Bianca Belair (c) vs. Bayley
Hell in a Cell match for the SmackDown Women’s championship
It’s notoriously tough to follow up big, emotional title wins.
That’s what WWE was tasked with after Bianca Belair’s historic WrestleMania night one main event title win. That was the culmination of a solid feud but match the match was superb, ending with Belair besting one of the best wrestler’s in WWE, if not the world, in front of a live WWE crowd for the first time in a year.
It was a great WrestleMania moment, one that put Bianca in a strong starting position for her inaugural title reign. But then came the challenging part - following up on it. Bianca has an extremely bright future in the WWE so it was important to have a strong kick off to her championship run.
To do that, they moved from one incredible wrestler to another in Bayley. That was a smart choice from the creatives minds on SmackDown. Bayley is both a fantastic in-ring worker, guaranteeing the matches would be good, and an established as a top heel who has a strong grasp on her character.
The initial build to their first title match at WrestleMania Backlash was standard fare where the challenger accused the champion of being a rookie who got lucky. It was solid, but these two had feuded back and forth a decent amount prior to WrestleMania, which resulted in not feeling as fresh as it could have.
Their Backlash match was good, though predictably didn’t hit the level of the EST’s title win. (Our community graded Banks/Belair 4.55 and graded Bayley Belair 3.49.) It wasn’t the cleanest finish with the champ using her braid to help assist in the pin. It could have stood on its own given Bayley, like Banks before her, tried to use Bianca’s braid against her the entire match so Bianca using it was just fair play. But it left open the continuation of the feud.
With no obvious new challengers on the horizon, extending this feud a bit longer made sense. Like last time, they didn’t have much new to add to the story. Bayley accused Belair of being a criminal for using her braid to win the match. Then she employed some mind games in a bit of a weird segment where she laughed at her in panoramic via the ThunderDome.
Then just last Friday, this match was moved from taking place at Hell in a Cell to inside Hell in a Cell. That segment ended with the veteran getting the best of the champion, standing tall with the title. Given they suddenly moved the Universal Hell in a Cell match to TV to make room on the pay-per-view, the additional stipulation was likely a last minute decision.
It’s not a feud that feels worthy of a Cell match, but to be honest, few do nowadays. So it makes sense to go this route. If the goal is to start Bianca’s championship reign with a bang, a feud that culminates inside Hell in a Cell with one of WWE’s best women is the way to do it.
It’ll be a featured match on the card given it’s only one of two Cell matches. Including a ring general like Bayley ensures it will at least be a good match, and probably better. (Not that Belair is a bad wrestler by any means, but her being newer to the business means pairing her with someone who’s also not as seasoned could risk a subpar match.) There was never a chance to keep the full momentum going after her huge WrestleMania win, but they’ve done a pretty dang good job avoiding an early championship slump for the EST. It’s not the most exciting, but usually the first feud of a championship run isn’t. And it certainly doesn’t feel like a weak start for an important title reign.
It’ll be interesting to see where Bianca goes next, assuming she survives Bayley tonight. There’s a rematch with Sasha Banks that will need to happen at one point - maybe at SummerSlam. Outside that, there isn’t someone on the SmackDown roster that would feel like a big deal. But then again, it’s the job of the champion to make their programs feel like a big deal. After a strong start with feuds with Banks and Bayley, Belair will likely be up to the task.
Bianca Belair will step inside Hell in a Cell for the first time to defend her title against Bayley at the Hell in a Cell event. That starts tonight at 8 PM ET on Peacock in the United States & WWE Network everywhere else. Keep it here to CagesideSeats.com for all you Hell in a Cell coverage.
Who will win this match?
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