WWE – Hell In A Cell 2022 (Cert 15)
1 Disc DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 165 minutes approx.
Forgive me for harping on about how WWE PLE’s are rematch city these days but it is hard to argue against this accusation when you have a card which features bouts we’ve already seen before ad nauseum or are a variation of a prior match to extend the feud. This year’s Hell In A Cell is guilty as charged on this front, whilst only the main event is contested inside the titular structure.
Part of the reason for this overly familiar card is what happened backstage ahead of the show and surprisingly not to do with the stale and uninspired creative, with the women’s title matches being compromised – one was changed the other dropped from the card completely.
It began on May 16th 2022, when Women’s tag champs Sasha Banks and Naomi showed up at RAW only to be told they would be part of a six-way match to determine Bianca Belair’s opponent at this PLE. Not only was Naomi was going to win to give Bianca a fresh match up and a credible victory (no way was Bianca losing yet) but she was to pin Sasha in doing so. Sasha was then due to win a match on Smackdown later that week to set her up as a challenger for Ronda Rousey on this card (also to lose).
Both were unhappy with this as they hoped to make the tag titles mean something per the promise made to them by Vince McMahon to compensate for Sasha being moved out of the match to face Charlotte Flair at Wrestlemania 38 by Rousey and Naomi not having a match at all on the show. They felt this would harm their standing as tag champs to lose in singles matches whilst Naomi pining Sasha was a greater insult.
Sasha and Naomi had a meeting with Vince and expressed their displeasure at this and he vowed to get the match changed. However, as RAW started airing live on TV, they found out this wasn’t the case as the original six-way match was promoted as still going ahead. So, Sasha and Naomi handed the tag belts to John Laryngitis and went home, never to be seen again. Rather than just replace them in the six way match, they changed the match and Vince threw a fit about having to do so while the show was already on air (which the does all the time by the way).
In typical Vince fashion, he instructed Corey Graves to bury the pair on air calling them unprofessional for not doing their jobs and had let the fans down. He then released a press statement to the same effect shortly afterwards (including a blatant lie about them considering their opponents unsafe), which Michael Cole reiterated on SD later in the week. Banks and Naomi were indefinitely suspended a week later. And you thought the chaos in the current UK government was bad?
Held on June 5th 2022, at the Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Illinois before 12,834 fans. Commentary is provided by Jimmy Smith, Byron Saxton, and Corey Graves, with Michael Cole for one match.
Onto the matches and as always no results spoilers since the DVD cover does that for me, but plenty of opinion.
RAW Women’s Title Triple Threat Match – Bianca Belair (c) vs. Becky Lynch vs. Asuka
So, Asuka finally returned from almost a year away rehabbing an injury and made a beeline for Becky Lynch, who was moaning about not being champion and reignited their feud from 2020. Asuka also faced off in a non-title match against Belair which ended when Becky attacked both women. To replace the abandoned six-way match, Asuka defeated Becky to become the no 1 contender to Bianca, then the following week Lynch beat Asuka to make this match a triple threat.
We may have been denied a fresh match for Bianca on the one hand but on the other, we had this corker from three great talents so it’s all good. Fast paced action for almost 20 minutes straight, this was a mix of Bianca’s power moves and athletics, Asuka’s hard hitting Joshi style, and Becky’s opportunism and it worked well. Perhaps a little reliant on the old “one stays down, the other two fight” formula but all three gelled without issue. The finish wasn’t to my liking but made sense within the overall narrative of the Bianca vs. Becky feud.
Handicap Match – Bobby Lashley vs. Omos & MVP
No, I have no idea why this feud needs to continue but since Omos got the 50/50 win at Backlash here we are. A steel cage match on RAW saw Lashley get the rubber match victory but MVP wasn’t done, resulting in Lashley challenging MVP and the winner get to chose the stip for a final match against Omos. MVP won and chose a handicap match. Before this match, former Hurt Business member Cedric Alexander tried to curry favour with MVP and Omos but was sent packing. This would matter later on but was not furthered on TV.
Like pretty much every Omos match, it was down to his opponent and partner to make something out of it, which Lashley tried to do as even MVP is far from his glory days now after numerous injuries. Not intrinsically terrible, just an extended TV match at best though the crowd was into Lashley.
Kevin Owens vs. Ezekial
Remember Elias, the hirsute troubadour who would sing “songs” (i.e. – talk over the same three chords in the same key) on his acoustic guitar which would double as a weapon? Well, he disappeared over a year ago after a series of skits saw him visit his own grave but suddenly on RAW, his younger brother Ezekial showed up unannounced. Kevin Owens was sure this was actually Elias sans beard and long hair, whilst his ring gear was trunks and boots with Ultimate Warrior-style tassels on his arms.
Owens would get upset with Ezekial and put him through lie detector tests and disputed photographic evidence of him and Elias together, all leading to this match. To be honest, Elias was never that great in the ring yet Ezekial is an improvement in that respect, which may be down to the more comfortable ring gear, though his work doesn’t extend beyond generic at the moment. As dumb as this feud is – or maybe it’s great and I just don’t appreciate it – it only works because of Owens’s commitment to the charade.
AJ Styles, Finn Bálor, & Liv Morgan vs. The Judgement Day
Our next never ending feud with a twist is AJ Styles vs. Edge which saw Damien Priest join Edge at Wrestlemania 38, then Rhea Ripley at Backlash with this collective now known as The Judgement Day. Rhea’s joining would have actually been a shock had she not turned heel two weeks earlier. Since she and former tag partner/lover (well, they were always groping each other) Liv Morgan were now feuding, and Finn Bálor helped AJ out, this mixed tag match was inevitable.
Just don’t be too harsh on Rhea for her terrible ring gear – her new JD gear got lost in transit so she had to improvise. It’s also interesting how Rhea, who is huge compared to the other women, is dwarfed by Edge and Priest, killing her aura a little. Finally, Edge finally cut is long hair off, and now sports a short haircut which is just as funny! Match was fine as you might expect, with everyone working hard, sticking mostly to same gender pairings outside of a couple distraction spots. But are the JD a faction to be feared? We’ll have to wait and see.
No Holds Barred – Madcap Moss vs. Happy Corbin
The only Smackdown match on the show, it’s a rematch AND it features Corbin. Aren’t we just blessed? They even flew in the SD ring announcer Samantha Irvin and Michael Cole (but not Pat McAfee) for this one match. Why bother?
Anyway, I don’t recall what brought his about, I think Corbin Pillmanised Moss’s neck on SD sending him to hospital, only for Moss return two weeks later fully healed. Basically a lightweight hardcore match, they hit each other with stuff and rammed each other into other stuff, though I will concede the finish was inventive.
WWE US Title Match – Austin Theory (c) vs. Mustafa Ali
Yes, I know that the US champ was victim to Vince’s culling of first names (the edict is no-one can use their real names or what they used in other promotions before joining WWE) but just “Theory” is dumb, like just “Riddle” is dumb, so I’m sticking with the full name. So sue me.
Ali is the hometown hero and his family are at ringside so you know how this is going to turn out, but at least he was given a chance to shine against Theory first. I have to be honest, I am not getting what Vince sees in young Austin, and whilst I am all for WWE creating new stars, I can’t help but feel there are more worthy contenders, if only they weren’t burdened with stupid gimmicks and dumb name changes (*cough* Pete Dunne *cough*).
Hell In A Cell Match – Seth Rollins vs. Cody Rhodes
Oh boy. The news came out 24 hours before this show that Cody suffered a torn pec whilst weightlifting ahead of this third consecutive PLE clash with Rollins, which they even acknowledged at the start of this show. Cody being Cody said he would still work the match despite the severity of the injury and against the advice of everyone, but the choice was his and whether he made the right one will be subjective.
We could see that Cody could hardly lift his right arm but it was when he took his jacket off to reveal the whole right side of his upper body was a sickly purple that reality set in. Seth was wearing yellow polka dots a’la Dusty Rhodes to get into Cody’s head but it was the brutality of him attacking the injured pec that drew the real heat.
But was it a good match? Yes, but with a caveat. It may have been a gutsy performance from Cody, albeit a questionable one, but it was uncomfortable to watch as Rollins targeted the hideous purple bruise with a kendo stick and weight belt. Dave Meltzer gave it 5 stars, called it “compelling” and that it will go down as a “legendary” match. As things in wrestling move so fast these days, I’m sure many have forgotten it already though I will give Cody his due for (insanely) gutting it out for 25 minutes under what must have been excruciating pain.
With no world title being defended since Roman Reigns is on a lighter schedule now, and most of the bigger names (Usos, Orton, Riddle, The Miz, Rousey, Flair, Lesnar, McIntyre, New Day, Street Profits, etc) absent and the card being mostly rematches (again), as disingenuous as this sounds, if it hadn’t been for Cody’s injury this show would have been easily forgettable as a low level B-show.
The build up was pitiful to say the least, with the aforementioned saga of Sasha Banks and Naomi being the only interesting thing to happen and that wasn’t even a storyline! Add to the fact the show has three video packages to fill up time (one features Reigns whose absence was made more telling by it) gives us an indication even WWE must realise they are creatively running on fumes at the moment.
Better than it had any right to be given the poor build up but ultimately this is a two-match show that will enjoy 15 minutes of infamy for the most unfortunate of reasons.
Best match – Bianca Belair vs. Becky Lynch vs. Asuka
Rating – ***
Man In Black