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What we learned from WWE Hell in a Cell 2016

While the RAWs leading up to Hell in a Cell were a problem, the event itself was great.

Sasha Banks tries to break out of a submission by hitting Charlotte Flair with a steel chair.

Hell in a Cell is over, and history was made! Said history was memorable for more than just existing, too, which means Sunday’s goal was accomplished. The Women’s Championship match wasn’t the only one on the card, of course, nor was it the lone success, so let’s get recapping what went down at Hell in a Cell 2016.

United States Championship Hell in a Cell Match: Roman Reigns (c) defeats Rusev

You knew Roman Reigns was going to win. He took the belt off Rusev already, and this was more about putting an exclamation point on their feud so the two can move off in other directions. Rusev caused a ton of damage to Reigns and nearly won on multiple occasions, but Reigns powered through and retained his U.S. title after a grueling and lengthy match. It was the worst of the three Hell in a Cell-style matches, but it was also an entertaining affair. That’s a rarity for WWE in the PG era — Hell in a Cell is a match concept from a much bloodier era with less regard for safety. Anytime WWE can work around those limitations and still provide a satisfying match, that’s a win.

What we learned: Rusev isn’t going to be the man to take down Roman, even if he did try to dress for the job he wants by wearing his “US CHAMP” trunks. Given the finality that the Cell is supposed to represent for a feud, this is probably the end for these two facing each other, and Reigns can finally find a new opponent. It won’t be Braun Strowman, not yet, but it feels like that’s the eventual move for the powered-up big man, yeah?

Bayley defeats Dana Brooke

Dana Brooke’s character is a delight, as she’s so incredibly full of herself and proud of any successful move or flurry of offense she hits. She’s still relatively new to in-ring work, though, and it sometimes showed in this match. It didn’t ruin it or anything, of course, but it’s a reminder that it’s good that Bayley won so she can move on to something else and start delivering some classics like Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair have been doing for a few months now.

What we learned: Bayley is in a position to move on to a new feud — with Charlotte, perhaps — but it’s unclear what’s next for Dana. She’s Charlotte’s muscle, so she can be grouped into a Bayley-Charlotte feud, but RAW really needs to keep her wrestling regularly if they want to be able to make her into a star in the women’s division like the wrestlers she’s always attached to. She has the potential, they just need to give her the time.

Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson defeat Big Cass and Enzo Amore

This was a good match, though not really anything new between the two teams. That’s OK, though: A solid execution of something we’re now used to is a lot easier to deal with when it seems as if directions are finally changing, and with Gallows and Anderson picking up the win here, maybe these pairs will point themselves in a new one.

What we learned: Oh thank Haitch, The Club desperately needed a win here. They’ve been billed as the most dangerous tag team on RAW for a while now, except they haven’t won an important match since their team name still had the word “Bullet” in it. This was a battle of two teams who could use a W, and the right one got it — crowds are still going to love every second of Enzo and Cass whether they’re winning or not. NXT was proof of concept, and their reception on the big stage has only proven that they’re plenty popular even if they aren’t always pushing toward the tag titles.

As for The Club, they probably aren’t about to jump into the tag title scene immediately, not with Sheamus and Cesaro having a good reason to get a rematch against The New Day, but it feels like they’ll be there waiting the next time a new opponent is necessary for whoever the tag champs are.

WWE Universal Championship Hell in a Cell Match: Kevin Owens (c) defeats Seth Rollins

Poor Seth Rollins. You knew he was going to lose because someone interfered on Owens’ behalf. It just wasn’t clear if it was going to be Kevin Owens’ best friend Chris Jericho, or Triple H, who betrayed Rollins to get Owens the Universal title in the first place. It ended up being Jericho to the rescue, and though Rollins valiantly fought the pair off for longer than expected, the result was the same.

What we learned: Owens and Jericho might be very honest with each other about how they’ll eventually come to blows over Owens being the Universal champ, but it’s also not the right time. Jericho wants to be co-captains of RAW’s Survivor Series team with Owens, and making sure that his buddy was still champion at the end of this match was the best way to convince Stephanie McMahon that it’s the best idea for the brand.

Unfair or not, interference is legal in a Hell in a Cell match, so Rollins might not be able to argue his way into another shot at the Universal Championship. It’s OK, Seth. You’re still the baebyface RAW needs, and maybe this pushes you ever closer to the eventual showdown against Triple H at WrestleMania next spring.

WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match: The Brian Kendrick defeats T.J. Perkins (c)

After a lengthy evening of titles not changing — that’s not a complaint so much as an observation, by the way — we saw the Cruiserweight belt taken off of Perkins after he submitted to Kendrick. This was necessary, as the Kendrick-Perkins story just kept repeating the same points again and again, and the crowd could barely get up for a title switch at a pay-per-view because of it.

What we learned: Putting the belt on Kendrick might be just the spark the cruiserweight division needs, as the wrestlers crowds are responding to the most are good guys Rich Swann and Cedric Alexander. With a clear heel holding on to the title and no longer forced to make video game references because his opponent is a walking one, we might finally start to get the kind of matches and stories we hoped for when this division was announced.

RAW Tag Team Titles Championship Match: Sheamus and Cesaro defeat The New Day (c) by DQ

Uuuuuuugh. OK, OK, it makes sense. Sheamus actually kind of started the fight that got The New Day disqualified, so that helps along the “Cesaro and Sheamus are a good guy and a bad guy trying to balance their conflicting moralities with a desire to win tag team belts” thing. Still, though, the time feels right to have New Day drop the belts and move on to something else after trying to get them back, but it sure feels like WWE wants them to set the consecutive days record for the tag titles first.

Sorry, Cesaro and Sheamus. You’ll just have to wait.

What we learned: On the bright side, Cesaro and Sheamus looked good, and in fact had the match won, with Xavier Woods tapping out. It’s just that the ref noticed Kofi Kingston (who was not in the match, as Big E and Woods were defending the group’s titles) attacking Sheamus on the outside first. This does mean we’ll get a rematch between the two at some point, hopefully one that has Cesaro and Sheamus coming out on top, perched on more than just a technicality.

RAW Women’s Championship Hell in a Cell Match: Charlotte Flair defeats Sasha Banks (c)

In our preview, I went on for a bit about how WWE bungled the lead up to this match by focusing on the historic nature of women fighting in a Hell in a Cell style match (the first time ever!) and the potential for them to be the actual main event of the night (they were — that’s another first). What they should have done was focus heavily on how much pain these two are willing to inflict on the other in order to lay claim to the title they both believe is rightfully theirs. That’s the story we got in the match, at least, as Charlotte had nearly taken Sasha out of the match before it even began by power bombing her through an announce table.

Sasha has a bad back, so this got her put on a stretcher, but she powered her way to the ring once she realized she was about to lose her championship by forfeit. What followed was an intense, well-executed Hell in a Cell match, with logical offense and big spots focused heavily on destroying Sasha’s reign by destroying her back. Charlotte’s darker side as the bad guy allowed her to capitalize on every weapon around her in the Cell, and eventually, Banks’ back just wouldn’t allow her to get up before the three count.

What we learned: It’s apparently not time for a lengthy Sasha Banks’ championship run, as Charlotte took the belt from her once again at a pay-per-view by focusing on her opponent’s injured back. That’s not a bad thing, though, especially not with Bayley now in the women’s division and looking for something to do after downing Dana Brooke. Charlotte Flair and Bayley have plenty of their own history to play off of, and Bayley is the true babyface of RAW’s women’s division, anyway. Charlotte is the true heel, Sasha is her own thing entirely, and any combination of the three interacting is money.