by Scott Saffran
There is no need to beat around the bush, Hell In A Cell 2016 was about as average a pay-per-view as is possible. HIAC would be more than serviceable in 2015.
However, now in the era of the brand split, where competition is (supposedly) everything, RAW cannot afford to continue turning in affairs best characterized by a disinterested ‘meh.’ With that in mind, let’s charge forward and look at the Best and Worst to come out of this month’s RAW-exclusive show.
TJ Perkins vs. The Brian Kendrick
for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship
I adore both of these athletes. Tremendous performers, excellence in the ring. Why did I almost fall asleep? I really can’t say. The buildup was solid, the execution decent enough. There is something keeping these two from really clicking. It may be that their styles tend to clash, two technical cruiserweights with limited air time and a submission finish. It’s like wrestling a mirror, and that is not fun at all. I like the finish, despite seeing it from a mile away, but I do hope we move on from the Orton/Cena-esque feeling I’m getting.
Roman Reigns vs. Rusev
for the WWE United States Championship
Well golly-gee! Why don’t we just have Roman come out and squash everyone and just get it over with? Put the belt on him. Fast forward five years. I can’t support this level of chicanery. He broke out of the Accolade TWICE. And the second time, it was applied with a FREAKIN’ CHAIN. Rusev is not a threat to Roman, this was clear from the start. Don’t push this foolishness on us. It insults the intelligence and degrades the product.
Could you imagine if at WrestleMania 13, instead of taking the defeat to Bret but winning the hearts of the fans that Steve Austin broke out of the Sharpshooter twice and made Bret look like a ragdoll? We wouldn’t have ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, we wouldn’t have the greatest boom period in wrestling history. You’re playing with fire, WWE. Stop this now.
New Day vs. Cesaro and Sheamus
for the WWE RAW Tag Team Championships
Hey! What I said would happened actually happened. It was boring as all heck! The result was a guarantee and the finish made me shrug. I love all of these individuals as wrestlers, but jeez…I’m not going to care if: one, I know who is going to win, and two, I SAW THIS EXACT MATCH-UP LESS THAN A WEEK AGO. Average match, alright end, not a goshadarn ounce of excitement.
I said it in the preview, and I’ll say it again with the benefit of the experience of Sunday night. Three cell matches forced on us, whether the feud needs it or not, is just…it’s not good. There is no benefit to this outside schedule coordination for the WWE truckers. Did Seth and Kev need it?
At this point, not really. Jericho has been annoying and interfering, but the feud hasn’t been especially intense. Sasha and Charlotte? Probably most deserving, and their execution for the majority of the match proved that point. Rusev and Roman? Don’t make me laugh. Did we need all three on the same night? Heck no. It cheapened the experience and drained the emotion from the majority of the contests. I hope that we lose this gimmick PPV when the brand split has a whole year to itself in 2017.
Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins
for the WWE Universal Championship
The obvious call for Match of the Night, Seth and Kev turned in an absolutely incredible performance with a handful of truly innovative spots and storytelling. It’s true: I actually got worked by the blinded ref spot, and I’m pretty happy about that. Chris Jericho continues to prove to be the best asset on the WWE main roster with his absolutely tremendous knack for ridiculous heel work.
I will say that the contest did unfold more as a typical back-and-forth with some interspersed hardcore action utilizing the cage and not as emotional as it could have. But on the whole, it was still a thrilling battle. This is especially evident given how tired the crowd was for the rest of the event after the match concluded.
Cruiserweight 6-Man Tag Team Match
A pre-show match in the #2 spot on the Best Things list? You heard that right, good sir or madam. Put six HIGHLY talented, well-trained, and hilariously experienced wrestlers in a match and good things will mostly likely come. And they did come! Now, I’m not interested in hearing how this was a ‘spot fest’ with no story or psychology. They had less than 15 minutes and a grand total of zero creative backing.
This was an absolute miracle given the circumstances and expectations. I’m a giant Lince Dorado fan, and this only spurred greater adoration. The man can move like nobody’s business. Tony Nese does legitimately look like Italian He-Man, and the ‘E should push that hard. Cedric is the absolute next big thing. The kid has it all. Gulak is a throwback technician who I always love to see work. Sin Cara is truly having the career revival that commentary was so quick to point out. It was wonderful to see him thrive in his natural environment. Arya didn’t do a whole lot to impress, but if he has the same genes as his brother (I mean, probably), then he’ll go on to do something. The most purely entertaining match and the Surprise of the Night.
Enzo and Cass vs. the Club
I’m not a massive fan of the Certified G duo, but I will be the first to admit that they’re, without question, entertaining. The pre-match smack talk session may have featured a bit of tired material and cheap pops, but it did manage to break my super-serious scowl for a minute. The real reason this is on the Best list? Do I have to say it? THE CLUB ACTUALLY WON A MATCH. Holy cow! I was just so excited that I didn’t know what to do with myself.
Even better? Commentary sold their story with flying colors. The promising foreign stars deal with defeat and disappointment, but have redoubled themselves towards becoming the powerhouses they were meant to be. It felt so right, ok? I definitely forgot to include in my predictions the degree to which Enzo and Cass are over. Well, how over are they, Johnny? They are SO over that they could eat one bajillion pins and not lose one iota of fan support. Should’ve seen it coming.
Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte
for the WWE RAW Women’s Championship
I don’t want to say too much about this match, lest I devolve into a ramble-rant without intelligible thoughts. Sasha and Charlotte made history. They fought with passion and heart. It was a believable knock-down, drag-out fight. There were botches. The beginning was nonsense. The end was unceremonious and abrupt. Lita cried. I was tired. Don’t ever make Sasha lose in her hometown again. Boston isn’t known to be forgiving.
I was wrong. HIAC was not an improvement over Clash. It was exhausting. It drained me. Yes, there were highlights aplenty, but the experience on the whole was weighed down by a substantial helping of disinterest and dullness, and even a small side of furious frustration. Reminded me a lot of Payback. Cannot wait until New Day lose the belts. Might spark some interest again.
I felt pretty confident on a lot of my picks, but I’m happy I got a few wrong (*cough*the Club*cough*).
Here begins the march towards Survivor Series, an event I’ll be quite excited to cover. See you lads and ladies later!
Photo Credit: WWE.com