While I didn't personally have very high hopes heading into Sunday's Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, the WWE pleasantly surprised me. There was a total lack of build when it came to the undercard, and there was probably too much emphasis placed on the WWE Championship match between CM Punk and Ryback, but it was ultimately an entertaining show.
Not only was there good action from top to bottom, but the WWE set itself up really well for Survivor Series and beyond. There are several intriguing storylines worth following and plenty of buzz surrounding both world titles, so it's difficult to complain about the way that Hell in a Cell was booked.
Here are the three biggest reasons why Hell in a Cell should be considered a major success for the WWE.
Perfect Booking of WWE Title Match
Almost all of the focus heading into Hell in a Cell was on Ryback's pursuit of CM Punk's WWE Championship. The WWE would have benefited from hyping the middle of the card a little more, but it was obvious that the main event had to go over well for Hell in a Cell to thrive. The match itself was quick and painless as expected, but the most important part was the fact that it was booked to absolute perfection.
I and many others believed that Brock Lesnar would interfere on Punk's behalf and help him retain, but that was such a widespread theory that it would have been anticlimactic. It would have worked from a storyline perspective because of Lesnar's relationship with Paul Heyman, but having referee Brad Maddox screw Ryback was equally effective and far more surprising.
Nobody saw that finish coming, but it was excellent because it allowed Punk to retain, but it didn't make Ryback look weak at all. Ryback proceeded to destroy Maddox and then hit Punk with Shell Shocked atop the cell to boot, so he actually stood tall despite losing the match. It will be interesting to see how the Maddox situation plays out, but it seems logical at the moment.
Surprise Ending to WHC Match
Until the World Heavyweight Championship match between Sheamus and Big Show, the entire Hell in a Cell card was extremely predictable. That isn't always a bad thing since it usually means that things are being booked correctly, but every fan likes to be shocked at some point. The world title match definitely delivered in that regard, though, as Big Show defeated The Great White and ended his dominant title reign that began at WrestleMania.
Not only was the ending a surprise, but the match itself was great. You usually know what you're going to get when it comes to a Big Show match, but both he and Sheamus knocked it out of the park. I still don't quite understand why that bout didn't take place in a cell, but both men were so vicious and powerful that they transcended the need for the demonic structure.
Sheamus looked strong in defeat as he went toe to toe with the giant and even hit him with a Brogue Kick, but Big Show was allowed to get the rub and win the title after two KO Punches. I'm not necessarily thrilled about Big Show being World Heavyweight Champion since I was looking forward to Sheamus feuding with either The Miz or Wade Barrett, but Sheamus' title run had gotten a bit stale, and the change should be pretty refreshing.
Strong Matches Throughout
What was the best part of Hell in a Cell?
I am still very critical of the way that the WWE constantly neglects the Intercontinental and United States Championships from a storyline perspective, but it still was able to produce a solid undercard at Hell in a Cell. Perhaps the best-wrestled match of the night was the opener between Randy Orton and Alberto Del Rio. While Del Rio did have a bad botch during the match, it was a classical encounter that involved Del Rio targeting the arm throughout and it ended with a fantastic RKO spot.
I didn't expect much out of that match since the storyline attached to it was boring, but it delivered. Also, although the finish to Team Hell No vs. Team Rhodes Scholars match left a lot to be desired, it was a really good, back-and-forth tag match that represented the revamped tag-team division well. That was further bolstered by the match between the team of Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara and The Prime Time Players later in the night.
There simply wasn't a bad match on the card, as even the Divas Championship triple threat was palatable. The Sheamus vs. Big Show match was a hard-hitting slugfest that exceeded expectations, and even the Punk vs. Ryback match was well done despite Ryback's obvious limitations. Hell in a Cell isn't an A-level show, and it wasn't built like one, but the match quality was so sound that I came away very impressed with the event overall.