Heading into Hell in a Cell June 5, most felt they would see a well-wrestled, but ultimately unremarkable show. The WWE Unified Universal Champion Roman Reigns was not on the card. Neither were either sets of tag team champions. There was a tantalizing women’s triple threat match that looked good on paper, and plenty of solid workers on the card. The main event Hell in a Cell match was intriguing, but it was a match fans were seeing for the third time. It was not a night one would expect to stand out.
Rhodes makes it a night to remember
Instead, fans saw one of the most remarkable performances of this era. Cody Rhodes faced Seth Rollins in the Cell match just days after tearing his pectoral while training. Rhodes worked the match while barely using his right arm. His chest and a lot of his arm were covered in grotesque, purple and black bruises that got an audible gasp from the crowd when he took his gear off. Despite the handicap and the pain he must have endured, Rhodes and Rollins delivered an excellent main event.
— WWE (@WWE) June 6, 2022
The two men put on a clinic in how to work around a serious injury. Rhodes took few standard bumps, naturally protecting the injury, yet the match still looked like a fight. They used the usual Cell gimmicks. There were tables, kendo sticks and even Dusty Rhodes’ trademark bullrope with the cowbell in the middle. Yet Rhodes took very few blows to the injured area.
The crowd in Chicago knew it was seeing something special and responded in kind. Rhodes was clearly in agony, and gutted through the match to turn in a legendary babyface performance.
Rhodes’ determination and pain threshold was remarkable, but it’s also worth mentioning how good Rollins was in working as a heel while avoiding the injury. Rollins directed his offense toward Rhodes’ left chest, stalled for time when needed and maintained heel heat. It was a thin wire to walk, but Rollins walked it. He only yanked on Rhodes’ bad arm once, and it was used to great effect. Yet Rollins was skillful enough to avoid making it look like he was trying to stay off the arm. Doing that would have poked a few holes in the suspension of disbelief, and could have elicited the wrong kind of crowd response. Rollins played his part perfectly.
With Rhodes undoubtedly out for a while after this match, the outcome was suddenly in doubt. Before the injury, Rhodes winning was the clear choice to set him up as a main event challenger for Reigns. But with the injury, would the company decide to put Rollins over? They made the right choice in having Rhodes defeat Rollins for a third time, allowing him to go into the time off as a hero who climbed an even taller mountain than anyone anticipated. Rhodes will miss some time, but there is little doubt his babyface stock will be higher than ever once he returns.
Was it a good idea for Rhodes to work through the injury? Certainly not. It’s amazing the doctors allowed it, but it would have taken an army to keep Rhodes from working his first big-time WWE main event match. Hopefully, he and Rollins were able to work around it enough they did no further damage.
Belair and Lynch stay on collision course
The show opened with a very good women’s Triple Threat match for the RAW Women’s title. Bianca Belair defended against both Asuka and Becky Lynch. In a match with three of the best workers in the division, it was a fast-paced and crisp match. Asuka’s striking and timing was on point. Belair’s athleticism was featured in clever ways, with Lynch’s savy work and timing coming through.
The finish was a WWE trope. Lynch hit her finisher on Asuka, but Belair threw her out of the ring and “stole” the pinfall. In this situation, it worked since Lynch has been portrayed as an opportunist and this finish gave her a dose of her own medicine.
Asuka was there to take the pin all along, as the goal is clearly to set up Lynch versus Belair one-on-one again on a major show. That is likely to be at Money in the Bank or SummerSlam. This match keeps one from beating the other and provided a preview of what will likely be another excellent singles match to come.
If not Cody Rhodes, then who?
WWE teased Bobby Lashley as a possible title challenger after defeating MVP and Omos in a handicap match. Lashley did the best he could but Omos is not good in the ring at all. Hopefully, this victory by Lashley wraps up the storyline, allowing Lashley to move on to better things. Lashley was told to hold up a fan’s replica title belt after his win, signaling Lashley is in the hunt for Reigns’ title again.
Lashley joins a list populated by RAW Tag Team Champions Riddle and Randy Orton as possible challengers. None seem likely to unseat Reigns, but each could provide an interesting match. Drew McIntyre is also there but is likely earmarked for a big card coming in Wales. Expect angles on RAW and SmackDown in the coming weeks to clarify who Reigns will have to deal with next.
Other notes from Hell in a Cell:
- Madcap Moss dumped the suspenders look and the whacky personality to decisively beat Happy Corbin in a No Holds Barred match. Moss has an excellent look and good fire as a babyface. He also seems to be building a connection to the audience. A better ring name and a solid push could make him into a solid babyface star.
- The mixed six-person tag team match pitting Finn Balor, AJ Styles and Liv Morgan against Edge, Damian Priest and Rhea Ripley was a solid match with good work from Morgan and Ripley especially. Styles and Edge held back, letting them shine for the most part.
- Poor Mustafa Ali. He was introduced as “Chicago’s Very Own,” as if he were Channel 9. He wore the flag of Chicago on his tights. Anyone who knows WWE booking patterns knew he was doomed right then and there. You knew even without the recent humiliations on TV of him being beaten week after week, months after requesting his release from the company on social media (those are not unrelated). He’s a good wrestler who deserves a good push, but he’s unlikely to get it with the current braintrust in place. If he’s used at all, it will probably be for more decisive losses.