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Hell in a Cell card a true sign of the times in WWE

We can all agree on one thing: 2016 has been a wild year for pro wrestling fans.

Seriously, it’s been said numerous times, but when you really take a look at the Hell in a Cell match card it’s even more apparent. From top to bottom, this Sunday’s event features matches that were unforeseeable prior to 2016.

The most obvious difference is the Raw Women’s — not “Divas” — Championship match. Sure, it’s a huge change for the women’s division as its the first all-female Hell in a Cell match and the first pay-per-view main event. But it’s far less surprising than some of the other things featured on the card.

WWE has been building the Sasha Banks-Charlotte Flair feud as something with the potential to headline PPVs since the two were in NXT. Though there was some doubt about how they’d be used on the main roster, it was obvious they’d be protected long-term, especially with Triple H having enough clout. But yes, having two female competitors compete in a Hell in a Cell match and headline a PPV is the biggest change of all.

Beyond that, there are several other angles that would have shocked wrestling fans one year ago. Could anyone have seen former Bullet Club members Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson competing in WWE? Or how about a cruiserweight division with T.J. Perkins as its inaugural champion? Undoubtedly, few could have seen Roman Reigns holding the United States Championship at this point in his career, even when the title was elevated late last year.

Then there’s the Universal Championship match. Beyond the fact that Raw’s Championship is a big red belt that is only a few months old, its two competitors are two indie darlings. Again, this isn’t very shocking considering Rollins was the WWE World Heavyweight Champion this time last year and Owens was having one of the best first years in WWE history.

But more so that it’s hardly a big deal for two Ring of Honor standouts to be participating in a WWE World Championship after having both held world titles respectively. This may be more of a long-term change, but is different even as recently as last year.

All of these factors prove that, despite criticism, WWE has listened to its hardcore audience and adapted to changing tastes. Most of what the internet has asked for during the past year and beyond has been granted, which isn’t even considering the SmackDown roster.

Look at the current state of WWE: You have Owens and AJ Styles as Universal and World Champions, Banks and Becky Lynch as Women’s Champions, New Day, Heath Slater and Rhyno as Tag Team Champs, Daniel Bryan and Mick Foley as general managers, Shane McMahon as a weekly authority figure and Shinsuke Nakamura as the face of NXT.

So is there anything left for smarks and the IWC to complain about? Of course there is. Wrestling fans will always change their minds and find something to gripe about, whether it’s right or wrong. But there’s no denying that WWE has changed drastically over the past year for what many would consider to be the better.

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