The second WWE RAW exclusive pay-per-view is in the books and is getting a lot of mixed reviews. The booking was questionable and some of the matches garnered close to zero interest from the crowd, but the three main-events lived up to their billing and carried the show. From worst to first, let’s rank the Hell in a Cell 2016 card and talk about what happened.
8th: Dana Brooks versus Bayley
It’s good to see a secondary women’s feud on a pay-per-view, but when the build-up is as putrid as this was, it’s hard to invest. Bayley is possibly the best overall talent in the division, but forcing her to have to deal with someone so far beneath her was never going to lead to a good match. The bout itself ended how it should, with Bayley comprehensively winning.
What they should’ve done: Have Bayley feud with Nia or Emma, not Dana.
7th: Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady versus Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
As fantastic as the Toy Story references were pre-match, the bout itself never really went anywhere. Enzo and Cass aren’t known for their in-ring work and their opponents weren’t really given much of a chance to put on a showcase match. However, it did achieve everything it needed to achieve. Cass left looking very strong and Big Gal and Andy got a much, much needed win. There was nothing to the feud so it’s hard to grade it there.
What they should’ve done: Focus on the existing rivalry between these teams from Battleground, instead of a random blindside attack.
6th: Cedric Alexander, Sin Cara and Lince Dorado versus Tony Nese, Drew Gulak and Ariya Daivari
This was a fun and entertaining opening match. None of these guys have been given any gimmick or character to work with, but they were still able to get a reaction out of the filling crowd. The clear star was Cedric Alexander who could be a main-event level talent in the making. This would be much higher on the list if we weren’t taking feud into account.
What they should’ve done: As a pay-per-view pre-show match, this was fine.
5th: Tag Team Championship Match: The New Day versus Sheamus and Cesaro
One of the biggest issues with giving the match away on the go-home show is that the pay-per-view match then needs to raise the bar – and this didn’t. The match never really clicked and neither team left looking any good. The interference finish was the WWE getting themselves out of the corner they were wedged in as they couldn’t have New Day lose and had to make sure Sheamus and Cesaro looked strong.
What they should’ve done: Sheamus and Cesaro lose clean, break up and have one more match with the loser leaving RAW.
4th: Cruiserweight Championship Match: TJ Perkins versus The Brian Kendrick
He’s not a man with a plan, he’s THE man with a plan. While the ending was something we’ve seen before, Kendrick and Perkins played it well with the champion not falling for it immediately. The match itself probably wasn’t as good as their Clash of Champions bout, but the title change was definitely the right call. It’ll be interesting to see where they go from here considering Rich Swann defeated Kendrick on RAW.
What they should’ve done: This was fine, but from here the Cruiserweight division needs to tighten its focus onto one feud and build characters slowly. Get Rich Swann into the spotlight now.
3rd: United States Championship Match: Roman Reigns versus Rusev
This set the tone for the night well. The clear theme for these Cell matches was a focus on weapon heavy offense and using the Cell itself sparingly. This match started a bit too slowly, but built nicely to a strong ending and some nice spots. The use of the chain was great and Roman retaining was the right call. The feud itself has obviously been quite lacklustre and not used the heel/face dynamic well.
What they should’ve done: Give us a feud that makes us believe this match should be contested inside Hell in a Cell.
2nd: WWE Universal Championship Match: Kevin Owens versus Seth Rollins
If this didn’t become essentially a handicap match this would probably be number one, but obviously when you make a match two-on-one, you’re taking the steam right out of it. Up until that point, Owens and Rollins were showing why they’re two of the best wrestlers the WWE has and were telling a fantastic story. The powerbomb through two tables was probably the spot of the night. The feud in the lead up didn’t equal the quality of the match and that hurt it too.
What they should’ve done: If you need interference, involve Triple H. People have probably forgotten what he did to Seth, it was so long ago and been so inconsequential. Maybe make the feud a bit more serious too.
1st: WWE RAW Women’s Championship Match: Sasha Banks versus Charlotte
Booking decisions aside, this was outstanding. The special entrances and pre-match brawl made it feel like a real main-event and both women put their bodies absolutely on the line. The storytelling was clear and some of the spots were downright brutal. People have (incorrectly) labelled both women as botch-prone and in this massive main-event, they proved everyone wrong. Before you get your keyboards out, yes, two tables spots didn’t exactly go to plan, but neither was really their fault. The first table buckled before they touched and the second didn’t break because Sasha doesn’t weight enough. Not to mention the second one worked better for the finishing spot anyway. The feud was underwhelming simply because the focus was on the history making nature of the match and not the history between the two women. It should also have been booked to be the final chapter of the feud.
What they should’ve done: Sasha wins and retains. Boston explodes, confetti falls and the first ever women’s main-event goes down as a massive universal success and everyone leaves happy.
The clear theme from these rankings is that none of the feuds on this card were good which left RAW in a weak position coming into the show. The three main-events delivered and the rest of the show was watchable. Charlotte winning to close the show will be deemed the wrong call in hindsight depending on what they have up their sleeve next. No Mercy, and SmackDown in general, was much better and this show had the advantage of the cell. Where does RAW go from here? Well it needs to turn Jericho face, get the title back to Sasha and do something creative with Cesaro and Sheamus.