Randy Orton def. Daniel Bryan in Hell in a Cell to become WWE Champion
The high-profile involvement of guest referee Shawn Michaels looked like a red herring for much of the match, but his impact was clearly felt before it ended as Michaels essentially handed Orton the title. To distinguish this match from their previous encounters, Bryan came out quickly with a rapid attack and a missile dropkick. Orton took the fight out of the ring and tried to whip Bryan into a set up ringsteps, but suffered a reversal. Bryan did three consecutive suicide dives to drive Orton into the cage, the third of which Orton dodged to send Bryan directly into the cage. Bryan rallied back in the ring and nearly won with the Yes Lock then threw about a dozen chairs into the ring. Orton recovered from a series of chair shots and superplexed Bryan onto the pile of chairs. When Bryan kicked out, HHH came to ringside and started to berate Michaels for his non-fast count. The discussion between Michaels and HHH led to an inadvertent ref bump. HHH came into the ring to check on Michaels, and Bryan used the opening to hit a running knee to HHH. Michaels responded with Sweet Chin Music to Bryan and a pin for Orton. While the match was entertaining, the finish was unsatisfying. Bryan has suffered a screwjob fate at four consecutive PPVs- a Pedigree from HHH, a reversed decision after a fast count, a KO punch by Big Show, and now Sweet Chin Music. There can only be so many bites at the Bryan-Orton apple before the matchup becomes uninteresting. I have started to lose some of my enthusiasm for Bryan since the story has ended similarly so often, and I suspect other fans will feel the same way.
John Cena def. Alberto Del Rio to become World Heavyweight Champion
Cena returned as promised with no swerves and surprisingly few jeers from the fans in Miami. He favored his surgically repaired arm early in the match and sold the pain after contact whether it was inflicted by Del Rio or himself. As a result, Del Rio was able to cut Cena’s rallies short in the early going. Without strength in his arm, Cena countered Del Rio’s top rope move with a dropkick to the gut and hit his five moves of doom. He tried the AA and Del Rio countered with a backstabber. They exchanged their submission holds, Cena powerbombed Del Rio to forced him to break the Cross-Ambreaker, and Cena hit the AA to pin Del Rio and win the title. I was somewhat surprised that Cena won so cleanly because it stands in the way of a possibly interesting angle between the two. Nonetheless, he wrestled a good match in his comeback and deserves credit for returning so quickly and seamlessly.
CM Punk def. Ryback and Paul Heyman in Hell in a Cell
Heyman did not come to the ring with Ryack. Instead, he rode to the cell in a Genie lift and put himself on top of the cage before the match began. Heyman’s presence atop the cell- much like the classic “manager in a cage above the ring” stipulation- distracted Punk early in the match and allowed Ryback to dominate. He delivered a series of vertical suplexes into the cage and atomic dropped Punk crotch-first onto a sideways table. As Ryback tried to follow up, Punk hit his own low blow on Ryback and delivered a Macho Elbow through the table. He polished Ryback off with a GTS and climbed the cage to finally get his hands on Heyman. He kissed Heyman’s bald head and walloped him with a Kendo stick endlessly. Finally, the fans chanted “Go To Sleep” and Punk delivered the GTS on top of the cage. For a brief moment, it looked like Punk might throw Heyman off the cell, which elicited an audible gasp and some shrieks from the crowd. Even without that gratuitous violence, it was a good payoff to a feud that probably dragged on a little longer than it should have. Punk is ready to move on and this match provided good closure to a memorable angle.
Cody Rhodes and Goldust def. The Shield and The Usos to retain the Tag Team Titles
The show’s opening match was also its best match. Despite the triple threat rules, only two wrestlers were considered “legal” at a time, but the participants barely adhered to those rules. The match combined a series of high spots by some of the more daring wrestlers in WWE with good psychology regarding the match stipulations. Rhodes hit an excellent moonsault on Seth Rollins after a long stretch of dominance by Rollins and Roman Reigns. Shortly after, Jimmy Uso nailed an impressive flying Samoan drop on Rollins. Rhodes tagged himself back in and superplexed Rollins from the inside of the ropes to a crowd of wrestlers on the floor. He tried to pin Rollins back in the ring, but the cover was disrupted by a splash by one of the Usos. Reigns hit a spear, Goldust hit a heel kick, and Rollins hit an enzuigiri to clear the ring for Rollins and Rhodes. Amidst the chaos, Rhodes attempted a Disaster Kick, missed, and nailed Cross-Rhodes on Rollins to win and retain the titles. The match was another creative and exciting match that helped elevate the Tag Team Titles and the whole division.
Big E Langston def. Dean Ambrose by countout
Langston’s match with Curtis Axel was scrapped due to Axel’s hip injury, so he got a shot at Ambrose instead. Despite the lack of buildup, the two worked a gritty match that was enhanced by a hard-way cut on Langston’s head. When Langston nearly hit the Big Ending, Ambrose escaped and tried to leave the ring. Langston brought him back, but suffered a big DDT for his troubles. Langston got the advantage back with a huge diving shoulder block to Ambrose on the apron that sent both wrestlers to the floor. Ambrose was counted out to retain his title, but Langston brought him back to the ring for the Big Ending and a pose with the belt. I thought both wrestlers exceeded my expectations for this match and I look forward to Langston’s chance to redeem himself.
AJ Lee def. Brie Bella to retain the Divas Title
AJ and Brie continued to show their improvement with a series of reversals early in the match. Brie rolled out of a Black Widow attempt and locked in a half Boston crab. On the outside, Nikki Bella tried to keep Tamina from interfering, but took a big knee from her sister when AJ ducked out of the way. Brie’s focus on her fallen sister gave AJ a chance to lock in the Black Widow and win by submission. A fallout between the sisters could be an alright story, or it could be a thorough waste of time.
Los Matadores def. The Real Americans
Zeb Colter accused Los Matadores of being in the country illegally and cut another promo on El Torrito before the match. Antonio Cesaro did the Cesaro Swing early on. A series of double team moves gave Los Matadores the advantage over Swagger and they ended it with a sort of double team bulldog that looked too low-impact to be a finisher. After the bell, El Torrito hit a hurricanrana on Cesaro and a splash on Swagger.
Fandango and Summer Rae def. Great Khali and Natalya
Summer Rae made her in-ring debut in a mixed tag match and wrestled better than expected. She spent most of the match in the ring and got the pin with a rollup out of an attempt at the Sharpshooter. A Summer Rae-Natalya angle would mean concurrent angles in the Divas division, which is a rare occurrence, but helps make the division more viable.
Kane Returned to Take Out The Wyatt Family
Miz claimed that he was not medically cleared to face Bray Wyatt after the Wyatt Family abducted him but challenged Wyatt to come to the ring to fight him anyway. Wyatt, on the Titantron, said that Miz’s insults mean nothing to him compared to the monster behind his eyes. The lights went out and Erick Rowan and Luke Harper ambushed Miz. Fire exploded and Kane made his surprise return to take out Rowan and Harper after they sent him away at SummerSlam. As they retreated, he turned to Miz and chokeslammed him to make it clear that his only goal is revenge. The Wyatt Family has essentially treaded water since their initial angle with Kane, so a bookend to that feud could help reenergize them.