Hell in the Cell is a relic. It’s a relic not just from the days of the attitude era, where blood and gimmicks were commonplace, but a relic of an era where stories were settled in a cage match. As Jason Man often says, the Cell is really just a cage with a lid, and these matches belong in the past. The perceived brutality is one thing, but another is that a cage just isn’t that special. As ominous structures go, the Elimination Chamber made any other cage matches immediately obsolete. As big events where scores are settled, Wrestlemania usurps all others. Escalation ruined the Cell. All you can do with the thing is go up, then down. And since nobody should ever, ever try to surpass Foley’s performance, it’ll never again reach its height of prominence.
It actually isn’t the case this year, but almost every year prior, Hell in the Cell suffered from too-many-shows syndrome, stuck in between Night of Champions and Vengeance (amongst others), causing it to often be an afterthought show.
This year, PPV’s have been thankfully better spread out. And yet still, HitC feels like a show with very little consideration, as if everyone at WWE is concentrating on something else.
WWE is openly operating like WCW during their heyday. Raw is the be all-end all. The world champion will never appear on house shows, and probably defend the title four times a year. PPVs are for the hardcore fans who pay up, but will get frustrated when the endings for all of them end with “tune into Raw to find out!” Every TV show outside of Raw *could* be good, but is treated by WWE as a waste of their time. Hulk Hogan shows up every few weeks to say garbled nonsense and somehow bury Dean Malenko.
All we’ve really done is replace Mongo with Maggle.
So reports today about how WWE doesn’t think the WWE Champion needs to be on every PPV defending the title is ridiculous. This isn’t news. WWE hasn’t considered the WWE Championship necessary to hold together a PPV in forever.
In 2010, the Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania, and Summerslam were headlined by matches other than a WWE Championship match. Survivor Series was the only show to centre around a defence, but even then the story was really about John Cena, nexus member/referee.
In 2011, the WWE Championship was defended at Wrestlemania by the Miz. At Summerslam, there were two of them, and it changed hands twice. Survivor Series 2011 was headlined by a tag team match.
2012 was another year where the WWE Championship didn’t headline either the Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania or Summerslam. The WWE Championship was defended on these shows, but never considered the centrepiece match of the show.
To be fair to WWE, they have found interest in the title in the past two years. Royal Rumble 2013 was the first Rumble in many years to have a title defence usurp the eponymous match. Wrestlemania XXIX showcased the first WWE Championship title switch at a Wrestlemania in three years. And Summerslam 2013 revolved around Daniel Bryan’s first real shot at the title (if you don’t count the trio he had the previous spring). Survivor Series saw the title re-relegated to “who cares” status with an Orton vs Big Show match. In 2014, we’ve had two major WWE Championship matches at Wrestlemania and Summerslam.
But I look at the recent focus on the title as a blip. WWE has never really cared about the “lineage” or “prestige” of its titles. They have some rule about champions having to defend every 30 days that they break *constantly*. If you’ve been reading me for a long time, you know that titles are no more valuable to WWE than a franchise gimmick match. If they’re looking to turn the WWE Championship into something akin to Hell in a Cell, where it’s a special attraction, that’s great, because at least then there’d be some novelty.
This changes *nothing* about WWE, however. It doesn’t make them rely on John Cena any less (care to guess who’s headlining Hell in the Cell, Survivor Series, and TLC?). It doesn’t make them want to headline a PPV with an intercontinental title match any more than they currently do. The stars of the show are still going to go out at the end. They just won’t have jewelry.
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