Only four matches were advertised for this show – Universal Championship, RAW Women’s Championship, SmackDown Women’s Championship, and Roman Reigns & Daniel Bryan vs Erick Rowan & Luke Harper. A couple of hours before the Kickoff, WWE announced four more – Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross versus Kabuki Warriors for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships, The Viking Raiders plus a mystery partner vs The OC, Chad Gable vs Baron Corbin, and Natalya vs Lacey Evans (on the Kickoff show). They also announced the Reigns & Bryan tag match will take place under Tornado Tag rules.
Natalya def. Lacey Evans
Becky Lynch def. Sasha Banks
Roman Reigns & Daniel Bryan def. Erick Rowan & Luke Harper
Randy Orton def. Ali
Kabuki Warriors def. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross
The Viking Raider & Braun Strowman def. The OC
Chad Gable def. Baron Corbin
Charlotte Flair def. Bayley
The Fiend def. Seth Rollins (Referee Stoppage, no title change)
Going into this, it felts a bit pedestrian. We’ve seen most of these matches, or variations of them, in the last couple of weeks.
The Kickoff Show was the usual mix of interviews and chatter. Charly Caruso and Booker T were great, Coach is Coach, and Sam Roberts was there as well. An extra match was set, Ali vs Randy Orton, and everyone interviewed was very confident in their ability to win.
Lacey Evans vs Natalya – Kickoff Show
Natalya and Evans performed to a mostly empty arena. The match was put on twenty minutes into the Kickoff, while most people were still queuing. It was probably their best match to date. Evans did some damage to Natalya’s leg with the help of the steps and tried to strangle her with the ring apron. All of which we saw picture in picture while they advertised the cell matches.
Evans kept working Natalya’s leg over and was in complete control until she tried to put Natalya in a Sharpshooter, twice. The first time Natalya kicked her away. The second time she kicked her out of the ring. Evans rallied and went to the top for her moonsault (which is a pretty moonsault even if the landing didn’t quite go right), but she missed and Natalya locked in the Sharpshooter. Lacey Evans tapped. After the match, Natalya gave Evans a Woman’s Right of her own.
Later in the show, WWE announced Natalya and Lacey Evans would do it all over again for the 5198449327 time, but this time in a Last Woman Standing match.
Becky Lynch (C) vs Sasha Banks – Hell in a Cell match for the RAW Women’s Championship
It shouldn’t have been as much of a surprise as it was that this opened the show. There was never any question that Seth Rollins vs The Fiend would main event. I have to say, it’s great to have the pyro back, it really enhances the feel.
Sasha Banks went for Becky Lynch while the cell was still being lowered and slammed her into it before rolling them underneath. The cage was lowered with them outside and Banks left Lynch laying and got in. She probably shouldn’t have got so close while Lynch was struggling to her feet, because she took a cage door in the face. Becky Lynch stole the chain they were going to use to lock the door and hot Banks in the stomach with it. The door eventually got chained shut, by Lynch.
They made really good use of the cell and all the toys inside it. We got a street fight inside a TLC match inside a cell. They both favour using a chair, and faces and bodies met the cell mesh too many times to count. Banks even managed to trap Lynch’s arm in the chained shut door and slam it several times.
Banks looked to be out after having her face smashed into a chair a couple of times, but she kicked out. Lynch went to the top and dropkicked a chair into Banks, but still she kicked out.
The kendo sticks came out at around the twenty-minute mark. Banks set them up across the corner, and it was her face that was driven into them. Lynch then reconfigured them and added a chair. She sat Banks on the chair the dropkicked her in the chest, into the corner of the cage, from the apron. That still wasn’t the end. Lynch went through a table and was choked with a kendo stick, and thrown into a chair sticking out of the cell, and that still wasn’t the end.
The end came after Sasha Banks piled chairs into the ring. She spent too much time posing and when she went to the top Becky Lynch delivered a Bexploder onto the pile of chairs and tapped her out with a Dis-Arm-Her.
Roman Reigns & Daniel Bryan vs Erick Rowan & Luke Harper
Tornado tag rules, for anyone needing a reminder, means everyone in at the same time, and the match must finish by pin or submission in the ring. So it was chaos from the off and it mostly stayed that way. Every so often there was a bit of one on one, but it was mostly chaos.
Not that that’s a bad thing. Rowan and Harper are a cohesive team and Luke Harper has come back in great shape. They tried to take Reigns down so they could focus on Bryan, with very limited success.
Luke Harper hurt himself on a suicide dive. He hit his head on the announce desk, but he got up and carried on after a few moments. Reigns got powered over the barricade by Rowan, using another section of barricade. The first announce desk of the night went when Reigns got back up and speared Rowan onto it. Daniel Bryan kicked out of a sit-out powerbomb from the second turnbuckle.
It finished with a superman punch, running knee, spear combo from Reigns and Bryan on Luke Harper.
That match was much more entertaining than I expected it to be. I hope WWE eventually realise how good Luke Harper is.
Once it was over Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan stared each other down. Bryan offered a handshake, then took it away and got the crowd to chant yes for a hug. Reigns turned away, Bryan hammed it up a bit more, and they hugged and shook hands.
Randy Orton vs Ali
A nice last-minute addition, for Ali, not Orton. Randy Orton wanted to ‘put the upstart in his place’ and show Ali who still runs the locker room. He succeeded in running the majority of the match, slowing the pace and keeping Ali grounded and winded. When Ali got away from him then we saw the flashes of brilliance we’d expect, and a few near falls as well, but he didn’t get away often enough.
Ali countered the RKO and ended up on his feet, which was awesome, and nearly got a roll-up win. Unfortunately, he wasn’t quick enough to counter the second one and Orton pinned him.
I’m not sure what a Randy Orton victory here achieves in the long term.
Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross (C) vs Kabuki Warriors – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship match
This one started quick and carried on that way. Bliss turned Cross trapping Asuka in the ring skirt into a double team, with a baseball slide.
Kairi Sane’s cheeky eye poke on Nikki Cross cost her a pinning opportunity. Cross tried to get into the ring to get at her, and Sane had Bliss covered while the ref was dealing with her.
Nikki Cross got her feet up for the InSane Elbow and would have pinned Sane with an elevated neckbreaker, had Asuka not got there just in time. Asuka and Cross have a great history, that commentary didn’t really allude to.
After Bliss took Sane down on the outside, Nikki Cross peered over the ropes to check on her. When she turned around, Asuka sprayed her with green mist and pinned her. New champs.
The OC vs The Viking Raiders & Braun Strowman
Honestly, I was expecting Cedric Alexander or maybe Ricochet, so Braun Strowman turning up changed the match completely. Jerry Lawler squawking in surprise as Ivar went to the top turnbuckle suggested he’s never seen a Viking Raiders match before.
Strowman was taken out for a while by Luke Gallows pulling him off the apron and kicking him in the head, but he was back when Erik needed him and came in to demolish everyone.
See, I’m struggling for stuff to say here. There’s no context for this match. The Viking Raiders and the Gallows & Anderson part of The OC are fighting for supremacy within the tag division. Adding Styles and Strowman just muddies that.
Anyway, it ended up in a disqualification when The OC ganged up on Strowman and wouldn’t stop. Tandem suicide dives from The Viking Raiders post-match, took out Gallows and Anderson and left Styles and Strowman alone. Styles went for the Phenomenal Forearm and Strowman punched him out of the air.
Styles had to be practically carried out of the arena by the rest of The OC.
Street Profits had a backstage segment to advertise the Draft Showcase on RAW. They were interrupted by R-Truth and Carmella, and Tamina pinning Carmella for the 24/7 title (I thought she lost that). Tamina was approached by Tyler Breeze, she punched him in the face and ran off with the title. Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins sent Carmella and R-Truth off in different directions and sang the segment out. That was a lot in a short space of time.
‘King’ Baron Corbin vs Chad Gable
I can’t even begin to pretend to care about this match. This show is long and I’m tired, can we skip it and get to The Fiend? Chad Gable has been so devalued at this point that he needs a spectacular statement match to remind everyone he’s actually extremely talented. Corbin has done such a fantastic job of making himself thoroughly unlikeable, that I just don’t want to watch him at all.
Corbin said a lot of stuff before the match. Stuff about him being brilliant and Gable being short… just stuff. He christened Gable ‘Shorty Gable’. It pissed Gable off and he started with fire. An unfortunate encounter with a ringpost put Corbin in control though.
It was a match. It finished when the ref was trying to stop Corbin using his sceptre and Gable rolled him up and pinned him. His victory was announced as Shorty Gable.
Seriously, that could have been done with inside five minutes and lost nothing.
Tamina reappeared during Bayley’s match entrance and took Funaki hostage to keep R-Truth away. Eventually, she threw Funaki at him, took a superkick from Carmella, and Truth pinned her before running off with Carmella on his back. Corey Graves never misses an opportunity to mention the fact he’s with Carmella, this time it was a comment about finally being able to sleep tonight now she’s not the champ.
Bayley (C) vs Charlotte Flair – SmackDown Women’s Championship match
Charlotte Flair had Bayley in a Boston crab for an uncomfortably long time early on. Bayley responded by raking Flair’s eyes as soon as she got free, making her intentions very clear. She was going to do whatever it takes, legal or otherwise.
Flair picked up a leg injury during the match, then slammed Bayley’s leg into the ringpost and spent some time working it over, just to make sure Bayley was more severely impaired. She went back to the leg throughout the match.
Natural Selection would have got Flair the win if Bayley hadn’t been able to get a hand to the ropes. Bayley tried to use the ropes as leverage for a pin and got caught. She took a big boot from Flair while arguing with the ref and found herself tapping out in the Figure Eight.
Charlotte Flair is now Ten Time Women’s Champion.
Bayley lost the plot at ringside after the match and her a temper tantrum before sinking to the floor in tears. I’m invested in the story but if she could have her breakdown backstage, that would be fab. This show has been on for a week and there’s still another match. Interestingly, Sasha Banks didn’t come to comfort her best friend, but maybe she’s still being patched up.
Backstage Chad Gable had an interview about how pleased he was to have won, then immediately got laid out by Corbin when he rounded the corner.
Seth Rollins (C) vs The Fiend – Hell in a Cell match for the Universal Championship
In Rollins’ backstage interview earlier in the show, he seemed uncharacteristically subdued. He added an ‘I hope so’ qualifier to his assertions of victory, which is a dangerous mindset going into a cell match against whatever hell-creature The Fiend is supposed to be.
Pretty much everything about the Firefly Fun House/Fiend material has been perfectly pitched and the ring entrance is no exception, but that’s where it got weird.
I’m not convinced the red lighting was a good plan. It was eerie, but uncomfortable and hard to focus. I know I missed bits of the match because I had to look away.
All manner of toys got used in the process of mutual brutalisation, including the mallet Bray Wyatt flattened Ramblin Rabbit with. The Fiend did the creepy and ill-advised-looking neck snap he did to Balor. But it was just a very red version of a standard kind of Hell in a Cell match until we approached the end.
Rollins delivered three stomps in a row and the crowd started booing. They cheered when The Fiend got up, then booed everything Rollins did from that point on. Ten or so Stomps and a Pedigree, and The Fiend was still kicking out at one. A chair and a ladder in the face, and that made it two.
Rollins looked like he was running out of ideas. He emptied everything from under the ring and buried The Fiend with a chair and ladder and hit him with a toolbox. Finally, Rollins pulled out a Triple H style sledgehammer but the ref pleaded with him not to use it. He did it anyway, and the ref called for the bell to end the match and raise the cage. I’m guessing they’ll call it a referee’s stoppage, the crowd called it Bullshit, loudly and for an extended period of time, then an AEW chant broke out.
Rollins went and stood over The Fiend for no fathomable reason and The Fiend got him in the Mandible Claw. The medics scattered and the crowd chanted for them to restart the match. Rollins took a Sister Abigail on the concrete after The Fiend pulled back the ringside matting, then a final Mandible Claw saw fake blood spilling out of Rollins’ mouth.
So much booing. So very much booing. Looking through Twitter at some of the fan videos, the booing continued long after the show went off air.
Some of the PPV delivered and some of it was exceptional, but the bits that didn’t work made it drag. The main event was too many types of weird and not all of them good weird. I didn’t hate it as much as the live crowd, but it was really very silly. The over-advertising of the draft and the new battle for brand supremacy got wearing. We get it, it all changes next week.
I want to talk about the main event… but I’m not going to because I still have no idea how to unpick that confused mess of stuff. I’m interested to see how Rollins deals with getting the crap booed out of him when he was supposed to be fighting for his very existence.
The saddest thing is that everyone will be talking about the main when Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks had the match of the night and one of the best cell matches in recent memory.