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HIAC 2018: A lacklustre finish ruined a pay-per-view that overdelivered

The Hell in a Cell PPV was a concept established in 2009 - when WWE tried to capitalise on the popularity of gimmick matches by naming monthly PPVs after the established gimmicks. Historically - the PPV has resulted in matches that do not remotely require the HIAC structure, notwithstanding this - this year was an exception, there was 4-5 ‘hot’ feuds that WWE had taking place simultaneously, that WWE could have easily put into the HIAC. Despite this - whether the gimmick PPV is needed is still a matter of subjective opinion.

KICK-OFF MATCH: THE NEW DAY V RUSEV DAY (SMACKDOWN LIVE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP)

There is a big issue with what matches and henceforth talent WWE are deciding to place on the pre-show. The audience still doesn’t take their seats until 15 minutes before the main show, meaning talents are usually performing to several empty seats. Nevertheless, this time the seating issue wasn’t too bad, but the point still stands.

Additionally, Rusev has gone from a WWE Title match on PPV two months ago to the pre-show on two consecutive PPV’s - I am not sure what that does for Rusev’s stock in the eyes of the casual viewer. The match was exactly what you would expect from the four-men involved, this would have been a perfect PPV opener. Kofi got the win for New Day following a Trouble in Paradise. It looks more and more likely that WWE are splitting Rusev Day: which is ultimately a mistake and could be a determinant to all 3 characters involved in the trio.

Duration: 9 minutes | Match Rating: 3 stars

RANDY ORTON V JEFF HARDY (HIAC)

This feud was been a massive surprise of 2018. Nobody expected it to be as interesting and compelling as it has ultimately turned out to be. A motivated, heel Randy Orton combined with a re-focused Jeff Hardy has made for a good combination. In regards to the red HIAC - it wasn’t as distracting as people expected.

Randy Orton

I assume it’s to simply sell more toys at Christmas, the ‘Red HIAC play-set’ has a ring to it. In relation to the match - I thought it was excellent. There was nothing too ‘overly dangerous’ (which was a relief), and the match was structured well and accordingly. Orton using a screwdriver on Hardy’s ear was a fantastic spot and Hardy’s selling of the aforementioned spot really heightened the intensity. Overall a fitting end to a surprisingly brilliant rivalry of 2018.

Duration: 25 Minutes | Match Rating: 4 Stars

CHARLOTTE FLAIR V BECKY LYNCH (SMACKDOWN LIVE WOMEN’S TITLE)

Isn’t it crazy what the women can do when they are given a clean finish without stupid booking? I adored this match. These two clearly work insanely well together and this PPV encounter was no different.

Despite arguments regarding if Lynch’s heel turn was needed, the clean victory; which featured a brilliant counter to Charlotte’s spear was tremendous and was certainly well received within the Texas crowd. I certainly can’t wait for more from these two. Submission match next? Excellent stuff all round.

Duration: 13 Minutes | Match Rating: 4 Stars

DREW MCINTYRE & DOLPH ZIGGLER V DEAN AMBROSE & SETH ROLLINS (RAW TAG TEAM TITLES)

One certainty in relation to WWE’s PPVs in 2018 is this: the Seth Rollins match will be a definite clinic. This certainty once again came to fruition. Ziggler since the pairing alongside McIntyre has worked wonders for his relevance, confidence and match quality, it’s a dream pairing on paper and in reality. Ambrose & Rollins’ tag bouts are always consistent; this encounter was no different, with parallels easily drawn to their series with The Bar last year, the match really clicked well at home, as well as with the live audience.

Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler

The finish came when Rollins was going for the Falcon Arrow on Ziggler before McIntyre hit the Claymore on Rollins, leading to Ziggler to fall onto Rollins securing the victory. McIntyre’s role has been extremely impressive since the NXT call-up; as it stands McIntyre is my personal pick to take the Universal Championship from Roman Reigns.

Duration: 22 Minutes | Match Rating: 4.5 Stars

AJ STYLES V SAMOA JOE (WWE TITLE)

AJ Styles’ second WWE Title run has been a mess. For whatever reason, his matches and feuds have been overbooked and frustrating. A screwy finish simply wasn’t needed here, if they are desperate to find a way to extend the feud: simply switch the title. It’s a shame, because it really negatively affects the quality of the match in question.

Nevertheless - this feud really truly belonged in the HIAC structure: a blood feud relating to someone's family is the type of match that the structure was designed to attain. The action was fine but the finish dampened the quality that led up to the finish.

Match Duration: 19 Minutes | Match Rating: 3 Stars

DANIEL BRYAN & BRIE BELLA V THE MIZ & MARYSE (MIXED TAG MATCH)

The Bryan v Miz feud has taken a little detour and now includes Brie and Maryse. This isn’t really an issue in the long-run but elements of the initial story have been delayed a little. Nevertheless - Maryse is always fantastic in her role as a heel and I will never not mark out when I hear her fantastic theme song.

The match was very sloppy unfortunately - Brie and Marse with respect aren’t the best in-ring workers and the match showed. Nevertheless, it’s always appreciated when WWE made extended efforts to include female talents in a top tier storyline..

Match Duration: 13 Minutes | Match Rating: 2.5 Stars

RONDA ROUSEY V ALEXA BLISS (RAW WOMEN’S TITLE)

Protecting Bliss was smart here. Bliss has the match with Trish Stratus at the forthcoming Evolution PPV next month, so to completely job her out wouldn’t have been wise; so I am glad WWE didn’t go down that route. In regards to Bliss - I feel like her heel run has run its course. A babyface move may do wonders for her already high stock, and would allow her to work a style that she is more comfortable with (which is strange to say, but she has admitted in interviews that she has previously struggled with working as a heel).

In regards to the match - it was decent enough, Ronda continues to have the best rookie year since Brock Lesnar and she is doing nothing but progress. So no complaints from me in relation to the match and the presentation of both aforementioned women.

Match Duration: 12 Minutes | Match Rating: 3 Stars

ROMAN REIGNS V BRAUN STROWMAN (HIAC MATCH FOR THE UNIVERSAL TITLE)

One F5 each forces a match to be stopped? Anyway - WWE’s trend of ending a PPV on a dud note continued with the Braun v Reigns HIAC. The match started off as your typical Braun v Reigns match that we have come to love; interference followed by Rollins, Ambrose, McIntyre & Ziggler, which saw Rollins and Ziggler take the fall from ½ way up the HIAC.

The finish saw Lesnar kick the HIAC door down and lay out both men leading to a non-finish. I am not sure why Lesnar is back or how this is going to benefit anyone. Surely we are past Lesnar v Reigns? I am not sure what equity Lesnar has on the RAW brand. Disappointing end to an overall decent PPV event.

Match Duration: 24 Minutes | Match Rating: 3 Stars

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