By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Damien Sandow def. Kofi Kingston (Kickoff Match)
I give props to WWE for pulling together this match at the last minute with Curtis Axel coming down with an injury. Sure, it wasn't a barn burner of a bout, but it was probably better than what we would have gotten out of Axel and Big E Langston. It was a nice match while it lasted that saw the right person go over. It was essentially something you would see on WWE Main Event and did nothing to convince fans to purchase the pay-per-view, but again, this match wasn't even supposed to take place in the first place.
WWE Tag Team Champions Cody Rhodes and Goldust def. Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns and The Usos in a Triple Threat Tag Team Match
I knew this match was going to be great going in, but I never expected it to be as awesome as it ended up being. All three of these tandems have had excellent matches with each other in the past, but those paled in comparison to this gem of matchup. The action was slow early on, but they picked up the pace down the stretch and delivered on all cylinders. The live crowd was hot for the contest and everyone involved was able to their signature spots. The finish was very well done and it was a nice win for the Rhodes brothers. They have been breathing new life into the tag team division as of late and I looked forward to seeing who will challenge them next. This was a fantastic opener for the show and undoubtedly the match of the night.
The Wyatt Family Attacked The Miz; Kane Returned
It was nice to see The Miz showcase his aggressive side for a change, and it was necessary following the brutal attack he received at the hands of The Wyatt Family on SmackDown. His promo was kept short and sweet, as was Bray Wyatt's. The crowd popped for the return of Kane, and The Big Red Monster turning on Miz was a pleasant surprise. Kane brutalized both Erik Rowan and Luke Harper, so he might not be joining them, but his chokeslam to Miz indicates he is now a tweener. He is better off in this role anyway and I am excited to see where Kane's character goes from here.
Fandango and Summer Rae def. The Great Khali and Natalya
Well, I guess the match between Khali and Fandango on the latest edition of SmackDown wasn't completely pointless after all. Fandango is damaged goods at this point and I don't think there is much hope for his character unless he tweaks his gimmick a bit, but Summer definitely has a lot of untapped potential. She isn't as good as Natalya in the ring, but she is the best thing about Fandango's stale act right now. The commentators made mention of the fact that this was her "debut" match (despite being a regular down in NXT) and played up her upset victory nicely.
Big E Langston def. United States Champion Dean Ambrose by Count-out
I liked the interaction between these two on the pre-show, even if Langston came off as nervous when delivering his lines. It gave viewers something of an incentive to tune into the show, unlike the Sandow vs. Kingston match. The match itself, though, left a lot to be desired. These two have the potential to have a very good match together, but Langston just recently turned babyface, so the fact the crowd was dead for this contest was understandable. The count-out finish was weak, but it was necessary in protecting Langston and keeping the title on Ambrose. Would the previously advertised Intercontinental Championship match have ended the same way?
CM Punk def. Ryback and Paul Heyman in a Handicap Hell in a Cell Match
Similar to last year, Punk and Ryback worked a solid match, but it was not at all worthy of being inside the cell. They made good use of the extreme environment surrounding them, but aside from that, the live crowd didn't care much for it, and who can blame them? Ryback once again lost decisively to Punk and I have no idea how he will be able to bounce back from this loss. Heyman not even being in the ring during the match was disappointing. If he was going to be on top of the structure the entire time, what was the point of him even being a participant in the contest? The beating Punk gave Heyman was reminiscent of the one he gave him at Night of Champions, so that was nothing new. Punk delivering a GTS to Heyman atop the cell was a cool visual, but after months of feuding, I expected a bit more climactic conclusion than that.
Los Matadores def. The Real Americans
This was your basic comedy match and everything everyone expected it would be. I was anticipating a Cesaro swing on El Torito and was let down when it didn't happen, but perhaps at some point down the line. I have said this multiple times in the past, but unlike The Real Americans, Los Matadores don't have much lasting power. Not even the live crowd was behind them in this bout. I am fine with Los Matadores picking up the initial win in their first mach together, but The Real Americans should come out of this rivalry victorious.
John Cena def. Alberto Del Rio to Win the World Heavyweight Championship
Say what you will about their respective characters, but there is no denying that Cena and Del Rio have great matches together every time they clash. This was no exception, as they managed to tell a solid story with Del Rio targeting the injured arm of Cena throughout. It was painfully obvious Cena was going to win the belt, so I can't say I am all that thrilled to see him with championship gold around his waist yet again. Whether he helps bring back prestige to the title remains to be seen, but having Cena capture the gold in his first night back fell flat for this viewer.
Divas Champion AJ Lee def. Brie Bella
They didn't have a much better bout than they did at Battleground, but it was still better than most Divas matches nowadays. Brie is exceptional in the ring and AJ is among the best in the division right now, so the match was fine for what it was, even if it felt too short. I am glad to see AJ retain here, as she is the best thing going in the Divas division right now and there is no reason to take the title off her. Brie still isn't over with the crowd, and I would rather not see this feud continue in order to keep the belt on AJ.
Randy Orton def. Daniel Bryan in a Hell in a Cell Match with Shawn Michaels as the Special Guest Referee to Win the Vacant WWE Championship
Of all the matches Orton and Bryan have had in recent months, I would certainly say that this was the best of them all. Granted, they have had far better bouts in the past, but they still put forth a strong effort in this contest. That being said, it could have benefited from more time, as it was just getting good when it came an abrupt end. Triple H interfering was stupendously stupid albeit predictable. We all knew it was going to happen one way or another, but isn't the sole purpose of the cell to prevent people from getting involved? I can't say I am surprised to see Shawn Michaels "turn" on Bryan, as I had a feeling it would happen, but it was still the wrong route to take with this rivalry. I would have much rather seen Bryan finally get his title win and embark on a lengthy reign with the belt, especially after the last screwjob finishes we have had in recent months on pay-per-view. This is one way to keep Bryan's chase going, but I don't want to see him contend for the title against Orton any time soon. I am afraid we are in for an Orton vs. Big Show match at Survivor Series, which will probably bore me to tears.
With Night of Champions and Battleground both being duds, this event was unfortunately much of the same. It had the potential to be a strong show, but it fell flat with the poor booking decisions and uninteresting matches scattered throughout the three hours. It started out great with the tag team title match and return of Kane, but it was all downhill after that. WWE continues to be in a sad state right now, with both of its world champions being people that we have seen the gold on far too many times in the past for it to matter this time around. One would think I would be intrigued going into Raw to find out why Michaels turned on Bryan, but I honestly couldn't care less at this point. It was a noteworthy show for sure, but it continued the streak of lackluster pay-per-views produced by WWE. On a side note, I thought we would see Rey Mysterio get involved in some capacity beyond being a guest on commentary for the Spanish announce table, but apparently not.