Welcome to KB’s Old School (and New School) Reviews. I’ve been reviewing wrestling shows for over twelve years now and have reviewed over 6,000 shows. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I’ll be posting a new review here on Wrestlingrumors.net. It could be anything from modern WWE to old school to indies to anything in between. Note that I rate using letters instead of stars and I don’t rate matches under three minutes as really, how good or bad can something that short be?
Hell in a Cell 2018
Date: September 16, 2018
Location: AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
Commentators: Michael Cole, Renee Young, Corey Graves, Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton
Welcome to the first show of the three that WWE is currently building. In this case we have the show designed around carnage and that could mean a few things. The show hasn’t exactly blown me away on paper but maybe they’ll surprise me here. There are two matches inside the big red cage tonight so let’s get to it.
Kickoff Show: Smackdown Tag Team Titles: Rusev Day vs. New Day
Rusev Day is defending after winning a tournament. There are enough empty seats visible that I feel like I’m watching 205 Live. Kofi wastes no time in double stomping English and it’s already off to Rusev. A fall away slam has Kofi in trouble and we go split screen to see an Alexa Bliss vs. Ronda Rousey ad. At least it’s on a commercial show instead of the regular TV shows.
Back with Kofi fighting out of a front facelock and hitting a tornado DDT for the tag off to Big E. Suplexes abound but Rusev tags himself in to kick Big E. in the head. English tags himself back in though, leaving Big E. to spear the illegal man to the floor with English nailing a dive. Back in and the reverse DDT gets two on Big E. but English takes too long going up, allowing New Day to hit a powerbomb/top rope double stomp (sweet finisher) for two (which doesn’t finish) in what could have been the ending.
Kofi gets Machka Kicked to the floor and Big E. gets DDT’ed on the apron. Back in and English tags himself in again, this time to Rusev’s annoyance. The annoyance gets even worse when misses a top rope headbutt. English’s top rope splash gets two and he grabs the Accolade of all things. Big E. gets Machka Kicked again but Kofi slips out. With Rusev missing a charge and sending himself outside, Trouble in Paradise retains the titles at 8:48.
Rating: B-. That’s about as perfect of a Kickoff Show match as you can get. They didn’t overstay their welcome, it was an exciting and entertaining match and they got a popular act out there to give the fans something to cheer about. That’s all you can ask for in something like this and it was a good idea.
The opening video talks about people being afraid of different things, which doesn’t have the most impact when it’s Brie Bella and Maryse. Tonight there is no turning back and you must surrender to evil.
The red Cell is lowered. It….really didn’t need the change. Was black not an option?
Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton
Inside the Cell. Orton is back to being the Legend Killer but this time it’s more the Hero Killer, with Hardy being his first target. Hardy goes right after him to start as Phillips says there are no rules other than the pinfall or submission has to take place in the ring. That sounds like a rule to me. Orton takes him outside and sends him into the cage but Hardy does the exact same thing. Well, to Orton instead of himself but you get the idea.
It’s already time for a table because THE CELL isn’t enough of a weapon. That’s not enough either so of course it’s ladder time. A ladder to the ribs slows Orton down even more but a chair to the back cuts Hardy off. An RKO on the floor is blocked and Hardy uses the chair as a launch pad for Poetry in Motion against the cage. They actually get back in for Hardiac Arrest but the Swanton is broken up and that means a superplex.
Jeff kicks him down again and let’s get a second ladder because why not. Hardy sets this one up upside down on the floor but gets front suplexed onto it instead. Some more chairs are brought inside with one of them bouncing off of Jeff. Orton hits him a few more times before stealing Hardy’s studded belt for a whip to the exposed back. To get a little creative, Orton puts Hardy inside of a ladder with Hardy’s head sticking between some rungs for a little stomping.
We hit the chinlock, which feels completely out of place in the Cell. Hardy is right back up with the legdrop between the legs and a basement dropkick but Orton powerslams him. With nothing else working, Orton goes outside and finds….a screwdriver. That goes THROUGH THE HOLE IN HARDY’S EAR, which Orton then TWISTS AROUND, giving us one of the best in pain looks I’ve ever seen from Jeff. A low blow lets Hardy take the screwdriver out of his ear (I didn’t think I’d be writing that one) and he unloads with a chair.
Orton is still fine enough to crotch Hardy on top and the hanging DDT (with Orton bleeding from the back) plants Hardy again. The RKO is countered into the Twist of Fate and a Swanton onto the chair gets two. And so much for Hardy’s chance of winning, though there was no way that was the ending anyway. Hardy finds another table (of course) but sets up the big ladder with the small ladder next to it.
Orton gets laid on the table and Hardy climbs up, only to grab the top of the Cell. A few swings back and forth set up the splash through the table, though it seemed that Orton was off the table before Jeff even let go. They raise the Cell with the referee screaming for medics and for the match to be stopped. Orton covers Hardy and demands a count as the referee loses his mind, though he’s fine enough to count the pin at 24:50.
Rating: C+. I get what they were going for here but egads this went longer than it needed to. They easily could have cut out ten minutes here and had pretty much the same TLC match inside the Cell. The emphasis her is on the last three words: this was inside the Cell, making the ending that much worse. Yeah Hardy is hurt “for real” but IT’S THE FREAKING CELL. We’ve seen Shane McMahon dive all the way off the top and the match wasn’t going to be stopped, but this one was? Come on already.
Post match we get the quiet voices and the lack of Orton’s music as I’d like to point out that he was inside the Cell instead of FLYING OFF THE THING LIKE SHANE DID LAST YEAR (and the year before that because Shane gets to do whatever he wants). Replays show that Orton was off the table a good two seconds before Jeff dropped. Really not a good angle to show there people.
HHH vs. Undertaker is still happening again.
AJ Styles wants to fight Samoa Joe because he’s sick of talking all the time.
We recap Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch. Charlotte was added to the Women’s Title match last month at Summerslam and Becky wasn’t happy at having her title shot stolen from her. Becky turned on her after the match but the fans cheered her on anyway, so tonight it’s about the title for her and revenge for Charlotte.
Smackdown Women’s Title: Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch
Charlotte is defending. They hit the mat to start but Becky kicks her away for a cautious standoff. It’s way too early for either finisher so Charlotte settles for a knee crusher and a leglock. Back up and Charlotte misses a shoulder into the corner so Becky hits a running forearm to the shoulder (nice) from the apron. A Pentagon arm snap gets two and it’s off to the armbar.
The Bexploder is blocked so Becky forearms her down for two instead. Back up and Charlotte sends her to the apron but bangs up her arm again. The bad arm goes shoulder first into the apron for two more so Charlotte gets smart by kicking her in the face. Becky avoids the moonsault though and the cross armbreaker goes on. Since she’s Charlotte, that’s reversed into the sitout powerbomb and they’re both down.
The fans cheer for Becky and seem pleased when she wins a slugout. A hammerlock slam gets two but Charlotte grabs a desperation Boston crab. The Disarm-Her goes on so Charlotte crawls underneath the ropes for the eventual break. Back up and the spear is reversed into a small package to give Becky the pin and the title at 13:52.
Rating: B. That’s the kind of physical match you would expect from these two and the ending was exactly what it should have been. Becky won the title completely clean because she was willing to do whatever it took and if that included destroying Charlotte’s arm, so be it. Charlotte felt like she was fighting from behind the entire time and never once felt like she could keep up with Becky, which is how the match should have felt. Very good stuff and the right call at the right time.
Post match Charlotte offers a handshake but Becky holds up the title and says this is her moment. As she should.
The Marine 6 is coming, featuring Miz, Becky Lynch and Shawn Michaels.
Connor’s Cure video.
Jeff Hardy has been taken to a local medical facility. Gee you think?
Kickoff Show recap.
New Day has their pancake butler come in to celebrate but Kofi pops up as his interviewer. They’re ready to defend their titles against the Bar in Australia but first, pancakes. It’s starting to feel like they’re forcing these things and that’s not good at all.
Raw Tag Team Titles: Dolph Ziggler/Drew McIntyre vs. Dean Ambrose/Seth Rollins
Ambrose and Rollins are challenging and the BURN IT DOWN is strong this time. Feeling out process to start between Ziggler and Rollins with Seth taking him down and handing it off to Ambrose for some running elbows. An early Stomp attempt sends Ziggler bailing to the floor so it’s off to McIntyre instead. He wants and receives Ambrose who goes nose to nose with Drew before dropkicking his knee out.
A Ziggler distraction lets McIntyre hit Ambrose from behind though and it’s off to Ziggler for a chinlock. That lasts as long as your average chinlock and Rollins is right back up with the Sling Blade. Another distraction lets Ziggler hit the running DDT for another two and McIntyre comes in for an armbar. Ziggler grabs the sleeper before it’s right back to McIntyre for a shoulder breaker. Rollins fights up and gets to the corner but the referee is distracted so the hot tag doesn’t count (still one of my favorites).
Ziggler puts Rollins up top but gets kicked away so McIntyre tries his luck. That’s not the best either as Rollins scores with a Blockbuster and the hot tag brings in Ambrose. He can’t suplex McIntyre but he can get two off a Jackknife rollup instead. Ziggler comes back in and takes Ambrose to the apron where McIntyre gets in a big boot. Everything breaks down and Ambrose gets suplexed hard into the corner for a crash.
That’s enough for the double hot tag to Rollins and Ziggler but Rollins’ suicide dive is caught. Ambrose dives onto all three of them for the big crash and everyone is down on the floor. Back in and Rollins gets two off the Falcon Arrow, followed by a Buckle Bomb for the same. McIntyre comes in to send Dean outside so Rollins can grab an O’Connor Roll for two with Ziggler snapping off the Zig Zag for two of his own. Cole: “WHAT A SEQUENCE!” It wasn’t that good man.
McIntyre is back in again and gets dropped just as fast, allowing Rollins to hit the frog splash for an even nearer fall. A Tower of Doom is broken up and Rollins tries a dive onto Ziggler, only to crash hard to the floor. Since it’s Rollins he’s back up only a few seconds later to tags himself in for the running up the corner superplex. The Falcon Arrow is loaded up but McIntyre hits the Claymore to give Ziggler the pin to retain at 22:58.
Rating: A. Totally awesome tag match here with Ziggler and McIntyre getting the win that they’ve needed to look like serious threats. If nothing else it makes you realize how sad it was to watch the makeshift/comedy guys fighting over the belts for months now. All four were working hard here and the fans were into it the whole way. I know it’s not the last match or even one of the last matches in the feud, but at least we had something awesome to get started. Great match and one of the best things in the tag division in years.
Mick Foley comes in to tell Braun Strowman that his life will change in the Cell (no, it won’t) and Strowman needs to respect his authority. Strowman says count the three and hand him the title. Foley: “Good talk.”
All four teams are ready for the first episode of Mixed Match Challenge.
We recap Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles. Joe has been messing with AJ’s mind and promises to send AJ home to his wife and kids, sound asleep. We get the full Samoa Joe bedtime story from Smackdown and it’s still incredibly awesome on an evil level.
Smackdown World Title: AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe
Joe is challenging. AJ goes right at him to start but Joe shrugs it off and starts hammering away. A dropkick works much better and a running knee to the head rocks Joe again. There’s a baseball slide to keep Joe down but he’s smart enough to roll away before the Phenomenal Forearm. AJ’s slingshot gets kicked out of the air though and Joe sends him knees first into the steps.
Joe doesn’t take well to a comeback bid and gets his knee taken out again. Another running knee in the corner has AJ reeling so Joe sends him outside for the suicide elbow. Back in and we hit the neck crank for a bit until AJ fights up. That just earns him an elbow that turns him inside out as it’s all Joe. The rather cocky (and deserved) Joe gets caught on top and pulled face first into the buckle though and AJ finally has a breather.
The running corner clothesline and a seated forearm give Styles two…and a fan tells Joe that pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza. I mean, he’s right but what a weird time to say it. AJ gets two more off a moonsault reverse DDT but a Lionsault hits knees. Joe’s powerbomb into the Boston crab into the STF into the Crossface until AJ dives for the rope.
Somehow AJ is fine enough to hit the torture rack powerbomb for two and they’re both done. The springboard 450 gets two and Joe’s crazy hard clothesline gets the same. Neither finisher can connect so Joe goes with a loud kick to the head for a delayed two. AJ is right back up with the Phenomenal Forearm but Joe catches him in the Koquina Clutch, only to have AJ backflip into the pin at 19:01.
Rating: A-. This was a lot of fun with Joe having AJ beaten for most of the match and AJ having to survive the entire time. It shows that AJ is in trouble here and that Joe is likely getting the title soon. Like, say in October. In Australia. In a match that was already announced. This one was a heck of a fight though as Joe knows how to bring AJ to a level that few others can and he did it here too. Just let Joe win the title in Australia and everything will be fine.
Post match Joe celebrates before AJ is announced as the winner. Joe says that AJ tapped and Graves agrees. AJ kicks Joe down and holds up the title as the announcers argue. The replay shows that AJ did tap and it was before three so we’re almost guaranteed a rematch, which was announced weeks ago because WWE now works for the calendar instead of vice versa.
Miz and Maryse, in matching suits that make Miz look stupid but somehow works on Maryse, are ready to take care of Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella. Daniel and Brie are only relevant because of them and Miz wouldn’t be surprised if Brie is doing all this for the sake of reality show ratings.
We recap the mixed tag. Miz cheated to beat Bryan at Summerslam so now we’re having a mixed tag match to continue the feud without giving up the big rematch. Which is also taking place in Australia and has already been announced in advance. Oh and did I mention that Brie will be back on Total Divas this Wednesday?
Miz/Maryse vs. Daniel Bryan/Brie Bella
The women start (gulp) but thankfully it’s off to the men before anything happens. A distraction from Maryse lets Miz punch Bryan into the corner. Phillips: “Some people believe that Brie Bella has the hardest punch in WWE.” No Tom, they don’t. Graves: “No one believes that Phillips.” Yeah what he said. Bryan is back up with the moonsault over Miz into the running clothesline but Miz bails to the floor at the threat of a YES Lock.
The women come back in and once again tag back out before anything happens. Again: thank goodness. The fans chant COWARD at Miz as Bryan takes him down with a dragon screw legwhip and a top rope hurricanrana puts Miz in even more trouble. The running knee misses so Bryan settles for the YES Lock, drawing in Maryse for the save. Bryan is fine enough to hit the running dropkicks in the corner until Miz avoids the final charge and drops Bryan on his hip (better than his head/neck).
The Reality Check gives Miz two as Brie goes into cheerleader mode, which is really about as good of a role as she’s going to have. Miz fires off some kicks in the corner but Bryan breaks up the superplex. The Swan Dive (To quote Miz: Really?) misses so Bryan kicks Miz away and brings Brie in. Maryse won’t do the same so Brie punches Miz a few times and sends Maryse into the announcers’ table.
Everything breaks down and Brie gets two off a middle rope dropkick. Bryan gets back in and throws Miz down for touching his wife on the save and we hit the stereo YES Kicks. Of course the big ones both miss and the guys fight up the ramp, leaving Brie to hit the BRIE MODE knee. Miz gets back on the apron so Brie rams Maryse into him and grabs a rollup, only to have Maryse reverse into a hideous one of her own with a grab of the tights for the pin at 13:01.
Rating: D+. They tried as hard as they could here and keeping the women out of the ring was the best path they could have taken but they were running with an anchor here. I’m just not feeling this whole Miz vs. Bryan feud as it hasn’t reached that point where I need to see Bryan beat Miz. Maybe they’ll get there by the end, but for now it’s not really working. Getting it back to one on one might help, but please keep Brie out of the ring.
We look at the ending of the first Cell match again.
Hardy is now coughing up blood.
We recap Ronda Rousey vs. Alexa Bliss. Rousey was ticked off that Bliss cashed in Money in the Bank so she went nuts and wrecked Bliss for the title at Summerslam. Now we’re doing a rematch where Bliss has no chance so we can build towards Rousey vs. THE LEGEND Nikki Bella at Evolution.
Raw Women’s Title: Ronda Rousey vs. Alexa Bliss
Rousey, with bad ribs, is defending and has Natalya with her while Bliss has Mickie James and Alicia Fox in her corner. An early headlock takes Bliss down and Rousey loads up what looks like a Stump Puller before rolling back into a cradle (that’s a new one). Bliss decides to shove her and gets punched in the face for her efforts. A kick to the ribs has little effect as Rousey monkey flips her down and hammers away, followed by the overhead throw.
James and Fox have to save Bliss from the armbar so Rousey throws Bliss onto both of them. Rousey: “Who needs enemies when you have friends like that?” Bliss finally trips her down and kicks away even more, setting up a seated abdominal stretch. Rousey fights up for the swinging Samoan drop but the ribs give out, allowing Bliss to hit the knees to the ribs into the moonsault. The champ gets up again and tries a superplex, only to get pulled down into the Tree of Woe for a dropkick to the ribs.
Another abdominal stretch sets up a ribs first whip into the buckle (I was expecting the shoulder there so well done on surprising me) to keep Rousey in agony. The seconds help a bit so Natalya and Rousey beat them up, followed by stereo crossbodies to put Rousey and Bliss down. Bliss unloads on the ribs…and there’s the Death Stare. Rousey powerbombs her down but charges into a kick to the ribs. That’s about it for Bliss though as Rousey blocks a right hand and the Regal Roll/Samoan drop sets up the armbar to retain at 12:02.
Rating: B. This was a lot better than I was expecting, even with a complete lack of drama. I know no one was buying Bliss as having a chance here but Rousey sold well and they had a good story throughout. There were even a few surprises in there and Rousey has to face a little adversity from time to time.
The announcers talk about the victims of Hurricane Florence. Nothing wrong with that.
We look at the ending of Styles vs. Joe again.
Joe yells at the referee and Paige, who tells Joe to calm down. The rematch with AJ is set for Australia and there will be no countouts or disqualifications.
Super Show-Down rundown. Egads get on with the main event already.
We recap Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman. Reigns won the Raw World Title at Summerslam and it’s not like he had anyone else to face. Strowman cashed in Money in the Bank but Shield reformed to take him out. Ignoring that Reigns knew about the cash-in in advance and this was a complete heel move from Shield, Strowman is now the villain and cashing in his contract tonight, meaning we’re done with it WAY early this year, making me rather happy.
Raw World Title: Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
Reigns is defending inside the Cell with Mick Foley as guest referee in a completely minor detail. Reigns slugs away at the bell but gets sent shoulder first into the post. A running shoulder sends Reigns off the apron and into the cage as Reigns is in early trouble. Reigns is right back with a show to the face but another shoulder sends him hard into the cage. Strowman grabs the steps but has them dropkicked back into his face.
That’s it for Reigns’ offense though as Reigns dives into a chokeslam onto the apron. Reigns is right back with some chair shots to the ribs, followed by a DDT onto the chair for two. A pair of Superman Punches rock Reigns but the third is countered into a chokeslam….for three, which Foley calls two. That was quite the botch and pretty clearly a three count. Another Superman Punch gets another two and it’s time for a table.
Reigns sees Strowman up and runs around the ring at him but doesn’t see Strowman puck up the steps, which bounce off Reigns’ head. Strowman: “WHY WON’T YOU STAY DOWN YOU FOOL???” There’s a steps shot to the ribs and Strowman LAUNCHES them over the top because he’s strong enough to do that. The running powerslam gets two so Strowman sets up the table in the corner. Of course that earns him a spear through the table, drawing out Ziggler, McIntyre, Rollins and Ambrose.
Since WWE can’t pay attention to multiple things at once, we watch the brawl on the floor with Rollins and Ziggler fighting up to the top of the Cell. McIntyre follows them up and saves Ziggler from a bad case of death. Cue Ambrose to the top with a kendo stick to clean house, setting up a bunch of punching back and forth. A double clothesline puts all four down as Reigns and Strowman still haven’t moved.
Ziggler climbs down but Rollins follows him, meaning it’s time to fight on the side of the Cell. We’re just waiting on the big fall now and indeed there they go, through a pair of announcers’ tables in the most contrived spot of the night. All six are down….and we have Brock Lesnar (looking weird in a plain black shirt).
Brock kicks the door off the hinges (good visual) and then climbs up said door to get inside. Paul Heyman maces Foley and Lesnar hits both guys with pieces of the table. Lesnar wrecks them some more and gives Reigns an F5 onto Strowman. With Lesnar leaving, another referee comes in and it’s a NO CONTEST IN THE CELL AT 23:48.
Rating: B-. I don’t even know where we are anymore. The most violent match in WWE history just ended because “the two of them can’t continue”. As in after THEY LAID THERE FOR THE BETTER PART OF TEN MINUTES??? This is just so freaking dumb because, again, the stupid calendar backed them into a corner. If this is just any regular wrestling match then fine, but we just HAD to wait for Summerslam to change the title to Reigns and then we just HAD to do the Cell match in September.
This was a way to make you think that you were getting something good when it was any given street fight plus a bunch of interference so the other guys can do something cool off the side of the Cell. Oh but then we get to the important stuff: setting up a likely triple threat in NOVEMBER AT SURVIVOR SERIES BECAUSE WE HAVE TO PROMOTE THREE SHOWS AT ONE FREAKING TIME ANYMORE! This is the most annoyed I’ve been at a match in a long time and it wasn’t even a bad one. The ending sucked the life out of me though and that’s a horrible way to cap off an otherwise good show.
The show goes off the air almost immediately, likely to avoid the BULL**** chants from making the Network.
Overall Rating: A-. I was tempted to drop this by a few notches for that ending but man alive this was a heck of a show. Aside from the mixed tag (which was held back by reasons outside of the actual wrestling), nothing was even close to bad and there are two back to back instant classics in the middle. There are a lot of flaws with the way some things are going in the future, but the actual wrestling is rather strong at the moment, which I can’t say I expected coming in. Very good show and one of the best main roster shows in a long time.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 60,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 6,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books.
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