Sunday night's WWE Hell in a Cell had been one of the most talked about pay-per-views in recent memory.
Not all the talk was good, as many expected this show to completely bomb. I fell somewhere in the middle. I didn't expect an atrocity, but I didn't expect a show of the year contender.
What WWE treated fans to was a pleasant surprise. A new World Heavyweight Champion was crowned, and a number of other stories were further developed through the night.
Overall, this was more of a transition show than anything else, but it still delivered in the ring and came out of nowhere as a show that will certainly be talked about even more in the future.
Randy Orton vs. Alberto Del Rio
It was surprising to see this match open the show, but Orton and Del Rio managed to put on a good match worthy of its spot. They were given time, and they made the most of it. Aside from one really bad moment when there was a miscue with Del Rio jumping off the turnbuckle, they worked a solid match that told a good story of Del Rio's cockiness costing him in the end. As I've said before, both these men take their fair share of undeserved criticism, but the fact of the matter is that they are both out of the title picture and just delivered a solid opening contest.
Winner: Randy Orton
Tag Team Championship
Team Hell No (c) vs. Rhodes Scholars
That was the match on the show I was most excited to see, and all four men delivered. The match, like the opener, got a lot of time and was allowed to develop into something really good. They played up the Daniel-Bryan-as-the-weak-link story, with Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow isolating him from Kane. The tag team champions then had their predictable problems, breaking up pinfalls and stopping each other from winning the match. There was an awkward double-baseball slide from the challengers, but other than that, everything was crisp. The ending was very disappointing, as Kane was disqualified for attacking both Rhodes and Sandow in the corner. Why this was enough to draw a disqualification is beyond me, but hopefully this keeps the door open for a rematch.
Winner: Rhodes Scholars by disqualification
Kofi Kingston (c) vs. The Miz
Three matches in and this show has been consistently providing lengthy, quality matches. The Miz and Kingston make good foils for each other, and they added another good match to the string of them they've been producing. Kingston winning was absolutely the right choice, as there's no need to hot shot the title around. The Miz looked really strong in the match, so hopefully this will be the end of his quest for the Intercontinental Championship and an opportunity to move back up the card.
Winner: Kofi Kingston
United States Championship
Antonio Cesaro (c) vs. Justin Gabriel
The real story of this match will be whether it's the start of something good for Justin Gabriel. He more than held his own in this impromptu match, which was a great addition on the show. He and Cesaro worked well together, and it was nice to see what they could do with a little more time than they got on Raw. Cesaro continues to look dominant and produce good matches, and WWE could have something special in Gabriel if they use him right moving forward.
Winner: Antonio Cesaro
Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara vs. Prime Time Players
This was another surprise addition to the card, and it, too, received a good amount of time - probably more than it needed. The four men involved worked a solid, competent match, but it didn't really keep me interested for its duration. Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara picked up the win, which means they will likely be in line for a Tag Team Championship shot in the near future. I still like the team of Sin Cara and Mysterio, as they make a good veteran-newcomer pair, but I'd still prefer to see Rhodes Scholars win the titles next.
Winner: Sin Cara and Rey Mysterio
World Heavyweight Championship
Sheamus (c) vs. Big Show
In the first real surprise of the night, Big Show proved his WMD to be deadlier than Sheamus' Brogue Kick, as the World Heavyweight Championship changed hands. The match started out slow, but it really picked up and delivered as it went on. The final 8-10 minutes of the match were really good, as Sheamus proved himself a fighter, but Big Show emerged victorious in the end. Sheamus managed to hit White Noise on the Big Show, which is more of an accomplishment in my book than John Cena hitting the Attitude Adjustment on the giant. Both men kicked out of the other's signature finisher, and despite losing the title, Sheamus continues to look strong. His reign is still in the record books, and he's greatly improved since his first run with the belt. I'm not too excited for another Big Show world title reign, but we'll see where it goes before passing judgment. The fact that Dolph Ziggler didn't even tease cashing in the briefcase after the match also came as a surprise.
Winner: Big Show
Eve (c) vs. Layla vs. Kaitlyn
These three women did what they could to produce a good match, and I think they delivered. Women's matches as of late have improved, and this was no different. They worked a basic match and told a simple story. In the end, Eve capitalized on an opportunity and stole a win. The drama between these three will certainly continue, and if they continue providing quality matches, that's OK with me.
Hell in a Cell
CM Punk (c) vs. Ryback
People have spent the past week contemplating how WWE could possibly end this match without ruining either Ryback's momentum or Punk's reign. No one guessed that referee Brad Maddox would interfere and cost Ryback the match. On this week's From the Rafters Radio, we talked about the controversial ref angle with Maddox going nowhere, but it now appears WWE had a plan. Ryback dominated the match with his signature offense, while the champion tried to use his ingenuity to gain an advantage. When Ryback set up for Shell Shock, Maddox low-blowed him and put Punk on top for a quick count. After the match, the outside referee couldn't get the cell unlocked, and Ryback destroyed the referee and went after Punk. The two climbed the outside of the cell, and Ryback hit his finisher on top of the structure, which was insane. I was waiting for Punk to fall through to the ring below. This wasn't a great wrestling match by any means, but it was certainly entertaining. This was probably the best solution WWE could have hoped for.
Winner: CM Punk
My Take: Going into the pay-per-view, my excitement was relatively minimal. I didn't expect much from this show, but it completely blew away all my expectations. Every match on the show delivered in the ring. WWE paced the show extremely well and each match had time to become something good. There wasn't a bad match on this show, and the booking all made sense as well. I really can't say enough good things about this show. I'm very glad I decided to watch this show, as it was a sleeper candidate for WWE pay-per-view of the year.
Ring Posts’ Adam Testa has teamed up with My 1-2-3 Cents and All American Pro Wrestling to bring you From the Rafters Radio, a weekly pro wrestling talk radio show airing from 8-10 EST every Thursday on Monster Radio 1150 AM in Southern Illinois and streaming worldwide on wggh.net.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun