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WWE’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view has come and gone, leaving fans with more than a few buzz-worthy topics to delve into, including two championship switches and a modern classic to boot.
But those are not the only points of conversation.
There is the incredible downfall of a group that has struggled to gain traction since its debut, as well as the controversial call to switch up the Money in the Bank briefcase holder.
These topics helped to make Hell in a Cell a surprise candidate for PPV of the year while ensuring the event stays on the tip of the WWE Universe’s collective tongue in the proceeding days.
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The empty-arena era of WWE programming has seen a handful of performers step up and make the most of a bad situation. Randy Orton is one of them, and Sunday night, The Viper paid off one of the best years of his Hall of Fame-worthy career by defeating Drew McIntyre and winning his 14th world title in the main event.
It was a win, some 18 years after his television debut, that he earned.
Orton’s excellence in 2020 has been indisputable. After turning heel in January by laying out Edge and sickeningly bashing him with a steel chair, the third-generation Superstar has been on of the most consistently great elements of the WWE product, no matter what is going on around him.
Sunday night was the culmination of his climb back to the top of the proverbial mountain, and his WWE Championship victory—his first in three years—was his reward for some of the best work of his entire career.
There will be those who argue that giving Orton the title undercuts McIntyre’s status as a main event star, but they would be wrong. The Scottish Psychopath has been firmly established as a top star on Raw and one of the cornerstones of the brand. He has beaten Orton twice, not to mention anyone who challenged him prior to Sunday night.
He will be just fine.
Orton will continue his stellar run as the champion all other babyfaces attempt to dethrone. As history dictates, the WWE product is almost always better under those circumstances. That it is Orton, a master of the minute details and one of the best psychologists in the industry, will only benefit the red brand and enhance The Viper’s banner year.
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Anyone taking the “wait and see how it plays out” approach with Retribution is about to feel bad about wasting their time because Hell in a Cell again proved just how dead in the water that faction is.
As if Shelton Benjamin and MVP knocking their names and masks were not bad enough, the fact that Bobby Lashley earned a win in a glorified squash match against Slapjack adds credibility to the argument that WWE is systematically devaluing the group and everyone in it.
First, it cut Mustafa Ali’s explanation from Raw two weeks before Hell in a Cell. Then it booked everyone in the group to take an ass-whooping courtesy of The Fiend. Two devastating losses in a row to Bobby Lashley only further insinuates that WWE has no real plans for Retribution and does not see the masked losers on the level of The Hurt Business, let alone worthy of a main event run.
And is anyone surprised?
It took the company how long to figure out what to do with them? Then it gave them the most awful names possible before throwing cheap Halloween masks on them and expecting the group to get over.
They have been doomed from the start, and now the booking reflects as much.
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Sasha Banks and Bayley tore the house down Sunday night in the best match on the Hell in a Cell card. It was brutal, violent, incredibly physical and featured a hell of a finish that was a callback to a previous encounter of theirs.
It was a perfect match, one that should have been the main event of the pay-per-view.
Banks endured and endured before dodging what would have been a devastating, chair-assisted elbow drop on to a ladder from Bayley. From there, she mounted a comeback that ended with her trapping Bayley’s head and neck in a steel chair and then applying the Bank Statement as she kicked the weapon, adding further damage and leaving the women’s champion no choice but to tap out.
On a nigh when most expected the women to deliver given their previous encounters, they somehow exceeded expectations with a contest that deserves Match of the Year consideration. It was the perfect end of Bayley’s year-plus reign as SmackDown women’s champion and an even better start to Banks’ reign atop the blue brand.
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The Miz relieved Otis of the Money in the Bank briefcase Sunday after Tucker betrayed his partner, allowing the Hollywood A-Lister to pick up the big win over the Blue Collar Strong babyface.
While some will argue that it diminishes the importance of the briefcase or that Miz is a tag team wrestler whose first push to the top of the card failed miserably, his victory Sunday night was the right call and one that takes pressure off WWE Creative to shoehorn Otis into a main event position before he is ready.
Yes, Miz’s first run as WWE champion was a colossal failure. That was a decade ago, though, and the man who appears every week on WWE programming and across USA Network as one of its most visible stars is a different performer than he was almost 10 years ago.
He is smarter, more comfortable and, most importantly, believes in himself in that role. He can hang with any Superstar on the mic and has a tendency to perform up to the level of his opponent. Booking him against someone like Randy Orton or Drew McIntyre (or even Roman Reigns) will not prove too big a spot for Miz, as it did the first time he found himself in a position to carry the briefcase.
It would have for Otis. Worse yet, it would have threatened his credibility in a top spot. Unlike Miz, he is not the type of performer who can spend 10 years digging himself out of a hole. His status would have been a bit longer-lasting, making the decision to get the briefcase off of him and on to Miz the best, most appropriate option available to WWE Creative at this time.
Whether Miz successfully cashes in or not is another question for another time.