The entire Hell in a Cell pay-per-view hinged on the main-event WWE Championship match between CM Punk and Ryback, and while the match and the result were decent, I don't believe the pay-per-view was anything to write home about.
With that said, there was some solid wrestling throughout the night and the event was actually better than I anticipated. Hell in a Cell most definitely suffered from a lack of build with regards to the undercard matches, however, and even top-notch matches in terms of in-ring work couldn't have made up for that.
Hell in a Cell is clearly a lead-in to Survivor Series more than anything else, and I'm sufficiently interested in where several angles will be heading over the next several weeks. The WWE had to make due without John Cena being on the card, and it did a nice job of generating buzz for RAW and beyond.
Here are my rankings for each match on the Hell in a Cell card going in ascending order from worst to best.
There usually isn't much to say about divas matches in the WWE, and while Sunday's contest wasn't a train wreck by any means, it wasn't too impressive, either. Eve retained her Divas Championship by defeating both Kaitlyn and Layla in a triple-threat match, so not much was gained or changed because of the result of the bout.
The one interesting aspect of the match was the dissension between Kaitlyn and Layla as they both tried to pin Eve at once and had a bit of a staredown. Eve was eventually able to take advantage as it turned into more of a triple threat rather than a handicap match. If nothing else, maybe this will lead to either Kaitlyn or Layla turning heel.
I was somewhat interested in this match because of the storyline attack against Kaitlyn at Night of Champions, but there was no movement on that front. I suppose that the reason why it wasn't revealed is because there isn't really anything else of note going on in the divas division, but I would have liked to have seen a resolution.
There have been much better and much worse divas matches, so I can't really complain too much about this one. Having Eve retain was the right decision, and there is still a worthwhile angle through Survivor Series in all likelihood.
The United States Championship match between Antonio Cesaro and Justin Gabriel wasn't announced as part of the card ahead of time, but since Gabriel upset the Swiss superstar on RAW, it was pretty obvious that it would be included. At the same time, there was no doubt that Cesaro would retain his title, and that is precisely what happened.
Just like the encounter between Kofi Kingston and The Miz, this match suffered from the fact that it has been shown on free television a couple times over the past few weeks. Also, there was absolutely no build leading up to Hell in a Cell, so the fans had no reason to care. Even if it was a firecracker of a match, it had no chance to succeed.
Cesaro and Gabriel work very well in the ring together as Cesaro's brute strength and Gabriel's high-flying ability mesh in an impressive way; however, we didn't see anything new on Sunday. Cesaro evaded a 450 Splash and a couple other high-risk attacks from the Cape Town Werewolf and ultimately came out on top thanks to a Gotch-style Neutralizer.
There was honestly no excuse for the WWE to throw this match on the card without putting some time into the feud as there were six weeks between pay-per-views, but that is exactly what the writers decided to do.
Perhaps the rivalry wouldn't have been great since Gabriel is limited on the mic, but the creative team has to find a way to get Cesaro over a an upper-tier heel.
There was nothing inherently wrong with this match, but nobody is going to be talking about it on Monday.
The tag-team bout between the team of Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara and The Prime Time Players was certainly a throw-in, but I do commend the WWE for making it a part of the card.
The two squads have been involved in a quasi-feud for about a month and will face each other as part of a six-man tag encounter on Main Event this week, and I believe that both units benefited from having a pay-per-view match.
The tag-team division is mostly definitely on the ascent compared to where it has been the past couple years, so it made perfect sense to showcase two teams that may not be in the title scene currently, but will be in the very near future. Mysterio and Sin Cara came out on top in a well-wrestled affair that certainly allowed the depth of the tag-team division to be on display.
Although Titus O'Neil and Darren Young lost the match, they actually came away looking fairly strong as they dominated Sin Cara for much of the contest. Mysterio cleaned house after the hot tag and pinned Young following a 619, so the luchadores were able to regain some of the momentum they lost as they fell short in the finals of the tag-team tournament.
Sin Cara hit O'Neil with a suicide dive to the outside late in the match and was being tended to afterwards. It was difficult to tell whether he was legitimately shaken up, but I don't see what there would have been to gain by faking it. Sin Cara did celebrate with Mysterio following the victory, so hopefully he'll be fine moving forward.
Again, this was a match that probably should have been built a little better and announced ahead of time, but it was a pretty good time filler.
Kofi Kingston and The Miz have shown to have some good in-ring chemistry over the past couple of weeks, and that remained true at Hell in a Cell. While the Intercontinental Championship match was decent as far as the in-ring work goes, the result was extremely predictable, and that hurt the bout to some degree.
The worst part about this match was that we had already seen it twice heading into Hell in a Cell, so there weren't any real surprises. Kofi beat Miz in a non-title match on RAW a couple weeks ago and then won the title off of him on Main Event. Seeing as Kingston just won the Intercontinental Championship, there was no chance of Miz striking back.
I'm not saying that the Kingston winning was the wrong decision since The Miz is much better off without the IC title weighing him down, but it would have been much more impactful if the WWE had saved the title change for the pay-per-view rather than giving it away on ION Television.
It was a typical Kofi match with several exciting spots and it was made a little more interesting when The Miz ripped his boot off, but that was merely a blip on the radar.
It's unfortunate that The Miz was booked so poorly as champion and that he has had to lose three matches to Kofi over the past couple weeks, but at least he can move on to bigger and better things.
This match was decent for what it was, but there is no question that it fell short of both contests that came before it.
Heading into Hell in a Cell, the Tag Team Championship match between Team Hell No and Team Rhodes Scholars seemed like one of the more unpredictable matches on the card, and the finish confirmed that to be true. Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow came out on top, but it was by way of disqualification, so the titles stayed with Kane and Daniel Bryan.
The match itself was a very solid tag-team encounter with plenty of back-and-forth action. Both Rhodes and Bryan were isolated a various points throughout the bout and there was actually an old-school feel to the contest. Not surprisingly, the turmoil between Kane and Bryan ultimately became the story of the match, however.
Rhodes appeared to have won it as he hit Bryan with Cross Rhodes after Bryan accidentally kneed Kane, but Kane broke up the pin. The Big Red Monster went on a rampage as he continually pummeled both Rhodes and Sandow in the corner, and that led the referee to call for the bell.
While I understand the result as it furthered the issues between Kane and Bryan and sets up a potential rematch at Survivor Series, I believe it overshadowed an otherwise excellent match.
I would have rather seen the bickering cost Kane and Bryan the titles as it would have been a hot topic of conversation over the next month, and it would have helped Team Rhodes Scholars get more heat as well.
Even so, it was a good matchup and it will allow the revamped tag-team division to remain in the spotlight for the foreseeable future.
Since Randy Orton and Alberto Del Rio are two of the stalest characters in the WWE currently, I wasn't overly excited for this match going into the night. From a pure wrestling perspective, however, this was a good, classical bout that started Hell in a Cell off right.
Del Rio worked on Orton's arm throughout the match to set up the Cross Armbreaker and had it locked in on a couple occasions, but The Viper was able to slither out. This contest wasn't short of cool spots either, including Del Rio's Curb Stomp on Orton with Orton in a tree-of-woe position.
The best moment of the match was the finish, though, when Del Rio went for his corner enzuigiri and missed, leading to a thunderous RKO. That allowed Orton to score the three-count and take the upper hand in a feud that has been otherwise boring.
I questioned the WWE's decision to lead off with this match initially since neither guy is particularly red hot right now, but they both performed admirably from an in-ring perspective. I doubt that the result will do anything to make the rivalry more interesting, but it did its job in terms of getting the Atlanta crowd involved early.
Orton needed the win more than Del Rio as he has a movie coming out and hasn't been in the world title scene for a year, so I have no real complaints about this one.
The World Heavyweight Championship match between Sheamus and Big Show will never be confused with a work of wrestling art a la Randy "Macho Man" Savage vs. Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat at WrestleMania III, but it was a hard-hitting affair that certainly exceeded expectations in terms of entertainment value.
To say that the result was the most shocking of the night is an understatement as Big Show came through and won the World Heavyweight Championship.
Big Show was in control for much of the match and even hit Sheamus with a KO Punch, but he couldn't put The Great White away. Momentum swung in the champion's favor thanks to a Brogue Kick, but Big Show returned the favor by kicking out.
Sheamus tried to end it once and for all, but Big Show caught him with another KO Punch to pick up the win. The shock factor was obvious, but the match loses some points because I don't believe the right decision was made. There are times when the WWE tries to surprise people rather than doing what makes sense, and this was a perfect example of that.
Dolph Ziggler has been saying for weeks that he planned to cash in his Money in the Bank contract at Hell in a Cell, but he didn't even make an attempt. Perhaps things changed since Sheamus didn't win, but it makes Ziggler look like a coward for not living up to his word.
The worst part about Big Show winning, though, is that it essentially guarantees his feud with Sheamus will continue for at least a month. There are a couple capable heels in The Miz and Wade Barrett who would have made great challengers for Sheamus, but I suppose they'll remain in flux.
Also, I can't figure out why this match didn't take place in a cell. There are usually two cell matches per night at Hell in a Cell, but the WWE scaled back to one. If the plan was for Ziggler to try a cash-in it would have made sense, but he didn't, so I'm confused about why it was a normal match.
The bout was rough-and-tumble even without the demonic structure, but the WWE missed out on an opportunity to make it even better.
The WWE needed the WWE Championship match between CM Punk and Ryback to be great in order for Hell in a Cell to succeed, and while I wouldn't say that it was perfect by any means, it will have the fans talking for quite some time.
The WWE painted itself into a corner to some degree in terms of the result of this match, but both Punk and Ryback were protected fairly well.
I have been predicting for the past several weeks that Brock Lesnar would interfere on Punk's behalf due to his relationship with Paul Heyman, but that didn't come to fruition. Instead, referee Brad Maddox screwed over Ryback as he stopped him from hitting Punk with Shell Shocked, nailed him with a low blow and then helped Punk pin his shoulders down for the three count.
If nothing else, the ending was shocking as a crooked referee wasn't on anyone's radar. Maddox was actually the official who caused Punk to lose a tag-team match to John Cena six weeks ago as he counted despite Punk's foot being on the rope. This would seem to indicate that Maddox is in cahoots with Punk, Paul Heyman and perhaps even Vickie Guerrero.
The match itself was exactly what I thought it would be with Ryback dominating the early portion due to his pure strength. He tossed Punk around effortlessly into the cage wall and even busted Punk's back open. Punk came back, however, as he blinded Ryback temporarily with a fire extinguisher and also used a chair and a kendo stick.
Ryback regained control and was about to hit Punk with his finisher, but Maddox then changed the complexion of the match. Maddox paid for his meddling, though as Ryback destroyed him following the contest. The best spot of the match came after it was already over, however.
Punk tried to escape Ryback by scaling the cell, but Ryback pursued him. He then hit Punk with Shell Shocked atop the cell to end the night standing tall. The WWE needed to protect both Punk and Ryback, and it succeeded in doing so.
I can't help but think that Lesnar interfering would have been a better payoff, but the WWE obviously has an intricate plan, and I'll be interested to see where it goes.