Far too often, WWE has found ways to undercut the hard work that their talented roster produces via baffling or uninspired booking decisions.
Despite some highlights, Hell in a Cell 2021 was not the exception to this rule. While this pay-per-view won’t make any “Worst Of All Time” lists, it will likely be remembered as much for the booking follies sprinkled throughout the show as it will be the good matches.
So, where did the company err on this show from a creative standpoint?
These are three things that WWE got wrong at Hell in a Cell 2021
Papa Shango Alexa Bliss and her magic powers
Sigh……..okay, look, before diving into this, I’ll give some credit to Alexa Bliss for doing everything she can to make this character work, from altering her in-ring moveset to even the way she moves in the ring. However, what she’s being asked to do isn’t working.
Some of the issues rest with her own acting limitations, but much of the blame for this stuff sits at WWE’s feet. This attempt to make the audience believe that Bliss is so frightening that even Shayna Baszler is flustered by her was bad enough when fans had to sit through that Alexa’s Playground segment a couple of weeks ago on Raw. Now, they had to endure Bliss literally laughing off Baszler’s offense — including the arm stomp that used to write wrestlers off of TV in NXT — and, sigh, Alexa hypnotizing Baszler and Nia Jax.
Of course, this opens up the floodgates for questions. If Alexa can hypnotize people, why didn’t she just force Baszler to lay down for her? More broadly, why is she even wasting her time with Baszler, Jax, and Reginald when she could use her powers to force Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville into giving her a women’s title shot?
Oh, and WWE is also trying to convince the audience that all of this makes Bliss the babyface despite her instigating everything with the former WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions and Reggie.
If nothing else, Bliss pinning Baszler clean should signal the end of this nonsense, or at least Baszler’s involvement in it.
Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley ends with a lame DQ finish
Apparently, WWE felt that a feud that has done nothing but make the supposed two top women on Raw look like unlikeable idiots needed to last a little while longer. To accomplish this, the creative team went with their usual unimaginative method to necessitate a rematch: a wet blanket disqualification.
Toward the end of what was a good match between Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley, both women ended up near the announcer’s desk. Seconds later, Ripley bashed Flair in the head with the hood of the table, which forced the referee to call for the bell. You see, because WWE was shrewd enough to determine that no one wanted to see Flair win the title here, but still wanted to give her a win while “protecting” Ripley. So, they chose the outcome that pleases no one.
Them also setting the stage for a rematch also speaks to the lack of depth in the Raw women’s division, which is completely understandable. I mean, it’s not like they have a menacing former NXT Women’s Champion that they defanged in service of getting
Charles Xavier Alexa Bliss over.
Watering down Hell in a Cell: Drew McIntyre vs. Bobby Lashley edition
Since 2009, WWE has shown fans that these gimmick matches — Hell in a Cell, in particular — are cloaks to cover for their substandard storytelling and star creation, and the Bobby Lashley vs. Drew McIntyre match was another bit of evidence to support that.
In this match that was built up as a climactic showdown between two men who have fought over the WWE Championship for months — and a match where McIntyre would receive no more chances at Lashley for the title if he lost — and designed to deter outside interference, fans saw the following:
- MVP interfering on the outside
- a ref bump
- MVP yanking the second ref out of the ring to prevent McIntyre from winning (that said, kudos to MVP acting smug after he did the deed, thinking that he would walk right back out the Cell door, only for that grin to become an “Oh S—” look once he saw that the door was re-locked and knew he was trapped inside with an angry McIntyre)
- MVP grabbing McIntyre’s leg to prevent him from hitting Lashley with the Claymore Kick
- Lashley retaining via a surprise roll-up while grabbing McIntyre’s trunks for leverage
Now, this isn’t to say that previous Cell matches haven’t used some of these tropes to good effect — heck, even the first HiaC match is remembered for its memorable run-in — but jamming all of these loopholes into one match gives off the impression that they booked themselves into a corner and needed to find a way to “protect” McIntyre in defeat, even though little of his sheen would’ve been dulled by a clean loss to someone booked as strongly as Lashley’s been over the last year.
It’s great that WWE has decided to go all-in(ish) on Lashley as WWE Champion. It will also be intriguing to see how they define McIntyre outside of a major title program. But this match didn’t need to take place inside the big red cage and the tired “give the loser an out” plot devices proved why.