We are days away from Hell in a Cell. Last week saw several matches announced and storylines advanced – how would this week’s show add to the hype and build for Sunday’s signature event? Let’s find out:
Shinsuke Nakamura Interview
After a recap of last week when Nakamura finally cut off Jinder Mahal’s series of borderline racist promos, the show kicks off with Renee Young interviewing the King of Strong Style. Nakamura does his full entrance, much to the delight of the crowd (numbers seemingly up on the last few weeks). Renee only gets two questions in before the Singh Brothers interrupt to introduce Jinder Mahal. The champ does not appear on the ramp, however, instead jumping Shinsuke from behind. Much like last week, the challenger quickly fights the champ off. The Singhs restore the advantage before Mahal delivers a botchy version of the Khalas (even if delivered correctly, I don’t see that as a devastating finisher strong enough to lay someone out). Jinder stands tall as the segment ends. He later cuts a backstage promo that adds exactly nothing new to what we have already seen and heard.
Charlotte & Becky Lynch v. Natalya & Carmella
Remember when we used to see Becky Lynch fighting in (and usually winning) singles matches every week? Well, as we are now used to, she only gets TV time here as an extra player in the build to Hell in a Cell. Backstage, we see Natalya give an overly-scripted warning to Carmella not to attempt a cash in tonight or at the PPV. The match begins with Becky and Carmella in the ring and the babyfaces in control. The match goes into the corner of the screen as we enter a commercial break and the heels soon gain the advantage, isolating Becky and beating her down. A hot tag to Charlotte inevitably comes and she unloads on Natalya with chops, drawing huge ‘woo!’ shouts from the crowd. A vicious spear nearly wins the match for Charlotte but she gets distracted by Carmella attacking Becky with the Money in the Bank briefcase. Natalya hits her from behind and then makes her tap to the sharpshooter. Winners: Natalya and Carmella
Mike Kanellis v. Bobby Roode
A strong sense of déjà vu for this match as Bobby Roode returns to in-ring action. We also learn Maria Kanellis is expecting a child, which perhaps explains why we haven’t seen much of the power couple since their big arrival at Battleground. The match lasts all of two minutes until Roode lands the Glorious DDT after a huge ‘glorious!’ pop from the crowd. Post-match Dolph Ziggler comes out to make an ass of himself by trying out different entrances – no mimics this time (much to the disappointment of the crowd who are chanting for the Show Off to do a CM Punk entrance), just a siren and a big bass drum. He tells Roode he is nothing more than an entrance and he will show him up when the bell rings on Sunday (again, ignoring the fact that Dolph hasn’t been in a TV match for ages). Bobby Roode responds with one more ‘glorious!’ pop and pose, and that’s it for an underwhelming segment. Winner: Bobby Roode
The Usos Promo
The Usos cut another well-rehearsed promo comparing Hell in a Cell to The Uso Penitentiary and reading the New Day their ‘rights.’. A big part of the reason this rivalry has been able to go so long has been how strong both the Usos and the New Day are on the mic. The Usos are certainly much improved from when they were generic babyfaces. Unsurprisingly, the New Day cut them off and decide to talk about ‘lefts’ – how they have left everyone in awe and left the Usos lying on the mat. The Usos exit the ring and the segment ends much like the previous one did.
Tye Dillinger v. Baron Corbin
More déjà vu with a rematch from last week between the NXT alumni that quickly goes into PiP mode for commercials. Corbin dominates most of the match, cutting off Dillinger’s comeback attempts repeatedly. There is a surprise finish as the Perfect Ten steals a victory with a roll-up. AJ Styles then appears on the screen and calls out Corbin for his attitude, citing his recent failures to cash in Money in the Bank and beat John Cena at Summerslam. He says instead of taking shortcuts, he will get cut short. Winner: Tye Dillinger
Randy Orton v. Aiden English
Déjà vu is the theme of the night as we get another match we have seen more than once recently. Rusev kicks things off with a promo but, surprise, surprise, Randy Orton interrupts and the match begins. English gains the upper hand early on but, much like Mike Kanellis earlier, it doesn’t last long. An RKO Out of Nowhere gets Orton a quick win. He stares Rusev down to end yet another bland segment. Winner: Randy Orton
Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon Face-to-face
Earlier in the show, a hype package aired tracing the tension between KO and Shane right back to Owens’ arrival on SD Live and showing the evolution of their conflict over the last several weeks. Backstage, Sami Zayn tries to warn Shane that KO has snapped and is more dangerous than he has ever seen him. In the ring, Shane (with the crowd clearly behind him) calls out Owens, who does not appear. Shane calls him a coward and announces their match at Hell in a Cell will be a falls count anywhere match (hang on – I know these matches often find a way out of the Cell but doesn’t that stipulation contradict the entire point of this match?) Owens appears in the crowd and teases a fight before retreating. Shane says he will bring the fight to him and climbs through the stands only to get jumped in the lobby area. KO powerbombs him through a merchandise table (an almost botched move that does not get shown in the replay). He then heads to the ring to cut his own promo but Shane staggers back down the stairs. KO takes a few hits but soon lays Shane out with a headbutt and a pop-up powerbomb.
Not a great go home show. Last week was much better-paced and eventful but this week just seemed to keep the wheels spinning. No segments were awful but there were few high spots either. We had two squash matches and two matches that spent most of their time in commercial break. That would be fine if the promos and interview hit the mark but they didn’t. We just got predictable interruptions, a few traded barbs, and then both parties standing off. Perhaps this was intentional to make the final segment more impactful but even that failed to shock. Nothing of note was added to the PPV card except for a meaningless pre-show bout (Gable & Benjamin v. The Hype Bros), a delayed Fashion Files skit, and a match stipulation that makes you wonder why bother with Hell in a Cell in the first place. Smackdown has lost its momentum recently and this show has done little to help rectify that. Can they turn it round once HIAC is in the rear view mirror? We’ll find out next week.