Some twenty-three-years on from Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker destroying each other in the first (and arguably best) Hell in a Cell match, the WWE’s yearly themed pay-per-view of the same name has rolled around once more. With three cell matches and a smattering of other bouts set for this show, it looked a very strong event on paper even if some of the build-ups had left a little to be desired. So let’s dive into Hell in a Cell 2020.

The show opened with the usual video package featuring the key feuds and programmes, chiefly centred around Roman Reigns vs Jey Uso, Bayley vs Sasha Banks and Randy Orton vs Drew McIntyre, all interspersed with some spooky blood-soaked graphics and the usual creepy children singing. You know the drill by now.

WWE Universal Championship: Hell in a Cell “I Quit” match – Roman Reigns (c) vs Jey Uso

The first match on HIAC 2020 set the bar incredibly high for everyone else to follow. Reigns looked incredible again here, every inch the megastar with his white and gold glove. There was lots of verbiage between Reigns and Uso early on as Reigns dominated matters before Jey would make a brief comeback, full of fire and executing a couple of suicide dives to the outside. Reigns would again find himself back in control hitting two big spears, although Uso would counter a third with a superkick and two big splashes. Uso took off his belt and began lashing Reigns with it, but Reigns would again come back with another spear and give Uso a lashing of his own. 

The strap would come into play again as Uso would choke Reigns out to the point of near unconsciousness. This felt noteworthy as surely this would require a referee stoppage? However, Reigns would rally, and apply a guillotine to Jey before turning things up a notch. With his cousin basically unconscious and some soul searching, Reigns hit a big drive-by on the apron, and another aided by the steps before the referee tried to stop the match, again begging the question why this was a stoppage, but not when Roman was seemingly unable to continue. However, it was moot anyway as Reigns would toss the referee out of the ring before placing the steps over the barely lucid Jey Uso and lecturing him in what felt like a great piece of character exposition for Reigns. He believes what he is doing is the best for his family, and he needs Jey to understand.

At this point Jimmy Uso made himself known, jumping in to protect his twin brother, and trying to talk some sense into Reigns. It seemed to work, as Reigns broke down, crying and conflicted before steeling himself and locking Jimmy in a guillotine, forcing Jey to say “I Quit” in order to save his brother from further harm. 

Winner (and STILL WWE Universal Champion): Roman Reigns

Afterwards, Reigns composed himself and was met at the top of the ramp by Afa and Sika, the famous Wild Samoans (Reigns’ uncle and father), who as the tribe elders ceremonially crowned Reigns as the “Head of the Table” and the “Tribal Chief” while Jimmy and Jey seethed in the ring, now both excommunicated from the family and forced to serve Reigns. 

Everything about this match was outstanding from everyone involved. The pacing was fantastic. Both Roman Reigns and Jimmy Uso looked strong in their respective heel and babyface roles, while this progressed the storyline involving the family. The acting from all three cousins was superb and made for an engrossing, physical and highly intense match. A great opener. 

Elias vs Jeff Hardy

What a comedown after that opener! Elias cut a promo on the way to the ring, but it was nothing special. Elias would dominate Hardy early on before Jeff made a comeback only to wipe out on a dive towards the barricade at ringside. Lots of punch/kick offence from Elias and a chinlock before Hardy made his big babyface comeback with an inverted enzuigiri. Elias would reverse an attempt at a Twist of Fate from Hardy into a lovely electric chair position into a powerbomb that looked really devastating and got a convincing near fall. From there Hardy rallied, hitting the Whisper in the Wind and the Twist of Fate, only for Elias to roll out of the ring and he primed himself for the Swanton Bomb. Elias reached for his guitar and Hardy, inexplicably grabbed it instead and hit Elias with it for the DQ.

Winner by DQ: Elias 

A non-finish in a programme no-one can be massively invested in, and one that does very little for either man. Instantly forgettable, but a serviceable mid-card contest. 

Winner gets the Money in the Bank Briefcase – Otis vs The Miz 

Otis winning the Money in the Bank briefcase seemed like an odd decision at the time, and it has definitely felt like the writing team has been looking for a way to take it off him for a while now. However, this programme with The Miz and John Morrison also feels like it has dragged on forever, but thankfully it looked to end here. The pre-match interview with Otis and Tucker featured a slight gurn from Tucker, which for me seemed like a pretty major telegraphing of the finish, or at least some sledgehammer subtle foreshadowing.

The match itself was a pretty standard affair pitting The Miz’s underhand tactics and quickness against the strength and power of Otis, with John  Morrison’s interference repeatedly giving The Miz the advantage. Weirdly, Otis spent a lot of the match fighting from underneath despite having a size and strength advantage, as Miz employed his offence that hasn’t changed in the past decade. Eventually, Otis would power out of a sleeper, only for Miz to snuff out the comeback briefly, but Otis would not be deterred and he hulked up in order to hit the Caterpillar before Morrison made the save. However, Morrison would be ejected shortly after as the ref caught him in the act and this gave Otis a brief period of dominance before, yes you guessed it, Tucker hit his friend with the briefcase giving Miz the opportunity to cover Otis for the win and take the MITB contract in the process.

Winner: The Miz

A match that was probably more entertaining than expected and although the heel turn for Tucker was predictable, it gives him something more to do than being Otis’ hanger-on, and that can only be a good thing. 

After the match, The Miz cut a promo backstage, only for Tucker to interrupt him and explain his reasoning, which essentially boils down to being tired of being in Otis’ shadow. A tale as old as tag teams themselves. It was a decent heel turn promo, and the brawl as Otis came after his former partner was a nice taste of what to expect from this programme moving forward, even if they are on different brands.

SmackDown Women’s Championship: Hell in a Cell- Bayley (c) vs Sasha Banks

One of the more personal matches on this show, as the feud between Bayley and Banks has been brewing for months arguably years if consider their previous spats before quickly making up again a year or so ago. With that in mind, things started intensely and with menace, as Sasha dropkicked Bayley’s chair out of the ring as the cell lowered and attacked her former friend with fire and fury, raining down punches and trash talk. From a psychology standpoint, I feared they’d start trading holds, but the way this was set up conveyed perfectly how much hatred the two have for each other. Banks went for the Banks Statement early, but Bayley got out by biting her, which was novel, and Bayley took the advantage by driving Banks into the cell. However, Sasha Banks quickly regained her footing, dodging a kendo stick shot (why are there so many kendo sticks under the ring?) and ejecting it through the mesh, almost decapitating Michael Cole in the process. 

Bayley and Sasha would trade being on top as each tried to set up a table while the other was on the floor before Banks used the table as a battering ram to push Bayley into the cell wall repeatedly. Banks then nailed Bayley with a table-assisted Meteora, and a second Meteora off the middle rope for a near fall in the ring. Chairs were introduced as they traded control, at one point with Bayley dropping Sasha over the top rope as she landed hard, only for  Banks to gain a near fall after another Meteora moments later.

One spot I really enjoyed in this section involved Banks jumping from the apron to the cage, and back to the apron to dodge Bayley, and then doing a spin under the bottom rope into a headscissors into the cage. It was a very cool sequence and executed flawlessly.

Banks would get inventive setting up kendo sticks (why are there so many?) in between the cell and the steps, but she was the victim of her own setup after Bayley reversed a suplex attempt and hit her with a drop toe hold sending Banks crashing into the sticks, followed up by a slingshot which looked pretty nasty. Sasha would fight back hitting a sunset bomb onto the cage, from the apron before things moved back into the ring and a chair was wedged between the ropes in the corner, only for Bayley to hit her own modified sunset flip driving Sasha into the steel. Bayley followed up with her top rope elbow for a huge near fall. 

As we entered the final moments of the match, things got even more intense. Banks hit a backstabber and tried for the Banks Statement, only for Bayley to escape and trap Banks in the apron skirt and nail her with a kendo stick (more kendo sticks!!?!) before retrieving some duct tape. Although her tape-based plan went nowhere, I did enjoy Bayley casually asking the ref to help her with the tape because her hands were sweaty. That was a lovely touch.

Of course, Sasha rebounded “blinding” Bayley with a  fire extinguisher as Bayley tried to smuggle her chair back through the cell door (it’s the same as the chairs she had in the ring, but the significance presumably being that’s the chair she used to injure Banks in the first place), which infuriated Banks and caused her to fire up, hitting a flurry of punches and driving Bayley into the cell furiously before hitting yet another Meteora into the cell.

Sasha dragged Bayley back on the ring for a frog splash that Bayley blocked with a chair, before hitting her headlock DDT finisher on the floor and getting a razor-thin near fall. A ladder was set up between two chairs, and Bayley attempted a chair-assisted elbow drop, only to miss and allow Banks to hit another Meteora from the ladder for a close false finish. From here, both women traded weapons shots, and belly-to-belly suplexes before we got to finish which involved Bayley again going for her signature suplex, only this time with a chair in tow, but Banks would reverse sending Bayley into the chair and locking in the Banks Statement with the chair around Bayley’s neck for the tap out and the title win.

Winner (and NEW Smackdown Women’s Champion): Sasha Banks

This was one of the most intense matches on this or any WWE show in recent memory. It was heated, personal, never outstaying its welcome and the uses of weapons were innovative but still realistic. Nothing seemed overly contrived or poorly set up, and everything had meaning. Crucially, it was also a very different set up to the earlier cell match, and that meant it worked really well in this context. A fantastic match between two of the best wrestlers in the world today.

The Hurt Business were up next as they were interviewed backstage about Bobby Lashley’s match with a member of Retribution, but they basically buried the Retribution gimmick here, which is another shot at a faction who are already treading water. 

WWE United States Championship: Bobby Lashley (c) vs Slapjack

This match felt like something that was thrown together at the last minute and I’m not sure it achieved a whole lot. The continuing problem of not knowing who the heel and face are in the programme between Retribution/The Hurt Business still remains unresolved. Slapjack has a terrible look and entrance, somewhere between a Rorshach and Slipknot cosplay, and he didn’t gain a whole lot from this match. Bobby Lashley was very dominant, hitting a spear in the corner, kicks and elbows and a stalling vertical suplex. Slapjack would get some brief offence with a dropkick and a cannonball in the corner, as well as a big spinning DDT for a near fall. However, from there Lashley hit a big powerslam, overhead belly-to-belly suplex, a spinebuster (although it looked more like a chokeslam) and finally the Hurt Lock for the victory.

Winner (and STILL WWE US Champion): Bobby Lashley

Not a squash per se, but not much more. Poor Shane Thorne might have been better off escaping to Japan like his former partner Mikey Nicholls rather than taking this gimmick on. It turns out perhaps the mighty do kneel after all. 

After the match, Retribution hit the ring, only for Lashley to basically fight them all off on his own and the whole group to bail with their tails between their legs as soon as the rest of Lashley’s friends arrived. At this stage, I’m not sure how they go about salvaging Retribution, because they looked like utter losers here. 

Before moving on to the main event, a promo aired celebrating The Undertaker’s 30 years in WWE and hyping his anniversary at Survivor Series. Presumably, that means that we will be getting an appearance from The Deadman at the big November event, although you would assume he won’t be wrestling based on the way The Last Ride documentary ended. 

WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Hell in a Cell match – Drew McIntyre (c) vs Randy Orton  

For the third straight pay-per-view in a row, Randy Orton and Drew McIntyre faced off, only this time within the confines of the Hell in a Cell. Things got underway very early before McIntyre could even enter the cell as Orton attempted a sneak attack during Drew’s entrance. A brawl ensued around the cell, with both men trading the advantage before it moved into the ring. Things then moved into more traditional WWE main event-style territory with chops, punches and kicks, followed by brawling around the cell and throwing each other into it. McIntyre would hit slams onto the cell wall, and into the post on Orton, but in truth this whole section of the match was plodding and a bit dull. Orton would counter a Claymore Kick attempt with a chair shot and then begin attempting to pick McIntyre apart using the stairs and the cell. McIntyre would make a comeback with a headbutt but Orton would regain control via a thumb to the eye which allowed him the opportunity to throw Drew into the ring steps. 

Back in the ring, Orton would hit a backbreaker only for McIntyre to kick out at one. He continued by hitting an overhead belly-to-belly suplex on Orton, followed by a second and an attempt at a Futureshock DDT, only for Orton to block that move but get caught with a neckbreaker. Predictably they went back to brawling outside the ring before Drew put Orton through a table on the floor. As they went back to the ring, and after some very aggressive whispering, Orton turned the tables by catching McIntyre with a low blow and a draping DDT for a near fall. 

Pretty by-the-numbers up until this stage. Thankfully, the business began to pick up at this juncture. Randy Orton found some bolt cutters and forced the door open, which goaded Drew McIntyre into following him, and of course, as you would expect Orton began climbing the cell with McIntyre eventually following him. Orton’s master plan was soon revealed as he had a pipe hidden on the roof, although because of the red colouring it looked more like a lightsaber. As Orton began descending the cell, Drew followed which, naturally, led to a big bump off the side through the announcers’ table by McIntyre. Obviously, all bumps from the cage are dangerous, but this seems to be a formality of any main event cell match these days, and without diminishing the danger involved, it does seem to have a diminishing return in terms of impact.

Once they got back in the ring, Orton attempted an RKO on the battered Scotsman, only for McIntyre to block with a backslide and a slightly weak Claymore. Minutes later McIntyre would attempt a full Claymore from the corner, only this time Orton countered for the RKO and the pinfall to win his 14th World Championship (interestingly putting him only two reigns behind John Cena, which might be a story to watch in the near future). 

Winner (and NEW WWE Champion): Randy Orton

Hell in a Cell 2020 was a far better show than expected, with two exciting and engrossing cell matches, as well as a passable main event. Each cell match offered something completely different and they were well spaced out to avoid fatigue. The non-cell matches were largely enjoyable even if they were mostly forgettable, and there was plenty of storyline progression across the board. For a show that clocked in at just under three hours, nothing really dragged and there were few head-scratching booking decisions (Retribution aside) and nothing felt rushed. A very solid PPV effort from WWE. 

 

All pics and videos courtesy of WWE