The art of professional wrestling is one of the most socially active mediums of entertainment across the world. Millions watch men and women grapple for championships, financial success, accolades, celebrity status, and supposed immortality within the squared circle. The Hype Train provides a glancing review of WWE’s Tuesday night show, SmackDown Live, and their latest pay-per-view of 2017, Hell in a Cell, which featured Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens in the caged structure, and WWE Champion Jinder Mahal defending his title against Shinsuke Nakamura. All aboard.
WWE Hell in a Cell 2017: Predictions and Thoughts
It's been three months since SmackDown Live has held its own pay-per-view. If you cast your thoughts back to early July, that was the last time the blue brand went solo was at Battleground, the event which featured the Punjabi Prison match between Jinder Mahal and Randy Orton. Since then the stars of SmackDown have have six week builds to SummerSlam, and now Hell in a Cell, with RAW's pay-per-views sandwiched in between.
Since Battleground, not a lot has changed. Jinder is still champion. AJ is just out of his feud with Kevin Owens for the US Championship. Shane is still feuding with Owens. Nothing's really happened in the Women's division, and the Tag Titles are still being contested between The Usos and The New Day, with the teams having a series of brilliant matches.
Expectation for Hell in a Cell on the whole have been quite lukewarm, and we're not expecting a lot from the event. SmackDown, this time last year, was red hot and the better brand, but since then elements of the brand have tanked and the storyline's and matches just haven't been as engaging.
SmackDown's problem in the past few months has been bipolar booking. Some weeks on the show are a joy to watch, and other weeks you wished you could go back in time and avoid yourself from watching the show at all. It's been a stale few months, especially with Jinder Mahal, who is being made to do the same thing each and every week, to absolutely no response from the audience. By making fun of Nakamura week after week, suggesting that the Japanese wrestler was 'special', as in hospital care special, Mahal got some mainstream media attention, but it was mostly about open racism in WWE.
The build to the Shane McMahon and Kevin Owens encounter has been very good in the last few weeks, but we're not so keen on seeing Shane in the cage again. The Tag Titles are also in the cage, perhaps when the WWE Championship match should be, to keep the Singh Brothers out of the encounter.
We guess what will be, is what will be with Hell in a Cell. Hopefully it is an event that can turn around the recent ill-fortune for the blue brand, and by the end of this review we'll have many positives to say about the PPV.
WWE Hell in a Cell 2017 Review: 08/10/2017
In writing our thoughts about Hell in a Cell, we've dissected each match down to our overall thoughts on proceedings, any stray observations, and if there any takeaways to be had. For the sake of our own sanity, we decided against watching the Kick Off event, which featured Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable in action.
Opening Match: Hell in a Cell match for the SmackDown Live Tag Team Championships; The New Day (c) vs. The Usos
Kicking off the event, The New Day entered the ring and cut a promo, recapping the Detriot audience of what Hell in a Cell is, then saying that they're going to use the structure as a weapon. It was a typical New Day promo, to get the crowd hyped for the match, so not really a lot to complain about, even if it is frustrating to hear the typical nonsense about the Hell in a Cell.
After Big E got real about the match, The Usos entered, and started the match leaving Kofi Kingston as the member of the Tag champs to sit out the match. Both teams began by living up to the idea that they were in each other's prison yard's, by hitting each other with an array of weapons, like bamboo sticks and steel chains. After a back and forth of weapons, the match quickly devolved into a spot-fest with both teams charging over the ropes and knocking their opponents into the steel cage on the outside of the ring.
The New Day then hit the challengers with two trombones before Xavier Woods used a piece of a drum-kit on the Usos. The Usos then got back into the match, using steel chairs and kendo sticks to take momentum in the match.
The match picked up, with The New Day then showing off their innovation by using a series of kendo sticks to lock one of the Usos into the corner of the structure, making the match a two-on-one handicap match. The New Day then seized momentum until one of the Usos dived onto both Big E and Xavier.
With the match seeing a lot of action on the outside, fighting resumed in the ring with The Usos attempting a couple of near-falls. Woods was then tied around the giant ring-post pillar, with his arms high up in the air, before the Usos went to town on the tag champs with kendo sticks, kicks, and punches.
Big E then snapped in the ring on both Jimmy and Jay, using his strength to hit belly-to-belly suplexes, before driving both into the steel structure, which was received with a huge reaction from the crowd, who throughout the match had been into the match. Big E then hit the Big Ending, but only to a nearfall, before a series of super-kicks got The Usos back into the match. Both Usos then dived onto Big E from each corner for the cover, with Woods saving the match up.
Woods, who is handcuffed, was then assaulted by kendo sticks shots yet again, each one more brutal, with Woods unable to to block then. Both Usos then hit the big dive from the top rope, and covering Woos for the three-count, meaning there are new Tag Team Champions!
Another great match between these teams to open the pay-per-view, setting the bar for Hell in a Cell very high.
- This is the first time one of the branded championship titles were defended inside Hell in a Cell since the draft split.
- Kofi Kingston was the member of The New Day who was not involved in the match.
- Despite it being for a great cause, the purple rope inside the Hell in a Cell just didn't look right.
- The Usos win secured their 5th Tag Team titles in WWE.
Match 2: Rusev vs. Randy Orton
After a backstage segment with AJ Styles aired, in which you find out that Tye Dillinger was added to the match, Rusev came out to a good reaction, as did Randy Orton. This match is centred around the 'Rusev Day' angle, that Rusev needs to beat a legend to prove himself worthy to his own Bulgarian people.
This second match, the classic toilet break match, was simply a wrestling match between the par for most of the early goings. A lot of back and forth punches, rolling out of the ring, and turnbuckle spots. Randy kicked. Rusev kicked. Then back to Randy, then to Rusev. You get the idea.
The slow pace of this match lasted forever, with Rusev very vocal in the match, stating that it was 'Rusev Day' whenever he could.
Orton then set Rusev up for the DDT from the second rope, Rusev countered into a fall-away slam, before hitting a mean kick to the back of Orton's head. Rusev went for the Accolade submission finisher, but Orton rolled out of the ring. To make things worse for Orton, he was then kicked again by Rusev before action returned to the ring. Rusev attempted a second-rope splash, which Orton avoided. Orton then capitalised and finally hit the second-rope DDT, before posing to the Detriot crowd for an eternity as he set up the RKO.
Rusev attempted a last-ditch accolade, but then was hit by the RKO and the pin-fall. Orton wins. Rusev loses. Nothing new.
Rusev once again looked weak, needed a big win, but WWE didn't deliver. We say it after every PPV review, but what on earth has Rusev done so wrong to have himself be treated like this, when it is obvious that most of the crowd actually really enjoy the Bulgerian Brute and would love to see him in a better position on the card?
After a great Hell in a Cell opener, this match was back to life, back to reality, as Orton claims another victim, despite not doing enough in the last few weeks (or months for that matter) to deserve a victory.
- Since returning to television, Rusev has only faced Randy Orton or John Cena at PPV events.
- Randy Orton has now the 5th most PPV matches in WWE history.
- Rusev has now lost all of his PPV appearances since returning (once to Cena, twice to Orton).
Match 3: WWE United States Championship; AJ Styles (c) vs. Baron Corbin vs. Tye Dillinger
The worst TLC pay-per-view advert ever aired, before Kurt Angle and Heath Slater plugged KFC. Angle completely buried Slater in the segment, which was then followed by Shane McMahon looking into the camera all serious.
They then aired what happened in the Kick Off, with Daniel Bryan and Tye Dillinger, which saw Bryan and Dillinger awkwardly exchange their catchphrases backstage (no wonder why Bryan wants to return to the independent scene after his contract expires next year).
In general we feel mislead as we thought that the US Championship match would be a one-on-one match, but that's what WWE do. They just do what they want. That said, beside Corbin having the best new entrance theme in the company right now, it isn't exactly the worst thing ever having Dillinger thrown into the mix. Corbin's hardly had stellar matches and it would have been a massive ask to have AJ Styles give Corbin a good PPV match.
First, Dillinger came out. Second, Corbin and his beautifully sounding theme music were seen and heard. Lastly, AJ Styles came out. No guesses needed about which of these wrestlers got the best reception.
Styles and Dillinger started the match by ganging up on Corbin, which builds into what Corbin said in the Kick Off show, about Dillinger whining and moaning his way into the title match. The commentary team then argued for ten minutes about why this match is a triple threat, about advantages for each of the men, preparation time for all three, and that Dillinger had a plan. Meanwhile, whilst this arguing happened, nothing happened in the ring.
It was a typical Corbin match up, slowing the pace down to a dead stop, despite AJ and Dillinger trying to get in some high spots from the top rope, just anything to pick this match up.
With all triple threat matches, no man had a direct advantage, with each of the three having their time to hit near-falls and close attempts at winning the championship. Dillinger for the most part had AJ's number, and upon exposing his knee for the 'Tye Breaker', AJ reversed into a Calf Crusher, before Corbin prevented the submission.
Eventually breaking down to just AJ Styles and Tye Dillinger, AJ had Dillinger primed for the Phenomenal Forearm, connecting sweetly. Corbin then swept AJ out of the ring, pinning Dillinger to become WWE United States Champion.
We guess we know why they added Dillinger to the match, to have the fall-guy so AJ Styles wouldn't look weak when dropping the belt to Corbin. Overall, this match was perfectly fine for what it is, and it will be interesting to see where they go with this, which we imagine will be AJ Styles saying he was never pinned to lose the belt, setting up a one-on-one match in the future.
- The crowd yet again chanted "Where's your briefcase?" to Corbin. This is going to follow him his whole WWE career, isn't it?
- Corbin's win was his first main roster Championship in WWE.
Match 4: WWE SmackDown Live Women's Championship; Natalya (c) vs. Charlotte Flair
A breast cancer awareness promo was the prelude for the Women's Championship match. A touching promo with Charlotte talking about Ric Flair's health was then followed by Natalya bringing up that this is a 'wrestling history' feud, with a Flair and a Hart potentially going toe-to-toe. Catchphrase, catchphrase, Woo, catchphrase, cut to the ring.
The challenger, Charlotte Flair, entered first. Natalya followed. Entrances, and then the ring bell sounded. Charlotte then started doing the Flair 'Woo' over and over, which wasn't annoying one bit (yes we're being sarcastic if you didn't know).
The match started technically, with Natayla twisting and manipulating Charlotte with multiple submission holds, knees to the stomach, and near-falls to keep Charlotte on her guard. Natalya went to work on Charlotte's right knee, which was where the direction of the match went for its entirety.
Natalya continued to dominate, leaving Charlotte on the canvas with a series of moves that wrenched the knee. The commentary team made this abundantly clear from the beginning, which is making us think that she might sneak a win, get attacked after the match, which leads to a cash in by Carmella, perhaps?
Natalya and Charlotte exchanged shots before Charlotte finally managed to get some offence into the match. Where did this lead though? Charlotte's knee being exposed, and being driven into the steel steps on the outside. Natalya then put Charlotte into the sharpshooter, but wasn't able to submit Charlotte, who reversed and launched Natalya's head into the bottom rung on the the turnbuckle.
Both women then wormed their way to the outside of the ring before Natalya disqualified herself by hitting Charlotte in the knee over and over with a steel chair. Nattied soaked up the heat and just left. Nothing else happened, Charlotte was just left holding her knee.
We're not surprised by the screwy finish, as this is just the beginning of the feud, but nonetheless, it doesn't help the flow of the event, not one bit.
- Early on in the match, Corey Graves said these exact words 'Charlotte Flair is an emotional woman'.
- Natalya kept shouting 'shut up Charlotte' throughout the match.
Match 5: WWE Championship; Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Fifth on the Hell in a Cell card, Jinder's awful promos on Nakamura continue. This wasn't anything like the promo package that aired at SummerSlam, which was all about diversity and Jinder's rise to prominence. This focused on Jinder and the Singh's doing all they can to use mind games against Nakamura.
Nakamura was the first to enter, with the man whose entire gimmick is his entrance, getting a great reaction from the crowd. The Singh Brother's then introduced WWE Champion, Jinder Mahal, which is something that we can't believe we'd still be saying in October 2017. The introductions for this match were red hot, but being fifth on the card, we're very doubtful that they're going to change the belt, so we're expecting Jinder to retain, somehow.
Throughout his reign as WWE Champion, Jinder has been wrestling the 'preliminary' style match, which is after years of being a jobber, wrestling as if he is in the opening match, or a Kickoff match. Jinder's been learning on the job ever since being champion and this is how the match went early on, with the two tussling in the ring, until Nakamura suddenly transitioned into a few submission holds.
As the match left its infancy, Jinder Mahal slowed down and grind down the pace of the match, which is what was echoed by Corey Graves on commentary. Relentless holds by Mahal wore the match on, with Jinder's hair becoming greasier by the second.
Mahal eventually was put under the thumb, with Nakamura seizing the momentum, and on his first attempt on his deadly knees, but Jinder rolled out of the ring. Nakamura chased Mahal and dragged him back into the ring, but Mahal kicked Nakamura in the throat, went for the Khallas, but Nakamura reverse.
Nakamura then went for the running knee, but Jinder evaded, Nakamura's knee went into the turnbuckle. Mahal picked up Nakamura for the Khallas, and then the pin.
It was over just like that.
No Singh Brothers.
No dirty finish.
Just a normal end to the match.
How weird was that?
We said that the placement of the match meant that it was unlikely that Nakamura would win the WWE Championship, and it was eventually proved right, but it wasn't a good match. It was Jinder's best championship match so far, but he's still a way to go. That said, it is refreshing that The Singh Brother's didn't get involved in the finish, and for once Mahal won on his own merits. It's about time they did that with Jinder, but it is surprising to say the least.
- In the opening promo package of the Hell in a Cell event, they didn't air any of Jinder's controversial comments.
- This was Jinder Mahal's first title defence without interference.
- Nakamura has lost to Jinder as successive PPV events via pinfall.
- Mahal won the WWE Championship on May 21st 2017 at Backlash
Match 6: Dolph Ziggler vs. Bobby Roode
With the final championship match out of the way, by process of elimination Bobby Roode and Dolph Ziggler would be before the main event match between KO and Shane O'Mac.
Roode entered first, and what is surprising is that there wasn't a special entrance for The Glorious wrestler, considering this is his first pay-per-view entrance on the main roster. His entrance is still grand nonetheless, coming down with the spotlight, the robes, and the smoke, but it wasn't to be tonight for the Detroit crowd.
Dolph entered next, with the commentary team saying that Dolph promised everyone the greatest entrance ever at Hell in a Cell. Ultimately, Dolph's entrance music hit but he didn't come out to it. The giant titantron stopped, and then Dolph came out without any titantron, any music, stating he is all business, and not just an entrance like Roode. It was the perfect entrance given that all of the storyline with Ziggler has involved corny entrances, with Ziggler living out fantasies of being stars like The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.
The match started with Corey Graves defending Ziggler's actions in the past few months, even referencing that it was a year ago which saw Ziggler put his career on the line against The Miz. The match itself started with hard-hitting punches from Roode before Ziggler quickly took command of the match with the sleeper-hold that nearly had Roode lifeless on his PPV debut.
Ziggler dominated in a slow paced match, went for a super-kick, but Roode reversed with a spine-buster. Roode then followed up with the Glorious DDT attempt, but Ziggler reversed into a quick pin-fall, pulled the tights, with Roode reversing. Roode then held Ziggler's tights and got the victory, before Dolph Ziggler laid Roode out with the Zig Zag.
Ziggler left up the ramp, having lost yet again (and predictably so), with Roode left wounded in the ring. The finish of the match was the only high point of the match, with the audience, and viewers, flat for this match. The PPV has been running for nearly three hours at this point (but feeling like six).
- Thankfully, Ziggler did not enter wearing American stars and stripes trousers, traditional attire of baby faces.
- Does it not feel weird that Roode is the face in this feud, after being a heel for his entire stint in NXT?
Match 7: Hell in a Cell match; Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens
The main event of the evening started with the same promo package that aired on SmackDown, which was a low-down of the story between Owens and McMahon, which was added by the events of Tuesday's show, which saw the pair brawl in the rowd, concession stand, and in the ring.
Flashing lights filled the Hell in a Cell as it was lowered, with just a few fans cheering in anticipating. Shane McMahon's entrance was first, and then Kevin Owens followed. Both men did the usual routine of eyeing up the cage, testing it out with their hands on their way into the structure, and looking up as if they're petrified of the match stipulation.
Shane attacked KO before the ring bell went, then it just rang. Who the hell is in charge of this? Breaking down immediately into a street fight between the pair, Shane dropped KO with punches and kicks before tossing Owens into the steel.
The pair eventually found themselves in the ring, brawling some more, before Owens took command of the match. Owens hit a huge splash from the top rope for the first pin-fall attempt of the month, with the splash identical to the one that Owens used against Vince McMahon on SmackDown as few weeks ago.
A table was set up on the outside of the ring. Shane, red-faced and gasping for air ten minutes into the match, managed to roll out of the way, dodging the cannonball roll from Owens. Shane then used a part of the broken table to hit Owens repeatedly, creating a huge noise in the arena. Shane then threw a trash-can into the ring, hitting the coast-to-coast on KO from the top-rope, but every time the move is hit, Shane looks like he hurts himself more than his opponent.
A brawl then broke out, which Owens got the upper hand of. Shane was laid out on the Spanish commentary table, with KO climbing the Hell in a Cell structure, with Owens milking up applause from the top of the cage, looking down at a helpless Shane. From the top of the cage KO pondered for an eternity, toying with the idea of jumping, unable to execute the jump from the top rope. Before being able to dive from the top, Shane gets to his feet and climbs to the top of the cage, joining KO at the top of the structure.
Once again a brawl broke out on top of the cell, with Corey Graves praying the the top of the cage holds up (especially as neither man is the size of James Ellsworth). Shane took command on top of the cell, hitting a suplex on Owens, before Owens tried to power-bomb Shane, but reversed into another flip on the cell.
Owens then started to scale back down the cell, but was met by Shane, who bumped his head into the steel, with KO going through the Spanish commentary desk. Shane then cleared the other commentary desk, put Owens on it, with Shane climbing the cage again. Shane prayed to the heavens that his fall would not kill him, and then as he jumped, Owens got out of the way from the jump, with Shane crashing through the table!
You then realise that Kevin Owens was saved by Sami Zayn, whose appearance gets a huge pop. Zayn then dragged Owens over Shane, who then forced the referee to count for the three count. Shane remained motionless as Zayn. Shane was then carted off by EMT's and Owens was helped to the back as cameras faded to black.
- Shane McMahon's promo package about 'condemning' Owens, and the McMahon family striking out with 'vengeance' was the most heel thing you could say, but came out of the baby face's mouth.
WWE Hell in a Cell 2017: Overall Thoughts and Opinions
Our overall thoughts about Hell in a Cell are mixed. Aside from the two cage matches, the pay-per-view largely offered nothing of substance to the blue brand. There were a lot of two star matches tonight, and once again the Tag Team title match was the best match of the night, by a long, long, distance.
The Women's match was pointless, and the US Championship change, with Corbin winning, is only the 1000th change of the belt this year. Bobby Roode predictably won his PPV debut, and Orton's victory over Rusev surprises nobody. The only upside to this was Ziggler's lack of entrance, but there was no pay off as everybody knew he was going to lose to Roode.
The main event ran far too for for a PPV that that ran for over 212 minutes (which is 3 hours and 32 minutes long), but had a series of good spots at the end of the match, with Sami Zayn's involvement also interesting, but not entirely a surprise as he has been involved with the feud for a long while now.
A lot of people will be angry with Jinder Mahal still being WWE Champion, and even we will admit that the tired are wearing thin on Jinder's reign, even if he did win clean tonight against Nakamura. They need to spice Mahal up on a weekly basis, instead of running the same promo and sequences week after week, to get any support behind him.
The problem with Nakamura from the offset is that he has been booked poorly since his arrival from NXT. At the blue brand's last pay-per-view, Nakamura struggled in the second match against Baron Corbin, and then his momentum dipped even further when he lost to Mahal at SummerSlam. The creative team literally don't know what they're doing with a superstar who is clearly talented and creative in the ring. Instead of just having him win matches, and making fans happy, they've tried their very best to perverse him, which it typical Vince McMahon (i.e. taking something great from NXT and changing it for the worse).
Nakamura's bad fortunes continued tonight, with his promise all-but squandered against Jinder Mahal, who the company have more time, faith, and patience, with right now.
The WWE fans have reached a point now where SmackDown needs to go back to trying new things out, rather than being much of the same product that we get from WWE all the time, and Hell in a Cell does echo a lot of the negativity that has followed the company for some time. RAW will be RAW, but SmackDown needs freshening up, perhaps in the writing and creative teams, for the blue brand to have the same success it had this time last year.
Other than that, there were a few decent matches, and some great spots tonight, so from the outset we said that's like to take some positives away from tonight, and I guess we have, so Hell in a Cell wasn't a total bust.
WWE Hell in a Cell 2017 Results: 09/10/2017
WWE SmackDown Live Tag Team Championships: The Usos def. The New Day (c) inside Hell in a Cell
Randy Orton def. Rusev (pin-fall)
WWE United States Championship: Baron Corbin def. AJ Styles (c) and Tye Dillinger (pinning Dillinger to become the new champion)
WWE SmackDown Live Women's Championship: Charlotte def. Natalya (c) via Disqualification
WWE Championship: Jinder Mahal (c) def. Shinsuke Nakamura (pin-fall)
Bobby Roode def. Dolph Ziggler (pin-fall)
Kevin Owens def. Shane McMahon (pin-fall) inside Hell in a Cell
Who’s on SmackDown’s Hype Train?
The Usos and The New Day: Another great match between the pair of teams, with the cage element allowing for more creativity between both sides. Crowd were happy, we were happy. Keep it going.
Breezango: A welcome return of Breezango to add comic relief to the show with The Fashion Files. The Ascension have also been bumped up in the cast of the show.
Jinder Mahal: He's winning every major match right now, even beating Nakamura without the help of the Singh Brothers.
Bobby Roode: Victorious on his PPV debut, and that's about it. He's got a long road ahead of him, doesn't he, before he gets into the title picture?
Kevin Owens: Helped by Sami Zayn to beat Shane McMahon, KO's work over the past 6 weeks has been very good.
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