It had been a long PPV—WWE’s Hell in a Cell 2018 clocked in at 3 hours, 40 minutes and 48 seconds plus a pre-show with a match—and by the time the main event was over, what should have been a thrilling match was bogged down by an exhausting parade of interference.
The main event featured Braun Strowman going against WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns. It was the 40th men’s Hell in a Cell match in WWE history. Although the HIAC PPV chips away a bit at the traditions behind Hell in a Cell matches—which are often put on to settle long-standing feuds—there’s been a HIAC PPV every year since 2009. Fans can deal with it. Plus, the new red cage looked pretty cool.
But what fans shouldn’t have to deal with is what made the main event such a slog: Constant interference in cage matches. The Reigns/Strowman match had six people interfere: Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Paul Heyman, and Brock Lesnar.
Some of this was, admittedly, pretty cool. Ziggler/McIntyre vs. Rollins/Ambrose on the top of the cell was a hell of a sight. The dual “off the side of the cell through the announcers’ table” bump is overdone. But with special guest referee Mick Foley, the man who first did (a more dangerous version of) it, in attendance everyone knew it was going to happen. Heyman macing Foley was hilarious. Lesnar kicking down the cage door was exactly the kind of thing Lesnar should be doing.
But, geeze. The point of a cage is to keep people out. The very first cage match in wrestling history was to stop a cowardly challenger from escaping the ring. Having a cage match with a bevy of wrestlers running in is exhausting. It was unclear what Ziggler, McIntyre, Rollins, and Ambrose were even going to do: Why climb the cage? It couldn’t help their allies inside win the match.
What Lesnar did made more sense, but as a result we didn’t even get a finish: Lesnar laid out Reigns and Strowman and a second referee just called for the bell. A cage match with a no-contest (or double countout? or double DQ?) finish is unsatisfying.
WWE does this a lot, so much so that last year’s Hell in a Cell PPV main event was actually a falls count anywhere match. It ended with interference; Sami Zayn pulled Kevin Owens away from a diving Shane McMahon. Chris Jericho interfered in Owens’ Universal title defense against Rollins in their Hell in a Cell match the year before. At least the interference in 2015’s Hell in a Cell match happened after the match (the Wyatt Family attacked the Undertaker). Even the most recent Punjabi Prison match, which involves two cages surrounding each other, had three people interfere. Recent WWE cage matches are getting to be like late-era WCW cage matches.
You can do a good cage match without any interference; just look at the opening match on last night’s card. Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton put on a great show, and they did it all by themselves. It can be done. Please, cut the interference from cage matches.