With the WWE deep into its New Era, it has successfully discarded many of the mistakes it has repeatedly made over the past few years. But one of the things it has retained is the idea of the “themed” pay-per-view event — shows which are centered around a particular match type.
We’ve had Night of Champions, which is when every match is a title match (except this year’s, where it was a Raw exclusive event, and as such there weren’t actually enough championships for every match to put them on the line, so it was just like any other monthly show), Elimination Chamber, TLC and coming soon, Hell in a Cell.
The timing couldn’t be worse on this one, either.
This year, Hell in a Cell is directly succeeded by Survivor Series, which is one of the Big Four PPVs. It’s at the Big Four events that rivalries are finally given some closure, as the roster moves on to different bugbears with different people. The WWE has two rubbish choices it can make: End everything at HIAC, and have four weeks to build up feuds with sufficient baggage to be worthy of blowing off at Survivor Series. Or, have the same guys continue to fight into Survivor Series, making the HIAC matches a waste of time that didn’t serve their primary purpose of bringing closure to feuds.
At present, it’s looking as though WWE is going with the first of those options. And if Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan’s announcement gave us the plan they are sticking with, then the entire event will focus around a “brand wars” affair, with the best male, female and tag team competitors facing off against each other in multi-person matches. While the traditional Survivor Series elimination match is a staple of the PPV, it’s hardly likely that in the space of 20 days all 30 of these competitors are going to have enough interplay for the match to mean anything, or for any particularly high stakes to be raised, especially since they’re each on separate brands and aren’t likely to be crossing over.
There’s nothing to play for; having enormous elimination matches with no stakes other than vague notions of being “better” is the sort of thing that WWE always does when creativity is running a little dry and they need to fill airtime.
It is precisely because of HIAC, in this author’s opinion, that creative has had to resort to such a desperate fix.
Not that there’s much hype to be sucked from the cell at this stage. There was a time when the Hell in a Cell match was a special event reserved for special feuds between the right guys. Come this year’s HIAC, there’ll have been 36. Go figure.