WWE Hell in A Cell 2018 – 11 Thoughts

Orton Hardy
Picture from WWE.com

SPOILER WARNING – This post contains spoilers for WWE’s Hell in a Cell 2018.

The Needless Commentary Team gathered in the Phantom Zone last night for a group viewing of WWE’s September event, Hell in a Cell. Overall everyone seemed pretty darn satisfied with the matches. I was especially happy because it concluded around 10:45 rather than going up to or past 11 PM.

I had to be up at 3:30 this morning. The combination of little sleep and an early morning has left me with some thoughts to share about the show.

The Cell is Red! – The Cell appeared to be a new one; now in a bright, shiny red!

I thought it looked good and stood out in a way that made watching the Cell matches a little more interesting. The old Cells were ominous, but the red Cell made things seem more exciting, somehow.

What with red being RAW‘s signature color, I wonder if SmackDown is suffering from a case of Cell envy?

Orton’s Thigh Meat – One of the most gruesome injuries I’ve seen in the HD wrestling era was the result of a broken chair leg shaving about four inches of meat off of Randy Orton’s thigh. After a Swanton Bomb from Jeff Hardy, Orton was left with bloody meat dangling from his normally pristine left thigh.

This was the nastiest part of an impressive and brutal match that delivered far beyond my expectations. Hardy and Orton went to war. At the end of the match Jeff Hardy was laying broken on top of a table due to a breathtaking drop from the Cell ceiling, while Orton was left with that nauseating thigh wound and a back full of bloody holes thanks to a shot from Hardy’s ruined studded belt.

Said belt was ruined by a front suplex through an inverted ladder, one of the early “holy shit” spots in a match that used them sparingly, but effectively. Another notable spot was Orton sticking a screwdriver through Hardy’s earlobe and twisting it. Even though I – having stretched lobes myself –  know that’s a safe and relatively painless thing to have happen, the visual was cringe-inducing.

Orton demanding a pinfall after the referee had called for medical assistance for Hardy was an excellent touch.

Distraction By Puppy – We missed Becky Lynch’s victory because our new puppy, Leela, was scampering back upstairs and everyone was witnessing her adorableness.

Becky had just locked Charlotte into the Disarm-Her right next to the ropes, so I think we all assumed we had a few seconds of Puppy Adoration Time. Next thing we knew the bell was ringing.

Given how unreliable the Network is for live streaming we didn’t want to rewind, so Arian looked up the result. I won’t mind rewatching the match to see it.

Up to that point the match had been very good. I still say Becky Lynch is one of the most valuable Superstars on the main roster. She’s dynamite on the mic when she isn’t given shit material, she connects with the crowds like few workers do these days, and she can be great in the ring. Mostly, though, she’s believable.

Arian and I had a conversation about believability last night and concluded that there’s a deficit of it in WWE right now. But not in the case of Becky Lynch.

Bonus points for the post-match bit about Becky believing Charlotte’s offered hand was nothing more than an attempt to steal the spotlight. This story is still hot and I hope it continues for a while.

Dolph Ziggler’s Shitty Tights – During Dolph Ziggler’s mid-entrance crotch thrust it was apparent that the tights he was wearing were falling apart – the slick coating that gives some gear that shiny look was flaking off visibly. It diminished Ziggler’s presence, which is something a Superstar of his delicate positioning cannot afford.

If I was Vince McMahon, I’d fine someone that appeared on my programming in shabby gear. Unless that’s their gimmick.

The match that followed was technically sound, with a spectacular ending move that saw Drew McIntyre deliver a perfectly timed Claymore (out of nowhere™) to Seth Rollins, who was in the process of delivering the finale of his insane superplex-into-Falcon Arrow to Dolph. This led to Mr. Ziggles landing on top of Rollins and earning the win for his team.

It was a great finish – and the right one – for a satisfying match that, unfortunately, I just didn’t care too much about. RAW’s Main Event scene is so muddled right now as far as motivations and tactics that I find it hard to care about anyone, even Braun Strowman, who has spent the last year being one of the main reasons I still even bother to watch WWE on Monday nights.

Fight Forever – The Styles/Joe match for the WWE Championship ended in wonky manner, with Styles tapping out to the Coquina Clutch as he was in a pinning position over Samoa Joe. Unfortunately for Joe, the ref was on the other side and didn’t see it.

This means the story continues, with even more heat than it already had.

I’ve been watching these two fight since Samoa Joe debuted in TNA thirteen years ago. I will happily watch them feud for thirteen more. Back then their matches were energetic and full of things that I had never seen professional wrestlers do. Now, both men are seasoned veterans and put on matches that are remarkable for completely different reasons.

My one critique is that this match ended in a very similar way to the Sane/Baszler match from Takeover and I just finally finished watching that the day prior to Hell in a Cell and it was really fresh in my mind. It was a good ending, but WWE has done that a few times lately.

Dammit, Daniel – The mixed tag match was perfectly fine and served its purpose without doing anything special. Both teams looked good and Maryse getting the pin was the right call (almost every match ended the way I felt it should last night).

However, I don’t want to see Daniel Bryan doing diving headbutts. Not as part of the Main Event at WrestleMania, not during the sure-to-be epic conclusion of his feud with Miz, and certainly not in a mixed tag match on a b-level WWE event.

He’s a grown man and is as protected as any professional wrestler can be right now, but it takes me out of the match to see that and worry about his health. I don’t want to see anyone doing diving headbutts (or suicide dives through the ropes), much less a man with Bryan’s medical history. He’s a talented enough performer to get reactions in other ways.

Legit Bliss – I’ve been saying for a few months now that Ronda Rousey will be WWE’s next Rock or John Cena. She has more in-ring ability than either, is picking up the art almost as fast as Kurt Angle, gets better on the mic every single time, and connects with the audience in a way that only a select few have throughout the years.

But she’s still green, and she could not have had a better opponent at this point in her progress than MVP superheel Alexa Bliss.

Despite her diminutive stature, Bliss has established herself as an always-credible opponent. Her mic work is top-notch, but in-ring she has the best storytelling ability of anyone in the Women’s Division and most of the men. Every second of every match Bliss is using her face and body language to sell the audience on what’s going on, and she does it in a more natural way than almost anyone on the roster. She’s cowardly and devious and arrogant in a way that garners boos. That’s impressive in this era of smarks and crowds that want to hijack shows.

While Rousey is proving herself more than capable of having compelling matches, Bliss’ work selling in the ring has turned what could have been an impressive but standard early feud into something that will be remembered as a key moment in the history of the RAW Women’s Championship.

Double Duty – Roman and Braun were having a perfectly serviceable Universal Championship match when Mr. Ziggles, McIntyre, Rollins, and Ambrose came back out to let us know that the Hossfest was not, in fact, going to make it to the top of the Cell. Instead these four would be engaging in death-defying shenanigans.

I honestly don’t remember how it happened, but Roman and Braun were both conked out in the ring. Given their past interactions I have to assume that they were hit by a nuclear strike.

Unless Roman was just napping.

Meanwhile the other four guys climbed the Cell and fought while we all winced in anticipation of whatever daredeviltry was going to occur. Ambrose and McIntyre lucked out by knocking themselves out on top of the Cell somehow, but Ziggler and Rollins managed to pull off one of the most convincing Cell spots I’ve ever seen.

The two were battling while hanging onto the side of the massive cage, then went crashing throught the announce tables below without any of the usual trepidation or visible coordination. They barely even looked down before taking the plunge, something that is usually a sure clue that an ugly bump is about to happen. Kudos to both guys for an incredibly ballsy and visually shocking (and surprising) bump that I’ve never seen executed quite so well.

Borked By Brock – I don’t think any of us watching had any idea that Lesnar might return. I thought I was sick of the guy (and I am sick of Champion Lesnar), but I popped huge for his violent entry and Paul Heyman’s totally-not-PG-TV verbal abuse of the officials.

Brock kicking that door in was yet another highlight reel-worthy moment in a career full of them. Not content with just that, though, he then used the door as a ramp to just run up the side of the ring, after which he absolutely demolished Braun and Roman.

I didn’t care for the referee just ending the match. What do you call that? Match called due to Brockification? He should’ve at least done a ten count and declared a double knockout. Same result, but WWE looks more “realistic” and less “who gives a shit?”

Nipples – Rousey seemed to be having problems with her top, which we were all expecting to provide insufficient PG-TV coverage at any moment.

Meanwhile, Braun’s end up fully on display every match thanks to his bizarre singlet choice that seems designed to slowly reveal the Strow-nips over the course of his matches, as though they’re part of his powering up.

Recommended – Overall this was a damned fine WWE event and if you missed it I recommend going back for Hardy/Orton, Lynch/Flair, Styles/Joe, Rousey/Bliss, and Reigns/Strowman. Heck, just for the tremendous finish and admittedly solid ringwork I’d say the RAW Tag Championship match is worth your time. That’s six out of seven (main card) matches, which is a damned fine ratio.

Share your thoughts about Hell in a Cell in the comments, or join the discussion in the Needless Things Podcast Facebook Group!

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