By Matt Straub
The Hell in a Cell Pay-Per View card took one of the biggest beatings Brad and I have ever delivered last week during our preview for the show. We hated most of the matches and the stories which got us to them were weak at best. The show itself absolutely crushed our low expectations as a wrestling event, but strange logic in the booking and the lack of forethought in some places really hurt some wrestlers.
While the matches themselves were almost all fun to watch, the results helped a few men and crushed some other’s pushes for good. Let’s take a look at who left Detroit feeling good about their future and who might be waiting a while for another turn on PPV.
Shane McMahon: The fans never get sick of seeing the crazy man do insane things, and they went home happy after Shane-O Mac threw himself off the Hell in a Cell again. Even though you know it’s coming, and I personally have seen enough of it, the fans always enjoy when he goes flying. Just thank God he continues to hit the table correctly and always ends up OK. What anyone gained from the spectacle is beyond me, but Shane always delivers for the fans.
Jinder Mahal: It’s hard not to be considered a winner when you end the night holding the most important belt in the company. The Raw champion is always the No. 1 guy, but Mahal’s strap has the lineage. Considering Mahal’s own history, he should just be glad to have consistent work, never mind the title. He’s a benefit of circumstance, but has done well with the chance he was given, even if it makes no sense. He’ll never be able to make people forget how bad his character used to be, but he has turned into a surprisingly decent champion in the ring itself.
Baron Corbin: His career seemed to be all but over after he lost the Money in the Bank briefcase. He got new life, however, and now has a title and a ready-made feud with A.J. Styles to run with. He’ll probably lose the belt back to Styles down the line, but he has a belt and a future in the company, something which didn’t seem certain a few months ago. He was also engaging on Talking Smack after the show, so perhaps he’ll get to show a bit of personality in the future. There’s a path to recovery for him now which didn’t seem to exist a few months ago.
Sami Zayn: Speaking of people who randomly got pushes, Zayn’s appearance in the main event likely means he’ll be a prominent part of the company’s plans going forward. It might not be too big a win, since the payoff match would either be against Shane or a plummeting Kevin Owens, but anytime you’re involved in the main event of the PPV, it’s a good night.
The Usos: Not only did they win the feud with the New Day, but they did so in impressive fashion. I’m usually hard on them, but they were absolutely fantastic in the opening match and deserve credit for it. They ruined a lot of the good will they’d gained by talking into microphones during the postgame show, but their work in the match was representative of the whole roster Sunday in that it was surprisingly good. It’s hard to see exactly where they go from here, but they deserve to enjoy their performance for a bit first. The opening match on the card was that good.
Kevin Owens: This isn’t to take anything from Owens himself. He worked hard in the main event, selling well and telling a good story throughout. His facial expressions alone made the story flow, which is something WWE performers don’t do enough of. It’s fine to do all your moves, but if your match doesn’t have a story there’s no reason for any of the rest of it. Unfortunately, Owens now owns a cheap win over a non-wrestler and an inexplicable story with Zayn going forward. The setup of the match left no good outcome for Owens, but he made the best he could out of the trash he was given.
Bobby Roode: WWE needed to make Roode look like a million bucks right away at Hell in a Cell. Roode isn’t a spring chicken and can’t afford to be wasting time with a slow build. Throw in how much the fans wanted to cheer for him, and a victory gained by pulling tights makes no sense. Even worse, he was left laying when the match was over. This was to keep the story going with Dolph Ziggler, but Roode looked anything but strong by the time his first PPV was over.
Tye Dillinger: He had been involved in the build for the U. S. title match, but not as a competitor, which means he didn’t get sold to the audience the way the original participants did. By being added to the match during the show itself he still gets to appear on a PPV, but doesn’t build his brand in the process. His work in the match, which seemed off as well, didn’t do him much good, either. Styles is going to fight Corbin next, meaning Dillinger was just a vehicle to get to that match without having Styles be pinned.
New Day: Putting them as losers after a phenomenal performance In a match of the year candidate seems harsh, but if their feud with the Usos really is over, then where does the New Day go from here? The rest of the tag team division on Smackdown is weak, and New Day doesn’t have the easy vehicle of the belts to help make whatever is next feel interesting. Their effort was great. Their future isn’t.
Natalya: It’s hard for a champion who retains the title to be a loser, but she managed. She had to cheat just to keep the belt, but did so without even earning a cheap win. The finish only further drove home how weak she is and that it’s a matter of time before Charlotte beats her for the belt. She’s a placeholder champion, and not a good one at that. When a great heel cheats to keep the belt, they make you invest in wanting to see them get beat. Charlotte’s dad is the best ever at this. When Natalya got DQ’d on purpose to keep the belt, it just made us groan knowing she’ll be in another big match.
Shinsuke Nakamura: This isn’t a time where you want to be saved for last, but the “Artist” closes this column by being the biggest loser. After so much hype, Nakamura’s push seemed to reach its final resting place Sunday with a clean loss to a horrible champion. Without an obvious way to get him a rematch or a clear feud to turn to, the man I once thought had a huge Wrestlemania match coming feels in danger of being totally lost in the shuffle. He’s not getting released anytime soon, but his chance to be champion before Wrestlemania is gone.