These predictions were made with no help from the betting lines because I’m not a cheater, nor a dirty, rotten, filthy whore of a man. I’m guessing just like you are. Join me for live coverage of WWE HIAC beginning with the Kickoff Show at 6CT/7ET. Dot Net Members will have exclusive access to the audio review that Jake Barnett and I will record after the show. Join us on the ad-free version of Prowrestling.net to gain access to over nine years of audio content via the Dot Net Members’ Signup Page.
Kevin Owens vs. Shane McMahon in a Falls Count Anywhere Hell in a Cell match: The creative team has been rightfully criticized for the overall drop in the Smackdown television show quality in recent months. However, they deserve a lot of credit for starting a feud from scratch and making it feel Hell in a Cell worthy. There have been far too many HIAC matches that felt rushed into the structure since WWE made it an annual event, but they did a terrific job of heating up the intensity between Owens and Shane quickly.
On the flip side, the Falls Count Anywhere stipulation is one of the most bizarre announcements ever. Shane referred to Owens as a coward, then announced a stipulation that would seemingly allow a coward to run away from the fight rather than keep him inside the structure. Obviously, they have something in mind with the stipulation, but the least they could have done is framed this in a better way.
The big question mark heading into the match is Sami Zayn. Is he turning heel? Is he being set up to face Owens after this match given that Shane is a special attraction and isn’t likely to wrestle again until WrestleMania? I’m not sure where they are going with that story and that’s a good thing. I naturally assume that Shane will be leaping from a high place, but I don’t feel confident about the actual outcome, which, again, is a good thing. Does Shane have to win to keep his special attraction appeal high or because he’s a McMahon fighting for the family name? Or does Owens get the nod because he’s the full-time wrestler? They gave Owens a platform over the last month and he’s killed it. It would be a shame to see Shane simply beat him clean, so I’m going with what I feel is the right call.
Kevin Owens wins.
New Day vs. The Usos in a Hell in a Cell match for the Smackdown Tag Titles: WWE is billing this as the “latest chapter” in their official preview, so this may not be the final battle after all. These teams work well together and they’ve had a couple of great, intense matches, so I’m fine with the match being inside the HIAC structure. If they keep this feud going post HIAC, then either team could win, though I would assume that New Day retains since they’ve been playing hot potato with the titles. If this is the last match, then I would switch my pick to the Usos because the babyface duo of Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable strike me as the only quality contenders in the depleted tag division. So who actually wins? Let’s go with the team that talks about their own penitentiary.
The Usos win the Smackdown Tag Titles.
Jinder Mahal vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Championship: “The Jinder Finish” (the Singh Brothers interfere before Jinder performs his finishing move) seemed to be set up the need for someone to face Mahal inside the HIAC structure to prevent the Singhs from getting involved. The fact that this is a typical match rather than an HIAC match tells me that they are not ready to take the title off Mahal. They should be. It’s not working. The WWE Championship match is arguably the third most important match on this show, yet to me it doesn’t feel any bigger than the U.S. or Smackdown Women’s Championship matches.
Jinder Mahal retains the WWE Championship.
Natalya vs. Charlotte for the Smackdown Women’s Championship: We’re still waiting Natalya and Charlotte to produce a match that is comparable to their great performance at NXT Takeover. They didn’t focus on that piece of history during the build for some reason. It was bizarre to see the champion force the challenger to submit on the go-home show. My guess is that means Charlotte is going over. However, Carmella is still lurking with the Money in the Bank contract and I’m going with her to cash in successfully regardless of who wins the actual match.
Carmella wins the Smackdown Women’s Championship.
AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin for the U.S. Championship: Styles fans should be pulling for Corbin to win the U.S. Championship. As much as WWE created some online buzz by having Styles beat Owens to win the title at the MSG house show, it’s sad to see Styles holding a secondary championship while Mahal holds the bigger title. Corbin winning would be a prelude to Styles getting out of the secondary title picture and getting back into the world title picture where he belongs. I am genuinely looking forward to seeing what type of match these two can produce. Corbin lost to Tye Dillinger in a puzzler on Tuesday, so I’m going with Corbin to win the title here and then to defeat Dillinger to get his win back on television soon.
Baron Corbin wins the U.S. Championship.
Bobby Roode vs. Dolph Ziggler: Forget the entrances, the match has the potential to be good. It’s just a shame that Ziggler’s act has become such a turnoff. Let me guess, he loses another match and then shows up on Smackdown to tell viewers that he’s the greatest performer in the company even though it makes zero sense within the storyline world?
Bobby Roode wins.
Randy Orton vs. Rusev: Sadly, I just don’t care about the outcome of this match. I am entertained by both men, but Rusev’s return to playing a badass heel has not gone well thus far. He needs the win more than Orton, and I assume that Aiden English hanging around this feud means he’s getting involved and taking the obligatory RKO before Rusev somehow goes over.
Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin vs. The Hype Bros (Kickoff Show): The story seems to be that frustration is building with Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley. It remains to be seen if one or both men are turning heel. Either way, I’ll take the babyface duo to win this match.
Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin win.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Ricky Starks on his NWA run, doing enhancement work for WWE, leaving NOLA due to Hurricane Katrina, the January 24 NWA Hard Times PPV on FITE.TV, his relationship with Nick Aldis, and much more...