Why SmackDown Is Doing Hell In A Cell Better Than RAW

Days away from another WWE monthly pay-per-view (PPV) and reviewing the card, I can pinpoint the matches that are drawing me to Hell in the Cell (HIAC). Going down said card, I can’t help but realize a majority of these bouts also happen to be Blue brand programs versus Red. While Monday Night RAW continues to be seen as WWE’s flagship program, even though both shows are now live, SmackDown LIVE consistently tries to prove that it is not the B show of the WWE. And, in many ways, is succeeding in this plight.

In fact, when it comes to HIAC, I think they are proving this to the extreme. As it stands (as of this writing), there are eight matches in total for HIAC, with five of them SD LIVE-related and three with RAW superstars; however, SmackDown LIVE is doing Hell In A Cell better than RAW for many other reasons.

The Perfect Build

From the mixed-tag action between the Danielsons and the Mizanins, to Samoa Joe versus AJ Styles, Charlotte and Becky Lynch, Jeff Hardy versus Randy Orton, as well as the tag team championship bout, these programs – these storylines – have evolved nicely and progressively since SummerSlam, with most of the rivalries springing out from this last (and major) WWE PPV. Each week, a new page has been written between competitors –  heightening the stakes, moving the story along, drawing in WWE audiences. One can even point to the tag team titles match as a nice progression in the New Day and Rusev/English’s story: The New Day win the tag belts becoming five-time (5-time, 5-time, 5-time, 5-time) tag team championships the day after SummerSlam; Rusev and English bury the hatchet with English scoring the men an entry in a SD LIVE tag team tournament to determine number one contenders; after weeks of grueling matches, Rusev Day is celebrated with a win and a match at HIAC.

Having said that, the build between two couples has been flawless, and while I rolled my eyes at the idea of Brie Bella and Maryse being added to the mix, the program itself has been a good watch. Becky Lynch’s evolution from a failed attempt at heel into a tweener has been flawless, with these SD LIVE women showing Bayley and Sasha Banks how it’s really done when it comes to a BFF breakup storyline. And while I cover my eyes anytime Randy Orton goes anywhere near Jeff Hardy’s ears, I can’t wait to see these two collide at HIAC. Finally, Joe and Styles have killed it in promos leading up to HIAC. Both are incredibly strong when it comes to mic work, and while it has all been done before within storylines around wrestlers stalking other wrestlers’ wives, when Joe calls out Wendy’s name, I get the chills. He’s added a new layer to stories of this kind, and it has been wonderful.

Adding Reality Into Fiction

The three major SD LIVE HIAC programs have added real-life elements within their programs which fans love. The Miz and Daniel Bryan’s feud has always had an undertone of reality since that fateful Talking Smack episode where Miz tore into Bryan; however, we all know that there is past, real-life history between Brie and Maryse. Joe brought Wendy into the program just before SummerSlam, and bringing her ringside at SummerSlam added to this story in which WWE Creative continues to build upon. Which then brings me to Charlotte and Becky. Undeniably BFFs outside of the WWE ring, this storyline is more than just the breaking up of a friendship, or even breaking out of that friend’s shadow: it’s the evolution of a superstar that went from good to incredible; popular, to having the entire crowd behind her; a superstar transforming into a mega star that continually is being grouped in the same likes of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. This rivalry is more than just a program, it’s a huge chapter in Becky Lynch’s story, and thanks to how it is being told, many of us are invested; however, it breaks the boundaries of what is being told inside the ring, and as interesting as the story is on SD LIVE between these two ladies, the story of Becky Lynch’s transformation is just as intriguing.

Programs Makes Sense

A huge component for SD LIVE’s HIAC buildup success is that the brand’s programs actually make sense. Easy enough, right? Maryse helps The Miz cheat during his SummerSlam match causing Daniel Bryan to lose, Brie enters the equation; Joe taunts Wendy, which causes AJ Styles to lose it; Charlotte wins the SD LIVE Women’s Championship at SummerSlam, and Becky Lynch, who has had enough of playing second fiddle, turns on her. All these stories are not only understandable, they are relatable to fans as well.

Sadly, Monday Night RAW has missed the boat on this concept. With Ronda Rousey versus Alexa Bliss aside, the other two major programs within the brand are awkward heading into HIAC, and don’t really make much sense. Sure, the Shield reunion was fantastic; however, Braun turning heel was a mistake. His alliance with Drew McIntrye and Dolph Ziggler is shaky, and the fact that the heel roster comes to this new faction’s defense time and time again, literally makes no sense. RAW’s also been unable to capitalize on other big talents: Finn Balor hasn’t had a solid storyline in a while; Elias barely wrestles; and where’s Bray Wyatt? While it makes sense to have Seth and Dean battle Ziggler and McIntry for those RAW tag team championships, it is a shame there isn’t a real program centered around the Intercontinental Championship for HIAC.

For these reasons, and probably more, SmackDown LIVE is doing Hell In A Cell better than RAW, and I can’t wait to see how the Blue brand’s matches unfold come Sunday.

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