TCWNN#8: Heck In A Cell.

In a cruel and expected twist, the first Raw after I make my “I’m not going to watch Raw for awhile” declaration was, by all reports, actually a pretty good show. Doesn’t it figure.

I also chose to skip Hell In A Cell (strictly due to financial reasons), which had it’s own share of reviews. Mostly mixed. The general consensus, as I understand it, was that the matches were all fine, but it that the booking and match order were out of sorts. Which intrigued me, so I took the time to hunt it down and watch it.  As I’ve noted before, it’s the little things that I enjoy the most, and for most people, isn’t the order of matches just a little, little thing? Can it really have that big an effect on the enjoyment of the viewer?

The much complained about Undertaker vs. CM Punk for the World Heavyweight Championship opened the show. And I can’t blame anyone for complaining. The WORLD TITLE match opening the show. Ridiculous. Now, regardless of whether or not the match was there because Undertaker (supposedly) felt he was still too injured to go longer than 10 minutes, or because Punk (allegedly) made the mistake of questioning the dress code (and the idea that the punk rocker champion should be walking around in a suit is just ridiculous; real life or not), the real problem is that a World Heavyweight title match should NEVER be the so called “curtain jerker”. Never. I realize that titles are treated as props for the most part these days, but we aren’t at the point yet where they are no longer the focus of major feuds that are intended to part the crowd from their hard earned dollar. This was treated as THE main event match for the Smackdown brand in the weeks leading up to the PPV, and we got what some have called a “glorified squash match” that didn’t really use the confines of the cell to any notable degree. Given how many PPV prediction threads had had the match as the main event, I think it’s a safe bet that Punk vs. Taker was a major selling point of this PPV for many people. Especially since Hell In A Cell is considered by many to be the Undertaker’s signature match (not to mention a feud ender, not beginner).

Really it’s the Hell In A Cell stipulation that wrote them into the scheduling corner. With three Hell In A Cell matches on the card, you would be hard pressed to not burn out the crowd without proper pacing, so it was pretty much a guarantee that some matches on the under card would be hung out to dry. Those matches turned out to be R-Truth vs. Drew McIntyre and the three way United States title match, who found themselves in the unfortunate position of being sandwiched between Cena/Orton and DX/Legacy.  This was an especially painful position for Truth and McIntyre, as this was to all extents and purposes the ppv debut for their feud (it seemed to me like the crowd perked up some for the US title match, though nowhere near the way they perked up for the latter half of Morrison and Ziggler). These guys were thrown to the proverbial wolves, and for what?  To give the crowd a chance to recover for a non-title main event. A main event that, had it been treated as the blood feud the story line dictated it to be, would have been a perfect close out to any PPV event. But it was blood feud destined to be blood free, rooted as it was in comedy skits and promos, and a previous bloodless blood feud.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If there was a match on the card that I loved start to finish, it was the Degeneration X/Legacy match. As noted elsewhere, the story telling was impeccable through and through, and it more than earned it’s spot as the main event. Did it go down a predictable route? Yes it did. But necessarily so. It’s hardly fair to come down on the WWE for booking an A to B to C story when we’ve spent most of the last year bemoaning their ability to do just that. But think about how absolutely classic a match this could have been if just two things had been true:

The first, that Legacy were a credible threat to the crowd. Sure, they beat HHH in a handicap match to set up the return of DX (a beating he promptly cancelled out via his lackadaisical post match promo), and yes they ambushed and beat DX on multiple Raws, and yes they won at Breaking Point. But DX never acquiesced to that fact. Sure, they’d occasionally mention being serious, but it would always come at the end of a comedy promo at Legacies expense. The fact that the announce team was (presumably) forced to drive into our heads over and over that DX had NEVER EVER submitted before EVER, when even the most casual fan could be certain that was not true, and you had your aggressors coming off as fakes who had no chance from the jump. It’s a testament to the story being told that I was able to set that aside for the entirety of the match, even knowing where it was going.

The second, of course, would be blood. If you have a Hell In A Cell, the fans expect blood, and they also expect some sort of Cell related action beyond the normal cage match staples. Of course, when you have 3 Hell In A Cell’s, you obviously can not have all three be blood soaked stunt fests.  But with three matches, spaced out through out the show, you could space out what’s expected through those three matches. But that’s not what happened. With the exception of the main event (which played up the Cell aspect of the name, which I loved) the HIAC matches we got were typical cage matches. The big top of the cage spot was given away for free at the end of Monday Night Raw. And with the absence of blood, many of the traditional cage spots (including my personal favorite, using the cage as a cheese grater on your opponents face) came off poorly (I myself missed it, but I am told that someone dropped a blade during the Cena/Orton match, which the ref then got rid of. So at least the thought was there, on someone’s part). I myself would have liked to see some color from HBK during his extended beat down, because when combined with Shawn’s magnificent selling, it would have seemed like Legacy were downright KILLING him.

But like I said, the main event was stellar regardless. And I can’t honestly call a single match from the show bad. But I still walked away feeling that something was off.  But this had more to do with the HIAC format not being fully taken advantage of than it was the match order. The order definitely could have been improved upon, as it was a little detail that could have easily been used as an asset rather than a detraction (simply having Ziggler and Morrison go first, because as we saw their match took the crowd from zero to sixty and got them nice and pumped up, and swapping the Divas match with R-truth/McIntyre would have worked wonders). But the simple fact is, two out of three Hell In A Cell matches felt more like Heck In A Cell.  And that affected my enjoyment way more than the placement of the matches did.

See you next week.

Tags: , , , , , , ,