After Monday Night RAW had it last year, this year SmackDown Live takes Hell in a Cell. It didn’t take long in the brand’s build-up to the show to figure out that SmackDown is handling and building toward the spectacle in a much better way than its red counterpart.
Ever since Hell in a Cell became its own PPV event – in the same vein as the Royal Rumble and Survivor Series, and to a smaller extent, Money in the Bank and the like – its biggest problem had always been the company forcing the match on stories that almost never deserved the carnage inside the devil’s playground. They would always try, but they could just never muster up the drama, simply because the company never had a penchant for long-term writing and planning.
That all changed when SmackDown took the helm, and it’s undeniable that both its planned Hell in a Cell matches deserve to be inside the unforgiving construct. Both the New Day/Usos and the Kevin Owens/Shane McMahon feuds have been written and built up masterfully, the drama ramped up properly that for the first time in a long time, there was no choice but to have these matches inside the Cell. Of course, two Hell in a Cells is still one too many, but they’ve earned it.
It’s not a perfect card on paper, but it’s a better sell that benefits from SmackDown’s thoughtful writing. Let’s check it out:
Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin vs The Hype Bros in a kickoff tag team match
One persistent problem SmackDown’s got is that its two-hour program leaves very little time for its midcard storylines to advance, like the apparent disintegration of the Hype Bros. In a crowded tag team division that also sees the popular Breezango fight for Fashion Files airtime, the Ascension, and possibly a reunited Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, I’m glad they’ve still found time to shine the spotlight on the Hype Bros’ internal issues. There’s no way to go here but to have Gable and Benjamin win – or have Mojo Rawley turn heel along with Zack Ryder.
Winner: Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin
Randy Orton vs Rusev
What began as an afterthought on SummerSlam turned into a salvaged program, even if it took a little while to get going – and it’s another storyline that proves SmackDown is the land of opportunity. Rusev and Orton seemed dead in the water after Orton’s quick SummerSlam win, but after having Rusev turn it around on the Viper, I can safely say that this is a low-key must-watch feud. Going by the way Orton’s been making side character Aiden English look good in this feud, I think Rusev might take this one. It’ll open them up for a match at Survivor Series, for sure.
Bobby Roode vs Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler’s mockery of other superstars’ entrances, which started a few weeks ago when he was officially “reintroduced” to the SmackDown audience (props to them, by the way, for being upfront with it as an introduction because Ziggler had been away from SmackDown for some time), was really only going to lead to one thing. Feuding with Bobby Roode continues the narrative Ziggler left off when he was the welcoming committee for Shinsuke Nakamura, but at this point, I need SmackDown to give Roode a little struggle. Ziggler should take this one here, so he can lose on a bigger stage.
Winner: Dolph Ziggler
Baron Corbin vs AJ Styles (c) for the United States Championship
The storyline surrounding the US Championship is yet another thing SmackDown has managed to handle well, especially when there’s a third-wheel player in Tye Dillinger who has to sit on the sidelines. WWE as a whole, even RAW at times, has gotten better in highlighting supporting players even when they don’t figure in the bigger plans, and it’s made this feud interesting. I don’t mind who wins this match, but I think it may be Corbin’s time, so that Dillinger could have a bigger role.
Winner: Baron Corbin (new United States champion)
Charlotte Flair vs Natalya (c) for the SmackDown Women’s Championship
Natalya isn’t a horrible champion by any means, but we all know that Flair was drafted to SmackDown in order to win the title. It’s honestly weird to see her not be champion, in fact. It’s time, and then we move on to a Carmella cash-in attempt that may or may not work. If it does, then it would involve 3 women in the story, which is always better than two.
Winner: Charlotte Flair (new SmackDown Women’s Champion), but Carmella cashes in Money in the Bank to win
The Usos vs The New Day (c) in a Hell in a Cell match for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship
As much as the New Day are great and dominant, I really believe that this story needs to benefit the Usos. It’d be the final step in finally washing away the taste of their face-paint babyface run, and the tag team division is heavily skewed toward babyfaces. If it’s time to end this and give other teams the spotlight moving forward, it has to be the Usos’ match to win.
Winner: The USos (new SmackDown Tag Team Champions)
Shinsuke Nakamura vs Jinder Mahal (with the Singh Brothers) (c) for the WWE Championship
As much as I’d like to believe that this would be a good match, history has proven that it’s entirely possible for them to mess this up just for the sake of Mahal getting even more heel heat. The racist rhetoric the Modern-Day Maharajah sent the King of Strong Style’s way should ensure a Nakamura win, finally, but it’s also tough to call – especially because WWE’s India tour is still coming up, and there’s really no better way to draw the Indian audience but to have their boy come in as champ. I just hope this is better, but I’m still leaving those hopes at the door.
Winner: Jinder Mahal
Kevin Owens vs Shane McMahon in a Falls Count Anywhere Hell in a Cell match
I said it at the beginning of this review and let me say it again: the way this story was told since SummerSlam was so, so good. All the tiny details added up to a Hell in a Cell match that makes sense. Making the match Falls Count Anywhere just feeds the expectations that Shane McMahon is going to try something crazy again, as he always does, but I seriously think Sami Zayn will play a role in this match’s finish. Otherwise, there’s no way Owens is losing here.
Winner: Kevin Owens
Let’s talk about your predictions for the show in the comments!
Do you listen to podcasts? Would you want to listen to a local podcast about pro wrestling? If the answers to those questions – especially that last one – are yes, then you should check out the cleverly-named Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast, featuring PWR General Manager Stan Sy, wrestling writer and Wrestling God Romeo Moran, and all-around multimedia person and former voice of PWR Raf Camus! This week, former PWR champion Billy Suede hangs out with the boys before he leaves the Philippines for a little while! Listen to it here!