John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE Hell in a Cell preview featuring two HIAC matches, six title matches, a lot of pretty big names not on the card and there’s even a mixed tag team match thrown in too. Hell in a Cell takes place this Sunday, September 16 in San Antonio, Texas. The start time is 7pmET/6pmCT for the main card and the Kickoff Show starts at 6pmET/5pmCT with eight matches announced as of this writing. The show is scheduled for 3.5 hours on the WWE Network schedule, but it could run longer than that.
I’m excited about the show. I think going into it, the build on Raw and Smackdown has been just average. However, when looking at the matches and thinking about how much time they are going to have, I think everything on the card can be over three stars out of five (in other words, very good match quality) except the Rousey match since it will likely be shorter. There’s so much talent in WWE, so as long as they get a chance to show what they can do in long matches, they can thrive in a PPV setting like this one.
There are six title matches on the card as I mentioned, but only one of them (AJ Styles) has had a title reign that has lasted longer than a month. With five titles changing hands within the last month, it makes me think there might not be a lot of title changes unless WWE wants to have some really short terms champions. Joining me for the preview are Kurt Zamora, Matthew Phillips and Mike Holland.
(Note: All graphics are from WWE. The banner up top is courtesy of our friend Melo Man.)
Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The New Day (c) vs. Rusev and Aiden English (Kickoff Show)
(Note: This was quietly moved to the Kickoff Show on Friday likely because WWE timed out the show and felt like it was a better fit there. It’s confirmed on the Kickoff Show on WWE.com’s listing of the matches.)
Kurt: I’m happy that even though Smackdown keeps rehashing tournaments and qualifying matches for tag title shots, this one at least ended up with a fresh matchup. The New Day continue to be as entertaining as ever, and even if they have some things that fall a little flat, their workrate in the ring more than makes up for it. I think that more than anything is what has led to their longevity in terms of fans not turning on them. Not everything can be funny, but they always deliver in the ring. I would expect the same here, even if they don’t get that much time.
This seems like the time for English to turn on Rusev to finish the face turn for Rusev and Lana. I’d love a title change here just to give Rusev Day even more before the turn takes place, but New Day just got the titles back, so I don’t suspect a quick reign. I think English finally bails on Rusev, Rusev continues the fight on his own but comes up short.
Prediction: New Day retains
Mike: I am all for this particular turn of events. It's unfortunate that it came due to an injury to one half of the Bludgeon Brothers, but that gimmick screamed Berzerker 2.0 to me and perhaps, given time and space, they can just give the excellent Luke Harper something not ridiculous to do. Their loss was (naturally) The New Day's gain, and while that may appropriately feel like treading water a bit on the blue brand, there's something vaguely satisfying about watching professionals do the backstroke rather than synchronized swimming.
The mini tournament to crown challengers for TND was interesting enough, and I for one am glad they did not go the easy route and select The Bar. We've been there, done that, and while the match would certainly have been reasonable, I'm ready for a new chapter. Rusev Day was a great choice, considering how immensely over they've been this year, and it seems to have mended fences between a couple of guys that had an impending breakup coming. Smackdown's tag division has overall been handled much better, and TND is the best of class. I'd like to tell you Rusev Day is here, but we're stuck on Rusev Day Eve.
Winners (and STILL Smackdown Tag Team Champions): The New Day
Matthew: This is interesting. Actually, that’s a little strong. This match has me mildly curious is my most appropriate appraisal of this Tag Team Title bout. It’s a rivalry that I’d have liked to see play out in some shape or form over the course of several weeks, rather than have a tournament set up the match 5 days before the PPV. There is something to play with here creatively, mainly the fact that Rusev Day essentially copy and pasted New Day’s shtick. I really like Rusev, but somehow the longer Rusev Day went, I became more enamoured with Aiden English, who in truth is the literal heart and soul of Rusev Day.
The main source of intrigue here is that I could see them going either way here. Both teams could walk out of Hell In A Cell with the belts. And while I don’t expect the magic that was New Day vs. The Usos inside Hell In A Cell on Sunday, I do expect this match to be quite good. May the best team win.
Winners and Still Smackdown Tag Team Champions: New Day (because they are the best team)
John: I think it would be a cool story if Rusev Day made it all the way to becoming Tag Team Champions on Smackdown. It just doesn’t feel like it is going to happen. What seems more likely is that something will happen that will cause English to blame Rusev for the loss and then on the Smackdown that follows, English can attack Rusev leading to the full face turn for Rusev while English stays heel. I think these two have great chemistry and I like seeing them together. I just don’t think that’s the plan. As for New Day, it’s early in their fifth title reign, so they should get the win and move on to whoever the next challengers might be.
Winners: The New Day
Hell in a Cell Match: Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton
Kurt: I’m making a 4.5 hour trek to San Antonio this weekend to catch a live show for Bruce Prichard and Conrad Thompson, and this show. I don’t know that this match is what I’m most looking forward to live, but the moment, whatever that may be, is what I’m most looking forward to. Jeff has made it very clear since returning to WWE, that the one match he never had and wanted the most, was Hell in a Cell. He’s been thinking of ideas for this match for YEARS.
When you have a storyline like AJ/Joe that would make more sense in the Cell, WWE gave this match to Jeff for a reason, and I don’t think it’s just throwing him a bone for his career. They want these matches to mean something so that the legacy of the Cell can continue. Jeff has something crazy planned, perhaps something that can write him off TV for a while to heal nagging injuries, and I cannot wait to see what he comes up with.
Prediction: Randy Orton (because of course whatever Jeff is thinking, won’t work in his favor)
Mike: Here is what this event is supposed to be for, settling personal animus inside a structure designed to prevent distraction. And this feud is reasonably well-selected for just that, though whether it's the best choice is more than debatable (more on that later, natch). I think Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton are good choices for this type of match. We know that Jeff is a few fries short of a Happy Meal, and has actively pushed to get his opportunity to do some insane stunt in HIAC. We also know that Orton is far better with his heel side unleashed and has done a very reasonable job of being wicked unreasonable. Face it, you just don't put your finger in another man's earhole, dammit!
I confess some slight disappointment that this bout doesn't have a title on the line, especially since the guy who won the US Title from Hardy, Shinsuke Nakamura, isn't even on the card. The intensity level is most definitely there and ultimately for me it comes down to whether Hardy's death-defying move seals his fate or Orton's. I am concerned that Jeff goes the way of the Dynamite Kid, but he's owed his moment here.
Winner: Randy Orton
Matthew: Between tugging on earlobes and putting people through tables, this Orton/Hardy rivalry has been intense. I love that Orton is a heel and I love that his reason for targeting Hardy makes complete sense to me as a viewer. I’m also enjoying Jeff falling deeper into this WWE version of the famed Brother Nero of House Hardy. His promos have been pretty interesting and engaging in this style and he has certainly conveyed his desire to attain vengeance.
I’m burying the lead of course, which is that Jeff Hardy is going to be competing inside Hell In A Cell. That must be cool for the guy this many years into a career of doing death defying things in the service of putting on a great wrestling show. I am a little concerned given the fact that Jeff is 41 years old. I don’t want him to destroy himself for our entertainment, but it’s pretty much certain that he has something planned for Sunday. Hoping for the best.
Winner: Randy Orton (because I’m just guessing. Smackdown’s matches are all pretty much toss ups)
John: As you can see above, everybody on our team is going with Randy Orton and I’m going to join them. All of them also mentioned how Jeff Hardy is probably going to do something crazy off the Hell in a Cell structure. I don’t know if he’s going to top the Shane McMahon leap off the cell through the table, but maybe he will try that with a Swanton Bomb through the table? It sounds crazy and unsafe to me although with Jeff Hardy you never really know. I just hope he’s smart about it.
Orton getting the win makes sense because he just turned heel, so I think having him lose his first feud during this heel run would be a mistake. Orton winning seems like the right call.
Winner: Randy Orton
Mixed Tag Team Match: Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse
Kurt: First off, let’s give props to Maryse for being ready for this match FIVE MONTHS after giving birth. And judging by how great she looked in her ring attire on Smackdown, she deserves a lot of props. Brie was no slouch herself, when she got ready in time for the Royal Rumble. It’s very impressive.
I was pretty jazzed up for this match until they made the announcement this week that it has to be guys vs guys and girls vs girls. I was thinking that since they allowed Brie to get a couple shots in on Miz, that they’d let it be intergender, even if for just a couple brief sequences. Perhaps they can still do that, but I just think that would’ve made an interesting twist to this match. I think Daniel and Brie have to win for two reasons: Daniel & Miz are nowhere near finished yet, and Brie vs. Maryse needs to be set up for Evolution. Hopefully, they have a good crowd for this match because I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Prediction: Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella
Mike: Ugh. The mixed tag might be the worst idea ever, not necessarily because it exists but because it's so often not very good. Having one here makes perfect sense, as both wives factor into their husbands' collective futures. It's also an obvious opportunity for Brie Bella to even the score after Maryse's underhanded tactics in the Miz's "surprise" win at SummerSlam that frankly wasn't much of one. These are not meant to be shots on that match; it did its job, and admirably so. But there is regret that the next iteration of it will feature a woman who's barely wrestled in the last half decade trying to evade one who's far more entertaining on Total Bellas (I assume) than anything she's capable of actually doing in a wrestling ring. A necessary evil, perhaps, but evil just the same.
We’re left with this, which will no doubt effectively further the narrative of Bryan avenging himself against The Miz. It also allows for Brie and Maryse to bear the brunt of the outcome without giving away the ultimate reward of Miz's judgment day. Miz has used Maryse as a shield before and will do so here. The next chapter will be better.
Winners: Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella
Matthew: I don’t expect much of a technical gem here. That said, there is plenty of storytelling potential here, and I’m hoping they capitalize on it. Each husband and wife duo has done a pretty good job during the build to this mixed tag match. It’s an understandable and hopefully necessary step for this Miz/Daniel Bryan feud, which I’m certain we haven’t seen the best of yet. I’m not expecting too much so it shouldn’t be hard to exceed my expectations here.
Winners: Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella (because that would sort of even the score)
John: A mixed tag team match is a way to keep the Bryan vs. Miz feud going without putting them in a big singles rematch. That singles match is happening at Super Show-Down in Australia on October 6 when Bryan faces Miz in a #1 Contender’s match for a shot at the WWE Champion. As for this match, I think Brie will beat Maryse by pinfall or submission, so that way Miz can say that he didn’t get beat by Bryan. It would be pretty funny to see Miz blame Maryse for the loss, then she gets mad at him and he has to suck up to her.
I was never a fan of the mixed tag team matches years ago, but I liked the first edition of the Mixed Match Challenge. The matches were generally pretty fun and well booked. I think Bryan and Miz are certainly good enough to carry this match. With the second Mixed Match Challenge starting this coming week, it’s not a surprise that WWE is doing a mixed tag team match on this show.
Winners: Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella
Raw Tag Team Championships: Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins
Kurt: Is it bad that I’ve forgotten Seth is IC champion during all of this? I feel like since his match with KO, I haven’t seen him with the title during this run with The Shield. I’m not necessarily complaining, because I didn’t want to see another Rollins/Ziggler singles match. McIntyre and Ziggler are so good together. I don’t think they will, but I just don’t want them to get lost behind Braun in this opposing unit to The Shield. They just work off each other so well, especially with the contrasting looks and style. I’d like to see them stay champions for quite a while as the writers figure out what to do with the rest of the division, because it’s a mess. This should be a fun match with 4 guys who always want to steal the show.
Prediction: Ziggler/McIntyre retains
Mike: I can't argue that the decibel level has been ratcheted up considerably with recent developments on Raw's tag scene. Ziggler and McIntyre rising from the ashes of their Intercontinental Title misfire to join forces with Strowman against The Shield presented a magical night of television, if not a completely logical one. I admit to jumping the shark on Dean Ambrose's heel turn on Rollins, and the long con they are playing there can't come to fruition while they are a unit. Should this night be a celebration of a hugely popular stable, we can figure on Messrs. Rollins & Ambrose getting it done.
That might actually be a very good reason to call the reverse here. Should the new champs cede the belts so quickly, the teeth are taken out of their bite far too soon. Better to have them surprisingly out-maneuver R&A, giving the average viewer reason to think the main event might also go astray. I'd also like to say a few words for The Revival, who really got majorly jobbed in all of this. Perhaps not many care, and this match looks far sexier on paper, but it's a real shame. They deserve better.
Winners (and STILL Raw Tag Team Champions): Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler
Matthew: This match will be really good. All four men are too good for it not to be really good. I’m just somehow not all that excited for it. Maybe it’s because I feel we aren’t seeing all the participants in this match utilized to their best abilities. Something about seeing Drew, Dolph and Braun in the ring together really solidified that Dolph doesn’t quite fit with them. I’ve been waiting to see something new from him, but it’s really just the same old s*** (or it could just be that I hate the stupid record scratch thing the WWE is obsessed with). Drew is money and I’m left just waiting for him to do how own thing, minus Ziggler.
On the other side or the ring, I’m patiently awaiting the arrival of heel Dean. We all know it’s coming. I don’t mind waiting for it, but it just kind of makes everything we see from him feel like a formality to me. As far as who wins, either outcome makes sense. I could see them wanting to get a title on Dean so that he isn’t the only Shield member without one (I personally wouldn’t because that can be part of why he turns down the line “not enough titles to go around”). I could also see them running with Drew and Dolph as Tag Champs for a bit because they did just win them. I guess I have to make a choice though.
Winners and Still Raw Tag Team Champions: Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler (because I expect Corbin to put Seth in an Intercontinental Title match earlier in the show which will weaken him and cause he and Ambrose to lose here, without looking bad)
John: This feels like the first of many tag team matches between these teams. After all, this is WWE and they repeat matches so many times. I’m sure these teams are going to wrestle dozens of times on live events too. All of them are veterans that know what they are doing especially in a big tag team match setting, so it should be very good.
I could see there being a lot of title changes between them, but it’s not likely to happen here since McIntyre and Ziggler won the gold less than two weeks ago. I’ll go with the cheap ending where it looks like Rollins and Ambrose are going to win after an exciting hot tag sequence and then the heel champs do something to keep the titles like have McIntyre or Ziggler get disqualified intentionally. I could even see there being something like Braun Strowman causes the DQ to get him some more heat from the crowd because they will want Rollins and Ambrose to win. Reigns can make the save, that can lead to a brawl and preview the main event later. Anyway, I think the champs leave with the titles even if they don’t necessarily “win” the match.
Winners by DQ: Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose (McIntyre and Ziggler are still champions)
TJRWrestling on Patreon: Our new project is up and running and going very well so far. It’s called TJRWrestling on Patreonand it launched over a week ago. I have started the reviews of WWF shows from 2000 with coverage of Raw every Monday and Smackdown every Thursday. I just posted a review of the January 10, 2000 episode of Raw where The Rock teamed up with Mick Foley and The Acolytes against the Degeneration X foursome of Triple H, Road Dogg, X-Pac and Billy Gunn in the main event. Those episodes of Raw and Smackdown often times had nine matches in two hours, so all of them were short, but the flow of those shows were good and it was never really boring. I’m also doing podcast reviews of current episodes of Raw and Smackdown. I’ll also have a podcast preview of the Hell in a Cell lineup and a podcast review of Hell in a Cell too. I’m hoping to get material up there every weekday along with some weekend content. There will be a written and podcast review of WCW Starrcade 1998 this week as well. It’s not free, but it’s a way to support what we are doing and I’m grateful for that. You can join for $3, $5 or $7 for one month, so it’s not like we are asking a lot. It’s just something to keep us going strong. If you sign up today you don’t get charged until October 1, so that’s a pretty good deal I think. Thanks to everybody that has joined already and if you have any questions, my contact info is at the bottom of this review. Go sign up now at TJRWrestling on Patreon and thank you again for all the support.
Smackdown Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Becky Lynch
Kurt: I don’t know that I’ve seen a match as anticipated as this one with booking as…odd… as this one has. I don’t know what to call it, other than odd. Road Dogg has been doing his, “dude, just put the phone down” tweeting, which is my way of calling tweets that shouldn’t be sent, telling fans to just “pick a side”. Um, EVERYONE already picked a side and it was Becky Lynch. It had been Becky Lynch for WEEKS. Now they’re doing everything under the sun to make Becky the heel, and Road Dogg is acting like it’s an open book on which side each lady will end up on. I want Becky to win the title, she deserves it. The problem is, with the way WWE is booking her, I don’t think they want the massive ovation she’s going to get when she wins it. I think they’d rather just have the boos that’ll come on Charlotte, because we all know how well they ignore people being booed that shouldn’t be.
Prediction: Charlotte Flair retains
Mike: I think this could be a contender for match of the night, and it's another testament to the old adage that writing wrestling isn't that hard. Get two friends, create some contention, and watch them beat the hell out of each other as enemies until they invariably make up and start the whole cycle anew. It's drama, and it's what the best matches have in spades. The only true issue here is that the way WWE chose to "turn" Becky Lynch wasn't really a turn at all. Most fans are on her side regarding her issues with Charlotte's attitude and opportunities, and that's why it doesn't really work. Further interviews in this vein have really just made it worse. Charlotte is excellent in the ring, but comes across as icy and aloof when explaining her views. The roles should be reversed here.
All of that said, Becky's reinvented look is tremendous, and fans are responding to her regardless. I thought this past week's Smackdown was super strong at putting her over as someone who is no longer going to wait her turn. This contest will be plenty tough and plenty emotional, but I don't see the payoff yet. Make no mistake it will occur.
Winner (and STILL Smackdown Women's Champion): Charlotte Flair
Matthew: I have been loving this feud! I’m loving this new side of Becky! I love that the WWE course corrected and have softened their approach in trying to get her booed by having her nonsensically rip the fans. She’s just a bad ass willing to do what she must to get what she deserves.
The idea that she was to be the straight up heel here was ludicrous. It’s not even like I’m against the idea of turning her, because as I’ve said before, every great babyface was first a great heel, with almost no exceptions. That said, Becky was totally in the right. She worked for months to get her opportunity, and Charlotte sat at home for a month or so, returns and shoehorns her way into Becky’s Title opportunity by doing none of the work. Then take into account the way Charlotte stole victory from Becky in the triple threat match, I’m just not sure how anybody watching the story could be on Charlotte’s side. Do you root for Lex Luthor in superman? Do you root for Johnny Lawrence in Karate Kid?
Becky has owned Charlotte in every facet of this feud. Physically, mentally, on twitter, on the mic, and most importantly, with the fans. The way WWE works, that might mean that she is getting set up to lose here, and will take the belt at a later date. I’m more into the idea of her continuing the domination, by winning what I hope is a great match.
Winner and New Smackdown Live Women’s Champion: Becky Lynch (because we want Becky!!)
John: This should be an awesome match. I remember their last match a few months ago without any kind of story and it was great. Now there’s a big story with the women as heated rivals due to Lynch being jealous of Charlotte as the champ. Should Lynch be the face in the story? Yes, I think she should be, but it doesn’t bother me that much. Some people are angry about it and I get it. To me, it’s not a big deal because what matters is that arguably the two best women’s WRESTLERS in the company (Asuka might be first, to be fair) are going to have a long feud for the rest of the year. I hope we get four or five big matches out of this. It can be one of the best feuds on the main roster.
If Becky wins that would be great, but I think it’s too soon in this story to do that. Then again, I’m reminded of the Charlotte/Sasha feud from two years ago where they changed the title nearly every month for about six months, so it’s hard to know what WWE is thinking. What I would do is have Charlotte win on some reversal or an inside cradle where it’s a very close winning and as soon as the bell is over, Lynch attacks again. Lynch can slap on her armbar finisher and have Charlotte sell the pain for weeks leading into their next match. That’s where you can have Lynch win whether that’s in Australia at Super Show-Down in early October or at Evolution in late October. If it doesn't happen by Evolution then people that are already mad will be furious by then.
To the people that overreact to wins and losses, don’t get too upset if Lynch loses. Lynch will get the title at some point and when she does, people can complain about when she loses it lol. The cycle never ends! As for me, like I said, I’m going to enjoy the quality wrestling between two of the best. It’s better than some of the women’s matches we’ve got this year. Charlotte retaining is my pick.
Winner: Charlotte Flair
Raw Women’s Championship: Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Alexa Bliss
Kurt: The SummerSlam match was short and sweet, but that was a show overstuffed with matches, and this card only has 8 as of press time, so now it’s really going to be on Ronda to show off what she’s learned so far, against an opponent that is still learning things as well. Ronda has aced every test so far, some with flying colors, and as a huge fan of hers, I am so excited for the possibilities she possesses.
I expect Mickie James and Alicia Fox to get involved, as we’re still in the stages of Ronda matches where we need bells and whistles. Nattie will, of course, be on Ronda’s side, but I think the antics are going to dictate needing a third person, and I expect that to be Nikki Bella. The rumors have been flying that it’s going to be Nikki vs. Ronda at Evolution, and while you might not like it, it makes sense. The Bellas had seemingly been portraying subtle heel tendencies in their promos, but with Brie on Smackdown with her husband, maybe they can just have Nikki help even the sides and then ask for a title match as a favor in return. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nikki turn on Ronda, even as soon as after this match, but I don’t know that it’s going to happen that way.
Prediction: Ronda Rousey retains
Mike: I fear that Raw's side of the ledger has backed itself into a bit of a bind here, simply because Ronda Rousey is way too dominant. In order for anyone to believe that she is in danger of losing her newly-won gold, the odds would have to be stacked much higher. While Monday's show offered the possibility that Rousey's ribs might be an issue, and that is certainly something to be exploited further this weekend, it didn't cause her much difficulty at all. If Rousey is head and shoulders above the competition, it's fun to watch but ultimately far less compelling.
I look forward to the arc of Natalya vs. Rousey, because it's a far better matchup on paper and will look far more realistic in the ring. Rousey sandblasting Bliss into the pavement is enjoyable and all, but runs its course rather quickly. They can't pull the trigger on that while Lynch and Charlotte essentially play out the same story, so we simply wait. In the meantime, the only tale to tell in the Book of Ronda is another lesson in one-sided domination. Other facets will have to be added for the gem to truly dazzle, but what's the rush?
Winner (and STILL Raw Women's Champion): Ronda Rousey
Matthew: I really want to be into this. I’m just not. I know Ronda is good, but it just lacks an emotional pull for me. I would love to know what it’s like to be super into Ronda. I’m not a UFC guy, so none of those do as much for me. Add to that that we are still grading Ronda on this rather large curve. For somebody so new to wrestling, she’s doing pretty great, but she’s still a rather unrefined performer in many respects and it is glaring as Champ. I do get why she’s there though.
As much as I love Bliss as a performer, she’s not the kind that can carry anybody to a great match. I also just don’t find the match up even halfway believable. Ronda should wash her. Frankly, I wish there were Women’s Tag Titles, because I want to see Sasha and Bayley have something to actually do.
Winner and still Raw Women’s Champion: Ronda Rousey (because I’m not a moron)
John: This feels like the most predictable match on the card because I would be absolutely shocked if Rousey were to lose her first PPV title defense. At least there’s a bit of a story going into it with Rousey selling the rib injury. With Alicia Fox and Mickie James cornering Bliss and Natalya cornering Rousey, it should lead to some outside the ring moments that will give the heels the advantage. Rousey beat Bliss in four minutes at SummerSlam. I think they might go closer to 8-10 minutes this time around with Rousey selling the rib injury before making the comeback for the win.
The plan is Rousey vs. Nikki Bella at Evolution and with Nikki racking up wins on Raw every week, it seems like that is still the plan. This is the end of Bliss in the title picture at least for now. She’ll probably be back soon.
Winner: Ronda Rousey
WWE Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs. Samoa Joe
Kurt: The Samoa Joe bedtime story promo was one of the coolest produced promos WWE has done in a LONG time. Loved the concept of it to make Joe seem more twisted, but also just visually with the video footage being made to look like bedtime story animations, it was brilliantly done. I’m beyond thrilled that this feud has been a success considering how flat the Styles feud with Nakamura fell.
I can’t argue anyone that feels this should’ve been the Smackdown HIAC representative, especially as personal as they’ve made this. In the words of Bruce Prichard though, they don’t need it. They can have a match of the year candidate and not be limited to being housed inside the Cell. They’ve already announced a rematch for Super Showdown in Australia, so perhaps they can give them a gimmick match of some sort before then.
As much as this is “house that AJ Styles built”, this is also the time for Samoa Joe to be the guy to hold the WWE Championship. There’s a sentence no one thought they’d say 5 years ago. He has exceeded every expectation WWE has had for him and is one of the only true heels in WWE. I’d like to see how AJ adapts to being back to the guy chasing the title and I think there is A LOT of money in Joe becoming champion. I’m going with him because I think it’s time, and in a show where I don’t see any other title changes happening, this ensures that he gets his moment.
Prediction: Samoa Joe becomes WWE Champion
Mike: Let's cut to the quick: Why in the blue hell is this match not inside HIAC? Isn't the whole point of this event to take the most personal of rivalries and put them in a situation where things finally have to get settled? The entire build of this fantastic feud has been a HIAC build, from the personal vignettes week after week to the disqualification finish last month that made us all wonder if Joe has been the one to finally get inside AJ's head and set up shop. It's a complete head-scratcher to me that we don't have these two going at it inside the evil structure, and WWE is damn fortunate that they are both good enough that it might not even matter. I expected their match to be the best of the evening last time, they delivered in spades, and I expect the same thing here. But it feels like a layup missed.
AJ's reign has been stellar, beginning to end, and I love the shades of personality that this feud with Joe has brought out in him. It was notably lacking in the previous battles with Nakamura, and it's needed to give the blue brand's big belt the importance that this company generally refuses to give it compared with the Universal Title. I remember thinking several times during Styles/Nakamura that this would finally be the time and place that WWE decided to finally give Shinsuke a shot, and we all know how that turned out. Despite Joe's far superior mic work and very relatable (and hateable) persona, we can wonder whether this plays out similarly. Joe might just be another "indie" guy who WWE flirts with and ultimately rejects as inferior, but not before getting hopes up.
That flies in the face of what Styles himself has demonstrated, however, and that's the most compelling part of this match and its bigger meaning to me, far more than whatever trumped-up family intrigue the creative team has spewed on us. Styles losing the title to his rival in an intense and hard-fought battle makes him win, because it proves what hasn't yet been proven to this point: AJ Styles has been so good for WWE that they have altered their long-held beliefs regarding "outsider" talent. Do the right thing, WWE: Let a guy who has battled every step of the way for their spot join the last guy to do it. Truly best for business.
Winner (and NEW WWE Champion): Samoa Joe
Matthew: These guys have knocked this rivalry out of the park. I would have been pleased with much less. I would have been super into the idea of these two just feuding about the Title and having them deliver in the ring. What I’m getting is a heated, personal rivalry where the WWE Championship is just a formality, and I love it. The fact the match will also be awesome is just a thick layer of icing on this already awesome cake.
(Sidebar: Smackdown’s feuds all have this really incredible personal touch to them. They feel more lived in than the contrived and often cartoonish Raw feuds.)
I think now is the time to pull the trigger and get the WWE Title on Joe. They could stall some more, wait until the video game is released and then do the Title switch, but why wait? AJ being champion or not won’t change the game or it’s rollout. It’s Joe’s time if you ask me.
Winner and New WWE Champion: Samoa Joe (because he’s absolutely killing it and deserves it)
John: There are two ways this can go based on the storyline: 1) Styles avenges Joe mocking his family and finds a way to retain the title to put an end to this feud. 2) Styles loses his mind trying to get revenge against Joe, so he makes a critical mistake and Joe capitalizes on the situation to win the WWE Championship for the first time.
I like the second scenario a lot better. It’s certainly nothing against Styles, who is one of my favorite guys in the company, but I like Joe too. This title reign of Styles is past the 300-day point and I feel like this is the right time, as well as the right storyline, to have Styles lose. It wouldn’t shock me if WWE flew in AJ’s wife Wendy (“OH WENDY!”) and daughter Annie to the match to make it seem like Joe is going to attack them, which leads to Styles freaking out and that’s what causes Joe to win.
This should be a great match that gets around 20 minutes and delivers one of the best major championship matches in WWE this year. They know eachother so well. I have a lot of faith in them to deliver the goods. If Styles wins that is fine with me, but I believe it’s a good time for Joe to become the champ on Smackdown.
It looks like all four of us are going with Samoa Joe. Suddenly, I’m not as sure of my pick now!
Winner and New WWE Champion: Samoa Joe
Universal Championship Hell in a Cell Match: Roman Reigns (c) vs. Braun Strowman (Mick Foley is the referee)
Kurt: I’ve hated the fact that WWE forces Hell in a Cell matches at a certain time because we have a PPV named after it. It’s taken some of the allure out of the Cell. I’m quite happy to see the Cell being used as it’s designed for this match.
This is a feud that has been brewing for a long, long time now, and with all the chips in the middle of the table, we need the Cell to hold everything in. Even in a no blood era, I think these two are going to give us a Cell match that lives up to the legacy of some of the originals from 97-02. They have a special chemistry between them that always leads to a crazy battle. I’m okay with rehashing the “Foley knows everything about the Cell, so only he can be special ref” angle, because A. it’s true B. He looks great and is moving around quite well finally, and C. with everything on the line, you might as well just put the cherry on top and add a little more star power.
I expect the cell to be torn up, mangled, destroyed, and these two to throw everything including the kitchen sink at each other. Braun’s whole ploy for this match is that The Shield brothers can’t save Roman, so clearly, Dean and Seth are getting involved somehow. Perhaps a triple powerbomb on top of the Cell? As much as Braun SHOULD be the guy holding the Universal Title, and as much as it’s probably going to end up bothering me that the, “Monster in the Bank”, couldn’t cash in successfully, I just don’t see a scenario where Roman loses the title here. I think they’ve finally found something in this Shield reunion that is getting Roman more favorable reactions and they want to see what he can do as They Guy for a while.
Prediction: Roman Reigns retains
Mike: This really could have been so much better. Braun Strowman winning the briefcase made sense, but just about everything he's done since then has not. I get that the WWE doesn't want Strowman playing into the cheers he's been hearing since forever, but they are guilty of causing them by their booking and over-the-top announcing during that entire run. Did they not know they were going to put the belt on Reigns? Why book Strowman against Kevin Owens forever and a day just to have him align with a couple of major heels in a half-hearted attempt to get Roman a few more cheers? Why is Braun Strowman aligned with anyone ever at this point? We won't get answers to these questions, and while I'm sure the mantra of Braun's bravery ruling the day over logic with his advance cash-in will be repeated ad nauseum, it fails to explain why those face-like efforts are coinciding with his stablemates.
I'm not sure what to make of this defense, frankly, and I just fervently hope it doesn't put too big of a fork in Strowman. WWE hasn't always presented their briefcase winners in the best light (a couple of guys named Baron Corbin and Damien Sandow come to mind) and Strowman is far more over with the large majority of fans than they were. It's nice for old time's sake that Mick Foley was brought out of mothballs to appear in a match that he is inexorably linked with, but it's not going to factor too much into things aside from offering an opportunity for Strowman to potentially land some cheap heat and for Foley to unquestionably add to his legend with another demolition derby.
The simple fact is that we've seen many versions of this match, and they've generally come down to the same thing: Strowman is to be protected at all costs except when that protection flies in the face of the Anointing of Roman. I fully expect the Shield to involve themselves here, and I fully expect Reigns to walk out the same way he walked in. Braun will end up being just another failed casher, and that's unfortunate to say the last. The long-term planning for this scenario has been way off base. It's not like they didn't know Brock Lesnar was leaving. Unfortunate.
Winner (and STILL Universal Champion): Roman Reigns
Matthew: The Mick Foley addition helps here, but I’m kind of not into this so much. I think this is the most boring use of the Money In The Bank in years. I think the build here has been lacking something as well.
They’re billing the Cell as a force that will keep The Shield out (and presumably Dolph and Drew), but let’s be real. We’ve seen this movie enough to know that they can get involved at a moment’s notice. I expect there to be interference. I expect them to beat the piss out of each other and smash one another through all manner of things. I just don’t see why I should care all that much. Either outcome is kinda lacklustre to me. A wet fart creatively. Either Braun wins and we await the next Roman coronation, or Roman wins, and we see the Money In The Bank go to waste for a second year in a row.
I have a sneaking suspicion that this match isn’t a result of Braun cashing in , though. I think Reigns beats him, and then his goons come to attack Roman. Baron Corbin then comes down, hands the briefcase to the ref, who tells Jojo that Braun is cashing in his Money In The Bank. It was all a ruse by Baron and Steph. Before a second title defense can begin in earnest, The Shield come out and the show ends in chaos, but with Braun’s briefcase intact. It’s slightly stupid and contrived, but I just think there are better, more creative ideas for that briefcase than this one, so I’d accept it if it keeps Money In The Bank in play.
Winner and Still Universal Champion: Roman Reigns (because I can’t deal with cutting this reign short again)
John: It’s another match where we have a unanimous agreement because I’m going with Reigns too. I think that reasoning is logical on our part because Reigns just won the title at SummerSlam, so why should he lose it less than a month later? A clean loss for Strowman would make him look bad, though, especially since this was Strowman’s cash in match. That whole thing is fishy too because Strowman said he would do the honorable thing cashing in the MITB contract ahead of time, but he did that the same night he turned heel. There could be a screwjob scenario in place with heel acting GM Baron Corbin and Strowman, but perhaps we are overthinking it.
Reigns and Strowman have wrestled many times in the last two years on television as well as dozens of times at live events. I like their chemistry together. I know the Reigns haters feel like he’s not good in the ring, but when he’s with Strowman the matches are solid. Strowman is a lot more comfortable working with Reigns than he is when he’s against some of the other guys because of how often they have wrestled.
I think the addition of Mick Foley as referee is interesting. It wouldn’t shock me if Foley is booked to take a bump or two even though in his early 50s, he stopped doing that years ago. Foley’s in much better shape after hip and knee surgeries, so he might be able to take a few bumps to tell a story. By having Foley bump, that could lead to cheating by Strowman and his allies McIntyre and Ziggler. Maybe the heels cut the cage open with wires or the monster Strowman simply runs into the cell to break it open. We have seen WWE wrestlers break the cage many times before. I can see a scenario where McIntyre and Ziggler interfere, they get taken out by Rollins and Ambrose leading to Reigns beating Strowman thanks to the help of his buddies.
I’m not sure if this Reigns title reign will be a long one that lasts past next year’s WrestleMania or if it will only be a few months. I just feel confident in saying that Reigns will leave Hell in a Cell as the Universal Champion because WWE spent two years building him up for this. With that said, if Strowman won the title it would be more interesting for storyline sake, so if Strowman won I would be fine with that too.
Winner: Roman Reigns
The Match I'm Looking Forward To The Most
Kurt: AJ vs. Joe has been built the best, but as I wrote, I’m going to be at this show live and there’s just something about Jeff Hardy in the Cell that I’m looking forward to the most.
Mike: Styles/Joe. These two could wrestle for the football at the start of an XFL game and I'd tune in.
Matthew: Becky/Charlotte by a wide margin.
John: I would rank Styles/Joe and Flair/Lynch at around the same level. I think both will be outstanding matches and I’m intrigued by the booking too.
The Match I Care About The Least
Kurt: This isn’t a slight on the match, it’s just been built the least, so by default it has to be the Smackdown tag title match.
Mike: Rousey/Bliss. Lacks excitement due to the obvious outcome.
Matthew: Ronda/Alexa, which makes me sad.
John: Smackdown Tag Team Titles due to lack of a story.
Kurt: Roman vs. Braun.
Mike: Main event is an obvious candidate with the cell, but I think Styles/Joe carries the mail.
Matthew: Styles vs. Joe.
John: I think Reigns/Strowman and Styles/Joe are going over 20 minutes. I’ll pick Reigns/Strowman by a bit.
Kurt: Rousey vs. Bliss.
Matthew: Ronda vs. Alexa.
John: I’m going with Rousey vs. Bliss as well around 8-10 minutes like I mentioned earlier. Everything else is going over 10 minutes.
Excitement Level on a Scale of 1-10 (1 being low, 10 being high)
Kurt: As of this writing, 8 matches with 7 having SOLID buildup. This is a legit 8 for me, bordering 9. I haven’t gone that high in quite a while.
Mike: I'm going to go 7. I think the talent level on the match is very high, and most of the matches are challenging to predict. I expect a decent show with a couple of solid high spots.
Matthew: 7 out of 10. Great show on paper at this point.
John: I’m about an 8 out of 10 because the match quality should be very good. Normally I’m in the 7 range, but I think the final lineup for Hell in a Cell is quite strong.
John: That’s all for us. Thanks to the crew for joining me once again. I will not have a live review of Hell in a Cell, but I hope to get the review up by Monday morning on TJRWrestling.net, so please check it out.
If you want to send an email, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org as well. Thanks for reading.