Hell in a Cell. A name that once conjured up excitement, blood, steel and brutality, has in recent years has been the basis of a PPV that has failed to deliver more often than not. In the age of PG, the Devil’s Playground has been neutered, and instead of caging bitter rivals in their epic feud, has provided an unnecessary background to whatever flavor of the month happens to be in the main event. And, with WWE Champion Brock Lesnar putting his feet up instead of defending his title inside the steel structure, this was shaping up to be one of the most disappointing events in recent memory.
How relieving it is to say then that the superstars that did bother to show up Sunday night surpassed all expectations, making Hell in a Cell one of the best PPVs of the year so far. The two matches contested in the Cell returned it to its past glories due to their ruthlessness and amazing spots. And, the matches surrounding these main events ranged from the solid to the spectacular, with hardly any disappointments to note.
So, without further ado, here are the rankings of the matches at Hell in a Cell 2014, from the bottom to the top.
AJ Lee vs. Paige
It is a shame to have to place this match so low down the list after it seemed the Divas Championship picture had picked up after Night of Champions. Partially, this is due to the overall high match quality of Hell in a Cell, in which this match was lost in the shuffle. The AJ Lee and Paige match didn’t have many missed spots or painfully obvious botches. In fact, they did push the boat out and tried to make the match as compelling as possible. But quite a number of factors worked against it.
Firstly, it was the penultimate match of the night, which meant the crowd was either absent, preparing for the main event, or worn out. This took away from the atmosphere which was essentially dead. The match was good, but nothing special. Their chemistry has improved over time, but they didn’t do anything unexpected or extraordinary, bar Paige slapping BFF Alicia Fox post-match. And, above all else, the feud has dragged on without any real fire behind it, and they have had meaningless match after meaningless match on RAW and Smackdown, which means I’m left hoping that this feud can finally die and be resumed when they actually have something real to feud over.
This just goes to show that even with the two best divas on the roster, without the tension and excitement of their rivalry, it cannot make a solid rivalry.
Rusev vs. Big Show
Another match that would have been considered a strong RAW affair ended up being shown up by other stellar outings, but unlike the Divas Championship match, at least this had some genuine intrigue and emotion behind it. Big Show and Rusev’s story may be the same old shtick with the USA vs. Russia that has typified all of the Bulgarian’s feuds thus far. But, the use of the assault on an American soldier and the strength of Big Show’s acting helped carry this beyond that standard to new heights.
This was undoubtedly Rusev’s best and most memorable match since joining the main roster. He was made to look like someone that could not only stand against the Big Show but actually manhandle him, which is no easy feat. Rusev took everything the giant could throw his way, including a Chokeslam, but still always looked to be a competitive force in the match. He chopped the big man down and provided an offense that very few people can apply to the Big Show. It was impressive, even if some of his final kicks struggled to hit the mark on the giant’s head.
Making Big Show pass out is another feather in the Ushanka of Rusev, and should be the statement that catapults him towards WWE gold.
Sheamus vs. The Miz
Speaking of WWE gold, the United States Championship falls next on this list. Like the preceding matches, it was a solid, well-worked bout, with very few flaws or problems. But, it wasn’t particularly spectacular to place it above the other matches where quality abounds. The feud also had been somewhat mundane and ordinary, with few highlights to shout about. However, it had two key elements that pushed it above the prior matches.
First of all, Sheamus has been on fire in terms of PPV performances recently. The Celtic Warrior really seems to turn it on during the big matches and title defenses, as clearly demonstrated against Cesaro at Night of Champions. His hard-hitting, explosive style always garner a reaction from the crowd. Though he may not always receive the most favorable reaction from the crowd, Sheamus leaves it all in the ring any chance he gets. He likes to beat people up, and what can be more fun than that?
And secondly, Damien Mizdow is absolutely killing it at the moment. His mannerisms and mimicking of the Miz has injected real humor and interest into this feud, which would have been dreary without it. He has revived his career from the depths of despair, and should be credited for that.
Gold/Stardust vs. The Usos
The tag team championship picture has been a stale as month-old bread lately. The heel turn of Goldust and Stardust was good in the short-term, but on the whole their discussions of the cosmic key and riddles have become nonsensical filler. Beyond that, the matches have become predictable and formulaic. How many six-man tag team matches featuring the Usos and Gold/Stardust have there been in the past two months? About a dozen? And people think the John Cena/Randy Orton match has been overdone.
Yet, they managed to surprise me with a compelling performance at Hell in a Cell. When everybody seemed to up their game for this PPV, the tag team division clearly followed suit. The Usos were their typical energetic self, flying around the ring and kicking anything in a bodysuit. Stardust was also flamboyant and sold his opponents well. But Goldust continues to reign supreme in this feud. He has gotten better and better since his return to the point where he may now be considered one of the most polished competitors in the WWE period.
Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose
I may get some abuse for placing this match as low as it is, but I have my reasons. The Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose rivalry was the hottest thing going in wrestling. Their bitter hatred felt real, and this ensured quality television and fantastic matches. They duly deserved the main event spot and did not disappoint. Battling on top of the Hell in a Cell, falling through both announce tables, steel chairs, tables, Singapore canes, you name it Ambrose used it to inflict pain on Rollins. They looked to step it up as many gears as possible, and should be applauded for the bounds they are willing to go to in entertaining the crowd.
But, there were a couple of issues that limited my enjoyment to a degree. This was less of a match and more of a spotfest. Not that this was a terrible thing, as it kept the excitement levels high. Yet, it took away some of the competitive and talented wrestling skills that Rollins and Ambrose can utilize. And, with Ambrose being so opposed to the Attitude Era, this match came right out from its playbook. Although, the ending was the real sticking point that damaged its overall quality.
The return of Bray Wyatt is an intriguing prospect, and it is definitely a great thing that he is entering a feud with Dean Ambrose, as the pair could put on a very visceral rivalry. But, it meant the hostility between Rollins and Ambrose did not receive the definitive conclusion it deserved. So, hopefully the feud resumes at some point in the future, in order to give it the final chapter it requires.
John Cena vs. Randy Orton
The match that nobody seemingly wanted to see once again delivered. While I will not argue that John Cena and Randy Orton have seen a great deal of each other since they both debuted in 2002, that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Yes, they’ve had bad matches, and forgettable matches, but they have also had very good matches. Some may even go so far to say they have had great matches. Because if this wasn’t a great match, I don’t know what is. These two veterans worked hard in the Cell, and gave their rivalry a fitting latest chapter.
Orton in particular looked great in the ring. His domination of most of the match was laced with viciousness and venom, as he looked to cause as much punishment to Cena as he could. Cena took the brunt of the assault as he usually does, but it was back-and-forth enough to feel like a competitive contest rather than one of his super-human comebacks. I’d be lying if I said that I agreed with the result, as the Orton/Lesnar bout was too mouth-watering to resist. Nevertheless, that doesn’t take away from the aggressive and personal story these two told inside the Devil’s Playground.
Although the Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose match had more exciting moments and spots, this told a more flowing and complete story.
Nikki Bella vs. Brie Bella
This match is up in the upper echelons, defying all expectations, and not simply because it was surprising. This was a good match. No, scratch that, this was an awesome match. Finally, something happens in the divas division that isn’t dull or covered in the realms of reality television. The Bella twins went out in the ring and they put on a show. They got the crowd invested in what they were doing between the ropes. They told a story of personal animosity and family strife. They went out and impressed a lot of people.
Brie Bella is getting a strong face reaction, and with these kinds of performances can become the new face of the division. Which is odd, because that face will also be the biggest female heel, although it will be on the shoulders of her twin Nikki. Brie was feisty, and showed in the ring that she has been picking up techniques from her husband Daniel Bryan in mat warfare. She was a gritty underdog and the crowd lapped it up. But Nikki was the star of this match. Her cattiness, her vicious taunting and utilizing her strength has transformed her from an irritation to a captivating heel.
This family feud has not always been the easiest to watch, believe me I know. But, since it produced this excellent match, everything else is justified. If somebody had told me three years ago that the Bella twins would have one of the matches of the night at a PPV, I’d have hidden any sharp objects from them. But, happily they have proved themselves talented professionals.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Cesaro
It isn’t surprising that these two had one of the matches of the night, but one can still not help but be impressed with the amazing performances both Dolph Ziggler and Cesaro continue to put on. The WWE may not care enough about the Intercontinental Championship to develop an actual feud for its champion, but at least they have superstars that are pushing to restore the title to its former prestige in the ring. These two prove time and time again that they are among the very best in the business today, and against one another, a classic was bound to be in the making.
Ziggler has been an excellent champion, a dogged fighter with an impressive body of matches with the strap around his waist. He wrestles with a noted passion, and sells his opponent better than anybody in wrestling today. Whenever he was hit with an uppercut it was like his head had been decapitated from his shoulders, as he collapsed in a heap onto the canvas. Cesaro’s extraordinary strength and aggression makes him the perfect foil for a superstar that is so good at selling maneuvers. These two have the live crowds support at every venue, and their performance demonstrated that aptly.
Though it probably should have gone the extra fall to make it longer and extend the excitement that the match was filled with, making it end 2-0 was an unexpected twist. Ziggler and Cesaro should be proud of the epic they put on, though with the number they have produced in the last two years.