This time next month, WWE will be back on the road in the United States, leaving behind the WWE Thunderdome and its digital fans, as well as a predominantly fan-less era of almost 16 months. But Sunday represents one more big night in front of the virtual WWE Universe, with three world title matches including two key Hell in a Cell clashes.
With simmering tensions that date back a full year, Drew McIntyre gets his last shot at regaining his WWE championship and avenging a WrestleMania 37 loss against Bobby Lashley inside the Hell in a Cell cage. Bianca Belair gets a moment in the spotlight as well, making her Hell in a Cell debut as she defends her SmackDown women’s championship against Bayley.
Two more rematches from WrestleMania are on the docket as well, as Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn and Seth Rollins vs. Cesaro return for another round. And rounding out the card is a one-on-one match between Alexa Bliss and Shayna Baszler, which might resemble a supernatural thriller more than a traditional wrestling match by the time all is said and done.
Follow along throughout the night as Marc Raimondi and Tim Fiorvanti break it down, match by match.
Match in progress: Raw women’s championship: Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair
Sami Zayn def. Kevin Owens
The last time Sami Zayn won a one-on-one match was in December 2020, when he defeated Big E by countout. The last time Zayn won a one-on-one match by anything other than countout was in October 2020, in a successful title defense against Jeff Hardy.
That long winless streak came to an end Sunday night as a predictably entertaining and original match between Zayn and Kevin Owens ended in a highly unpredictable way — when Zayn had his arm raised following a pinfall victory.
Much of the tension in this match was built upon the events of the last few months, and especially what happened on SmackDown. Zayn caused a distraction in a tag team match on Friday that allowed Commander Azeez to hit Owens with a strike to the throat on two occasions.
Even in Owens’ dominant early barrage, he had to take time to catch his breath and recover, which stunted his momentum. Zayn took every advantage he could in targeting the throat at every turn. Owens was driven forward through pure rage and adrenaline, but that couldn’t sustain him for long, extended stretches.
Owens was further hampered landed a flying tope over the top rope to the floor, damaging Owens’ left arm. Zayn eventually connected on a Blue Thunder Bomb, but only drew a two-count. Owens, still hobbled, looked to connect with a one-armed Stunner in the ring, failed, fell victim to a half-and-half suplex, and then spilled to the outside.
Owens successfully connected on a one-armed Stunner on the outside of the ring, rolled back into the ring, and nearly picked up a countout win. But Zayn made it into the ring at the last moment and a fist fight erupted with both men on their knees and damaged.
Zayn attacked Owens’ left arm, and then hit a running knee to the back of Owens’ head, sending him throat-first into the bottom rope. Owens struggled to his feet and directly into position for a Helluva Kick, which landed flush. With the three-count, Zayn added another layer of intrigue to his conflict with Owens as he danced and called the victory karma, and justice.
These two are always magic together! #HIAC
— WWE on FOX (@WWEonFOX) June 21, 2021
What’s next: After spouting off about conspiracy theories alleging the entire WWE was against him, and running into brick walls every single time he lost, Zayn looked at this victory as justification for everything, and will likely fall even farther down the rabbit hole. Owens will not let this loss lie.
Bliss won with a Twisted Bliss at around the seven-minute mark. The story of the match was Bliss absorbing all of Baszler’s offense and coming up laughing and smiling. Baszler stomped on Bliss’ arm and Bliss popped up laughing, landed a Thesz Press on Baszler, then a DDT. On the outside, Nia Jax and Reginald were ringside to support Baszler. Bliss and Jax met eyes and somehow Bliss possessed Jax to slap Reginald, sending him crashing to the ground. That was certainly an interesting sequence. The finish immediately followed that.
What’s next: Likely the continuation of this weird story. It would be interesting to see them explore Bliss and Jax, since they are close friends and real life and have a lot of storyline history with one another. Perhaps that is what they were teasing with that odd possession sequence. I’m sure we’ll get the reappearance of Lily at some point down the line, as well. I’m not exactly sure who is getting over with this program, but I’m at least curious to see where it will go and how long Bliss will be basically the female version of The Fiend.
Seth Rollins def. Cesaro
Seth Rollins has leaned into being a world class troll of late, and he used that ability to overcome a largely one-sided match to frustrate and infuriate Cesaro enough to take advantage and secure a roll-up win.
After back-to-back losses to Cesaro in recent months, including one at WrestleMania 37, Rollins has been on the warpath aggravating Cesaro’s injuries and causing new ones, turning Cesaro’s momentum against him. That dichotomy has been a tremendous driver of this story. Rollins gave into his frustrations and channeled them by using cheap shots and underhanded attacks. Cesaro let the worst of Rollins get to him, and thus, even with a wide spectrum of offensive wonders, he ultimately lost the match.
Even before the opening bell, Rollins was working to get into Cesaro’s head with a pre-match attack. And though Cesaro anticipated the chicanery and stifled the attack, it just continued to pile upon the frustrations Cesaro was feeling throughout the match. The offensive back and forth throughout the match was stunning, as expected, with both men flying around the ring hitting uppercuts, flying boots, uppercuts and everything else under the sun to try to keep each other down.
Rollins had brief moments when he controlled the pace, but Cesaro kept grinding and kicking out — getting a little bit angrier each time. When Rollins went for Cesaro’s eyes, he exploded in anger and frustration. He peeled Rollins’ glove off, stuffed it in Rollins’ mouth and then connected on a ripcord clothesline for good measure.
Rollins hit a Falcon Arrow, but missed his signature stomp. He used it as a dummy attack, instantly recovering and landing a spinning back kick to the back of Cesaro’s head. A spinning lariat by Cesaro to Rollins left both men stunned on the ground. Following a Cesaro swing of about 15 rotations, Cesaro slipped right into the Sharpshooter in the middle of the ring. Rollins struggled, but Cesaro countered directly into a Crossface in the middle of the ring. Rollins attempted a pinfall to break up the submission, but Cesaro stepped right back into the sharpshooter. Cesaro stomped Rollins’ arm three times trying to do whatever he could to keep Rollins down. But in his aggression, Rollins slipped into a tight small package and picked up the fluky-looking three-count win.
— WWE (@WWE) June 21, 2021
What’s next: This conflict doesn’t seem likely to end on such a note. Cesaro getting overwhelmed with his frustration and aggression after Rollins’ trolling is an interesting thread to pull at as well, both in terms of this story and the directions Cesaro can go in as he continues to get angrier and angrier.
Hell in a Cell match for the SmackDown women’s championship: Bianca Belair (c) def. Bayley
In her first gimmick match like this, Belair definitely showed out. Bayley had the experience from last year’s Hell in a Cell match with Sasha Banks, which was fantastic. This one wasn’t quite at that level, but Bayley and Belair beat the heck out of each other with their bodies and weapons.
Bayley set up kendo sticks between the ring and the cell, telling Michael Cole at the broadcast position to shut up in the process, which continued to add the perfect layer of Bayley’s personality. It was a funny moment, but Belair gave Bayley her comeuppance seconds later, sending Bayley through those kendo sticks with a spinebuster. Belair also had a cool moment where she tied her braid to Bayley’s wrist for some offense. Bayley had a nice sunset flip bomb that sent Belair crashing into the cell on the outside.
— WWE (@WWE) June 21, 2021
A ladder came into play late in the match with Bayley trying to inflict damage on the defending champ. It mostly backfired on her. Belair landed a running senton onto Bayley, who was laying on the ladder. Following that, Belair landed her finisher, the Kiss of Death, onto the open ladder in a brutal-looking spot. That was enough for the clean finish.
What’s next: Potentially more of Belair and Bayley, which is not the worst thing in the world. In a postmatch interview, Belair said she’d never forgive Bayley even after the violent match. This program will likely continue, but you do have to wonder when Sasha Banks will return to Smackdown and the title picture. Belair, though, has done more than her part in keeping the title significant. She has absolutely risen to the occasion as champion and you have to believe she is only getting better. We could be looking at a future transcendent star here.
Natalya won — cleanly — with a Sharpshooter submission at about the 10-minute mark. The two had some clunky but effective reversals and transitions in the finishing stretch. It was not a bad match, on the whole. The finish was somewhat of a surprise, however, as Rose and Dana Brooke have seemingly been angling for a women’s tag team title shot against Natalya and Tamina. A Rose win could have furthered the program between the two teams.
What’s next: Probably the program continuing between the two teams, regardless of Sunday’s result. There isn’t a ton going on right now in the women’s tag team division. Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke might as well be future challengers. Natalya and Tamina haven’t defended those belts since May 24. And two other possible tag contenders that had been lining up for a shot — Lana & Naomi and the Riott Squad — are out of commission courtesy of recent WWE releases of Lana and Ruby Riott.
Still to come…