John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE Hell in a Cell preview. The WWE Thunderdome setup began last August for SummerSlam and now we have reached the final Thunderdome pay-per-view event. By the time we get to the Money in the Bank pay-per-view in four weeks, the fans will be back at show and things will feel normal again after 15 months of pandemic era shows.
The Hell in a Cell lineup is full of rematches. The three men’s matches (Lashley vs. McIntyre, Cesaro vs. Rollins & Owens vs. Zayn) all took place at WrestleMania while Lashley and McIntyre were in a triple threat match at WrestleMania Backlash where Lashley beat Braun Strowman to protect McIntyre. I don’t think many fans would complain about those matches in terms of match quality because they will be very good to great, but they aren’t fresh. The Smackdown Women’s Title match between Bianca Belair and Bayley is a rematch from WrestleMania Backlash last month. Rhea Ripley faced Charlotte Flair at last year’s WrestleMania while also beating Asuka and Flair at WrestleMania Backlash last month (she beat Asuka to protect Flair). The only fresh “match” is Alexa Bliss facing Shayna Baszler, but Bliss is playing a character that isn’t really about having normal matches, so it’s hard to be that excited about it.
I think if Roman Reigns vs. Rey Mysterio in a Hell in a Cell match was on this card then it would be stronger even though we all knew Rey would lose like he did on Smackdown. I just think Roman’s the best performer in WWE right now, so leaving him off Hell in a Cell will hurt the show. With that said, Roman is a father of five (with two sets of twin sons!), so maybe you can say he has earned the right to have Father’s Day off on Sunday.
Joining me for the preview are Alex Podgorski and Lance Augustine. We wish all the dads out there a Happy Father’s Day on Sunday including Lance. Here are some thoughts from Alex and then we’ll get to the preview.
Alex: Nothing says ‘Happy Father’s Day’ than two pro wrestlers beating the crap out of each other in a cage. If you’re one of the lucky ones out there that has a father that shares your enthusiasm for pro-wrestling, then your Sunday is pretty much taken care of. And for everyone else, it’s an opportunity to indulge in some utter carnage.
While I don’t think that anything on this show will ever top the original HIAC match between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker in 1997, I think there’s potential for some minor greatness here. There are at least three matches that, on paper, look like they could be great matches. But that depends on how they’re executed and, to be honest, that’s a matter on which I have a hard time trusting (modern) WWE.
And yet, I’m giving WWE the benefit of the doubt here and think that they will deliver a solid June PPV here. Why? Because (most of) the matches below look interesting and have the potential to deliver on a day that, historically, has little to nothing to do with pro-wrestling.
(Note: All graphics are from WWE.)
Alexa Bliss vs. Shayna Baszler
Alex: Sadly, I have absolutely zero interest in this feud. Alexa Bliss has been the poster child for the worst of WWE’s creative tendencies for a while now and I don’t feel comfortable writing anything that would suggest supporting her in any way. Baszler came to WWE as this dangerous monster with legitimate fighting experience, and now she finds herself selling bad horror shtick to a woman that thinks she’s Carrie. WWE has very much reached their nadir in terms of creative direction, but no one has the guts to say that this stuff is hot garbage.
In terms of predictions, this will be your bathroom break match unless you’re the type that’s into hokey nonsense. There won’t be much in the way of action or excitement. Instead, Bliss will do her typical ‘supernatural horror’ stuff while Baszler runs around scared. This contest won’t go more than fifteen minutes from entrances to end, but will definitely feature a ton of shenanigans and stalling. All in all, expect a lot of stupidity here, so I recommend you watch this match with something potent to dull your senses.
Winner: Alexa Bliss
Lance: I am going to say something that won’t shock a lot of people, but, this feud sucks. I don’t mind the Alexa Bliss character on paper. It sounds spooky and cool and is a lot like The Fiend. The execution has been pretty terrible, and the segment these two had on Raw a couple of weeks ago might go down as one of the worst I can remember seeing. Shayna has been a beast throughout her run, and putting her in stuff like this is… Interesting. Either way, Bliss’ last match came against Randy Orton, which she “won” by the way, so I can’t see her losing here. What do I know, though?
Winner: Alexa Bliss
John: My interest level in this match and storyline is extremely low. I really like Alexa Bliss as a performer especially during her initial heel run on Raw and Smackdown. As a face she was generic for the most part, but she was likable. In this role as the creepy character with the evil doll named Lilly, it makes me want to turn off the show because of how cheesy it is. I understand WWE likes characters with “superpowers” (if you want to call it that) going back to The Undertaker and Kane, then The Fiend and now Bliss has those powers. I just think it’s a lot harder to make those gimmicks work in 2021. Bliss wrestled close to a normal match against Nia Jax on Raw, so maybe that’s what we get here. I feel bad for Shayna Baszler being in this storyline. It is not accentuating her strengths as a badass fighter, but Shayna is doing the best she can. Baszler will probably get a lot of offense, then Bliss will do some kind of pyro distraction and I think Bliss gets the win from there. Keep it under ten minutes.
Winner: Alexa Bliss
Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn
Alex: Anytime you have Owens and Zayn going at it, you’re virtually guaranteed to have a great match. This is a pair of wrestlers that have been fighting each other on and off for over a decade. They have great chemistry together. They have history behind them. They know each other inside and out. Whether with a stipulation or without one, they will bring out the best in each other.
I predict they will go just under twenty minutes and will hit each other with everything they got. They will hit each other with lots of high-impact moves and will kick out of each other’s finishers at least once. Then, at the very end, I think Zayn will do something screwy to land a narrow Dusty finish to get the win. That way, they can extend this feud further and have more rematches. It’s incredibly rare for WWE to have a rivalry that can keep going and keep getting revisited without it ever getting overtly boring. But that’s exactly what they have in Owens vs. Zayn. As such, I see no reason why they shouldn’t continue this feud ad infinitum.
Winner: Sami Zayn
Lance: This was a last-minute addition to the card after it was announced on Smackdown. I have always been a fan of both of these guys and won’t complain when they have a match. This will be solid, but it feels like it has 50/50 booking written all over it. I don’t know what is in the plans for either of these guys coming up, but they are both great talents that should be booked as such. Zayn comes out on top.
Winner: Sami Zayn
John: This would be a good choice for an opening match with my fellow Canadians putting on an awesome match as usual. I don’t know if this was originally going to be on the card or if they added it after Reigns/Mysterio was moved to Smackdown. They’ve been allies at times, but for most of their careers in WWE going back to NXT six years ago, they have been rivals and they have switched roles too. Their WrestleMania match went just over nine minutes, which left me disappointed, so I’m hoping they get more time here.
I feel like both guys could use a win since Owens lost his feud to Roman Reigns, then lost his feud to Apollo Crews and now he gets to face Zayn again. In Zayn’s case, it seems like all he does is lose, so I can see why my friends above picked Zayn to win. I’ll go with Owens for the win since he has been dealing with cheap attacks for weeks and I think this will be his chance for payback. I think they’ll get around 15 minutes and have one of the best matches of the night.
Winner: Kevin Owens
Raw Women’s Championship: Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair
Alex: I’ll keep this short and sweet: I don’t like Charlotte and don’t think she will win. Her last name alone doesn’t justify cutting Ripley’s legs from underneath her. There’s much more payoff to be found in Ripley having a long and successful first reign than there is having Charlotte have a mediocre and otherwise uneventful 435th reign as champion. But WWE wants to keep shoe-horning Charlotte into the title scene, even though she’s long past her expiration date in my opinion.
This match will likely go around fifteen minutes with Charlotte taking as many cheap shots and easy paths as she can. It’ll be a match centered on experience (Charlotte) vs. raw determination (Ripley), and I think the latter will come out on top. Because at least with Ripley as champion WWE has the novelty card working in their favor. They won’t get that with Charlotte as Women’s Champion, and I think WWE’s desperation to get some kind of stronger ratings and interest will trump their desire to pull as many records as they can out of Charlotte.
Winner and STILL RAW Women’s Champion: Rhea Ripley
Lance: These two will be feuding for the next couple of years, at least, if things go the way they should. Rhea Ripley is a star that really separates herself from the other women on the roster. She is tall, athletic, and can go in the ring. I thought her standout moment was facing Charlotte and Io Shirai in a Triple Threat match in NXT last summer. Charlotte took some time off after that, but she is a star that never goes away. She was sorely missed while she was gone and she is starting to gain back some momentum.
This match will be a battle with a lot of nearfalls and false finishes. This match, for me, is the hardest one to pick. I can see both sides of the coin, but I want to say they have Rhea Ripley retain, and then these two go at it again at Summerslam in front of a sold-out crowd. Would it shock me if Flair won the title back? No, but for this, I will go with my gut.
Winner and STILL Raw Women’s Champion: Rhea Ripley
John: It is interesting to see Charlotte Flair in this role as the veteran heel wrestler that is being used to put over the younger talent, but here she is. The reason I say it’s interesting is because Charlotte has only been on Raw/Smackdown for about six years now and that’s not that long. I still think Charlotte will be pushed to a certain degree, but she’s not as much of the centerpiece of the division as she was a few years ago. Clearly, Ripley is a woman they are going to keep pushing for years to come. Maybe people will be sick of her in five years like some fans are sick of Charlotte? I don’t know, but at 24 years old, Ripley is going to be a major factor going forward.
It’s very rare for Charlotte Flair to lose clean, so I don’t know what the result is going to be here. I think Ripley should win, but I’ll be very surprised if she beats Charlotte in the clean manner she has beaten Asuka repeatedly. Maybe Ripley wins with something like an inside cradle to counter a Figure Four attempt. It could be a DQ finish too. I just think Ripley should hold onto the title and I can see there being a rematch with a stipulation at the Money in the Bank PPV in July. They should have a pretty good match here.
Winner: Rhea Ripley
Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins
Alex: Even with the most minimal of storylines, these two wrestlers have the potential to steal the show. Cesaro is downright awesome and I have yet to see a compelling argument that would suggest otherwise. And Rollins is one of WWE’s best in-ring workers, regardless of whatever role he plays. So when you have those two elements together, you’re likely to get a match that very well might steal the show.
Their last big singles match together (at WrestleMania) was only eleven minutes long but was still great for that amount of time. If they get more than that here, but with the same amount of freedom, they might put on a MOTYC. I really hope that happens because both men (but especially Cesaro) are too good to be stuck on the treadmill forever.
Lance: This is a Wrestlemania rematch that got added to the card on Smackdown. These two know each other well and are both great workers, so putting them together on short notice won’t be a big deal. With Cesaro picking up the big win at Wrestlemania, I am assuming Rollins wins here, and these two face off throughout the rest of the summer.
Winner: Seth Rollins
John: They are two of my favorite guys in WWE, so I’m glad that the match was officially announced. I don’t know why it took so long to make it official, but WWE is slow like that sometimes. I thought they had one of the best matches at WrestleMania and it was just under 12 minutes, so it left me wanting more. Now we get that more because they should have plenty of time to have a classic match on this show.
There’s a long storyline here going back several months, then Cesaro got the win at WrestleMania and Rollins did the cheap attack a few weeks ago leading to The Stomp on the steel ramp. Cesaro could sell some injuries from that attack, so I would expect Rollins to be in control for most of the match. These guys are really good at not just hitting their big moves, but doing believable counters that make sense. They are also close friends and I’m sure it meant a lot to Seth to put over Cesaro at WrestleMania. That win by Cesaro was followed by a loss against Roman Reigns, so I think it’s time for Cesaro to win again. If Seth wins there’s no problem with that. Maybe they want to get him a win since he might feud with Edge at SummerSlam because if Edge is back as a face on Smackdown then that makes sense. I just hope Cesaro doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. Maybe Cesaro will be the guy to get the Intercontinental Title from Apollo Crews or even wins Money in the Bank next month. Either of those things would be cool with me. Anyway, I’m going with Cesaro in a match that goes somewhere between 15-20 minutes.
Hell in a Cell Match for the Smackdown Women’s Championship: Bianca Belair (c) vs. Bayley
Alex: This has the potential to be a terrific match because it plays to Bianca Belair’s strengths. There’s something oddly satisfying in seeing one wrestler manhandle their opponent and smash them into stationary objects like the Cell. And while Belair is far from being the best women’s grappler in the world, she’s very good at out-powering her opponents and throwing them around like ragdolls.
To be honest, I couldn’t possibly care less about the storyline justification for this match. All that matters is that Belair – a power-based wrestler – will find herself in an environment that plays to her advantage. No matter what shenanigans and nonsense Bayley might have up her sleeve, they will not help her in this setting. Belair will absolutely mangle Bayley and continue her reign as SmackDown women’s champion. Because WWE has put a lot of time, money, and effort into making Belair into a believable new champion. It makes absolutely zero sense for Bayley to win here after losing last month. As a result, this match is less about whether Bayley can win and more about how much utter carnage Belair can wreak on her opponent.
Winner and STILL SmackDown Women’s Champion: Bianca Belair
Lance: What they are doing with the Bayley character is still a little lost on me, but she is at least making it entertaining. She was the Smackdown Women’s Champion for a lengthy amount of time so having her challenge for it here makes sense. I think Bianca Belair is money and was excited to see her get her moment at WrestleMania. I feel like some of the steam she had going after the win is kind of wearing off, but I think she is strong enough to bounce back. I look for a lot of back-and-forth action in this one with a veteran like Bayley pushing Bianca to her limit.
On Smackdown, it was announced that this match will now be a Hell in a Cell match. With that being added, I do think this match will get the time it needs to stand out. I think Bianca comes out on top, but it will be a strong showing for both.
Winner and STILL Smackdown Women’s Champion: Bianca Belair
John: When this match was announced it didn’t surprise me because the Smackdown women’s roster is very thin right now. Belair feuded with Bayley before WrestleMania, then Belair beat Sasha Banks at WrestleMania, we haven’t seen Banks since that match and now we have the second straight PPV with Belair facing Bayley again. The only reason there’s a rematch is because Bayley claimed Belair cheated by using Bianca’s hair to tie up Bayley’s legs during the pin attempt. They could have been more creative with that finish to necessitate a rematch. I also think that it’s fair to assume this would have been a regular match if Reigns/Mysterio was on the card, but when that was moved to Smackdown, it made sense to turn this into a Hell in a Cell match.
If Belair doesn’t win this match I’ll be very surprised. I think it’s the most obvious result on the show. I can see WWE wanting to save the Belair/Banks rematch for the stadium show at SummerSlam, so that’s probably why Banks has been off TV to keep that fresh. Bayley is a very talented heel wrestler that will work her ass off to make Belair look good. I think it will be cool to see some of the power moves that Belair does inside Hell in a Cell with weapons involved. Belair keeps getting better every time I see in a ring. This will be a test for her, but I think she’s impressed every time she’s been tested. This is another match that I can see going in the 15-20 minute range. Belair wins clean to put an end to this feud.
Winner: Bianca Belair
WWE Championship Hell in a Cell Match: Bobby Lashley (c) (w/MVP) vs. Drew McIntyre
(Note: If McIntyre loses then he can’t challenge for the WWE Title as long as Lashley is champion.)
Alex: While I respect WWE’s attempt at making this into a big deal, I just can’t buy McIntyre as WWE Champion anymore. He lost two world title matches in a row already; he was shoehorned into this match with the most paper-thin reasoning imaginable and in my opinion, that doesn’t justify this match. I sincerely hope that McIntyre loses this match and follows Cody Rhodes’s example and doesn’t challenge for the world title again. Because, if he wins, what story does that tell? That you can keep getting opportunities because you look the part even though you’re not technically deserving of said opportunities? That sends the wrong message, and I hope WWE doesn’t pull the typical ‘swerve’ card and make McIntyre champion just because it “would be unexpected”.
Match-wise, this will probably the most violent, brutal and carnage-filled match on the card. McIntyre and Lashley will probably have the main event spot and will thus be expected to end the show with something grandiose. I think they’ll make the most out of the HIAC stipulation and will fight around the ring, outside it, and possibly on top of it. I wouldn’t put it past them to have either McIntyre land a Future Shock DDT or Lashley hit a Dominator on the roof of the cell for brutality’s sake. Both men will definitely go to such lengths to win, especially since this is their third consecutive match together since April.
Winner and STILL WWE Champion: Bobby Lashley
Lance: Lashley has finally gotten his run at the top of the WWE, and he hasn’t disappointing. Believe it or not, I believe Lashley might be at the peak of his career coming up on 50. He looks great and has been having solid matches on the regular. His feud with McIntyre has been refreshing and both men have worked well together. I do think with the stipulation, Drew is likely to lose, but it still should be a good one. I think they will keep the title on Lashley until Summerslam and put him in there with a high-profile guy like Lesnar. It would be the match everyone has been interested to see for quite some time. I guess the only question coming out of this is where does Drew go from here? I guess he could get drafted to Smackdown and start to get some fresh matchups there. I don’t think he is done at the top, but right now is Lashley’s time.
Winner and STILL WWE Champion: Bobby Lashley
John: The whole point of a Hell in a Cell match, in theory, is to end a long-term feud. That’s what we have here since these guys have been feuding since before WrestleMania and it’s the third straight PPV with the two of them in the same match. The added stipulation that McIntyre can’t get another title shot at Lashley if he loses makes it a bit more intriguing also. These guys work really well together with a nice mix of power moves and also plenty of explosiveness from two bigger guys that move around the ring very well.
I know people might be sick of Drew McIntyre in the WWE Title picture since he’s been a part of it since last year’s WrestleMania, so we’re going on about 15 months now. I don’t complain about it too much because he has really good matches with everybody. I feel like if Drew puts over Bobby again then they have Kofi Kingston waiting in the wings since MVP has had segments where he’s trying to get under Kofi’s skin, so I think that’s the title feud. As for who Drew feuds with after this, they could always put him in Money in the Bank and then when it’s draft time after SummerSlam, they could move him to Smackdown. Maybe Drew will have a rivalry with old friend Jinder Mahal, which has been rumored for a while. Anyway, there will be plenty of options I’m sure.
My pick was going to be Lashley weeks ago and the fact that he got pinned clean by McIntyre in a tag team match on Raw last week makes me even more confident in that prediction. That can lead to Bobby feuding with Kofi Kingston as mentioned and who knows whenever Brock Lesnar returns to give Bobby that match he’s wanted for a long time.
They could be the main event of this show, but since it’s likely going to be a heel win, maybe the Bianca Belair match goes on last. Either way, I expect Bobby and Drew to have one of the best matches of the night. Look for plenty of weapons to be used. In the end, I see Lashley finding a way to retain the WWE Title to put an end to this rivalry.
Winner: Bobby Lashley
The Match I’m Looking Forward To The Most
Alex: Owens vs. Zayn or Cesaro vs. Rollins. Even though this is a themed PPV, I’m more interested in the non-Cell matches because, a) I’m a purist; and b) I don’t think anything WWE does in today’s Cell matches will come even remotely close to the stuff from the past.
Lance: Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley.
John: Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins.
The Match I Care About The Least
Alex: Bliss vs. Baszler. This is hot garbage. Bliss might win the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Worst Gimmick award for this utter wretch of a character she’s forced to play. This will be fifteen minutes of terrible ‘House of Horrors’-inspired garbage that will deserve all the hostility it’ll eventually get.
Lance: Alexa Bliss vs. Shayna Baszler.
John: Easily Bliss vs. Baszler. I have very little interest in this.
Alex: Lashley vs. McIntyre. Roman Reigns isn’t on the show, so of course the closest two wrestlers to him will get the most time. Also, they’re having a HIAC match. I expect this’ll go between twenty-five and thirty minutes.
Lance: Lashley vs. McIntyre.
John: I think Lashley vs. McIntyre will be in the 25-minute range, so that’s my pick.
Alex: Bliss vs. Baszler. I said it would be fifteen minutes long, but that’s being generous. I pray it doesn’t go that long.
Lance: Bliss vs. Baszler.
John: I assume the Bliss vs. Baszler “match” is under ten minutes with gimmicky stuff mixed in. Everything else should get more than ten minutes.
Excitement Level on a Scale of 1-10 (1 being low, 10 being high)
Alex: 6.5 – That excitement level is based on how these matches look on paper. The sad truth is that WWE has no reason or impetus to give their wrestlers the freedom they need to pull off genuinely historic matches. The matches on this card will likely be good (except for one), but none of them will be genuinely memorable in any way. So what we will have is a solid show but it won’t feature anything earth-shattering. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the end, John Canton reviewed this PPV and gave it a rating between 7 and 7.75. Because very little that WWE does these days is worth any more than that.
Lance: With WWE taking Reigns vs. Mysterio off the show, I am going with a 6. It would be a tad higher because I love the Reigns character, but this show on paper falls flat for me. The matches have the potential to be good, but the booking is all over the place.
John: I’ll go with a 7 out of 10 for this. I think WWE could have done a better job of building up this show. The match quality should be fine with a bunch of three to four star level matches. However, there are no Tag Team Title matches on the show, no secondary men’s titles on the show and there are a lack of truly hot feuds. Maybe WWE is saving bigger angles for when the fans are back in four weeks. I fully expect Money in the Bank and SummerSlam to be among the best shows of the year, so you could say WWE is just going through the motions for this PPV. In addition to that, the rumored WWE draft is apparently happening a week after SummerSlam, so things will be freshened up in a few months. I still think the talent is going to get a chance to shine since there are six matches that might go 2.5 hours or maybe three hours, which means the five regular matches are all probably getting at least 10 minutes and some of them might go over 20 minutes. There’s enough talent on the show to carry Hell in a Cell to becoming an entertaining wrestling show. I just think the creative team could have done a lot better to make us care more about Hell in a Cell.
John: I’ll be back with a review of WWE Hell in a Cell on TJRWrestling.net on Sunday night. It will be live most likely, so check that out during the show or after it’s over.
If you want to send an email, send it to me at [email protected] as well. Thanks for reading.