Hell in a Cell 2011: Hell is Raised (and Lowered Again)

Miz and Truth being led away from the scene of their destruction

The stage was set for Hell in a Cell within moments of the show commencing. During the introductions of Christian and Sheamus, the recently fired conspiracy theorists, Miz and R-Truth pulled the very familiar conceit of arriving at the arena with tickets. Usually, the presence of such interlopers causes a building tension at ringside, but this effect was, I think, deliberately  altered by having them thrown out of the arena almost instantly, But as the old wrestling proverb goes: ‘If they leave the arena before the show is finished, they will return’, and boy did their return make an impact.

Match 1) Sheamus def. Christian
This match was something of a simple affair: Sheamus’s brute strength versus Christian’s pace and experience. It was a case of Christian sticking and moving and trying to keep the Great White down. This was something, however, he rarely looked close to achieving. Despite that, it was a pretty good contest, showing a large degree of chemistry between the two and building nicely to a crescendo. Indeed, as the match approached it’s conclusion, there were some really good near falls. The best one was also the only time Christian looked able to beat Sheamus which came after he Speared the Celtic Warrior outside the ring, and then again inside the ring. But, again, Sheamus survived, and this time went on to win the match with a devestating running Brogue Kick. Though it wasn’t mentioned, it seems like this could well have been effectively a #1 contendership match (in fact, I wish it was because we need more). As for Christian, I don’t think it will affect him too badly. Hopefully he’ll have a spot with the conspiracy theorists.

Match 2) Sin Cara (Blue) def. Sin Cara (Black)
This match was, as I expected, a visual feast. Blue Cara came out first to his usual entrance, but Black Cara came out to a darker, more sinister, version of the Sin Cara music and darker lighting. It was a great touch to characterise these wrestlers who rarely talk. The match, I thought was really good, and a truly legitimate lucha match (perhaps explaining the quality of the match). However, this match showed how an audience can detract from a good match. Despite them hurting it quite a bit, there were lots of fantastic, death-defying spots, which really deserved more reaction from the crowd: arm, drags, ranas, planchas, and unique progressions surrounding them too. This one could have gone either way, so equally-matched was the match (surely intentional, given they are identical characters), and i’m sure, therefore, that it wont be the end of their feud. Hopefully they can have more quality matches, and hopefully the crowd wont do their best to ruin them.

A quick note: after this match, there was a backstage pretape with CM Punk and David Otunga, and I was glad to see Punker brush off any offers of allegiance from Otunga and his cronies, because both the conspiracy theorists and Punk claim to rail against the system, but both do so in a very different way (a difference which delineates them as heel and face respectively). Indeed, while Punk tells the truth in a very direct way, Otunga and his clients are hoping to change things through loopholes and red tape. This was just a good way of making sure these two activists (if Otunga can be called that) are fundamentally different.

Match 3) AirBoom (Evan Bourne & Kofi Kingston) def. Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger to Retain the WWE Tag Team Championships
This was the first tag team match in a long time which genuinely seemed like an important event. AirBoom continue to grow as a team, and introduced more nice double-teams, such as their hurricanrana double-team, while Ziggler and Swagger have a natural chemistry together already, bound together even better with Vickie Guerrero. This was really a fantastic match which was fast-paced and high flying. These two teams simply worked very well together, and had the crowd going from the start with lots of unique progressions and deft, dramatic storytelling, using the hot-tag to perfection. Early on, Swagger moved the middle rope to do a version of a low-bridge on Kingston which saw him tumble to the outside in a pretty sickening spot. I was pleased to see Evan Bourne break through his screen of harmless-seeming offense (it has always been powerful, but often so beautiful, it doesn’t look so), with some more brutal delivery, especially including his double-knees, which had never looked impactful to me, but when performed last night, looked like a devastating move to receive. A lot of the time, however, Ziggler and Swagger were using their size to control the match, and were brutally cocky about  it, including especially when Ziggler  performed his trademark standing elbow drop after what must have been at least ten seconds of gloating. Perhaps this is why the two heels work so well together – they exude the exact same kind of arrogance (as well as having similar looks). In control, Ziggler and Swagger looked to hit a double team of their own, with Ziggler handing Bourne up to Swagger for a huge powerbomb (you would presume) from the turnbuckle, and Bourne did look in terrible peril, but somehow, he managed to reverse the maneuver in to a brilliant hurricanrana and pin, while Kingston grabbed and removed Ziggler to protect the pinfall. AirBoom move on, as does the prestige of the tag titles. As for Swagger and Ziggler, I really hope they stay together for quite some time, but I do fear, given recent trends in WWE, they’ll be split prematurely, which is unfortunate, especially for Swagger, who is again thriving with Ziggler.

Match 4) Mark Henry def. Randy Orton in Hell in a Cell to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
I had high hopes for this match simply because of how brutal Henry has been of late and how great Orton tends to perform consistently. There used to be a tendency for people to be able to power out of Mark Henry’s holds, and it would always annoy me because he is literally the strongest man in the world and they shouldn’t be able to. But on this occasion, I noticed that Orton repeatedly showed greater strength than orton, consistently reversing irish whips and the like. One spot that was great for showing Henry’s strength and the dangers of it came when Orton had his arm wrapped around the ringpost, with Henry pulling it away from him mercilessly; and knowing Henry’s strength, with great selling from Orton, it looked intolerable. Probably the most impressive show of strength was when Henry threw the steel steps half-way across the cell with great force. Again, he looked superhuman, and with Orton having to duck and cover, he looked like he was in a hellish environment. Nonetheless, I must say this match was lacking in the sheer brutality one expects from a genuinely memorable cell match. One moment of brutality was when Henry, with Orton in his clutches, slammed The Viper in to one side of the cell, then another, and the the ring post, all in one move! For Orton’s part, he was sticking and moving, shown best with his inventive escape from what would have been a devestating Worlds Strongest Slam to the ringsteps by climbing up the chain-link wall. Indeed, Orton has been the first person in a very long time to look even close to felling Henry, and he himself managed the very impressive feat of hitting his hangman DDT on Henry, and Orton went even further when he managed to hit his (usually match-ending) RKO, after which, everyone thought Orton was about to regain the World Title, but then, Henry kicked out! The RKO has been known as a move that barely anyone (if anyone at all!) ever kicks out of the RKO. This background turned a good near-fall in to an almost iconic one, again showing the power and sheer presence of the World’s Strongest Man. After this, it was only a matter of time until Henry would Orton (who had now exhausted his usual offense). Orton looked shocked, and decided to go to his extreme measure, the punt, but as he ran at his opponent, Henry rose and met him with a huge World’s Strongest Slam for the pin and retention. This was great drama in theory, but it was ruined a little by Henry giving away by his posture that he would be avoiding the punt. Nonetheless, a very strong title match. That didn’t make for a memorable Hell in a Cell match i’m afraid to say, given the hugely iconic history of this match, but enjoyable nonetheless, and providing us with the correct outcome, showing faith in Henry as champion. If it had finished here, I would have locked Sheamus in as the next challenger to Henry, but Henry then proceeded to try and add Orton to his Hall of Pain with the sickening chair shot which has so far taken out Kane, Big Show and Khali. For a second, it seemed like Orton might actually fall victim to the spot, but at the last moment, with the chair in tow, he moved out of the way, leaving Henry to ‘crash and burn’ and allowing Orton to gain some vengeance with the chair meant for him in conscienceless fashion, including a rare and horrid chair-shot to the chest! These afters may well provide currency for another match between Orton and Henry, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Match 5) Cody Rhodes def. John Morrison to Retain the Intercontinental Championship
When Cody Rhodes made his way to the ring, I was excited because he has been one of the best performers in the WWE recently, but – especially because he was in his street clothes – I had no expectaions for a match. First though, we got a promo which at first drew cheap heat by telling the audience they needed his bags, but after that, came sheer magic. I grew up watching the Intercontinental Championship with its blue, round design, and so when Rhodes did his equivalent of ‘binning the title’ I was genuinely stunned, and was worried about what he would pull out as the new belt. Luckily, the belt he chose was the only one that would not make me angry; in fact, I think it’s a great idea using the classic Steamboat-era IC belt. Rhodes is very classical in both look and style, and associating with a belt which itself is associated with some of the greatest IC champions in history, only helps raise his stock. Since becoming Intercontinental Champion, he has made the championship seem very prestigious again, and his claim that he would defend the title ‘veraciously’ , and the following match would also help that. A few times in recent weeks, Johnny Ace has come out and made matches ‘per order’ of HHH, and it has turned out not to be the case. This happened again as Trips would later dress-down Laurinaitis for making this match. It’s very interesting that Laurinaitis keeps doing this, and on the surface, it seems he’s doing it to help stir the discontent among certain WWE superstars. The opponent he lined up for Rhodes was on-the-bubble John Morrison. Now, with Morrison as babyface and Rhodes as helpless heel in street-clothes which hampered him, the textbook would say that Morrison should go over, but that isn’t what happened. Luckily for Morrison, he wasn’t just squashed again, and he gave Rhodes something of a competitive match, something especially hard given that Rhodes was doing whatever possible to avoid competing – including a smart spot where he clung on to the ringpost to try and end the match with a harmless count-out. Rhodes seemed up a creek, but after a missed chuck kick from Morrison left him recovering on the mat, Rhodes took advantage with a roll-up for the successful retention. Another great result for Rhodes, defying the ‘conspiracy’ that stacks the deck against him against all the odds. As for Morrison; is he about to get ‘future endeavored’? I doubt it, but his career is going nowhere, at least while he’s with WWE.

Before the divas match, we saw a pretape featuring Miz and Truth. Johnny Ace approached HHH saying they were beating up talent, and we followed them to the lockerroom to find Miz and Truth pounding on and decimating Evan Bourne and Kofi Kingston. HHH seemed to blame Laurinaitis for this because he didn’t get cops to detain them rather than security, again pointing a big red finger at Johnny Ace as central to all this. A wonderful precursor to the finalé of the PPV.

Match 6) Beth Phoenix w/ Natalya def. Kelly Kelly w/ Eve to Win the Divas Championship
Kudos to both divas here for a very good match. While i’m sure Beth carried Kelly for the most part, Kelly certainly did her part and is improving all the time. This match was booked better than the others from the Divas of Doom perspective, and not only because Beth went over. It was a match which saw a game Kelly Kelly trying her heart out against the more powerful Pheonix. The match, for the most part, consisted of Beth beating the tar off Kelly, with Kelly periodically trying to pinch a victory with a rollup or schoolgirl, but unlike in their previous encounters, not succeeding. I said in my preview that I hoped Beth and Nattie would share the new Pin Up Strong submission, and so I was ecstatic to see Beth use the move on Kelly. I also enjoyed Nattie berating Kelly while she was in the hold after taking out Eve at ringside. At first, I just thought this a unique and memorable conceit, but it also played in to the finish of the match. Kelly, the John Cena of the divas division, would never give up, and didn’t, infuriating the DOD’s, and so, with the refs back turned, Nattie clocked Kelly with the mic she was using, allowing Beth to hit the  Glam Slam unhindered for the win. I saw some people were upset with the manner of Beth’s win, the suggestion being that having to cheat to win, ruins any notion of her being insurmountably powerful. I understand that feeling, but i’m willing to give the booking the benefit of the dount. There’s no money in burying Kelly at this stage, and it’s not as if Beth struggled in the match, dominating it from the start. Now that Beth is champion, I am hoping to here more from her and Nattie about what sort of champions of the divas they will be!

Match 7) Alberto Del Rio def. John Cena and CM Punk in Hell in a Cell to Win the WWE Championship
Going in to this PPV, I didn’t expect this cell match to be the more brutal one, but that was the way this match turned out! I was also worried that we would get smiling Cena cutting through the uncivilised brutality of the structure, but, to his credit, we got instead his usual run to the ring, but with him pulling up before he reached it, looking up at it in awe. The triple-threat story of this match, rightly, was immediately asserted on to the match, with the chaos of the situation being shown by Del Rio flying from his competitors in the early going, as well as Cena and Punk brawling for the opportunity to beat on Del Rio before Punk tried a schoolboy on Cena for an early near-fall. But soon after this opening salvo, the match started to get really violent. The first memorable spot was again centred around the thriple-threat stipulation, with Cena trying to irish whip Punk in to the ringsteps; Punk avoided this, stopping on the ring steps, only for Del Rio to blindside him, pushing him roughly in to the cell wall, causing a pretty sickening, bleeding gash on Punk’s back. After recovering, Punk re-entered the brawl with a beautiful technical move, a combined neckbreaker/ddt combo on the two of them. In control, Punk sets up a table outside the ring, and then charges Cena with a unique version of his running knee on the apron, looking for te bulldog through the table. I would have been incredibly inventive, but the sheer force of Cena overcame him, and sent Punk back in to the cell wall, if anything, even harder then before. No rest for Cena though, who walked straight in to a chair attack from Del Rio, who back suplexed him on the chair, completely crushing it! There was something wonderful about Del Rio in the Cell with a chair, and he went on to attack his two opponents shockingly with a chair, just as he had on RAW, culminating in a great spot where he placed a chair in between Cena and Punk before landing a senton to effectively give them both a compound chair shot. Del Rio’s seething brutality only continued, assaulting the two of them environmentally and mercilessly, to the point where JR called him the ‘alpha male’ of the contest. Following a GTS to Cena, Del Rio pulled Cena out of the ring, slammed him right in to the cell wall and then the ring steps before throwing a chair right at Punk’s knee and choking him. Indeed, Del Rio would continue to brutalise the two for quite some time, using a chair periodically. It wasn’t all one-way traffic though. Punk looked equally impressive, taking it to Del Rio despite the sheer abuse he’d been put through with clotheslines and massive Macho Man elbow drop for a great near-fall. However, there is another ancient proverb in pro-wrestling: ‘he who sets up the table, will usually go through it,’ and this was the case for Punk, who was pushed from the turnbuckle through the table at ringside, a spot which looked all the more sickening because of the lack of room between the ring and the cell.

This is where the match changed significantly. Following all this, Cena managed to lock Del Rio in an STF, and during the moments of pain for Del Rio, his trusty ring announcer, Ricardo Rodriguez, assaulted a referee and took the keys to the cell, allowing him to enter it and save the Mexican Aristocrat. Cena, understandably annoyed at this, dealt out some justice by AAing Rodriguez through the cell door. This would have been good for him had he not walked straight in to a steel pipe shot from Del Rio, knocking Cena out of the cell. Next, in a wonderfully simple piece of storytelling, Del Rio locked the door behind Cena, leaving him alone there with a devastated CM Punk. I was worried Cena would hulk up and force open the door, but I was pleased to see him fail and retain some realism. Unable to save his championship, Cena had no choice but to look on. This was made even better by consumate actor Del Rio taunting Cena (but aggressively, rather than cockily) by scraping the pipe along the cell wall. Turning his attention back to the heavily-damaged Punk, Del Rio hit a nice German suplex with a bridge for a good near fall before trying another one, only for Punk to reverse it in to a role up for an even closer one. Given the condition Punk seemed to be in, he was being booked to show tremendous heart and resiliency at this point. But there was only so long Punk could continue, especially once Del Rio got a hold of the pipe again. Punk would have hit a GTS on Del Rio and maybe got the win, but Del Rio fought out with a shot to the kidney followed by a straight and horrible shot to Punk’s face for the three count and the championship.

Now, this would have been a great and memorable match, even by Hell in a Cell standards, if it would’ve finished here, but it didn’t. As the Cell raised, Cena charged the ring to get his Vengeance (wink), but before he could really get his hands on Del Rio, two masked thugs with pipes – revealed as Miz and Truth, completing their journey of the night – of their own charged the ring; and as the cell again lowered, they beat the holy hell out of all three, referees, and cameramen as the whole lockerroom spilled out and were surrounding the shaking it ostensibly in protest, but possibly in some cases, in support. After quite some time, with J.R. screaming ‘unlock the damn door’ in vintage tones, the door was forced with bolt cutters, (‘get in there, get in there all of you!’) but instead of anarchy, Miz and Truth simply surrendered with their hands behind their heads. I’m usually not a big fan of cops in wrestling, but the fact that Miz and and Truth succeeded in selling being fired, it seemed more realistic than it usually does. Not only that, but their surrender was such a quiet departure from what you would expect, it worked beautifully at seeming real. It was also shot beautifully with a sweeping notion reminiscent of a helicopter police chase. It gave the whole thing a grandeur befitting the cell and the situation. Miz and Truth were then paraded out of the cell with the lockerrom watching on, again with some shouting at them, but maybe some shouting for them. Then, out of nowhere came the COO of the company acting anything but calm and professional, beating the hell out of Miz and Truth with quick-draw shot after shot on either man. Finally he was held back and Miz and Truth were taken away. All this was captured in the same beautiful way to the beat-down and surrender in the cell. We were witnessing chaos, but an interesting chaos, unlike that at the end of Night of Champions, which was more confusing than anything. Beautifully choreographed and shot, we were witnessing the COO of the entire company acting like an animal as the whole company seemed to be disintegrating around him. Wonderful.

So what are we left with? The fall out from Del Rio winning back his title, witnessing the continued downfall of the company, and of course the continuing question of who is pulling the strings behind the scenes. Is the person who sent the text the same person who lowered the cell on RAW, and who raised and lowered it at Night of Champions. It’s important to remember that CM Punk is behind all this chaos. It is because of him that Vince was fired, that the WWE Championship became mired in controversy, and arguably that there is now a culture of questioning. I would like to see Punk himself try to steer this questioning and steer change, while questioning the actions of those that say they are acting for change. Saying that, we can’t just insist that Punk is central to it. It can be good without that. But with him at the centre, as he has been, it will be great!

Really good PPV. Continuing a vintage 2011-12 season of PPVs!

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