World Wrestling Entertainment has added additional matches to its June 5 Hell in a Cell ppv event: Theory will defend the United States Championship against Mustafa Ali, and The Judgment Day will face off against Liv Morgan, A.J. Styles and Finn Balor in a six person mixed tag match. The card for Hell in a Cell is heavy on WWE Superstars from the Monday Night Raw brand. Bobby Lashley will go another round with Omos. Kevin Owens’ surprisingly enjoyable comic feud with Ezekiel will also culminate at Hell in a Cell, and Bianca Belair will defend the Raw women’s championship in a triple threat against two former Raw women’s titleholders, Asuka and Becky Lynch. However, the storyline that best represents the spirit of Hell in a Cell is that of Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins.
Rhodes and Rollins: Bad Blood
The Hell in a Cell match originated at the 1997 ppv Badd Blood: In Your House, with the inaugural bout in the ‘big red cage’ taking place between Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker. Since then, Hell in a Cell bouts have ostensibly been reserved for matches born out of storylines rife with dramatic antagonism coming to a dramatic peak. Rhodes and Rollins fit the bill. Cody Rhodes returned to WWE at WrestleMania 38 as Rollins’s surprise opponent. Rhodes defeated Rollins at WrestleMania 38, and once more at WrestleMania Backlash. In between ppv encounters, the tension is kept alive between Rhodes and Rollins with frequent interruptions from Rollins when Rhodes attempts to solidify his WWE return in a series of matches against The Miz.
Rhodes: The Face of Raw
Both performers are committed to characters who are starkly contrasting polar opposites. Rhodes has easily assumed the mantle of WWE’s top babyface. He is a crowd favorite, appealing to longtime fans with his stirring, poignant promos about living up to the legacy of his father, Dusty Rhodes, but also appealing to younger fans with his broadly drawn heroic persona. While he does not quite fill the void left by John Cena, Rhodes has filled the babyface vacuum on Raw left when Drew McIntyre was drafted to Friday Night SmackDown.
Rollins: The Visionary’s Obsession
For Seth Rollins’ part, obsession has been his modus operandi since transforming into first the ‘Monday Night Messiah’ then the ‘Visionary’. As the ‘Monday Night Messiah’, Rollins’ target was the Mysterio family, culminating in an operatic act of arch villainy: blinding Rey Mysterio upon steel steps outside the ring. Upon transitioning to SmackDown, the focus of his maniacal ire became Edge. The two faced off at 2021’s SummerSlam and Crown Jewel.
Rhodes became Rollins’s target in 2022 after WrestleMania 38, but this time Rollins’ entitled and envious blistering rage at the object of his obsession is underscored by the rivalry between WWE and All Elite Wrestling. When Rollins accuses Rhodes of not belonging in WWE, the thinly veiled allusion to Rhodes’s time in AEW is just beneath the surface. Sami Zayn has comically named himself the ‘elder statesman’ and ‘locker room leader’ of Friday Night SmackDown, but Seth Rollins is a more sinister gatekeeper to Raw, one that Rhodes must face and defeat to truly carve out his place on Monday Nights.
The storyline between Rhodes and Rollins has echoed the classic rivalry between Bret Hart and Steve Austin. As Austin did Hart, Rollins has relentlessly tormented Rhodes, the unequivocal babyface. Unlike Hart’s eventual heel turn, Rhodes does not seem likely to relinquish his role as WWE’s top babyface. At Hell in a Cell he will most likely conquer Rollins for once and for all, cementing his place on Raw’s roster.
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