WWE Hell in a Cell 2018
Sunday, September 16
San Antonio, TX
Watch: WWE Network
Meet our previewers
- Joe Lanza: Hi, my name is Joe. A quick programming note/reminder. I don’t do predictions for WWE matches.
- Barry Hess: Voices of Wrestling columnist; follow him on Twitter @BFHess171
- Ryan Glaspell: Aspiring VOW Rookie of the Year. Using the principle of Gestalt, I will take the intermittent bits of WWE I have seen over the past few months to try and formulate a whole picture of what we might expect this Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @RyGenerico.
Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse
Joe: My interest level in Daniel Bryan has gone from “I can’t believe he’s back, this is great!” to “Big Cass? Why?” to “Welp, he’s just another guy on the roster that I don’t care about whatsoever” in absolute record time. No matter what happens from here, we may ultimately look back historically at the return of Daniel Bryan as one of the most egregious dropped touchdowns in WWE history. You can sort of give them a pass for the hastily constructed WrestleMania match where he played second fiddle to the real star, Shane McMahon, but there is no excuse for a momentum destroying prelim feud with Big Cass and waiting too long to get to The Miz. Their SummerSlam match had a shocking lack of heat for what was once the hottest feud in the company, and while I suspect this match will play better with The WWE Universe than it will with me, I have absolutely zero use or interest in this mixed tag.
Barry: The story between The Miz and Daniel Bryan has been a personal rivalry from the beginning, so it makes sense that Maryse and Brie would get involved to add a second layer of conflict to the story. Maryse and Brie have exhibited similar chemistry that Miz and Bryan enjoy with one another, which has made the weekly TV segments fun to watch. That said, the chronology of this story feels out of sync to me. This sort of mixed tag match feels tailor-made for SummerSlam, bookended by two singles matches, where the potential for the reality television crossover audience would be much higher than a secondary Network special. Vince McMahon has long-since proven the lack of patience and creative subtlety required to stretch a program like Miz and Bryan all the way to WrestleMania, so it’s likely this feud will come to an end sometime before the end of this year. Why not have the story culminate inside Hell in a Cell? I know, I know, that couldn’t have happened because we needed to get the hot Team Hell No reunion angle out of the way first. Good point. Nevertheless, I expect Miz and Maryse to cheat their way to victory yet again as a way to further the build between the primary combatants of the story. Prediction: The Miz & Maryse
Ryan: Do you remember the fire churning in all of our bellies as The Miz and Daniel Bryan spewed hatred at each other on Talking Smack? If only this feud could really happen. Well, we are in the midst of this feud really happening, and in a way only WWE can do, the fire in our bellies may as well be extinguished. Their match at Summerslam wasn’t that bad, but as Barry said, this feels like we are backtracking. Maryse handing her husband brass knuckles served as a segue into this match, but having a cute mixed tag match on such a violently-branded show as Hell in a Cell seems out of place. Nothing makes me lose interest like a mixed tag match. Prediction: Brie pins Maryse, setting up an Evolution match and evening the feud 1-1 (kind of).
AJ Styles © vs. Samoa Joe
Joe: This feud has gotten reeaal weird, with Joe portraying the lead heel in a mid-level forgettable 90’s thriller where William Peterson or Cary Elwes or Bill Paxton has to kill him in a neat and tidy 90 minutes in order to protect his family. This is a mid-card style storyline befitting of a mid-card feud, which is precisely what this is despite the name of the title at stake, which makes sense, because the dirty little secret of AJ Styles’ underwhelming title run is that he is firmly a mid card wrestler when the real rubber meets the real road and RAW is involved in the PPVs. That’s not to say I’m not enjoying this for what it is, but in a perfect world, Styles is treated like a proper world champion and this feud isn’t overbooked to juice it up because it wouldn’t need to be. Joe is arguably the best promo in the company, Styles arguably the best wrestler, and the stakes are a “world” title. A few subtle nods to their history and some intense promos are all we really needed to make this work.
Barry: In my SummerSlam preview last month I said that Samoa Joe could read a phone book and make it sound like the prose of Edgar Allan Poe. That assessment was all but confirmed on the go-home edition of SmackDown Live when we got a ‘Storytime with Samoa Joe’ segment that should have bombed but somehow worked. Joe continues to be one of those special performers who can overcome bad material and still get over. This angle has walked right up to the line separating intensity from ridiculous, but has not crossed into the all to familiar realm of the ridiculous. I thought for sure we were getting a home invasion angle, but thankfully we did not. Mind games are such a cliche in pro wrestling anymore, especially in WWE, but this angle has been a true representation of how mind games outside the ring can affect the action inside the ring. Joe is an amoral brute, but he’s not an actual criminal. He has known Styles forever and thus, he knows how to manipulate Styles’ worst attributes against him as a way to win the WWE Championship. This is the second match on the card that would make sense to be contested inside Hell in a Cell, but it’s not. At the very least I think a ‘No Disqualification’ stipulation would have made sense, based on how the last encounter ended. I thought Joe needed to win the title at SummerSlam, but the finish made sense to advance the story. The table has been set nicely and it’s time to put the title on Joe. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little concerned about Wendy Styles turning on her husband to help Joe win the title. Prediction: Samoa Joe
Ryan: At the expense of sounding like a parrot, I’ve got to mimic Joe’s thoughts. AJ and Joe are two of the better wrestlers in the world (maybe not currently, but we know they can go). AJ is the champ. Joe is the angry contender. Adding this extra layer of “I’m going to steal your wife and be the new daddy in the Styles’ house” works, due to Joe sounding genuinely demented on the mic, but it is ultimately unnecessary. These two have the capacity to makes this an epic match. Then again, so did Shinsuke and AJ, and we see where that got us. Also, if any match is going to be in a cell, this one has the heat for it. Prediction: Samoa Joe wins and adopts Styles’ children.
WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The New Day © vs. Rusev & Aiden English
Joe: Pushing Rusev & English now feels like it’s six months too late, which is par for the course when something not intended to get over actually gets over. I’m also not sure this is an actual push, as New Day could easily win, but for Rusev simply appearing on a PPV in any form might qualify as one.
Barry Hess: Rusev’s recent push feels incredibly disingenuous to me and because of that I’m not into his story at all. The New Day continues to do their thing and do it well. This should be a fun little match, but outside of that, I’m not really invested. I suppose a title match serves as a decent catalyst for the Rusev/English feud everyone is anticipating. I’ve said before that a rivalry between the two friends does nothing to advance either character and makes no sense (unless you want to actively push Rusev back down into obscurity…hmm). Prediction: The New Day
Ryan: Despite having been in seemingly 95% of the tag title feuds in recent memory, The New Day usually find ways to keep themselves interesting, and they can put on some great matches. With that said, their zany promos and in-ring shenanigans do tend to become a bit contrived after a while. Rusev Day were seemingly on the brink of disbanding, yet here they are. How many pancakes will emerge from Big E’s tights? How many ears will Aiden English rupture with his sultry vibrato? I assume this will be a good match. As for a winner, you might as well give Rusev and English some titles right before you split them up for no reason. Prediction: RUUUUSEEEEEV DAAAAAAAAAY
Hell in a Cell
Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton
Joe: Why is this a HIAC match? Jeff Hardy is a shell of his former self, but is sure to do something stupid.
Barry: I have to admit, I’m pretty surprised at the number of people who have expressed excitement for this match. For one, it’s 2018 and not 2008; if you don’t believe me just watch any Jeff Hardy match from this year and you’ll realize it’s the truth. One of the biggest knocks against doing a Hell in a Cell-themed pay-per view every year is the fact that it dilutes the significance of the cell and forces the storytellers to manufacture their stories around the cell rather than the other way around. In an odd turn of events this year, we have no less than four different stories that fit nicely into the cell concept with little explanation needed. This is not one of them. Nothing about this story has even remotely reached the level of conflict worthy of HIAC. I understand that this an important checkmark on Jeff Hardy’s career bucket list, but why should I care about that as a viewer? How does that translate into compelling television? It doesn’t. Neither does watching Hardy perform a crazy stunt that no one will remember because it will mean nothing before the show is even over. I hate to sound like a cynical curmudgeon, but in this case I feel it’s warranted. As far as Randy Orton is concerned, I do like his Legend Killer 2.0 persona, he’s been giving some of the best promos of his career lately. Orton’s HIAC match against John Cena in 2014 turned me off to the cell concept for years. It was by far the worst cell match I’ve ever seen…and that includes the other cell match on that card where a hologram interfered in a match. It was that bad. I expect something similar in this match, only with a big crash and burn at the end. Prediction: Randy Orton
Ryan: I feel real anxiety when I hear people sing the national anthem live. I’m afraid their voice will crack or they will mess up the words. I don’t know if it is empathy, or me not wanting something to screw up my anthem-listening experience. This match gives me that same sort of anxiety. Jeff has supposedly been yearning for a HIAC match for a long time, and neither he nor Orton has any disregard for his safety. The only way this match is memorable is if something goes horribly wrong. What better way to reward Jeff’s wish for a cell match than to have him fall from a large height and lose? Prediction: Randy Orton
WWE RAW Tag Team Championship
Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre © vs. The Shield
Joe: Can we get to the bit where McIntyre turns on Dolph already?
Barry: We know that The Shield was reunited as a device to protect Roman Reigns so there’s no need to revive that already dead horse. I must say, however, this story has been really compelling for me. There’s a sense of urgency that resonates around these characters that has provided a much-needed change of pace on Raw. This new conflict is responsible for a giant reset of many characters on the Raw roster, including Braun Strowman, Kevin Owens and The Authors of Pain. I’ve really enjoyed how the story has migrated downstream and affected other characters on the roster in one way or another; WWE needs more stories like that on it’s weekly television product. Ziggler and McIntyre elevate the Raw Tag Team titles simply because they aren’t The B-Team, so there’s that as well. We’ve officially entered the ‘Silly-Season’ portion of the WWE calendar so I’m not 100% invested quite yet; this thing could slide off the rails and head to Crazytown in a blink of an eye. Still, there are some intriguing questions currently on the table in terms of where The Hounds of Justice and The Dogs of War will lead us as we move into Fall. My one negative at this point is how the story has negatively impacted the Intercontinental title, which Seth Rollins won at SummerSlam. With the Universal Title largely absent while Brock Lesnar was champion, the IC title enjoyed the spotlight as Raw’s defacto primary title. The Tag Team titles have received a much needed boost for sure, however, that boost seems to have come at the expense of the IC title, which has been largely insignificant post SummerSlam. Prediction: Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre
Ryan: I must be forthcoming and say that I haven’t seen a single minute of Ziggler and McIntyre together. Apparently they’re called the Dogs of War or something like that? Dean Ambrose is back, and he’s jacked, so that means The Shield have to win. Prediction: The Hounds of Justice
WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship
Charlotte Flair © vs. Becky Lynch
Joe: Lady Roman takes on Lady Bryan in the women’s division answer to “we don’t know what our fans want so now we have to book our way out of the mess we created because we are terrible at manipulating emotions now”. This has a chance to be very heated and very good.
Barry: This is the SmackDown Live Women’s Championship program we all wanted coming out of SummerSlam and it’s the one we got, but boy does it look different from what we all anticipated. I, like most everyone else, was fully expecting Charlotte to turn heel either at SummerSlam or in the immediate aftermath of the threeway that saw Carmella lose the title. Instead, it was Becky who turned heel (if only on paper and not in the minds of the audience). There is plenty to criticize about the way we got here; listen to the Voices of Wrestling Flagship or Shake Them Ropes podcasts to hear those thoughtful critiques. From my perspective, this angle has been the most compelling aspect of WWE’s weekly television (mainly because my view of what makes for a compelling babyface is eerily similar to VInce McMahon’s way of thinking. I understand that’s an issue, but hey, we are who we are). Charlotte has done nothing wrong in this story. Yes, she was inserted into the title match at Summer Slam, which eliminated Lynch’s ability to compete for the title one-on-one. But Charlotte didn’t ask for the match, she was booked into the match by the SmackDown Live GM, Paige. Was she really supposed to decline the opportunity? That would be a huge departure from the character she has portrayed (heel or face). Once she was in the match, was she not supposed to try and win? On the other hand, Lynch’s frustrations are perfectly legitimate. She’s been forced to take a backseat in the division for far too long with too few chances to reclaim her spot at the top of the division she helped establish at the time of the brand split. I understand that the fans wanted Lynch to earn a clean victory.
I understand that the swerve we got instead is yet another example of WWE failing to understand the consumers of its product. At the same time, with just a few minor tweaks to the story, we could have something really great on our hands. Charlotte has been completely unapologetic since reclaiming the title, an attribute that plays into her strengths as a performer. Lynch’s new edgy and unpredictable persona is a thousand times more compelling than the simple white meat babyface character she’s portrayed since being called up to the main roster. WWE has worked hard to ensure that wins and losses don’t matter, and for the most part the company has succeeded. In this case, however, I do believe it is critical they get this one right. Give Lynch the win, let her use dirty tactics if you must because it won’t detract the fans from going crazy in the slightest way. McMahon can tell the story he wants to tell and the fans can cheer for getting what they want. Once free from the ‘Roman’ stigma, this angle can grow into something really epic. If Charlotte walks away as champion this thing will really get out of control and Vince will spend the next six months chasing a desired reaction he’s never going to get. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say this is the most important Women’s division match since the Women’s Revolution began. Please don’t screw this one up. Please. Prediction: Becky Lynch
Ryan: People like Becky, and people are really starting to dislike Charlotte. Becky is gritty, hard-working, and held down by the powers that be. Charlotte is the legacy talent who is good, but also kind of bad at wrestling. The babyface/heel dynamic may be totally backwards, but these two have had some awesome matches in NXT. As great as it’d be to see Becky lift up the championship, I have got a feeling I will be disappointed. Prediction: Charlotte
WWE Raw Women’s Championship
Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Alexa Bliss
Joe: My prefered finish is another Rousey squash, for a few different reasons. Rousey is probably winning anyway, as headlining Evolution with your biggest star as the top brand women’s champ is the right play. A squash also fits the tone of Rousey’s push, builds anticipation for who can stop her, and perhaps most importantly, limits exposing her inexperience in a longer match. Bliss can absorb another squash loss and come away just fine long term. The story here is Rousey is a buzzsaw she can’t handle. There is plenty of time later for Bliss to outwit her with heel shenanigans. A month before Evolution is not that time.
Barry Hess: This is a pretty standard story of the former champion getting the obligatory rematch. I expect another entertaining performance, but little advancement in terms of character growth.THat’s fine. Part of what makes Ronda Rousey so great is the way she carries herself in the ring; she acts like an athlete and not a performer. At SummerSlam it was obvious she was produced to acknowledge and play towards the crowd; that was poor stage direction and came off very distracting. Don’t do it again. I suppose we’ll get another exhibition of Alexa Bliss’ double-jointed abilities as the finish. Prediction: Ronda Rousey
Ryan: Is there any scenario where Alexa can now magically hold her own against Ronda? Maybe Alexa has been secretly training with Io Shirai and Meiko Satomura in between Mae Young Classic tapings, and will emerge a Joshi-trained wrestling machine. More than likely we see a bunch of interference by James, Fox, and Natalya. Either way, WWE has found their new top star, and they’d be insane to stray from her. Prediction: Ronda Rousey
WWE Universal Championship – Hell in a Cell
Roman Reigns © vs. Braun Strowman
Joe: An odd turn, a very bizarre build, and two wrestlers who have been booked to death and who I have zero interest. With all of that said, while I have no interest whatsoever in the story or the stakes or the people involved, I do think this has the potential makings of a very good match. The danger, as usual with this company and especially with these two dudes, is overbooking this into a ~story!~ instead of just letting them beat each other up and tell one within the context of the match. I have zero confidence in this company delivering the latter.
Barry Hess: This match will really get started when they find a way to escape the cell, hopefully the crowd isn’t completely dead by then. Would it make sense for the new faction set on taking over to have control three of the four major titles? Yes. Will Roman really lose the title in his first defense? No. Prediction: Roman Reigns
Ryan: How many sections of the cage will be broken by the end of this match? I’m halfway anticipating Braun to Hulk Smash 75% of the cell, and Roman to spear through the other 25%. This probably won’t be bad, but Roman and Braun have both been booked into an abyss of apathy. It’s really hard for me to feel any certain way about either of these guys. Roman has vanquished Brock Lesnar, so he might as well rule on top for awhile. I have no clue where we go after this match. Prediction: Roman, I guess.