Winners: Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable, The Usos, Randy Orton, Baron Corbin, Charlotte, Jinder Mahal, Bobby Roode, and Kevin Owens.
In what will probably come as no real surprise to anyone, the Hype Bros’ losing streak continued to kick off Hell in a Cell; Gable and Benjamin seem to be gelling relatively well as a team but, as I’ve mentioned a bunch of times before, surely this is just matches that American Alpha could be having? If the “plan” was to split American Alpha up and then keep Gable in a tag team then it’s not really much a plan now, is it? Why not have Shelton come back as the cocky, self-entitled heel that the plucky underdog, up-and-comer Gable has to feud with on his road towards the United States Championship? Ugh, well, anyway, a bit of an argument between Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley leads to Gable and Shelton hitting their pretty-impressive Doomsday Device variant to pick up a win as the dragging out of the Hype Bros’ break-up, or whatever it is, continues.
This is followed immediately by another tag team match, but this time inside the titular Hell in a Cell. This match saw the New Day and the Usos bring their A-game, fully utilising the cell and a variety of weapons; there was one sick-looking spot where Big E and Xavier Woods smacked the hell out of Jey Uso with kendo sticks before getting their revenge, handcuffing Big E and taking the sticks to Woods. The end comes when both Usos hit their top-rope splashes onto a steel chair, onto Woods, to once-again regain the SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championships. Hopefully, this balls-to-the-wall, bat-shit-crazy match was the definitive end to this seemingly-never-ending feud and both teams can move on now that they’ve dished out, and taken, everything they can possibly give.
Next up, the Rusev/Orton feud finally delivered and actual match. I mean, it wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was a much better than a slap-in-the-face nine second piece of nothing. After beating Orton all over the ringside area, Rusev continues to fail to be anything more than a chump by having the Accolade countered into an RKO and losing once again. I’m sure this is all about some kind of “retribution” angle for Orton but Orton always seems a Big Show’s-hair length away from turning heel once again so what, exactly, is the point of him being painted as some kind of conquering hero? Orton’s time in the sun is coming to an end, let’s face it, and he seems to be in denial about that instead of helping to properly put over the next crop of heels.
Common sense then prevailed as Tye Dillinger was not only added to the United States Championship match but my man Baron Corbin picked up the victory, and the title belt! Upgrading this to a triple threat really helped to elevate the United States Championship, as I believed it would, because it shows that the belt is coveted by more than just two guys at a time and allowed AJ to work around Corbin’s obvious in-ring limitations. Plus, Tye got to put in a good showing, appearing tenacious and on the same level as AJ, while Corbin’s win is long overdue after having his Money in the Bank rug pulled out from underneath him so suddenly. Hopefully Corbin gets a lengthy reign up to WrestleMania when he is dethroned in, most likely, a multi-man match of some sorts by a plucky underdog face kind of challenger.
Charlotte then beat Natalya, but by disqualification after Natalya laid into her with a steel chair after a, I guess, decent enough match, the story during, and after, was Natalya working over and injuring Charlotte’s leg. At least Natalya’s not being messed about with a meaningless, short title reign and their putting some effort into making her look dominant/deserving.
Despite a somewhat-decent outing, where he threw everything in his arsenal and more, overcoming the numbers game, and seeming to have the match in the bag, Shinsuke Nakamura failed once again to topple the reign of Jinder Mahal. This, though, honestly wasn’t too much to write about; Mahal didn’t exactly step his game up to loo like a champion and Nakamura doesn’t seem to click that well with him. Unfortunately, this match really should’ve ended indecisively, with the Singh Brothers interfering or Jinder using underhanded tactics to steal a victory; instead, it was a pretty definitive ending as Mahal countered the Kinshasa into the Khallas and pinned Nakamura cleanly in the ring, pretty much unwinding a lot of the good will Nakamura built up from pinning John Cena and Randy Orton. Mahal doesn’t exactly look like a dominant champion and, now, Nakamura looks like a guy who can’t get the job done, so this was a disappointment all around, really.
Bobby Roode makes his pay-per-view, in-ring debut against the measuring stick of NXT guys, Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler opts to come out to no music or fanfare, continuing his weird new vendetta against overblown entrances and the crowd’s fickleness and proceeds to do everything possible to make Roode look like a million bucks but the crowd wasn’t exactly into it and it seemed like a forced effort on both guys part. After some finisher counters and some cheeky tight-grabbing roll-ups, Roode gets the win by leveraging a school boy on Ziggler. After the match, though, he gets laid out by the Zigzag, meaning that their issues are far from over; the only real issue with this feud is that Roode is much better as the flamboyant, narcissistic heel and, as I said, would potentially be better off teaming with heel Ziggler as their gimmicks aren’t too dissimilar.
To my utter chagrin, Hell in the Cell’s main event turns out to be the Hell in a Cell match between Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon. Screw the World Championship, or any other titles or athletes, it’s all about Vince’s kid getting to jump off stuff and take the limelight away from the actual in-ring performers. As you may expect, Owens was golden here, as always and he would have been against any opponent, beating Shane in front of his kids and taunting them. His onslaught is stalled so that Shane can get his spots in, laying the strikes, attempting a Shooting Star Press, and forcing Owens to battle on top of the cell. The finish comes when Shane knocks Owens off the cell wall and through the announce table but, as he leaps off to put him through the other, Sami Zayn comes out and pulls Owens out of the way and then, shockingly, places the unconscious Owens on top of Shane and ends the match. I really, really hope that this is it for Shane as an in-ring performer; he was gassed most of the time and looked embarrassing throwing his punches. He really shouldn’t be going toe-to-toe with the WWE’s current crop of superstars, much less taking them to the limit as in this match, and his spot could easily have been taken by an actual performer. The plus side was that we got to see an actual shock with Sami’s apparent turn and the cell was used very effectively.
MizTV opens the show, once again, as the Miz starts handing out awards to his cronies and new allies. He runs down the rumours of a Shield reunion and, in a shocking twist of irony, causes Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins to come out, surround the ring, take out everyone, and plant the Miz with the three-man powerbomb to officially reunite. This was a pretty big moment; the crowd was super into it and it was probably the first time Roman has been unanimously cheered since the Shield first split. Whether he can maintain that crowd support after they inevitably part ways again, though, remains to be seen.
Jason Jordan steps up his game a bit, facing and defeating Karl Anderson with that spinny-neckbreaker-thing he does. This ties into Jordan’s newfound alliance with Matt Hardy, which means the two of them will probably have a mini feud with the Club for a bit, and was a bit better than Jordan beating jobbers and nobodies. Too bad he had to keep the Club’s losing streak alive, though; couldn’t he have faced and beaten Rhyno instead?
It’s Elias vs. Apollo Crews…again…with Elias once again coming out victorious, this time without any shenanigans from Titus O’Neil and even had Elias busting out Old School for…some reason? Maybe they’re looking to repeated how Titus recruited Crews and Akira Tozawa by having Elias easily beat the Titus Worldwide guys and then, randomly, lose to one of them one time and them just join the stable? Who knows, at this point.
Braun Strowman then dismantled Matt Hardy in an absolutely kick-ass match; Matt flew around to showcase Braun’s strength, shrugged off the Side Effect, kicked out of the Twist of Fate after one (which was amazing!), and straight up murdered Matt with two of those big-time Chokeslams and the Running Powerslam. So, as great as Braun is, I guess he’s back to just dominating fools rather than being an unstoppable Universal Champion? Nothing like the status quo, I guess. However, after the match, the Shield came out (now in their new shirts to make some more coin) and took the fight to Braun, making a big statement by powerbombing him through the announce table. This made absolute sense given Ambrose and Rollins’ recent run-ins with Braun and Braun’s feuds with Reigns, and made emphatically showed that the Shield were back in business by taking out the biggest guy on the roster.
The Brain Kendrick makes his decidedly undramatic in-ring Raw return by teaming up with Jack Gallagher to beat Mustafa Ali and Cedric Alexander. Good for them, I guess. Afterwards, backstage, the Miz convinces Kurt Angle to allow him to add Braun Strowman to his team-up with Cesaro and Sheamus against the Shield at TLC, which should guarantee a clusterfuck of epic proportions. Then, Bray Wyatt sheds the last of whatever dignity he had left by literally transforming into Sister Abigail again on the TitanTron and threatening to beat Finn Balor at TLC. If Bray actually comes down and is billed as Sister Abigail, this could honestly be the worst thing to happen since…I dunno, the fake Kane? Again, is it really too much to ask that the WWE bring up SAnitY, or some other guys from NXT, to be the new Wyatt Family or, possibly, have Wyatt even brainwash and recruit Finn’s Demon alter ego to form a spooky-ass tag team?
Next up, Sasha Banks, Emma, Alicia Fox, Dana Brooke, and Bayley have a fatal-five-way match to determine who will face Asuka in her debut match at TLC. Luckily for me, it wasn’t Sasha Banks that won the match; instead, Emma rolled her up to take the final win and earn herself this…prestigious?…honour. I guess this is a pretty good way of making Emma relevant as a competitor and I’d rather see her get the match than Sasha, so that’s a big plus.
Apparently, Neville walked out of Raw this week when he saw that he was booked to lose to Enzo Amore in the main event and he has, apparently, requested his release. This would absolutely suck; I really feel like Neville has become one of the best things about Raw, and especially the cruiserweight division, but he really could have been, and appeared to be, more. I honestly think it would’ve been great if Rusev had defended the United States Championship way back when against John Cena at WrestleMania and then issued an open challenge on the next night’s Raw, only to be felled by a debuting Neville, which would’ve rocketed Neville into upper-mid-card stardom. Instead, and because it’s the late, great Eddie Guerrero’s birthday, Kalisto gets his Cruiserweight Championship on Raw’s main event in a lumberjack match. Because the entire 205 Live roster, whether heel or face, apparently hates Enzo, they’re not exactly the most unbiased ringside presence; however, Kalisto captures the belt after an awesome Salida Del Sol off the top rope. Afterwards, he dedicates the win the Eddie Guerrero, because that shit worked out so well for Rey Mysterio, and acts like he ended the reign of a dominating, domineering, over-bearing heel champion. Honestly, this feels like Enzo’s win should’ve been avoided completely and Neville should have retained the belt right up to this big moment where his actual dominating, domineering, over-bearing reign as champion comes to an end; instead, Kalisto pins a guy who’s booked as a heel, cheered as a face, and hardly had a chance to even begin to establish a run to rival that of Neville’s. I don’t know what I’m complaining or worried, though, as Enzo will probably win the belt back at TLC.
The Usos open the show to confront the New Day and put an end to their rivalry; surprisingly, this ends with both teams voicing their mutual respect for one another, and with every other tag team coming own to stake their claim as the next in line for the belts. This leads to Daniel Bryan booking Breezango, Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin, the Hype Bros, and the Ascension in a four-way match to determine the new number one contenders. Given that the Usos are still loud-mouth heels, the win went to Shelton and Gable after they hit that funky Doomsday device on Fandango. I’m guessing this will lead to some showcase matches between these two teams, but I actually hope it won’t result in Shelton and Gable winning the belts as I’d rather their inability to win led to Shelton turning on Chad to spark off the feud I fantasy booked earlier and, hopefully, set the stage for Breezango to win the titles later down the line.
Becky Lynch then beat Carmella, because who gives a flying fuck about the Money in the Bank winner anyway, before Kevin Owens comes out to claim Heaven sent him a guardian angel in the form of Sami Zayn to allow him to overcome Shane McMahon. Zayn heads out and, in a totally honest and understandable way, explained his actions; he says that he tried to do it the right way and be a nice guy and was promised that he would be given opportunities but, instead, Shane has snubbed him and he’s had to lose over and over while Owens wins belts and main events shows. They hug it out and Sami’s newfound heeldom is apparently established; I’d actually like to see Zayn, Owens, Roode, and Ziggler form a stable of fed up, ass-kicking, self-entitled pricks who run wild over SmackDown! Live, taking out the crowd favourites and maybe winning all the belts.
Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura then beat Rusev and Aiden English; again, why is Aiden English this big thing? I just don’t get it. He seems to be leeching off of Rusev the same way Jinder Mahal was before they moved from Raw and Jinder randomly become the World Champion. Orton and Nakamura worked pretty well together considering their issues the last time they were in the ring together; at least Aiden took the fall but this just seemed like filler, which is not fair to at least two of these guys.
Erick Rowan and Luke Harper then air a promo, re-Christening themselves as the Viking-garbed, giant-hammer-wielding Bludgeon Brothers. Presumably these guys are the ones behind all the crap Breezango have been investigating over the last few weeks/months; I can get behind this, as these guys are way better together than apart but I’m reasonably sure that they’ll end up at Ascension-levels of jobbing pretty soon so that the Usos and the New Day can continue to hog the tag spotlight. Afterwards, Dolph Ziggler and Bobby Roode have a confrontation which ends with a rematch…being announced for next week.
SmackDown! Live attempts to make up for Shane McMahon main eventing Hell in a Cell by having the United States Championship defended in the main event. This is a great look for the belt, as I’ve said before, though it’s not so great for Jinder Mahal or the WWE Championship, neither of which featured at all this week in a telling example of how little they are in the grand scheme of things. But, who cares, because AJ is putting on stellar matches and an actual, decent heel who constantly strikes to improves is carrying the secondary belt and Corbin got a massive boost to his credibility by pinning Styles clean as a whistle after AJ bounced around for him. I’d like to maybe see them continue on to a final pay-per-view match but, if AJ instead moves on to face Jinder, beat him, and set up Shinsuke vs. Styles at WrestleMania and Corbin transitions to beating up fools all over the place until Chad Gable beats him then I’m all for that, too.