Monday, February 5, 2024

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Hell in a Cell in Review: Cinderbella is Born and the One Girl Revolution Rolls On

Last night at Hell in a Cell, weeks worth of tension got their payoff in the form of two Divas matches. Brie and Nikki Bella faced off one-on-one for the first time in their feud, with the loser being named the winner’s personal assistant for a month.

Meanwhile, AJ Lee defended the Divas Title against Paige, who had the ever unpredictable Alicia Fox in her corner. Will evil prevail in either match? Let’s see.

First up, we’ve got the Bellas:

They start the match with a tie-up, Brie backing Nikki into the ropes. They don’t break the hold, moving back towards the center of the ring and eventually grabbing fistfuls of each other’s hair. Nikki then charges, sending Brie into the corner. She slams Brie into the corner repeatedly and goes for another attack, but is met with Brie’s boots.

Brie comes charging out from the corner, rolling Nikki into an early pin attempt. Nikki kicks out. Once on her feet, Nikki swings at Brie, but Brie ducks it, pulling her into a backslide pin. Nikki kicks out again, but Brie hits her with a low dropkick that keeps her on the mat.

Brie sends Nikki into the corner, but misses her attack when Nikki ducks out of the way. Nikki goes for an attack of her own, but Brie elbows her, climbing atop her shoulders and punching her on the top of the head. Nikki keeps enough of her senses to drop Brie, electric chair-style, to the mat, but it seems to take a lot out of her too, and both sisters are down.

Nikki’s not down for long, though, as she pounces on Brie and pounds her head onto the mat repeatedly. She goes for a pin, but Brie kicks out. She locks in a submission, wrenching back Brie’s right arm and clutching her chin. Brie battles back quickly, but Nikki halts her momentum by driving her face-first onto her knee. Another pin attempt, another kick out.

Nikki yells at Brie, telling her to give up. She stands on Brie’s hair and pulls her up by her arms, maintaining the hold for as long as the referee will allow. She then goes for more hair pulling, bringing Brie up to her feet and then lifting her up by her hair, hanging her off her back.

She does this twice before tossing Brie all the way over her head. Brie recovers quickly, though, and kicks Nikki in the stomach and hitting the Bella Buster! She goes for the pin, but Nikki kicks out, much to Brie’s frustration. Both Bellas get to their feet, Brie ducking a clothesline from Nikki and hitting one of her own, going on an offensive streak that ends with a vicious knee to the face. Brie goes for another, but Nikki slips out of the ring. Nikki’s not free of Brie, though, as she comes flying through the ropes, hitting Nikki with a suicide dive!

Both Divas are down, Nikki favoring her injured shin. Brie gets to her feet first, tossing Nikki into the ring and climbing the turnbuckle. She hits Nikki with a missile dropkick! She pins Nikki, but only gets a two-count. Nikki starts to fight back, sending Brie into the corner. Brie halts her momentum and tries to catch Nikki in a headscissors, but Nikki has her caught, dropping her down and kneeing her in the stomach.

Nikki then pulls Brie into the Rack Attack! She goes for the pin, but Brie kicks out! Nikki can’t believe it, yelling, “What is it gonna take??”

She goes after Brie again, but Brie pulls her into the Yes Lock! Nikki scrambles and eventually gets a foot on the bottom rope, breaking the hold and saving the match for her. Nikki tries to compose herself against the ropes. Brie comes after her, but is met with a hell of a forearm. Brie is laid out. Nikki pulls her sister to her feet and plants her with the Rack Attack. It’s enough for the three count. Nikki is your winner!

As per the stipulation, Brie must now be Nikki’s personal assistant for 30 days or quit the WWE. As she exits, Nikki looks more “evil stepsister” than ever, while poor Cinderbella ponders her fate in the middle of the ring.

Not long after, we treated to two more Bella segments, each giving us a taste of what’s in store for Brie over the next month.

In the first, Brie’s interview with Tom Phillips is interrupted by Nikki:

Nikki has plenty of things for Brie to do, but before she sends her on her way, she makes Brie say into the camera, “The Nikki Bella is the better Bella, and I finally saw after tonight how amazing she is. She’s such a winner in my heart.” She dismisses Brie, and tells Tom that he is not to interview Brie again unless she says so.

Next, Brie is seen loading Nikki’s bags into a car and calling in a dinner reservation:

Nikki asks Brie if she made her her smoothie (Which has bananas! Unintentional Diva Dirt Weekly/Chyna shoutout!). Brie hands it to Nikki, who pours it all over her head. Nikki says that one was for Brie, and order Brie to make her one. Brie’s pissed, but this is just the tip of the iceberg, and we’ve got a month to go..

Finally, we have our Divas Title match, AJ Lee defending the belt against Paige:

Paige gets control out of the gate, turning a tie-up into a side headlock. AJ fights out and sends Paige into the ropes, but Paige bowls her over on the return. Paige runs the ropes, but is met with a clothesline from AJ. Paige charges, and AJ slips past her, leaping onto her and rolling her into a pin attempt. Paige kicks out.

Paige tries to take back control, but is taken down with a headscissors and another pin attempt by AJ. Paige kicks out again. AJ is back on Paige quickly, grabbing her by the hair and skipping around the ring. She sends Paige into the ropes and takes her out with a spinning heel kick. Paige takes that as her cue to slip out of the ring. AJ follows her, driving her into the ring apron. Alicia takes the opportunity to try to attack AJ from behind, but it’s telegraphed, and AJ takes her down, punching her in the head.

Paige, meanwhile, has reentered the ring, so AJ follows her. Paige then slips out of the ring again, leading AJ to chase her some more. She pounces on Paige and pummels her with some right hands, but is driving into the barricade. Paige takes AJ by the legs and swings her around, slamming her into the barricade like a rag doll.

Paige climbs back into the ring, taunting AJ with a celebratory skip. She exits the ring again to prevent a count out, tossing AJ back in. She headbutts her repeatedly, skipping some more before brining AJ to her feet. She drives her into a corner, nailing her with elbows and stomping her on the chest.

AJ crawls out of the corner and Paige drapes her across the middle rope, pummeling her with knees to the chest. She goes for a pin, but AJ kicks out. Paige keeps on AJ, planting a knee in her back and stretching her arms back. When AJ starts to get to her feet, Paige sends her back down with a knee to the stomach. Again, she tosses AJ into the corner and plants her with some elbows.

Finally, though, AJ shows some signs of life, fighting off Paige with her knees and kicking her face-first onto the mat. She comes flying out of the corner with a Lou Thesz press, pounding Paige’s head with some right hands. Paige shoves her off, but AJ’s tenacious, hitting her with a neckbreaker and a kick to the midsection. When she runs the ropes, though, she’s met with a boot right to the face, Paige absolutely leveling her. It’s not enough for a three-count, though, as AJ kicks out of Paige’s pin attempt.

AJ it brought to her feet, but blocks Paige’s suplex attempt, planting her with a kick to the jaw. She climbs to the second rope and hits Paige with a tornado DDT. She goes for the pin, but Paige kicks out at two. Alicia leads an army of one in Paige’s corner, pounding on the mat to cheer her on. Paige kicks AJ, but it’s not enough to stop her, and she latches onto Paige with a front face lock, her legs wrapped around Paige’s midsection.

Paige doesn’t tap out, though, and lifts AJ off of her, skipping around the ring with AJ in her arms before dumping her with a fallaway slam. Before Paige can capitalize on her attack, though, AJ’s out of the ring. Paige crawls after her, tossing her into the barricade again. She climbs atop the barricade, but is unable to pull AJ up with her. Instead, AJ sweeps Paige’s legs out from under her, leaving her to fall heavily to the floor. I’m not sure if this was what was planned, but it achieved its end, laying Paige out.

Alicia, seeing that Paige might be counted out, grabs her and tosses her back into the ring. It’s not a smart move, though, as AJ immediately locks in the Black Widow! Paige taps out right away. AJ is still your Divas Champion!

AJ skips off, Divas Championship in her grasp. Meanwhile, Paige comes face to face with Alicia in the ring. Paige is not happy. She slaps Alicia and tells her that this was her fault. She leaves, telling Alicia that she hates her. Well, so much for Palicia?

Thoughts: I liked (but didn’t love) Brie and Nikki’s match. It played to their strengths and allowed Brie to liven up her offense a bit, which I’ve always found a bit one-note and dull. She still has some work to do to achieve her husband’s beloved underdog status, and this personal assistant gig might help her achieve that. I’m glad that Nikki won, since the possibilities are much more exciting. Will Nikki use Brie to get herself closer to the Divas Title? You know, when Brie’s not busy fetching smoothies. I’m sure she will, and I’m interested to see what happens there.

Still, the match felt like it was holding back a bit. It didn’t exactly feel like the all-out brawl that two hate-filled sisters would have, and the “kick out of each other’s finisher to up the stakes” thing has been done to death. Maybe they’re building towards an even bigger match. After all, if Brie is left to stew in her anger for 30 days, there’s no telling what she’ll be capable of when she can get her hands on Nikki again. Maybe at TLC? There’s so much these two can do together, so I guess I should be glad they didn’t go all-out here.

As for AJ and Paige’s match, it was more akin to what I wanted to see from them all along: brutality. AJ plays the rag doll, and Paige beats the crap out of her, allowing AJ to be the triumphant underdog and fight back. They even ventured atop the barricade, which isn’t done too often these days. It wasn’t a “Michelle McCool/Melina” barricade moment, as I think the plan for the post changed at the last second, but it was memorable enough. A bit awkward, yes, but Paige’s fall looked vicious enough to make it worthwhile. The way Paige immediately tapped to the Black Widow sold it further.

Overall, I preferred AJ and Paige’s match, since it had the viciousness I think the Bella match was lacking. It was unique and had edginess I think the AJ/Paige story has been missing these past few weeks. Why can’t this physicality be demonstrated on Raw? Why does it have to come down to half-assed “mind games” and one girl revolutions? Honestly, I think this feud would’ve been better served by going down the Trish Stratus/Victoria route and had Paige beat the crap out of AJ repeatedly, allowing AJ to fight back. At least that feud didn’t pretend to be operating on a deeper level, as I suspect this one was. At least this match delivered. Now, I can only hope these two take a break from each other and revisit their feud down the road, when there’s a better story to be told.

As for Paige and Alicia, I’m not sure what’s going on there. The two fought on Raw and seemed to be okay, so I don’t know if Paige’s slap is supposed to signal the end of their friendship. I like them together, but I would also like to see them become the “B feud” while Nikki and AJ inevitably fight it out over the title. Either as friends or enemies, Palicia still needs to be a thing.

All in all, Hell in a Cell gave us two solid Divas matches that propelled us into (hopefully) new storylines. I assume Nikki will be using her new personal assistant to help her chase AJ’s title, while Paige might be dealing with a scorned Alicia. I could be wrong on the specifics here, but there’s one thing I’m sure of: it’s high time for something new.

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