Randy Orton def. Daniel Bryan

MIAMI – In the end, Shawn Michaels did what he always does: With the fate of the WWE Title in his hands, the special guest referee stopped the show – and Daniel Bryan’s dream of becoming WWE Champion – with a swift Superkick that sent HBK’s bearded protégé tumbling into his own personal hell while Randy Orton picked the bones and ascended once again to the Promised Land as WWE Champion.

Watch Bryan's greatest battles |  Photos of the main event

Why, exactly, “Mr. WrestleMania” acted against his student remains unclear. On the surface, there didn’t appear to be any sort of fix in against the bearded rebel who has defied The Authority at every turn. However, it was clear something was amiss from the very beginning, when Triple H – who had a heated discussion with HBK moments earlier – made a grand show of parading the abeyant WWE Title before the match, offering handshakes to both Orton and Bryan. Even as The Viper seemed smug and confident in his patron’s presence, Bryan’s rebuke of the handshake was repaid with a knowing wink from the COO, as if he knew the tenacious grappler’s fate was already sealed.

The two rivals wasted no time on pleasantries once the steel came down, using everything from the ring ropes to the Cell walls to their fists as weapons. Bryan attacked The Apex Predator with the force of a bullet train, but The Viper picked his spots carefully, absorbing his opponent’s attacks and cutting Bryan off each time the submission master neared critical mass. The early patience paid off almost immediately when Orton sent the winded former WWE Champion flying into the Cell, leaving the “Yes!” man splayed and dazed outside the ring.

List:  Greatest Hell in a Cell Matches ever

Exploiting the full lawlessness of Hell in a Cell, Orton attempted to use the steel steps as weapons, yet he seemed to have underestimated Bryan’s capacity for ruthlessness. The “Yes!” man reversed Orton’s attempts to dismantle him, slamming him into the steps and sending an ominous message to his clearly rattled opponent: Hell ain’t a bad place to be for Daniel Bryan.

Randy Orton def. Daniel Bryan

Proving the Cell really does make monsters out of the noblest Superstars, Bryan brought Orton to the ring and trapped him in the Tree of Woe, chopped away with a sequence of rib-rattling kicks and a baseball slide that turned The Viper into a human bobblehead. As his momentum built, the “Yes!” man threw Orton outside the ring and struck with two suicide dives.Once again, however, The Viper proved the more patient of the two and calmly dodged an attempted third. Bryan’s momentum carried him headfirst into the chain link, knocked him into a stupor and handed The Viper the upper hand.

Orton at his most ruthless |  The Viper strikes at Hell in a Cell

Orton took the fight back in between the ropes, though Bryan’s tenacity again proved more than he anticipated. After suffering a barrage of headbutts from The Apex Predator, Bryan finally found his rhythm and hammered  Orton with European uppercuts, then pulverized the reeling Viper with a diving headbutt  and a “Yes!” Lock that The Apex Predator only barely managed to escape.

Orton staggered to the outside but found no mercy, as Bryan ground his head against the chain links before producing a chair from beneath the ring and putting the implement to work. Not only did the submission master play a tune on The Apex Predator’s exposed back, but Bryan also tossed about a dozen  steel chairs  into the ring. Sensing that his old student was, perhaps, getting out of hand, HBK tried to talk some sense into the two-time WWE Champion. But the fuming Bryan only had one response for his onetime sensei: “Get out of my way, Shawn.”

Randy Orton def. Daniel Bryan

For the second time, Shawn Michaels attempted to intervene by talking The Viper down, and for the second time his words fell on deaf ears. Orton tossed the chairs into a macabre pile and sent Bryan tumbling onto them with a top-rope superplex, though the ensuing two-count briefly turned The Viper’s rage toward HBK instead of Bryan. The Apex Predator all but demanded that The Showstopper give him a three-count, and HBK’s protests – his insistence that the contest be decided fair and square – brought Triple H storming out of the locker room.

Interview: HBK discusses Daniel Bryan

The King of Kings’ presence, understandably, took Michaels’ eye off the action at hand, and while the COO chastised his best friend for putting his own interests in jeopardy, Orton regained the advantage by hurling  Bryan through  the air with  a devastating T-bone suplex. With Michaels’ time otherwise occupied by Triple H, though, Orton’s attempted pin went unrecorded. The Viper didn’t take kindly to the oversight and joined Triple H in berating “Mr. WrestleMania” for his evidently shoddy officiating. However, with all his attention focused on the bout’s referee, Orton committed the one unforgivable sin of Hell in a Cell: He forgot about his opponent.

Full story: Bryan's brutal beginnings |  Watch a young Bryan in action

Bryan sprang immediately into action and “Yes!” Locked Orton again, bringing The Viper to the brink of submission. Although Orton escaped the hold, the WWE Universe sensed the end was near and roared its approval. In the same arena where the “YES!” chants first took life, Bryan fed off the crowd’s energy and found his groove again. While the Universe roared and The King of Kings literally rattled the cage of  a conflicted Michaels, Bryan countered the RKO by shoving The Viper into a distracted HBK, leaving the WWE Hall of Famer down  and robbing the steel house of pain of its lone peacekeeper.

Unsurprisingly, this was the moment when all hell broke loose.

Randy Orton def. Daniel Bryan

Seeing his best friend laid out threw The Game into a panic, and WWE’s COO demanded that the Cell door be unlocked so Michaels could be attended to. While Triple H and WWE medical staff fumbled with the padlock, however, Bryan made his move and leveled  Orton with the Running  Knee Smash. With Michaels unable to count,  Bryan attempted to rouse his  mentor  to fulfill his promise and bring the bout to a fair conclusion. Triple H unceremoniously threw Bryan away from his Michaels  and, with Orton indisposed and The Game’s defenses down, Daniel Bryan saw his opening.

Granted, it wasn’t a WWE Title win, and given what happened afterward, it’s likely Bryan may end up regretting it. But the second Triple H left himself exposed, the “Yes!” man hit The Game with another Running  Knee Smash with such enthusiasm you’d have thought he had waited for it his whole life. “YES!” chants erupted from the WWE Universe , though the euphoria was sadly short-lived.

Photos:  The Showstopper's guest ref record

Perhaps it was seeing his best friend knocked out . Perhaps it was something The Game had said to Michaels before the match, or maybe he just thought it was best for business. Whatever the reason, HBK staggered to his feet, took stock of the situation and hit Bryan with Sweet Chin Music, toppling the would-be titleholder to the mat.

Michaels, for his part, didn’t seem to believe what he had just done, especially when Orton regained consciousness and slithered into the cover. With no choice left , Shawn Michaels counted  three and left the arena in  disgusted silence as The Game celebrated alongside Orton, crowed again as his chosen champion and the Face of WWE.

Why did Shawn Michaels  do it? The answer is likely not  simple. A previous issue with Bryan? The need to side with his best friend, Triple H? Money? Sometimes it just takes the right combination of circumstances to bring out the devil in us all. The only question that has been answered is who is the WWE Champion. The answer is The Viper, Randy Orton.

WWE Hell in a Cell
WWE Hell in a Cell
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WWE Hell in a Cell
WWE Hell in a Cell
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Randy Orton def. Daniel Bryan

MIAMI – In the end, Shawn Michaels did what he always does: With the fate of the WWE Title in his hands, the special guest referee stopped the show – and Daniel Bryan’s dream of becoming WWE Champion – with a swift Superkick that sent HBK’s bearded protégé tumbling into his own personal hell while Randy Orton picked the bones and ascended once again to the Promised Land as WWE Champion.

Watch Bryan's greatest battles |  Photos of the main event

Why, exactly, “Mr. WrestleMania” acted against his student remains unclear. On the surface, there didn’t appear to be any sort of fix in against the bearded rebel who has defied The Authority at every turn. However, it was clear something was amiss from the very beginning, when Triple H – who had a heated discussion with HBK moments earlier – made a grand show of parading the abeyant WWE Title before the match, offering handshakes to both Orton and Bryan. Even as The Viper seemed smug and confident in his patron’s presence, Bryan’s rebuke of the handshake was repaid with a knowing wink from the COO, as if he knew the tenacious grappler’s fate was already sealed.

The two rivals wasted no time on pleasantries once the steel came down, using everything from the ring ropes to the Cell walls to their fists as weapons. Bryan attacked The Apex Predator with the force of a bullet train, but The Viper picked his spots carefully, absorbing his opponent’s attacks and cutting Bryan off each time the submission master neared critical mass. The early patience paid off almost immediately when Orton sent the winded former WWE Champion flying into the Cell, leaving the “Yes!” man splayed and dazed outside the ring.

List:  Greatest Hell in a Cell Matches ever

Exploiting the full lawlessness of Hell in a Cell, Orton attempted to use the steel steps as weapons, yet he seemed to have underestimated Bryan’s capacity for ruthlessness. The “Yes!” man reversed Orton’s attempts to dismantle him, slamming him into the steps and sending an ominous message to his clearly rattled opponent: Hell ain’t a bad place to be for Daniel Bryan.

Randy Orton def. Daniel Bryan

Proving the Cell really does make monsters out of the noblest Superstars, Bryan brought Orton to the ring and trapped him in the Tree of Woe, chopped away with a sequence of rib-rattling kicks and a baseball slide that turned The Viper into a human bobblehead. As his momentum built, the “Yes!” man threw Orton outside the ring and struck with two suicide dives.Once again, however, The Viper proved the more patient of the two and calmly dodged an attempted third. Bryan’s momentum carried him headfirst into the chain link, knocked him into a stupor and handed The Viper the upper hand.

Orton at his most ruthless |  The Viper strikes at Hell in a Cell

Orton took the fight back in between the ropes, though Bryan’s tenacity again proved more than he anticipated. After suffering a barrage of headbutts from The Apex Predator, Bryan finally found his rhythm and hammered  Orton with European uppercuts, then pulverized the reeling Viper with a diving headbutt  and a “Yes!” Lock that The Apex Predator only barely managed to escape.

Orton staggered to the outside but found no mercy, as Bryan ground his head against the chain links before producing a chair from beneath the ring and putting the implement to work. Not only did the submission master play a tune on The Apex Predator’s exposed back, but Bryan also tossed about a dozen  steel chairs  into the ring. Sensing that his old student was, perhaps, getting out of hand, HBK tried to talk some sense into the two-time WWE Champion. But the fuming Bryan only had one response for his onetime sensei: “Get out of my way, Shawn.”

Randy Orton def. Daniel Bryan

For the second time, Shawn Michaels attempted to intervene by talking The Viper down, and for the second time his words fell on deaf ears. Orton tossed the chairs into a macabre pile and sent Bryan tumbling onto them with a top-rope superplex, though the ensuing two-count briefly turned The Viper’s rage toward HBK instead of Bryan. The Apex Predator all but demanded that The Showstopper give him a three-count, and HBK’s protests – his insistence that the contest be decided fair and square – brought Triple H storming out of the locker room.

Interview: HBK discusses Daniel Bryan

The King of Kings’ presence, understandably, took Michaels’ eye off the action at hand, and while the COO chastised his best friend for putting his own interests in jeopardy, Orton regained the advantage by hurling  Bryan through  the air with  a devastating T-bone suplex. With Michaels’ time otherwise occupied by Triple H, though, Orton’s attempted pin went unrecorded. The Viper didn’t take kindly to the oversight and joined Triple H in berating “Mr. WrestleMania” for his evidently shoddy officiating. However, with all his attention focused on the bout’s referee, Orton committed the one unforgivable sin of Hell in a Cell: He forgot about his opponent.

Full story: Bryan's brutal beginnings |  Watch a young Bryan in action

Bryan sprang immediately into action and “Yes!” Locked Orton again, bringing The Viper to the brink of submission. Although Orton escaped the hold, the WWE Universe sensed the end was near and roared its approval. In the same arena where the “YES!” chants first took life, Bryan fed off the crowd’s energy and found his groove again. While the Universe roared and The King of Kings literally rattled the cage of  a conflicted Michaels, Bryan countered the RKO by shoving The Viper into a distracted HBK, leaving the WWE Hall of Famer down  and robbing the steel house of pain of its lone peacekeeper.

Unsurprisingly, this was the moment when all hell broke loose.

Randy Orton def. Daniel Bryan

Seeing his best friend laid out threw The Game into a panic, and WWE’s COO demanded that the Cell door be unlocked so Michaels could be attended to. While Triple H and WWE medical staff fumbled with the padlock, however, Bryan made his move and leveled  Orton with the Running  Knee Smash. With Michaels unable to count,  Bryan attempted to rouse his  mentor  to fulfill his promise and bring the bout to a fair conclusion. Triple H unceremoniously threw Bryan away from his Michaels  and, with Orton indisposed and The Game’s defenses down, Daniel Bryan saw his opening.

Granted, it wasn’t a WWE Title win, and given what happened afterward, it’s likely Bryan may end up regretting it. But the second Triple H left himself exposed, the “Yes!” man hit The Game with another Running  Knee Smash with such enthusiasm you’d have thought he had waited for it his whole life. “YES!” chants erupted from the WWE Universe , though the euphoria was sadly short-lived.

Photos:  The Showstopper's guest ref record

Perhaps it was seeing his best friend knocked out . Perhaps it was something The Game had said to Michaels before the match, or maybe he just thought it was best for business. Whatever the reason, HBK staggered to his feet, took stock of the situation and hit Bryan with Sweet Chin Music, toppling the would-be titleholder to the mat.

Michaels, for his part, didn’t seem to believe what he had just done, especially when Orton regained consciousness and slithered into the cover. With no choice left , Shawn Michaels counted  three and left the arena in  disgusted silence as The Game celebrated alongside Orton, crowed again as his chosen champion and the Face of WWE.

Why did Shawn Michaels  do it? The answer is likely not  simple. A previous issue with Bryan? The need to side with his best friend, Triple H? Money? Sometimes it just takes the right combination of circumstances to bring out the devil in us all. The only question that has been answered is who is the WWE Champion. The answer is The Viper, Randy Orton.