HELL IN A CELL! Claire talked about it. I talked about it.
So let’s put you in on the conversation, good people out there in internet land.
Let’s get this out the way before I wax poetic: Bianca Belair, Asuka, and Becky Lynch put on an incredible match. These three women gave us drama, feats of incredible strength, character work, and a finish that, in itself, is a part of the larger story. I initially flexed my own People’s Eyebrow when commentary announced the Raw Women’s championship match was first of the night. But after sitting through this half hour battle, I get it. This was the best way to kick off this event and I applaud everyone involved.
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get to the proceedings this evening. Becky is an instigator. She started the match doing her best to pit Asuka and Bianca at odds to even her own odds. And when both women tossed her away, she let them fight while picking her spots. Basically, Becky wrestled the beginning of this match the way I wrestled triple threat matches in WWF No Mercy. While she rumbled consistently, her strategy was clear: Take advantage of any downed opponent and try to win the match that way.
Rather than a triple threat questioning how long the babyfaces work together against the heel before their union implodes, we got a triple threat about whether Becky Lynch might steal the title from Bianca. Bianca proved she’s stronger and faster than Becky, but she smarter than Becky? The jury was still out on that one. If Bianca wanted to go home with her title, raw power might not get the job done.
But that doesn’t mean Bianca didn’t show off. Her best moment came after watching Asuka do her own Phenomenal Blitz on Becky, followed by a German Suplex and a hip attack. Bianca slid back in the ring, put Becky in a delayed vertical suplex, and marched while holding the former champ over her head. Was it as impressive as catching Asuka in the corner, hosting her high, grabbing her arms, and launching her face first into a turnbuckle? No, but for sheer showmanship and an indelible memory from this match, the suplex wins.
Each woman controlled the match at various times in very different ways. Bianca used her power and agility, overpowering Becky’s Dis-Arm-Her attempt and withstanding everything Asuka threw her way. Becky went for quick wins and isolation, truly believing her best shot was a one-on-one match since both women kinda despise her. And Asuka just beat the snot out of both women.
Whether it was the previously mentioned blitz, the kicks to Bianca and Becky, or the double Ankle Lock submission she put both women in. In the middle of the ring no less. Everything displayed their different styles and milked the tension enough where mystery surrounded the outcome.
And yes, the outcome. Like I said, Becky constantly took advantage of her opponents hitting big moves for a quick win of her own. Asuka thwarted Becky’s Manhandle Slam pin attempt earlier in the match, and Becky’s frustration showed as none of her big moves got the job done.
Bianca, on the other hand, never executed a KOD because, again, no time. Hard to get anything like that done with someone else lurking behind your back. So, Bianca finally took a page from the Book of Big Time.
Asuka was ready for Bianca’s kill shot after getting tossed into the turnbuckle face first. Before the champ capitalized, Becky pushed her aside and nailed Asuka with the Manhandle Slam. Becky covered Asuka and every fan in Chicago—and me—figured that was all she wrote. But along came Bianca. The champ broke up the pin count, tossed Becky out of the ring, and covered Asuka for the W.
After all this time, Bianca finally beat Becky at her own game.
Maybe I’ll vent tomorrow about Asuka as the fall woman, even though it was clear that was always an option. But this was such a great showing, even that criticism feels miniscule. From the opening ding to the final ding, this match set a high bar.
I hope Cody Rhodes was higher than a giraffe’s ass. There’s no way I can discuss this match without discussing the black, blue, and purple elephant in the room in the middle of this circus. I’m not condoning or endorsing wrestlers working under the influence, but one look at Cody’s torn pectoral made me clutch my chest. For those who missed the news, Cody tore his pectoral “clean off the bone” sometime between last Monday and Hell in a Cell. Rather than book something else—because WWE truly has no other options—Cody powered through.
And I’m conflicted with his decision. Props to the man for his guts, along with building his own mystique as the man who literally wrestled with one arm. Part of the fun is knowing these cats aren’t actually hurting during the match. We all accept certain thing as a part of the show. We normally find out afterwards if someone wrestled injured and then celebrate the fact they survived. But this felt different for me. And, again, this is how I feel. Your mileage may vary on this issue. Even within the Cageside offices, we disagreed. And, to be fair, Cody chose this. This is what he wants and lives for. And, like I said earlier, he loves this as a part of his own legend.
With all that out of the way, this was a great match and an even better story. While Cody and Seth throw around Dusty’s name a lot, this match was really about being the best heir to Triple H. Even with Seth in polka dots, the truth revealed itself as the match truly found its footing. Seth went after the big target on Cody’s chest. And Cody, the worker that he is, made the audience feel every wince. Any offense Cody gave birth to was short lived because, well, again, one arm. Seth whipped Cody with his own strap, threw him shoulder-first against the cell, hit that shoulder with a kendo stick, and then jammed said stick into Cody’s chest.
This is part of my inner conflict.
On one hand, it was uncomfortable but on the other hand, knowing it was real pain made a very compelling story with real stakes. The anguish on Cody’s face was legit. The adrenaline he felt later in the match was authentic. And the tears he cried when it ended were realer than real deal Holyfield. Wrestling is at its best when it feels genuine. But the best wrestling is genuine. Whether it’s the fact the opponents really dislike each other, really love each other, or in this case, one of them is really hurt.
Seth answered every attack Cody threw at him because Cody has no energy to truly get momentum on his side. Even when Cody pulled out a Bull Rope, it just wasn’t enough to finish the job. But Cody refused to stay down when Seth took control. Seth tried everything, including a Curb Stomp and a Buckle Bomb through a freakin’ table, but nothing ended the Nightmare.
That’s when Seth grabbed a sledgehammer from under the ring. As if the symbolism wasn’t strong enough, Cody blocked Seth’s sledgehammer attack and countered with a Pedigree.
With the sledgehammer out of the picture, both men traded offense. And by offense, I mean Cross Rhodes. Rollins hit one on Cody, Cody hit one on Rollins, and both men looked dazed and confused.
Realizing regular moves weren’t enough, they both crawled towards the sledgehammer. Again, the symbolism was as subtle as wasp sting. But the sledgehammer was no good in Cody’s arm, forcing him to muster enough strength for not one but two Cross Rhodes, followed by sledgehammer shot to send Rollins home packing.
Like I said, great match with an even better story. And some of the best storytelling in WWE in years. Even with my trepidation about the circumstances around the match, it won me over. This was the full Cody Rhodes experience. We even got a little blood! Props to everyone involved and here’s hoping Cody gets well as soon as humanly possible.
I’m not sure when, but a championship reign is definitely in his future after this performance.
For Heavens Sake
Bobby Lashley vs. Omos & MVP entertained me a lot more than I predicted. I’m the Chicago crowd has a lot to do with that, but this was fun. Lashley got his revenge on both men, and that was the main point. They didn’t drag it out or pretend it was anything more than a fight. And MVP finally got a taste of the Hurt Lock. The only complaint is I wish they made us wait until Hell in a Cell to see Lashley get his hands on his former friend. But, hey, we’re here now.
After the match, Lashley signaled he’s done with his past and looking forward to Roman Reigns’ championship. Hmmm.
No one joined The Judgment Day at Hell in a Cell. No defections, no new members, no chicanery. We did, however, get a very solid effort from all six wrestlers. The reason Edge, Rhea Ripley, and Damian Priest leave Chicago with a W is because Rhea uses the rules to her advantage. While some might argue Finn and AJ stop dead in their tracks when she stands between them and Edge or Priest, it’s also the rules of the match. They can’t lay hands on her and she knows they won’t do what is necessary to get the job done.
Rhea stood between Edge and Finn’s Coup de Grace. Finn hesitated, Edge recouped, and hit the Prince with a spear.
As an aside, trainers tended to AJ during the last half of the match. I’m not sure how it happened but his forehead looked extremely bloody. Hopefully AJ is A-OK.
Hellz Wind Staff
Madcap and Corbin beat the hell out of each other. Corbin threw a chair at Madcap, and Madcap dropped steel steps on a chair connected to Corbin’s neck. I mean, that’s all you need to know. This was a hardcore match between two men who hate each other. Madcap had no qualms about stooping to Corbin’s very low level to get the job done.
There was a moment during Ezekiel vs. Kevin Owens where the former threw a lot of hands at the former. And while throwing hands, Ezekiel screamed at KO. Zeke wants respect on his name and needs KO to acknowledge he is, in fact, Ezekiel.
It was the most compelling part of the match, which was solid, but provided an ending which left me cold. KO won after hitting Zeke with a third Stunner. And I’m not sure where this goes from here. Does he keep hounding Zeke? Does Zeke go after him? Will the real Elias please stand up? Who knows at this point.
Mustafa Ali walked into AllState Arena as the hometown hero. Chicago’s love for the man added a lot to the match. Ali controlled most of the match until missing a top rope maneuver that wrecked his knee. Ali hobbled the rest of the match, suffered an incredible modified Spanish Fly—seriously, Theory does amazing things in that ring—and put Theory’s title in true jeopardy with an STF. But that knee. After missing a 450 Splash, Ali clutched his knee in pain. And that was it. Rather than draw out the suffering, Theory finished it with an A-Town Down.
Another solid match that seemingly ended abruptly. Almost like someone made the call for them to end it because there was no indication the ending was around the corner after Ali missed the 450. And Theory didn’t even look like he was ready to end it. But, as it stands, a solid match with an ending the crowd absolutely hated.
The great matches at Hell in a Cell were exceptional. And the good matches were really good. WWE put on a dope Sunday night show all around.
That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.