Hell In A Cell 2020 Review

WWE’s annual trip to the demonic structure, Hell In A Cell, provided brutality, betrayal and brand new champions on a pulsating night of action. In Halloween week, Andy Spoors lets us know if it was trick or treat for the latest PPV…

It’s worth noting straight off the bat, that PPVs named after gimmick matches are not universally loved by the WWE Universe. It forces feuds into a direction that perhaps doesn’t suit that type of match. Money In The Bank is perhaps the exception to the rule, playing out closer to a Royal Rumble style PPV where the winners of the title match have an actual storyline role to play in the following months.

TLC and Hell In A Cell are however, the worst offenders. Once upon a time the Hell In A Cell match was the biggest blowoff a rivalry could have. It was often The Undertaker’s way of ending any hopes his opponents had of conquering ‘The Deadman’. Shawn Michaels and even more infamously Mankind took tumbles from the steel structure, cementing the match stipulation as a fan favourite in the late nineties. 

Fast forward to everyone’s favourite year, 2020, and we find ourselves with not one, not two but three HIAC matches. On the same night. All featuring championships on the line. It must be said that even facing some serious reservations, the PPV was superb.

Each HIAC match was engaging and fresh despite the trio of bouts taking up the vast majority of the approximate three hour run time.

The opening match of the night saw Roman Reigns defend his Universal Championship against real life cousin Jey Uso in a rematch from last month’s Clash of Champions PPV. With not only the addition of the all-encompassing structure into proceedings, an added stipulation of an I Quit match suddenly threatened to over-burden one of the most organic rivalries in recent history.

Built around Reigns new-found obsession with being acknowledged as the tribal chief of both WWE and the Anoa’i family, the work both men have been putting into this storyline needs to be commended. Jey, never considered anything more than a stellar tag team performer finally getting his chance at the top title, only to be met by a family member with a new attitude is movie worthy.

Inside the ring, there doesn’t need to be hundreds of false finishes or flashy moves. In truth the Cell wasn’t really needed here either. The stipulation of forcing your opponent to say the words ‘I Quit’ would have been effective enough. The visual of Reigns brutally and systematically destroying Uso for an extended period of time was however made all the more impressive by the red cage’s presence.

With WWE officials, referee’s and even Roman’s manager, Paul Heyman, pleading with the champion to stop his assault on a knocked out Jey, it was the challenger’s twin brother Jimmy that looked to have finally gotten through to the tribal chief. Although currently recovering from a serious injury, Jimmy was also ultimately the reason for Jey to mutter the words of defeat. Coming round to see Reigns choking out his twin was too much as the champion displayed further levels of deviousness to his heel persona.

Anytime family is used in angles, things feel just that little bit more legitimate. From Brett Hart vs Owen Hart. Matt vs Jeff Hardy or Undertaker vs Kane (it’s still real to us dammit!), there’s something about watching blood feuds boil over. With an added consequence that Jey must now acknowledge Reigns as his leader, or face expulsion for both his and Jimmy’s families from the wrestling dynasty, the story will reach a conclusion soon enough.

Quick matches for Jeff Hardy vs a returning Elias and Bobby Lashley facing off against Retribution’s Slapjack, punctuated the cell matches. But a third match outside the titular stipulation saw Otis defend his Money In The Bank contract against The Miz.

A cringeworthy “court room battle” saw this match added to the card just days before and simply complied the run of bad luck Otis has been on in recent weeks. Both his girlfriend Mandy Rose and tag partner Tucker were moved to Raw and here he lost his guaranteed shot at a Championship match of his choosing in shocking circumstances.

Even though the brand draft had broken Heavy Machinery up, it was his now ex tag partner, Tucker that cost Otis the match, levelling him with the briefcase behind the ref’s back. Fans may not have fully warmed to the idea of Otis as a legitimate challenger to the Universal Championship, but this move leaves the big guy in dangerous territory. Seemingly no tag team partner for the first time, no girl and no briefcase, it will be interesting to see how he can stay relevant on a SmackDown roster including Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan and Big E.

The match of the night was edged by Bayley and Sasha Banks for the SmackDown Women’s Championship. With a steeped history together and apart, this match may go down as one of the best women’s matches in the last decade. 

It never reached the heights of their NXT Takeover battles, but inside HIAC both women tore each other apart. Inventive ways of using weapons like kendo sticks and tables, as well as high risk moves throughout, gave the WWE Universe a different take on the cell match from earlier in the night.

Plenty of interaction with the chain link cage walls and a plethora of chair shots later, Sasha Banks became the new champion. Curiously the pre match video promo elected not to delve into the pair’s NXT days or initial days on Raw and SmackDown together. 

Banks vs Bayley has served as one of the more intense rivalries across WWE in recent weeks, but has felt somewhat fast tracked. All signs point to the feud continuing for a while longer. But as mentioned earlier, a HIAC match should be the grand finale. There’s no way to organically up the ante from here. 

The final match of the night couldn’t be accused of the same however. After months of increasingly hostile back and forths, Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton entered the Hell In A Cell match looking to end their rivalry once and for all.

Of course, with three cell matches, fans would be forgiven for predicting at least one of the bouts would end up outside or on top of the structure. Combined, McIntyre and Orton have decades of experience between them, but even the longest of careers doesn’t necessarily prepare you for a fall through a commentary table from a height.

Here it would be McIntyre taking the spill, in the process becoming a clip-on future highlight reels. The big Scotsman would never fully recover, losing his championship and handing Orton his 14th world title.

It’s important to emphasize just how great a reign McIntyre has served since winning the title back in April. During one of the most tumultuous periods the world has been forced to deal with in recent times, McIntyre has been a fantastic flag bearer for WWE. Taking part in documentaries, copious amounts of media and charity work, the company couldn’t have wished for a better champion.

If there is any justice, Drew will be repaid by regaining the championship when crowds are finally allowed to return to arenas and events. For now it will be up to the reliable hands of Randy Orton to take WWE into the start of the year and WrestleMania season.

A night where WWE defied logic and made the most of their ThunderDome surroundings also managed to close off some of the longer standing rivalries the company has built. Next month’s Survivor Series normally marks the return of casual fans as the WWE Universe continues to cross their fingers for a return in time for next year’s Royal Rumble and WrestleMania events.

As for Hell In A Cell, although it was a successful night, in our opinion it is time to ditch the gimmick PPVs and bring back Unforgiven and Armageddon. Unretire No Mercy or Fully Loaded. Hell, in this social media dependant period, how about a return for Taboo Tuesday or Cyber Sunday where fans pick the matches and stipulations?