John: World Wrestling Entertainment's annual October extravaganza known as Hell in a Cell takes place this Sunday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. It's a standard three hour WWE pay-per-view event that has eight advertised matches and all five championships on WWE's main roster are on the line. I left that sentence in from last month's Night of Champions preview because even though the show has a different name, it has the same format in that sense.
There are two Hell in a Cell matches on the show, neither of which is for a title. Roman Reigns will battle Bray Wyatt in what could be the end of their latest rivalry while Brock Lesnar takes on The Undertaker for the last time (or so they say) to settle that issue once and for all. The Lesnar/Undertaker match is the expected main event.
Several notable names are without matches on this show: Dean Ambrose, Sheamus, Braun Strowman, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, Big Show, Stardust and main roster newcomer Tyler Breeze among others. Perhaps one of them could answer John Cena's Open Challenge for the US Title. We'll offer our thoughts on the possibilities.
Joining me for the preview are Heather Hickey and Matty J. Douglas. Christian Michael couldn't make it this month. As always, the match order isn't the order that we necessarily think will happen on the show. It's just a format to use for this preview.
(Note: All graphics are from WWE.com. The banner is courtesy of our friend Steve Melo. Go visit his website prowrestlinglinks.com for convenient links to all kinds of different wrestling related websites.)
Heather: All three babyfaces in this match have been/would be great contenders for the U.S. title later in the evening. There are many precedents for Kickoff participants appearing later in a PPV, but this would diminish the element of surprise for Cena’s Open Challenge - so I’m guessing none of them will reappear. I do like this group of six anyways: the hard-hitters versus the high-flying, top-selling, counter-attacking geniuses. It’s a strong kick-off match that actually gives me a bit of an old-school Shield/Wyatts vibe. In this case, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Winners: Ziggler/Cesaro/Neville. The good guys getting the duke is a common pre-show decision.
Matt: These six put on a great, albeit impromptu match on Raw. I guess I’m just wondering why I have to see it again? There’s only so much a good match can do for me. Eventually I need good storytelling too. This six man just wreaks of “we don’t really have a good story to tell with any of these guys” which in and of itself is disappointing. I like the idea of Barrett (minus the crown) and Sheamus (minus the briefcase) as a tag team. I liked the idea of Rusev not getting married until he won a title. The three babyfaces are all spectacularly gifted workers that deserve to be doing more than this. Oh well.
Winners: Ziggler/Cesaro/Neville (because the heels won on Raw. Even Steven booking my friends)
John: This is a rematch of a really good match that took place on Raw. There isn't that much of a story going into it - the match is just there to take 10-15 minutes with six wrestlers that are all above average. I liked what they did on Raw, so it should be fun to see again. Since the heels won that time, I think the faces get the win this time. Let's go with Neville pinning Barrett just because that's already happened many times before. Why not one more time?
Winners: Ziggler, Cesaro & Neville
Heather: As much as I adore listening to Kevin Owens’ running commentary while beating up Ryback, I’d like for this to be the last match between them. Alas, I’m afraid WWE will keep them in a holding pattern to avoid doing anything else. If they employ a tried-and-true match formula as they did at Night of Champions, then it will be okay. I prefer seeing Owens against more nimble opponents, but this isn’t his night to shine. I wonder if this might end up with a Team Ryback vs. Team Owens match at Survivor Series.
Winner: Kevin Owens
Matt: I haven’t much been interested in this feud, mostly because I don’t really like Ryback. This match for me is just a formality. Once Owens wins he’ll move on to hopefully some better feuds with better opponents.
Winner and Still Intercontinental Champion: Kevin Owens (because Ryback’s reign was entirely uneventful)
John: Champions rarely win back titles that they lost one month ago although John Cena did it last month. That's more of an exception than anything. I don't expect Ryback to win the title back, nor should he. When Owens beat him at Night of Champions it was partly due to an eye rake followed by a rollup. I think Owens should win clean with a Popup Powerbomb in this match as a way to really put him over as a credible IC Champion. This is the easiest prediction on the show.
Winner: Kevin Owens
Heather: “THESE ARE OUR HORNS!”
Nothing else matters, really. Because right now in WWE, everything is else is booty.
Winners: The New Day
Matt: This is a tough match to predict. I could see them moving the titles to The Dudleyz in order to prolong this rivalry, but I could also see them wanting to move The New Day onto fresh challengers. The Dudleyz getting their 10th WWE Tag Team Championship reign will be a cool moment when it happens, and I can see the WWE wanting to hot shot that moment to create some buzz. I could also see them prolonging that particular story and making us wait to see the Dudleyz get that monumental 10th reign.
Either way, The New Day isn’t hurt by this. They’ve been spectacular for months and are currently the best thing in the WWE. It’s not because of the Tag Titles, it’s because they’re great. They can plug into any story and get the best out of it. The outcome of this match in the grand scheme of things is inconsequential. I’m very much expecting to see New Day in a classic Tag Team TLC come December with the Dudleyz and one or two other teams (The Usos almost certainly). Going in as champions or challengers makes no difference.
Winners and STILL Tag Team Champions: NEW DAY! (because I have to ride with the best act in the WWE!)
John: They have already had two televised title matches (Night of Champions and MSG Special) that ended the same way with Xavier Woods interfering for the disqualification. Will they do that again? Probably not. I was hoping this match would have some sort of stipulation because if you run the same finish two times in a row and then do the match again, normally that would lead to a change in the third change. Nope. The booking in WWE is so lazy these days.
A win for the Dudleys would make a great comeback story for them, but I don't think it should happen. The New Day are arguably the best thing going on WWE TV right now, so I think it would be a mistake to take the titles off them. They are cocky heels that are more annoying as champions. Keep the gold on them. I don't care if the win is cheap. Just put The New Day over. The Dudleys can win the titles at a later date and don't forget about the Usos since Jey should be back from injury very soon. Just don't do the title change yet.
Winners: The New Day
Heather: Charlotte is so very good at what she does. I hate that her title-winning match at Night of Champions was so one-sided in Nikki’s favour, but this could be Charlotte’s opportunity to demonstrate that her win was no fluke. Let’s have Charlotte show off a bit more, like she was able to do on Raw against Brie this week. I know they love to protect Nikki, but that can be accomplished with a little raven-haired interference.
Winner: Nikki via disqualification (Charlotte retains)
Matt: I don’t care very much for this match, as there is no focus on its importance. Nikki seems disinterested in it since she’s been feuding more with Sasha Banks in recent weeks and has said that losing the title wasn’t much of a disappointment since she broke AJ’s record, and Charlotte has been more consumed by her narrative with Paige (side note, Paige totally should have done something with Ric Flair on Monday night. Slap him, flirt with him, something!). Nikki vs. Charlotte as a match almost seems like an afterthought for both ladies, which makes me wonder why I should care?
Winner and Still Champion: Charlotte (because that makes the most sense)
John: I'm so tired of writing about Nikki Bella title matches. I'm glad that this is likely the last one for a while because it's time to get some different people in the picture. They really haven't done much to add to this feud or make things interesting. It's just a rematch for the title that Charlotte won last month. I can't remember any meaningful promos or in-ring moments between them in the last month that would make people more interested in this match. Once again, a reflection of the lazy booking. Blame creative, not the ladies.
Give this ten minutes and a clean submission win for Charlotte. After that, Charlotte moves on to feud with former ally Paige for the title.
Heather: Am I the only one who holds my breath a little bit whenever we come back from commercial to see Ric Flair holding a mic? I’d say he’s like a box of chocolates, but we pretty much always know what we’re going to get: reminiscing and tears. I assumed they’d sent him out for Charlotte again this week, but in fact he was out to vouch for Roman Reigns. The good news is, Flair didn’t cry this time (although we don’t know for sure, as they didn’t pan to him during Reigns’ car crash of a promo). The bad news is, WWE keeps treating Roman Reigns like a Swiss Army Knife, when really he’s just a fantastic Spear.
Reigns’ match at WM 31 showed us that he can hang on his own in a brutal situation, so I say let him and Wyatt GO. This is a cell, and the only reason to use it is to create Holy Sh-t Moments. And I don’t want to see a Holy Sh-t Moment in the other cell match, because it might literally mean someone has sh-t themselves.
Winner: Bray Wyatt. Let him have something. Reigns will be fine.
Matt: This match is almost too easy to predict. This has to be a hug Roman Reigns win priming him for Wrestlemania season. He’s slowly but surely become a very solid on the mic (albeit his instincts there are still pretty bad, i.e. two weeks ago on Raw), and has been getting thrust more and more into the spotlight. This rivalry has had highs and lows, and hopefully it goes out with a bang. You’re only as good as you final act, and hopefully their main event from Raw indicates that they will tear the house down inside the Cell, and Roman will come out looking great. The WWE needs him to look phenomenal by the end of Sunday night.
Where all this leaves Bray Wyatt? I’m not that sure. Would make for a great speculation piece following Hell In A Cell.
Winner: Roman Reigns (because nothing’s ever been so obvious)
John: It's a tough match to call. On the one hand, the easy booking is for Reigns to get the win to end the story that's been going on for over three months. Then I think about the future and I'm not sure who Roman could feud with after this. They could put him against Rollins, but that seems like something they want to do in the new year instead of now. That's why I'm picking Wyatt to win to keep the feud alive.
The idea with HIAC is that nobody can get in or get out, but we've seen many times including last year where people got in the cell. I think Braun Strowman, Erick Rowan and possibly Luke Harper as well may help Wyatt win this match. Next month's PPV is Survivor Series. It makes sense to put the four Wyatt Family members together (assuming Luke Harper is back) against Reigns, Ambrose and two partners in a big match at that show.
For this match, I'll go with Wyatt for the win after 15-20 minutes although I'm not that sure about it.
Winner: Bray Wyatt
Heather: Let’s play process of elimination: I don’t think it will be anyone else already on the card. Not Chris Jericho. Not Tyler Breeze. Not Curtis Axel. No tag team wrestlers. Not Kharma. They haven’t made a huge deal out of it, so I don’t believe it will be a super big surprise. So not The Rock or Daniel Bryan. Is Jack Swagger injured? I hope he’s not injured, but I hope it’s not Swagger. Stardust? That would be a nice title for Cody to hold. But Stardust isn’t going to come out of nowhere to victory after so many others have failed. They haven’t built him up enough. So it has to be someone spectacular enough to either win the title, or make enough impact by appearance alone. If Kurt Angle wasn’t still under contract to TNA, he would be pretty much perfect.
Winner: Kurt Angle. Because now I can’t get the idea out of my head.
Matt: It’s hard to write a preview of an open challenge because there is no real story to review or challenger to help predict the quality of the match. That being said, because Cena is rumoured to be taking time off following this PPV, I could see him dropping the title here and getting written off TV. Here’s a list of possible opponents from worst to best in my opinion:
I’ll go ahead and guess Tyler Breeze is the most likely challenger.
Winner and New United States Champion: Tyler Breeze (because it would be a great way to start his career after never winning a title on NXT)
John: It's a very interesting scenario because I really have no idea who the challenger is. Plus, there's the known information that's out there about how Cena is taking two months off after Hell in a Cell for "personal reasons" that may involve hosting some reality show for Fox. That likely means that whoever is going to answer this challenge will likely beat Cena for the title and perhaps lead to some injury to write Cena out until he returns to television in January.
I'm going with the Daniel Bryan prediction. He has said he's been cleared by his doctors for months and that he's just waiting for WWE to clear him. It's a huge market like Los Angeles where he would get a massive reaction for coming back, so why not here? Plus, you could have Bryan win a close match (maybe with a small package) and put over the fact that he beat Cena when he faced him at SummerSlam 2013 too. Suddenly you build up a rivalry with them even as faces. I don't think Cena will do an injury angle. Maybe on Raw he will, but at Sunday I'm going with Daniel Bryan as the opponent and the new US Champion.
As I said, I really don't know. I just want it to be Bryan because I miss him so much and I believe him when he says he's ready to come back. Plus, WWE could use the star power with Cena going away for two months and Orton injured as well.
Winner and New US Champion: Daniel Bryan
(If Demon Kane loses then Corporate Kane is no longer Director of Operations.)
Heather: I am ashamed to admit that I have no sweet clue whether we’re supposed to be winking at each other because Demon Kane and Corporate Kane are ACTUALLY the same person, or if we know they’re the same person, but Rollins is easily confused, or maybe it’s that Kane doesn’t know what’s happening? But in any case, I hate this stipulation. Shouldn’t it be that if Demon Kane loses, Demon Kane has to retire? I guess it can be whatever they want it to be (AS THEY DO), but one doesn’t follow the other to me. Corporate Kane is the far superior commodity here, and they should be looking for ways to dispense with the Demon. I don’t know what’s going to happen. This feud is booty.
Winner: Seth Rollins
Matt: I talked a bit about this in my latest piece for TJR (check it out here), but the biggest reason this match isn’t good is because it goes against the core of what Seth Rollins as WWE Champion is. He’s a weasel, and undeserving champion placed in that role because of his connections to the boss. His opponents should be unheralded but deserving superstars, whose dreams he despicably squashes making us hate him more and more. We should be clamouring to see him lose the title emotionally.
Unfortunately, nobody feels that way in this match because nobody wants to see Kane as WWE Champion in 2015. We all WANT the dastardly, undeserving, prick heel champion to win. That’s not how we are supposed to feel about this! The story on paper is good, had months of build up and is personal. Sadly, the guy in the role of valiant hero isn’t somebody we want to see be the valiant hero, thus the best crafted story the WWE has had all year is a waste. Also who cares about the stupid stipulation? Why does it even matter? Why is it there at all?
Winner and Still WWE World Heavyweight Champion: Seth Rollins (because that HAS to be the finish or I’m done)
John: This should be a win for Rollins and hopefully the end of the feud. There's really no need to prolong it because it's been pretty bad. They had Kane beat Rollins clean in a Lumberjack Match a few weeks ago. Why? Because they wanted to make you think Kane really is a top contender despite losing many matches in the last couple of years. What it does is hurt the champion and make us care less about the title that is supposed to mean a lot.
I hope Rollins wins and that it's clean. I'm a little concerned that they might have a cheap ending to set up another match with a stipulation. No matter what they do, Rollins as champion seems to be a lock.
It also doesn't seem like the right time for a Sheamus cash-in. They haven't mentioned it much, which could be a sign that it will happen or I'm just over-thinking it.
Winner: Seth Rollins
Heather: Their match at Summerslam wasn’t as painful to behold as I’d expected. Lesnar dished out enough punishment to maintain his reputation, and the Undertaker did not die. However, if you’ll recall, the finish left us wondering: were we supposed to be happy that the Undertaker won, even though unbeknownst to the referee, he’d tapped out first?
Taker’s most recent persona has veered between “befuddled oldster” and “cheap shot hero”. Why are we tarnishing his career with such a phoned-in swan song? Putting this in a cell is not doing anyone any favors, since as I said earlier, the cell has but one purpose, and it’s not “keeping Taker from wandering”.
They’re building to a climax, and how else could it end but for The Undertaker getting vengeance for the broken Streak? Will it be another questionable win? Most importantly, will both men be able to leave that cell on their own two feet? They say it’s the last chapter in their story, so for that reason, I will be watching (through my fingers).
Winner: The Undertaker
Matt: Hopefully the match is good. It likely will be at least solid. That’s the most I can say about this. The story is for the most part uninspiring, the build to this final encounter has been far short of the epic march it should have been, and in reality the goofiness of this bout is hard to ignore. An old man is getting inside a cage to fight a mountain of a man. Their last two encounters were bad (Wrestlemania) and just okay (Summerslam). I have no reason to expect this to be epic, and narratively I have no reason to really care about these guys, since they’ll both be gone for the rest of the year after this match.
I’m sure once the match is underway I’ll be swept up in the gravitas (at least I hope I am). I hope something interesting happens during the course of it. That said, at the end of the day, I’m nether man’s biggest fan, and have incredibly low expectation of this main event. I’m likely in the minority, but I can’t force myself to get excited about something I’m not that excited about.
Winner: Brock Lesnar (because he’s the WWE’s biggest attraction, and Taker beating him here mitigates the accomplishment of the young guy that finally conquers the conqueror)
John: I'm glad that this is their last match because they have done all they could with this rivalry and clearly ran out of things to talk about in the last month. Their only on screen time together in the last two months was a brief staredown on Raw where Lesnar (a babyface known for his toughness) backed away from a fight. Why would you book Lesnar in a situation where he doesn't want to fight? I know he's a prize fighter that wants to fight when he gets paid, but I hated that booking decision.
It's a good thing that the feud ends here because if they dragged it all the way to WrestleMania I definitely would have lost my interest. The SummerSlam match was okay. It was about a three star match out of five and I don't expect this to be a match of the year contender type match. Lesnar's better with smaller opponents he can throw around and then sell for to make them look like they can hang with him. Since The Undertaker has a lot of pride, he'll bust his ass to make it as good as possible. I just don't think he's capable of having a classic match anymore.
I think they'll get 15-20 minutes. Anything more is too much especially for a 50 year old Undertaker who doesn't move around as well as he used to. Yes he's in shape, but he shouldn't be in a match that goes too long. Lesnar should be the winner and it should be clean. It may be a tapout submission just to play off the SummerSlam finish where Undertaker won by submission in a tainted way.
To end the night, have them shake hands, do a manly embrace and have Undertaker walk out first to a big ovation. Then the announcers can put over Lesnar saying he's earned The Undertaker's respect and you can tell Lesnar respects him too. That's the right way to end things.
Winner: Brock Lesnar
John: It's an average show even with two HIAC matches. I don't think we'll get any match of the year contenders and I doubt there will be any major surprises. I'd love to be wrong on those predictions, but I think WWE will play it safe.
Most Sunday nights I end up watching the NFL game live, but I think I'll just have the Panthers/Eagles game in the background and write about Hell in a Cell live instead. Check out the live recap on TJRWrestling.net Sunday night or read all about it after the show is over.
Follow us on Twitter
Heather - @kickyhick
Matt - @MJDP_GSE
John - @johnreport
If you want to send an email, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org as well. Thanks for reading.