John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE Hell in a Cell preview. After last night’s edition of Smackdown, WWE added one more match to the card to make it five matches for the show. That would make it similar to a NXT Takeover event, but I have the feeling that WWE will add another two or three matches over the weekend. We may not find out those matches until Sunday afternoon either. I’ll update the post if there are more matches added, but right now all we can do is predict the five matches we know about.
While it would be nice to see more of a full card, I’ll give WWE credit for building up the three Hell in a Cell matches very well. I think the execution of those matches might be difficult just because doing three matches with the same gimmick is hard, but I have faith in the wrestlers to put on good performances. Drew McIntyre faces Randy Orton for the third straight month on PPV (not third straight PPV since Randy faced Keith Lee at Payback after losing to Drew at SummerSlam), Jey Uso gets another shot against Roman Reigns and we finally get the Bayley match against Sasha Banks that has been brewing all year because we all figured Bayley would turn at some point. There’s definitely a chance that Bayley/Banks gets to main event too, which would be cool to see.
Joining me for the preview are Alex Podgorski and Lance Augustine. Here are some thoughts from Alex and Lance, then we’ll get to the preview.
Alex: It’s hard to be truly excited for this show. Last year I watched this event and it ended in an unbridled disaster. And while I doubt there will be such mind-numbing stupidity this year, I still think this show is going to be one of WWE’s most underwhelming shows of the year. They’ve done precious little to build up the show beyond five announced matches. This means one of three things: either, a) they’ll announce a bunch of random matches the day before or hours before the show starts; b) they’ll include some surprise unannounced matches after the show goes on the air; or c) the five announced matches will each get a ton of time.
And with three of the five announced matches taking place in the eponymous HIAC structure itself, expectations are both high and low. On one hand, the Cell stipulation will translate into utter carnage and incredible brutality, especially with three big title matches. On the other hand, last year’s fiasco looms overhead like a dark cloud, leaving some people wondering if we’ll get another taste of creative insanity.
Let’s just hope that dark cloud passes overhead quickly and doesn’t leave much in its wake this coming Sunday.
Lance: This feels like the TNA Lockdown shows since half of the matches will be contested inside of Hell in a Cell. I don’t think I am the only one that craves the day that this match was used to settle the bloodiest of scores, but here we are. I think the matches inside the cell are fine, there might just be an abundance of them. Still, I am cautiously optimistic about the show because the matches that have been announced will at least be decent. The matches have some good build to them and a lot of things will be settled coming out of this show.
(Note: All graphics are from WWE.)
Otis vs. The Miz
(The Money in the Bank contract currently held by Otis is on the line in this match, so if Miz wins he becomes the Money in the Bank contract holder.)
Alex: It seems like everyone in WWE’s creative department is cursing themselves for ever giving the MITB briefcase to Otis. It was a baffling decision then and it’s a baffling decision now. This is the equivalent of Scotty 2 Hotty winning a guaranteed title shot against a wrestler the caliber of 2000’s Triple H. it just doesn’t make sense. To that end, I actually think that The Miz will manage to beat Otis in under twenty minutes thanks to help from John Morrison. Otis will spend the first few minutes using his larger size to his advantage, only for shenanigans to ensue soon after. That will enable the Miz to take the cheap road to score the victory, which in turn would make him the MITB briefcase holder. from there, he can feud with Morrison over the briefcase. And while all of this looks very predictable, at least the MITB briefcase will be held by someone that has more than a fraction of a chance of winning.
And the funniest thing about this whole fiasco is that it isn’t even new. WWE are essentially copying New Japan by having the briefcase winner defend their briefcase, instead of having it for all times without challenge. If only they came up with this idea sooner, when people actually cared about MITB and the briefcase holder had a chance to cash in and win the big one.
Winner and NEW MITB Briefcase holder: The Miz
Lance: This was announced on Friday Night Smackdown with The Money in the Bank briefcase being on the line. Otis won the briefcase at MITB this year and they have done next to nothing with it. Even when he won the thing, I didn’t think it was the right move even though he was probably in the hottest angle going at the time. Well, this is WWE’s way of saying “we messed up.” I like Otis, but he doesn’t scream someone who should be holding The Money in the Bank briefcase. The Miz on the other hand had been a hot hand and was one person I thought deserved another run with a top title. The segment from Smackdown was entertaining and added some flair when The APA were part of the festivities. I just think this is the way they will take the briefcase off of Otis and transfer it to someone who has the potential to win the title the same way he did last time.
Winner: The Miz
John: My gut feeling is why do this if you’re not going to have Miz win the contract? I mean, that’s the whole point to it. If they are doing it to give Otis a win then it really doesn’t accomplish much at all because then it’s another loss for Miz, who has lost most of his matches this year. I think this is a way to be more creative with the Money in the Bank contract by putting it on The Miz (just like WWE did ten years ago) and having a heel carry it around instead of the comedic fat guy. Frankly, I think WWE has cooled on the Otis push even though I’m sure Vince McMahon is entertained by the fat guy that makes the Chris Farley style grunting noises. By the way, do you know who was the WWE Champion when Miz cashed in ten years ago? Randy Orton, who might be WWE Champion by the end of this show. Some things never change.
I’ll go with Miz winning thanks to some cheating and likely an assist from John Morrison. They could even have Tucker turn on Otis, but with Tucker on the opposite show (Tucker is on Raw, Otis on Smackdown) then they can’t really feud unless WWE trades one of them, which I guess is a possibility too. This can go a lot of ways.
Winner: The Miz
Jeff Hardy vs. Elias
Alex: I have no idea why this match exists. Everyone knows that Jeff wasn’t the person to have run Elias over, but Elias basically shrugged his shoulders and went ‘ah, whatever’ and wants to fight Hardy anyway. Marvel at this glorious tapestry of clever storytelling.
As much as I want to be upbeat about this, I can’t. Jeff Hardy hasn’t really been that captivating in a long time, especially with a static wrestling style, lack of interesting rivalries, and no character progression. He’s a one-trick pony with his Swanton-Bomb-off-of-something-high shtick, and the trick has worn thin. Meanwhile, Elias is better served as a non-wrestling entertainer than as a wrestler. The last time he wrestled a match longer than ten minutes I legit fell asleep. He’s far better suited being a 2020’s version of Jeff Jarrett, only without the blackmail.
Anyways, this’ll probably go between ten and fifteen minutes, and will likely end with Elias hitting Jeff with the guitar following a ref bump. It’s not the most creative of finishes, but it’s one I see them using given the circumstances of the match.
Lance: Elias is back from injury and fits nicely in the scene on Raw after being part of the recent WWE Draft. I have always thought he was an above-average performer, and being in the ring here with a veteran like Jeff Hardy should raise his stock a bit more. This feud stems from Elias being written off TV and the storyline reason was that Jeff Hardy was behind the hit and run that got him injured. He returned and smashed Hardy in the back with his signature guitar, only to have Hardy return the favor by hitting Elias with an electric guitar the week after. Hardy had been on Smackdown for most of the year, but switched brands due to being drafted to Raw as well. This should be a nice back and forth match between two guys that can go, and I expect the veteran to do the favors and have Elias pick right back up where he left off.
John: It’s nice to see Elias back from injury. With that said, the feud is silly because Elias has no proof that Jeff Hardy was the driver that hit him in the car five months ago, yet he’s going after Hardy. It makes Elias look like a fool. I have also read reports about Elias getting a “push” on Raw now. I have my doubts about that because when Elias first went to Smackdown, there were those same reports, then Elias had the same boring matches he usually has and the push went away. Unless Elias improves in the ring, I doubt he gets a major push. With that said, I do think Elias winning here makes sense to give him momentum against a babyface that’s a former WWE Champion. If Jeff wins it might be because WWE wants to give him a main event push if there’s a heel WWE Champion.
Smackdown Women’s Championship Hell in a Cell Match: Bayley (c) vs. Sasha Banks
Alex: I’m going to make an unusual prediction here. While most people think Sasha will win and become champion, I have another idea. I think that Bayley will eke out a narrow victory using as many weapons as possible, including the obvious steel chair. Then she’ll use some cheap tactic to score the victory over Sasha, such as a surprise weapon shot or dropping Sasha from an elevated position. In doing so, Bayley will retain the title, only for her to lose it to a new challenger on the following SmackDown.
I don’t know who this new challenger is/will be (I’d prefer it be Bianca Belair), but this woman will challenge Bayley and win the title thanks to interference from Sasha Banks. The feud between them doesn’t require a championship; the belt is secondary in their intense rivalry. And yet, losing the title would enrage Bayley, but she’d be even more furious if she lost it to some rookie thanks to Sasha’s interference. That would add more fire to their feud and give reason for them extending the rivalry into multiple rematches in the coming months.
If Sasha wins here, then obviously Bayley would exercise her right to a rematch as soon as possible. Yet that seems like a tired and played out storyline direction. It would be much more refreshing to see this title picture feature new players instead of the same ones in the picture all the time.
Sadly, my wild picks don’t tend to come true very often, but a man’s gotta have hope.
Winner and STILL SmackDown Women’s Champion: Bayley
Lance: Bayley has been a heel, and Smackdown Women’s Champion for this entire year, and her reign at the top has been impressive. She has been in big matches against pretty much everyone on the current roster and has beaten them all. Then we have Sasha Banks. The two were quite the team throughout the summer and even captures the Women’s Tag Team Titles for a period of time. Bayley turned her back on Banks which set up this feud in, what I would say, is one of the bright spots in WWE booking as of late. Ever since Banks has come back from injury, these two have been on a collision course that will culminate in a Hell in a Cell match on Sunday. This will be the third match of this kind to feature the Women of WWE, but I don’t think this one will disappoint. It has all the makings of a great feud with a great blowoff match. Will this be the last time these two clashes with one another? Time will tell, but I do know this has the potential to be the match of the night. Look for both women to have an advantage at some point in the match and we can’t discount the cage coming into play. Bayley has held the title for well over a year and I would say keep it on her for a little longer… If she was facing anyone but Sasha. This is going to be a blood feud between two women that are bitter enemies, and in the end, I think Sasha will use her experience in the Cell and come out with the win.
Winner and NEW Smackdown Women’s Champion: Sasha Banks
John: If this goes on last then Banks winning is very likely because I can see WWE wanting to end the show with a babyface win. If it goes on earlier in the night then it makes it harder to predict. I was there in person when they main evented an NXT Takeover show five years ago in a 30-minute Iron Man Match and that was because I was so impressed by their August 2015 Takeover match that is regarded as one of the best WWE women’s matches. In other words, I have high expectations because they have earned my trust based on past performances.
I think they’ll have a great match that they have likely been preparing for all year. I think if there were crowds at shows then we might have seen this match at SummerSlam or earlier in the year. Bayley has been the champion for over a year, so it definitely makes sense for Bayley to drop the title because there’s not much more she can do it with it other than defending against different opponents. While Banks had the advantage on Smackdown this week, WWE has gone against the “look strong on TV, lose on PPV” rule that used to exist. The story is there for Banks to win a physical, grueling match where I expect a lot of creativity from both women.
With all of that said, I would also love to see this as a singles match at WrestleMania in about five months. Whether that means Banks only has a short title reign here (poor Sasha hasn’t had a long title reign on Raw or Smackdown) and Bayley gets it back soon or Bayley holds onto it for five more months, I don’t know. Maybe they can do something where Bayley gets it back in a multi-woman match at the December TLC PPV or something like that. I think it would be cool if Banks dropped the title, won the Royal Rumble and they set up WrestleMania that way. That’s for down the road, though. I’m going with Banks here.
Winner AND NEW Smackdown Women’s Champion: Sasha Banks
WWE Universal Championship “I Quit” Hell in a Cell Match: Roman Reigns (c) vs. Jey Uso
Alex: Just like their last encounter, there’s no way in hell that Jey Uso is winning the WWE Universal Championship. It doesn’t matter how good a wrestler he is, how good of a talker he is, or how well the fans respond to him. His lot in life is to be pigeonholed into being a tag team wrestler, which is a fate bestowed upon him by virtue of being an identical twin. The only question in this match worth asking is, ’how far will they go in terms of brutality?’
I think that WWE may use Reigns here as a vehicle through which they could restore the credibility of the HIAC stipulation. With the stipulation being on shaky ground after last year, and with Roman Reigns entering the cell undefeated at 3-0, WWE will pull all the stops here. This match will feature lots of savage brawling, liberal use of the cell structure as a weapon, and, just like at Clash of Champions, a match structured around story over action. This time, I predict Reigns will go all out with trying to decimate Jey to the point that Jimmy and others in the extended Uso/Reigns/Anoa’i family will come out (such as Naomi, Rikishi, and possibly a few others, health and safety permitting) to really hammer the ‘family ties’ story home.
All in all, this will probably be the most story-driven match, so expect lots of down time, camera cuts, close-ups, and trash-talking. It won’t be the best HIAC match, but it’ll be unique, and this time that’s a very good thing.
Winner and STILL WWE Universal Champion: Roman Reigns
Lance: I felt like this match has a really good build and the match that took place was a lot better than people thought it might be. Both Uso and Reigns can go and they definitely proved it with their last time out. Now, that was last month, and this is the current day. I don’t think anyone in the wrestling world actually thinks Jey Uso is going to win The Universal title. If you do, I have a timeshare to sell you. Reigns has been on fire since returning and his heel turn has been refreshing to see, and has added depth to his character. Also, the dude is going to be super over when they eventually turn him babyface again.
There have been rumors of The Usos actually joining forces with Reigns to create a Samoan Dynasty type stable, but until it actually happens, I will take that with a grain of salt. This is going to be a physical match that goes back and forth like the previous outing, and I could see Jimmy being involved in the finish as well. They are pushing Reigns as an unstoppable monster and if he comes out here and lays down the ass whopping for the second straight month, it’ll go a long way to build up Reigns as a monster heel. That will most likely be the outcome of the match, but if they are thinking of starting to plant the roots for that faction, this would be the time to do it. I don’t think he will win by making Jey say “I Quit”, I think he will beat him down until he can’t take it.
Winner and STILL Universal Champion: Roman Reigns
John: This is the most predictable match on the show, but it doesn’t mean it is lacking interest. I think in terms of booking a match, I’m most intrigued by how they do this. I’m not really worried about it. I’m just curious how they will do it and I have faith that they’re going to execute it well.
They have done an excellent job of showing that Jey is a babyface that has shown a lot of heart. Meanwhile, Roman is insisting that cousin Jey say “I Quit” in the match and that Jey should join Reigns, which is going to be the start of the heel stable that I expect Jimmy Uso to be a part of as well when he’s cleared to return in a few months. This should be a dominant performance from Reigns like Clash of Champions was, but I think Jey is going to get enough offense for people to buy into the idea that he has a shot at least for a moment or two. I think Reigns will win, I think Jey will “quit” to avoid being seriously injured during the match and after the match, Jey will accept Roman as his “Tribal Chief” and they’ll start working together.
Winner: Roman Reigns
WWE Championship Hell in a Cell Match: Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Randy Orton
Alex: This is what HIAC should be saved for: the closing of a lengthy feud. There’s nowhere for Orton & McIntyre to go from here. Their rivalry needs the decisive finality that only the Cell can provide. And this time I predict Orton winning.
WWE isn’t pushing anyone else into the title picture right now, leaving Drew stuck with Orton. There is no point of having any additional singles matches between them after this, so I think a title change will happen. Orton will likely take advantage of his greater experience in Cell matches, which will lead to him to answer Drew’s raw power advantage with clever tactics. I predict that Orton will use the cell as a weapon more, will dodge/duck Drew’s attacks, and will generally play the ‘wily veteran’ role to the point that it brings him victory. But it won’t be an easy victory for Orton. He’ll have to beat the living hell out of Drew, to the point that Drew will have to be stretchered out of the arena. At least with that, Drew will look like a valiant hero going down swinging as Orton’s hand gets raised. And from there, Orton can move into his money feud with Edge, which will culminate in another Goldberg-like dream return at WrestleMania.
Winner and NEW WWE Champion: Randy Orton
Lance: I predicted a Randy Orton title victory last month and I was wrong. I really felt like the right time to switch the title, if you were going too, would have been then and this feud would have been laid to rest. We are back here again, and while I think there is a shot that McIntyre retains, I got to say my gut is with Randy Orton again. That would be too easy though. I have been singing McIntyre’s praises since he won the title at WrestleMania, and I still think he has money written all over him. You don’t get put in the type of matches he has been in without someone in the company thinking you are a top guy. This is a classic heart vs. Head pick. I would love to see McIntyre win the match and continue his reign into an era where people will be back in the buildings. My head thinks that they wouldn’t have Orton do the job as many times as he has for McIntyre, though. Orton has been overperforming as of late and I wouldn’t hate the fact that he would get another run with the title before the back end of his career kicks in. The match has the potential to go a little longer and I think these two will beat the hell out of each other. Orton is a master of these types of matches and he will probably use that to his advantage. I am going out on a limb and saying that Orton will now recapture the WWE Title, but I don’t think this feud is over. McIntyre will be back to the top of the mountain soon enough though. It won’t be long until he is a multiple-time champion.
Winner and NEW WWE Champion: Randy Orton
John: I picked Randy Orton to win at SummerSlam. Wrong. I picked Randy Orton to win at Clash of Champions. Wrong again. Am I picking Randy Orton again? Yeah, I think so. I don’t like being wrong, but it makes me want to ask a question like why would they do this match for the third time in three months just to have Orton lose again? If the feud was over then it would have ended at Clash of Champions and Drew would be facing somebody else right now.
I think that the reason this match is happening again is because WWE wants to put that title on Randy Orton although even if Orton were to lose, he’d be fine because he’s a long-term main event star. If McIntyre retained, he could wrestle AJ Styles for a few PPVs and have some great matches while Drew continues his reign and I certainly wouldn’t mind that. It just seems like the right time for a title change. I really like Drew as the champion and I’m not picking Orton to win because of Drew. It’s just based on the booking.
This should be an awesome match that gets a lot of time and I think they’ll go back to Drew selling the jaw injury to set up for the finish with Orton winning with The Punt after about 25 minutes. I expect them to use a lot of weapons, moreso than the other matches on the show, and get a lot of time to tell a good story.
Winner AND NEW WWE Champion: Randy Orton
The Match I’m Looking Forward To The Most
Alex: Reigns vs. Uso. I never thought I’d ever be more excited for a Reigns match than anything else on a card. Then again, my saying so is less praise for the Reigns/Uso match and more an indictment of the overall quality of the card itself.
Lance: Orton vs. McIntyre.
John: Sasha Banks vs. Bayley. It’s fresh and I know they’ve delivered amazing matches in the past. The other two HIAC matches are great too.
The Match I Care About The Least
Alex: Hardy vs. Elias. This match is centered on Elias being stupid. Why would anyone care about it?
Lance: Otis vs. The Miz.
John: Jeff Hardy vs. Elias although I don’t care much about Otis vs. The Miz either. At least I’m mildly intrigued by how Otis/Miz is booked at least.
Alex: Reigns vs. Uso. They’re going to drag this out as much as possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes beyond thirty-five or forty minutes. After all, it’s a five-match show.
Lance: Sasha Banks vs. Bayley.
John: I can see McIntyre vs. Orton going over 25 minutes while the other two HIAC matches might be under 20 minutes.
Alex: Hardy vs. Elias, unless something random gets added on at the last minute to surprise the audience.
Lance: Jeff Hardy vs. Elias.
John: I’ll go with Miz vs. Otis under ten minutes because Otis shouldn’t be in long matches selling for a guy like Miz. If they add a Lars Sullivan match or something like that then that will be the shortest.
Excitement Level on a Scale of 1-10 (1 being low, 10 being high)
Alex: 4.5 – It’s difficult to care about a show like this when there are so few matches. Where are all the stars that WWE have hyped up so much in the past two months like Keith Lee, Retribution, Seth Rollins, The Mysterios, The Fiend, Braun Strowman Kevin Owens and so many other top stars? Even adding two of those aforementioned names in throwaway matches would make this show more enticing to watch. Instead, we get three Cell matches, a crappy lower-midcard gimmick match, and a cheesy story ripping off every law show ever. I just really hope someone in WWE tells Vince /McMahon ‘hey, let’s put more matches on to get more viewers’ before the show airs. Otherwise it has the potential to really disappoint.
Lance: I am going to go with a 6.5 here. There are only 5 matches, so I am sure all of them will be a little longer than we are used to for WWE matches. The show has potential, but we will have to wait and see if it lives up to it.
John: I’ll go with a 7 because I think the three HIAC matches all have the potential to be at the four star level (out of five on the scale that I use) or higher, so when you can have three matches at that level on the card then that’s a very successful event in my opinion. A lot of it depends on the timing of those matches, how the matches are booked and of course the match quality. Just based on the performers, though, I have a lot of confidence in McIntyre/Orton, Reigns/Jey and Banks/Bayley being outstanding matches. I wish the rest of the card had a bit more in terms of interesting matches like the IC or US Title on the line or either set of Tag Team Titles. I still think the show will be good based on the quality of those HIAC matches. I’ll also add in that I think Banks vs. Bayley will go on last.
John: I’ll be back with a review of WWE Hell in a Cell on TJRWrestling.net on Sunday. It will likely not be live, but I will try to get it posted late Sunday night.
If you want to send an email, send it to me at [email protected] as well. Thanks for reading.