Tuesday, June 11, 2024

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Hell in a Cell in Review: The Pin-Up Strong Era is Here…

Last night at Hell in a Cell, Beth Phoenix finally made good on her promise to end Kelly Kelly‘s “Cinderella story” by taking the Divas Championship. However, the title change wasn’t without some help from Beth’s BFF and fellow Diva of Doom, Natalya.

Out first is the challenger, breaking the pattern from their two previous encounters which saw Kelly come out first. Beth is once again accompanied by Natalya, who is curiously dressed in her ring attire. Next out is the champion with Eve Torres in her corner.

As the bell rings, Beth is seen talking strategy with Natalya on the outside. Showing some moxie, Kelly stomps right up to the much larger and more powerful Glamazon to get the match started. Beth then tries to intimidate the champion by getting in her face but Kelly, perhaps feeling a little confident after scoring two wins over Beth, goes right after Beth with forearm shots, surprising her opponent. Kelly then hits two very nice Thesz Presses on Beth, again hitting her with forearm shots.

The two Divas rise to their feet and Beth immediately overpowers Kelly, shoving her into the corner. However, as she attempts to launch herself at the champion, Kelly uses her feet to kick Beth away and then climbs up to the top to hit a nice flying clothesline. Pin attempt but no three for the champion.

Kelly ducks a clothesline attempt from Beth and instead locks in her spinning headscissors, however Beth manages to catch her and hits her with a devastating backbreaker across her knee, much to the delight of one Miss Neidhart on the outside.

Beth, now feeling a shift in momentum, follows up with two elbow drops followed by a pin attempt but the champion shows resiliency by kicking out.

The Glamazon, now frustrated, hoists Kelly over her shoulders and drives her into the turnbuckles in the corner before stomping her while in “Tree of Woe” position. The referee breaks things up giving Kelly a moment’s release but Beth soon hits her with a vicious low dropkick which sends Kelly falling to the canvas. Beth then hits a snapmare on Kelly and applies a sleeper-hold, wearing down the Divas Champion. Kelly tries to show signs of life as the hold takes its toll and the referee checks on her. Will she be able to battle out of it? Yes, she does! Kelly begins rising to her feet and working her way out of Beth’s grip with shots to the stomach but Beth quickly recaptures control by slamming Kelly head first against the mat. Ouch!

Next, Beth begins driving her elbow into the small of Kelly’s back, which obviously has to hurt. Beth follows up by trying to demean and humiliate Kelly by spanking her! Beth brings Kelly to her feet, but the champion manages to snap out of her daze and hits some forearm shots on Beth, however, once again the Glamazon regains control by hitting Kelly with another excruciating backbreaker across her knee. This time, Beth applies even more pressure by keeping K2 in position and stretching the champion over her knee. Kelly begins to fight back with knees to the head, forcing Beth to relent. Kelly then surprises Beth by rolling her up in a small package, but her luck seems to have run out with the surprise pins as Beth kicks out.

Beth is NOT happy about Kelly’s pin attempt, clubbing her across the back and gaining the advantage. Beth props up K2 only to send her back down with a knee-shot. Next, Beth picks Kelly up and slingshots her off the top rope into a nice suplex. After hitting the move, Beth takes a moment to look to her partner for approval, and approval she shall receive — Natalya is gleaming like the Chesire Cat on the outside. Pin attempt by Beth but no dice.

Beth’s momentarily cool exterior has dissipated now and she’s frustrated at not getting a three-count. The enraged Glamazon hoists Kelly onto her shoulders in a powerbomb attempt — but in shades of their match at Night of Champions — Kelly Kelly rolls through her legs with a hurricanrana pin attempt. However, unlike their match two weeks ago, this time Beth is well prepared and breaks the pin. Furious, Beth immediately jumps to her feet and hurls at Kelly with a clothesline, taking the champ down to the mat. Forearm shots by Beth to the Divas Champion now and another pin attempt, but Kelly again kicks out. Beth again shows her frustration before taking it out on K2 with a harsh kick to the stomach. Beth then chokes Kelly over the middle rope and goes for a bronco buster-esque move, but Kelly manages to move out of the way and Beth lands on the ropes. Kelly with a nice neckbreaker on Beth. Kelly is now all fired up with kicks and forearms. Kelly jumps up onto Beth’s shoulders, hoping to roll her up but Beth manages to compose herself and instead lands on Kelly and goes for a pin attempt of her own. Kelly, however, reverses the move and rolls up Beth! Nice exchange here.

Kelly with a kick to Beth followed by a bulldog attempt but Beth stops Kelly in her tracks. Beth, now standing behind Kelly, locks her arms into Glam Slam position as the crowd roars, however, Kelly shows good ring awareness by climbing up the turnbuckles like a cat and flipping over Beth. Kelly now attempts a backslide pin but the stronger Beth manages to hold her position and drives Kelly front first into the corner. Beth hits Kelly with some back elbow shots. Beth with a splash attempt but Kelly moves out of the way. Kelly is seriously fired up now — tune up those vocal chords! — Kelly repeatedly smashes Beth’s head into the turnbuckle while screaming like a banshee.

The Divas Champion, still hurting from the match, falls to the canvas and musters up the strength to crawl to the opposing corner. It’s time for her patented handspring elbow which she hits perfectly. Next, Kelly climbs up to the top rope and hits Beth with a bulldog from the top! Can she get the job done and pin Beth? 1… 2… no! Beth kicks out!

Natalya jumps up on the apron and Eve is hot on her trail, pulling her down and exchange ensues between the former Divas Champions on the outside. Natalya throws Eve into the barricade, taking her out of action.

Back in the ring, Kelly goes for her Kelly Killer but Beth manages to avoid the move and instead hoists Kelly on her shoulders and hangs her over the top rope, kicking her hard in the stomach.

Beth now sets up the Divas Champion for that excruciating looking submission move that we’ve seen from Natalya this week. I love this move! Natalya grabs the microphone and tells Kelly to “scream louder”. Nice touch! “You gonna cry?” jeers Natalya. Despite the taunting from the outside, Kelly grabs the ropes which means Beth must break the hold.

As Beth argues with the referee, Natalya clocks Kelly over the head with the microphone. Ouch! With Kelly out cold, Beth picks Kelly apart with a monsterous Glam Slam for the victory.

Immediately, Natalya jumps in the ring as the new Divas Champion is overcome with emotion. The two Divas embrace as JR questions whether this could signal a change in direction for the WWE Divas. Hmm, I wish…

Beth, in tears, proudly shows off her new wares on the top turnbuckle.

The Pin-Up Strong Era is indeed upon us…

Thoughts: Is it just me or do these Beth/Kelly matches get better and better? I thought SummerSlam was okay, Night of Champions was good, and now Hell in a Cell gets a “very good” from me. Once again, Beth and Kelly put on a great match, comparable to their previous encounter at Night of Champions. I thought both Divas looked strong in this match, with Kelly doing more than just playing the “rag doll”, as it were.

I’m particularly impressed by Kelly in this match because I feel like we’ve seen a growth in her as a performer, especially throughout this series of matches. Between SummerSlam and Hell in a Cell, I really feel as though I’ve seen Kelly grow little by little in each of the three Divas Championship bouts, and this was most definitely her finest hour. Kelly showed good technique in this match with those complex pin attempts and also, wasn’t afraid to take risks from the top turnbuckle. Kelly has, without a doubt, improved and stepped up her game. Some purists may not like her, but unless you are completely blinded by hatred, you can’t deny that she has improved. I haven’t always been a Kelly fan, but she’s certainly earned my respect for upping her game, especially in her Divas Championship run. I hope that she can keep it up and continue to grow as a performer. As I mentioned last month in the Night of Champions review, Trish Stratus wasn’t the most polished wrestler in her first title run, but worked to improve. Kelly is still very young and if she chooses to, she could grow and grow over the next few years and perhaps silence her critics further. As far as WWE goes, they obviously seem happy with her wrestling ability or they wouldn’t use her in the ring. If you think she’s a bad wrestler — blame WWE, because she’s obviously meeting their requirements and thus doesn’t really need to work on her game any further, but I think you can tell that she has worked on her skills and has improved.

As for Beth – congratulations! It’s hard to believe that it’s taken so long for Beth to finally win the Divas Championship, but it’s most certainly been worth the wait. Beth’s series of matches with Kelly have been super enjoyable and I think she’s brought something out of Kelly in the process. I hope that now Beth is champion, we will see some more intriguing storylines for the Divas of Doom. In my opinion, Beth and Natalya are far more deadly with the Divas Championship than they are without it. You could give Beth a months-long reign with Divas failing to topple the Divas of Doom — and perhaps eventually lead to a break-up between Natalya and Beth. I truly hope that WWE thinks long term (which, of course, they won’t) and gives Beth a lengthy reign as champion with several challengers over the next several months. (I can hear fickle fans crying “boring title reign” already.)

I’m pleased with the performances and the outcome of Hell in a Cell. Kudos to Beth and Kelly.

Match Rating: 4/5

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