out of Hell in a Cell.

Winner - Kevin Owens via Pinfall (Pop-Up Powerbomb) in 5 minutes, 35 seconds

If the previous Hell in a Cell bout had started lacking a big fight feel, it was present in shed (or cell) loads for the main event. The sheer presence of Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker standing across the ring from each other, for what had been advertised as the very last time, was enough to get the crowd buzzing. Throw in the giant Hell in a Cell surrounding the ring and things were at fever pitch for one of the most anticipated matches WWE has put on a "B" PPV for a very long time. The two showed their veteran status keeping the crowd hooked with an epic stare down before the match even began.

Match 7 - Hell in a Cell - The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar with Paul Heyman

If the crowd were hot before the match, they got even hotter as things went on, with Taker and Lesnar holding them in the palm of their hands throughout. The duo kept things cleverly simple, turning the slightest movement in a big moment in the match. Take for example, Lesnar's first German Suplex attempt, now you wouldn't expect a suplex block to get a big pop, but when Undertaker shifted his hips and sent Lesnar to the outside and into the side of the cage, the crowd loved it. It was simple, effective storytelling that we'd see throughout the bout, that showed just how well Lesnar' "suplex city" gimmick has been used over the last six months. 

Whilst the pair throwing bombs at each other was exactly what the match needed to be and kept me on the edge of my seat, Lesnar getting busted open was done poorly. If you're going to disobey the boss and blade, make it look good! Even the commentary team made a point of saying that Lesnar didn't hit the ring post, and then suddenly Lesnar is pissing blood. It also meant we got a couple of stoppages as a doctor entered the cell, kind of ruining all the talk about how "brutal" Hell in a Cell matches are. With these draw backs in mind, the contest was still gripping for almost the entire 18 minutes, with Undertaker's Tombstone Piledriver onto the exposed boards being one of the best false finishes in years. As a closing chapter for the feud, it worked, it would be wrong to compare to their previous HIAC bout as they were at completely different times for the industry. This was a lesson in doing the most with what you have, and accentuating the positives.

Winner - Brock Lesnar via Pinfall (F5) in 18 minutes, 7 Seconds

The conclusion of the show was a rather interesting one and I'm not sure whether I feel like it would have been more effective on the next night's Monday Night RAW. Obviously, that would have involved having to use Undertaker twice, but an appearance on RAW after ending the PPV with an entire arena chanting "Thank You Taker" could have been hyped strongly and would have had a lot of intrigue heading in. Obviously WWE went with having The Wyatt Family take out The Undertaker to end the PPV, which may have been the cheaper option and I suppose also built some intrigue heading into RAW. The attack however was done very well, as was the symbolic nature of the Family carrying Taker out of the arena. John "Bradshaw" Layfield also deserves credit for an outstanding job on commentary throughout the attack. The adverts that ran for Survivor Series pushed the show as the 25th Anniversary of The Undertaker in WWE, so that'll certainly set fans minds racing with speculation of the coming weeks.


ATPW Scale Rating: 6.05 - Good

This PPV was propped up by it's two eponynomous bouts. The two Hell in a Cell bouts were some of the best WWE has put on since going PG, both offering something and able to captivate a crowd. The World Heavyweight Championship failed to deliver anything close to what it needed to. Whilst the undercard was very poor, with only the Diva's Match standing out of the pack for me, this is concerning when you've got major returns like Alberto Del Rio and names like John Cena on that undercard. Lots of missed opportunities...but the two HIAC matches taking up the majority of the show, allowed this one to just grab it above a 6 rating (Good for PPV) on the ATPW Scale, putting it level with Payback and behind only Money in the Bank for B PPV's in 2015. 

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