Rarely has the gimmick, and the title, of this column been more fitting.
Twelve-ish hours later, I'm still straddling the fence on the ending of Hell in a Cell 2014. And with more than just my usual waffling, "wait and see" approach to WWE's serialized storytelling.
I don't think I'm alone either. While some have raged, or even reflectively quit, over Bray Wyatt's supernatural interference depriving us of a clean finish to Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins' match in Dallas, the lack of any explanation and the uncertainty of the future have a lot of fans scratching their heads.
Let's try to pick at the carcass left by that fedora-wearing buzzard and see if we're going to follow or not.
On the one hand:
1) The immediate future has a lot of dudes with long-term futures in it.
Lost in the hullaballo of the show's ending was the decision to end the show with what most of us felt should of been - had to be, even - the main event all along. Mostly because it was an actual feud, a story that's been building for years about combatants who needed to be locked in a cage to settle their issues.
But also because it was time for WWE to crap or get off the pot with regards to the #NewGeneration. The former Shield brothers are both in their late twenties, with the prime of their careers still to come. Neither is being courted by UFC, or barring some really brisk DVD and streaming sales for Lockdown, Hollywood. Bray is a little younger than the former indy stars, and without quite as much wear and tear on his body. These three men should be amazing us with their talents, and giving us ample opportunities to complain about how WWE is treating their characters, for a decade to come.
For now, Mr. Money in the Bank is free to remain in the title picture while the Unstable one and the Abbadon figure to be no worse than the third most prominent angle in the company. Not bad for three guys who haven't been on the main roster for two years yet.
2) Rollins vs. Ambrose isn't over. Not by a longshot.
With all that time ahead of them, did we expect the end of a feud between these two? They've been battling since their days in Developmental. The year and a half they spent as brothers for justice was just a timeout. They'll be butting heads for the rest of their time in pro wrestling, with the exception of the mega-pop they'll get somewhere around 2022 the inevitable Shield reunion happens.
Neither Dean or Seth is going to concede that the other man was right all along. One of the things that makes their conflict so compelling is that it's unresolveable without a complete change of heart by one man or the other. That wasn't going to happen last night. What was going to happen was that the pair would get to act out their differences in a new environment.
We got that. Ambrose is driven by his passions to the point of recklessness. Rollins is as pragmatic as he is talented, but even he has his limited and Dean is the one who pushes him there better than anyone. The story wouldn't have ended with a "clean" finish, and we wouldn't have wanted it to. If they can plausibly provide Seth with a way to claim responsibility for the "dirty" finish we got, it might only add heat to their blood feud.
The rivalry between these two has the potential to be everything WWE tried to convince us that John Cena vs.Randy Orton is. It could be a combination of Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock's competitive one-upmanship and the passion of Undertaker and Kane. That kind of feud should be featured at WrestleMania. It should main event WrestleMania. It should main event several WrestleManias.
Hell in a Cell was just one stop on a long journey.
3) What comes next could change everything.
Fans have been salivating about the prospect of promo duels between Ambrose and Wyatt since The Family got the call to the main roster last year. And while the talking will be quite something, I'm actually more excited about everything else we might see from Bray and Dean over the coming months.
These are two men who synthesize things we've seen before in pro wrestling into something new and exciting. Their microphone work is just one example of the phenomenal grasp of psychology these men possess. The Lunatic Fringe understands how to use his face as a storytelling tool during a match, and when (and how) to utter just the right sentence or phrase during a match or brawl to turn into something special. The Eater of Worlds makes adults uncomfortable, even though we know that on some level he's performing. And even though it scares us, we find it attractive and want to participate.
Given some leeway, the stories they can tell could really propel them - and possibly the form of pro wrestling - to another level. And since they don't have the weight of a main event level feud on them, the powers that be might actually give them that leeway.
While some have said that this will be the act that gets real heat on Wyatt, I'm of the opinion that his cool factor will outweigh that. But unlike past attempts at a nuanced, post-face/heel dynamic program, I think Ambrose and Bray could successfully draw and hold our interest and enthusiasm without a clear cut rooting interest. And that's just one way these two gifted young men might change the game. I bet they have a few ideas that we haven't even thought of...
On the other hand:
1) WWE Creative doesn't have a great track record with this kind of stuff.
The most legitimate beef I have with last night's screwy ending is that there was no narrative ahead of Bray's interference. Rollins vs. Ambrose was unique in the current WWE environment because of it's cohesive history. Wyatt has been absent from the arena, only showing up on telecasts in pre-taped videos with no ties to anything going on in the current storytelling landscape.
Sure, they can retcon an explanation tonight, but they still didn't earn that moment last night. And based on past fallout promos from Mr. Wyatt, we may not even get a coherent explanation tonight. Any hope for using the events of October 26th to develop an issue between Dean and Bray that we'll care deeply about, or to make the rift between Rollins and Ambrose even more personal, depends on WWE doing something at which it's not very good.
For all of their crowing about being an entertainment company, the McMahons too often offer up a product that is much more on the amusement park end of the entertainment spectrum, as opposed to a film. Creative need to deliver tonight in order for Bray Wyatt's holographic interruption to be more Superman: The Movie than Superman: The Ride. Otherwise, the Hell in a Cell main event was just the downhill section of a roller coaster.
2) With great potential comes great risk.
We have good reason to be excited about Wyatt and Ambrose will bring to the table, but it's not out of the question to think that they might not click as dance partners. Neither man is exactly a workrate machine or mat technician, and if thier bouts are disappointing, it might not matter how excellent the promos are (especially if the writers don't put any logic behind them) or how either man emotes during a match.
For all his skill and all the swaying cell phone lights, Wyatt has struggled at times to connect with the masses. He's delivered in-ring duds against partners as varied as Roman Reigns and Chris Jericho. Ambrose has carried a few matches on his manic energy alone, but they wouldn't be the first talented guys who didn't click. And Creative has shown some confusion on how Dean's instability should be presented week-in and week-out even in an organic feud like The Shield's break-up. A mannequin skit in the middle of an already lackluster feud could set him back considerably.
Will Rollins be able to draw as much heat while adrift, or in a feud with noted eliciter of "meh" Randy Orton, as he was in a blood feud with his former teammate? Is the WWE Universe at large as tired of the machinations of evil Authority figures as the internet wrestling community (IWC) seems to be? Does any of this matter if it all still ends with John Cena standing tall over all comers?
3) And that doesn't even cover the conspiracy theories.
Some of this is just the rambling of a paranoid fan, some is a product of the 'Reality Era' and internet fans' desire to peak behind the curtain even as WWE tries to create a layer of kayfabe between that curtain and their real inner workings.
But did Rollins and Ambrose get the main event slot because WWE is building the future around them, or just because the f*** finish would have been out of place anywhere else on the card? Will Vince use the lack of buzz around a B-level pay-per-view (PPV) that didn't feature the WWE champ to further his argument that Dean Ambrose doesn't have star potential, or that he (and fans) don't "get" Bray Wyatt?
These might be questions asked by a crackpot who thinks about this stuff too much. But in a company that can't figure out how or doesn't want to package as pure a wrestling talent as Cesaro for success, can you blame me for asking them?
Final Analysis: I have a lot of faith in the performers involved, especially Dean Ambrose, and they all have the needed support as "Triple H guys" to be given the space to make the most of it. Still, last night was rough, and there's a lot that can go wrong. I'm 65% Excited and 35% Afraid.
Where are you, Cagesiders?