Hell in a Cell 2022 will be remembered for one thing and one thing only: Cody Rhodes' torn pec. Going into the event, WWE had revealed that Rhodes tore his pec in the days leading up to the show. That put the main fight in question. Not only was Rhodes' injury more grotesque than imagined, he worked a full 25-minute Hell in a Cell match against Seth Rollins. He came out victorious, winning their third classic of a match.
The injury may be too gross for some -- it took a few minutes for a stunned Chicago crowd to believe what they were seeing. But if you can stomach it, the main event was incredible.
It had to be, too, since this was close to a one-match show. Bianca Belair retained her Raw Women's Championship in the opening bout, defeating Asuka and Becky Lynch. It was a terrific match. Between the opener and the closer, though, was a lot of fluff. The card was mostly filled by feuds that have run their course: Kevin Owens, Bobby Lashley and Madcap Moss can hopefully move on to better things after tonight.
Cody Rhodes beat Seth Rollins
What a doozy this was. WWE announcers told us that Cody Rhodes had injured his pec coming into this match. That's no spin; that injury was very real, as we learned when Cody took his coat off, revealing grotesque bruising up his right shoulder.
Cody Rhodes' injury became the story of this match, especially at the beginning. The bruising is disgusting, as you can see. The Chicago crowd at first seemed too disturbed by the injury to be into the action. The opening minutes of the main event were the quietest the crowd had been all night. Seth went straight for the injury too, kicking the shoulder and yanking at Rhodes' arm.
The crowd's silence all changed when Rollins brought out a table. At that moment, they no longer cared for Cody's wellbeing and only wanted to see someone get put through that damn table. They got their wish. Rollins attempted a Frog Splash through the table, but Cody rolled off and Rollins crashed through alone.
Rhodes then brought out a cowbell, a weapon synonymous with his dad Dusty. The cowbell is in the middle of a long rope, with handles on either side for each person to strap around their wrist. Cody put one on, then threw the rope to Seth, daring him to put it on. Rollins did, which began a mini Bull Rope match. Cody got the best of it, clocking Rollins with the cowbell for a near fall. As they skirmished on the outside, Rollins unshackled himself and, to the delight of the crowd, brought out another table.
Rollins set it up in the corner of the ring. He attempted to charge Rhodes into it, but Cody dodged and landed a Cross Rhodes on Rollins for another two count. Rhodes tried to follow up, but Rollins attacked the injured shoulder by jerking the arm. Rollins hit Rhodes with a Superkick and then Powerbombed Rhodes through the table for a two count. The crowd chants "This is awesome!"
With Cody down, Rollins went outside to retrieve a sledgehammer. He took a swing, but Rhodes avoided it. Rollins then kicked Rhodes in the gut and attempted a Pedigree, but Rhodes slipped out and landed a Pedigree of his own for another nearfall. Rhodes picked up the sledgehammer and chased Rollins around the ring with it. Rollins slipped inside the ring and, when Rhodes followed, caught Rhodes with a Curbstomp. Another nearfall, another "This is awesome!" chant.
Rollins went for another Curbstomp, but Rhodes got out of the way. Rollins then managed to land a Cross Rhodes. He tried to roll into a second one, but Cody countered with a Cross Rhodes of his own. Both were laid out in the ring, then both started crawling to the sledgehammer. Cody got there first, but his injured pec stopped him from being able to lift it up. Rollins snatched it and tried to hit Cody with it, but Cody kicked it out of his hand.
Rhodes hit two Cross Rhodes, then managed to pick the sledgehammer up. He hit Rollins with it for the win.
Rating: 4.75 stars. Cody Rhodes injury is pretty gross, there's no getting around that. But this will probably go down as 2022's most memorable performance, for good or ill. You can definitely argue that it was irresponsible for WWE to let Cody go out there. But what's inarguable is that his performance was Herculean. Not only did he do the match, he did a 25-minute main event -- and a classic one at that.
Theory retains US Championship
Theory defeated Mustafa Ali with an A-Town Down to retain his United States Championship. Mustafa Ali was a hometown hero to the Chicago crowd, who was solidly behind him. Anyone who watches WWE knows, however, that hometown heroes typically don't get happy endings.
This was an above-average Raw-level match. Ali did well, but was hamstrung by his booking. He hadn't been built up at all coming into this, and it was hard to buy him as a credible threat to Theory's championship run. Ali and Theory also didn't click particularly well. It's not that there were any major botches, but the action didn't have the smoothest flow to it either.
There were some notable spots, including a modified Spanish Fly that saw Theory leap from the ring to the top ropes in an impressive display of athleticism. Ali countered an A-Town Down attempt into an STF, which the crowd was into. At one point Ali backflipped from the second rope, and tweaked his leg on the landing. That played into the finish, as Theory hit an intense chop block on Theory's leg, then successfully landed the A-Town Down for the win.
Rating: 2.75 stars.
Madcap Moss beat Happy Corbin
Madcap Moss defeated Happy Corbin in a No Holds Barred match after he crushed Corbin's neck with a combination of a steel chair and the steel steps. The match was largely built around a steel chair, which Corbin and Moss whaled on each other with, but didn't give the crowd what they were chanting for the whole match -- tables.
Madcap Moss started with a bang, beating Happy Corbin all around the ring. He hit an explosive clothesline that sent Corbin over the ring ropes, then tossed Corbin back in and did the same on the other side. But Corbin stopped Moss' momentum by chucking a chair straight into Moss' face. From there this was a No Holds Barred version of their match at WrestleMania -- pretty much all Corbin.
Corbin smashed Moss several times with a chair as the crowd chanted "We want tables!" At one point Corbin brought a table out from under the ring, which the crowd popped for, but he quickly pushed it back in to get a round of boos. Moss started a comeback after he dodged a turnbuckle charge from Corbin and Corbin hit a chair that was wedged in between the middle and top rope.
The crowd's chants for tables grew more vociferous, but they got no tables. Moss obliterated Corbin with two chair shots -- they were serious chair shots, with a huge amount of power behind them. But Corbin got the upper hand again after chop, blocking Moss on the outside. Corbin then wrapped a chair around Moss' neck and pushed him into the announcer's table.
A decade ago that would write a character off TV for months, but this didn't keep Moss down for more than a few minutes. Corbin setup steel steps in the corner of the ring, but Moss wriggled out of whatever Corbin was trying to do to him and instead chucked Corbin into the steel steps with a Fallaway Slam.
Moss then wrapped the chair around Corbin's neck and crushed it with the steel steps. Pretty gnarly spot, one that got Moss the win.
Rating: 3 stars. Hopefully Madcap Moss can move on to something fresh now.
The Judgment Day beat AJ Styles, Finn Balor and Liv Morgan
The six-person mixed tag started with a big brawl. AJ Styles and Finn Balor took out Damian Priest and Edge, which just left Rhea Ripley from The Judgment Day in the ring. AJ launched Liv Morgan into the air, and she landed a Hurricanrana on Ripley. From then on, Ripley and Morgan started as the legal women.
Morgan tried to build momentum, but was cut off by Ripley when Ripley decked her with a headbutt. From there it was an extended heat session, with The Judgment Day beating down Liv Morgan and then Finn Balor as the good guys built to a comeback.
Balor tagged in Styles for the hot tag as Damian Priest tagged in Edge. Styles ran wild with great intensity, leading to a Phenomenal Forearm on Edge. The pin was interrupted by Priest, who pulled AJ out of the ring. Styles tagged Morgan back into the ring, who had showdown with Ripley again.
Morgan tagged Balor in, which led to another six-person clash where everyone fought everyone. Styles and Balor both dived outside onto Edge and Priest, and Liv Morgan then did a Suicide Dive onto Ripley -- barely making it after catching her foot on the middle rope.
Inside the ring, Balor hit Priest with an Eziguri kick. He tried a Coup de Grace, but Ripley saved Priest by shaking the ropes, which caused Balor to tumble off. Priest tagged in Edge, who tried to Spear Balor but instead ate a kick. AJ took out Priest with a Phenomenal Forearm, then Edge tossed AJ outside.
Edge tried another Spear on Balor, but Balor countered it into a sick Inside Crade. Balor landed a Slingblade on Edge and attempted another Coup de Grace, but Ripley stood in front of Edge, which prevented Balor from completing the move since the men can't touch the women in the match. Liv Morgan jumped on Ripley's back, getting her out of the way. Balor tried the Coup de Grace, but Edge moved out of the way and hit a Spear for the win.
Rating: 3.25 stars. The biggest takeaway from this match is that Balor is criminally underused, but that's nothing new. Edge's faction continues its winning streak, though it still feels like it hasn't fully developed yet. It's good that WWE is committed to something, forgoing the typical 50-50 booking. At the same time though, the Judgment Day faction feels a little pointless so far.
Kevin Owens pins Ezekiel
Kevin Owens beat Ezekiel with a Stunner. This was much more fun than it had any right to be, mostly thanks to Kevin Owens' conviction.
Ezekiel started with a surprise blitz, catching Owens with a jumping high knee, and then landing a great Flying Elbow from the top rope. Owens turned things around for himself by slamming Ezekiel into the turnbuckle, busting him open a little. From there it was the Kevin Owens Show, as he took most of the match.
We got a Senton into a Springboard Moonsault from Owens for a two count, and later he hit a Pop-Up Powerbomb for another nearfall. Ezekiel got another surprise high-knee strike, but Owens got his knees up for the second Flying Elbow attempt. After two failed Stunners, Owens hit it on his third try for the win.
The match was fine, or maybe a little better than fine. But Kevin Owens and the Chicago crowd made it fun. Owens was fanatical, yelling at every chance "It's Elias!", and in general making a spectacle of himself. He did a great job of coming off like someone genuinely frustrated that this guy was pretending to be someone he's not.
Then there was the Chicago crowd. At first they chanted "Zeke! Zeke! Zeke!" but later we got dueling chants of "He's Elias" and "No he's not!" They were more into the match than most other crowds would be -- Chicago is like that -- and that made things far more entertaining.
Rating: 3.25 stars. It's been a cute storyline. Hopefully this match is the end of it. Also, Kevin Owens is so good.
Bobby Lashley beat Omos and MVP.
After Asuka, Becky Lynch and Belair got the show off the a racing start, this handicap match slowed proceedings down quite a bit.
This was what you'd expect. Omos beat Lashley down, then tagged MVP in for a quick bit of offense. MVP and Omos alternated beating Lashley down. None of it was remarkable in any way, except for one fun spot where Omos shoulder-charged Lashley through the barricade on the outside. That was cool. Nothing else was.
The finishing sequence began when Lashley was in the ring with MVP. Lashley knocked Omos off the ring apron, then speared MVP. Lashley went for a pin, but Omos broke it up. As Omos was preparing to give Lashley a double-arm Chokeslam, Cedric Alexander, who's had tension with MVP and Omos, jumped in the ring from the top rope. For some reason the ref didn't call for a disqualification.
Omos caught Alexander, but the distraction allowed Lashley to bump Omos out of the ring. Lashley then put MVP in the Hurt Lock for the win.
Rating: 2 stars. Bleh.
Bianca Belair retains Raw Women's Championship
Bianca Belair, Asuka and Becky Lynch kicked off Hell in a Cell with an outstanding opening match for the Raw Women's Championship. It was a match filled with great action, and each woman got a chance to shine. Belair ended up winning by pinning Asuka.
It was a good-but-standard triple threat match at first. It started with three in the ring, but one would get thrown out which would allow the other two to fight one-on-one. They traded positions, and it was good. The crowd was mega into this from the beginning, with huge "E-S-T" chants.
The match went up a gear when Asuka and Lynch were in the ring. Asuka attempted a rollup, but Lynch kicked out. Asuka rewarded her with a series of blistering strikes: a few spinning backfists and a glarly mid kick. It sounds like not much, but it was an intense flurry that got the crowd super into it. As Lynch and Asuka started grappling for submissions after, we got our first "This is awesome!" chant of the night.
It was Belairs time to shine after that, running wild on both Asuka and Lynch with strikes in the corner and a standing moonsault in the middle.
Asuka laid out both with Codebreakers -- Belair ate a Codebreaker in midair after jumping off the middle rope -- and then laid them out with a double hip attack. She then locked both into an ankle lock at the same time, which was a little preposterous. But it played into the following sequence: After they sent Asuka out of the ring, both Belair and Lynch were hopping around on one leg each, selling their respective ankles.
Lynch almost got Belair in her Disarmer armbar, but in an incredible spot Belair powered out by standing up, Lynch teetering over Belair's shoulder. Belair attempted a KOD, but her leg gave out. As they battled, Lynch managed to plant Belair with a Manhandle Slam, but Asuka interrupted the pin for a great false finish.
With Belair out, Lynch and Asuka had a great sequence where they traded rollup pinfall attempts. One of Lynch's rollups got countered into an Asuka Lock, which the crowd initially bought as a possible finish. It wasn't to be though, as in what appeared to be a botch Belair jumped from the top rope into the ring (but not onto Lynch and Asuka, which appeared to be the goal).
Belair dropped Asuka head-first into the turnbuckle, then Lynch threw Belair out. Lynch then hit a Manhandle Slam on Asuka, but Belair came back in and chucked Lynch out of the ring before pinning Asuka for the win.
Rating: 4.25 stars. Great action that was terrifically paced. The spot at the end where Belair jumped in to break up the Asuka Lock seemed like a botch, and certainly killed a little of the momentum they'd been building up. But this was awesome.