John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE Hell in a Cell preview. This is one of the most bizarre PPV previews I’ve ever written because WWE only advertised three matches going into the show for the last several weeks. A fourth match was made official after Smackdown last night, but as I sit here on Saturday afternoon, that’s all we know right now. I assume they will add some more matches before Sunday. The lack of build for this card has been so poor. I think WWE needs to do a better job of making people care for PPV events.
What we will do here is offer up some in-depth predictions on the three main matches that have been advertised for several weeks, plus the one match added on Friday night. If WWE adds more matches then I’ll mention them briefly, but we can only write about what WWE has set up for the show when we did this on Saturday.
Joining me for the preview is Mike Holland and Matthew J. Douglas.
(Note: All graphics are from WWE. The banner up top is courtesy of our friend Melo Man.)
Smackdown Women’s Championship: Bayley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair
Matthew: This was just added overnight and given the lack of depth on this card, they might actually get some time. Maybe a double-digit minute duration. Some nearfalls. Signature spots and thrilling moments. You know, a match!
I am hopeful that Bayley retains as I am truly enjoying what she’s doing these days. I want a finish that involves her cheating to win, and then her denying or spinning it to be a positive message for the kids watching around the world, because she’s a role model obviously.
Winner and Still Champion: Bayley (because something about Becky and Charlotte both having titles feels a little on the nose for me)
John: This was made official after Smackdown this week. I think Bayley is going to get moved back to Raw where her buddy Sasha Banks is, so I’m going with Flair winning the title and staying on Smackdown. When you see how WWE has promoted Smackdown on Fox, Flair is all over the advertising and I think she’s going to win the title to become the top woman on Smackdown again.
Winner: Charlotte Flair
Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan vs. Erick Rowan and Luke Harper
Matthew: This isn’t the most exciting match that has ever been offered up on a PPV card. When you factor in that there are only 4 matches announced, it’s not hard to see why this is a hard event to sell to a fanbase.
I’m happy to have Harper back on TV, but this entire storyline has simply felt pretty wonky. I’m still waiting for another shoe to drop, but am slowly accepting that this just might be what it is. I half expect Daniel Bryan to turn on Roman on Sunday, despite that happening making very little logical sense. With that said, this is lacking some spice and I just need a little flavor here.
As a match, it should be pretty good given the names involved. I don’t expect a classic, but something fun with a couple cool moments is the least they can do, right?
Winners: Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan (because as much as I am wary of a double cross, I am getting the sense that WWE wants to move in new directions going into next week)
Mike: I will confess that WWE actually managed to build something out of very little here, distancing themselves ever-so-slightly from the ridiculous soap opera sideline that was the attempted manslaughter of Roman Reigns. The rather obvious culmination of that silly mystery of the month plot thread WWE so often adores was that the nefarious Daniel Bryan would be revealed to be the grandmaster of the stratagem to remove the Big Dog from circulation. Rather than do so, WWE threw a rather large curveball into the mix by having Bryan’s lackey Erick Rowan be the guilty party. Rowan cemented his push with an actual win over Reigns, admittedly due to the help of former Bludgeon Brother (and erstwhile Wyatt Family tree branch) Luke Harper. Harper had been in drydock since falling under the apparent ire of Vince McMahon, but in this new era of competition, what your opponent doesn’t get makes your promotion stronger by default. I won’t complain too much, as Harper has been an underutilized talent since his start in Stamford by my account.
What’s interesting about all of this is we’re still not clear on the fate of Bryan, one of wrestling’s hottest heels in 2019 but now occupying that scary “tweener” role due to his falling out with Rowan and alignment with Roman. The two bonded together nicely on Smackdown’s Fox debut and scored a win, and that alone tells you all you need to know about how this match shapes up. 50/50 booking is a rather sure thing these days, and in addition, it would be wise for WWE to further the Reigns/Bryan showdown rather quickly. I imagine miscommunication between the two spells the end of their fickle partnership. I’m more than fine with Bryan re-aligning with R&H, but they could resume a tag team run on a separate tack and that would be swell too. This thing will be solid enough, but it’s more about the story than the participants.
Winners: Erick Rowan & Luke Harper
John: This one has my interest because I’m not sure what Daniel Bryan is going to do. Bryan will either be a genuine good guy that shook Roman Reigns’ hand on Smackdown because Bryan was attacked by his former buddy Erick Rowan…or Bryan will be back to his heelish ways as he lets us know that he was the guy that was really behind the attacks on Reigns. The thought of Bryan as a leader of a heel stable with Rowan and Harper as his buddies is so interesting to me. I loved Bryan’s heel run over the last ten months. I don’t want it to end, but if it does end then I get it because Bryan is one of the best babyfaces WWE has ever had and probably the best this decade. Bryan has a lot of value in either role. Bryan’s my favorite male wrestler in WWE and I just want to see him featured no matter what.
I think I’m going with the Bryan turn on Reigns where Bryan is back to being a heel. It’s just more interesting to me. That will lead to Rowan and Harper getting the while Bryan will have a long-term feud with Reigns, which should be awesome. They can also bring in other wrestlers to help Reigns whether that’s Seth Rollins or they can get some other faces on the show. If Bryan remains a face then maybe that’s because they’ll move him to Raw and this match will be a way to end the storyline. There are a lot of ways this can go.
Winners: Erick Rowan and Luke Harper
Raw Women’s Championship Hell in a Cell Match: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Sasha Banks
Matthew: I don’t have too much to say here. Not in a negative way. This build has been steady and good, if not a little unremarkable. I’m expecting this to be one of the best matches on the card and I know these two women will deliver. As far as analysis, it’s difficult. I can definitely see Sasha winning the title with help from Bayley, and then Becky being drafted to the new “A” show next Friday and Charlotte being drafted to Raw, setting up Becky v Bayley and Charlotte v Sasha for each show’s respective Women’s Championship. In fact, I like that, so let’s go with it.
Winner and New Champion: Sasha Banks (because she could use the win and it sets up for a necessary move a week from now)
Mike: We are somehow a long way from the tragic tale of Sasha Banks, who not so very long ago was rumored to be staging dressing-room sob sessions and social media hijinks en route to potential separation from WWE. While much of that was overdone in my view (since when does Vinnie Mac cut ties with anyone sporting celebrity relations?) there was a very strong possibility that the Boss was headed to the basement. Just a short while later, she and Becky Lynch have resumed their rivalry with a brutal and fascinating match last month that was a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Lynch has carved out a unique spot for herself on this roster, but in my mind the best deployment of her talent is much more battering ram style throwdowns rather than walks through the park with Seth Rollins. Putting this rematch inside the always-taxing Cell structure is a perfect fit.
I could absolutely see Lynch retaining here. She’s incredibly popular as we know, and there is still the matter of Bayley to deal with. At the risk of being cerebral, (or simply reading the tea leaves to cobble together hints in old Beatles lyrics), the strong placement of Becky in Fox’s Smackdown advertising makes me feel she is more than a contender to be switching brands in the upcoming draft. Given that Fox has made one hell of a financial commitment to WWE (and during early returns at least largely presented their programming as a very big deal), you’d be hard-pressed to imagine the corporate overlords not getting just about anything they want on their show. We have also learned that the intention is to craft separate brands rather than the silly show-hopping oddness that has plagued WWE’s most recent chapters, which naturally indicates the Raw Women’s Champion wouldn’t be bringing that belt to the blue brand. Therefore the call in my mind is Lynch coming within a breath of successfully defending, Bayley adding to her sudden extreme streak by involving herself very physically in the outcome, and Banks claiming the gold. That also plays into a ready-made Smackdown storyline of Lynch rebounding to confront Bayley on their now mutual turf.
Winner (and NEW Raw Women’s Champion): Sasha Banks
John: I picked Banks to win the Raw Women’s Title at Clash of Champions because I thought they would do the rematch here with Lynch trying to get the title back. Instead, Banks won by DQ when a steel chair got involved. Banks has been booked strongly because she has won all of her singles matches since returning and in tag matches, it’s Bayley that did the job for her team. Do I predict Banks to win again? Yeah, I am.
I think Becky Lynch is heading back to Smackdown when WWE has their Draft on October 11 and October 14. Lynch was all over Smackdown on Fox advertising, she was the first person on the Fox debut show and all of that tells me that she’s likely going to be featured on Smackdown. That means she must lose the Raw Women’s Title. I can see something where Bayley finds a way to cheat to help Banks. Maybe they do a spot where the women break the door open and that leads to Bayley helping Banks. I doubt Lynch loses clean, but I think Banks winning makes a lot of sense to continue her positive momentum as a heel. This should be a very good match and depending on whatever else WWE puts on the card, it could be the match of the night.
Winner and New Raw Women’s Champion: Sasha Banks
Universal Championship Hell in a Cell Match: Seth Rollins (c) vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt
Matthew: I don’t know what they do here. Like they’re kind of in a weird corner. I can’t imagine Bray as Champion, but I can’t imagine “The Fiend” losing a match this soon. So one of these things is going to happen. All signs point to a Bray Wyatt win I think. Firstly, beating him at this point kind of neuters the character and the threat he presents. Secondly, if Survivor Series has the same format as the last few years, I seriously don’t have any desire to see Seth vs. Brock again in a Champion vs. Champion Match. Finally, If it’s simply about getting people intrigued and tuning into the TV show, Bray has to be victorious here. Right now “The Fiend” and the Firefly Funhouse move the needle, while Seth doesn’t exactly get the creative juices flowing.
Seth can throw himself completely into the Team Hogan/Team Flair thing, and an oddball reign of terror with “The Fiend” as Universal Champion can take things in a totally weird, but totally new direction.
Winner and New Universal Champion: The Fiend (because I don’t see a finish with him losing)
Mike: While we’re on the subject of rebounds, let’s save a very big space for Bray Wyatt. I admit to having doubts he would be able to dust off the stench of previous creative missteps, but his “Firefly Funhouse” segments have been both boffo and bizarro fun and often times the best thing I see in a couple hours of WWE programs. It’s often been remarked that letting the talent shape their own character results in some of the best stuff, and I think that is certainly the case here. Wyatt may not be the best wrestler, but he has a presence and that cannot be overstated. His Fiend character has been booked as a major player since its first appearance, stealing Mick Foley’s claw finisher and stuffing the gullet of more than one legend in the process (Foley included). Now he’s getting a Universal Title shot against Seth Rollins, and of course the match tips even more heavily in Bray’s favor given that it’s in the cell structure.
To compound matters even further, Seth’s reign has been a bit lackluster this time around. All of the business with Brock Lesnar seemed slapdash, and detours involving his relationship with Becky Lynch seem much more the stuff of Total Divas tripe than solid wrestling. Rollins had tremendously compelling storylines in his turn on the Shield and eventual falling out with Trips & Stephanie. Even his lengthy reluctance to accept former friend Dean Ambrose back into the fold had emotional resonance for a time. Nothing here is getting to that level. It’s difficult for me to predict two title changes inside HIAC, let alone a clean sweep with heels, but I can’t see WWE stopping The Fiend short at this point without risking getting Wyatt stuck in the mud all over again. Rollins needs a bit of a reboot, and perhaps that will occur on Smackdown, particularly if Brock Lesnar is remaining on that side of the ledger. As for Wyatt/Fiend, his imminent date with former protégé Braun Strowman would be the obvious choice there.
Winner (and NEW Universal Champion): “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt
John: This is a hard match to predict because Bray Wyatt as The Fiend has only had one match on television when he beat Finn Balor at SummerSlam. After that, they said he gets the Universal Title match at this PPV and it’s also in Hell in a Cell. Over the last month, The Fiend has scared Seth Rollins multiple times and made Rollins look like such a loser in being afraid of everything The Fiend has done. Will it be a competitive match or does The Fiend just win in under ten minutes? I’m leaning towards something more competitive and they get about 15 minutes or so.
I’ll go with The Fiend winning the title because I find it hard to believe that he would lose. Why have him take a pin or get defeated in any way? It would hurt the character too much. I’m not sure when or who will beat The Fiend, but I feel like WWE is doing this match at this show because they know how much the fans react to The Fiend. It may be the end of Rollins on Raw too, so The Fiend winning the Big Red Belt (not exactly as cool as the “Big Gold Belt” was) is what I think is going to happen.
What happens after The Fiend is the Universal Champion? I’m not really sure who he might feud with next or if that means he’ll face Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series. There are so many questions to come out of this and I don’t have the answers, which is fine, because it’s more interesting this way.
Winner and New Universal Champion: “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt
I think the engaged couple of Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch will both be on Smackdown after the draft on October 11 and 14, so that’s why I have them both losing their titles.
We are not doing our usual predictions of longest match, shortest match and stuff like that. It’s not a full card, so it’s hard to do a regular preview.
Mike: This is an odd preview to write, to be sure. I don’t think I can ever recall a card with so few announced matches, and that’s troubling to say the least. It’s been a very big week for both WWE and wrestling in general, and it’s understandable that they are spread a bit thin, but I’m a bit stupefied that they couldn’t get some of the lower card together over the past couple weeks of TV. While it’s true that streaming on the Network has meant less focus on cramming the cards full of must-see matches, WWE is really running the risk here of having droves of fans eschew Sunday in favor of the battle of surprise and oneupsmanship that seems to be the method of the day. We’re not nearly in Raw/Nitro territory yet, but the first shots have been fired and we as fans are the obvious beneficiary.
WWE will certainly need to fill out the card, and there are plenty of options. One would imagine some other titles end up on the line, the most obvious choice being a Bayley defense against Charlotte or another battle between The Revival and The New Day. I am not sure what the plan with Lesnar will be after Friday night’s squash of Kofi Kingston, but one would reasonably conclude he’s going to at the very least make an appearance to further the Cain Velasquez angle. The bigger question is whether the three advertised matches make a compelling enough case to get the average fan excited about this thing. For me, I don’t see this being one of WWE’s better shows; there are too many irons in the fire right now and things won’t be clearer until the draft. That said, I fully expect it to be a newsworthy evening and by the time it’s over we should all have a better idea of how each brand will look when all is said and done.
John: I’m going with three title changes and Daniel Bryan going back to his ways. Some bold predictions on my part. I just think with the Draft coming next week, it’s a good time to change things up again.
I’ll be back with a review of Hell in a Cell on TJRWrestling.net most likely on Monday morning because I won’t be watching it live, so check it out when it gets posted.
Matthew – @MJDP_GSE
Mike – @DharmanRockwell
John – @johnreport
If you want to send an email, send it to me at [email protected] as well. Thanks for reading.