WWE has a nasty habit of turning gimmick matches into their own pay-per-views. TLC started off as a match that happened once in a while when the situation called for it but soon turned into an annual occasion. The same thing happened with Extreme Rules, a pay-per-view where virtually none of the matches are Extreme Rules matches. The most grievous example of this is Hell in a Cell.
A Hell in a Cell match used to be something the WWE broke out when a feud got serious, or if Undertaker felt like throwing Mick Foley off something really high. It was something special. Now, it’s an annual pay-per-view with at least two obligatory Hell in a Cell matches that happen regardless of whether they make sense in the overall story or not.
These matches are a lot less special, now.
That being said, this year’s Hell in a Cell was a good pay-per-view overall. There were several great matches, especially from the Women’s Division. Asuka and Kairi Sane got a well-deserved win when they picked up the Women’s Tag Team Championships and appear to have made a heel turn. Lacey Evans and Natalya had a great match on the pre-show, and an even better match the next night on Raw. Charlotte defeated Bayley to pick up a record setting tenth Women’s Championship.
The standout match of the evening was the opening Hell in a Cell match between Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch. They absolutely tore each other apart, taking advantage of the cell and the classic implements of destruction under the ring to brutalize each other. It was incredible. Unfortunately, the final match wasn’t quite as good.
The pay-per-view closed with a Hell in a Cell match between “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt and Seth Rollins for the Universal Championship. As much as fans were looking forward to the match, there were questions about how it was going to play out.
Seth recently recovered his championship from Brock Lesnar and is generally regarded as the current face of the company. It was unlikely that he was about to drop the belt. For Bray, this was going to be his second televised match as “The Fiend.” It was equally unlikely that he was going to win the belt this soon. Any fan savvy enough to think this through would have immediately realized the conundrum that WWE had just booked themselves into. How do you finish a match without a title change while protecting the standing of both individuals involved in said match?
In most cases, the answer is disqualification. The title holder picks up the DQ which hands the win to their opponent and keeps the championship where it is. Doing so protects the standing of each competitor and builds to the next confrontation. The problem in this case was that Hell in a Cell matches operate under no disqualification.
Well, at least they’re supposed to.
The match finished with what was interpreted by fans as a DQ in a non DQ match, a logical fallacy. WWE later attempted to clarify the ending as a match stoppage due to the brutality inflicted on Bray Wyatt by Seth Rollins. That makes even less sense than a DQ. Angry fans chanted for match restarts, AEW, refunds and just generally booed the entire situation. It’s not hard to understand why as the whole point of a Hell in a Cell match is to have a decisive finish.
This year’s WrestleMania ended in a similar, anticlimactic fashion. The final match was a three-way winner take-all match between Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey. While Becky won and took home both the Raw and SmackDown championships, the final moments of the match were a mess. Whether it was booked poorly or just straight up botched is irrelevant as the conclusion still left a bad taste in fan’s mouths.
Like Hell in a Cell, WrestleMania was a solid pay-per-view overall but the final match is the one that leaves the lasting impression. In the case of Hell in a Cell, there were some stellar performances in the ring. The impromptu match between Randy Orton and Ali was brilliant and refreshing as there was no forced build leading up to the last minute addition to the evening. This was just two talented competitors putting on a great performance, reminiscent of the impromptu AJ Styles vs Finn Balor bout at TLC 2017.
The unfortunate reality is that an otherwise solid pay-per-view is going to be defined by a poorly booked ending. Vince McMahon is reputedly responsible for the Hell in a Cell mistake and may, for once, have actually acknowledged it as a mistake. What matters now is how they move forward from here. Bray Wyatt didn’t appear on Raw which was a good choice. Let things settle until after the draft and then build Bray’s momentum from there.
The next steps for Wyatt are clear. First and foremost, he needs to have more matches. To date, he’s only competed in two televised matches since the beginning of the Firefly Fun House/”The Fiend” angle, one of which was a Universal title shot. Both bouts were on pay-per-views with months between them. “The Fiend” needs to get in the ring and show how dominant he is. His character might be over with the fans but that’s not how you earn title shots, and jumping legends doesn’t count. Beyond that, it’s simply a matter of making better choices with his booking. It’s a fine line between being the next Undertaker and being the next Boogeyman.
Unfortunately, WWE appears to be doubling down on the mistake by putting Bray Wyatt in another Universal Title match against Seth Rollins at Crown Jewel in a couple of weeks. This time, it’s a Falls Count Anywhere match so there should be no finish until someone is pinned or submits. The complication is that Seth is exclusive to Raw and Bray is exclusive to SmackDown after the recent draft. Unless Bray is moving back to Raw or the Universal Championship is moving to SmackDown, Bray is not going to win this match. This leaves the WWE potentially in the same position as Hell in a Cell by trying to end match without the use of a DQ or count out, and without a title changing hands.
How they screw up the finish on this one should be a pleasant surprise for anyone tuning in. Hopefully, it’s not the last match of the show. In the meantime, everyone who watched Hell in a Cell should take a step back from their rage and acknowledge that there were a lot of great matches on that pay-per-view. Focus on Sasha Banks versus Becky Lynch. That’s what Hell in a Cell should look like.
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