Randy Orton def. Jeff Hardy – Hell In A Cell Match
Before the match, I was saying that I never thought Orton and Jeff deserved a HIAC match because I didn’t think the feud warranted it. I also didn’t think that a version of Jeff Hardy that’s past his prime and a version of Randy Orton that many thought was bland didn’t deserve a cell match, but boy was I ever wrong here. What I appreciated was that both men skipped all of the formalities with the in-ring stuff and got straight to the nitty-gritty, kicking each other’s asses part. My primary concern was that the match was going to have a slow, dull pace that didn’t get the crowd in it. In all candor, a HIAC match can be a methodical match, but it also depends on the pacing of the men in the match, and since Orton and Hardy have a combined age of about 80, I wasn’t holding my breath.
The introduction of all of the weapons early set the tone for the rest of the match, and I loved how both men maintained that intensity throughout the duration of the match. Randy was trying to visibly destroy Jeff to within an inch of his life, and since this was Jeff’s first HIAC match, he used his normal ingenuity to give his moves a bit more impact. If you needed an indication of whether or not these two literally busted their asses, all you have to do is look at all of the battle scars Orton suffered in this match. These two wanted to make something special and they did.
I have to give a special round of applause to Randy Orton, because it’s been a while where I’ve seen a vintage performance like that from him. I have to say, him using the screwdriver and twisting Jeff Hardy’s ear like spaghetti was quite the disturbing sight. But then again, that is the purpose of Orton’s new character. He wants us to squirm and make us feel uncomfortable. It instantly reminded me of the 2009 version of Orton that was punting Vince in the head, DDT’ing Stephanie and kissing her on top of it. He carried the pace of the match and it was refreshing to see this version of Randy again.
The ending was a bit awkward, and when Jeff said he wanted to do something he never did before, he was technically right. I can’t remember when somebody used a ladder and just dangled like a nose booger without any real plan of attack before. Them raising the cage and Orton getting a desperation cover wouldn’t have had the same impact as say, if Orton were to catch Jeff in mid-air with an RKO. I also would have liked to see more of the cell being incorporated in the match, but it didn’t ruin anything for me. The silence after the cover to see if Jeff was really okay was a great added touch.
Overall, I was incredibly surprised at this match and I got way more than what I was bargaining for. I was expecting a 20-minute snoozefest, but what we got was the essence of what HIAC is all about, and I got some Ruthless Aggression Era flashbacks to boot. Tremendous opener. ****1/4
Becky Lynch def. Charlotte Flair (C) – Smackdown Women’s Championship
I didn’t think that they were going to pull the trigger on Becky this soon, and was certain that they were going to play this out a bit longer. But hey, I’m here for it. Becky and Charlotte can’t really have a bad match, because it’s Charlotte and Becky. I thought they worked with sense of urgency, and I thought that they both worked extremely hard. I just thought the match’s pace was a bit too quick for my liking. Maybe it’s because we couldn’t tell that Charlotte forgot when she was supposed to sell her arm, but it was like the match went by too quickly to the point where we weren’t able to keep track of the match’s psychology.
In addition, the match was kind of sloppy at times, with spots looking uncoordinated and both women working too fast, kind of causing the match to be rushed. I can understand why the match was a bit quicker because the match that preceded it lasted about 24 minutes, but they did a great job of working hard in the time they had. Becky’s the champ, she didn’t shake Charlotte’s hand after, and all is right with the world. That ending was pretty nifty too. I’m happy here. ***1/4
Dolph Ziggler (C) and Drew McIntyre (C) def. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose – RAW Tag Team Titles
I figured they may have Dolph and Drew retain since they just won it, but I also thought they were going to give The Shield all the titles at the end of the night. Before we get into that, I should say that this was a tremendous back and forth tag team match. If you ask me, it had just the kind of pacing and intensity that you would see out of an NXT Tag Title match. All of the quick back and forths towards the end, the creativity of the finish and the chemistry both teams have with each other made this a match worth seeing. Now I understand that some people may not like the kick out fest that the match turned into at the end, but I loved all of it. There was just so many moments where you thought one team was going to win, but then you realize that it’s a tag team match and both teams worked together.
In addition, that finish was so clever. Drew knew that he only had a slight instance to see if he can get his finisher in on Seth and he did it and just the right moment. Drew and Dolph getting a clean win here is also important, because it does create a balance and it shows The Shield can be beaten if you work smart and work together. If The Shield were to run over the trio of Dolph, Drew and Braun, there may be no point in having them face off because The Shield have all the titles and all the wins. But the bottom line is that this was a high quality back and forth affair, and both teams ought to be proud of themselves for producing another banger on this show. One of the best matches of the year to be sure. ****1/2
AJ Styles (C) def. Samoa Joe – WWE Championship