If you were to take 100 average WWE fans and ask them about Hell in a Cell, the vast majority of them would immediately talk about Foley’s brush with death during his seminal Cell match with Undertaker. Some might also mention the bloodbath that was Michaels vs. HHH, back in the day.
Last year’s CM Punk vs. Ryback match is likely not going to be on the top of many wrestling fan’s minds when HIAC is brought up, and after watching it last night, I can totally understand why. It was a boring, boring match. No blood. Very few high spots, save for Punk’s beatdown of Heyman after defeating Ryback and some quite creative suplexes Mr. “Feed Me More” gave to the future GFW World Champion...
See what I did there? Got your attention, didn’t I?
So what was wrong with that match? The story was there, both competitors certainly did their part to try to make it as exciting as possible. Yet, something still was missing.
I couldn’t figure it out, then all of a sudden, it hit me.
Hell in a Cell matches don’t really work in the PG era.
Now, I have never claimed to be an expert in recent WWE. In fact, I’ve gone out of my way to make sure people know that up until July or so, I wasn’t really watching very regularly at all. So perhaps there are some Cell matches of the last few years that were absolute slobberknockers, in which case I’ll gladly admit to being wrong.
But it seems to be that Hell in a Cell is a match that NEEDS to be bloody. There needs to be gratuitous violence in these types of bouts, otherwise what’s the giant metal thing for? When I watched that Cell match last night, I knew nobody was going to go flying off of the top (especially Heyman, who practically super glued himself to that support structure). I knew there wouldn’t be a ‘scarlet mask’, unless it was a complete accident. That’s not what the PG era is all about.
Ever since Night of Champions (and actually, well before that), people have been debating on Twitter what is going to happen with this month’s Hell in a Cell event. Would it be Lesnar vs. Cena III? Ambrose / Rollins? Most people, in fact, assumed both matches would take place inside the Cell, and couldn’t believe that I disagreed with that idea. Why wouldn’t I want to see 2 Cell matches?
Because this is the PG era, that’s why. There are only so many ways to use a giant metal cage if you’re not able to bleed or be overly violent. Nobody is going to rub their opponent’s face into the cell, there won’t be any chairshots to the head and I doubt anyone is even going to ascend the structure, unless they’re posing at the end of the night.
In an age where WWE feels they need to apologize for Big Show pulling down a Russian flag (onto the mat, mind you, technically not the ground. Can the American flag in my classroom not touch a desk?), you can bet your bottom dollar there won’t be anything over the top at Hell in a Cell, so why do I want to see 2 of those matches?
Too much of anything is no good, as anyone who has been in an elementary school can tell you. Survivor Series changed because people were bored of too many elimination tag matches, and King of the Ring disappeared, I think, because people couldn’t attend long enough to appreciate a singles’ tournament. WWE fans demand variety in their matches, and seeing 2 Cell matches, no matter who the wrestlers involved are, wasn’t going to work when nobody can bleed or do the creatively violent things necessary to make a Cell match truly exciting.
Honestly, if WWE insists on staying PG (which I’m not sure they will, at least not for much longer), they should get rid of HIAC altogether. PPV’s built around a gimmick are always strained, since you’re building a feud (or two) around what PPV is next instead of vice versa.
For this month, we need to see a Fatal 4 Way in the Cell. Cena, Ambrose, Rollins and Orton. There’s enough interwoven stories there to justify it and having multiple men inside the structure for a single match will, in my mind, make it easier to pop the crowd.
Your thoughts? Can Cell matches work PG? What do you want to see at HIAC?
I want to let you in on a little secret.
There’s a good to great chance you’re not watching arguably the best sixty seconds of WWE programming each week.
It’s not NXT, as much as I like that ‘brand’. It’s not Cesaro’s matches, though they are always excellent. It’s not even Dean Ambrose, even though he might be the perfect blend of Steve Austin and Roddy Piper.
In fact, you won’t find this marvelous minute on WWE television. Yet.
I’m talking about Sandow’s Sixty, which can be found on WWE.com and on the WWE App.
Damien Sandow, former Money in the Bank winner turned wrestling chameleon (aka Charlie Haas 2.0), is given sixty seconds each week to talk about anything he wants, and it has quickly become must-see web-TV if you’re a wrestling fan.
Here is one of the more recent ones. Watch; it’ll literally only take a minute.
Did you notice the honesty? The legitimate contempt Damien has, not only for the “marks” on Twitter, but also for his forced lot in life? The ‘hand-cuffed’ gesture at the end speaks volumes about the way Sandow feels he is being treated, and I am sure he is not alone.
That sort of pent-up rage, the feeling of being misused or handled poorly. . . That’s what brought Mick Foley and Austin to WWE in the first place. They were furious with the way they had been handled by WCW, and so when given the opportunity to vent their frustrations (thanks to Paul Heyman and ECW), they cut some of the best promos the world has ever seen. Had it not been for channeling that rage, those real-life feelings, they’d have never been as big as they became.
Apparently, we are in the midst of the “Reality Era” in WWE. CM Punk started it, and Heyman seems to be the flag-bearer for it these days, and I think Sandow is a perfect person to continue the trend. Why is Sandow’s Sixty not a part of every RAW? In one minute, he can make an impact that he’ll never get to do in a 4-6 minute squash match where he’s dressed like Ludvig Borga.
Lesson: You can teach a guy to wrestle, you can teach a guy to talk, but you can’t teach charisma.
Sandow has it in spades, and its a shame he’s being wasted on WWE television. I don’t think we need another Pipe Bomb, but we do need some of these guys to let their personalities shine through a little more.
Doc Manson: Glad to see you, Teach. I’ve asked you here today to discuss an ongoing problem in the WWE product. I’m not sure how to articulate this exactly, some people might say that some superstars, like John Cena or Randy Orton, are overexposed, but that’s not really the problem that I’ve having. I don’t really care if John Cena or Randy Orton are featured on television every week.
The issue is more that, by including this regular stable of recognized stars in the top-level feud, the upwards mobility of the mid-card talent is lessened. How can Cesaro or Ziggler go on to be main event players when they can’t even edge into the race for the heavyweight title?
The Teacher: For the purposes of helping you articulate your point, one which I will freely admit to agreeing with on most levels, allow me to the play the Devil’s Advocate.
Isn’t it just Cena and Orton that you have problems with? Are you against Kane getting a WHC push, even though it’s highly unlikely he’ll ever wind up with the strap? Do you dislike Lesnar’s appearance last night on RAW?
DM: Honestly, no. Cena is a workhorse, and I appreciate his contributions to the program. Kane, well, the man is due for a lengthy title run. I’m even glad to see Lesnar back, this guy is a legitimate bad-ass that brings some serious credibility to whichever feud he is a part of.
Again, I don’t think the issue is that these are recognizable stars. I’m actually stand-offish about Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins at this point. It’s not that I don’t want to see these specific individuals succeed, I guess I’m just lamenting that storylines seem to be so predictable.
I don’t mean predictable on the short term, either. I got a lot wrong on the Battleground Predictions discussion we had. However, long term, we seem to know that Cena v. Lesnar is the feud right now. Smart money places Lesnar v. Reigns at Wrestlemania 31. Where does this leave Seth Rollins? Is he going to cash in on Lesnar? Seems unlikely. What about all the other guys waiting for their shot? If the Money in the Bank winner is being crowded out of the title picture for the next six months, where does this leave all the other guys that are ready to be elevated?
T: Now I think we’ve stumbled onto the main problem. We have a small top tier of wrestlers, as you just mentioned, and then we have a much larger second tier of talent who could easily make their way to the highest echelon if given the proper chance. Yet there is only one Heavyweight title right now, and with the current state of the WWE, that’s not enough.
I’m a proponent of either doing another RAW / Smackdown brand extension or creating a new “company” entirely. Call it ECW 3.0, call it NXT Plus, I don’t really care, but the only way you are going to maximize the potential of the talent in this company is if you have multiple titles for them to vie for.
DM: That’s certainly one solution, but honestly they ought to be able to do more with their talent on the existing television program. RAW is 3 hours long, and has a lot of replays and other filler. They have time to tell other stories or to feature other titles. Hell, just bring back a Television Title and call it a day.
T: You have my undying support for the return of a TV title. Truthfully, that is how the US or IC title should be used. While I still support The Miz winning Sunday’s battle royal, I would also have had no qualms with them giving the belt to Cesaro and letting him have 15-20 minute matches with the likes of Ziggler, Kofi, Big E and Bray Wyatt for the next 3 months.
You’re right in that the only way to get this group of talent over is to give them screen time. But, to pick up my Devil’s Advocate hat once more, what about the people who have bought into the Authority storylines? Those who absolutely adore Roman Reigns and want to see him in 2-3 segments a night? The ones who are glad we had more Diva action on RAW than I think we may have ever had in WWE history? Do those people have to lose what might be attracting them on Monday Night’s just so we can see Zack Ryder featured for the first time in months?
DM: Something for everyone, no doubt. It’s not just a matter of screen time, but doing something meaningful with that time. Take Dean Ambrose for instance. Months ago he held the US Championship for months on end - a great move to really help solidify his status as Championship material, right? Wrong. He never defended that belt. The US Championship itself was devalued and weak at the end of Ambrose’s run.
There’s no reason why Roman Reigns can’t be featured in the main event. There’s no reason why the divas can’t have their segments too. They are finally using Paige, the Stephanie arrest was no doubt designed to tickle the fancy of viewers everywhere. Good things are happening, but still there is continual stagnation. Cesaro losing to Kofi multiple weeks in a row, never capitalizing on his association with Paul Heyman is but one example.
No one wanted to see Cesaro as a Heyman guy after Wrestlemania, and while I don’t begrudge them for telling their own story, where is the long term vision? They took a guy on the cusp and deflated his momentum. Now, they need to rebuild Cesaro instead of utilizing what they had built before.
T: In truth, you just want Cesaro to have Roman Reign’s spot.
DM: Tell me right now what happens to Seth Rollins over the course of the Lesnar v. Reigns feud.
T: I can’t. But then again, I doubt the WWE writers can either.
There is a lack of long-term planning right now, and to be honest, I’m not quite sure that’s not Daniel Bryan and CM Punk’s fault. Both of them were supposed to be leading the company right now. When Punk and Bryan were around, Cena was doing what Cena should be doing at this point in his career; he was building up stars like Bray Wyatt. Randy Orton was part of Evolution fighting with The Shield.
Then, Punk goes AWOL and Bryan gets hurt. All of the long-term planning WWE might have done goes right out the window. Suddenly, John Cena seems like the best option for the WWE title, and Roman Reigns is the homegrown star they can build as, excuse me Mr. Lesnar, but the Next Big Thing. Would any of that have happened if Punk or Bryan were still around? Not a chance. The main event picture took a giant hit and they’re floundering around trying to put it back together. I also imagine they are a little gun-shy on building long term around new talent, when who knows where they’ll be in a year.
DM: And that’s why we call you The Teacher. I feel like I was just taken back to school. You’re right, of course. This is the result of creative scrambling to restructure whatever long-term plans they previously had in place. As I sit here lamenting the fate of the mid-card, I should be taking solace in knowing that there is so much capable talent ready to take over should the need arise.
T: That doesn’t mean there still can’t be improvements made in the overall product. Last night’s RAW was the most enjoyable one I’ve seen since I resumed regular viewing and a lot of that had to do with the talent on screen. Cesaro and Dean Ambrose was our main event match! We didn’t need to see John Cena and the rest of the main event crowd for more than a minute or two at the end of the night; we knew what their stories were and what was going on, which let us sit back and enjoy actual wrestling.
So we’ve established that the next wave of WWE main event talent is ready and waiting, and it is the firm belief of the Number Two Contenders that they should be getting their chance to shine, ideally with one of the secondary belts being elevated to a higher standard. Anything else you would recommend, Doc?
DM: Put some emphasis back on the titles. It lessens the need for strong supporting stories, because everyone understand the competitive aspects of sports entertainment. This has the benefit of freeing creative to cook up truly compelling stories that are NOT centered around the belts as well. That’s where the majority of attention needs to be focused, on those situations which don’t have the championship as a prop.
I’m a big proponent of the Jim Ross school of story-telling, I guess. There’s no reason to divorce sports entertainment from the sports aspects. Utilize time limits and count out finishes in smart ways.
T: Would you be a fan of re-instituting a Top 10 rankings system for the title?
DM: Yes, and no. I do think that emphasizing the worth of the titles is smart, easy story-telling, but an overly complicated ranking system can get in the way of the dumb fun I’ve come to appreciate from professional wrestling. I’m all about the storylines, I don’t want those to go away or else I’d be watching Ring of Honor exclusively.
T: Fair enough. The folks on Twitter tend to agree with you. Too much thinking during a wrestling program is generally seen as a bad idea.
Well, Doc, I don’t know if we necessarily solved anything here today, but I at least hope you feel better getting a chance to express your feelings.
If there’s a lesson to be learned from all this, is it “If you don’t like the WWE main event scene right now, blame Punk and Bryan?”
DM: Finally, a lesson we can all agree upon.