WWE Hell in a Cell - Sami Zayn saves Kevin Owens from Shane McMahon's leap from atop the cell

Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon fought on top of the cell for more than 10 minutes, and after both men reached the ground, McMahon climbed back up to finish off Owens -- only for Sami Zayn to pull his longtime friend (and recent enemy) out of the way. Courtesy of WWE

The Hell in a Cell pay-per-view was SmackDown's last major stop before Survivor Series, with four title matches and two contests held inside of the cage. The main event of the evening was a Hell in a Cell match (with falls counting anywhere) between Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon. Matt Wilansky has the recap, and ESPN Stats and Information's Sean Coyle rates the match on a scale of one-to-five.

Hell in a Cell, Falls Count Anywhere: Kevin Owens def. Shane McMahon via pinfall

There are rivalries and conflicts. Grudges and distaste. It's part and parcel to WWE rivalries, the lifeblood of what fuels the world of professional wrestling.

And then there's hate. Unadulterated venom. The kind that can cause the overall course of WWE narratives to shift, and that's exactly what we saw Sunday night in the main event of the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view. Kevin Owens picked up the victory over Shane McMahon with a huge assist from unlikely ally Sami Zayn; it was a moment that will have an intense ripple effect on the world of SmackDown Live.

In the annals of WWE, there have been plenty of clashes based on this level of contempt -- Owens and Zayn themselves being a prime example -- but in recent memory, none have risen to the level of abhorrence in such a short time frame as the relationship between Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon.

The feud has been meticulously built on a platform rife with personal animosity or even jealousy. You've all heard it by now: Owens telling McMahon that his family would be better off if he had not survived a (real-life) helicopter crash; then, in the ensuing weeks, KO obliterating the chairman and CEO of the WWE, Vince McMahon.

When Shane finally responded to the violence against his father, he promised Owens that he'd not only beat him in a Falls Count Anywhere match inside a Hell in a Cell, but condemned him to "a beating by my own hands."

That's exactly what McMahon did from the outset. The bell had barely rung when he attacked Owens outside the cage, landing a series of rights and lefts, then jumping from the barrier onto Owens' head.

The SmackDown commissioner was off to a quick start and kicked the steel door of the cell into Owens' face to boot, but the villain finally exacted some revenge in this match, smothering McMahon's face into the cage while yelling to McMahon's kids, who were in the crowd, "Look at Daddy!"

The man can trash-talk with the best of them -- that much we knew, and he did plenty to remind us throughout the match.

Owens was feeling it. He landed a cannon ball on McMahon, but a Swanton bomb fell short when the commissioner was able to get his knees up. McMahon then converted a DDT, walked to the top rope, but missed a high-risk shooting star.

It was Owens' turn to climb the top rope again, this time leaping into the air for a frog splash. It was enough impact to earn him a two-count.

Somehow, McMahon was able to turn his fortunes around and trap his opponent in a triangle choke that Owens, in desperation, was able to escape by tossing McMahon into the steel stairs lying just outside the ring.

As the match wore on, so did Owens' verbal assault. "Why did you make me do this?" he barked. Then the tables came out. KO brought one out, but it backfired as he ran along the apron, flipped through midair and tossed himself straight through the table propped up against the cage as McMahon moved at the last second.

McMahon then brought in a garbage can -- his old standby -- and executed a picture-perfect, coast-to-coast top rope kick. But it gave McMahon only a two-count.

Then McMahon clipped off the padlock keeping the Hell in a Cell door locked, and that's when things truly escalated. The pace slowed briefly, if only for a short while, as Owens grabbed the advantage and laid McMahon out on one of the three commentary tables.

With McMahon lying motionless, Owens climbed to the top of the 20-foot cage.

"Someone call the EMTs," Corey Graves pleaded.

From the top, Owens stood. He contemplated. Should he or not? He paced the top of the cage, and his waffling allowed McMahon to recover. Rather than think too long, McMahon climbed up and joined Owens at the top of the Cell.

They both stood atop the ring. And then they went at it. The question, the only question, was who would fall off -- or through -- the cage? There was a body slam from Shane to KO, and then a suplex. Owens found his footing and landed a leg drop on McMahon. Later, a massive power bomb on top of the cage. How in the world had the commish not fallen through the cell?

The crowd and the viewing audience at home could feel the tension climb, as both Owens and McMahon narrowly avoided falling off of the cage. Owens had enough and attempted to climb down to ground level, but McMahon caught him, as they fought halfway down the structure. Finally, McMahon crushed KO's head into the chain link fence three times, sending Owens straight through the Spanish announcers table below.

The EMTs rushed to the scene as McMahon finally made his way down. McMahon then cleared another announcers table -- the one occupied by Graves, Byron Saxton and Tom Phillips -- and laid out KO on top of it. Then Shane did his thing. Up he went, to the top of the cell, and Owens wasn't moving 20 feet below.

McMahon took a deep breath and said a prayer. Just as he had done at WrestleMania 32, he leaped off the top of the cage with a flying elbow that was just about to split Owens into two, when ...

Zayn, Owens' most bitter enemy since Owens joined NXT in 2014, came out of nowhere to pull Owens out of the way and save his day at the last possible moment.

The EMTs, who had been trying to help McMahon after his fall, were thrust away by Zayn, who tossed KO on top of McMahon to remove any doubt as to where his loyalties laid.

One, two, three! It was the swerve of the year. What a finish.

With both McMahon and Owens essentially out for the count for minutes that followed, replays from every angle showed just how Zayn was able to pull Owens out of the way. Owens did not have a clue as to what went down, but that's sure to come.

Perhaps we should've paid more attention a couple of weeks ago when Zayn made it clear that McMahon wasn't to come out during his match with Owens. Despite the bitter rivalry between Owens and Zayn over the past three years, the vitriol was only so intense because of the near-two decades of friendship between these two men.

Owens and McMahon put their bodies on the line, time and time again, and they thrilled the crowd. But in the final moments, it was all for Sami Zayn to steal the show.