Hell in a Cell. That phrase used to strike worry in competitor’s hearts and intrigue in fans’ minds. Eventually, the hallowed match that changed so many careers would become an annual event. Not just a match, but it’s own damn event. This is where the problems begin. When the HIAC would be announced it would be at a time where a feud had reached its violent apex. It was to be the be all end all and put an end to a blood feud.
Now that we know there will be a HIAC PPV each and every fall, it takes the luster off of the match itself. Now it’s just another gimmick in the McMahon toybox. What used to be a marquee career-changing match, is just another date on the calendar. The 2018 rendition of the HIAC event only added to the negatives. There were two matches inside the Cell in the card, Reigns vs Strowman, and Hardy vs Orton. Now, I consider them negatives for two completely different reasons.
I’ll tackle the Orton/Hardy bout first as it actually kicked off the main card. On this show, there were matches that truly felt like they NEEDED to be in the cell, and others were just there. The Orton/Hardy feud had little heat to it and in no way needed to be inside the structure. It truly felt like Jeff may be getting closer to the end of his career and he’s never been inside the Cell, so let’s toss him a bone.
Now don’t get me wrong, Orton and Hardy went in and had a hell of a match and they really set a great tone for the main card. Those two used psychology, storytelling and all the plunder fans could dream of. But the lead up to this battle in no way felt like it needed to be settling inside one of the most dangerous structures in wrestling history.
In the past, we saw the Cell used as a way to end a feud that seemingly would leave the wrestlers changed forever. On the 20th anniversary of the match, we look back at the battles between the Undertaker and Mick Foley. These two beat the living hell out of each other and the only way it seemed we may get a winner, was inside the Devil’s Playground. Foley would actually play a part in the evening’s proceedings, but more on that later.
As for Reigns and Strowman, I just have no idea what the plan was here. We all expected the interference from each side but that is all well and good, IT’S NO DQ!! But for some reason, once the train was full of the rails the WWE seemingly forgot that minor fact. In no way should this match have ended in a No Contest. It shouldn’t matter what weapons were used, how many people got involved or what the condition of the wrestler is. Barring an actual legit injury, the match is supposed to go on.
Brock Lesnar would make an appearance, which let’s be honest, is a miracle. But his involvement is what truly sent the main event haywire. He would kick his way into the Cell and attack both Strowman and Reigns. This would be enough for the ref to just call off the match and send the fans home unhappy. This match has always been used to get a definitive winner, and on this night the refs tried their damnedest to make sure that didn’t happen. Earlier in the night, the ref tried to call off the Orton/Hardy match as well.
Calling back to that Foley/Taker HIAC, Mick was tossed off the top and through the ceiling of the cage, and though they teased ending it (and some may have been legit, Mick continued. The match had a definitive winner as Undertaker eventually put Foley away.
In the first ever HIAC match Shawn Michaels took on Undertaker, once again in a feud that needed a blowoff of this magnitude. Shawn was wearing the “crimson mask” and the ref never once thought of stopping it. Kane would make his debut and attack the Undertaker at a point as well, the ref never thought of stopping it. That is what the Hell in a Cell is missing in 2018. A feud that truly feels like the Cell is the only way to end the rivalry, and respect for its history and, well, logic.
Looking back at the 2018 Hell in a Cell event there were absolutely matches that deserved to be inside the Hell in a Cell. Those matches are Becky Lynch vs Charlotte and AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe. These four have told such a great story going into this show that their feuds not only could’ve benefited, but majorly elevated as well.
Becky and Charlotte have had an amazing back and forth of physicality and verbal barbs that I had this match booked for the Cell. AJ and Joe have taken things to another level. These are two guys that have years of experience together and what they could’ve done inside the Cell would’ve been magic.
It’s clear that neither match was in the Cell due to their already advertised rematches and upcoming major events. But having the matches they did inside the Cell served no purpose at all, and two major matches that could’ve truly benefited from it weren’t given the chance.
I hope one day that the Hell in a Cell goes back to being a big-time, big fight feel match that settles feuds that have escalated beyond a normal match. Being an annual event just tarnishes the legacy in my personal view. We more often than not will have matches that have no need being in the structure just to fill the match card. Overall I enjoyed the Hell in a Cell show. But I don’t have much optimism for the future of the most dangerous structure in pro wrestling.