The WWE Championship was on the line for the third consecutive pay-per-view as Daniel Bryan met Randy Orton, this time inside the confines of the dreaded Hell in a Cell.
With so many outside elements potentially playing a role in the match, not to mention the presence of special guest referee Shawn Michaels, there were plenty of questions leading into the much-hyped bout.
What happened when two of the top Superstars in today's WWE clashed inside the career-altering cell? Did Triple H or Big Show make their presence felt? Did Michaels factor into the conclusion of the match or did he call the match straight down the middle?
All of the questions would be answered Sunday night as WWE presented its annual October pay-per-view from the American Airlines Arena in Miami.
What went down and how will it affect the future of the company?
Let's take a look.
Michaels, Orton and Bryan entered the arena as expected but “King of Kings” plays and Triple H made his way to the ring with the WWE title in-hand. He entered the squared circle and offered his hand to Bryan, who refused as fans chanted “no.”
The cell lowered and bell rang as the main event of Hell in a Cell was underway.
Bryan and Orton exchanged rights before the action spilled to the outside. Bryan took off across the ring for a suicide dive but Orton caught him with a powerslam. Bryan countered a DDT attempt, climbed the ropes and came off with a dropkick.
He backed Orton into the corner, delivered a series of kicks but Orton caught him with a dropkick and covered for two.
Orton suplexed Bryan across the top rope. He followed with a second, then a third. Charging at Bryan, Orton sent him flying off the ring apron and into the hard steel of the cell. Orton whipped Bryan into the steel steps and dislodged another set of steps, crashing them into the shoulder of his opponent.
Orton shoved Bryan’s face into the steel and attempted an Irish whip into the steps but Bryan reversed and Orton crashed shoulder-first into them.
Bryan rolled Orton in and covered for two. Bryan delivered a series of kicks to the upper torso of The Viper and sat him on the top rope. Now with the third-generation star tied in the tree of woe, Bryan delivered a series of kicks, followed by a dropkick.
A dropkick sent Orton over the top rope and into the cell. A suicide dive continued Bryan’s momentum as he brutalized his opponent. A second was successful as well but Orton ducked out of the way of a third and sent Bryan into the steel.
Orton crotched Bryan on the ring post, then delivered his trademark backbreaker.
Back inside the squared circle and Orton covered for two, the resilient Bryan unready to end his quest for the gold.
Orton sat Bryan on the top rope, delivered three hard rights and followed him up to the top rope. Bryan fought out of a superplex attempt and delivered a sunset flip powerbomb from the top.
A trading of uppercuts ensued as the competitors made it to their feet. Orton stopped the exchanged with a boot to the midsection but Bryan caught him with running clothesline. With Orton in the corner, Bryan delivered two straight dropkicks to his opponent, sat him on the top rope and delivered a big head scissors.
A diving headbutt from Bryan resulted in a two-count from Michaels, who had been a non-factor to this point.
Another series of kicks to the chest of Orton followed but Randy ducked a big kick and rolled him up for two. Bryan countered out of the pin attempt and applied the Yes Lock but Orton escaped.
Bryan repeatedly sent Orton into the steel mesh of the cell and delivered a running dropkick to Orton that sent WWE’s Apex Predator into the cage.
A chair was introduced to the bout as Bryan brutalized Orton with it, delivering four vicious shots to the upper body. Bryan retrieved a number of chairs and threw them into the ring as an “ECW” chant broke out.
Bryan delivered two more chair shots to Orton before rolling him back inside the ring.
Another chair shot attempt was blocked by Orton, who raked the eyes, picked up a chair of his own and returned the favor to the Aberdeen, Washington native. Orton covered but could only keep Bryan down for two.
Yet another chair shot from Bryan could only keep him down for another two-count.
Orton piled the chairs in the center of the ring, the look on his face indicating a devious, sadistic plan.
Orton sat Bryan on the top rope for another superplex attempt but Bryan fought him off. Orton crotched Bryan and, this time, delivered a superplex that sent Bryan into a few of the chairs. The high-impact maneuver again resulted in two.
Michaels and Orton exchanged words while Triple H made his way to the ring and told his friend to “do his job.” They argued at ringside as Orton delivered a big exploder suplex. Michaels missed the count and he, Triple H and Orton continued to argue at ringside.
Back inside the ring, Bryan tried to for the Yes Lock but Orton fought out and delivered his signature DDT. Orton went for the RKO but Bryan shoved him off and into Michaels, who bumped.
Triple H ordered the cell door opened as Bryan sprinted across the ring and delivered the knee to Orton. With Michaels down, no count was made. With Triple H inside the squared circle, Bryan leveled him with the running knee. A recovering Michaels delivered Sweet Chin Music to Bryan and Orton covered for the win as fans were left wondering why the guest referee did what he did.
Orton held the title high overhead and celebrated the win with a stunned Triple H as the show faded to black.
The superplex by Orton onto the steel chairs, even though they missed the majority of the chairs, was still very cool.
The trading of uppercuts, which was seen at Battleground, was still impressive and the hard-hitting, high-impact nature of the match was great and made it feel different from Bryan and Orton's previous two matches.
The controversy surrounding Michaels' Sweet Chin Music of Bryan will make for some intriguing television, even if the booking decision was the furthest thing from the right direction to head in.
A really, really good Hell in a Cell match that was probably the best of the Bryan-Orton series thus far. Bryan was vicious in a way that he had not been to this point and it really added to the overall quality of the match.
Unfortunately, the questionable booking Bryan continued.
Rather than being the culmination of the angle and the moment that crowned Bryan as the rightful WWE Champion, it was another excuse for the heels to be the last ones standing.
At some point, the company has to deliver the ending that satisfies fans without making them sit through the same main event pairing for four pay-per-views in a row. It is a testament to the workers involved that the matches have been as good and as different as they have been but at some point, the people who have waited so long for Bryan to hoist the WWE title in victory will get tired of waiting and move on.
Michaels' actions were interesting and create questions that could lead to some intriguing programming on the road to Survivor Series but the company has to be asking itself at this point whether fans are going to join them on that road.
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