Posts Tagged ‘Hell in a Cell’

If at the end of 2015, somebody were to show you this image, and told you that it would be happening in 2016, odds are that you almost definitely wouldn’t believe then.

ajpmzad

SmackDown is live? AJ Styles is WWE Champ? And OH MY GOD James Ellsworth is… who’s James Ellsworth?

Looping best-of-three-PPVs feuds are so formulaic that it is easy for some to shrug proceedings off as boring. Has booking really been that uninteresting though? Of course not.

2016 sought to prove otherwise, and for better or for worse, did a great job. Over the last twelve months, WWE have dreamt up things that comedy sites like Kayfabe News wouldn’t have done. This is less about just devestating moments (for example, the retirement of Daniel Bryan caused massive upset), and more about the surprises. Here are some 100% true headlines surrounding booking choices that would have seriously confused any wrestling fan just one year ago.

CHRIS JERICHO (AT PEAK OF HIS CAREER) DEFEATS A.J. STYLES
(WrestleMania 32, April 3rd) 

Fans have been drinking in the Gift of Jericho. 2016 has been incredible for him, and he has been revered for his role in the top-tier, alongside Kevin Owens. He has been incredibly in touch with fans’ desires, even if it is wearing a scarf, growing a moustache and calling everyone “stupid idiots”. With such popularity, a victory for him might forgiven on most days. But this wasn’t ‘most days’. His opponent was A.J. Styles, who had arrived in Royal Rumble 2016.

The match itself was great, but the result angered many. Jericho had stated that he would be leaving WWE (liar!), and did not need this win. Regardless of the result, a lot of spectacular rare signature moves by Styles were wasted (such as Styles’ 450 Splash) and weakened in reputation by the 45-year-old Jericho kicking out. Looking back now, the result did no harm, and Styles is WWE Champion.

 THE ROCK DEFEATS ERICK ROWAN AT WRESTLEMANIA 32, TO MIXED RECEPTION
(WrestleMania 32, April 3rd)

This would have caused a lot of confusion, and disappointment when actually explained. This, for me, was the most infuriating part of WrestleMania – The Rock’s surprise appearance. It turned out that the disaster of his appearance at Royal Rumble ’15 was a one-off. Rocky came out to address the crowd for over twenty-minutes, reeling off (disproved) info on the record-breaking attendance, and the standard checklist of catchphrases.

The Wyatt Family arrived to face-off with The Rock. The Wyatts got a far more positive reaction than WWE had probably hoped, considering how The Rock insulted absolutely everything about their demeanour, rendering them obsolete. The last nail came when The Rock challenged Erick Rowan to a match, which lasted for six-seconds. Then a still injured John Cena helped take out the rest of The Wyatts.

Fans have wanted The Wyatts to catch their break forever. This segment was the epitome of booking stupidity.

SHANE MCMAHON’S WWE OWNERSHIP DREAMS REVIVED, AFTER HIS HIAC LOSS AGAINST THE UNDERTAKER, AT WRESTLEMANIA
(Raw, April 4th)

Where on earth does one begin with this one? How about at the end of the story. Shane McMahon was shockingly back and Vince McMahon welcomed him on the Raw after WrestleMania. However, the second half of the above statement shows that the journey to this point had been a ridiculous and messy one. Under what circumstance would Shane-o-Mac be booked to face The Undertaker at WrestleMania, in a Hell in a Cell match? As it turned out, according to his statement live on Raw, to give Shane “another fucking beating”. There really was little-to-no substance to Shane’s presence. Although this match started the road to the brand split, there is nothing to add to that headline, and nothing else to say.

The match itself was nothing to write home about. It was a show of Shane’s signature moves, leading to him throwing himself off of the cell, onto Taker. Fans had joked for a long time about one last jump, and said that it would never happened. Well now we’ve seen it. Sadly, too much of it, as the producers backstage screwed up and we got a full look at the airbag that he really landed on. And hilariously, you can also see Michael Cole reading his big “as God is my witness, he is broken in half speech” directly from a clipboard.

Looking back now, the end result was OK, but was a waste of a year for Taker, whose days are clearly numbered, and has a few dream opponents left who will never get their Taker at WM match.

AFTER CLEANLY DEFEATING ROLLINS AND REIGNS, FINN BALOR IS FORCED TO VACATE WWE UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP DUE TO INJURY
(SummerSlam, August 21st)

This really was a moment that took some people a while to comprehend. Finn Balor had been drafted to RAW, having graduated from NXT. On his first match on the main roster, Balor became the first man to cleanly pin the overly protected Roman Reigns, in four years. And what on earth is this WWE Universal Championship? It might sound like a really daft writing idea, belonging in the same canon as Broken Matt Hardy, but is (luckily) just RAW’s humourously desperate attempt at one-upping SmackDown’s World Championship. Hopefully neither brand will create a Galactic Championship, but it wouldn’t be of any surprise.

Of course, this closes on the sadder note as straight after Balor vs Rollins at SummerSlam, Balor was forced to vacate the title, due to a shoulder injury. One noteworthy moment of the match was Rollins unleashing the very dangerous God’s Last Gift move on Balor, which Rollins hasn’t performed since actually being ‘Seth Rollins’. It’s a pity that it was done so unceremoniously, and kicked out of afterwards. Speaking of which…

KOTA IBUSHI KICKS OUT OF BURNING HAMMER IN MATCH AGAINST BRIAN KENDRICK, FOR THE WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE
(Cruiserweight Classic Quarterfinals, August 26th)

Impressed by the new WWE Universal Championship? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Absolutely everything about the sentence above is completely mind-boggling. To start with there are the wrestlers – the presence of Japanese legend Kota Ibushi in a WWE tournament, and the return of The Brian Kendrick (who would later become the WWE Cruiserweight World Champion). Oh, and there is the fact that there is even such a thing as a WWE Cruiserweight World Championship – brilliant news, however purple the belt is.

The cherry on the cake here though is the use of a ‘Burning Hammer’, commonly considered one of, if not the most dangerous manoeuvres in wrestling. Considering the dark cloud surrounding the dreaded and forbidden piledriver, this was stunning. Sadly, Ibushi was booked to kick out of the move – a bigger waste than Jericho kicking out of Styles’ 450 Splash, and Finn Balor kicking out of Seth Rollins’ God’s Last Gift. It’s a disappointing ongoing policy of WWE – ever match that ends with a pin, can’t end with anything that isn’t a finishing move.

AFTER THE SPIRIT SQUAD ARE REMOVED FROM RINGSIDE, THE MIZ LOSES WWE INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP IN A TITLE VS CAREER MATCH, AGAINST DOLPH ZIGGLER
(No Mercy, October 9th)

Welcome to probably the best feud of 2016 – The Miz vs Dolph Ziggler. Considering Ziggler’s reputation as a fan favourite who is booked mostly as filler in the mid-card, it would have been baffling to even see Ziggler on the brink of becoming a champion once again. The fact that it would be booked as important enough to warrant a stipulation like ‘Title vs Career’ brings the highest degree of importance to the mid-card title. Oh, and who could ever expected the appearance of The Spirit Squad?

This feud was absolutely incredible, as it acknowledged the on-off history of Ziggler’s booking, and made The Miz the most horrid villain in the WWE. As top-tier heels have been misguidedly booked and perhaps been too likeable (for example, Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho are too entertaining that nobody wants to see defeated. And AJ Styles is… AJ Styles). However, The Miz has been the most incredible man on the mic this year (peaking during his shocking segment in Talking Smack). The feud took the best possible route, as Ziggler won in a massive feel good moment at No Mercy, and lost the title weeks later in a brilliant ladder match with The Miz. With The Miz champion again, he is destined for another amazing feud in 2017.

CHARLOTTE DEFEATS SASHA BANKS TO BECOME THREE TIMES RAW WOMEN’S DIVISION CHAMPION, HEADLINING HELL IN A CELL
(Hell in a Cell, October 30th)

There is a RAW Women’s Championship? Charlotte has won the title three times already? And the women have finally been allowed into the cell? And they headlined the event? It sounds like a dream come true, although some have since argued that this was not the monumental occasion that it should have been. To a point, I agree.

To start with, is the number of times that the title has changed hands. While there is no reason why it couldn’t happen, it probably shouldn’t have happened for two reasons: 1. Too much attention had been drawn to these two women over anybody else in the division, and 2. Having held the title three times in less than a year, somewhat dilutes its importance. As for the match, it was definitely styled to look like an important event – for example Sasha Banks being stretchered off having been put through a table, styled like a lighter version of Mankind’s famous fall from the cell in 1998. It wasn’t perfect, and as of December 2016, the title still seems to be fought for by only these two wrestlers. Hopefully, with the list of matches happening for the first time in the Women’s Division, is shrinking, more wrestlers will become involved.

ASUKA DEFEATS MICKIE JAMES, TO RETAIN THE NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP AT NXT TAKEOVER: TORONTO
(NXT TakeOver: Toronto, November 19th)

On the other end of the scale, NXT really have opened up when it has come to opportunities. Look no further than the decision to bring Mickie James in for her first WWE match in six years, to take on Asuka – new champion in 2016. This could have been a very poor decision, and considering how one of the primary talking points of her career was when she grabbed Trish Stratus’ crotch at WrestleMania, one could be forgiven for being pessimistic. However, there was no need. While NXT has seen a few superior women’s matches, Mickie did not disappoint, delivering what some have called the greatest match of her career.

Looking back on this, I am in two minds about this event. I’m very positive due to the quality of the match itself, however I was admittedly quite disappointed when this match was first announced. This was the first women’s TakeOver match to be more novel that a standard singles match, since TakeOver: Respect (headlined by Sasha Banks and Bayley’s Iron Man match), and NXT decided that the twist would be from bringing in another veteran. This to me indicates the confirmation that NXT has well and truly lost the agenda of being developmental territory, and has grown to a scale that it can never step back from. Fingers crossed that this doesn’t jeopardise the progress of talent such as Peyton Royce and Liv Morgan.

GOLDBERG CLEANLY DEFEATS BROCK LESNAR AT SURVIVOR SERIES, IN EIGHTY-SIX SECONDS
(Survivor Series, November 20th)

For the most part when writing these, it has been a matter of shoehorning as much unlikely information into the space of one sentence. In this instance, there is no point. Bill Goldberg showed up, was signed up for a match against the unstoppable Brock Lesnar, and he won. This is perfectly representative of WWE being so painfully formulaic that something so barmy as a 49-year-old wrestler, turning up for his first match in twelve years and defeating Lesnar in eighty-six seconds, is accepted.

Fans even surprised themselves, pondering “why am I so happy about this?”. Venturing a guess, this was the opposite of the upset surround The Rock and The Wyatts at WrestleMania – neither side needed a victory, so the most ridiculous enjoyable result was allowed to happen. If Lesnar had done the same thing, groans would resume about the pointlessness of the match.

While it’s confirmed that Lesnar and Goldberg will be in the 2017 Royal Rumble, we can’t be entirely sure what comes next. The novelty might wear off quickly, but for the time being? Wow.

SHINSUKE NAKAMURA BECOMES FIRST TWO-TIME NXT CHAMPION IN MATCH WITH SAMOA JOE, AT OSAKA HOUSE SHOW (NXT, December 3rd)

The NXT singles championship has changed hands at a house show before – Samoa Joe won his title at a house show Lowell, Massachusetts in April 2016. However, this is not what makes the matter especially shocking. It is the fact that the title was taken by SHINSUKE NAKAMURA!

His shocking arrival in 2016 was great, debuting in-person (having challenged Sami Zayn to a match on the screen in the Full Sail studio) at NXT TakeOver: Dallas, in what might be my favourite match of 2016 – Nakamura vs. Zayn. NXT promoted his arrival as though it was the most important moment in the history of NXT. If the promotion has decided that it isn’t developmental any more, it may as well do things properly, and man they are.

And most surprising of all? Considering how the company have changed names to mononyms, such as (Adrian) Neville, Big E (Langston) and (Alexander) Rusev, Shinsuke Nakamura is at least as of December 2016, still called Shinsuke Nakamura. Will it last?

Which other WWE moments of 2016 would have sounded outrageous in 2015, and what is the most outrageous thing that you think is actually possible in 2017? Post below.


 

Two hours worth of pre-recorded WWE Smackdown, whether by providing the missing link to various feuds, or just better matches as a whole, has worked wonders to make this Sunday’s Hell in a Cell much more intriguing. Almost a masterclass in everything that should happen on Raw, instead of consisting primarily of soap opera promos over the course of a tiresome three hours. Sure, it’s plain as day that it is a regular occurrence that it is over produced, with the audience reaction touched up. For example, the habit of “New Day Rocks” and “New Day Sucks” alternating between Raw and Smackdown, as well as the magically disappearing heat that Roman Reigns received post-Royal Rumble 2015. However, there were traits left, right and centre that it is a pity that we see so rarely on Raw, let alone in one episode, and I am not even sure that I trust to happen again at Hell in a Cell. It is no surprise that Raw is regularly accused of being nothing more than an advertisement for the following PPV.

I’m almost regretting writing Hell in a Cell predictions earlier this week, simply on the grounds that this fantastic, packed episode somewhat neutralized some feuds that felt so predictable as one half had too many losses not to get the triumphant final win. Now, we might not be able to be so sure. Here is how Smackdown got just about everything right this week in hyping up just about everything that isn’t in the cell itself this Sunday.

Rollins shakes off the soap opera of Raw, in an awesome victory against Cesaro

On Raw, in spite of a victory over Ryback, the central focus of Rollins’ booking was being talked into the ground by Shawn Michaels, and being too much of a coward to hang around in the final match of the night. On Smackdown however, while he toyed with going on the run once more from the Demon Kane (or as I prefer to call him, Kane). These are two men who have a miserable reputation, so either result was bound to be disappointing, so long as the match wasn’t brilliant. As it turned out however, it was brilliant. These are two that are in desperate need of a feud with one another before Reigns and Rollins find their way back to each other for their inevitable high-profile singles match in the future. If anything did sadden me though, it was the lack of a ‘Cesaro Section’. The three-man ‘Stardust Section’ at ringside with A5 sheets of paper was quite depressing.

Speaking of Cesaro losing, that may not have been a bad choice after all, because…

All of a sudden, the result of pre-show six-man tag match isn’t so predictable

This might just be one of the most intuitive last-minute bookings (needed after Randy Orton dislocated his shoulder, putting him out of action) that WWE have achieved in quite some time, although this couldn’t quite have worked without Raw and Smackdown working hand-in-hand. On Raw, a victory to Cesaro, Neville and Ziggler signified straight away that their rematch would neutralize the feud with a victory to Rusev, King Barrett and Sheamus. After all, all three heels need it. The Bulgarian beast has been reduced to comedy, King Barrett never seems to win anything, and Mr Money in the Bank Sheamus needs to look far more imposing than he has been. Unfortunately, he just looks stupid (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap).

However, Smackdown saw the (eh-hem) smackdown laid upon Cesaro and Ziggler (more on the latter in a minute), and a victory for King Barrett and Sheamus. Their tag team match against The Lucha Dragons could have been much better had it been longer, but with what little time they had, Barrett and Sheamus got additional heat, and of course the Dragons had some beautiful spots. This feud already seems somewhat neutralized, and so we go into the pre-show slightly less sure of where this is headed.

A surprise appearance was actually used to good effect

This almost seems unfair. On Raw, there were guest appearances from absolute legends of the industry, with Austin’s glass shattering to start Raw for the first time in years, with Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels on premises too. Unfortunately, Austin disappeared within three minutes, Flair was there primarily to shout “woo!” at Bray Wyatt, and Michaels to insult fan favourite Rollins. It just goes to show that no matter what Creative try, fans just can’t turn their backs on Rollins.

Sure, that must have been amazing in person, but for those watching at home, Smackdown had a far more intriguing and entertaining appearance from outta nowhere – NXT’s Tyler Breeze. However excruciating it was to hear the underwhelmed “who is that?” from commentary, and the fact that anyone over the age of 14 sounds in place using the words “selfie stick”. Either way, he is here, and brought some NXT and “Tyler’s gorgeous” chants with him too. Could a Miz TV segment when ‘Prince Pretty’ took a selfie stick to Ziggler have just functioned as a better promo for Cena’s US Open Challenge this week? The goofiness of this segment might put this in doubt, but considering how Ziggler is already occupied in the pre-show, this might just signify an #MMMGORGEOUS match-up between Cena and Breeze this Sunday.

The Divas used to as decent an effect that the main roster programming might allow… for now

The ‘promotion’ of the NXT women has been infuriating. The soap opera of bitchiness all over Raw seems to continue with a bonus few minutes in a singles match, and if you are lucky, a three-minute tag team match, functioning less for the wrestlers in the ring, but for a guest wrestler, presumably Paige, at the commentary table explaining her ordeal.

On Smackdown however, the Divas got a good solid quarter of an hour, with what used to be the central feud of the division (Nikki Bella vs Paige. Did anyone ever think they would be happy to see that again?) demoted to the secondary show. This could be brilliant, showing that a new feud can take the primary spot on Raw. On the other hand, for all we know at this time, the Divas might have been dumped to Smackdown and the whiny promos left at Raw. Either way, I am more intrigued than I expected to be. There are perpetual complaints about the misuse of the alleged ‘revolution’, but the fact that something is visibly brewing, means that there is an off-chance after all that there will be a Diva feud that for once actually calls for a grand finale, hopefully beyond just sabotaging a PPV match.

And ever since Becky Lynch’s furious bout with Sasha Banks at NXT Takeover: Unstoppable, it has always been fun to see Lynch particularly hacked off.

Kevin Owens just keeps getting better

As amazing as Owens’ pop-up powerbomb to Mark Henry was on Raw, he continued his heel mastery with some of the must direct vitriol that we have heard from him yet. As for Smackdown, although Ryback was in a little match with Bo Dallas, Owens’ growth of fury makes this seem like it really is the finale to their feud. Hopefully these two are given longer than nine minutes this time, and that Owens’ reign of terror continues. The brutality that these two are capable of unleashing on one another looks far more savage and vengeful than before. While they might not be allowed to steal the show, they can definitely leave their mark. If any match were to leave ‘colour’ I would expected it to be these two.

That is not to say that hype equals quality in the end, and in fact, it might be upsetting when expectations aren’t lived up to. However, Smackdown showed that they might know what they are doing after all. Fingers crossed.

Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt will be facing off this Sunday at Hell in a Cell in what promises to be a great match, especially after Wyatt’s win against on Reigns on RAW. However, that victory, in standard WWE booking style, will see a victory go to Reigns – a decision that couldn’t be any more of a waste if it tried. Reigns will inevitably end up facing Seth Rollins, and this match will be just another match. Bray Wyatt on the other hand, with his mad ways could build so much more from a single win – a second shot at being a massively dominant force.

The Wyatt Family

The Wyatt Family

The character of Bray Wyatt and his cronies is one of the deepest and highest concept, in spite of the fact that we know nothing more about them than what we see. It’s a depth that nobody else on the roster has. John Cena is the ‘never give up’ guy. Dean Ambrose is the loony guy. Kane is the guy in the mask. Everyone is just that ‘guy’. However, The Wyatt Family have a more complicated look and manner. A strange backwoods cult with very distinctive dress, with a central god-like figure. He speaks a lot of gibberish, and his motives beyond superiority are unknown, as we have seen him happy in defeat, as though Emperor Palpatine style, he is bringing out the good guy’s dark side.

This depth beyond “I’m better than you” has sadly been wasted. A stable like The Wyatt Family shouldn’t be a one-dimensional plow through their opponents one-by-one. This is not to say that The Wyatt Family are in need of a complex story, but it does mean that they are confusing enough to become a force that even the Authority should struggle to gets its head around, and control. The Wyatts have been made too simple, when they really shouldn’t be. We don’t need to know anything else about The Wyatt Family, ever. Not what they believe in. Not who Sister Abigail is. In fact, the day we find out what they are all about, fans will inevitably be disappointed. We should never know. However, if a heel has to be more conceptual in character than “I want to win that belt”, they need to reek far more havoc than choosing a face for a few months, losing, and then moving on to the next.

This was something that The Wyatts could not be better suited for, and have in fact demonstrated before. The Wyatts in late 2013 and early 2014 appeared to be the eye of the storm that many hoped would signify the dawning of a new era, alongside members of The Shield, Cesaro, Big E Langston, Rusev, and so on. NXT was beginning to reel in attention too. In spite of all these streams of talent, and everyone correctly guessing that The Shield were destined to be the future faces of the company, The Wyatt Family were the most striking. But why? It was more than their appearance. It was more to do with how they grew, and it quickly became apparent just how important they were. Enough so that fans were already concluding that they were being written as the ‘replacement’ to The Undertaker, although a couple of years on, he’s still here.

Their relatively brief golden age began alongside the mass support for Daniel Bryan, who had been enlisted in the Family, but left in spectacular fashion, with an audience reaction that will never be forgotten. However, something then happened at Royal Rumble 2014 that blew many people away – Wyatt ended the feud by defeating Bryan. Now that his ruthlessness was well and truly confirmed, their technique wasn’t to move on to the next feud, but to branch out and cause more chaos, as they instead went for three men – The Shield.

With Elimination Chamber 2014, The Wyatt Family defeated The Shield in one of the best, if not the best WWE matches of the year (a title clinged on to in most publications until NXT Takeover: R-Evolution shook things up in December 2014), and once the match was over, they weren’t done with their damage yet, and dramatically and magically appeared in the Elimination Chamber, just as John Cena was about to make Orton tap out to the STF. It was that sabotage that put Bray Wyatt and John Cena eye-to-eye in a feud.

Three men focus their efforts on just one man. It doesn't matter if it is Cena. The Wyatts are capable of far more.

Three men focus their efforts on just one man. It doesn’t matter if it is Cena. The Wyatts are capable of far more.

However, this is where the golden age of The Wyatt Family ground to a halt. It’s very easy to put this on Cena’s back, as it has been so many times. To be in a rivalry with Cena may be an honour, but it’s not always a privilege, as one is due to be the inferior half. Sure enough, this turned out to be the case with Bray Wyatt. However, whether Wyatt had won or lost the final match of that feud (the brilliant Last Man Standing match at Payback 2014), something would still have been lost – his power. The chaos that Wyatt just oozes is very important to him. He is a character not in need of a new friend in his family, but of an empire.

This brings us to Hell in a Cell 2015, presumably the closure of this phase of Reigns/Ambrose vs The Wyatt Family, and would function beautifully in a similar way to Daniel Bryan’s match at Royal Rumble 2014 – a shock win that allows him not to progress, but expand. Since the return of Erick Rowan (underwhelming sold by Michael Cole on RAW), Wyatt leads a four-man stable of monsters, and they have power not only in their scale, but in their character.

Think back to Brock Lesnar’s tantrum on the RAW after Wrestlemania 31, that caused chaos when Lesnar F5’ed Michael Cole, and destroyed the commentary table, leading to evacuation and replacement by a very nervous sounding Byron Saxton. It was ridiculous, but perfect. It genuinely sounded like nobody knew what to do. There is nobody else more suited to pretending to break the fourth wall with a similar sabotage of the show. If Wyatt’s sheer presence gets twenty-thousand people to get their phones out, night after night, then what if he actually tried?

The Wyatts are best known to communicate by use of the screen. What if they were to screw with the lights and the screens throughout the night, and tap into the commentary audio (well, anything not to hear JBL)? This isn’t necessarily magic either. They are being tricksters, and always have been when they have played their mind games. Wyatt never claimed to have magical powers when he appeared in the Elimination Chamber, or Hell in a Cell last year. Nor did he use magic masks onto the audience member. Nor did he magic up a singing child at the cage door in the stupidest match ending in recent memory. As Undertaker blasts ridiculous pyrotechnics on his way in, they are all preplanned ideas, there to intimate and confuse opponents.

Go on WWE. Give him something to be happy about.

Go on WWE. Give him something to be happy about.

But for anything of the sort, Wyatt probably needs this win at Hell in a Cell. Reigns will obviously be heading for a high-profile feud with Rollins, no matter what. Reigns might just be the last A-list face wrestler Wyatt has that can be a spark for something big and new as Bryan was, before needing to be redesigned.

It’s now or never, or The Wyatt Family will be backing dancers on Tyler Breeze’s catwalk.