WWE Hell in a Cell 2019 was a game-changing pay-per-view for WWE, but perhaps for all the wrong reasons.
The show started off strong with a great Raw Women’s Championship match between Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch. Then, it was all downhill from there. “The Boss” failed to win the title. So too did Bray Wyatt (more on that later). Charlotte Flair won yet another title. And fans are having none of it–probably with the same facial expression as Rollins in the picture above.
Later this week, WWE will undergo drastic changes with the 2019 WWE Draft, which will officially end the controversial “Wild Card” rule, create distinct rosters for Raw and SmackDown, and potentially see some NXT standouts make the jump to the red or blue brand. With WWE making sweeping changes to its programming this week, the company needed to deliver a memorable PPV inside the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. It did just that, but not in the way WWE would have hoped.
WWE definitely began to hit a hard reset at Hell in a Cell in an effort to turn around its ratings woes, and SmackDown’s big move to FOX–combined with the 2019 WWE Draft and the increase in competition from All Elite Wrestling–have put the company in an interesting state in which it can’t let its foot off the gas pedal and must move forward with strong programming or else it will risk alienating its rapidly shrinking audience.
So, did the WWE accomplish that at tonight’s blockbuster pay-per-view? Eh, probably not. Here are five key takeaways from Hell in a Cell 2019.
Daniel Bryan Is Officially A Babyface
WWE had two obvious options at Hell in a Cell: Daniel Bryan could have betrayed Roman Reigns, or he could have stayed loyal to “The Big Dog” and cemented himself as a babyface.
As it turns out, WWE chose to do the latter as there was no big betrayal from Bryan, who appears to be moving on to a full-fledged babyface run, a necessary move after WWE made the surprising decision to move the very popular Finn Balor back to NXT. While Bryan’s face turn may be disappointing for those who have seen how great Bryan has been as a heel over the past year, Bryan’s merchandise-selling prowess and history as a ticket-selling draw make him a logical choice to revert back to his more natural roots as a babyface. Bryan and Reigns picked up a surprising victory over Erick Rowan and Luke Harper at Hell in a Cell, and one could argue that was a necessary part of the story to cement Bryan as a fan favorite once again, even though it came at the expense of Rowan and Harper.
While it’s hard to argue with WWE’s decision to move Bryan back into that babyface role, it also leaves a rather large hole on the heel side of WWE’s main event picture, which seems to be babyface-heavy at the moment. But that’s a different topic for a different day. For now, Bryan is back where he’s spent much of his career–as one of WWE’s top fan favorites–and he could be in line for a massive push given that he’s a favorite of Eric Bischoff’s.
Chad Gable Is Now ‘Shorty Gable?’
It appears that Chad Gable will now be known as–wait for it–Shorty Gable.
Earlier this year, WWE filed to trademark the term “Shorty G,” and at the time, speculation was that it had something to do with Gable. Well, it turns out that speculation was (almost) right as Baron Corbin and WWE’s commentators began pushing the name “Shorty Gable” for Gable at Hell in a Cell, where Gable took one step forward when he defeated Corbin only to take another giant step backward with his apparent new ring name.
Vince McMahon is said to be a huge fan of Gable, who as of late has been demonstrating why he’s been overlooked for far too long and should be considered among the best in-ring performers in all of WWE. It remains to be seen whether WWE will continue to give Gable a sizable push either on Raw or SmackDown, but the “Shorty Gable” or “Shorty G” moniker–whichever WWE ultimately settles on–certainly isn’t going to do him any favors in terms of getting a legitimate push as a singles star in the upper midcard.
If anything, “Shorty Gable” sounds like a lower card comedy performer, which certainly doesn’t bode well for Gable and would be unfortunate given how well he’s performed over the past several months.
WWE Is Afraid To Go All In On Bray Wyatt
Going into Hell in a Cell, there was concern–and rightfully so–that WWE would have Bray Wyatt fail to win the Universal Championship, which, in turn, would kill his push before it really got started.
No surprise here: Wyatt, in just his second pay-per-view match since returning to action a couple of months ago, did not win the Universal title. Although he technically defeated Seth Rollins by disqualification–and he kicked out of what sure felt like a billion finishing moves in the process–WWE naturally failed to realize what it has with one of its most talented superstars in recent memory. Wyatt truly has all the makings of WWE’s next major draw, and though it will take some careful execution by the creative team to find the right balance between overexposing him and not using him enough, the stage had been set for Wyatt to get the massive push he should be getting as one of the most captivating characters in WWE history. Then came Hell in a Cell.
Although it probably would have been best for WWE to take a “slow burn” approach with Wyatt’s elevation to world title contention, WWE booked itself into a corner by catapulting him to the Universal Championship picture so soon. WWE made its bed and had to lie in it, and what’s unfortunate for Wyatt and the fans in attendance at Hell in a Cell and following the event across social media–who were not happy at all with the outcome of the show’s main event–is that WWE made the wrong decision.
No matter how many finishers he kicked out of, Wyatt looked like just another guy when he failed to beat Rollins, and now, we’re left to think: What was WWE’s logic behind putting Wyatt in this match in the first place?
The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same
Some of your notable winners at Hell in a Cell: Becky Lynch, Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns, Randy Orton, Braun Strowman and Charlotte Flair. Some of your notable losers: Sasha Banks, Erick Rowan and Luke Harper, Ali, Bayley and The O.C. And that’s not event counting Wyatt, who technically won his match but ultimately emerged from this pay-per-view as a loser.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? As the last pay-per-view before WWE resets its rosters with the draft, Hell in a Cell could have served as a stage for stars like Ali, Banks, Rowan, Harper and Wyatt to pick up some of the biggest wins of their careers and gain some serious momentum in the process. Instead, WWE gave big victories to stars like Orton, Flair and Lynch, who would have had much better stories moving forward had they lost their matches instead.
It’s likely that WWE’s logic was two-fold: One, it simply prioritizes its bigger stars, and two, it didn’t want to extend some of its biggest rivalries thanks to the upcoming draft. What resulted, however, was a lot of disappointing match outcomes on a show that, in terms of wrestling quality, was actually solid. But even though the wrestling at Hell in a Cell was above average from start to finish, it was a memorable show for more than just a few wrong reasons.
Near the top of that list? WWE’s continued reliance on and over-push of its top stars.
Some Big Names Could Be On The Move In The Draft
Based upon the outcomes of several major matches at Hell in a Cell, some big changes could be on the way during the 2019 WWE Draft.
Following the developments in Sacramento, the path has been cleared for Daniel Bryan to move on to Raw and Alexa Bliss, who lost the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship, to make the jump to SmackDown, among other possible switches. In recent weeks, WWE had already been advertising some potentially huge switches that might be viewed as draft spoilers, including Bliss, The Miz and Rey Mysterio making the move to SmackDown. Other big moves that advertisements have hinted at include Becky Lynch and Brock Lesnar heading to the blue brand as well while Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman might join them.
Lesnar’s switch was all but confirmed when he won the WWE title on SmackDown, and now, it looks like–after winning the SmackDown Women’s title at Hell in a Cell–Charlotte Flair will join him there will plenty of other marquee names could follow suit. Although there have been fewer indications of which top stars might end up on Raw, the finishes to several major matches at Hell in a Cell should provide fans with a pretty good idea about who will end up where when the draft is said and done.
As for who might move to or stay on Raw, names like Sasha Banks, Bayley and Kevin Owens stand out as strong candidates to do just that.