|Image Source: Bleacher Report|
Written By: Mark Armstrong
Produced By: WWE
Date: October 27 2013
Location: American Airlines Arena, Miami, Florida, USA
Hell In A Cell was an improvement on the previous two supershows, Night Of Champions and Battleground. The combination of two big HIAC matches (even if one was unnecessary), a special appearance by a legend, the return of WWE’s biggest name and some high-quality action elsewhere on the card, all combined with the resolving of the WWE Title situation and the end of the CM Punk-Paul Heyman rivalry, made for a better show than Night Of Champions, where most of the card simply didn’t feel PPV-worthy, and Battleground, which had a very questionable ending to its main event.
That being said, whether the fall-out for HIAC paints the picture of a bright future for WWE, at least in the short-term, remains to be seen. Considering that this was the fourth PPV in a row where Daniel Bryan battled Randy Orton in some fashion, and he lost, it’s safe to say that Bryan’s main event adventures have now been curbed, at least for the time being. Meanwhile, John Cena’s comeback and immediate World Heavyweight Championship win, whilst a boon for that particular title, means that we are almost completely back to where we started before the Authority storyline began in grand fashion at SummerSlam. The one positive is that, since the CM Punk-Paul Heyman feud appears to have ended here, it’s possible that Punk will now be directed towards Randy Orton, which could be a pretty good main event for Survivor Series.
After a pre-show match which saw Damien Sandow beat Kofi Kingston, Hell In A Cell opened with a triple threat tag team match, pitting the reigning WWE Tag Team Champions Cody Rhodes and Goldust against The Usos and the former titleholders, Shield members Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. This was a really good opening match, with plenty of fast-paced action, wild high-flying spots and several close-but-no-cigar near falls. A ton of great moments reached their peak when Cody hit Rollins with a top rope superplex to the floor on all of the other combatants (this had been seen on a 2011 edition of Superstars which I vaguely remember Tyson Kidd being involved in, but the spot hadn’t been seen on PPV until now). It was the same two men involved in the finish, as Cody polished Rollins off with Cross Rhodes.
This was a great Tag Team Title match, the best in a long, long time. The Cody/Goldust vs. Shield match at Battleground was very good, but I thought that this match (with The Usos to provide extra thrills and spills) was even better. With the Rhodes brothers holding the titles, and several young, motivated and talented teams on the chase for their crowns, the tag team division has a genuinely bright future for the first time in ages. While The Shield aren’t breaking ground in the fashion that they were 6-9 months ago, they are definitely contributing to the revitalising of the WWE doubles ranks.
Before the next match, The Miz came to the ring and called out The Wyatt Family, following their recent attacks on him. The trio of terror did come out and begin dismantling Miz, before Kane unexpectedly returned from his hiatus. No mention was made as to how he escaped The Wyatts’ lair (or wherever they took him at SummerSlam; they can’t very well say on the air that Kane actually vanished to film See No Evil 2, after all). Kane and Miz teamed up on The Wyatts, which unfortunately included a very sloppy attempt at a bodyslam on Luke Harper by The Big Red Machine. Surprisingly, Kane then also Chokeslammed Miz before leaving. Did this mark a(nother) Kane heel turn? Has he been brainwashed by The Wyatts, even though he attacked them before levelling Miz? We’ll have to wait and see what happens.
After those hijinks, we had a mixed tag team match between Fandango and Summer Rae and the still-odd couple of The Great Khali and Summer Rae. This was your typical, somewhat comedic mixed tag bout, with nothing really memorable to show for it; it was filler, basically. Summer unexpectedly got the win by rolling up Natalya for the pin. There isn’t much else to say here, except that Khali and Natalya still make for a really strange combo, and that Fandango, while still receiving a basic push, is very unlikely to regain the fan excitement that he unexpectedly received after WrestleMania 29. His music is still awesome, though.
Big E Langston had originally been scheduled to face Curtis Axel for the Intercontinental Title, following his recent babyface turn on Paul Heyman and Axel on SmackDown, but an injury to the IC Champ ruled that match out. As a result, WWE decided to replace that bout with a substitute clash that saw Dean Ambrose defend his United States Title against Langston instead. Unfortunately, while Big E vs. Axel didn’t exactly have WrestleMania-level excitement, Langston vs. Ambrose was mostly an average bout. The two highlights were an admittedly crazy spear by Big E that took Ambrose off the ring apron to the floor, and a pretty gnarly cut that Big E suffered to his eye when he collided in a slightly reckless fashion with the defending champion. The bout ended by countout, and afterwards Langston planted Ambrose with the Big Ending.
In contrast to Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns’ tag team adventures, Dean Ambrose’s singles efforts are currently making him the odd man out in The Shield. Another unmemorable PPV encounter with a screwjob ending leave his United States Title reign in jeopardy, but also raise questions as to whether he really is a future breakout star as had been predicted earlier in the year. Hopefully, Ambrose will get back on track and regain his early 2013 momentum, because if The Shield were to split up tomorrow, it’s unlikely that Ambrose would be the one awarded a major solo push. Langston’s future seems brighter now that he has turned babyface and having been protected here with a countout victory; although he didn’t win the title on this night, it seems likely that he will (or he may win the IC Title, since he was meant to face Axel originally) further down the line. For his sake, though, I hope that Big E doesn’t inflict any more nasty-looking cuts to his face in the meantime.
We had the first major match of the evening next, as CM Punk battled Ryback and Paul Heyman in a Hell In A Cell match. Only thing was, Heyman came out on a forklift truck and was elevated to the roof of the 20-foot structure, so that Punk could not lay his hands on him. Therefore, it was essentially Punk vs. Ryback in a repeat of the 2012 bout. Unlike last year’s match, which was kept brief yet action-packed and was eagerly-anticipated, few were really interested in the two men meeting once again, and besides some occasionally tough weapon blows, the match itself wasn’t much to speak off either. It was competent, acceptable, but nothing that you would rave about to your friends, nor a match which will be remembered fondly within the legacy of the Hell In A Cell match. After a top rope elbow put Ryback through a table, Punk nailed him with the GTS for the win. Heyman was unhappy, but his night was about to get a lot worse when Punk scaled the massive cage, aiming to get retribution on Heyman at long last. The betrayal at Money In The Bank, the Lesnar scrap at SummerSlam, the Heyman/Ryback union at Night Of Champions and other memorable moments all led to this, as Punk basically pounded Heyman over and over and over again with a kendo stick to the approval of the Miami crowd. This was followed by a GTS to the somewhat tubby manager, and Punk looked rather pleased with himself as he left, and having left Heyman in a battered heap on the top of the Cell.
While it was a big moment to see CM Punk finally get proper revenge on Paul Heyman in the aftermath to draw a line under their lengthy rivalry, I still felt this was one of the weakest HIAC matches, at least since the PPV event of the same name launched in 2009. That was largely because this match didn’t have to take place in the Cell; had it been a Street Fight or a Falls Count Anywhere match, few will have noticed the difference, and whilst it made sense for the cowardly Heyman to stay away from the action, his lack of involvement in the bell-to-bell aspect of the match hurt the presentation even more. It served its purpose and ended the Punk-Heyman feud, but I still felt disappointed by this encounter. It also raises the question of why Ryback lost to Punk at Battleground if he was losing again here, because having conclusively lost two feuds to Cena and Punk, which followed a rushed heel turn, and without a PPV win in over a year, Ryback is now in a very precarious position; besides Daniel Bryan, Ryback has no obvious opponents, at least to keep him near the top of the card. The only way appears to be down now for The Big Guy. Punk’s fortunes should improve though, as he may now re-enter the WWE Title hunt.
We then got another tag team match between the relatively new combo of Los Matadores (Diego and Fernando, accompanied by the pint-sized bull El Torito) and the Real Americans squad of Antonio Cesaro and Jack Swagger, managed by Zeb Colter. This was an adequate doubles bout, albeit not one which could compare to the electric opening tag 3-way. Of note, Cesaro trapped Diego and sent him on a whirling journey via his Giant Swing; no exaggeration, the masked man must have been spun around more than 20 times. But it was the babyfaces who would triumph after hitting their as-yet-unnamed finishing move on Swagger. Cesaro took a played-for-laughs hurricanrana from El Torito afterwards, ensuring that Los Matadores and El Torito stood tall (well, tallish in Torito’s case) at the end. Ole!
If it is possible to be pushed with a comedy win, then that was the case here for Los Matadores. It will take time for WWE fans to accept Diego and Fernando as serious contenders for the Tag Team Titles at a time when the more serious Rhodes brothers, Shield and Usos are tearing it up, but perhaps that will happen in time. It’s not a good sign for The Real Americans that they lost here and generally keep losing; the fortunes of both Swagger and Cesaro have plummeted this year. Cesaro’s recent introduction of the Giant Swing, and positive fan reactions to the spot, do suggest that he may in line for a babyface turn at some point once this team splits up, which given their current form can’t come soon enough.
Since John Cena only went on the shelf with an arm injury after SummerSlam, it was a surprise when it was announced that he would return here at Hell In A Cell to face Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Title. Cena wasn’t expected back until around the time of Royal Rumble 2014. But that’s Cena; whereas most men would be out of action for six months, he makes it back in three, or two in this case (well, around two-and-a-half if you want to be specific). Cena got his usual “Let’s Go Cena!/Cena sucks!” response, which might have been louder or more positive had he not spent less time off than the Road To WrestleMania lasts. Nevertheless, it was good to see Cena back, and his match with ADR was alright. It wasn’t anything special, although it followed the logical story of Del Rio – who already boasts a lethal submission hold in the form of his Cross-Armbreaker – targeting the injured arm of Cena. Cena was wearing an elbow pad, which both served as a target for Del Rio and made fans wonder if he had really recovered 100%. My guess is that Cena was about 90% ready, and if he wasn’t 100%, it didn’t affect his performance. Del Rio did look in his signature move, but Cena somewhat annoyingly broke it by lifting Del Rio up and slamming him, which was followed by the match- and title-winning Attitude Adjustment.
So, John Cena is the World Heavyweight Champion for the first time since 2009. That should add prestige to that prize; of greater note is how he returned and immediately became a World Champion. Del Rio will probably get a rematch, but if he couldn’t beat the still-potentially-injured Cena here, then the chance of him winning a rematch are unlikely. The match was okay, and the result should at least bring more attention to the WHC. The only downside is that between the rapid loss, the sudden crowning of Cena as champ and the way in which his key hold was essentially shrugged off, the pairing ended up doing a pretty big amount of damage to Del Rio’s momentum, and served as a big low in what has mostly been a strong year of success for Alberto.
We then had a Divas Title match, with AJ Lee defending against Brie Bella. It’s safe to say that the women’s matches have taken a dip since the AJ-Kaitlyn feud ended, although this was still a good effort by AJ. Brie kept up with the champion too, although a title change never seemed likely given how much better AJ is than nearly everyone else in the division, both from a wrestling standpoint and an acting perspective (Brie’s acting during her on-screen interactions with Daniel Bryan and The Authority has been embarrassing). Interference by Tamina Snuka was countered by the presence of Nikki Bella, but it made little difference to the outcome: AJ made Brie submit to the Black Widow.
Daniel Bryan’s WWE Title victory over John Cena at SummerSlam was repelled by Randy Orton cashing in Money In The Bank with the help of Triple H, thus leading to the formation of The Authority along with Stephanie McMahon. Since then, Bryan beat Orton on a politically-motivated fast count at Night Of Champions putting the WWE Championship into abeyance, whatever that is (I think it means vacant), and a new titleholder was not crowned at Battleground either as Big Show interrupted proceedings by knocking out both men. Therefore, it was down to this Hell In A Cell match to finally fill the vacancy, with Bryan and Orton clashing once more, this time surrounded by the big cage and with Shawn Michaels having been voted by fans over Booker T and Bob Backlund to be the special guest referee. With the impartial HB-Shizzle in the striped shirt, Bryan wouldn’t have to worry about being screwed over again by The Authority … right?
The action was largely of a high standard, although once again the Bryan-Orton still felt like it had something missing in order for this to be considered a brilliant feud from an in-ring perspective. There were still plenty of cool spots though, one of which saw Orton counter an attempted Bryan tope by sending Daniel head-first into the Cell wall. After interactions with the Cell structure, chairshots and finisher attempts/reversals, the fun and games by the corporate heel squad came into play when Triple H arrived at ringside and began taunting Bryan through the Cell wall, with HBK telling his buddy to back off. Both men had their differences with Michaels due to the HHH distraction before he got inadvertently flattened, leading HHH to find a way into the cage, presumably to take over as the (extremely biased) official. When The Game unsurprisingly refused to count after Bryan had caught Orton with a Running Knee, Daniel exacted some long-awaited revenge when he also nailed HHH with a Running Knee to a huge cheer. Those roars of approval turned to dismay, however, when Shawn reacted by superkicking Bryan, presumably for attacking his best friend. We know that Michaels couldn’t have turned 100% heel because he looked very reluctant when Orton capitalised on this moment of madness by covering Bryan, and HBK had no choice but to count three and crown Orton the WWE Champion once again.
Shawn Michaels costing Daniel Bryan the match wasn’t a massive surprise (the cage prevented HHH interfering, or it was meant to anyway, meaning that the heel Orton had to find another non-clean way to win), but the fact that he did so almost willingly was unexpected. Some have wondered if this will lead to Bryan vs. Michaels (student vs. teacher, since HBK taught Bryan how to wrestle), but more likely it was a convenient way for WWE to bring the WWE Title back to Randy Orton and The Authority for keeps. Bryan remains very popular, and his headline run has been far from a failure, but it does seem that WWE is moving away from Bryan as a challenger to the top prize. Hopefully for the Yes Man, his push will be renewed, because his momentum over the last few months has provided him with many new fans who would love nothing more than to see him get a permanent run with the WWE Title.
Summing it up, I definitely enjoyed Hell In A Cell. Whilst some matches still had that dreaded filler feeling, four of the bouts were either very exciting or quite significant from a storyline perspective. As noted earlier, the fact that Bryan’s title chase has ended with him empty-handed is not a good thing, but the growing popularity for DBryan suggests that WWE may very well go back to this, and give Bryan his big moment at a later date. Meanwhile, Cena has ensured that the WHC is on a level playing field with the WWE Championship for the first time in ages, and could it be that Cena’s win here is designed to rebuild that prize enough for a future title unification? We shall see. So, HIAC 2013 answered many questions, with not all of those resulting in a positive feeling, but the show as a whole was undoubtedly a step up from the last couple of supershows. Whether that momentum can be maintained through what are often the dullest couple of months in the WWE calendar remains to be seen.
Overall Rating: 7/10 – Respectable