Looking back at what happened at WWE 2017 Hell in a Cell and what kind of booking implications lay ahead following the SmackDown pay-per-view.
TAG-TEAM: CHAD GABLE & SHELTON BENJAMIN vs. THE HYPE BROS. (ZACK RYDER & MOJO RAWLEY)
Good Booking: Gable and Benjamin continue to roll.
Gable and Jordan as American Alpha were fantastic due to their gutsy performances. Gable and Benjamin, however, seem to be a more entertaining pair. It was a no-brainer to keep Gable and Benjamin rolling in order to build another credible tag-team in a shockingly shallow division.
Questionable Booking: The Hype Bros. dissension is a slow burn.
Someone is turning heel. Be it Ryder, Rawley, or both. But this isn’t an upper-tier story here. Debatably, this isn’t even a mid-tier story. Ryder can pull off the heel or face. Rawley is struggling to connect as a solo face. It doesn’t matter though. Creative needs to pull the trigger here and turn someone ASAP. And when it happens, it must be detestable.
TAG-TEAM HELL IN A CELL TITLE MATCH: THE NEW DAY (BIG E & XAVIER WOODS) w/ KOFI KINGSTON (c) vs. THE USOS (JIMMY & JEY USO)
Good Booking: Kofi Kingston could not be involved.
Not quite a major plot point, but closer looking shows The New Day’s greatest asset; their strength in numbers. As both heels and faces, The New Day always utilized the numbers game. Inside the cell, their ever infamous third member could only watch on as a valiant but handcuffed Xavier Woods endured a barrage of kendo stick shots and a double splash aided with a chair. Intrigue can be built on the fact that The New Day can’t win without the use of their third member. And who better than the frenetic Usos to point that out.
Good Booking: The Usos regain the titles.
The Usos, ever since their heel turn, have been on a career renaissance. This one could have gone either way, but The Usos regaining the titles is the smart move. Shockingly, there aren’t any credible tag-teams yet. With Gable and Benjamin are still in the building phase, The Colons are just there, and Breezango and The Ascension providing comedy, there isn’t any teams ready to highlight Smackdown! Live’s division… yet.
RANDY ORTON vs. RUSEV
Bad Booking: Orton picks perhaps the most meaningless victory of his career.
I wonder what Creative has against Rusev. Or Vince McMahon. At this point, Orton is in Cena territory where he doesn’t need the wins anymore. Even worse, Orton put over Jinder Mahal, someone we’ll get to later. The modern-day Maharaja was Rusev’s supporting heel when they feuded with Enzo and Big Cass. And now with rumors of Rusev’s comedy face turn, here’s to hoping that’ll be what he needs. Because boy does he need anything right now.
UNITED STATES TRIPLE THREAT MATCH: AJ STYLES (c) vs. BARON CORBIN vs. TYE DILLINGER
Good Booking: Dillinger included in the match.
Dillinger deserved to be in this match. Though it was apparent that he was most likely going to eat the loss, his addition was a welcome move. Dillinger’s inclusion also lent assistance to Styles to help carry the match’s pacing and story, something Corbin is still suspect in when involved in one-on-one matches.
Good Booking: Corbin scavenges the US title.
Corbin playing the scavenger was the right move here. Corbin’s power and prowess are undeniable, but it’s his cunning that sets him apart from other big men. Corbin had a horrible summer with his failed cash-in and loss the Cena. Does the US title make up for that? Not necessarily, but it’s a nice little bright spot in his future.
SMACKDOWN! LIVE WOMEN’S TITLE: NATALYA (c) vs. CHARLOTTE FLAIR
Good Booking: Carmella doesn’t cash-in.
Carmella’s cash-in is going to result in her being the champion. It’s inevitable. It would be the worst move to have the first ever female holder of the Money in the Bank briefcase to lose. It was also the right move to hold off on Carmella’ cash-in. Natalya and Charlotte still have a story to tell with their feud. Natalya losing the title so soon/Charlotte winning the title so soon after her return only for Carmella to cash-in would’ve ruined a solid feud in the making.
WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH: JINDER MAHAL w/ THE SINGH BROTHERS (SAMIR & SUNIL SINGH)) (c) vs. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA
Bad Booking: Everything.
People might think this is too critical. But I don’t care. I’m not even entirely sure where to really start. On paper, the title should’ve been on the line inside the cell, but Mahal has proven that he can’t really thrive in big matches, often relying on the other opponent to carry him through. To be honest, he can only really work the slow match. Not even methodically slow. So placing him in the better version of a Punjabi Prison match would’ve been a waste of time. The only way this match would’ve received a “Questionable” status is if Mahal found a way to get disqualified. Having Nakamura lose cleanly hurts his already fading aura. With WWE heading to India, they sort of need Mahal to be champion. But the booked end of this match was a horrible, short-sighted decision.
BOBBY ROODE vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER
Good Booking: Bobby Roode goes over.
This one was also a no-brainer. Roode is the newer acquisition to Smackdown! Live. Ziggler has become the stepping stone for new talent. This one wasn’t in question. But this feud is far from over. Ziggler’s post-match assault will have Bobby Roode feeling some sort of way. I could just be me, but it seems as though Ziggler and Roode would make a great pairing. Not necessarily a tag-team, but an alliance. Like I said though, it could just be me.
HELL IN A CELL: SHANE MCMAHON vs. KEVIN OWENS
Good Booking: Brutality
The main event was hyped to be a personal and brutal affair. It was. Every spot was a hard-hitting and brutal affair. Aside from the end, which was obviously the highlight of the match, McMahon and Owens’ fight atop the cell was tense moment. With shades of Foley falling over and through the top of the cell, the entire affair at the top was breath-taking. McMahon’s predicted jump from the top and landing was equally brutal as well. The match, in this regard, did not disappoint.
Bad Booking: Shane McMahon
Shane McMahon reportedly is suffering from many possible injuries including a dislocated shoulder, cracked ribs, and neck trauma. This time around, he wasn’t so lucky compared to his jump against The Undertaker. Even at Survivor Series, McMahon was concussed when he was speared out of the air by Roman Reigns. With this being said, it’s time to stop Shane McMahon from in-ring competition. He may be a wildcard, but it’s getting to the point where he cannot afford to be taking these bumps. Even worse, he’s essentially taking a main event spot from one of the talents in the back that do this year-round.
Good Booking: Sami Zayn
This may be the swerve of the year. Sami Zayn, the ultimate good guy, saved his former best friend and top villain. I doubt that anybody saw this coming. The intrigue in this new development is clear and can be summed up in one word: Why? Did Owens’ belief of the management holding him down strike a chord with Zayn? Did Zayn act to protect his dearest friend because he is still his dearest friend? Smackdown! Live is going to be interesting.
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