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WWE: A Hellish Undertaking by Matt Corton

This week I’ve been resting, comfortably restrained in Dr. Shelby’s office because not only have I been a bit obsessed with things hellish, but I’ve been suffering from deep-seated unpredictability in my opinions. Am I looking forward to Hell in a Cell or not? I don’t know. So I checked myself in for a bit of opinion management therapy.

All this started, predictably enough, with Kane.

I’ve always really liked Kane. I can already feel Dr Shelby’s annoyingly caring smile falling upon me, encouraging me to go on. I’ve always loved the entrance, the way he makes sure his glove is on comfortably before he smacks someone in the face and the way he’s a bit different to anyone else.

Yet my liking for Kane has always accompanied disappointment, mainly because I always wanted more from him, such as him being…well, remotely like the demon he’s supposed to be. More like he used to be. He’s been one of the most protected wrestlers for years in terms of clean losses, and yet he’s never really been a credible threat for clean wins in big matches – he’s the poster child for wins and losses not meaning anything and that bugs me.

Dr Shelby, clearly already a bit uncomfortable with me wanting Kane to be more demonic, tries to show me that my liking for Kane’s hellish persona has clearly led to no satisfaction because I’m bitter about how one of my favourites has been used.

But the reason I like Kane is also partly why I like Hell in a Cell matches.

In the same way as Kane is a bit different to anyone else, the cell is a bit different to anything else. It’s a difference-maker environment. It’s the place where feuds go to die and get passed on to the promised land of Survivor Series. I’m on less shaky ground here than I was with Kane, though, because I’m generally not disappointed by Hell in a Cell matches, I think they’re great. When they’re done properly, they’re must-see, even when they’re only 3*.

Dr. Shelby perks up at this – this isn’t unpredictable at all, this is a clear sign I might be positive about Hell in a Cell. So I must be looking forward to it, right?

I turn on him just like that – because I’m not and the reason I’m not has me swerving back to talking about Kane. It’s all too predictable. Scary, dangerous and mean, then loses the title match, quite possibly by shenanigans, just like almost every time he’s ever fought for the title. Predictable.

The Hell in a Cell matches aren’t predictable. They add the element of doubt that’s sadly missing from the Kane vs. Rollins feud. I honestly don’t know if Reigns or Wyatt is going to win and I honestly don’t know if Brock or Taker is going to win and I love that. In fact if you look at the card, they’re all really unpredictable…oh no wait, it’s just those two matches and the kickoff match (which I think will be great). Charlotte, Seth, New Day and Kevin Owens are all walking out with their titles intact (doesn’t mean they’re winning, obviously). Cena is losing but that’s predictable because we all know he’s taking time off.

So 2 out of 7 full show (not kickoff) matches that are unpredictable – that’s not enough to get me to buy the show.

Dr. Shelby asks if that means I won’t be watching. Well, of course I will, leading Dr Shelby to bluster all sorts of things about hypocrisy. I’m going to watch, I’m just trying to decide if I’m looking forward to it or not.

Dr. Shelby looks puzzled and asks why wouldn’t I be looking forward to it – generally WWE PPVs these days always have high quality wrestling, there’s the potential for a title change at this one and the blow-off to a years-old feud, what’s not to like?

Well… this is Hell in a Cell. Given the name, is Hell in a Cell hellish? Is hell even dangerous in a WWE sense? Kane’s already dragged Seth Rollins to hell, even before the PPV, because hell is also under the WWE ring. Seems like being dragged to the pit isn’t that much of a big deal. Seth certainly seems to have survived it –maybe that hole in the ring wasn’t a portal to hell after all. Maybe we’ll never know.

And we’re back to Kane again and I’m thinking that on paper, having the Demon Kane fighting for the title at Hell in a Cell makes perfect sense – it’s almost a story that writes itself, only nothing about this feud comes off as remotely hellish. Kane is one of my favourites, but he’s turned into a rubbish demon. That’s probably why he spends so much time on the surface world with us mortals, because he must be a laughing stock down there. He’s only won the big prize once (for one day) and the World Heavyweight Championship once. He’s undefeated in Hell in a Cell matches but never requests them, even at Hell in a Cell PPVs. He tried to make John Cena embrace hate but ended up going to hospital and moving on to Randy Orton’s Dad.

This should be his playground, his back yard, the place he feels most comfortable and he’s not taking advantage of any of it. There’s no real peril for Seth and that’s where the whole feud has fallen flat (other than Kane not having done anything, really, to deserve a title shot, but then nobody does these days really).

I think they’ll have a decent match, though. Which is the main thing, isn’t it? Getting us to the match? Well, I’ve gone on a little about that before and it’s like having a great action sequence in a terrible action film. It’s part of the whole, not the whole story, even if it’s the most important part. But I do think they’ll have a good match because Kane is good in the ring, particularly when he’s with guys who can really go like Seth. I have quite high expectations for it but I’m genuinely not sure whether that’s true for most.

Dr. Shelby asks again – am I looking forward to it or not.

My mind seems to focus. I stop over-thinking things and think about the basic question – am I looking forward to it.

I think I am. I’m excited for the two cell matches and I think I’ll enjoy the main event, despite the predictability. It’s the same with Cena, I know he’s going to lose but I want to find out how and I think it’ll be a cool moment.

So what’s the problem, Shelby asks?

I’ve said it before – WWE just misses the little details. Want interest in the championship match? Make the champ seem really in peril of losing the title. Want Cena’s loss to be a surprise? Protect like anything against the news of him taking time off getting out. Want Hell in a Cell to stand out beyond the gimmick match? Make it scary.

Let’s be honest though – Kane isn’t really the focus of this PPV, it’s Brock vs. Taker. Match 32 in Hell in a Cell’s illustrious history (31 being Reigns vs. Wyatt which will surely go on earlier in the show). Kane’s a stop-gap on the way to Survivor Series, for which it looks like there’ll be a whole bucket full of new feuds for me to get my teeth into, which is really just what the product needs right now. It’s almost like a fresh start.

Poor Kane.

I remember reading Paul Bearer write about how he wished it hadn’t been Glenn Jacobs underneath the mask when Kane took that mask off in 2003. I think the same – Kane should have stayed the masked, mysterious dangerous man.

I’m going to thank the hell out of him for his career though by looking forward to this match – his career deserves that and I think this will be his last match for the big one.

Dr. Shelby smiles and I wonder if he knows something about Survivor Series.

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