WWE

Making sense of WWE’s Hell in a Cell 2020

WWE’s Hell in a Cell 2020 was like a midseason episode of a show that contained elements that could have been saved for the season finale. While the moments deserve praise in a vacuum, they created a frustrating experience when placed against the backdrop of storytelling.

The biggest case of that Sunday night was the phenomenal Hell in a Cell match between Bayley and Sasha Banks that resulted in Banks prying the “SmackDown” women’s title from the kung-fu grip of her former best friend in an excellent tug-of-war between two of the best in the women’s division. 

While the match was great, one has to wonder why WWE didn’t close the show with it. And why do this now when the feud clearly could have carried WWE through WrestleMania season?

The Bayley-Sasha feud has been festering over the past couple of years. The duo spent time as best friends but had been working toward a split that would culminate in a heated feud. When Bayley turned on Banks in September with a brutal attack, it was expected that Banks would be on the shelf for several months and return just in time to help carry one of the best feuds into WWE’s massive annual show.

Nope.

Instead, Banks made her return in just a few weeks and the two squared off in a Hell in a Cell match for the network special of the same name while the rival was still undercooked.

WWE has a nasty habit of shoehorning a feud into a stipulated match during one of its themed network specials. The feud should always dictate the type of match, not the other way around, but that’s not what happened here.

Regardless, Banks and Bayley once again showcased their phenomenal chemistry and delivered a breathtaking match that saw Banks defeat her former best friend and end her 380-day reign as champion. 

As great as this match was, one has to wonder whether it would have been better served being held at a more meaningful event such as WrestleMania or Royal Rumble. It felt as if WWE spent so much time building to this moment only to rush it through to the finish. Who knows where either of these rivals will go, considering that the options for intriguing opponents on “SmackDown” are quite limited. 

One thing WWE has consistently nailed is the feud between Roman Reigns and his real-life cousin Jey Uso. The two continued their story with an “I Quit” match inside a Hell in a Cell. The only real problem here, outside of this match starting the show instead of ending it, is that the match never needed to be inside a cell. It was another instance of WWE forcing a feud into an unnecessary stipulation match. 

Nevertheless, the emotional storytelling that Reigns and Uso brought to this match was astounding and has further cemented Reigns’ status as one of the top acts in all of professional wrestling. Without being hindered by his previous babyface persona, Reigns has had a real opportunity to sink his teeth into character development; he was forced to relentlessly pummel his cousin to prove he’s at the top of the food chain in the Samoan family. 

The build to this match was excellent and the match itself delivered on all accounts as Reigns and Uso beat the hell out of each other for more than 40 minutes. This was also an instance when not having a crowd helped. The words exchanged and the facial expressions told a wonderful story that may not have hit the same with fans in attendance. The match benefited from a creative ending in which neither wrestler would verbally submit. When Reigns’ cousin Jimmy entered the cage to protect his brother Jey, Reigns seemed to be overwrought with emotion until he decided to choke Jimmy out, which caused Jey to say, “I quit” to protect his brother from further damage.

It was a beautiful touch, but the match felt out of place as the opening to the show considering the gravity of it. 

Then there was The Miz beating Otis for the Money in the Bank briefcase after Tucker turned on his longtime friend and nailed Otis with a briefcase. It was just as nonsensical as it sounds. But WWE had to figure out how to get the briefcase off Otis considering that he has become nothing more than a comedy act that nobody could take seriously as a true championship contender. 

Hell in a Cell closed with the third match of the night inside the red cage as Randy Orton defeated Drew McIntyre to become the new WWE champion. The match wasn’t all that great and it ended a feud that had lived on well past its expiration date. This is no fault of McIntyre or Orton because they’ve worked with what they’ve been given. But it’s extremely unfortunate for McIntyre because he never truly had an opportunity to carry the WWE championship in front of fans.

The match itself fell flat as it hit the usual notes of an HIAC match (climb the cell, fall through a table, etc.) but paled in comparison to Reigns-Uso and Bayley-Sasha. And although Orton has had some great moments this year, it felt really early to pull the cord on McIntyre’s title run after the Scottish wrestler had already beaten Orton twice before. 

This wasn’t a terrible event by any means, but in the grand scheme of storytelling, it was a jumbled mess that was paced awkwardly and produced questionable results. While we will certainly be tuned in for the future of Reigns and Uso, the futures of Banks, Bayley, McIntyre, Orton, Otis and Miz are a bit more muddled. 

This show was filled with exceptional performances but came at a time when nobody was really paying attention. WWE is troubled with some very fixable storytelling issues, but the work between the ropes Sunday was, for the most part, great. 

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