Hot on the heels of No Mercy, it is Smackdown Live’s turn to take centre stage with the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view this Sunday, October 8th in Detroit. In the weeks since Summerslam, the card has slowly taken shape with the build picking up pace last week. While the final SD Live before the big event was underwhelming, there are some intriguing match ups that will close out or add fire to storylines. Join us as we take a look at the build to the matches, what should happen, and the final prediction (as any WWE fan knows, these are not always the same thing!)
Kick-off match: Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin v. The Hype Bros
The Build: This match should have significantly more momentum behind it. Shelton Benjamin returned after Summerslam to great excitement and there has been simmering dissent between The Hype Bros over the last few weeks. However, the truth is that teams not in the tag team title picture do not get much of a spotlight and that has been the case here with both teams limited in their TV appearances and a lot of the background to this match taking place through YouTube clips. Both teams are in need of a win under the spotlight (albeit though a pre-show bout).
What Should Happen: Gable & Benjamin should take this one to build momentum and possibly challenge for the tag titles down the line. Defeat for The Hype Bros could lead to them finally imploding and turning on each other, or it could lead to the team turning heel as a duo. Either way, their story needs to progress to avoid fans losing interest.
Prediction: Gable & Benjamin win. The Hype Bros snap and attack them after the match. The tag team division can’t afford to lose a team, especially with The Usos as the only credible heels.
Bobby Roode v. Dolph Ziggler
The Build: We have endured weeks of Dolph whining about entrances and the fans not appreciating in-ring talent. The end game was finally revealed two weeks ago as Bobby Roode, who debuted after Summerslam but then disappeared from our screens for a few weeks, interrupted Ziggler’s Undertaker impersonation to challenge him to a match. The exchanged a few barbs last week with Dolph calling Roode ‘nothing more than an entrance’. The build has not been especially engaging so we will be hoping for a better match.
What Should Happen: Roode should win this one. It is his first main roster PPV match and Ziggler has recently been used to put new arrivals over (Baron Corbin and Tyler Breeze last year and more recently Shinsuke Nakamura). Smackdown needs more top-level guys and giving Roode a push to carry over his momentum from NXT makes more sense than yet another attempted push for the Show Off. Roode should then move on up the card and Dolph should drop the mimic gimmick.
Prediction: Roode to win but I expect this won’t be the end of the rivalry. I would not be surprised (nor impressed for that matter) to see Dolph rip off Roode’s ‘Glorious Entrance’ on the way to the ring, get beat, and then get back in Roode’s face on the next edition of Smackdown.
Randy Orton v. Rusev
The Build: This has had one of the better builds, partly making up for the squash match at Summerslam (‘Big Four’ events should be used to showcase talent and not build an undercard match for a B-level PPV but that’s a rant for another day). Rusev’s wild celebration after getting his honour back with a quick victory was hilarious as was the ‘Rusev Day’ celebration. Neither superstar really has the upper-hand going into the match making it an intriguing encounter.
What Should Happen: Rusev should win this one. Smackdown needs to rebuild after the superstar shake-up and that means having a credible top heel. Rusev and Baron Corbin are most suited to that role but both have been poorly booked in recent months. A PPV win over Randy Orton would be a huge boost for Rusev and add more value to the brand than a predictable ‘out of nowhere’ win for The Viper.
Prediction: Orton to win. I think we will finally see a full-length match between the two and Rusev will look strong but Randy will ultimately go over. After losing out in his feud with Jinder Mahal in the summer, he will be given the win here even if a Rusev victory would make more sense.
Smackdown Women’s Championship: Natalya (c) v. Charlotte
The Build: After returning to action following Ric Flair’s illness, Charlotte won a Fatal Four Way match to earn her title shot. Last week saw the challenger tap out to the Sharpshooter in a tag match. Meanwhile, the wildcard of Miss Money in the Bank Carmella lurks in the background.
What Should Happen: Charlotte should take the title. Smackdown has lacked a strong women’s champion since Alexa Bliss lost at Wrestlemania and then moved to RAW. A short title run for Natalya has served well as a reward for her years in the division but it is time that Charlotte received another push and space at the top of the card gets freed up for Becky Lynch to regain momentum. I don’t think this is the right time for a Money in the Bank cash-in. Carmella is playing the role well but here time should come later.
Prediction: Charlotte to win but lose moments later in a cash-in. I know I said it isn’t the right time but when has that stopped WWE? The fact that the possibility of her exercising her Money in the Bank contract has not been played up much on TV recently (unlike the build to Summerslam) makes me think they will go for an element of surprise and set up a rivalry between Charlotte and Carmella over the coming months.
US Title: AJ Styles (c) v. Boron Corbin
The Build: We have seen Corbin frustrated repeatedly in his title attempts recently. The now infamous failed Money in the Bank cash-in was followed by missing out twice on the chance to answer AJ Styles’ Open Challenge. Tye Dillinger has been repeatedly involved in the build to this match – will he play a part in the finish to this match as well?
What Should Happen: AJ Styles to retain. Corbin simply lacks the credibility to take the belt of a top-level guy like Styles at present. He should have been competing for the US or Intercontinental Title last year instead of leaping to the fringes of the main event and then falling back. After all the hot potato title changes between KO, Chris Jericho and Styles this year, the belt needs to stay strapped around one waist for a while, hopefully with an extended open challenge run to draw attention back to Smackdown again.
Prediction: I don’t see any other outcome than Styles retaining. We could see some involvement from Tye Dillinger, not to cost him the match but to give him a scapegoat and kick off a programme between the two, with Styles hopefully moving on.
Hell in a Cell Match for the Tag Team Titles: The New Day (c) v. The Usos
The Build: These two teams have been locked in a rivalry for months with great matches and a couple of title changes along the way. The New Day reclaimed the belts on Smackdown a few weeks ago in a street fight and then made the challenge for a Hell in a Cell match. We haven’t seen many tag teams inside the structure over the years so expectations are high for another classic match.
What Should Happen: The New Day should win and the feud should end. Much like the US title, after numerous changes in a short space of time, stability is needed. Even if The Usos do win the titles back, they should hold onto them for a while. The big question is, what happens next? Whoever wins, who will the next challengers be and what will the losing team do next? Perhaps a heel Hype Bros duo to challenge the New Day or Gable & Benjamin to challenge The Usos? Suddenly’ that pre-show match feels more significant…
Prediction: The New Day to retain in a hell of a match. All eyes then to next Tuesday and a new chapter for the tag team division.
WWE Title: Jinder Mahal (c) v. Shinsuke Nakamura
The Build: Honestly, this has been built like a feud at the lower end of the mid-card. We have suffered weeks of Jinder Mahal’s comedic/racist (take your pick) insults punctuated only by a couple of brief clashes in the ring. Both superstars (for different reasons) struggle with promos so it is strange that the last few weeks have been set up that way. Also baffling is why this match is not inside Hell in a Cell – the Singh Brothers are bound to interfere so why not literally lock them out of the match?
What Should Happen: End the Mahal experiment and put the belt on Nakamura. There has been a lot of talk of declining attendance figures and TV ratings and the enigmatic Nakamura as champion would bring viewers back. Put him in a programme with a rejuvenated Rusev or revisit his NXT rivalry with Booby Roode and you will have a show that I look forward to every week once again.
Prediction: Jinder Mahal to retain and The Singhs to (predictably) interfere. Whether that means a direct win for Mahal or a DQ defeat doesn’t matter. There has been a lot of talk of WWE’s upcoming shows in India and it would be a surprise if they do not send Mahal there as champ. It is a dumb reason but it is the most likely outcome.
Hell in a Cell Match: Kevin Owens v. Shane McMahon
The Build: I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, the build has been consistently captivating – one of the most intense and personal rivalries on any WWE programme right now: the obvious but engaging escalation of tensions as Shane got involved as a referee in the US Title picture, the vicious attack on Vince McMahon, the rediscovered aggression of KO. These have all been part of a fantastic build. On the other hand, I keep asking myself why we are seeing Shane in another PPV event when we have already seen him at Survivor Series and Wrestlemania in the last year. When guys like Sami Zayn don’t have a match on the card, putting a non-wrestler in the main event is a questionable move
What Should Happen: What always happens in Shane’s matches? Crazy spots and high-octane action but ultimately the full-time performer will win. The match should be a vicious affair with KO’s delivering on his promise of a major beatdown and Shane’s never say die attitude clashing hard. I would not be surprised if we see KO obliterate Shane, continuing to do so after the match and either drawing out more McMahons or the entire locker room to drag him away.
Prediction: KO to destroy Shane. There are rumours aplenty of a move back to RAW, which would make sense after getting so personal with his on-screen boss. That would leave Smackdown lacking in star power though – could we see other travelling in the opposite direction after Hell in a Cell?
As usual, stay tuned to Kayfabe Today for the fall-out from this Sunday’s event.