Let’s face it. WWE has had a rough year when it comes to pay-per-views. Most of the shows haven’t lived up to their hype, and at times the booking has been so illogical that the company still hasn’t recovered.
It was more of the same at Hell in a Cell last Sunday. While there weren’t any decisions that were bad enough to further damage SmackDown going forward, WWE did little to inspire confidence that things are going to get better before the year comes to a close.
Here are my takes on what went down in Detroit.
The Professor’s HIAC Review and Recrimination
Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin vs. The Hype Bros (Kickoff Show) – Gable and Benjamin have potential to be a force on the brand, and they needed to get the win here. Thankfully they did. As far as the Hype Bros go, the breakup that’s been teased for what feels like months now still didn’t happen. The creative team either needs to elevate this tag team, or let the guys go their separate ways to see if they can make a splash on the singles scene.
Randy Orton vs. Rusev – Since Randy Orton appears to be virtually bulletproof with the WWE Universe, Rusev needed a dominant win here. The Bulgarian Brute dominated much of the match against Orton, but ultimately fell victim to an RKO (OUTTA NOWHERE!!!) and lost yet another PPV match. This accomplishes nothing for Orton, who still needs a refresh. Rusev is being buried in a way that only Sami Zayn (maybe) and Dolph Ziggler (totally) can understand.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Bobby Roode – This was baffling. Ziggler came out to no music and no video package in order to reinforce his “substance over style” mantra. Then he proceeded to have a dull, lifeless bout with Roode. Even more baffling is having Roode win by nefarious means (grabbing Ziggler’s tights at the end of a series of roll-ups), then eat Ziggler’s finisher after the bell. Somehow, WWE managed to damage both wrestlers at the same time.
Natayla vs. Charlotte Flair (SmackDown Women’s Championship) – Charlotte got the win here, as she should have. However, she won when Nattie battered her with a chair outside of the ring. This keeps the title on Natalya, but gives Charlotte legitimate cause to demand a rematch. For some reason, WWE seems absolutely dedicated to keeping the SmackDown Women’s Championship away from Charlotte. It might make sense if there was a line of women waiting to take on Natalya, but so far, no one has been featured as a threat.
The Usos vs. The New Day (Smackdown Tag Team Championship; Hell in a Cell) – This was the match of the night, and possibly the match of the year so far. Both teams worked incredibly hard and delivered a brutal, impactful match. The Usos were the right choice to take the titles back, as SmackDown doesn’t have another viable heel team to face off with the New Day if they’d kept the belts. At least the Usos can take on Gable and Benjamin, or maybe the Fashion Police.
AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin vs. (Suddenly) Tye Dillinger (United States Championship) – It was pretty obvious how this one was going to go when Dillinger was added to the match by SmackDown general manager Daniel Bryan. WWE needed Corbin to take this title, or disappear into Rusev/ZIggler hell. However, they didn’t want AJ Styles to take a clean loss, since he’ll probably be the next great babyface to be sacrificed to Jinder Mahal. The sad part is that Dillinger showed some good fire in this feud. He deserves better.
Jinder Mahal vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (WWE Championship) – WWE is touring India in December. That’s all you needed to know here. The only good thing is that at least they booked Mahal in a clean win over Shinsuke. The Modern-Day Maharaja had exhausted the supply of Singh-assisted finishes. This damages Nakamura without really helping Mahal. WWE needs to face the fact that the audience in the United States (where they perform the other 51 weeks of the year) doesn’t care about Jinder. At least Styles seems to be waiting in the wings.
Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens (Hell in a Cell/Falls Count Anywhere) – This one lived up to the hype for the most part. Owens and McMahon did everything you’d expect of them, and delivered an impactful main event. The highlight of the match came at the end where Sami Zayn appeared, dragged Owens out of the way as Shane O’Mac dropped from the skies, and then laid Owens over the fallen Commissioner to secure a win for his (former?) best friend. The idea of Zayn and Owens together is almost as exciting as a reunion of The Shield. Of everything on the show, this was the only match that really offered something to look forward to.
Let’s hope that the reunion of Owens and Zayn lasts for a long time, and that Styles finds a way to pry the WWE Championship from Mahal. Otherwise, things will be bluer than usual on Tuesday nights.