Matthew Roberts takes a look at the latest release from WWE Home Video, Hell In A Cell 2018, and sees if it’s worth your pocket money.
I’m not a fan of “themed” PPV’s as such. It’s not the principle, but what it becomes to mean if they are run as annual events. A climactic, feud-ending, brilliant gimmick match becomes watered down. It’s not time for Hell in A Cell because two of the biggest stars in the company are coming to the end of an episodic feud that must be settled in a match where there can only be one winner. No, it’s time for Hell In A Cell because it’s September and the next event has that name.
2018’s show was a case in point. Whilst in some ways, Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman was one of the biggest matches the WWE could put on, it never felt like their feud had reached the point where the only way it could be resolved was to stick them in the cell. The addition of Mick Foley as guest referee seemed to be an admission of that. Sending out Drew McIntyre, Dolph Ziggler, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose out to brawl/take bumps/waste time at ringside seemed to be another admission of that. Brock Lesnar making a very surprise return was perhaps the ultimate admission of that. Which was a pity. For the first half of the match, Reigns and Strowman were having a perfectly acceptable match that could have built to something really rather good. But once the cast of thousands ran in and we were treated to a no-contest finish, any goodwill had long dissipated. Every time a gimmick match of this nature ends like that, a little more of its special status dwindles away.
The evening’s other Cell match, the opener between Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton had a different set of problems. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t really have cared less about seeing these two go one-on-one again prior to the show. The match seemed a very lazy way of satisfying two veterans with their place on the card at the expense, and stop me if you’ve heard this one before, of anybody under the age of 35 having a chance of doing something that might get them over. But against all the odds (from my point of view) this was a very good match. Sure, it was less of a Cell match than it was a Hardcore match that happened to be in a cell but the physicality and brutality that was on display was very effective and made for quite the different experience than what you’d expect from a “normal” match between the two. I’d love to think what the WWE’s “PG” sponsors thought of that screwdriver spot…
If the Cell matches were batting on a 0.50 average the, the undercard certainly smashed a few more home runs.
The Raw Tag Team Championship match pitting Ziggler and McIntyre against Ambrose and Rollins was one of the best WWE matches of the year, and one of the best tag team matches the company have put on in even longer. Given 20+ minutes to play with the quartet proved they were up to the task, assembling a hot, tight tag match that had the crowd at fever pitch throughout and STILL managed to pull them in even more in the closing sequences. All four put in the kind of performances that should make those who book the matches sit up and notice.
AJ Styles and Samoa Joe couldn’t quite match that tag match but they nevertheless put together a strong match; not that you would expect anything less from two stellar wrestlers with such a long history between themselves. But much like the main event, this was a match that was designed to prolong a feud rather than end one. The way they did that was classic old school wrestling (did Styles tap before Joe was pinned?) and not something I would complain about but this made the whole experience seem like nothing more than a stop-gap, or prelude to what was to come. Still, you’d could take a match between these two any day of the week and not be remotely bored with it.
The Women got their chance in the spotlight on this card too, with two (and a half) matches that had been essentially borne out of SummerSlam. Charlotte defending her Smackdown Women’s Championship against the person whose limelight she “stole” at SS, Becky Lynch, was an obvious, if slightly rushed match with or without the “heel turn” by Becky the month previously that had proved to be absolutely nothing of the sort. If the WWE were really listening to the fans they could have played up on Charlotte’s “tweener” status, having her insist Carmella deserved her rematch at a PPV and holding off this match until it could have been an integral part of Evolution. But even hinting that Charlotte is a heel (even though she is FAR better in that role) obviously didn’t fit into longer-term plans. At least the WWE went the right route, finally, here with Becky picking up the win in a good match to lift the title. But whilst it was well received by the fans, as you’d expect, I’d still argue the moment would have been much bigger and more significant if held off until Evolution.
There was less reason for Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey to have a rematch with her vanquished SummerSlam opponent Alexa Bliss. After the destruction of Alexa at that show it was inconceivable she had any chance here, even with Mickie James and Alicia Fox providing back up. At least the WWE had the sense to run an angle on the previous Raw of Alexa injuring Ronda’s ribs, giving the former champion at least a reason for being able to show some form of dominance at any point over her opponent. It wasn’t to last of course, and in the end Ronda wrapped up a conclusive victory.
The other match on the undercard was a mixed match pitting The Miz and Maryse against Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella. Even with Miz and Bryan in there I wasn’t expecting too much but whilst it was probably still “worst match of the night” that isn’t to say that it was without merit. They kept Maryse and Brie’s involvement to a minimum and the win for the heels kept the momentum of the feud going.
For all the faults with the main event (which were certainly not the fault of the two participants) Hell In A Cell remains one of the best shows the WWE have put on in 2018. Perhaps it was missing another real stand out match alongside the Raw Tag team titles match to elevate it even higher, but there was plenty of excitement, action and even a little bit of storyline advancement on show and this is an event well worth a second look.
The Kickoff match between The New Day and Rusev & Aiden English is included on the set and even this is worth another watch; the only criticism you can have of it is that it was pretty much a match that could, and should, have been on the main show!
Format reviewed: DVD
Photos courtesy of Fetch and WWE.
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy of Hell In A Cell 2018 which is out on DVD Monday 29 October. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk now by clicking here