Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte (WWE, 10/30/16)

This match was notable, of course, for being the first women’s Hell in a Cell match, the first WWE PPV to be main evented by two women, and also the conclusion (in theory) to a feud that has raged since the dawn of time itself. The prior matches between these two had clicked for me partly because they felt reckless to a certain degree. Obviously it’s preferable when wrestling go smoothly and all participants are unscathed but it’s hard to argue that the element of danger adds to the drama when it makes its presence felt. Sabu made a career out of it. This danger was there in the prior matches between Sasha and Charlotte. These matches, such as the SummerSlam match, were great. This didn’t hit the same heights for me and ended their series on a disappointing note. The danger was there, helped in part by both participants contemplating beforehand whether it would be possible to Ganso Bomb the other off the cell roof straight into the Earth’s core, but their attempts to outshine prior encounters ended up misfiring, resulting in an underwhelming match compared to expectations.


The opening saw both wrestlers brawl at ringside after Charlotte attacked Charlotte during the introductions. This quickly lead to the first moment of insanity, as after fighting about halfway up the cell Charlotte powerbombed Sasha through the announcers’ table and it looked like it absolutely killed her. Charlotte’s heel work, mouthing off at the crowd and mocking Sasha, was really good here. There’s a weird contrast with Charlotte in which she’s arguably overpushed but this has lead to her being underrated. This isn’t exactly an uncommon thing, particularly in WWE (as most of their main event “projects” will attest to), but it’s a peculiar trap that they seem to repeatedly fall into. She’s a genuinely effective heel who doesn’t do a lot of over the top stuff that might cause the crowd to turn her face, but she does a lot of subtle work to keep her matches interesting, much like The Miz does so well nowadays.

The angle they did following the powerbomb, where Sasha did the Mick Foley imitation of being declared legally deceased on a stretcher before Jesus Christing up and continuing the match was a bit too cliche for my taste, although as Mick Foley imitations go it could be far worse. Charlotte dominated once the match actually officially began with offence heavily focusing on the back, including a weird monkey flip into the cell wall and a side slam onto a steel chair. Sasha’s comebacks, including a tope into the cell and a Meteora off the cell wall, were done really well. The Meteora in particular looked wild but in a good way. It’s one thing to hit a wonderfully choreographed dive but sometimes one wrestler hates another quite a bit and quality control goes out of the window. Thus, while the move remained a fine approximation of a Meteora, that knee whacked Charlotte right in the face. You’re wrestling a person you’re supposed to hate, so who gives a damn what it looks like as long as it hurts. Charlotte didn’t do too badly in that regard, a particular favourite being when she grabbed Sasha by the hair and just ricocheted her face off the steps to stunt a comeback, a move that made up for its lack of flash with its simplicity.


It was at this point, as the match reached its closing stretch, that things kind of started to go off the rails in a noticeable way. A teased superplex to the floor through a table was blocked and when Charlotte fell backwards the table gave way before Sasha could hit (presumably) another Meteora through it. This was an awkward moment where both seemed to be working out what the hell to do next since the crowd were just kinda sitting there. They then started trading attempts at their submission finishing holds although the crowd didn’t seem massively into them either, probably due to a combination of tiredness and the fact there was a second great big table in the ring just waiting to get smashed. Sasha did break the figure eight by hitting Charlotte repeatedly in the hip with a chair which was really nice. It’s always nice when wrestlers actually try and fight out of submission holds, with bonus points for using the surroundings as Sasha did here. The figure four is a good hold for this type of thing. The likes of Katsuyori Shibata will apply figure fours partly to wear down their opponents, but mostly because it allows you to slap the shit out of the person in front of you.

It turned out that reports of the second table’s inevitable demise would be greatly exaggerated. Sasha’s back gave out on an attempted powerbomb so Charlotte threw her repeatedly into it then just hit the Natural Selection for the clean pin. The furniture woes at the back end of this hurt the match a lot for me and the entire finishing sequence felt incredibly flat. It seemed like they had these two big spots planned to end things in the most destructive manner possible and when both failed they had no alternative so they went straight to the finish, which was the heel winning clean with her move in the defending champion’s hometown so it was quite a depressing (and anticlimatic) end. On second viewing, this match improved a fair bit on my initial live impressions, which were much more negative. They wanted to have a notable match considering their position on the card and their previous meetings. The blueprint they had laid out would have escalated it beyond those previous meetings but when things deviated from that blueprint they weren’t able to rescue it. This makes the match more of a shame than anything because it was decent up until that point. ***


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