WWE Hell In A Cell 2021 (Cert 15)
1 DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 157 minutes approx.
Release Date: August 9th
No, we haven’t jumped forward a few months, rather WWE decided to bring forward its annual cage match event because….well, because Vince. Destined to be the last PPV held in the Thunderdome before fans are allowed back into the arenas in person, I can only surmise they wanted to end his era on a bang rather than a whimper.
This card underwent a small change before it aired, namely the Universal Title match between Roman Reigns and Rey Mysterio Cell match which was taken off the show and moved to Smackdown two night before. It is not clear why this was, the only suggestion being Vince wanted to hurt AEW’s ratings as their flagship show Dynamite was on a Friday due to basketball taking its regular Wednesday night slot.
Of course, it is not about hurting the other guy as Vince likes to point out. Anyway, you can see this match in the extras of this DVD release. But with this bout removed from the PPV, the Cell gimmick was shifted to the SD Women’s Title match instead, and personally, this was a move for the best.
Held on June 20th at the WWE Thunderdome located inside the Yuengling Centre in Tampa, Florida with loads of fans watching via LCD monitors. Commentary is provided by Michael Cole and Pat McAfee for SD and Jimmy Smith, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton for RAW.
Onto the matches and as always no results spoilers (well, actually there are a couple this time) but plenty of opinion and backstories!
Hell In A Cell SD Women’s Title Match – Bianca Belair (c) vs. Bayley
Having bested Bayley at Wrestlemania Backlash this meant Bianca had wins over SD’s two top talents in the women’s division back to back. With no other viable contenders and with WWE booking making no sense, Bayley gets another title shot despite losing her first match. Not much of a set up for this rematch either, with Bayley claiming Bianca cheated by using her hair and Bianca challenged her to shut her up.
In a rare moment of continuity, Bianca’s hair became a focal point of Bayley’s offence, using it to tie her foe up in the ropes with it to gain the advantage, something which Bianca’s opponents should do more often since she has it set in a handy (very long) pony tail. This wasn’t the only offence in which was a hard fought and hard hitting match with some call-backs to Bayley’s cell match against Sasha Banks last year, but this time the spots worked! Great way to open the show.
Seth Rollins vs. Cesaro
Ceasro finally got his big moment by defeating Seth at Wrestlemania 37 then beat Seth again to earn the Universal Title match at Backlash, at the end of which Rollins attacked Cesaro, injuring his arm. The sneak attacks continued on SD until this match was booked to give Cesaro a chance at revenge.
With WWE’s penchant for 50/50 booking and Cesaro having two wins over Seth already, it is hardly a surprise how this would turn out. One would hope the recent momentum Cesaro enjoyed would mean his current push was actually serious, but with Vince in charge, hopes are easily crushed. Good match again, well worked but not on the level of their WM 37 bout.
Alexa Bliss vs. Shayna Baszler
In any other world, this would the epitome of a “forgone conclusion” but Vince is booking so… Anyway, since inheriting Bray Wyatt’s supernatural powers and The Fiend having disappeared after his loss to Randy Orton at WM 37, Alexa introduced her new friend an ugly doll named Lily, whom she blames for all the chaos she causes. Like most people, Shayna thought Lily was stupid and stomped on her, upsetting Alexa who would set off fire during Shayna’s matches or hypnotise Reginald to distract her.
But it was Lily who got revenge by spooking Shayna out backstage, meaning the tough former cage fighter and 2 time NXT Women’s champion is scared of a stuffed toy. To be fair, the wrestling in this match – what there was of it – was competent but it was pretty much a backdrop for Alexa’s voodoo daftness – i.e. her laughing off Shayna’s offence and hypnotising Nia Jax and Reginald at ringside. Well, at least Vince finds it amusing…
Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens
Rock vs. Triple H, Flair vs. Steamboat, Misawa vs. Kawada – we’ve all lost count of how many matches these pairings have had, and we can add Owens vs. Zayn to that list. They have been feuding on and off since 2003, from IWS in the Canadian indies to PWG, ROH ( as Kevin Steen vs. El Generico), NXT, and now WWE in the US. And they’re STILL at it!
This is a rematch of a rematch following Owens’ win at WM 37 and a subsequent count out victory on SD, yet this came about after Owens was injured by Commander Azeez, the big chap in Apollo Crews’ corner and Sami decided to take advantage of this. Usual good stuff from them but psychologically different because of Owens selling the throat injury giving Sami something of an advantage, which has been rare in their feud.
RAW Women’s Title Match – Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair
More wacky booking here as Rhea retained the title at Backlash in a triple threat match by pinning Asuka (of course) then Asuka and Charlotte would face off again on RAW in a match which Asuka won. They had another match which Charlotte won but instead of a rubber match, they simply gave the title shot to Charlotte! It’s like someone on the booking team is favouring her over the other women or something.
Now, I make it policy not to discuss the results but in this case it is sadly necessary to do so in order understand why I rag on the booking so much. They were having a good match that might have rivalled their show-stealing WM 36 match when rhea hit Charlotte with the cardboard mantel of the announce table and was subsequently DQ’d! Years of people going through tables with no recourse and a bop with a bit of decoration was a DQ? God forbid Charlotte actually puts someone over not named Becky Lynch unless that is being saved for the rematch but wow, way to ruin a good match.
Hell In A Cell WWE Title Match – Bobby Lashley (c) vs. Drew McIntyre
Speaking of bad finishes, Vince strikes again with this match. The selling point for this latest rematch for Drew is he will never be able to challenge for the title again whilst Lashley is champ. This usually means the babyface goes over and Drew would get the belt back but Vince actually seems to be behind Lashley this time and is giving him a good run with the title so all bets are off.
These two have faced off many times before now, so we get the usual big hoss clash but this time with added weapons like kendo sticks, chairs, ring steps, and tables. Regarding the last one, the unfortunate camera shot of the ring crew rearranging the broken table Drew went through from the original broadcast has been edited out here.
Anyway, the whole point of the Cell is to keep people from interfering so of course we get a ref bump which allows MVP to join the match and serve as a distraction – for a roll up pin! Yup, this brutal bout in which two men nearly kill each other (Drew’s back was a mess from the Kendo stick shots) ends with such an anti climatic move. Ye gads!
One can’t help but wonder how different this show would have been had it taken place in its regular October spot, although knowing Vince’s love of repetition, the card would probably be the same! The cell was traditionally a way to end feuds, like the cage match was in the old days, and maybe it was moved to facilitate the end of Drew McIntyre’s main event run, which, aside from Owens vs. Zayn, is the longest running programme here.
As I mentioned at the start of this review, maybe Vince wanted a spectacle to close the Thunderdome era and felt this would be better than Money In The Bank (especially after last year’s abject failure or pre-filming it). Did they achieve this? Well, opinions will vary but no-one can argue that the booking was once again terrible leaving a bad taste in our mouths and a million questions in our heads.
Maybe as this was the last time Vince knew he could pull off this kind of crap that he brought the show forward knowing full well live crowds would reject the nonsensical frippery he had planned. Then again, Vince has never let fan opinion dictate his booking before so why change now?
If we’ve learned anything from this show, it is the Cell gimmick has lost its gravitas and should be dropped as an annual PPV event, and only brought out of the mothballs to end a heated feud as it once designed to do. The rest of card saw the wrestlers work hard as usually but really, they could have waited for the next show or run them on TV.
Should Hell In A Cell as a PPV concept end here, it would be a mercy killing.
Best match – Bianca Belair vs. Bayley
Smackdown June 18th 2021 – Hell In A Cell Universal Title Match – Roman Reigns (c) vs. Rey Mysterio
Rating – ***
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