Hell in a Cell 2019 kicked off with two great matches in Becky Lynch versus Sasha Banks and the tornado tag match pitting Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan against Luke Harper and Eric Rowan. Then the show went downhill from there. It could have been saved by an electric main event, but sadly that main event isn’t saving anything.
I’m reluctant to call Hell in a Cell a bad show, since the two opening matches were so strong. But of all the wrestling events with two great matches on them, this is as bad as it gets. The show was laid out in a way that made most of it skippable, and the ending was fantastically stupid. So, y’know what, yes, I’ll say it. This was a bad show.
The quick things you need to know: Lynch beat Banks to retain her title, Charlotte beat Bayley to become 10x women’s champ, and Seth Rollins versus The Fiend in a Hell in a Cell match, a stipulation specifically designed to yield a clear victor, ended in a no contest. Yep.
Seth Rollins retains his championship in a no contest
It’s not just internet wrestling nerds like me, or the crowd who paid money for a clean ending, who are mad. X-Pac, doing WWE’s own watch along talk show, was flustered.
The story of the match was that The Fiend is unbeatable. After about 10 minutes of wrestling, Rollins hit about a dozen curbstomps and got only a one count. He hit Bray Wyatt in the face with a chair for another one count. He stacked a ladder, chairs and a tool box atop Wyatt’s face, then got a sledgehammer and smashed Wyatt with it. And the ref called for the bell.
The crowd boos. Wyatt kills Rollins after the match with the mandible claw, and hits Sister Abegail onto the concrete. WWE didn’t want to beat The Fiend, but they didn’t want to put the title on him either, so they resorted to a finish that made zero sense. The show ends with the crowd booing, chanting “AEW” (for WWE’s new rival promotion), and generally being pissed off.
Rating: 2 stars. The Fiend is still cool as hell, but here was a dumb finish that made no sense. Hell in a Cell matches have no rules, and several have included a sledgehammer. So the ref called the match of for literally no reason.
Charlotte is 10x Women’s Champion.
This show had a great start but it’s been a slow hour-plus since the tornado tag. The crowd is deflated as Bayley versus Charlotte Flair begins.
The match centered around the two women working over each others’ legs. Crowd wasn’t into it, until about a minute before the finish where they started loud duel chants of “Let’s go Charlotte” and “Let’s go Bayley”. Finish came moments later when, after Bayley is caught putting her feet on the ropes during a roll-up, Charlotte gets her in a Figure Eight for the submission.
Charlotte taunts Bayley on her way up the ramp. Bayley cries.
Rating: 2 stars. After following so many no-heat matches, these women never really had a chance.
Chad Gable beats Baron Corbin, is christened as Shorty Gable
Baron Corbin starts the match off with a promo about Gable being short. My housemates walked in during this, and I had to explain to them why he’s wearing a crowd. It was a bummer.
After a long match that the crowd didn’t care much about, Gable rolled up Corbin for a three count after Corbin tried hitting Gable with his sceptor. During the match, Corey Graves kept referring to Chad as “Shorty Gable.” After the match, Greg Hamilton announced that “Shorty Gable” had won the match. Somewhere, Vince McMahon is laughing his ass off.
Rating: 2 stars. It was OK. Crowd for the most part didn’t care.
The O.C. vs. Braun Strowman and The Viking Raiders ends in DQ
Braun Strowman is The Viking Raiders’ surprise tag team partner, so you know The O.C. isn’t winning.
After a Raw-quality tag team match, the O.C. triple teams Braun Strowman and the ref calls a DQ. Not much to this match. The Viking Raiders had beaten Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson twice on TV already, and WWE is prepping Strowman for an angle with boxing star Tyson Fury. So no one really expected the heavily bearded team to lose.
After the match The Viking Raiders hit stereo suicide dives on Gallows and Anderson. Styles works over Strowman in the ring. He goes for a phenomenal forearm but Strowman hits a huge punch while Styles is in midair. Styles does a great job afterwards selling that he was knocked out, stumbling up the ramp and asking the ref which city he’s in.
Rating: 2 stars. It was fine.
Kabuki Warriors win tag titles
Asuka is the best female wrestler on the roster, and among the best performers on the roster full stop, and Kairi Sane is right up there with Charlotte and Sasha Banks. So the fact that these two have been so underused is criminally stupid.
The two won the Women’s Tag Team titles off Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss after Asuka spit green mist into Cross’ face and caught her with a high kick. Like the last match, this having no build up on TV hurt it. There was very little crowd reaction. This wasn’t helped by Asuka and Sane inexplicably being heels now.
Rating: 2 stars. No build up, and the Kabuki Warriors being villains with no explanation, meant the crowd didn’t have much interest. Hopefully Asuka and Sane, two great performers, can bring meaning to these titles.
Randy Orton RKO’s Ali into oblivion
Hell in a Cell only had four matches announced for it as of Saturday, and two of those matches have already gone on. So we got some time to fill, and Randy Orton versus Ali isn’t a bad way to fill it.
This was a good match in a technical sense. Ali’s offense is crisp, and he played his underdog role well. Orton is Orton, meaning he’s not particularly exciting to watch but he does feel like a star. But, since this had no build up on TV at all, so the crowd didn’t care for most of the contest.
Early in the match, Orton suplexed Ali onto an announcer’s table, and Ali had a gnarly scrape on his abdomen for the rest of the bout. The only real moment of note was Ali’s creative counter of an RKO, which saw him hit something of a handstand to stop his head from hitting the mat. It would only be a few moments later that Orton would hit an RKO for real, though.
Orton was putting a concerted effort into nodding at Ali, and pounding his chest in admiration of his efforts. So the idea here was probably to make Ali look good by doing so well against Orton. Which is unlikely to get him over, but fine.
Rating: 2.5 stars. Good wrestling, dead crowd.
Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns beat Erick Rowan and Luke Harper
These guys beat the crap out of each other.
This match was contested under tornado tag rules, which means no tagging in or out. Well, no rules in general really. The match started with a big blitz, with suicide dives and superman punches, but Harper and Rowan got control and slowed the pace down. There was a long period of heat, of Harper and Rowan slowly beating down both Bryan and Reigns, to reset the crowd. Then the two good guys made their comeback.
This was another terrific match. The second half was loaded with creative spots. The best part came when the two big men tried to double powerbomb Bryan through the announce tables, but Bryan countered with a hurricanrara, sending Harper to the floor. Reigns then followed up with a huge spear on Rowan, flattening him through another announce table.
Reigns and Bryan got the pin after a Superman punch, running knee and spear combo on Harper. The two hugged it out after the match, which was very wholesome.
Rating: 4 stars. Bryan, Reigns and Harper are all fantastic performers. How could it be bad?
Becky Lynch defeats Sasha Banks
This was a great match, and by far the best of Becky Lynch’s reign as champion. The crowd started lukewarm — perhaps a bad omen for the rest of the card — but the two women got them well and truly invested in the match. And, despite the bevy of weapons used throughout, it wasn’t cheap. This was a match that steadily built, at a steady-but-not-boring pace, to the climax, which saw Lynch tap out Banks with the Disarmer armbar.
The Hell in a Cell Match began with a lot of brawling on the outside of the ring, which led to chairs, a table and even a ladder being brought out from under the ring. All of those weapons would end up being put to use. Lots of great spots, mostly involving Banks’ meteora, a move which sees her jump off the top rope, or any high platform, and descend knees-first onto her opponent’s shoulders.
Banks hit a meteora from the apron onto Banks into a standing ladder. She hit the meteora from the top rope onto Banks through a chair. And later, through a table. Banks was in many ways the hero of this match, with a lot of sharp offense and great selling too.
The crowd ended very hot for this match. Banks set up a bunch of chairs in the ring and ascended the ropes, only for Lynch to throw a chair at her, hit an exploder suplex from the second rope into more chains, and then lock in the Disarmer.
Rating: 4 stars. Great match.
Only one match on this preshow, and it’s one you’ve seen multiple times over the past few weeks if you watch Raw.
Natalya defeats Lacey Evans: Evans tapped out to the sharpshooter.