Pruett's Pause: WWE Hell in a Cell 2013: Shawn Michaels helps us return to the status quo with Randy Orton's win, John Cena comes back to the World Heavyweight Championship, the tag division over performs, and more!
By Will Pruett
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The last time both John Cena and Randy Orton held the two world championships in WWE, it was July 17, 2011 and we were going into Money in the Bank 2011. Just in case you don't remember, at Money in the Bank 2011, C.M. Punk won the WWE Championship for the first time and left through the crowd (if you need a replay, check out TNA's last two shows). Many fans saw (and still see) this as a turning point in modern wrestling. They decided, before the show was even over, to christen this "The Reality Era" and decide Punk was its hero.
At Hell in a Cell, the two faces of what could be calling the "Pre-reality Era" regained their status as the two faces of WWE. John Cena returned from injury to defeat Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship in a mildly competitive match. Cena did not appear on television before this match. Randy Orton, with an assist from Shawn Michaels and Triple H, defeated Daniel Bryan to regain the WWE Championship.
For years, Orton and Cena were the symbols of how stale WWE programming had become. From 2006 to 2011, they dominated the top of the WWE card, either holding separate championships or competing for the same one. WWE had some serious problems during this time. Their creative effort hit rock bottom (fortunately, it was eventually partially saved by The Rock). John Cena and Randy Orton didn't cause the problem; they were demonstrations of the symptoms of it.
With this show, we saw the revolutionary from Money in the Bank 2011, C.M. Punk, compete in what should have been the crowning moment of his year-long program with Paul Heyman, but it left us with a whimper. The revolutionary was forced to cheerlead for the fans to applaud him. Through a stale program, the passion of the crowd seems to have left him.
The old stalwarts of WWE have come back to the forefront, with Cena and Orton anchoring the roster. Triple H and Shawn Michaels seem poised to be a heel authority duo. The landscape of WWE, which looked bright and exciting just two months ago, now looks to be returning to a time when creativity eluded them.
I hope I'm wrong, but somehow seeing Orton and Cena become champions once again on the same night has me believing the last two years were an aberration. It feels like the revolution is over and order was just restored.
And now for some random thoughts...
- One bright spot of this show, despite my disillusion with WWE's current creative direction, was Daniel Bryan hitting Triple H with his running knee. The really telling moment of this entire feud will be what happens when Bryan and Triple H step into the ring together.
- The tag division in WWE, while often maligned, is being rebuilt nicely. Of course, the rebuilding also helps when The Uso's, The Rhodes Brothers, and The Shield are actively trying to steal the show. This match was almost at the indie scene tag level of awesome and spot-tastic-ness.
- The Shield have to be dark horse competitors for WWE's MVP act of the year. In 2013 they have reignited the tag division, made three hours of Raw watchable with some amazing six-man tags, been involved in feuds with every top star, gotten Daniel Bryan over as a top act, and they've still retained their greatness. This act has been a highlight of WWE for the year it has existed.
- The Uso's entrance still feels like three entrances (all of which I enjoy) rolled into one.
- If The Miz was not cleared to compete, why was he wearing his gear? Does Miz just not believe pants belong on pay-per-view?
- The return of Kane was a surprise for me, but he's another act who has not been gone for long enough to make an impact. He left. He is returning as a monster. In three months, he'll be doing comedy again. Maybe I'm just bitter towards Kane for some reason, but the act is stale.
- Great Khali and Natalya vs. Fandango and Summer Rae was filler. With six hours to tell stories during the week, one would think even pay-per-view filler matches could have some story told on Raw and Smackdown. I guess WWE doesn't have enough time to build these things up.
- This may have been the worst pay-per-view panel yet. Kaitlyn, R-Truth, and Dolph Ziggler all made stereotypical points and didn't come off as intelligent. These panels can be used to enhance wrestlers' characters, but instead, they're just awkward.
- Big E Langston looked good in his count out win against Dean Ambrose. These guys were in an odd situation because of the injury to Curtis Axel. They also had a dead crowd to work with because of the filler match preceding them. E and Ambrose tried hard and had a good effort.
- When I hear "Cage Lowering Music" I am pretty inspired. I hope this music is played after I die when I'm lowered into the ground. I want my funeral to be ominous.
- Punk vs. Ryback (with Heyman on top of the cell) was the first Hell in a Cell rematch. No two men have been in the cell together once, then returned a second time. Interestingly enough, neither of these matches really needed the Hell in a Cell structure.
- Punk and Ryback lack chemistry. After two feuds over two years, they have one total good match between them (the TLC match on Raw).
- Punk's vengeance on Heyman on top of the Cell should have been a big moment, but it felt like a repeat. It was Heyman's first time taking the GTS, but the moment was not nicely built. As I said before, it went out with a whimper.
- As much as I enjoy El Torito's post-match antics, I do get bored of Los Matadores in the ring. Now that they've beat The Real Americans, will they have anything left to do?
- Alberto Del Rio and John Cena had a fine match together (as they usually do when there is not a Christmas theme involved). Del Rio did a good job of playing the cocky heel and targeting Cena's arm. Cena sold the arm occasionally, but didn't play up real danger. I never expected Cena to lose this, so I wasn't surprised by the end of the match.
- JBL actually said John Cena is Superman. It's like they aren't even hiding it from us anymore.
- A.J. Lee vs. Brie Bella was a nice Diva's match, but it suffered from being positioned after the John Cena match. Brie and A.J. have some nice chemistry in the ring, and with a little time, this could be a very good feud.
- Anytime Shawn Michaels special referees a match doesn't rock his SummerSlam 97 shorts, I am disappointed. Give the people the shorts they want.
- Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton seemed like side players, even with their entrances. They were bookended by the flashier entrances of Triple H and Shawn Michaels. The true players here were not the competitors in the match.
- Bryan tend Orton once again disappointed in a pay-per-view main event. They wrestled well, but did not live up to their past matches. The Cell seemed like an unnecessary addition, not a necessity to the story they were telling.
- The end of this show was about Triple H and Shawn Michaels again, not Bryan and Orton. This was an issue for me.
- Why did Orton lose the title in the first place? Why couldn't Bryan's title reign last from Night of Champions until now instead of the "abeyance" story? Was there really some need for the title to be held up?
This show ended a poorly told story with a poor ending. Once again, WWE opted to over-complicate and over-book the end of a pay-per-view instead of offering a satisfying conclusion one way or another. The best wrestling promoter of all time should be better than this. Fans have now potentially paid over $200 to see Daniel Bryan become WWE Champion and they haven't been satisfied.
This is not a "wait and see" situation. This is not a moment when WWE is telling a compelling story about a chase. I don't even think they know what story they're truly telling. This was a lost creative effort booking the next chapter without an end in sight.
So, what did you think of the show? Agree? Disagree? Either way, feel free to email me at email@example.com or to follow me and interact on twitter at twitter.com/itswilltime.
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