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WWE Hell in a Cell 2017 Review
Kickoff Match: Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable vs. the Hype Bros.
For a kickoff match this was fairly solid. Both teams worked hard to put on a good match,even as the audience was still shuffling in. There were hints of the Hype Bros' impending breakup but little else moving the story forward. But considering most kickoff matches are just random people thrown together, this was a winner.
Match rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
The New Day vs. The Usos - Hell in a Cell Match for the SD Tag Team Titles
Considering these teams have been feuded since Money in the Bank, it was necessary for them to up the ante. This is a classic example of a match that throws everything but the kitchen sink in. There were comedy spots with Xavier Woods using musical instruments as weapons. Both teams used the Cell to their advantage, with Big E performing a Big Spear into the cell wall. The Usos performed a Doomsday Device on the outside against the the wall. Handcuffs were used, people were trapped behind kendo sticks.
So-called garbage wrestling has a bad wrap among some wrestling critics. Matches like this show how to do that sort of thing right: These guys didn't just hit each other with weapons over and over. They got creative - and also relied on several creative non-weapon spots. The Usos won with a Double Use, in what may be the match of the night.
Rating: 4.25 stars
Randy Orton vs. Rusev
Well, this was an actual match so it was leagues better than what they did at Summerslam. The two didn't pull much out many surprises, but they kept the flowing going for a solid back and forth brawl. The ending was predicatable but with a little drama. Rusev countered Orton's attempt to grab into an attmepted Accolade, but Orton escaped for an RKO. Rusev doing the job was as predictable as it was frustrating, but at least he put up a fight this time. Still a worthwhile match.
Rating: 3.25 stars
AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin vs. Tye Dillinger - United States Championship
I'm not sure what Dillinger's addition added from a storyline perspective, but it turn what probably would have been a serviceable bout into one of the better matches of the night. Also, after Dillinger was treated like a pawn for much of the story, it is fresh to see him contend for the US Title.
Although I will give this match a respectable score, I have to deduct points for a few slow moments here and there. But those were made up for with some intense spots that made it look like anyone could win. The match had some suspenseful moments such as Dillinger fighting tooth and nail to escape the Styles Clash. The three men traded kicks in a way that took advantage of the three man structure. Styles kicked Dillinger onto Corbin in a way that caused a pinfall.
Playing up his role as viscious heel, Corbin won after booting Styles out of the ring and stealing a pinfall over Dillinger.
Rating: 4 stars
Charlotte vs. Natalya - SD Women's Championship
Most of this match was decent. There were lengthy spots where Natalya worked on Charlotte's leg. Despite this, there was some decent back and forth action and psychology. Unfortunately, the match had a weak DQ ending where Natalya hit Charlotte in the leg with a steel chair.
I'm trying not to deduct simply for DQ finishes, but this really sucked the wind out of the match.
Rating: 2.75 stars
Jinder Mahal vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Another improvement over Summerslam. Nakamura and the Singh brothers carried a lot of this match. While I like Jinder's character, his lack of experience in big matches showed through again. The commentators described Mahal's style as "one that wears down opponents". That seems to be a nice way of saying "He uses a lot of rest holds." These parts had me checking my phone.
But the match picked up towards the end. There were a few near falls that kept me on my toes and added some excitement. After the Singh Brothers were ejected, Mahal got the duke and retained his title. While I don't think it's Nakamura's time yet, I have to question why Mahal got a (semi) clean victory.
Rating: 3.25 stars
Bobby Roode vs. Dolph Ziggler
Between matches was The Fashion Files, in a prelude to Fashion Fiction. Funny stuff as always.
This whole feud over entrances sounds silly on paper, but these two made it work.
After boasting he was going to deliver an amazing entrance, Ziggler had his music cut and entered to silence - classic heel trolling.
The two worked a fairly solid old-school workmanlike match. However, the ending was a little headscratching. After a pretty suspenseful ending where the two kept reversing each others' roll-ups, Roode earned a tainted victory by grabbing Ziggler's tights. While I'm a little curious to see how they'll follow this up, it seems odd that Roode would cheat in his PPV debut. There's a time for faces to use underhanded tactics. This wasn't it.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Kevin Owens vs. Shane McMahon - Falls Count Anywhere Hell in a Cell
Up to this point, Shane McMahon and Kevin Owens had a veritable blood feud worthy of the Cell match.
The Falls Count Anywhere stipulation was added earlier. Over the years, the rules have bounced between whether falls count anywhere or not. So it may be for the best they cleared the air this time around.
These two had a wild brawl, befitting their feud. Like New and Usos before, these two got creative. I like the subtle psychology of Owens going INTO the cell to escape Shane. Highlights included Owens attempting the Canonball through a table perched against the cell wall, Shane blocking a Senton from Owens. One funny spot saw Owens attempt to intimidate Shane's kids, only for them to stick their tongues out at him.
The two eventually made their way to the top of the cell. Even if I didn't believe the match would end there (Or else why didn't the ref come up?). This turned the match into a nail biter. When one or both of these guys could fall through a vertical suplex or Russian Leg Sweep has so much more weight to it.
This match was pretty epic, but had one severe flaw. It was THIRTY-NINE MINUTES, and well past 11:00 PM. Unfortunately, the length gave this match a few slow and sloppy moments. While I enjoyed this match, these are the things holding me back from rating this match higher. Still, there are other reasons to like this one.
Kevin fell off the cell into a table a la Shawn Michaels at Badd Blood '97. Shane attempted to take a leap of faith off the cell, only to find out Owens had back up. Sami Zayn turned heel and came to Owens's rescue. Zayn pulled Owens out of the way just in the nick of time. With the falls count anywhere stipulation, Zayn put Owens on top of McMahon.
Gotta say, with the reveal of Zayn turning heel and aligning with Owens, I'm genuinely curious what's happening next.
Rating: 4 stars
Overall, Hell in a Cell was a pretty good show. Definitely not perfect: Charlotte/Natalya was underwelming, but this show's biggest sin was going on WAY too long. But most matches were good. The right people won in most matches. Plus Sami Zayn's heel turn built a lot of suspense and intrigue for the future.