By Anish Vishwakoti, Prowrestling.net Staffer, (@AVX_9001)
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WWE heads to San Antonio, Texas for the annual Hell in a Cell event. With six Championships on the line, and two scheduled Hell In A Cell matches, the show has an air of importance around it, especially considering that this will be the first of Roman Reigns’s pay-per-view defenses.
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman for the WWE Universal Championship in a Hell In A Cell match with guest referee, Mick Foley. It feels odd that this is Strowman’s cash-in of his Money in the Bank contract. Nevertheless, it didn’t really make sense for anyone else to challenge for the Universal Title. It makes sense for this match to be inside Hell in a Cell as well, as it closes off Braun and Roman from the larger feud between the Shield and the heels of Raw. One annoying about aspect of this whole storyline has been WWE’s insistence on Strowman playing the heel rather than just a no-nonsense babyface as he had been for the months before that.
Because Braun and Roman have had a rivalry before with the orientations of Braun being a heel and Roman being the babyface, their one-on-one rivalry seems like rather a waste. The most memorable parts of Raw in recent weeks have been the moments that include The Shield vs. Strowman, Dolph Ziggler, and McIntyre. Regardless of the shortcomings of this storyline on TV, I have hope that Reigns and Strowman will put in a great match, and the last minute addition of Foley in the referee role adds some intrigue.
With Foley involved, I believe that we will see Strowman and Reigns go at it, and just when Roman is about to take the upper hand, Ziggler and McIntyre will interfere. Foley will be able to ward them off long enough for the Shield to arrive and run them off, but with all the distraction, Strowman will get the upper hand and win the Universal Title. While Roman just won the title, I feel Vince is trying as hard as he can to get him cheered, and if chasing Lesnar didn’t work, maybe chasing Strowman will.
Braun Strowman wins the WWE Universal Championship.
AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe for the WWE Championship. I don’t know if this feud has been as gripping for everyone in the last few weeks as it has been for me, but I have loved the work that Styles and Joe have been doing. The DQ finish at SummerSlam was a good choice, especially considering how good the match itself was.
Joe’s attitude towards tormenting Styles has me the most invested in his character since NXT, and I appreciate that WWE aren’t making the mistake they made with the Nakamura vs. Styles feud and just relying on fans to know their history to build a match. Joe and AJ’s history has merely been used as a backdrop to emphasize that Joe was close with AJ’s family. The storytime segment on this last week’s Smackdown was especially effective in showing how Joe is in AJ’s head. AJ had his own promo in an empty arena, talking about how this is his house, however it seems like Styles is trying to move past Joe’s mind games rather than confront it. They’ve set the stage for a really great match and if they capitalize on it, they will have told a really nuanced story which is rare on the main roster these days.
I see this world title changing hands as well. It feels like the right time as AJ has had a really great title reign and it makes complete sense for him to lose to an old rival in Joe, who has his number mentally. It could be really fun to see AJ try and come back from this loss and get Joe out of his head before he can hold the title again. I see Styles becoming tempted to use a chair or something, but ultimately deciding against it, with this distraction allowing Joe to do him dirty and choke him out.
Samoa Joe wins the WWE Championship.
Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. This rivalry has me pulling my hair out because while it is still by all means watchable, it could have been something so great. Lynch’s ‘turn’ at SummerSlam seemed like a brilliant way to create a super-hot babyface with a totally justified mean streak. It would also have been an effective way to immediately transition Charlotte into a heel, but WWE have instead been trying to push Lynch as your run of the mill begrudged heel, and Charlotte as the righteous babyface. I don’t think this has done either of them any favors, and the situation mirrors the Roman and Braun dynamic in a way.
I don’t know why I still have hope considering WWE has just been running a simple, heel attacks babyface from behind, angle for the past few weeks. Nevertheless, I am holding out in belief that WWE will do the right thing at HIAC and institute a double turn. WWE has acknowledged the fans support for Lynch, and at HIAC I see Charlotte and Lynch going toe-to-toe and Charlotte ultimately cheating to win and retain her title.
Charlotte has been a solid heel in the past, and the image of a smug Flair standing over a justified and beaten down Lynch could be the catalyst needed for Lynch to come back on the next Smackdown with the fans in her corner. It will be a real shame if WWE don’t capitalize on the immense support for Lynch, and while they have let me down before, I really hope they can get behind Lynch and allow the fans to have a legitimate reason to cheer her.
Charlotte Flair retains the Smackdown Women’s Championship in a double turn.
Ronda Rousey vs. Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship. In all honesty, this rivalry has fizzled out slightly after Rousey’s title victory at SummerSlam. Bliss’s use of Mickie James and Alicia Fox to outnumber Rousey and Natalya every week has been very standard heel fare, but it doesn’t really make me want to see Rousey destroy her again. This feud seems like WWE stalling while they try to find another opponent for Rousey that will be more captivating, and for that purpose it is doing it’s job.
Bliss isn’t the most threatening challenger, and while they have been telling the story of Rousey’s ribs being ‘injured’ at least since the go home Raw, It doesn’t convince me that HIAC will end without Rousey being champion. I see the match ending rather quickly, with Bliss taking the early control with the help of James and Fox only for Natalya to be the equalizer.
More than likely, all the other women will be ejected for ringside, leaving Rousey to toss Bliss around and earn the victory via armbar. Hopefully once this feud is done, they can create a new challenge for Rousey, whether it’s a turn by Natalya or a return from Nia Jax.
Ronda Rousey retains the Raw Women’s Championship.
Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre vs. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose for the Raw Tag Titles. Drew and Dolph have been clicking in this new pairing, and they were absolutely the right choice to take the title from the B-Team. Having the Raw tag team titles gives them both an air of confidence and legitimacy that they didn’t have before. Strowman and Reigns aside, these two have been the right people to pit against the Shield and I do like the fact that they have been using the other heels on the roster to outnumber the Shield. It makes them seem like the smartest guys on the roster, and undoubtedly, they can back it up in the ring as well.
I’ve been going back and forth on how I think this match will go, but ultimately Ziggler and McIntyre will retain. I see the Shield in this form getting their ‘Everybody has a belt’ moment, but I feel that it will come down the line. Before they can do so, I think they need to vanquish everything that Drew and Dolph put in front of them, i.e. the rest of the roster and maybe some other contenders, so that when the time comes for all three to win the titles, it will be even more desired from the audience and even more deserved for them. I see Dolph and Drew gaining an advantage with the help of some other miscellaneous heels. And just when Rollins and Ambrose get the closest to winning the title, they rip it back away from them.
Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre retain the Raw Tag Titles.
Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton inside Hell in a Cell. I’m glad that this match will be getting the stipulation, it feels like the right choice because not many of the other rivalries warrant it, and it gives this match an importance that it wouldn’t have had before. Randy’s motive for turning heel and going after Jeff has been pretty vague, with Orton spouting rather murky sentiments about wanting to be a Viper again. But I think this match can give Orton some clarity.
Jeff has been emphasizing that he is a daredevil in recent weeks and for all intents and purposes he has been having solid matches in this run. He has also been asking for a Hell in a Cell match for years, so I think I’m justified in believing that Jeff has had it planned out for a long while now. Being the crazy man that he is, I don’t think it’s out of the question to see Hardy hit a Swanton Bomb or a dive of some sort from the top of the structure, as he has stated that he’s wanted to do on interviews in the past.
Overall, I hope that Hardy makes it out of the match without destroying his body. I see Orton winning after taking advantage of a reckless Hardy and hitting some sort of a blistering RKO to put the North Carolina native out of commission.
Randy Orton wins.
Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse. Bryan and Miz have a well built rivalry between them, and while the handling of Bryan hasn’t been the best since his return to action, I think he and Miz still have the fans invested in them. I don’t think the fans are as invested in Brie and Maryse however, so this match in every aspect seems like just another smaller part of the Miz vs. Bryan feud.
Seeing Maryse and Brie’s singles match on Smackdown makes me think that we won’t see much of those two on Sunday, and they will rather be used as pawns in the match to build heat for Miz and sympathy for Bryan. Because Miz and Bryan are such great performers, I have every faith that the two will put on another good chapter in their story, as it certainly won’t be the last.
I don’t think it does Brie and Bryan any good to win here, and having Bryan’s duty to protect his wife distract him is a good enough reason for Miz to sneak away with the win. If they do it right, they can really build even more sympathy for Bryan and build the desire to see Miz get his comeuppance tenfold.
The Miz and Maryse win.
The New Day vs. Rusev and Aiden English (w/Lana) for the Smackdown Tag Titles (Kickoff Show). The Smackdown tournament to crown new number one contenders has given us some entertaining matches, but the problem is it hasn’t built a consistent story between the New Day and the new challengers. The fans have been left to fill in the blanks, and the scraps we have are ‘Rusev Day,’ ‘Lana number one,’ and ‘We love pancakes.’ That being said, I hope WWE are maybe sowing the seeds for a long term story between these two teams.
Rusev Day is still pretty hot and I think if these guys go out there and put on just a solid match, it could give a rematch between them a better story so that Rusev & English winning the titles more meaningful. But for now, I don’t think Rusev & English have done the storyline work to earn the pop of winning the titles, so I see the New Day retaining, probably by pinning English to keep Rusev looking strong for the following Smackdowns.
Now that this is on the kickoff show, I really doubt we will see Rusev get his first title win since coining Rusev Day. I will be very surprised if the New Day doesn’t retain.
The New Day retain the Smackdown Tag Titles.
The WWE is going to have a hard time finding an opponent that’s more “threatening” to Rousey, because everyone is going to be fed to Rousey until we get Charlotte vs. Rousey at some point. It’s total garbage. I’m still mad the way they had Rousey bury Alexa at Summerslam. They should stop billing her as the baddest woman on the planet, too. Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes both dropped her.
So while I hope you’re wrong on that pick, I think you’re probably pretty spot on with your predictions. Although WWE might stubbornly try to stay their course with Becky vs. Charlotte, too.