Hell in a Cell, including the Kickoff show, was over four and a half hours. In an era with way too much wrestling going on weekly, this could easily have been a nightmare. However, SmackDown took advantage of the time they were given to put on an extremely enjoyable show with a couple Match of the Year candidates.
It felt like everyone went out there with something to prove after the last few pay-per-views left a lot to be desired, especially from the SmackDown side. Matches that felt like they'd be stale were given new entertaining takes, and aside from the WWE Championship match there weren't any matches I actually hated. Hell in a Cell is worth your time, but if you don't have four and a half hours free you should check out both Cell matches (which together still take up an hour).
Kickoff Tag Team Match
Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin def. The Hype Bros.
Rating: REALLY GOOD
There were a good number of people in the crowd not in their seats yet for this match, but they should have learned by now not to sleep on tag matches on the Kickoff. This match was surprisingly good considering how little focus these teams have gotten lately on television, as Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin seem to have dropped all signs of possible conflict while the Hype Bros. continue to argue and have miscommunication.
Chad Gable did Chad Gable things, including a gorgeous moonsault, while Shelton Benjamin showed off his own skills. The Hype Bros played a good foil, but ended up taking the loss. This match was a lot of fun and shouldn't be ignored.
Hell in a Cell Tag Team Match for the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The Usos def. The New Day (c)
Rating: THE BEST
These two teams have had a series of great matches, so to say this is by far their best means a lot. After their Sin City Street Fight a few weeks ago, this was next logical step to escalate things. Not only were they locked inside Hell in a Cell, but they also had an unlimited supply of weapons use inside this steel playground. The Usos and New Day used everything to their advantage to tell a great story throughout the match without ever seeming to slow down or drag. Neither team played it for comedy either, as this was a brutal match with dives into the cage and vicious kendo stick shots abound.
The teams also used a lot of creativity putting the match apart from the one that would come later in the night. The Usos used handcuffs to hand Xavier Woods while he got brutally canned, while one of the Usos was bound to a corner of the cell by sticking kendo sticks through the fencing. Scary spots included Big E diving through the ropes head-first into the cage and The Usos chucking a chair and Xavier's head. This is easily a Match of the Year candidate.
Randy Orton def. Rusev
Unfortunately there was no Aiden English involved in this match, though we got a great appearance by him on the Kickoff panel. The wrestling in this match was fine, even with Randy Orton involved, but all the credit for this getting a thumb up goes to Rusev. His yelling and facial expressions during the match made it for me, as well as the clever spot at the finish of Rusev grabbing Orton's hands while he was doing his Viper pose pounding the mat and pulling them into The Accolade. It didn't end up working out though, as Orton still hit the RKO because it honestly wasn't going to go any other way.
Triple Threat Match for the WWE United States Championship
Baron Corbin def. AJ Styles (c), Tye Dillinger
Rating: REALLY GOOD
In a smart decision, Tye Dillinger was added to this match during the Kickoff to make it a Triple Threat. Baron Corbin was pissed off at this because it means he could lose his opportunity at winning the title without being involved in the decision. Despite Corbin being involved, the match was fantastic due to the two other man putting in the work and using him as a prop to work with. They even made Corbin look good in the process, as he played his role of the bully who is only successful through taking advantages well.
That played into the ending, as Styles hit Dillinger with the Phenomenal Forearm but with booted out of the ring as Corbin still the pin off of it. It make Corbin look like a hypocrite as he used the exact thing he complained about to win the title. It also was perfect as it didn't have us see the nightmarish image of Corbin actually pinning Styles. Hopefully after Tuesday's title rematch Styles can move as far away from him as possible, while we get to see a lot more of Tye Dillinger in the title picture.
WWE SmackDown Women's Championship Match
Charlotte Flair def. Natalya (c) via DQ
Rating: REALLY GOOD
When you put a Flair and a (Neid)hart against each other, it's always going to be a good time... if you ignore Charlotte Flair and Natalya's first match in NXT. Fortunately this was not like that match, as these two actually focused on submissions and in-ring logic throughout the match. It wasn't just two people going a hundred miles per hour and doing a bunch of high-risk flashy moves. Natalya spent the match injuring Charlotte's leg so she'd be vulnerable for the Sharpshooter, and Charlotte did a fantastic job selling it. She didn't just hobble around and then go back to doing her normal moveset, the injury actually effected what she was capable of doing and had to adjust. The one time she didn't with the top rope moonsault cost her, as she was pretty much useless after that. Because Natalya is a heel lacking actual confidence, instead of using that opening to get the win she elected to use a steel chair to injure her further and get disqualified.
Some people may not like the ending, but I think it was the right move and allows them to move forward to the cage match at Starrcade where Charlotte will likely win the belt. Having her tap to Natalya before that would have done more harm than good.
WWE Championship Match
Jinder Mahal (c) def. Shinsuke Nakamura
Rating: THE WORST
Fuck this. Seriously, Jinder Mahal continues to be uninspiring in the ring, and now it's clear it wasn't just because he was not having chemistry with Randy Orton. This is his second match with one of the best wrestlers in the world, and again it was dull and put the crowd to sleep. The only times things got interesting was when Shinsuke Nakamura went of offense, but then he'd be met with a stomp or a headlock that sucked the energy out of the arena.
To make matters worse, they did a spot with the Singh Brothers removed from ringside, and then Nakamura quickly loses clean in unceremonious fashion. He came off looking like a dope, Jinder didn't anything from the win, and the crowd (and myself) wanted nothing to do with this. Jinder Mahal continues to kill the WWE Championship, and he also killed any momentum Nakamura had left on the main roster. I honestly don't know where he goes from here.
Bobby Roode def. Dolph Ziggler
I did not come into this match with high expectations. Bobby Roode has not lit the world on fire in-ring since coming to WWE/NXT, and Dolph Ziggler has lost his shine despite him constantly yelling about how good he is. The match started off meeting these expectations, but by the second half they picked up the pace and got me into it. I really enjoyed the ending with Ziggler trying to grab the tights for a cheap win, but it being reversed into Roode doing it instead. It starts to pave a road for a future heel turn for him, while keeping the heat on Ziggler by him attacking him immediately after the bell rang. This actually did both guys a lot of good, and they made the most of the bad spot they were put in after the WWE Championship match.
Falls Count Anywhere Hell in a Cell Match
Kevin Owens def. Shane McMahon
Rating: THE BEST
This match was a nearly forty-minute masterpiece. Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon made Hell in a Cell the spectacle it is built up to be as they took their feud to new heights. Shane's punches are still awful, but they were de-emphasized in this match so that it didn't really matter. Kevin Owens played up his character brilliantly by brutalizing Shane right in front of where his kids were seeing, and I won't take anything away from Owens even with the kids smiling and not selling the gravity of the situation.
When they match moved up to the top of the Cell, I was holding my breath the whole time. Every slam onto the roof had me flinch and yelling about my concern for them falling through, and they did it so slowly and methodically that it was really messing with my anxiety. I finally started to breathe again when they started to climb down and Owens only fell from halfway up the Cell. I thought everything was going to deescalate, until Shane decided to put Owens on another table and climb to the top again. Shane once again fell twenty feet onto an empty table, which looked WAY less padded than the one at WrestleMania. It was terrifying and exciting.
The table he fell onto was empty because Owens was pulled out of the way by Sami Zayn, who made his shocking first heel turn in WWE. It was brilliantly played out with the reveal coming after it already happened, and gives him a new coat of paint as a character. It leaves a lot of questions about where he and Owens both go, and has me excited to keep watching. This match was everything I hoped it would be and a whole lot more.