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23 years since the Hell in a Cell match debuted, the match has gone from a dynamic and rarely seen spectacle, to a standard tradition that takes place each October. At one point, with the exception of the Royal Rumble match, Hell in a Cell was the single biggest stipulation match that WWE could leverage as a drawing card, similar to how the steel cage match was used in prior generations. Since then, thanks largely to overuse, the match has lost its original appeal. Despite the fact that the Hell in a Cell PPV has always been anchored by a marquee stipulation match, the PPV has never gotten over as anything more than a typical WWE "B" PPV.
Hell in a Cell 2020 was a show where half of the matches on the main card took place inside the cell. To be fair, unlike in prior years, all three of the Hell in a Cell matches could at least argue that they were the culmination of feuds that had been built over a long period of time. Psychologically, all three matches did feel like they belonged inside the cell, which has not always been the case in prior years.
Still, three matches inside the cell felt like overkill. By the time Randy Orton and Drew McIntyre stepped inside the cell, we had already seen one hour of wrestling inside the cell. Even though both guys worked really hard, it was a challenge for them to really do anything that exciting or interesting because fans had already two pretty dramatic matches earlier in the night. Throw in the fact that all three of the non-HIAC matches were quite pointless and boring, this was a below-average PPV despite some interesting stuff happening in it.
Roman Reigns vs Jey Uso: **½
I'm not really sure how to rate this match. The Roman Reigns vs Jey Uso storyline has been great, and the psychology behind it and how it relates to Reigns' new character is still very much in tact. For that reason, the match remained entertaining for me even though it was obviously flawed. I still wanted to see what would happen in the match even if the match itself was spiraling downwards. I think the storyline is still awesome, but the execution tonight was lacking.
I hated the amount of talking and the deliberate pacing. I get that it is "storytelling" but WWE doesn't think much of its fanbase that they think the only way they can follow the story is to have the guys give a long monologue about WHY they are about to do something, instead of just doing it and relying on the crowd to understand why Roman is being so violent, or why Jey wouldn't give up. I get that some fans probably need to be spoon fed the story, but this was ridiculous, and the pacing and lack of action made the match extremely dull when it should have been really hot.
I also think in matches like these, the PG-version of WWE becomes a significant factor. Outside of the choking spot with the strap, this felt like kind of a standard No Disqualification match as WWE is limited in just how violent a match can be. Roman Reigns locked in a guillotine choke on Jimmy Uso? That is a move you will see on like, every single wrestling show. I don't think the PG rating is as big of an issue as some other people do, but I think in matches like Hell in a Cell, which is packaged and sold on the idea that it is an incredibly violent match, it is a problem.
In conclusion, I like the storyline, I liked Afa and Sika coming out at the end, I am still enjoying heel Roman Reigns and Jey Uso has looked like a star during the feud; but the match tonight wasn't for me.
Bayley vs Sasha Banks: ****
This was a very enjoyable match on a show that up until that point really needed this. As a contrast to the Reigns/Uso match that involved all of that dialogue, Bayley and Banks were able to tell a story just fine in their match solely based on their actions. Two women that were once friends, Bayley turning on Banks and then eventually setting up a grudge match inside Hell in a Cell. I would have had this match in the main event slot, especially with Banks winning.
Banks has been in three Hell in a Cell matches and she has delivered in all three of them. For someone that is arguably the most talented and complete women's performer in the company history, she has been denied the same kind of push as some of her peers. It was nice to see her go over clean in a match that felt really important. Bayley and Banks have been the consistently best act in WWE during 2020, and at times have masked what has turned out to be a surprisingly thin women's division on the main roster.
Randy Orton vs Drew McIntyre: ***
If this match had been the only Hell in a Cell match on the card, I'd probably like it more. Instead, it was the third such match on the show, and the other two told better stories and felt more dramatic. By virtue of being third, there wasn't a whole lot of new territory for them to wade into. Even the big spot of the match, with Drew falling off the side of the Hell in a Cell through the announce table, is something that has been done pretty much every year on this PPV. The guys worked hard, but by the end of this match we were touching on 90 minutes inside the cell.
I'm not surprised Orton won; the direction for WrestleMania has been rumored to be Orton vs Edge for the title, which isn't very forward thinking for WWE, but a lot of people figured Orton would win this match. McIntyre worked hard and performed well as champion, but due to the lack of live crowds it was hard to tell just how over he was. With Orton being already an established big star in the company, he often felt like the bigger star during this feud, which would not have been the case if Drew was getting a big pop from the crowd every time he hit the ring.
The long term belief for Drew is that he will one day get his big babyface title win when crowds can come back. I'm not sure when that will be, and a million things can change in WWE, but McIntyre deserves to get another chance as the top guy in the company. He didn't do anything wrong during this run, and WWE didn't always put him in the best position to succeed, but I hope that he doesn't end up being forgotten and left in the mid card AGAIN.
Otis vs The Miz: **
I didn't see Tucker costing Otis the briefcase, although it does make sense. They needed to get the briefcase off of Otis because he wasn't credible enough to cash in and win; but he does have some charisma and you don't want to make him look like a total loser by failing in his cash in attempt. So you get the briefcase off him and get on Miz, who can totally cash in and lose because he has been entrenched as a midcard guy for years. It does set up a Tucker vs Otis feud, which should be hard to do since they are technically on different brands, but it's WWE so whatever.
Bobby Lashley vs Slapjack: *½
I cringed every time that the announcers called poor Shane Haste "Slapjack", which combined with his horrible mask, really made him feel like one of those 90s jobbers with a horrible gimmick, like The Goon or Aldo Montoya. Like those guys, he did the job to Lashley in a nothing match. At this point Retribution are basically just the new version of Ricochet/Apollo Crews/Cedric Alexander that feueded each week with The Hurt Business and always lost.
Jeff Hardy vs Elias: *½
People said this was a filler match, but to be fair, they have done an honest build for this match so it makes sense for it to take place on a PPV. I did like the segment earlier when Jeff outshined Elias as a member of his band and then kicked his ass. I don't think that it seems like the default storyline for Jeff is that the heel makes fun of his problems with addiction. The match wasn't very good and the DQ finish was lame; and I think it is just going to lead to more Elias songs that reference Jeff's real life problems.
Must Watch Matches
Jon Moxley vs Chris Dickinson: **** - Josh Barnett's Bloodsport 3
Kota Ibushi vs SANADA: **** - NJPW G1 Climax 30 Final
On the latest episode of The Gentlemen's Wrestling Podcast, Jesse Collings and Jason Ounpraseuth discuss one year of AEW Dynamite. The guys discuss their original expectations for the promotion and how AEW has lived up to those expectations, as well as discuss the title reigns of Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley, the much maligned AEW's Womens Division, the pros and cons of wrestlers doing their own creative, and more.