Well, technically I wasn’t wrong in my prediction of Charlotte winning, but I do suppose it would have been premature to take the title off Natayla already. Problem with this feud is that it wasn’t centered around them, so much as it was centered around Ric Flair and how Natayla wanted to be the center of attention. I would have loved to see these two women bring up their NXT history and give the match some real stakes beyond the title, and maybe you could mention Ric as something extra, but we just had two women go out there, and they had about as basic of a match as you could get. There was the basic psychology in Natayla working over Charlotte’s legs and Charlotte trying to fight through it. I’m not a fan of the cheap DQ finish, but I do understand wanting to keep the title on Nattie and I also understand wanting to put some heat on this feud, because Lord knows that’s what this feud needs right now. Otherwise, this was Smackdown LIVE quality. Nothing of pure importance was missed here. **1/4
You know, Jinder’s reign has gotten so cringeworthy to the point where everyone knew that this match was not going to be your main event. Jinder’s matches have involved the same formula, just in different, subtle ways. I think this match, in particular, was a bit more structured than their Summerlsam match which was just a bad sprint. There was more psychology and more basic in-ring stuff going on, but again, there was nothing in this match that got me excited as well. Nakamura’s matches have been highly underwhelming for the most part since coming over to Smackdown LIVE, and he’s very punch, kick, punch, kick with his match. He’s still a world-class talent, but when you’re working with Jinder Mahal, it’s sort of a lot to ask to get a WWE Championship-esque match out of him. Shinsuke losing wasn’t surprising, seeing as how it appears that WWE is going full throttle with a Jinder push that should last up to WrestleMania next year. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not ready for a JBL-esque, WWE Title Smackdown push lasting for 10 months. I wanted to give Jinder a chance when he first got the title because it was a good surprise, but now, I’m anemic towards him. He’s literally doing the same thing week after week and I wanted to see improvement, but unfortunately, it seems to be too much to ask from him. Nakamura losing while the Singh brothers also weren’t there also sets him back a big deal, and I don’t know where he goes from here.
I don’t know who Mahal’s next challenger will be if he’s moving on from Nakamura, because there isn’t a lot of top-tier faces on the roster behind Styles, and he’s already feuded with Orton. The match was okay, but I’m never watching it again because there’s no reason to. **1/4
Bobby Roode def. Dolph Ziggler
What is the deal with the overly long matches? I’ve never heard of a 12-minute match that’s a precursor to the main event. These two men tried their hardest out there to make something out of being put in the death slot, but it didn’t work for me. Dolph Ziggler’s facial expressions and mannerisms in the ring these days really makes me wonder when his time in WWE is coming to an end because it visibly looks like the passion in his eyes have dwindled to a great degree. The crowd was stone cold for this with the exceptions of certain parts of the match, and they did have a good little reversal sequence down the stretch. However, this was just another Smackdown match and nothing more. And if I know Smackdown LIVE well, this match is probably getting rebooted tonight. **
Kevin Owens def. Shane McMahon – Hell In A Cell Match
There is literally no reason why this had to go 40 minutes. NONE. Okay, let’s set that aside. This was almost everything I expected it to be. Shane was a human stunt-man, taking crazy bumps all across the arena and almost killing himself about 8 times throughout the match and Kevin Owens played a great foil to him, bringing the brutality he showed to him and Vince and trying to lessen Shane’s high-impact moves. Despite that, this match suffered from the same issue the triple threat match had. It was FAR. TOO. LONG. I kid you not, I dozed off about 5-6 times throughout the match because it was so close to midnight. Seriously, if all of that was leading up to Shane diving from the top of the cage yet again, they should have just cut all the crap, leave the cage open and not spend half the match just wandering around the ring. It was also painfully obvious that was going to be the zenith of the match so why not just get right down to it? I did like some of the action on top of the cage, but I think they spent far too much time to get there.
Overall, this match could have had the same quality if you shaved off 15 minutes. I think Triple H and Shawn Michaels had the longest HIAC match at Bad Blood 2004, but there was no reason Shane McMahon should have been around bumping for 40 minutes. The sheer longevity of the match robbed me of some of the excitement, but I think they told a great story overall and achieved the purpose the match as supposed to. Sami Zayn coming to Kevin Owens’ aide was a great twist and I liked the little tease that they showed with Sami right before the main event segment last week on Smackdown. I’m all for a Sami heel turn, because he’s been as irrelevant as the water boy on an NFL team since the brand split last year, and Sami needs to freshen up his character. There was only so long his character could survive losing in two-minute matches to Mike Kanellis and Aiden English on garbage Smackdown matches on free television. So I say go for it. The match was okay but did not need 40 minutes to lead up to Shane doing a suicide dive yet again. It also didn’t feel as special since Shane more or less did some of the same things he did in his HIAC match against Taker just last year. This also didn’t nearly reach the level of the first HIAC match and this one had double the time of the first HIAC match. ***1/4