Hell in a Cell was an eventful night that ended with Brock Lesnar wreaking havoc on the main event and leaving the Universal championship picture in chaos. It was far from the only contested ending, on a night in which a new SmackDown women's champion was crowned and Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre got two separate chances to tear the house down.
Tim Fiorvanti and Matt Wilansky recapped the action through the night, while ESPN Stats & Info's Sean Coyle offered ratings for each match. This file was updated in real time.
Hell in a Cell match for the Universal championship: Roman Reigns (c) vs. Braun Strowman goes to a no contest
When a character on WWE TV goes out of his way to say a certain rule or stipulation is going to prevent outside forces interfering in a match, you can be confident that at least one outsider is going to figure into the result of the match. Braun Strowman's assertion that Hell in a Cell would be a fair way to determine whether he or Universal champion Roman Reigns would walk out the victor without interference was nullified by watching just about every Hell in a Cell match outside of the first one and seeing how easily action spilled to the outside of the cage.
If we're going to talk about one of the most unsatisfying endings to a fun (if insanely chaotic) match in recent memory, the way that the main event of Hell in a Cell came to its end would still have to rank at or near the top of that list.
Everything that happened leading up to the moment when a replacement referee called the match off as a no contest was fun. Strowman used the steel stairs, the cage and anything that wasn't nailed down as a means to batter Reigns. Reigns fought back each and every time, sent Strowman into the cage a few times in his own right and hit about a half-dozen Superman punches.
Strowman and Reigns each hit one finisher. Strowman countered a Superman punch into a chokeslam that special guest referee Mick Foley nearly accidentally counted to three on, as well as a powerslam. Reigns speared Strowman through a table set up in the corner, which also only earned a two-count. But from that moment on, the participants in the main event were an afterthought.
Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre ran down to the ring, with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins predictably not far behind. All four men made it to the top of the Hell in a Cell in a breathtaking but scary few minutes which included a double clothesline between Ambrose and McIntyre that caused a big impact. Rollins and Ziggler made the highlight reel as they slammed each other's heads off the cage and sent each other flying off the side of Hell in a Cell through tables.
Then it was time for Brock Lesnar to rear his head and impose his will. As Paul Heyman tried to beg the referee for the key to the lock securing the cage door, Lesnar decided he'd rather kick the steel door off its hinges to gain entry. Heyman neutralized Foley with pepper spray to the eyes, and Lesnar beat both Reigns and Strowman into oblivion -- using the door and fragments of table, with an F-5 to each to cap off his efforts.
The match was immediately called off, and if you don't think there's a triple threat grudge match to come, you simply haven't been paying attention. But it was certainly a tough night for Raw general manager Baron Corbin, who's feeling the pressure of his title in this moment.
Walking away from a match that's supposed to decide a definitive winner without that clear winner emerging is a bait-and-switch tactic born in the olden days of pro wrestling, to be sure. But it sure wasn't a satisfying way for fans to leave the AT&T Center or for those watching at home, especially considering how it wiped out the fun and chaotic nature of the Money in the Bank briefcase as an afterthought.
Raw women's championship: Ronda Rousey (c) def. Alexa Bliss
It came as no surprise that Ronda Rousey walked away from her Raw women's championship match against Alexa Bliss with a submission victory via armbar, but everything else leading up to that moment didn't quite click.
Rousey spent the majority of her title defense with Bliss battering and bruising her ribs from every direction imaginable. In terms of a performance, it sadly felt like it strained suspension of disbelief to its limits as the larger and more acutely trained Rousey didn't make for a believable underdog who should be fighting from behind. It's a stylistic choice of what to do with her character, to be sure, but a lot of Rousey's appeal comes from her experience and actual destructive powers from the world of mixed martial arts.
Despite Bliss having injured Rousey's ribs in the lead-up to this match, and the potential distractions on the outside, it took far too long for Rousey to turn things around. When it did, with an over-the-top expression change that happened in an instant, a judo-style spinning suplex and an armbar caused Bliss to tap out almost instantaneously.
This finally puts Bliss in Rousey's rear-view mirror, but it also leaves her dance card open for WWE Evolution. Monday's edition of Raw is likely to provide either clues or outright answers to which direction Rousey's heading in next -- and that step could be a crucial one as far as her long-term career prospects.
Mixed tag-team match: Maryse & The Miz def. Brie Bella & Daniel Bryan
From the beginning, it was difficult to say what role Brie Bella and Maryse would play in Sunday night's mixed tag-team match. They each have a solid pedigree, but the truth is they were each subplots in the heated feud between Daniel Bryan and The Miz.
In some ways, this mixed match seemed more like an exhibition, perhaps even a halftime show, than it did in the next chapter of Bryan versus The Miz rivalry. The two men went at it right away, but we had to wait and wait ... and wait for their partners to enter the ring, as Maryse wanted no part of the action.
The cowardly act elicited jeers from the crowd, and when they finally did enter, about 10 minutes into the match, Bella cleaned house. She had all the momentum, and it seemed certain she and Bryan would come out on top.
Somehow, someway, though, Maryse rolled up her foe in a last-ditch effort to win the match. The heels reveled in their win as they walked back to the locker room.
Make that advantage Miz again. Since his issue with Bryan reignited weeks before SummerSlam, Miz has won the war of words and the battle inside the ring. The strategy makes sense. It allows Bryan the opportunity to play the David role, to wallow in his shortcomings before the inevitable win when the spotlight is shining bright.
The problem is unless this comes at Survivor Series, which does not seem like the ideal time, when will Bryan have that spotlight again? Will this feud slowly linger until next year at the Royal Rumble? Longer?
Whatever it is, Bryan has a lot of work to do if he has aspirations of retribution.
The big question heading into the WWE championship match between AJ Styles and Samoa Joe was whether or not Joe was viewed as true world champion material. Sunday didn't provide a definitive answer.
Although Styles emerged with the victory and retained the WWE championship, the ending was far from decisive; as the referee's arm was dropping to the mat for the third count, Styles tapped out -- albeit out of the view of the referee and the primary TV camera. This is sure to lead to controversy and at least one more WWE title match between these two, as well as an opportunity to truly prove the best of what they're capable of.
Up to the point when this match ended, Styles and Samoa Joe were seemingly giving it their all. The level of physicality was there, but whether it was the crowd not feeling the story that led to all of the tension in this match, or sheer exhaustion after putting so much energy and excitement into the Raw tag team title match, it felt as though something was missing.
That's not to say there weren't a few moments for each guy's highlight reel, including Styles turning a torture rack into a spinning powerbomb and the dizzying series of finisher counters that led us to the controversial finish.
It's been a while since WWE has done a disputed finish in such a high-profile match, but if it serves to ramp up the intensity and emotion of fans while putting some distance from the wife and daughter narrative, it will have fulfilled its purpose.
Raw tag team championships: Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre (c) def. Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins
Take a breath. A deep one. From start to finish, this might end up being the match of the night.
Surprising? Hardly. The chemistry between Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler is unparalleled in the WWE landscape and that was never more apparent than Sunday night.
Amid the suicide dives, frog splashes, superkicks, buckle bombs, superplexes and Falcon Arrows, the action was nonstop, and you could hear it in the reaction from the audience and through commentary. In the end, it was the heels, thanks to a match-saving Claymore Kick from McIntyre (who was not the legal man) on Rollins, just as Rollins was about to finish off Ziggler to snare the titles.
It's not surprising the match ended without a title change. At the moment, it's more important that Ziggler and McIntyre hold on to their belts for the sake of relevancy. Rollins already owns the Intercontinental title, and even if he didn't, the cachet of The Shield will keep him in the main-event spotlight for the foreseeable future.
Ziggler and McIntyre are better together and carry more figurative (and literal) weight than they do alone. Both were non-essential figures in the WWE for some time recently, but teamed up with a new identity. There's no question they're earning respect from the WWE universe. More so, by aligning themselves with Braun Strowman, Ziggler and McIntyre will only grow more relevant in the coming months.
SmackDown women's championship: Becky Lynch def. Charlotte Flair (c)
We've seen the best of Charlotte Flair when put up against a specific caliber of opponent, and Sunday night's Hell in a Cell SmackDown women's championship match against Becky Lynch proved just how good the SmackDown women's division can be when two top-tier in-ring performers get a chance to show their stuff.
The psychology was clear from beginning to end, as Lynch and Flair started with grappling and submission efforts, but Lynch was the dominant aggressor throughout the bulk of the match. She worked on Flair's shoulder throughout the contest with everything from a shoulder-first apron slam to an innovative inverted hammerlock DDT. From a heated exchange of forearms to a missed moonsault from Flair, it was clear these two long-time friends weren't going to hold anything back in this match.
With the way these types of matches typically go, Lynch's dominance during the bulk of the match and failed attempt at a Dis-Arm-Her seemed to point toward a Flair victory, but there was one final twist to come. Flair led shoulder-first with her damaged arm and appeared to hit a spear, only for Lynch to roll through into a pin to gain a three-count victory and her second career SmackDown women's title reign
As Flair made one final attempt to mend the bridge between the two long-time friends, Lynch refused to accept Flair raising her hand in victory -- removing even the slightest of doubts about the building animosity between the two women. As we head into October and Evolution, there's a lot to look forward to in terms of a title rematch between these two women, whenever it may come.
Hell in a Cell: Randy Orton def. Jeff Hardy
If it was violence you expected between Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton, it was violence you were granted.
The energy in the AT&T Center was sky-high as the Hell in a Cell cage descended on the ring in the first main-card match of the night.
But the action between Hardy and Orton was slow and methodical -- and marred by more acts of depravity. Yes, tables, ladders and chairs were used, but that was the beginning. At one point, Orton found a screwdriver under the ring, carried it inside and stuck it into Hardy's already pierced ear, twisting it in a stomach-turning act of cruelty.
Hardy overcame the pain, but ultimately his biggest downfall was his own undoing. Holding on to the top of the cage and swinging, Hardy attempted to land a splash on Orton, who was lying on a table. But Orton moved just in time and the impact of the fall incapacitated Hardy, who was then taken out of the ring on a stretcher.
At this point, what more can we expect from Hardy and Orton? The feud was built on a whim, and despite these next-level gruesome spots, it never felt like anything the fans could truly embrace. It seemed as though creative didn't have a good storyline for either and the beef was born out of convenience.
The chemistry between Orton and Hardy wasn't terrible; Orton can deliver pain and Hardy can endure high levels of pain. But here's hoping each can move on and find rivals that resonate more than the one they had together. In the end, this was a decent start to the pay-per-view, especially with the implementation of the cage. But it also felt like the end of a feud that never clicked in the first place.
SmackDown tag team championships: The New Day (c) def. Rusev Day (Rusev & Aiden English)
At this point, New Day having a chip on their shoulder because their match is on a pay-per-view kickoff show is essentially a given -- but Rusev Day stepped up in their own right. It wasn't a particularly long match, but it was a faced-paced, fun opener as New Day ultimately retained.