Rhodes has wasted no time in immersing himself in top-quality matches since swapping AEW for a WWE return prior at WrestleMania back in April.
A lengthy feud with Rollins has followed, with the 36-year-old picking up victories in each of their three high-profile encounters at consecutive Premium Live Events. The pair’s outing in Illinois was essential viewing and didn’t suffer a bit for being their third battle.
Rhodes’ gruesome injury made it all the more compelling. Prior to the show, WWE confirmed rumours that had been building throughout the day that the star had been injured, stating his pectoral muscle had been torn completely, but that he’d go on to wrestle the match in any case.
A sense of anticipation built in the arena as Rhodes made his entrance, a gasp audible as he took off his jacket to reveal the very obvious injury which he’s said to have suffered whilst weight training. An entire side of his chest was discoloured as a build-up of blood and bruising followed across his shoulder and arm.
To say Rhodes failed to let the injury stop him performing was an understatement of grand degree. Somewhat peversley, the two seemed to revel in being able to build their match around it - as you would in natural combat of course. It was hard not to wince as Rollins centered large portions of his offence around the chest while Rhodes’ pain seemed more than genuine.
The match in its own right was excellent and, after a dominant start from Rollins, swung in Rhodes favour. The Visionary, ever the troll, came to the ring resplendent in the polka dots made famous in WWE by his opponent’s father, the late Dusty Rhodes. The affair even temporarily became a bullrope match as the homage continued. At the climax, Rhodes turned the tables by channelling Rollins’ mentor Triple H, delivering a sledgehammer shot and a Pedigree on his way to victory - secured in the end by a Cross Rhodes.
The concern will now be the time Rhodes needs to take to recover from the injury which was presumably neither improved or worsened by wrestling the match, a fact likely to have played a part in the decision to let it go ahead at all. WWE is light on star power at present with Undisputed champ Roman Reigns working a lighter schedule and Brock Lesnar around even less. The loss of Rhodes will be keenly felt.
Rhodes closed the show and delighted a raucous live crowd who’d been up for the action from the off.
The night got underway with a triple-threat encounter for the Raw Women’s Championship as Bianca Belair battled Asuka and Becky Lynch. Women’s action in WWE is utterly unmissable when the stars of the roster are given time and space to do their thing, and this was another prime example. Asuka has been a major miss for the company for much of the last year, while Belair is so effortlessly smooth.
Lynch, now so comfortably thriving in the role of Big Time Becks and relative villain of the piece, came up short in her quest to reclaim her red brand gold as Belair snatched the win from under her nose after Lynch had nailed Asuka with a Man Handle Slam. The trio’s timing and pace throughout was unnervingly good and the possibilities remain endless for what comes next.
What followed them was a handicap victory for the wildly popular Bobby Lashley against Omos and his former confidant MVP. Cedric Alexander had, before the match, offered assistance to the latter, who spurned his advances.
They’d later pay the price for it - Alexander ran interference and distracted the giant Omos long enough for him to turn into a massive spear from Lashley who scored the pin to the delight of the crowd who watched on as he appeared to state his WWE title intentions once again.
Kevin Owens once again got the better of Ezekiel as WWE somehow continues to succeed at getting mileage out of positioning Elias as his own brother on screen. In fairness, Owens’ pure fury at the ludicrousness of it all has at least always been at the heart of their feud, which probably enables the light relief to continue for longer than it might. The Canadian ended victorious thanks to a Stunner.
Edge’s Judgement Day faction were victorious at Hell in a Cell as they turned back the challenge of AJ Styles, Finn Balor and Liv Morgan. The action here served to be a little too frantic to enjoy at times, but standout performances from Ripley and Morgan underlined not just their value to WWE but also the decision to have them perform in serious, high-profile roles at last - something Morgan in particular has deserved for some time. Styles was forced to sit out a latter portion of the match suffering heavy bleeding from an injury, with Edge spearing Balor for the win.
The only predictable outcome from the night was the victory for Madcap Moss over mentor turned rival Happy Corbin. Corbin has had the one-up on Moss for several months now, and Moss finally gained a measure of revenge thanks to a brutal ending to their encounter. Calling back to Corbin’s own attack on him, Moss trapped his foe in a chair and threw steps on to it for good measure to ensure there was a decisive end to their no holds barred match.
The United States championship reign of Theory continues uninterrupted after Hell in a Cell. Mustafa Ali - another WWE star brought back in from the cold in recent times - has always been an exceptional performer and proved an immensely popular one in his hometown. There would be no fairytale to Ali’s night however - after battering his opponent’s injured knee, Theory hit an A-Town-Down to retain his gold.
Theory is said to be WWE’s standout star for the future, and it’s not hard to see why. In that sense, having him win here was always the right call, but with more steam behind him it would also be a huge positive to see Ali remain in the title hunt for a while longer.
WWE Hell in a Cell 2022 results
Hell in a Cell Match: Cody Rhodes def. Seth “Freakin” Rollins
United States Championship Match: Theory (c) def. Mustafa Ali
No Holds Barred Match: Madcap Moss def. Happy Corbin
The Judgment Day def. Finn Bálor, AJ Styles & Liv Morgan
Kevin Owens def. Ezekiel
Handicap Match: Bobby Lashley def. Omos & MVP
Raw Women's Championship Triple Threat Match: Bianca Belair (c) def. Asuka and Becky Lynch