WWE ThunderDome, Florida
The last PPV to (hopefully) ever emanate from WWE’s technological extravaganza, the ThunderDome, saw the demonic Hell In A Cell structure lowered not once but twice. But did the event ensure the pandemic era venue went out with a bang or a whimper? Andy Spoors guides us through the talking points…
Believe In Bianca
Since her emotional SmackDown Women’s Championship victory on night one of WrestleMania in April, Bianca Belair’s title reign has felt disjointed. It must be said, this is not through lack of talent, but frustrating booking.
A rivalry with the exceptionally talented Bayley checked off two boxes. In Bayley, you are guaranteed a safe and experienced pair of hands to help elevate Belair. The second box was giving Bayley, who arguably had one of her finest years post-NXT, but somehow missed out on a WrestleMania showcase match, a chance to shine in the main event again.
To base this rivalry over the challenger laughing at the young champion was simply nonsensical. The match inside the cell was thankfully anything but. Firmly building on Bayley’s experience inside one of WWE’s most iconic surroundings gave the pair a foundation to build their match on.
Call backs to a failed kendo stick spot from last year’s event added continuity to proceedings — something WWE have sorely lacked in recent years. Belair showing a ruthless streak to pick up the victory certainly proved welcome and added a needed edge to her character moving forward. A candidate for match of the night.
Good Guys Finish Last
It was a bad day at the office for the ‘faces’ of SmackDown. Both Cesaro and Kevin Owens lost in their matches with Seth Rollins and Sami Zayn respectively. With all the will of the WWE Universe or wrestling fans in general, both Cesaro and Owens losing feels like a hammer blow to their prospects of a major title push anytime soon.
Cesaro picked up a huge win over Rollins at WrestleMania in a match that stole the entire weekend. Everyone knows that when the bell rings, he is one of the very best in the world. But 50/50 booking in a rivalry does very little for his future prospects and unfortunately only a Money In The Bank win can realistically keep him in the main event picture right now.
In the curious case of Kevin Owens, it’s slightly less straightforward. After a prolonged rivalry with Universal Champion, Roman Reigns, it didn’t feel like it would take much to push Owens into the next Stone Cold Steve Austin. He’s anti-establishment, great on the mic, ultra-talented in the ring and a firm fan favourite.
Being embroiled in the Intercontinental Championship picture with some of the most talented in ring performers of his generation felt like the next best place for Owen. But a string of defeats when it counts leaves him in awkward territory.
For Sami Zayn, this should signal the start of a rapid rise. His exceptional character work in his current conspiracy theorist/revolutionary leader role, has quite rightly gained him acclaim amongst fans. Another tilt at Apollo Crews and his Intercontinental Championship would be well deserved.
Where Have All The Titles Gone?
It may be an unpopular opinion, but with 10 Championships up for grabs across Raw and SmackDown, to have only three of them defended on a PPV is odd. Sure, not every title needs to be on the line at every event, but it speaks volumes that rivalries have been built and booked away from the championships.
With the exception of Sheamus, who is nursing a brutal facial injury, there’s no reason why feuds have not been built. Tag Team wrestling in particular was nowhere to be seen on a PPV card once again. The releases over the last 18 months have hammered the division and only a handful of cohesive and recognised teams remain on the books. Simply put, WWE needs to invest in the tag roster and the way it is booked. It may be time to look to the talents on either NXT or NXT UK, whose divisions are overflowing with ability.
Time To Shelf HIAC?
Here we go again. The annual call to give the Hell In A Cell match a well deserved rest. Ask most wrestling fans to name one of the best Cell moments and most will vividly describe Mick Foley sailing through the air before crashing through the announcer’s table below.
Yes, there have been some fantastic HIAC matches and moments in the proceeding 23 years (see Undertaker vs Triple H at WrestleMania 28 or The New Day vs The Usos in 2017) but what once was the final stage to settle scores has descended into a regular gimmick.
From Roman Reigns vs Rey Mysterio on Friday’s SmackDown, the two matches here or Bobby Lashley vs Xavier Woods on Monday’s Raw, four matches in as many days is too many to claim the Cell has any mystique left.
Gimmick matches work but only when used correctly. They need some sort of impact or meaning. In this day and age of nostalgia and technology, WWE could do well to swap out this PPV for either a King Of The Ring PPV (not a watered down version that takes place over TV tapings) or Cyber Sunday.
The latter would tap into the very vocal online crowd and allow fans to finally have a say on who they really want to see and what kind of matches they enjoy. With fans finally making their way back to arenas, it’s about time WWE started listening to what they want…