Controversy was abound Sunday night in Sacramento, California, following the 2019 WWE Hell in a Cell pay-per-view. The first PPV since the start of the company's new television deals and final one before the brand split is revitalized, WWE Hell in a Cell looked to be going well for much of the three-hour card until hitting a main event wall that left many fans confused -- and even worse, some legitimately angry at WWE.
What will be remembered coming out of Hell in a Cell is the finish to the universal championship main event with Seth Rollins defending against "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt. Not because of a title change or the quality of the match but rather the sentiment of the fans to the booking. The choices WWE made -- which are available in our detailed results, analysis and grades below -- were confounding. From the way the match unfolded to how it finished, the crowd was understandably upset because most normal people who would book that match would come to the same conclusion of what the result should be -- or not book it at all.
But while the main event was rough, that does not completely take away from a stellar opening Raw women's championship match between Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks, nor a variety of other enjoyable moments over the course of the show, which ran for over three hours. Still, the main event always matters, and it left both fans and this viewer with a sour taste in our mouths.
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2019 WWE Hell in a Cell results, grades
Natalya def. Lacey Evans via pinfall (Kickoff Show): The best match of their (too long) rivalry got a good crowd reaction throughout. After a good brawl for about 10 minutes, Evans had Natalya prone and ran to the top rope to attempt a moonsault. However, Natalya rolled out of the way and immediately locked Evans into the Sharpshooter for a quick tap out. In a call back to their prior match on Raw, this time it was Evans on the receiving end of a big right hand following the bout. Grade: C-
Raw Women's Championship -- Becky Lynch (c) def. Sasha Banks via submission to retain the title (Hell in a Cell): Before the cell was lowered, Banks attacked Lynch and dragged her to the ramp. The cell finished lowering with the women outside, but the door opened after Banks threw Lynch head-first into the structure. Lynch slammed the open door into Banks' face and stole the chain, wrapping it around her fist and punching Banks multiple times before locking the door. Lynch introduced a table, ladder and steel chair, but Banks attempted four quick pinning combinations to get out of dodge. With Lynch at outside the ring, Banks drilled her with a meteora into a ladder propped up in the corner of the cell. Banks then jammed Lynch's arm in the small gap created by the cell door and slammed it multiple times before sticking her hand inside a chair and stepping on it then seating Lynch in a chair and hitting another meteora.
Lynch fought back by kicking a chair into Banks' gut and then dropkicking her off the ring apron into the cell. The champion then slammed Banks' head into the ring post, hit the Becksploder into the cell wall and dropped her head-first twice into an open chair propped upside down. Lynch then hit a missile dropkick from the second rope as Banks was holding a chair, but when the challenger rolled outside, she emerged with a kendo stick and wore Lynch out with it. Banks propped up both kendo sticks in the corner of the cell, and Lynch added another, placing an open chair atop them. She then lifted Banks, seated her on the elevated chair and hit a running dropkick off the apron into the cell corner. Bank in the ring, a top-rope leg drop from Banks somehow only got a 2.5 count.
As Lynch went to setup a table in the ring, Banks caught her from behind with a backstabber. After avoiding a powerbomb into it, Banks hit Lynch with a meteora through the table for a 2.8 count. She followed by grabbing a kendo stick and applying the Bank Statement, but Lynch squirmed her way out of the ring, grabbed the stick and annihilated Banks over the shoulders with it as she laid prone on the apron. Banks, however, grabbed Lynch by the hair and threw her head-first into a chair that was sticking out of the cell. She then threw a dozen chairs into the ring, which Lynch took advantage of by hitting a top-rope Becksploder on Banks into them. Lynch then locked in the Dis-Arm-Her, and Banks tapped out after trying to grab a hold of Lynch's hair.
This was the type of top-tier match we have been dying to get from Lynch since she won the main event of WrestleMania, and it comes as no surprise that Banks was the one to give it to her. It is worth wondering whether the right person went over in the end -- if Banks is not going to beat Lynch, who actually will? -- but that is the only somewhat-negative thought coming out of this barn-burner of a match. It was nearly picture perfect from start to finish, and both women looked like stars in the end. Grade: A+
Roman Reigns & Daniel Bryan def. Erick Rowan & Luke Harper via pinfall (Tornado Match): The action began at a frenetic pace with all four men legal simultaneously. Bryan soon got singled out and ate a number of double-team maneuvers as Reigns laid at ringside after taking steel steps to the face. A tope suicida from Harper took out Reigns, but Harper legitimately hit his head on the bottom of the announce table and appeared to be in real pain. All three announce tables were cleared, and Reigns was placed against a ringside barrier as Rowan broke off a different piece of the barrier and drove it into Reigns, who flipped outside into the crowd. The duo tried to powerbomb Bryan through an announce table, but Bryan countered with a huricanrana to Harper, and Reigns appeared out of nowhere to run across two tables and spear Rowan through the third. After taking a second-rope powerbomb from Harper, Bryan escaped a third straight dragon suplex, leaving an opening for Reigns to hop in the ring and hit a Superman punch. Bryan followed with a running knee, and Reigns hit a spear for the 1-2-3.
After the match, Bryan extended a hand, but as Reigns went to shake it, he pulled his hand away. Instead, Bryan raised his arms asking for a hug and fans began chanting "Yes!" Reigns turned away but ultimately smiled and hugged Bryan. The two then shook hands without any further issue. For a storyline that got massively convoluted and a match that was not highly anticipated despite two fan favorites teaming, these four truly delivered a bout that thrilled the fans. Good work all around on Sunday, even if the lead up left plenty to be desired. Grade: B+
Randy Orton def. Ali via pinfall: This match was setup during the kickoff show when Orton told Ali he was lucky and not good. The veteran Orton dominated most of the match over the diminutive Ali to the point that Ali went ribs-first into the ring post and actually scraped his body on it. Once Ali finally got some momentum, he tried but missed an 054. Orton avoided it but Ali saved himself, and Ali dodged an RKO attempt before hitting a tornado DDT. Orton avoided a second 054, but this time Ali hit the canvas. Orton followed with his elevated DDT and posed for the crowd, giving Ali time to recover. When Orton went for his RKO, Ali stopped himself from hitting the mat by doing a handstand. Ali tried to pin Orton's shoulders to catch him by surprise, but Orton kicked out. Ali then attempted a rolling facebuster, but as he rose off the canvas, Orton caught him with an RKO out of nowhere for the pin. After the win, Orton stared at a fallen Ali, nodding his head, pointing at the youngster in approval and then pounding his chest. Good job by WWE developing a reason for the match and paying it off all in one night. Grade: B
Women's Tag Team Championship -- Kabuki Warriors def. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross (c) via pinfall to win the titles: Kairi Sane and Asuka displayed some attitude and worked as the heel side of the match. Askua nearly got Bliss to tap with an ankle lock, and Sane poked Cross in the eyes while she was minding her business on the apron. Cross cleaned house as the hot tag, but Sane stopped her with an Alabama slam. Cross used her knees to stop the Insane Elbow, but Asuka broke up a pinfall after Cross nailed her elevated swinging neckbreaker. Asuka and Cross battled until Sane pulled Bliss off the ring apron, distracting Cross and the referee. Asuka surprised Cross by spitting green mist before kicking her in the face. Heel Asuka is the best Asuka, and the Warriors did a fantastic job telling the story of their heel turn throughout the match. Highly entertaining for an unexpected match. Grade: B
Viking Raiders & Braun Strowman def. The OC via disqualification: Luke Gallows pulled Strowman off the apron and hit a Siz Kiz as The OC took control after the Raiders displayed their freakish athleticism early. AJ Styles was back dropped out of the sky by Erik, giving Strowman the chance to clean house before Styles took his leg out and locked him in the Calf Crusher. Everyone traded signature moves, and Styles took Ivar out with a Phenomenal Forearm. However, the Good Brothers attacked Strowman two-on-one to prevent a running powerslam on Styles, and the referee called the match. The Raiders hit a pair of tope suicidas to leave Styles and Strowman alone in the ring, and an injured Strowman countered a Phenomenal Forearm with a straight right hand to the chin, clearly a message to Tyson Fury. Styles sold Strowman's punch all the way to the back as he could not keep his legs after the punch. There were good moments here, including Styles' sell job, but the DQ was unnecessary considering there were four people who could have eaten the pinfall. Grade: C+
24/7 Championship -- Tamina def. Carmella (c) via pinfall to win the title: While the Street Profits were promoting Raw, R-Truth and Carmella ran into Montez Ford, and a returning Tamina rolled Carmella up from behind. Tyler Breeze suddenly showed up and stood face-to-face with Tamina, but she socked him in the face and ran off. The 24/7 title has proven to be entertaining, but it would be nice if it was not only changed via roll-up. How about just a little action first?
Shorty Gable def. King Corbin via pinfall: After dubbing his competitor "Shorty Gable" before the match, the larger Corbin dominated early. Following a rolling German suplex, Gable tried to put away Corbin but was powerbombed and hit with the Deep Six. Gable was able to get back into it with a swinging neckbreaker and a moonsault, but Corbin retook momentum with a chokeslam onto the ring apron. He then grabbed his scepter -- the way he was disqualified last time against Gable -- but he challenger ducked and rolled Corbin up for the 1-2-3.
Ring announcer Greg Hamilton announced the winner as "Shorty Gable" on the microphone, and Gable celebrated wildly. The long-rumored name change is annoying and unnecessary, and the crowd was not at all into the match until the finish. Still, these two work well together. Later in the show, Gable was interviewed backstage and accepted the "Shorty" name, saying we finally saw that "Gable is the bigger man." This led to Corbin violently attacking him from behind, throwing him into a concrete wall, road case and through a pair of doors. The match was a C, but the backstage segment was fantastic. Grade: B-
24/7 Championship -- R-Truth def. Tamina (c) via pinfall to win the title: The foreign announcers were introduced and Tamina was shown near them trying to get out of dodge. However, R-Truth found her, and she pulled Funaki from his table to protect her. Carmella caught Tamina from behind with a superkick and directed Truth to retake the title. This is what I was talking about earlier in terms of doing a bit more than a roll-up.
SmackDown Women's Championship -- Charlotte Flair def. Bayley (c) via submission to win the title: Bayley got a pop for being from nearby San Jose, but she was the heel all match. This was another hard-hitting women's bout with Bayley maintaining aggressiveness and Flair bleeding from the mouth early on. Each woman attacked the other's left leg at various points. Flair hit Natural Selection on Bayley, but the champion was able to grab the bottom rope. Bayley countered a Flair moonsault with her knees, but Flair hit a fall away slam outside to regain momentum. Bayley countered a Figure Eight attempt with a pinning combination, but Flair kicked out. Bayley then attempted to roll up Flair and use the top rope for leverage, but the referee caught her.
That gave Flair an opening to take Bayley down and lock her in the Figure Eight to win her 10th women's championship. Flair taunted Bayley after the match, leading Bayley to throw a fit and then break down at ringside. "Why does it always have to happen to me?!" she screamed before crying as the crowd chanted, "You tapped out!" This was a nice piece of character development for Bayley, though another Flair title reign is ho-hum at this point. The match was a good piece of business, however, and a nice co-main event considering the limited card. Grade: B+
Universal Championship -- Seth Rollins (c) vs. "The Fiend' Bray Wyatt ended in a no contest (Hell in a Cell): The ring was filled with red light for the entire match. Rollins quickly grabbed a kendo stick, but it had no effect on The Fiend, who devastated Rollins at ringside by throwing him into the cell and steel steps. Three shots with the steel steps finally grounded The Fiend and gave Rollins time to grab a table. That pause let The Fiend get his hands on Rollins, who he hit with Sister Abigail into the cell. Rollins was able to hit a frog splash onto The Fiend through a table, but he could not capitalize with a pinning attempt. Rollins then hit The Stomp, but The Fiend immediately popped back up. The Fiend caught a second Stomp attempt and hit Sister Abigail, but Rollins kicked out at two, so The Fiend snapped Rollins' neck, leading him to convulse on the canvas.
The Fiend did not go for another pinning attempt, instead grabbing a huge mallet from under the ring and driving Rollins into the cell with it. Rollins responded with three superkicks and a Stomp onto the mallet at ringside; The Fiend immediately got up, so Rollins hit him with a pair of flying knees from the top rope followed by two more superkicks and three more Stomps. The crowd began boo, but The Fiend rose and the crowd cheered. Rollins hit a Pedigree and a sixth Stomp, but The Fiend kicked out at 1. Five more Stomps made it 11, and this time The Fiend did not rise, but an incredulous Rollins did not try to pin him. Instead, Rollins grabbed a chair and stood over a prone Fiend. Rollins hit him directly in the head with a chair, and The Fiend kicked out at one again.
Rollins laid a chair over The Fiend's face and pulled out a small ladder, driving it directly into the chair. The Fiend kicked out at two and Rollins looked at the referee in shock as he searched for more weapons. He pulled out a toolbox, placed a chair and ladder on The Fiend's head and swung the toolbox into the pile five times as the crowd booed again. Rollins then stacked the toolbox on the pile and vented at ringside before grabbing a sledgehammer. Back in the ring, the referee tried to stop Rollins. "Think about what you're doing! This is not who you are!" Rollins relented for a second and then swung the sledgehammer, leading the referee to call the match without a victor named.
The crowd erupted in boos as Rollins screamed at The Fiend. "You made me do this!" The crowd chanted, "Bullshit!" and then briefly "A-E-W" as referees and trainers ran to ringside. Rollins then stood over The Fiend to taunt him, which woke The Fiend up. He immediately placed Rollins in the Mandible Claw and threw him outside the ring, hitting Sister Abigail at ringside as fans chanted, "Restart the match!" The Fiend then pulled up the ringside covering and hit Sister Abigail on the concrete before again placing the champion in the Mandible Claw. This time, blood poured out of Rollins' mouth. The crowd lightly booed and The Fiend was shown at the top of the ramp as the show ended.
There is so much to unpack here from the red light (seemed to work in the arena) to the fact that there was another false finish in a Hell in a Cell main event for the second straight year. The presentation was ultimately solid. The booking was horrid. If The Fiend is not going to be taken down after all of that, how can he ever be beaten? Why would you allow Rollins to be that dominant and get that much offense if you're not going to change the title, knowing fans want The Fiend to win. It was typical WWE not delivering, and fans had every right to be upset. Still, I did not hate the match before the endless stomps that turned the crowd, and The Fiend did ultimately end up on top looking dangerous. Everything was working and heading in the right direction until the endless stomps began. Grade: C+
2019 WWE Hell in a Cell highlights
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