Welcome back, faithful readers of SteelChair. It’s that time again, time for another WWE PPV, and what an event we have in store this time. Four months earlier than usual, it’s Hell in a Cell. Considering how hot the summer has already been, it actually seems a fitting time for a show with ‘Hell’ in the title. There were 6 matches on this card. Three of which were Championship matches, and two of which took place inside the steel structure. So let’s take a trip inside the Devil’s Playground.
Michael Cole welcomed us to the show and the Cell began to lower, indicating the show intended to hit the ground running. A video package aired, recapping the feud between Bayley and Bianca Belair so far. As a side note, what is up with the way Bayley hijacked the LED screens so they displayed her laughing face into infinity? It is one thing when someone like Alexa Bliss does so, based on the fact she apparently has supernatural powers, and even that will divide some viewers, but it makes zero sense when Bayley does it. At least, that’s something that will go away once WWE leave the ThunderDome behind.
Hell in a Cell Match for the SmackDown Women’s Championship
Bianca Belair (C) vs Bayley
Early on in the match, Bayley looked under the ring and brought two steel chairs back inside. Although, Bianca managed to avoid any offence with the chair, and quickly rolled up her opponent, only getting a two-count. Bianca’s braid proved to be a worthy adversary, as she whipped the chair out of Bayley’s grasp. The two women battled on the top rope, where Bayley escaped a superplex, and then sent Bianca shoulder first into the neighbouring ring post. Bayley proceeded to target the left arm of Bianca, a way of softening up the Champion and diluting her strength.
Bayley brought a set of ring steps into the ring. She planned an attack using Bianca’s braid but spent too much time taunting, which resulted in her downfall, crashing onto the steps. Bayley then tied Bianca’s braid to the bottom rope, but any advantage was short-lived, as Bianca untied the knot and tripped Bayley over in the process, sending Bayley face-first into the ring steps.
The two women battled outside the ring, where Bayley bit Bianca’s wrist – in true vampire style. Bayley then retrieved kendo sticks from under the ring and went on a wicked assault. Under the ring were a number of kendo sticks taped together. Bayley used them to build a bridge, between the apron and the wall of the Cell. However, Bianca was allowed too much time to recover, as she got up and chased Bayley, putting her challenger through the kendo stick bridge with a spinebuster.
Back in the ring, the steel chair came back into play. Bayley sat on the chair, tying the braid of Bianca to one of the supporting bars of the chair. Apparently learning her lesson from earlier, it appeared to be a double knot this time, although Bianca still managed to free herself. As Belair went on the attack, she tied her own braid to Bayley’s wrist. This prevented Bayley from getting away, as Bianca dragged her around the ring, slamming her into nearly every wall of the Cell.
Bayley brought a ladder into the ring, where she won a brief tug of war over the weapon. Bayley trapped Bianca in the ladder, like a filling in the sandwich. In landing a Rose Plant on Bianca, Bayley caught her own knee on the ladder, which may have cost her as she was slow to make the pin – only getting a two-count. The women attempted rollups on each other, but only got two. With Bayley laying on the ladder, Bianca landed a Senton, followed by a K.O.D onto the open ladder, for the pinfall and the victory.
Winner: Bianca Belair
Verdict: Very fun match and a strong way to open the show. For her first time in this stipulation, Bianca did a great job of appearing intimidated by the structure, while rising to the occasion. As the experienced one of this stipulation, Bayley appeared a little too cocky at times, and that would go on to cost her. There were some creative uses of the braid, which still feels like a novelty at this point in Bianca’s career.
Cesaro vs Seth Rollins
Rollins jumped Cesaro as he made his entrance, jump-starting the match. Once the bell rang, officially getting things underway, Cesaro was the quicker on the assault, giving a Big Boot to Rollins that sent him flying from the apron, and crashing into the ringside barricade. A pin attempt from Cesaro barely got him a one-count. The Swiss Superman followed up with a series of uppercuts in the corner. Seth fought back and landed a DDT to earn himself some breathing room.
The self-proclaimed Messiah then went on the assault, slowly and methodically beating down his opponent. Cesaro then blocked a suplex attempt and turned it into a suplex of his own. Rollins composed himself and landed a springboard flying knee to the face, for a two-count. Back on the methodical assault, Rollins drove a closed fit into the injured eye socket of Cesaro. But Cesaro then fought back with a series of uppercuts, before flooring Rollins and ripping off his glove. Cesaro balled up the glove and kicked it away.
Rollins attempted his Stomp but walked into a Powerslam for a two-count. Seth attempted a Superplex, but Cesaro fought him off with headbutts. Rollins landed an Enziguri followed by elbows to the skull. Rollins applied a Figure-Four arm trap, Cesaro powered out but only suffered a Falcon Arrow instead. Seth took too long in setting up for the Stomp, as Cesaro countered with a clothesline.
Following a big Cesaro Swing, Cesaro stepped through into a Sharpshooter. As Rollins crawled for the ropes, Cesaro transitioned into a Crossface. Rollins tried to reverse it into a rollup, but Cesaro escaped and went back to the Sharpshooter. Cesaro broke the hold, long enough to deliver some stiff kicks to the shoulder of Rollins. As Cesaro tried for another Sharpshooter, Rollins countered into a rollup for the victory.
Winner: Seth Rollins
Verdict: Michael Cole described it as “Rollins stole one!” but I didn’t see it that way at all. It wasn’t like there was a handful of tights or the use of the ropes for leverage. It was purely a case of Rollins outsmarted Cesaro and picked up a win that went against the tide of the match at that point. It was by no means a decisive win, which suggests that this feud is far from done.
Shayna Baszler vs Alexa Bliss
At the start of the match, Reginald provided a distraction, from the apron, that allowed Baszler to land a thunderous clothesline to Bliss. Alexa rolled away and then did a creepy crawl across the mat. This freaked out Shayna and allowed Alexa to take advantage, landing a Senton for a two-count. Reginald distracted Bliss again, providing Shayna with the opening to deliver stiff elbows to Alexa’s back.
Shayna went to the hammerlock. As Bliss tried to escape, Baszler transitioned to other painful-looking MMA-style holds. Shayna stamped on Alexa’s wrist, but Bliss only laughed afterwards, as though it didn’t hurt. As Shayna went for another hold, Alexa demanded her opponent to, “Look at me!” The stare appeared to freak out Baszler and she relinquished the hold.
After Alexa kicked Shayna out of the ring, Nia looked at Bliss and appeared mesmerised. Reginald tried to get Nia’s attention, but – under the influence of Bliss – Jax slapped him. Alexa and Nia screamed in sync with each other. Shayna used the distraction to apply a Kirrafuda Clutch, but Alexa easily escaped. Alexa landed Sister Abigail, followed by Twisted Bliss for the pinfall victory.
Winner: Alexa Bliss
Verdict: I was expecting a little more in the way of smoke and mirrors, be it the lights going off and then something mysterious happening. At this point, it appears that Alexa’s using hypnosis to her advantage, first with Reginald, last week on RAW, and similarly with Nia Jax tonight. I love this incarnation of the Alexa Bliss and I am heavily intrigued with just how far this character can go.
Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens
The two instantly exchanged blows as soon as the opening bell rang. Owens got the early advantage but appeared to be coughing early on, selling the effects of the Nigerian Nail he suffered at the hands of Commander Azeez two nights ago on SmackDown. The tides reversed, allowing Zayn to get in some offence, but he wasn’t strong enough to lift Owens for a suplex. Owens was still coughing and spluttering as he landed a Cannonball for a two-count. Zayn tripped Owens, sending him throat-first onto the middle rope. As Owens rolled out of the ring, Zayn landed a Suicide Dive to the outside.
Back in the ring, Owens favoured his left arm, potentially landing awkwardly on it earlier. At least Owens still had full use of his right arm for a lethal series of punches. Owens followed up with a Clothesline to Sami, outside the ring. He followed up with a Swanton off the apron, but Sami got the knees up. Inside the ring, Zayn landed a Blue Thunder Bomb for a two-count. Zayn pummeled Owens with forearms to the face, but Owens fought back with the right hands. Zayn reversed a Stunner attempt into a Reverse Exploder for another close fall.
Owens rolled out of the ring for a breather, Zayn gave chase but ate a Stunner. Owens crawled back into the ring, Zayn just about made it back inside at the count of nine. Both men barely had the strength to get to their knees, where they exchanged headbutts. Zayn caught a second wind and landed a running knee to the back of Kevin’s head. As Owens continued to cough and splutter, Zayn followed up with Helluva Kick for the victory.
Winner: Sami Zayn
Verdict: Considering the world is still battling COVID, all the coughing may not have been in the best of tastes. That wasn’t the outcome I expected, ahead of time, but there was an overriding subplot of Kevin still suffering from the effects of the Nigerian Nail. Sami continues to be a thorn in the side of his former best friend, which creates more unwanted distractions when Owens would rather focus on capturing the Intercontinental Championship from Apollo Crews. But based on all the coughing, Owens really needs to focus on Azeez first.
RAW Women’s Championship
Rhea Ripley (C) vs Charlotte Flair
Following the formal ring introductions, Charlotte snatched the Championship belt from the referee and attacked Ripley with it, gaining an advantage of sorts before the bell even rang. After the bell, Charlotte then gained an early two-count, clearly getting into the head of the Champion early on. Flair applied a Chinlock, as she attempted to grind down her opponent. Ripley fought out, but Charlotte quickly regained the advantage, kicking Rhea out of the ring. In hot pursuit, Charlotte left the ring and kicked Rhea into the barricade.
Back in the ring, Flair continued her assault, working on the left knee of Rhea. Ripley countered a mistimed move and floored her challenger with a series of short-arm clotheslines. Ripley landed a big dropkick from the top rope, but only got a one-count for her troubles. Flair escaped a submission and landed Natural Selection for the two-count, despite trying to use the ropes for leverage. Ripley came back with a big German Suplex but was still struggling on her left knee.
A Moonsault from the top rope got Charlotte Flair a close fall. With Rhea’s knee softened up, Flair tried for a leglock, but Ripley countered into a close fall. Flair rained down heavy forearms to the face of the Champion, trying again for a leglock, but to no avail. The two women battled to the top turnbuckle, where Rhea landed a Superplex for a close fall. Rhea landed a Riptide, but Charlotte got her foot to the bottom rope, breaking the cover. Ripley chased Flair out of the ring, where Charlotte kicked Rhea’s damaged knee into the ring steps.
Back in the ring, Flair landed Natural Selection and then applied the Figure-Four Leglock. Ripley rolled out of the ring, dragging Flair with her and breaking the hold. Ripley crawled away screaming, Flair gave chase, but Ripley hit her with the cover from the commentary table.
Winner: Charlotte Flair – via DQ
Following the bell, Ripley continued to attack Flair, landing Riptide in the middle of the ring. Mike Rome declared Charlotte the winner, but of course, Ripley remains the Champion.
Verdict: I think the creative on RAW has been left wanting when it comes to this feud. Neither of these characters is overly likeable and heel vs heel rarely seems to work in pro wrestling. The DQ finish certainly seems to cement Ripley as a heel, while that is also the role where Charlotte Flair works best. The finish would also suggest that this feud may continue into next month. Make of that what you will.
Speaking of next month. The next WWE PPV will be Money in the Bank, on July 18th. Of course, continue to check SteelChair for all the news and coverage heading into that show.
In preparation for this show, I rewatched Batista vs Triple H from Vengeance 2005. It just so happens there was a lot of similarities from that feud to this main event. In both instances, it featured two big men who faced each other over three consecutive PPV’s, starting at WrestleMania, for the World Championship. The match at Vengeance was also a Hell in a Cell match and Batista was leading the feud 2-0 for over the previous PPV’s. It was also billed as Triple H’s last shot at the gold for as long as Batista was Champion. Sound familiar?
Of course, Batista won that match too, for a clean sweet of 3-0, ending that feud for many years. Would history repeat itself here tonight?
Last Chance Hell in a Cell Match for the WWE Championship
Bobby Lashley (C) vs Drew McIntyre
The Cell door was locked for the final time of the night, the two adversaries stared each other down throughout the formal ring introductions. Upon the bell, Lashley held up a finger, to indicate that McIntyre has one last chance. Lashley immediately left the ring, looking for weapons, but McIntyre was quicker, and went on the attack, throwing the All-Mighty Champion into the walls of the Cell. Drew then proceeded to attack Bobby with the ring steps. MVP tried to motivate his associate, from outside the Cell.
Back in the ring, Drew landed a Big Boot and followed up with a belly-to-belly suplex. McIntyre then whipped Lashley with a kendo stick, before setting up a table outside the ring, in the corner of the Cell. MVP passed his cane to Lashley, through the mesh, and the Champion went on the attack with it. Bobby continued his assault, slamming his challenger into the ring apron and the Cell wall. McIntyre fought back and used a version of White Noise onto the ring steps.
McIntyre set up a second table between the apron and the Cell wall. Drew attempted to suplex Bobby through the table, but Lashley blocked the attempt. Lashley whipped McIntyre into the mesh, but McIntyre rebounded with a clothesline. McIntyre then brought three chairs into the ring and landed a Reverse Alabama Slam onto one of them, for a close two-count. McIntyre went on the assault with a steel chair, but Lashley caught an attempt from the top rope and tried for a Hurt Lock. McIntyre escaped the submission attempt and reversed into a spinebuster with a jackknife cover for another two-count.
The two fought outside the ring, again, where McIntyre went back on the attack with the ring steps. With a well-timed escape, Lashley attacked McIntyre with the steps and followed up with a series of thunderous fists. With the assistance of MVP, Lashley trapped McIntyre in the corner of the Cell, using a kendo stick through the mesh. McIntyre was helpless as Lashley attacked, but once the stick snapped, McIntyre was free again.
Inside the ring, once again, Lashley sent his opponent face-first into a set-up steel chair. Lashley attacked with another kendo stick, McIntyre fought back with a steel chair. Lashley responded with a thumb to the eye, McIntyre inadvertently took out the referee with the chair. McIntyre landed a Futureshock DDT and made the cover, but the ref was out of the picture.
The referee on the outside began unlocking the padlock, Lashley tried for a Hurt Lock but McIntyre escaped. The challenger landed a perfect Claymore. The second referee began the count, but MVP pulled the referee out of the ring. Meanwhile, a third referee locked the Cell again, trapping MVP inside. A frustrated McIntyre began to assault MVP, landing a Claymore to the Hurt Business associate. Drew continued to attack MVP outside the ring. Lashley applied the Hurt Lock to a distracted Drew. McIntyre backed up, sending both men crashing through the table that had been set up earlier.
Both men were slow to recover, but McIntyre was up first and had to drag the Champion back into the ring. Drew grabbed a steel chair and went to town on the spine of Lashley. McIntyre went for a Claymore, but Lashley ducked it. McIntyre tried to recover on the apron, but Lashley slammed him through the other table, that was set up earlier. Lashley dragged his foe back into the ring and signalled for a Spear. McIntyre side-stepped the move and rolled up for two. McIntyre hit a Glasgow Kiss, followed by the Futureshock DDT, then he signalled for another Claymore. MVP grabbed the ankle of McIntyre, allowing Lashley the opening to roll up McIntyre for the three-count.
Winner: Bobby Lashley
Verdict: That was like a Greatest Hits when it comes to Hell in a Cell matches. The brutality, the use of weapons and the referee bump was forecastable. It seemed apparent that MVP would end up in the Cell at some point, it was just a matter of how. Although it didn’t make sense for the referees to lock MVP in the Cell too. Surely they should have got him out first. Part of me was expecting Kofi Kingston to be involved, but maybe that was a tease for the sake of teasing. Drew McIntyre is the closest thing WWE has to a babyface in the realm of John Cena, so WWE is taking the bold step of protecting McIntyre, even in his loss. These storylines are interesting as Drew will not get another title opportunity for as long as Lashley is Champion. So that means that somebody else will end the All-Mighty era, but who?
Overall: Including the pre-show, there were more women’s matches than men’s. That may be a first in the history of WWE, outside of the Evolution show. Leaving Roman Reigns off this card was a bold move, but then there was clearly a lot of faith that the two Cell matches would be enough to sell the show. Another interesting factor was that there were no mid-card or Tag Team Championships on the line. The three non-title matches may have been more at home on RAW or SmackDown, but having them on this show made them feel a little more special.
There is a case to be made that WWE is using the Hell in a Cell stipulation too often, but that’s not a new criticism, considering WWE has been building a PPV around the match for over a decade now. There’s a question over whether the match is now diluted and offers little in the way of everything new. That is a lot in part to the fact that due to the PG era, we know we’ll never see a Cell match with the same brutality of the likes of Triple H vs Batista or Undertaker vs Mankind.
All images and videos courtesy of WWE