The drama surrounding the Hell in a Cell main event reached a new level before either man walked down the ramp. WWE announced just moments before the start of the event on Sunday that Cody Rhodes had suffered a partially torn right pectoral tendon during a brawl with Seth Rollins on Monday, then tore the tendon completely off the bone while weight training on Friday. But along with the announcement came an affirmation that Rhodes would indeed have the match and fight through the injury.
When he entered the Cell, the severity of the injury was immediately evident. The entire right side of Rhodes' chest and his right arm were black and blue in grotesque fashion. Considering the injury, it suggested Rollins would be the likely victor, especially after two consecutive losses to Rhodes, but a one-armed Rhodes closed out the rivalry -- for now -- with a total of four Cross Rhodes finishers throughout the match. The final two were punctuated by a sledgehammer strike to the head for the win.
"For the love of the game." - @CodyRhodes #HIAC pic.twitter.com/3bHlLl5UB9— WWE (@WWE) June 6, 2022
It's amazing that Rhodes was not only able to compete with this kind of injury, but deliver another incredible match with Rollins. Of course, Rollins deserves plenty of credit, too. In a brilliant heel maneuver, Rollins donned black-and-yellow polka dot attire in a disrespectful shot to Rhodes' legendary father, Dusty Rhodes, who sported that look in WWE in the early '90s.
Rollins delivered a buckle bomb though a table and put himself through a table when Rhodes evaded a frog splash early on in the match. Midway through the action, an impromptu Bullrope Match broke out when Rhodes strapped it on his left hand and convinced Rollins to do the same.
Rhodes took a whip from the belt across his injured chest and even a boot. The first near fall of the match materialized after Rhodes reversed the pedigree and delivered Rollins' former finishing maneuver himself. Rollins eventually secured the sledgehammer "The Game" made famous, but never had the chance to use it. Then it was Rhodes who took control of the weapon before Rollins delivered a Stomp for another near fall.
Rollins hit Rhodes with his own finisher, Cross Rhodes, but rather than attempt the pin, tried for a second Cross Rhodes. That's when Rhodes hit the finisher himself. He connected with two more Cross Rhodes and then used the sledgehammer strike to finish Rollins off for good.
Despite the limitations of his injury, Rhodes didn't allow it to take away from the match, which brought the crowd to its feet on multiple occasions. Two of the best in the world, Rhodes and Rollins, outperformed expectations considering the injury and capped off WWE's best non-WrestleMania show so far this year.
What's next: Rhodes' injury almost certainly will sideline The American Nightmare for an extended period of time. The usual recovery timeline for a torn pectoral tendon is six months. That would be a brutal blow to Rhodes, who has been brilliant since he returned to WWE at WrestleMania after a six-year absence. Rhodes appeared to be well on his way toward an eventual shot at the undisputed champion, Roman Reigns. At this point, it seems that can't take place in the foreseeable future.
Rollins should begin a new high-level program immediately. He's one of the top superstars on the roster and proved it again at Hell in a Cell.
WWE United States championship: Theory (c) def. Mustafa Ali
That's ALL DAY......even in Chicago 😘🤳🏼 #alldaytheory #atowndown #hellinacellphone pic.twitter.com/5lYYvTYl22— Theory (@_Theory1) June 6, 2022
Theory's strong work continued with the first defense of his United States Championship at a premium live event. Vince McMahon's protégé, the youngest United States champion in WWE history, avoided Ali's 450 splash and hit his finisher, A-Town Down, for the win against the hometown favorite.
One of the best spots of the match came when Theory connected with a version of a Spanish Fly. Of course, after the 1-2-3, Theory snapped a few selfies with his fallen foe.
Ali was competing at a featured event for the first time since Crown Jewel in October. He returned to TV recently after requesting his release from the company in a tweet.
What's next: Theory is one of the hottest acts in WWE right now. The 24-year-old appears to have all the ingredients to be a major star for years to come and could be a prime candidate to grab the briefcase at MITB.
No-Holds Barred: Madcap Moss def. Happy Corbin
Madcap Moss has always possessed talent, and at HIAC he debuted a new, hard-hitting rock theme and, more importantly, ditched the colorful suspenders in favor of an all-black polished look. It seems WWE intends to establish Moss as a serious singles player rather than a comedy-act sidekick, and the victory certainly served to accomplish just that.
With two athletic big men, this match didn't disappoint. The no-holds-barred matchup was physical from bell to bell, and the chair was used often with great effect.
"Madcap ain't no joke, huh?" Moss shouted at Corbin after the match.
In the finishing sequence, Moss picked up Corbin and hit a Fallaway Slam into the steel stairs that were positioned in the ring, then followed it up with the Punchline. Rather than pin Corbin after his finisher, Moss stuck Corbin's head through a chair and smashed it with the stairs for the win. Corbin was strapped to a stretcher after the attack in a callback to what Corbin had done to Moss weeks ago.
.@MadcapMoss has been waiting a long time to do this to Happy Corbin. @BaronCorbinWWE #HIAC pic.twitter.com/VIUoupvKY1— WWE (@WWE) June 6, 2022
What's next: The victory appeared to end the long-running rivalry, and now that he has been repackaged, it's time to launch Moss into a new program with a different attitude.
The Judgment Day (Edge, Damian Priest, and Rhea Ripley) def. Finn Balor, AJ Styles and Liv Morgan
The Judgment Day's first match as a team further established WWE's newest faction as a force. Led by Edge, Judgment Day secured the victory over AJ Styles, Finn Balor and Liv Morgan after Edge hit Balor with a spear that was enough to earn the pin.
One of the highlights of the match came when Styles and Balor performed a double slingshot over the ropes to the outside on their foes, followed by a diving attack from Morgan. Styles did finally connect with the Phenomenal Forearm against Edge, but the attempted pin was broken up by Damian Priest. Balor attempted his finisher, Coup De Grace, twice, but on both occasions, Ripley was there to provide resistance. Ripley stood in front of Edge to stop Balor, which ultimately began the final sequence of the match.
.@YaOnlyLivvOnce and @RheaRipley_WWE are doing everything they can to pick up the win for their team! #HIAC pic.twitter.com/aaOVllLUSX— WWE (@WWE) June 6, 2022
What's next: It's possible Edge and Styles continue their rivalry at Money in the Bank with one final singles match with Balor and Priest by their sides. Morgan and Ripley could be headed for another match against one another, if not the ladder match at MITB.
Kevin Owens def. Ezekiel
One of WWE's sneaky best programs of late has featured Kevin Owens' quest to prove Ezekiel is the superstar formerly known as Elias. Their first singles match more than lived up to the quality of the feud.
During the match, Owens delivered plenty of one-liners -- as always -- highlighted by "Smile, Elias" as he gave Ezekiel the double fish hooks. A quick win for Ezekiel was teased right out of the gate with a running knee followed by a flying elbow drop, but Owens kicked out. Still, the pace kept up pretty well from there.
Owens held Ezekiel and shouted "You're Elias" repeatedly before delivering the Stunner for the pinfall to potentially end the feud.
.@IAmNotEliasWWE is making sure @FightOwensFight knows exactly who he is. #HIAC pic.twitter.com/abTZE3y0cr— WWE (@WWE) June 6, 2022
Elias -- I mean Ezekiel -- hasn't shown his ring skills in so long, it's easy to forget the kind of worker he is. Owens was gold as usual.
What's next: This always felt like a placeholder program for Owens, who seems destined for something much bigger at Money in the Bank. Ezekiel has quietly established himself as a staple of Raw and should be featured at MITB, too.
Bobby Lashley def. Omos and MVP
With a little help from Cedric Alexander, Bobby Lashley overcame both Omos and MVP in a handicap match. Omos trucked Lashley through the barricade and also delivered one of The Undertaker's patented moves, Snake Eyes, but when Alexander interfered, the big man was removed from the action.
Lashley capitalized and evaded a second running boot from MVP and was able to cinch in the Hurt Lock for the submission victory.
SPEEEEEEAR!@fightbobby #HIAC pic.twitter.com/jRXUV9duCL— WWE (@WWE) June 6, 2022
What's next: With Alexander inserting himself into the rivalry, it appears we could be headed for a brief continuation of the program with Alexander and Lashley taking on Omos and MVP in a tag team match. And it wouldn't be a surprise to see Lashley in the ladder match at Money in the Bank.
Triple-threat match for the WWE Raw women's championship: Bianca Belair (c) def. Asuka and Becky Lynch
Bianca Belair enjoyed a moment in which she stacked Asuka and Becky Lynch in the corner and delivered 10 punches. Asuka applied the ankle lock to both Bianca and Becky at the same time. And Lynch performed several Manhandle slams, including the final one to Asuka that allowed Belair to steal the pin and retain her Raw women's championship.
Like any great triple-threat match, all three superstars were elevated. And this was undoubtedly a great match, a perfect opener for Hell in a Cell.
DOUBLE ANKLE LOCK!@WWEAsuka #HIAC pic.twitter.com/Z3uOxxjBEg— WWE (@WWE) June 6, 2022
One of the best moments of the match was when Asuka and Lynch traded roll-ups time and again. As always, their chemistry was terrific. The pace was fast, and all three women were able to sustain extended periods of dominance in the match.
If the rest of HIAC can live up to this one, it will be one of the best shows of the year.
What's next: Belair remains the champion and is undoubtedly one of the focal points of Raw. Bianca defeated Lynch for the championship at WrestleMania 38, but there was no rematch at WrestleMania Backlash, so Lynch is sure to grab a one-on-one return bout. That could lie ahead at Money in the Bank, where Asuka could be pegged as a favorite in the ladder match.