Raise your hands if, like me, you assumed Randy Orton would cost Seth Rollins his win against Dean Ambrose in the Hell in a Cell main event, putting their feud front and center, while Bray Wyatt would return from retooling on Raw and pick a fight with Ambrose.
Raise the other one if, when Wyatt ran interference during Ambrose and Rollins' disappointing main-event blow-off, you said to yourself, "Much as I love nearly being right, and an enjoy an homage to Princess Leia's Star Wars hologram, what was accomplished here that couldn't have been furthered in 24 hours without cleanly concluding a feud that has roots first planted two Survivor Series ago?"
For those who were otherwise occupied watching the Giants inch closer to another World Series title or witnessing the Saints contribute to yesterday's lopsided tally of one-sided NFL wins: Papa Wyatt cut the power at Dallas' American Airlines Center, spoke in tongues, placed a soothsaying lantern between Ambrose and Rollins and finally emerged from darkness to knock Ambrose's lights out, allowing Rollins to pick up the win.
Now that you're caught up with how HIAC left us hanging, it's time to review the totality of last night's affair, from Mizdow's latest Slammy-worthy performance and Ziggler's surprising sweep over Cesaro to Big Show and Mark Henry's good cry over America and how Orton and Cena overcame a midcard spot and showed up their top-billed counterparts.
So without spider-walking my way through this preface any further, here are my five top takeaways from Hell in a Cell 2014.
5. Rollins Bland
I've expressed concern in the past about how Seth Rollins has been portrayed since turning heel, and as much as I enjoy a good cowardly villain, what still made Rollins dangerous was his volatility in the ring. Unfortunately, we've witnessed his near-total transformation from sly evader to dastardly dodger. The Iowan daredevil stood out among the Shield after flexing his "What will he do next?" aerial arsenal, but in general of late, and in particular at HIAC, the supposed cerebral assassin of his former faction has been effectively grounded. Unless, of course, you count he and Ambrose's highly choreographed, premature simul-leap into the brittle announce tables below.
4. Let Them Wrestle!
To that end, it's a bit baffling why a pair of bitter adversaries so skilled as Ambrose and Rollins were apparently asked to put the "demonic structure" imprisoning them over, ahead of giving fans their $9.99 worth.
We saw the suicide dive drive Rollins toward the fences on Raw, we've seen certain WWE legends turn the cell's intended purpose on its head, and we knew that, at some point in the match, wrestling would cede the mat to mercenary assault and requisite stretchers. Still, would it have hurt to let these two capable old foes give Dolph Ziggler and Cesaro (or even the Usos and Gold/Stardust) a run for the audience's "This is awesome" chants with something other than stunt work before Bray came to play? And did we really need to see Ambrose fight his way through Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury (whose Mean Street Posse-esque enforcer roles haven't really been clearly defined) before even getting the chance to head-butt he and his opponent off the cage and into the dead-air oblivion of EMT activity? Especially when we were all expecting this?
3. IC What You Did There
I don't love what's become of Cesaro (after all, how much damage can one sustain to their aura, no matter their irrepressible fight?), but last night bodes well for both Dolph Ziggler and the Intercontinental Title. That hallowed strap needs a fighting (and winning) champion, and Ziggler desperately needed a rub after threatening to become the most put-upon IC ambassador in recent memory. What he deserves next is a feud that can put him over the top not just as an underdog, but a hero.
Bray Wyatt's already taken, Bo Dallas' appealing cockiness has been compromised, and we've yet to receive the good word on Bad News Barrett's return (nor would he necessarily be the right antagonist). Makes one wonder: Perhaps his former protégé Big E is ready to debut that brasher side as part of he, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods' long-held back militant faction? Or maybe this is what all those promos for Harper and/or Rowan were foretelling? Whatever WWE decides, and putting aside Cesaro's noble sacrifice, it feels as if Ziggler's Intercontinental reign could help anchor Raw and SmackDown's second hours for some time.
2. What's a Diva To Do?
So, AJ hangs on against Paige and continues to make her case as one of the great all-time women's competitors; their long-running feud resolved itself with Paige turning on BFF Alicia (which, if indicating a face run for Ms. Fox, could be a great look for the underused talent); and we now have to endure 30 days of Nikki dumping smoothies on sister Brie – shouldn't that personal-assistant stipulation be limited to subservience rather than uncalled for abuse? – as the payoff to a once-in-their-careers sibling rivalry that waned without Stephanie McMahon's direct involvement.
The Divas division is a grab bag of possibilities right now, whether it's Natalya awaiting Charlotte or some other worthy opponent instead of lamenting husband Tyson Kidd's bad attitude (i.e. having her story seem dependent on the involvement of a male superstar), wondering if Tamina can come back from injury soon and confront ex-employer AJ, how Naomi's athleticism can translate to an ongoing story, or what the end-game is for the sisters Bella. With our without Total Divas, there's arguably more raw potential among the female roster than in recent memory, and five hours of weekly cable airtime should provide plenty of opportunity for a compelling and creative showcase. Hell, maybe they can start teaming up and issuing open challenges to the lackluster men's tag contingent. A man can dream.
1. Cena and Orton Do a Decade Proud
It's easy to take for granted that John Cena and Randy Orton have called themselves champions of the wrestling world a collective 27 times. After all, we're all smart enough to understand those statistics are skewed by their having come of age in an era when belts switched hands unceremoniously, there were in fact two top-dig titles for the taking and briefcases were being cashed in for the big prize on a semi-annual basis.
But none of that can take away that an exceptional possession of ethic, talent, charisma and marketability is required for that kind of bestowal. And no one can say (well, they could, but they'd be quite stubborn) that Cena and Orton failed to deliver a theatrical, physical contest last night, or at least one that transcended what their rushed, umpteenth feud deserved. Orton's stunning RKO reversals and Cena's triumphant AA off the top through a table were rightly cheered, but the prevailing wear and tear these two put on each others' bodies made for a captivating fight. And, not insignificantly, it reinforced the cell's unforgiving contributions without a drop of blood or well-timed plunge. Not to mention that, for all those (count me among them) who grow so weary of Raw and SmackDown's abbreviated, commercially interrupted singles matches, this iteration of Cena v. Orton (ditto for Ziggler v. Cesaro) was proof positive that both sport and entertainment can stay alive and thrive in the PG era.
Below the Belt:
- Is there anything Mizdow can't do right now?
- Terrific camera work also distinguished HIAC from your typical weekly broadcast.
- Ziggler's hair was especially Top Ramen-ish last night.
- Easy, Michael Cole, easy.
- Might Henry and Show issue a joint-retirement announcement tonight?
- Can Rusev ever escape being typecast?
- I hate ads during PPVs, but I like the looks of that WWE Network Rivalries series.
- Paige tapped out awful quick, no?
- We might need to retire the mid-rope suicide dive.
- Move of the Night: Orton's switcheroo of the flying shoulder block into an RKO. Damn, he's good.