The match breakdown of Hell in a Cell 2015 continues with the top three matches in the card, culminating in the final battle between Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker.
Seth Rollins (W) vs “Demon” Kane for the World Heavyweight Championship
I don’t hate this match on it’s own. The back and forth between Kane and Rollins has produced some real comedy since Rollins broke up the shield, so there was always going to be a reckoning, and if Kane is still going to wrestler he ought to actually be Kane. What I hate is that Rollins’ most recent title defenses have been against Kane, Sting, and John Cena. Rollins’ booking is starting to look like a Hollywood starlet’s on screen love interests: dudes twice his age. There is the legitimate problem that potential title contenders who would put a show on with Rollins like Sami Zayn, Tyson Kidd, and Daniel Bryan are all injured. That doesn’t explain why Rollins isn’t in a full blown war with Adrian Neville, Cesaro, Dolph Ziggler, or Rusev though. Anyway, if Rollins wins, Corporate Kane is fired. If Kane wins, well he’s the WWE champ.
Rollins gets the early advantage with some striking, backing Kane up against the ropes and whipping him towards the other side. Kane comes off the ropes and catches Rollins in a DDT. Kane off the ropes again, rakes Rollins with a kick. Rollins retreats to a corner and counters Kane’s splash with a shoulder check. Rollins hops up to the second rope and gets slapped right off it and out onto the floor. Kane bounces Rollins’ head off the Komen advert on the announce table. Kane disassembles the Spanish announce table. Rollins tries to escape and Kane briefly catches him by the legs. Rollins comes off the ropes for a suicide dive over the second rope and Kane catches him, then slaps him to the ground. Kane tosses him back into the ring. Rollins takes a boot to the face. Kane puts baby in the corner and gives him a big elbow to the ear. Kane whips Rollins into the ropes, picks him up and drops him. Kane climbs up to the top rope. Rollins races up and trips him, sending him belly first into the top rope. Rollins pulls Kane’s head across the turnbuckle and hits him with a stunner. Kane drops to the floor. This time Rollins goes for a flip over the top rope and it hits home.
Rollins sets him up across the apron and delivers three successive chops to his throat. Back in the ring Rollins comes off the ropes to hit Kane with what looks like a variation of Finn Balor’s slingblade. Rollins goes for a cover and barely gets to one before Kane kicks out. Rollins takes a couple big punches from Kane, down on his knees, before putting him back down on the mat. Rollins gets Kane by the hair and shoves his throat into the second rope with one leg. Breaks after four. Rollins pulls his hair to set up a neckbreaker. Cover for a two count. Rollins sinks in a choke. Kane breaks it but Rollins starts dismantling him with kicks and chops. Rollins climbs the ropes, tries for a double axe handle and comes down into a right hand. Rollins retreats to a corner and rolls out when Kane comes for him. Kane gets his leg wrapped over the top rope. Rollins nails him with a splash from behind. Kane gets free but Rollins kicks him down to the canvas until he’s forced to separate.
Rollins presses the attack and goes for another splash, hitting this one, leaving him hanging by the ropes. Rollins goes for another splash and gets laid out. He retreats to a corner and kicks Kane’s leg out when he charges. Rollins has been playing corners his whole life in anticipation for this. He rolls down to the floor and Kane goes headfirst into the turnbuckle. Rollins mounts the turnbuckle and gets slapped into canning himself. This is a metaphor for every bad decision he has ever made. Kane climbs up and hits Rollins with superplex. Time for a short nap. Kane makes it up first, splashes Rollins into the corner and whips him into the opposite one for a second splash. Shades of Sting. Feeling inspired by Alberto Del Rio, Kane attempts a tilt a whirl backbreaker, but Rollins spins out and lands on his feet. Rollins comes off the ropes and takes a boot to the stomach, dropping him.
Kane covers for a two count. He climbs the top rope and Rollins tries for a superplex. He’s repeatedly stuffed, then gets flung off. Kane goes back up and hits Rollins with a flying lariat. Kane calls for a chokeslam. Rollins slaps it off, keeps spinning, and hits an enzuigiri. Rollins sets up for a pedigree, Kane counters with a backdrop and Rollins rolls through. Kane hits the chokeslam and covers for a long two. Kane calls for a tombstone piledriver and gets Rollins up. Rollins slips off his back and rolls out of the ring towards the announce tables. Kane whips Rollins into the apron and follows it with a backbreaker onto the announce table, defiling the Komen advert again, so Kane throws it away. He dismantes the table then drags the fleeing Rollins back into the ring, practicing for See No Evil 3. Kane rolls him over the table and tries for a chokeslam. Rollins slides down and through his legs and sets up for a powerbomb into the Spanish announce table. Rollins misjudges and it’s botched. Kane hits the side and doesn’t go through. Kane rolls back in to beat the ten count, contemplating tipping craft services to pee in Rollins’ protein shakes for the next month.
Rollins goes for another pedigree and gets dumped out on the apron and recovers with an enzuigiri. Rollins springs off the top rope and catches Kane with a knee to the face. Rollins rolls through to the other apron and scrambles up to the top rope and comes back with another flying knee. Daniel Bryan munches his kale vindictively, watching at home. Rollins catches Kane with two superkicks. Rollins hits Kane with a frog splash and covers for a two count. The crowd erupts in “Eddie!” chants. Kane tries to recover and grab Rollins for a chokeslam from his knees but Rollins counters and sets up a pedigree, finally hitting it. Three count and Rollins retires Corporate Kane for the good of mankind.
I’m not going to complain that this was a Raw level match on a PPV because the rest of the card is strong enough to let it slide and it isn’t remotely the main event, but Charlotte and Nikki deserved billing above this. Either way it’s the Popcorn Spot of the night.
Kevin Owens (W) vs Ryback
Fun fact about this year’s HIAC, every single belt was contested, but none of the title matches were contested inside the cage. Having all the belts in play meant that this year there was only one Divas match compared to two last year (Paige vs AJ Lee for the Divas title and Nikki Bella vs Brie Bella). Fair trade off to get a scorching match like we did this year. What is exceedingly silly though is that current booking seems to dictate that everyone invoke their rematch clauses at the soonest available opportunity, practically guaranteeing that the defending champion retains.
The sole recent exception to this rule is John Cena regaining the US title at Night of Champions and Seth Rollins declining his rematch clause to challenge for it at Hell in a Cell. Kevin Owens and Sasha Banks dropping their belts and the rematches for the NXT titles were sensible given that they were called up, but Nikki Bella and Ryback invoking theirs was exceedingly silly. It’s almost as if the company is afraid of a situation like Daniel Bryan’s vacating two titles consecutively. Ironically both Charlotte’s match against Nikki Bella and Kevin Owens against Ryback were both matches I really wanted to see. Just maybe not right this second when the booking seems to moot kayfabe. Like most things, these concerns only arise before the bell rings. Any good match makes you forget all that smark match as soon as it gets going.
Things get underway with Ryback charging Owens and Owens rolling out of the ring, because it’s a little known French-Canadian superstition to never start a match in the ring. Sami Zayn identifies more strongly with his Syrian heritage and chooses to disregard it. It may or may not be the actual cause of their feud. Owens tries to capitalize on getting out of the ring first by swinging on The Big Guy, but Ryback blocks and counters, driving Owens towards the announce tables. Owens rolls back in and this time catches Ryback with a kick and beats him to the mat. Owens looks to capitalize by hitting the ropes, but Ryback flattens him. Ryback rips Owens into the corner and goes to work on him with his shoulder. Ryback gets Owens up and drops him on his back. I’m a big fan of Ryback just doing things sometimes without a clear flourish that would denote a given move. The Big Guy is at his best when he’s most direct. Ryback goes for a gorilla press, but Owens escapes and sets up a suplex. Ryback blocks, counters, and lifts Owens into a vertical suplex. Owens tries to punch his way out to no avail. Ryback charges Owens in the corner and Owens slips away, letting Ryback throw his shoulder into the ring post. Owens goes on the offensive, yanking Ryback into him until he gets caught in a bodyslam. Owens gets out on the apron and Ryback charges him, spilling him to the floor, but Ryback rolls Owens back in and chase him into the corner. Ryack mounts Owens and lands several hits, but Owens slips out and trips Ryback, dropping him to the second rope and beats on his back until the ref backs him up.
Owens charges Ryback from behind and pulls him down to the mat. Owens hits Ryback with a rolling senton off the ropes and goes for a pin, getting a two count. They retreat to opposite corners then charge, Ryback hitting Owens with a spinebuster. Ryback calls for the meathook clothesline, but Owens gets a foot up that gets blocked by Ryback, who counters with a powerbomb. Owens kicks out of the cover at two. Ryback tries to get up to the top rope, but Owens gets ahold of his leg like his own son at the sight of Cena merchandise at Target and drags the Big Guy down and superkicks him off the apron.
Ryback beats the count at nine, gets caught by a drop toehold that springboards him off the ropes and Owens rolls him up for a two count. Owens gets Ryback with a kick and sends him into the ropes, but again, he comes back to flatten Owens. Ryback pulls his singlet down and calls for the Shellshock. Owens is able to grab the top rope and get down, tying himself up int the ropes. Ryback beats him down onto the apron until he’s dragged off by the ref. Owens goes for the pop up powerbomb again and nails it, barely touching Ryback in a breezy execution. Owens gets the three count and retains.
Another fun but short match. It was no Owens/Cena war, but they have natural chemistry and are great exemplars of the new breed of wrestler are as fast and agile as they are big.
Brock Lesnar (W) vs The Undertaker
It’s easy to be cynical about this feud because of how old Taker is, but losing the streak restored a sense of drama to The Phenom’s matches that hasn’t existed in a very long time and these two really do have special chemistry because of their shared training in BJJ and MMA striking. There’s also the sense that every one of Taker’s matches could be his last from here on out, so there’s a sense of urgency that wouldn’t otherwise exist. When the Deadman retires Lesnar will lose the B side that brings the best out of him. He can be entertaining against other people, but the most highly decorated combat athlete in history requires someone with an equivalent experience and understanding of shoot fighting to showcase him, as Taker does here.
The crowd is absolutely electric as the match starts, chanting both names at the same volume. We see straight off why they’re so exciting together, and it’s because they know how to do a pantomime of how actual MMA fighters feel each other out in a fight, reaching out at each other to feint and find their range. The thing about Brock Lesnar isn’t that there’s some kind of imminent threat of him shooting on someone, it’s that he knows how move and behave as closely as possible to how he did in the UFC in order to suspend the disbelief of the audience. That’s something that separates the truly great wrestlers from everyone else, and Lesnar, for his size, speed, versatility, and selling skills, is one of the best who ever did it. Taker finds his opening and slips behind Taker, grabbing him for a suplex. Taker separates and starts feeding him shots. Standard work punch, most of the earlier facade is gone for the time being.
Lesnar strikes with a flying Muay Thai knee and follows up with another to the ribs. Lesnar continues to work the body by forcing him into the corner and throwing his shoulder into Taker. Lesnar tries to whip him into the opposite corner, but Taker reverses and sends Lesnar into the corner instead, flattening him with a splash when he tries to get out of the corner. Taker tries to whip him again, but Lesnar catches it and delivers another huge knee to the abdomen. Lesnar chases Taker across the ring and goes for another suplex, only to get dumped out onto the floor.
Taker follows him, taking his time the way seniors always seem to, and gets him up against the cage taking a beating until The Phenom tries to whip Lesnar into the ring post and The Beast reverses, throwing him into the cage. Taker stumbles back and Lesnar gets him up into a fireman’s carry, possibly for an F5, but Taker elbows his way down and sends Lesnar for his ritual date with the ring post that always seems to cause him to bleed mysteriously within ten seconds of the impact. Look closely and you can see him rub the top of his head against his glove, presumably where he takes the razor bump. Later on in the match you can see the gash well above his hairline, which is a smart move to avoid a forehead full of scar tissue like the old territory guys.
That Lesnar, and in this match, Taker, are the only guys allowed to bleed are a curious part of the booking, but it’s another one of those things that differentiates these matches and gives them a greater sense of authenticity. Because of his MMA career and how well he mimics how he fought there in the WWE, Lesnar’s ability to sell and throw plausible work punches are severely underrated, but if you watch tape of him in a UFC fight and see his punches land or how he reacts when he takes a hit, the subtleties of his work emerge. When it comes to the WWE, Lesnar is generally so good at pretending that it’s almost reasonable to assume that he isn’t. It’s certainly the pinnacle of one particular approach to wrestling, and perhaps that’s something that Stone Cold Steve Austin would derisively refer to as “sports entertainment” not “wrestling,” but then again SCSA is a huge Lesnar fan. Either way, there’s more that one acceptable way to work and sell. Dolph Ziggler’s dramatic overselling has its place the same way that Asuka’s corpse stiff work does.
Lesnar opens up pretty big. Not quite SCSA-Hart Wrestlemania 13 levels of blood in a no color era, but pretty profuse. Taker beats the bloody Lesnar into the corner of the cage, going for the head wound, but Lesnar gets back into it, raining down body blows, until Taker catches him and drops him against the cage then hauls him up and throws him against the opposite cage wall. Taker retrieves a chair and walks Lesnar back to the ring and throws him in as he starts bleeding enough to start talking blood mask potential. Taker gets back in the ring and Lesnar springs to life, planting him with a double leg takedown. Lesnar crawls to the chair and cracks Taker across the back, driving him into the corner. Lesnar takes it to Taker until he stumbles back into the corner and seemingly nearly faints, to a chorus of boos as the doctors clean him up, still leaving behind a crimson streak in his hair where the cut came from. He follows Taker out of the ring and takes the chair to him again, beating him to the ground.
Lesnar appears fatigued, each swing of the chair taking a lot out of him until he can get Taker down on the floor and puts his foot on Taker’s throat, pushing him against the cage until the ref forces a separation and he whips Taker into the next cage wall, dropping him again. Lesnar stumbles, winded, but goes back on the attack and removes one of his gloves to punch Taker bare fisted. Lesnar sets up suplex on the floor but Taker reverses it into one of his own. Taker flings the stumbling Lesnar back into the ring and grabs the chair just as his own head opens up with a cut. He puts the chair under Lesnar’s neck and slams it to the ground. Lesnar takes a breather, blood pouring down his forehead too. Taker gets Lesnar’s head in his lap and rains down blows. This is turning into a war of attrition. JBL remarks that he didn’t think it would get this brutal this fast. JBL who fought Eddie Guerrero in a war that bloodied not just each other but most of the canvas as well. Taker grabs Lesnar by the nose, boots him, and flings him up into the corner where he starts working on The Beast with some knees.
This has been far more of a straight brawl than either of the two previous matches were, especially at Wrestlemania 30 that utilized more carefully choreographed sequences like the transition from Old School into an F5. This is brawling, clinch fighting, a lot of irish whips and the occasional suplex in a very methodical pace. They aren’t moving quickly, but they’re doing serious damage, or so the way they sell it would indicate. It’s definitely the most physically taxing confrontation they’ve had. Taker whips Lesnar from one corner to the other and Lesnar catches him in a suplex, starting the count, but it takes a lot out of him and he works back to his feet. Lesnar takes another heavy hit before finding his opening and ducking under a looping right to deliver the second suplex. The way he slips in to get it is one of his more elegant movements, if such a thing exists for him.
Again heavily winded, he takes his time getting up as the blood starts pouring again and he hits the third suplex to loud reactions. The stunned Undertaker walks right into an F5 and the tide appear to begin. Lesnar goes for the pin and gets a two count. Taker waves the doctors off as Lesnar retrieves the chair, getting into an argument with the ref and doctor who are trying to get him to drop it. Obscured by a replay, Lesnar throws the doctor out of the way and hoists Taker for another F5. Lesnar goes for the pin again and gets a two count. None of the bravado that saw him draw out his fight against Cena at Summer Slam 2014 is in evidence. Lesnar wants this over, the image of the hunter stalking his prey has long since left this fight if it ever showed up to begin with.
Taker can’t seem to get up so Lesnar leaves the ring and grabs the steps with Heyman screaming from the other side of the fence. Lesnar throws the steps in the ring and catches his breath before going in and slamming Taker with them. He goes for the pin again, and Taker survives, prompting and exclamation from Cole. Lesnar drags Taker to the steps and tries to slam them down on him but he rolls out of the way. Lesnar gathers himself against the ropes and approaches the down Taker with the steps again, lifting them with a smirk on his face. Taker kicks him away, thwarting him again, and now both men are down.
Lesnar lazily tries to get Taker’s legs and gets caught in Hell’s Gate, which he passed out to in his previous loss at Summer Slam. Heyman screams at the top of his lungs from outside the cage as he appears to fade, but he fights out of it and starts raining down hammerfists on Taker from his knees, in a nearly identical way to how he would do it in a UFC fight, a kind of punch that rarely if ever shows up in pro wrestling. He stands over Taker and throws a flurry of jabs that would get a UFC fight stopped immediately until he tires himself out and rolls to the ground.
The pair take a breather until Lenar gets an ide and tears the canvas up, then strips a section of the foam under it off to reveal the boards underneath. Taker fights back up to his knees as Heyman screams his voice raw and chokeslams Lesnar onto the exposed boards. Taker drags himself to the ropes and fights to his feet first to a rising chorus of “This is Awesome!” chants. Taker catches the stumbling Lesnar into a tombstone piledriver, clearly visible that Lesnar’s head is more than a foot above the canvas when The Phenom drops to the mat. He crosses Lesnar’s arms and does his tongue thing, but can only get a two count.
Taker just lays back down before using the ropes to get back up as Lesnar stays down. Taker stumbles back to Lesnar and calls for the tombstone piledriver, but when he goes for it, Lesnar goes for the same low blow that cost him the match at Summer Slam. Lesnar makes it back to his feet and F5s Taker over the exposed boards to end the match, finally getting a three count. Lesnar struggles to make it backstage with Heyman, leaving Taker behind. Until Bray Wyatt emerges with the reunited Wyatt Family, who beat The Phenom and carry him out of the ring in a crucifix pose.
A truly legendary, one of a kind battle. These two finally got the perfect pace to keep the match going while playing within Taker’s physical restrictions. This would be the ideal match to look back on as his retirement and the kind of battle that we’re unlikely to see again for a very long time.
Emma Houxbois is a fiercely queer trans woman from the wilds of Canada, most recently spotted in the Pacific Northwest. She is a two time IWC Women’s World Champion and has written about comics for the web since 2005 for sites including Playboy, Bitch Media, and Graphic Policy.