SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Sasha Banks and Charlotte made history on Sunday night, becoming not only the first women to wrestle in a Hell in a Cell match, but they also became the first women to main event a WWE pay-per-view.
Unfortunately here we sit, nearly one week later, with what was supposed to be a monumental moment for women’s wrestling feeling more like a footnote. A footnote might be the best-case scenario. At worst, this could be remembered as a fumbled effort, which won’t lead to more opportunities for WWE’s women and, in Vince McMahon’s eyes, could send them back near the bottom of the priority list.
The thing that stings most about that potential is that the match flopped for reasons way outside of Sasha and Charlotte. If WWE allowed them to do what they do best — tell a story inside those ring ropes — Sasha and Charlotte could have torn the house down in a really good main event. Instead, they handcuffed them to this idea that the Hell in a Cell match was a reward.
WWE botched this main event with its poor booking and poor planning.
Here are the top-five ways WWE mishandled the Charlotte-Sasha main event:
1. The Stretcher Spot
There were so many things wrong with this portion of the match. Let’s start from the beginning, though. It immediately, in the first few minutes of the match, defined the women down.
Men go through tables all the time. Hell, Shane McMahon jumped off the top of the cell and drove a 50-year-old Undertaker through a table just a few months ago at WrestleMania.
This match was “in jeopardy” of not happening because of a table spot? Granted it was a scary table spot, with Sasha’s upper body folding up like a suitcase at her neck, but it was still a table spot.
So immediately, from the very beginning, the women were defined as being weaker than the men. That’s a terrible way to begin this “history making” match.
Then the stretcher spot itself took way too long to pull off. It dragged and it took the crowd out of the moment. Everyone knew Sasha was getting up off the stretcher and the match was going to continue. Every single person in the building knew it. There was no anticipation. It didn’t add anything to the match other than to tell us that women can’t take table spots, and men can.
Lastly, the whole idea of the spot to begin with takes you away from the match. It’s hard for me to suspend my disbelief when you see someone strapped to a stretcher, being wheeled to an ambulance with a neck brace on, and all of a sudden just because she wants to she gets up, rips off the neck brace and marches to the ring. Meanwhile, the doctors and EMTs are just shrugging their shoulders in the aisle as if to say, “well, I guess she’s OK.”
We’ve seen real injuries like this before, both in pro sports and pro wrestling, and it’s very scary. If an NFL player injured his neck on the field and while he’s being wheeled to a nearby hospital, just decided he was going to sit up and get back in the game, it would never be allowed. It feels weird even writing that because the situation itself is so preposterous. You need to suspend disbelief to really enjoy pro wrestling, but an angle like this insults the intelligence of the viewer while at the same time defining down the two women in the match. This was an awful idea.
2. The Foley Highlights
Mick Foley could have had his career ended when he wrestled the Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match back in 1998. You’ve all seen the highlights. And in case you hadn’t WWE ran them a handful of times during this show and in the weeks leading up.
Sasha and Charlotte didn’t attempt anything close to what Foley did against the Undertaker, and that’s fine. It kept them safe and means no one had their career ended in Boston on Sunday night. That’s a good thing.
Now, maybe there was supposed to be something to that if you believe Ric Flair, who said on a radio show this week that Charlotte (or Sasha) was going to attempt some sort of big moonsault, perhaps off the top of the Cell, but it was nixed during the match because they feared Sasha was going to get hurt.
If that’s true – and who knows if it is, but if that’s true – I’m much happier. Like I said, the last thing I wanted to see was someone wrestle their last match on Sunday because of some expectation they felt they needed to live up to.
By showing the Foley highlights, WWE inevitably showed us again that the women aren’t on the same playing field as the men. They again defined down Charlotte and Sasha Banks. Neither one of them did what Foley did in that match, so why remind the audience over and over again? Why perpetuate this expectation that someone has to come close to death in a Hell in a Cell match (for real)?
The message it ultimately sent, with no big spots, is that the men in these matches have attempted death-defying spots, and the women didn’t. So once again, the men are on another level.
But let’s say they had some big spots planned that were canceled, it’s still a bad decision. Charlotte and Sasha are far too important to that division, and the entire company, to be attempting moonsaults off the top of cages. That goes back to my premise that the Cell was a bad idea from the very beginning. There was no good way out of this match, and WWE proved that.
3. The Finish
This match shouldn’t have gone on last. Nothing against Sasha and Charlotte here, but the babyface lost, in her hometown, to a move that wasn’t even Charlotte’s most over finisher.
If they were dead set on putting this match on last for its place in history, then have the babyface go over. That ends Charlotte’s pay-per-view winning streak … well, so be it. If you don’t want to end her streak, don’t end the show with this match. Plain and simple.
I’m not one of these people who believes you always need to end the show with a babyface going over. That makes your product far too predictable. But in this case, given the attention this match was going to get and the fact that you were in the champion’s hometown, the only way that match should have gone on last is if Sasha was going to retain her title.
Instead, you got a really flat finish. The match ended on Charlotte’s secondary finisher and the crowd didn’t want that. It was flat.
4. The Triple “Main Event”
For the most part, they did a good job giving each Hell in a Cell match something different in order to set it apart, but this was still way too much of a good thing. This “special” moment was the third time we saw the Cell on the show. Granted, it was the first time the women were wrestling inside of it, but it was still the third such match on the card.
They did some good things with the entrance, keeping the Cell up and lowering it after they were in the ring to add effect and also give Charlotte and Sasha a chance to brawl on the outside, which none of the other matches had, but the triple main event idea definitely stole some thunder for the show’s actual main event.
WWE likes to do this with WrestleMania now, too. They’ll tell you that there are two or even three main events.
There’s one main event, and it’s what closes the show.
But when you’re seeing a structure for the third time in three hours, it’s hard for that third time to feel any extra special. If they really wanted to make a Charlotte-Sasha Hell in a Cell match a special attraction, eliminate the other cell matches and book them in the one, true main event. But (I’m guessing) Vince McMahon didn’t want to do that. Even backstage, it feels like there were things being done to undercut the women.
5. Hell in a Cell isn’t even the best match for Charlotte and Sasha
If you’re reading this, you probably saw what Sasha Banks and Bayley did when they were the main events on NXT shows.
Did that need a Cell?
There was never a purpose for the cell to begin with. Noting about this rivalry needed to be contained and, for the most part, no one needed to be kept out. The cell was there because it’s October, and that’s a truly terrible reason to have a Hell in a Cell match.
Not only that, but the Cell was more of an obstacle than anything else. Sasha Banks and Charlotte are two very athletic wrestlers. They can do, and have done, some innovative things in the ring. Let them go do that. If they needed to make it different than their SummerSlam match, give it another stipulation. I mentioned this in one of my earlier columns, but make it a submission match. The Banks Statement vs. The Figure Eight.
WWE could have definitely used a match like that, with those two, in a main-event spot. That would have torn the house down and it wouldn’t have defined any of the women as being below the men. No one would have needed a neck brace after a table spot
Super Shane McMahon could have tried a shooting star press off the top of the cage with live grenades in his pockets and he wouldn’t have been on a stretcher for as long as Sasha Banks was.
In wrestling, it’s almost always about perception. And thanks to WWE’s poor planning, the perception of this “historic match” was disappointing and let down the women involved and their fans.
Mike McMahon reviews TNA Impact Wrestling every week for PWTorch.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonPW.