Well, folks. It’s the last stop on Brock Lesnar’s “Go to Hell” Tour, so did he make it to Hell, or did he get stuck in traffic and settle for Purgatory? Did Charlotte successfully defend her title against Surprise Wrestling Surgeon Nikki Bella? Could I remember anything about the Intercontinental Title Match five minutes after it happened? Let’s find out in Cynoslam’s latest Pay-Per-View Review for Brock Lesnar’s Go to Hell in a Cell Tour.
The United States of Waitwhatjusthappened
United States Championship Match
John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio
After a concentrated effort by the Staples Center crowd to tell John Cena that he sucks, we began our show tonight with a U.S. Open Challenge. Jack Swagger’s music hits, and Zeb Colter rolls out on a rascal. Yes, please. I want to see the U.S. Title sticking out of that tiny basket while Colter rides in circles around Cena’s unconscious body. He then accuses Cena of being a polarizing figure (surely not) and claims that being liked by some and disliked by others makes him unfit to hold the U.S. Championship. Sadly, we’re robbed of the guaranteed five star match of Zeb Colter vs. John Cena by Alberto-By-God-Del-Rio, who was apparently tired of no-showing indie promotions and tearing down the house at Lucha Underground for more WWE paychecks.
Cole and JBL get hyped about Del Rio’s return, explaining his rivalry with Cena and his many accomplishments in WWE, and Lawler takes offense to the fact that the other announcers are trying to provide context and put a returning wrestler over because it distracts everyone from JOHN CENA. As it turns out, John Cena isn’t here tonight – he’s already on vacation. This match is all Del Rio as the returning star picks apart Cena’s leg and arm, hitting him with a vicious tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and a running enziguri when Cena goes to the top rope. Then, Cena starts in on the Shoulder Tackles of Doom, hits the Five Knuckle Shuffle, goes for an AA attempt, which Del Rio counters into a backstabber and follows with a superkick to pick up the victory.
Wait, what? Del Rio didn’t even need to attempt the cross armbreaker? Let’s all think back to last month, when John Cena took a SUPERPLEX INTO A VERTICAL SUPLEX (yes, I still have to type that in all caps) and immediately no-sold it. How many times has Seth Rollins superkicked John Cena? How many times has he superkicked him in the same match? Don’t get me wrong, I love that this match didn’t end with a finisher, because the whole idea of finishers is just mind-boggling to me and WWE is obsessed with them, and I loved that John Cena wasn’t Super Cena tonight. The problem is, Cena didn’t just look like a human being, he looked like a jobber, and that just makes all the guys that went against the invincible version of John Cena look like chumps too. This includes most of WWE’s hottest main roster talent, like Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, and the individual members of the New Day. I know, I know. Like a true smark, I complain about John Cena being invincible, and now that he’s vincible, I complain about him being too weak. But the people who complain about him being invincible don’t want him going down to a superkick in less than ten minutes. It’s too late for that. He’s already John Cena. If he loses, it has to be a big deal. This is the corner that they’ve booked themselves into.
I’m also kind of disappointed that Alberto is no longer El Patron, the lucha libre king that lit up Dario Cueto’s Temple and made a believer out of me (pun most definitely intended). He’s Del Rio again, a soulless “Hispanic singles star” so the WWE can check off another box on their diversity checklist. I hope I’m wrong about that one. Bringing up his history and hyping him up during the match is at least a step in the right direction, and tonight Alberto seemed to be smoldering with a bit of the fire that he took to Lucha Underground. Still, the chances of him smashing anybody’s head through a window are slim in WWE, and that makes me kind of sad.
One is not Enough
Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt
It’s funny to me that Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt became the least interesting people in their own feud once they brought in Ambrose and the other Wyatts, but this singles match was easily the best match of their feud to date, and one of the best matches of the night. Last year, the Hell in a Cell matches were pretty tame, but this one was about as brutal as PG-era WWE matches get, with lots of stiff strikes to start the match and plenty more when Wyatt conjures up a kendo stick with his swamp magic.
Wyatt gets the upper hand with the kendo stick, and we get a great moment where he takes out a chair as if to beat Roman with it, only to unfold it and sit down so he can leisurely poke Reigns in the face. Reigns eventually turns the tables and one-ups Bray by dual-wielding kendo sticks, then dual-wielding tables and setting them up on either side of the ring (I wonder if those will become important later). The fight takes them to the apron, where Wyatt sends Reigns through one table. Wyatt gets out another and Reigns powerbombs him through it. Reversals are the theme of this story, and it comes to a head when Reigns reverses Sister Abigail into a rollup, then a kickout, then a Superman Punch, then another kickout. It’s great to see classic high-stakes finisher reversals in the middle of a crazy hardcore tables, kendo sticks, and chairs match.
My favorite spot of the match had to be Roman’s spear off the apron, where he launched Wyatt into the remaining table and they both ended up collapsed in the corner. My second favorite spot happened soon after, when one of the fans near the mic screamed “TAKE HIS SOUL, WYATT!” There are more finisher reversals, leading to a decisive Sister Abigail that Roman kicks out of. Wyatt sets up his own downfall when he rigs two kendo sticks to the turnbuckle and attempts to smash Reigns into them, only for Reigns to reverse it and jam Wyatt eyeball-first into the top stick. Spear, three count, Reigns walks out the winner to what is supposedly the last match in this feud. I don’t mind Reigns going over, because this feud has made him look the best he’s ever been, and while Wyatt took another PPV loss, he looked strong in doing it. Besides, he’s gotten the better of Reigns for the last couple of months, and ultimately if they’re going to end this thing, it has to end with a clean victory for Reigns. Sorry, dude. I don’t think WWE is going to allow Wyatt to take the soul of one of their top stars. A guy can dream though, right?
The Orchestra is Up in Arms
Tag Team Championship Match
The New Day vs. The Dudley Boyz
I’m not going to refrain from gushing about the New Day this month, mostly because there’s not much else to talk about in this match. Before we even get into the ring, we see this glorious tweet from Xavier Woods on his deathbed from taking a 3D through a table (more likely from the busted nose he recently got from Bubba Ray). It gets even better when Kofi and Big E get to the ring, still sporting their memorial armbands and carrying around Xavier’s broken trombone. They claim his essence lives on in the trombone and that the entire orchestra, not just the trombonists, are up in arms over what the Dudleyz have done to Woods. Also, they try to get some cheap heat by saying what happened to Woods is as sad as what the Lakers have become, and because this is Los Angeles, everybody cheers.
The New Day claiming that they’re going to play the percussion section on Bubba Ray and D-Von is choice as well, and – what? I could do this all night. They made sad unicorn horns and Big E promised to turn Bubba Ray into a Caucasian Kamala, how can I not spend at least two paragraphs talking about their pre-match promo? Anyway, Kofi lays out the broken trombone on the announce table and tells the announce team not to touch it, because Xavier’s soul is in there, damn it. The Dudleyz come out and do some poses I guess, and then the match happens. After some early offense from the Dudleyz, Big E calls a time out, sucka. These magnificent bastards actually reference Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories by calling their play “Computer Blue.”
Unfortunately “Computer Blue” means “get punched in the face a lot” or perhaps “make D-Von botch his leg drop bulldog so badly even the announcers don’t try to cover for him.” If John Cena had screwed up that move, Michael Cole would have said he “didn’t get all of it,” but instead they all just stumble around until JBL calls it “butt ugly.” Poor D-Von. The match breaks down soon after, and we almost get a garbage finish when Kofi tosses the trombone to Bubba Ray and pretends to be hurt while the ref’s back is turned, even though using foreign objects behind the ref’s back is a time-honored tradition and wrestling refs can only call things that they see happening right in front of them.
I say it’s “almost” a garbage finish because they actually follow the show’s internal logic for once and the ref decides not to call a DQ. Having failed there, Big E takes the broken trombone and whacks Bubba with it behind the ref’s back, allowing Kofi to hit Trouble in Paradise and pick up the win. As usual, the character stuff is brilliant, since they try to win by framing the Dudley Boyz and then do the exact thing they tried framing them for in order to win, but without Woods there, the actual wrestling lacked a certain chaotic energy that we’ve come to expect from these New Day matches. It wasn’t bad – well, except for the Dudleyz botching, that was bad – but it all felt like filler in-between the New Day’s character moments.
Wait, This Title Rematch Isn’t a 6 Diva Tag?
Divas Championship Match
Charlotte vs. Nikki Bella
I think a lot of people have missed the birth of Wrestling Surgeon Nikki Bella, because the crowd was absolutely dead for pretty much anything she did. I think she’s just become synonymous with the old Divas Division, and therefore not worthy of being in the same conversation as Charlotte, Paige, Becky, Sasha, Bayley, etc. The thing is, Nikki was awesome in this match. She was like a hossy Sasha Banks here, busting open Charlotte with a forearm right away and brutally attacking her back and ribs, trying again to neutralize the Figure Eight since breaking Charlotte’s legs didn’t work. Seriously, forget everything you know about Nikki Bella and everything she’s done during her title reign – yes, even the part where she said wins and losses don’t matter – and dig this match. She launches Charlotte to the outside and does a missile dropkick off the barricade into her ribs. She gets Charlotte in a half crab and kneels on her back. She launches Charlotte into the ropes and hits her with a backstabber on the rebound. She’s even decided on a heel persona and let it out of the bag a little in this match, yelling at the ref and taunting Charlotte while she grinds her spine into powder.
A couple things hurt this match and bring it down from a 4 to a 3. First, the crowd is obnoxiously disinterested for the first part of the match, and while I wish that didn’t have an effect on the quality of the match itself, it does. Second, the stakes aren’t as high. The first title match was an event – it was the first of the Four Horsewomen going for her first title shot. Tonight, the possibility of Nikki winning the title back was basically zero, so this sort of felt like a foregone conclusion. Third, the match falls apart at the end. Nikki goes for a superplex and Charlotte counters it into…something. She sort of just flips away and Nikki lands on her back. Charlotte gets back into the match with a spear and tries to bridge the Figure Eight, but her back gives out and she collapses. So far so good. They end up outside again and Nikki swings Charlotte into the apron with a devastating Alabama Slam. If she had been Kevin Owens, that move would have put Charlotte on the shelf for months. Instead, Charlotte tries the Figure Eight again, successfully holds the bridge, and…wins? Did that Alabama Slam pop her spine back in or something?
I didn’t have a problem with this story the first time they told it, but it’s becoming more and more illogical each time. The Bellas know that Charlotte has this bomb-ass submission move, and they’ve tried to take it away from her every chance they get. Charlotte pretty much spends the whole match waiting to overcome her injuries and lock in the Figure Eight, but wouldn’t it be way easier to, I dunno, try hitting them with Natural Selection? This match would have been the perfect time to break out Charlotte’s real finisher after the Figure Eight failed her, but instead she just…does the Figure Eight again and succeeds. This is an old gag, people. Nikki spiced it up with some innovative offense, but it’s the same damn match. To top it off, Paige runs out with Becky and congratulates her on her win, and that’s it. No momentum on their story at all. So…basically, this match is best viewed entirely out of context as a cool women’s wrestling match. Otherwise it’s just kind of treading water. On the bright side, Nikki Bella has proved that her great match at Night of Champions wasn’t a fluke, and when they finally sort out the Womens’ Division on the main roster, she needs to remain a major player.
Can We Fire The Person Who Booked This Feud, Too?
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match
Seth Rollins vs. Demon Kane
I was into this feud for about two episodes of RAW, but after a month of people not believing Seth Rollins that Demon Kane and Corporate Kane are the same person, I really can’t muster any enthusiasm or suspend my disbelief that Kane might win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in 2015. What’s worse is that, once again, they’ve booked themselves into a corner by portraying the Demon Kane as an unstoppable monster that can heal fractured legs and take on ten dudes at once. I suppose fighting one dude is different from fighting ten dudes, but Rollins spends a large part of the match taking shots at Kane’s throat and Kane spends a large part of the match crawling around and wheezing. The way they’ve portrayed Demon Kane on TV, shouldn’t punching him in the throat just make fire shoot out of his mouth or something? Tonight, he looked more like Concessions Kane.
Anyway, Rollins is in PPV Mode, which means he breaks out the sling blade, the Eddie Guerrero Frog Splash, and a number of other competent wrestling moves, but it’s not like he needed to pull out all the stops to overcome some kind of superhuman monster. Kane is just a normal old dude in a mask here, and he gets his ass beat like a normal old dude in a mask would. This seems to be a pattern in WWE. On RAW and Smackdown, you can write whatever crazy supernatural B.S. you want, but on the PPV, it’s just wrestlers wrestling. The inconsistency is hurting these storylines, because not only does it tell us that nothing matters on RAW (we already knew that), but it almost portrays these wrestlers in different universes. In one universe, the Undertaker is an undead wizard who can summon lightning and intimidate Brock Lesnar. In another, he’s a scrappy old man fighting with everything he’s got left in the tank to preserve his legacy. But more on that later. Seth Rollins wins with a horrible Pedigree, but we already knew that, so let’s just move on to a brighter, better world free of Corporate Kanes and on-air performance reviews.
Please Tell Me Ryback Isn’t Hungry Anymore
Intercontinental Championship Match
Kevin Owens vs. Ryback
Man, the final stretch to Taker vs. Lesnar was a slog. I was eating dinner through this match so I couldn’t take notes on it, and five minutes after it happened, I’d forgotten all the details. After rewatching it, I still have almost nothing to say. There was no real story to the match. Kevin Owens did his retreat to the outside sneaky runaround thing, Ryback hit some moves, Owens hit some moves, I think Ryback hit some more moves, got half-naked and ran into a sloppy pop up powerbomb. It was a RAW match curtain jerking for Brock Lesnar and the Undertaker. It was so dull that WordPress won’t even let me upload a screenshot of the match (I’m absolutely serious). The most noteworthy thing is that the Big Guy is out of the IC Title picture, at least for now.
Man Smells Like Smoke ‘Cause He’s Been Through Fire
Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker
In reviewing Summerslam, I made some disparaging remarks about the Undertaker, mostly because I came to wrestling later in life and didn’t grow up with the Dead Man in his prime. All I saw was a gassed out old man that the WWE was trying to sell on nostalgia alone. Well, I’m happy to be wrong, because Taker still has enough left in the tank to convert a jaded modern wrestling fan – all it took was the right match. This is Taker’s match, just as Wrestlemania is his event (I may not be nostalgic for the old days, but at least I’ve done my homework). He looked better here than he has in years, no longer wheezing and pacing around and gargling like he’s about to die after big spots. His hat is still a little too tight, though.
The match starts off strong with some MMA-style strikes from both men, and it never lets up. Taker gets Brock to the outside and busts him open on a ring post, but making Brock bleed activates his Rage Mode and he goes nuts, taking a chair from the Undertaker and beating him with it relentlessly. He’s gushing blood at this point, and a doctor runs in to check on Brock, pausing the match and drawing the most heel heat of the night. He cleans him up a little and Lesnar goes back to work with the chair and a bare fist. Taker gets himself bloodied as well, and right around this point I started to realize that this is the kind of Hell in a Cell match the announcers have always hyped. It’s violent. Unrestrained. Potentially life-changing.
Taker turns the tables, but Brock responds with a suplex onslaught and an F5 that leaves the Dead Man stunned. The biggest heel in the WWE returns again to pause the match and check on the Undertaker, and I’m having horrible flashbacks to Night of Champions, but Brock grabs the doctor and launches him out of the ring, out of the cell, probably out of the arena and into space, because he’s never seen again. Brock hits another F5, and Taker kicks out again, but just barely.
Not content to throw a 50 year old man around the ring, Brock grabs the steps and rams Taker with them. Brock pins him, but he gets the shoulder up in a sort of instinctive twitch. Because Brock Lesnar is a force of nature, he decides to tear apart the ring itself, exposing the wooden boards beneath the padding. He attempts to F5 Taker onto the boards, but Taker reverses and hits him with a tombstone piledriver on the boards instead. For an instant, everyone watching was prepped to explode. Brock kicks out, though, and he answers Taker’s months of testicular assault with perhaps the sickest nut shot of all time. Seriously. Dude puts his whole arm into it. Le Chiffre’s carpet beater didn’t do as much damage to James Bond’s gonads. Brock then picks up a helpless Undertaker and F5s him into the boards for the three count.
It’s too early to tell if this will be an all-time classic, but just look at that ring. This is the Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar match that Paul Heyman and co. have been promising for two years. I said that Wyatt vs. Reigns is as brutal as PG-era WWE matches get, but this is on another level. This is like a match from another era. It lacked the emotional payoff for me to give this my first five star rating, but it was an amazing match and one that should not be missed. After all, it’s the Undertaker’s last match. His feud with Brock is over, the immortal undead wizard is an old man ready for retirement, and after the match, Taker gets the ovation he deserves. This, I imagine, is the emotional payoff for people who are emotionally invested in the Undertaker. Even for me, it was still a pretty powerful moment, and a great way to send off a legendary performer.
Despite that huge lull toward the end of the show –
WAIT WHAT THE HELL IN A CELL?!
Just when you think Taker’s ovation is over, Wyatt’s interruption video hits and the lights go out. Bray comes back out with the extended Wyatt Family – Harper, Rowan, and Strowman – and they surround the ring. What I wouldn’t give to have Jim Ross call this moment.
The Wyatts descend on an injured Taker, beat him into helplessness and then cart him off on their backs like a corpse. Holy crap. What are they going to do with him? We know Wyatt was trying to steal his superpowers or something (in an alternate universe where Taker has superpowers), and we know he’s probably still hurting from that Wrestlemania loss (in this universe where these are just real dudes fighting each other for money and prestige). It makes sense for Wyatt to descend on him when Taker is at his weakest and Wyatt is at his strongest (in spite of his loss to Reigns, the Wyatt Family is now four members strong, and that’s what really counts). It was still a shock to see Taker’s ovation interrupted, since they were kind of sort of implying that this would be Taker’s last match without really saying it. All told, this was a brilliant swerve because it makes sense in hindsight, and it wasn’t just done for the sake of catching people off guard. More of this, please.
Where do we go from here? Clearly they’re planting the seeds for Survivor Series, but what are the teams going to look like? Is Wyatt going to brainwash Taker and turn him into the fifth Wyatt? Is Taker going to escape and recruit the former Shield guys to take on Wyatt? Are the former Shield guys going to turn to Seth Rollins for help? There are so many cool fantasy booking options here that it seems impossible for WWE to screw it up, but then again, THIS. I’m still optimistic, and this has been two PPVs in a row that were not only watchable, but actually pretty good. This one was downright great. I really hope this becomes the norm, and not the exception. If only they could do the same for RAW.
- Lesnar vs. Undertaker
- Reigns vs. Wyatt
- New Day vs. The Dudley Boyz
- Cena vs. Del Rio
- Rollins vs. Concessions Kane in a Mask
- *Match Not Found*