A brutal match between WWE champion Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre was not only the main event of Sunday's Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, but also the highlight of the show.
The championship clash between Lashley and McIntyre inside Hell in a Cell was one of many matches from the event that exceeded expectations. With very few low points, the show delivered near-constant entertainment from the PPV-opening match inside the Cell between Bianca Belair and Bayley for Belair's SmackDown women's championship to the aforementioned WWE championship match.
The show sets up WWE for a strong push over the coming months to lead to August's SummerSlam event, which could serve as WWE's highlight of the year as the promotion returns to touring with live crowds.
CBS Sports was with you the whole way through the event, providing updates and highlights as the action went down in the live blog below.
2021 WWE Hell in a Cell results, grades
Mandy Rose vs. Natalya: The match started with some extended stretches of chain wrestling before Rose decided to amp up the intensity by whipping Natalya's throat into the ropes and attacking with strikes. Rose went for a few quick covers before using her legs for a body scissor around Natalya's waist. Natalya came back with a flurry of offence and a seated dropkick for a two count. Natalya was eventually able to maintain her upper hand long enough to lock up the sharpshooter for the finish. Rose continues to improve as an in-ring talent, but this fell firmly into the group of relatively by-the-numbers kickoff matches. Natalya def. Mandy Rose via submission. Grade: B-
SmackDown Women's Championship -- Bianca Belair (c) vs. Bayley (Hell in a Cell): Bayley went on the attack early and brought a chair into the equation but missed on her first swing, allowing Belair to get a few quick near falls. Belair swung her braid into the chair several times after Bayley grabbed it again, but found herself on the defensive again after driving her shoulder into the ring post. Bayley kept the attack focused on the arm before binging the steel steps into the ring. Bayley cut off a Belair comeback attempt by biting the champion on the arm. Belair finally got things going when she made Bayley pay for suspending a pair of double kendo sticks between the ring and Cell, hitting a spinebuster to drive Bayley through the sticks.
Bayley came back by tying Belair's hair to a steel chair upon which the challenger was seated. Bayley eventually was pulled forward into that same chair before Belair tied her hair around Bayley's wrist and dragged her around the Cell, using kendo sticks and whipping Bayley into the Cell walls. Bayley begged the referee to let her out of the cell to no effect while Belair looked on while laughing. Bayley brought a ladder into the ring and used it sandwich Belair and hit a Rose Plant. The ladder would lead to the finish as Belair took back over and hit a running senton on Bayley on top of the ladder and then hit the Kiss of Death on the open ladder for the pinfall. Good stuff, though maybe a little short of some lofty expectations given Belair's incredible athleticism and Bayley's experience inside Hell in a Cell. Bianca Belair def. Bayley via pinfall to retain the title. Grade: B+
Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins: Rollins attacked Cesaro during his entrance, but Cesaro still got the jump as soon as the match started, hitting a bodyslam and a big back body drop before hitting a boot to send Rollins to the floor. Rollins used a thumb to the eye to put Cesaro on the defensive and open him up for a DDT. A Cesaro deadlift suplex led to Rollins having to dump Cesaro to the outside with a backdrop and a springboard knee for a two count. Cesaro came back, removing Rollins' glove and shoving it in Rollins' mouth before continuing his assault. Rollins hit a falcon arrow for a two count and followed up with another near fall after a kick to the back of Cesaro's head. When Rollins couldn't get the job done, Cesaro came back with a big Cesaro Swing before locking in the sharpshooter. As Rollins reached for the ropes to break the hold, Cesaro switched things up to a crossface before transitioning back to the sharpshooter after Rollins attempted to reverse into a pinfall. Cesaro stomped on Rollins' arm as he attempted to reach the ropes again, but Rollins was able to roll him up for a small package for the win. The finish was a little odd, but this was the expected solid match between Rollins and Cesaro, two of the best in-ring competitors on the WWE roster. Seth Rollins def. Cesaro via pinfall. Grade: B
Alexa Bliss vs. Shayna Baszler: Bliss calmly walked forward while Baszler hesitated to engage until Reginald caused distraction at ringside, allowing Baszler to get her offense going with some strikes. Bliss continued to alternate between anger and happiness as Baszler continued to attack with kicks, punches and joint locks. During a wristlock, Bliss yelled at Baszler to look at her and Baszler released the hold once she had. This allowed Bliss to unleash a flurry of offense and a DDT for a near fall. Bliss then stared down Nia Jax at ringside, forcing Jax to mirror her movements and slap Reginald with her magic. Bliss then his a Sister Abigail and a Twisted Bliss for the win. Nothing about this Bliss character works and this remains a bad use of everyone involved. Alexa Bliss def. Shayna Baszler via pinfall. Grade: D
Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn: Owens took the fight right to Zayn to get the match started, but Zayn used a few underhanded tactics to get rolling offensively until he failed to suplex Owens, allowing Owens to reverse before a cannonball in the corner for a two count. After attacking Owens' arm and driving his throat -- still affected by the Nigerian Nail of Commander Azeez -- into the ropes, Zayn hit a big flipping dive over the top rope onto Owens on the outside. As the ref checked on Owens' arm, Zayn ran forward with a boot. Owens fought back with a clothesline on the outside and tried a swanton from the ring apron but Zayn got his knees up to counter and hit a blue thunder bomb back in the ring for a near fall. Owens fought back with one arm before Zayn delivered a big exploder suplex to counter a stunner for another near fall. As the action spilled to the outside, Owens hit a stunner and Zayn barely beat the 10 count to stay alive. With Zayn bleeding from the mouth, the two exchanged punches and headbutts from their knees. Zayn hit a knee to the back of Owens, sending Owens throat-first into the bottom rope. Zayn pounced, hitting a Helluva Kick for the win. This was good, physical wrestling with a good storyline playing out through Owens' toughness not being enough to overcome the damage to his body. Sami Zayn def. Kevin Owens via pinfall. Grade: B+
Raw Women's Championship -- Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair: Flair attacked Ripley before the match actually began and then hit a big boot almost immediately after the opening bell. Flair kept Ripley on the defensive, dominating the early action while taunting the champion. Ripley's comeback included a big dropkick from the top rope before locking in a high-angle Texas cloverleaf before Flair launched her into the turnbuckle. Flair followed up with Natural Selection and an attempt to use the middle rope for leverage on the pin. Flair went for a moonsault from the top rope but landed on her feet and adjusted to a standing moonsault after Ripley attempted to roll out of the way, resulting in another near fall. Ripley, now dealing with an injured leg from the focused attack of Flair, managed to hit a superplex for a two count as the momentum continued to swing wildly. Flair went for an attack in the corner but Ripley moved out of the way, allowing her to hit a Riptide but too close to the ropes, allowing Flair to get her foot on the bottom rope. Flair went back to working on Ripley's leg before locking in a Figure-Eight, but Ripley was able to pull herself through the bottom rope to the floor to escape. Ripley then pulled off the top of the commentary table and hit Flair with it, resulting in a disqualification and allowing Ripley to retain her title. Ripley continued the attack after the bell, eventually laying out Flair with another Riptide. This was a very good match somewhat taken down by a really questionable finish that seemed to not play into Ripley's position in the match at all. Charlotte Flair def. Rhea Ripley via disqualification. Grade: B+
WWE Championship -- Bobby Lashley (c) vs. Drew McIntyre (Hell in a Cell): Lashley immediately dove from the ring to try and pull something from under the ring but McIntyre followed, driving Lashley's face into the Cell before slamming him into the wall. Lashley fired back, using the ring steps but McIntyre lifted him up for a suplex and launched him into the Cell wall before grabbing the ring steps and twice ramming them into Lashley's head. The two big men continued to attack each other outside the ring, with Lashley suffering a cut on his arm. As McIntyre set up a table, MVP slid his cane through the Cell, allowing Lashley to get the upper hand once again. After being rammed into the cage and the ring post several times by Lashley, McIntyre came back with his own version of Sheamus' White Noise on the ring steps.
McIntyre continued his dominant stretch before grabbing several chairs and throwing them into the ring, delivering a face-first slam to Lashley onto one of them. Lashley nearly locked in the Hurt Lock, but McIntyre countered and hit a sit-out powerbomb for a two count. Lashley fought back, using the ring steps to ram McIntyre into the Cell wall over and over before MVP helped trap McIntyre in the corner by sliding a kendo stick through the chain link. Lashley brought McIntyre back into the ring and set up a chair before driving McIntyre into it with a pair of flatliners. Lashley hit McIntyre with a kendo stick several times until McIntyre trapped it with his arm and used a chair before being shoved into the referee, who was knocked out of the ring.
With the referee down, McIntyre hit a Future Shock DDT but no one was there to make the count. McIntyre demanded a new referee enter the Cell before laying Lashley out with a Claymore. With the Cell door open, MVP pulled the ref from the ring to make the save. MVP then found himself locked inside the Cell and on the receiving end of a McIntyre attack, ending in a Claymore. McIntyre was distracted enough to allow Lashley to lock in the Hurt Lock outside the ring but McIntyre launched himself backward through a table to break the hold. Back in the ring, McIntyre lined up another Claymore after using a steel chair to attack Lashley but Lashley was able to duck out of the way and send McIntyre through a table at ringside with a chokeslam. McIntyre countered a spear from Lashley and hit another Future Shock and went for a Claymore only to have MVP grab his leg to set up Lashley for a roll-up to steal the win. Good, violent stuff from two bruisers and a refreshing edition of Hell in a Cell that didn't require a big bump from the top or side of the cage, even if it was another match on the night with an odd finish. And, thankfully, Lashley can now move on from McIntyre. Bobby Lashley def. Drew McIntyre via pinfall to retain the title. Grade: A-