By Chuck Carroll
The WWE Hell In A Cell card features two matches inside of the ominous steel structure. Shane McMahon will look to avenge his father’s beating against Kevin Owens, while The New Day will defend the Tag Team Championship against The Usos.
It’s hard not to get excited anytime Shane O’Mac is involved in a cage match of any kind. His longtime real-life friend and Mean Street Posse member Pete Gas told me once that the younger McMahon is an adrenaline junkie. There’s a good chance we’ll all benefit when he gets his fix on Sunday. Don’t sleep on the tag team title match either. You know something crazy is going to happen there that we’ll be talking about the next day.
Elsewhere on the card, Shinsuke Nakamura goes for the WWE Championship against Jinder Mahal, while Charlotte Flair seeks to reclaim the SmackDown Women’s Championship from Natalya. And AJ Styles is defending the United States Championship against Baron Corbin.
I’m bringing back in my fellow wrestling journos to call it before they see it. At last month’s WWE No Mercy, Rolling Stone’s Aaron Oster and I were red hot, correctly picking six of seven matches. TV Insider’s Scott Fishman didn’t fare so well, prognosticating just three matches accurately. The swing in fortunes enabled me to significantly close the gap between he and me for the year while Aaron remains solidly out in front.
Hell in a Cell Match
Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens
Chuck: I really have high hopes for this match. Anything short of WrestleMania-caliber will be a major disappointment. As for the outcome, it would be great to see Shane get revenge for Vince McMahon, but I don’t think it’s going to happen here. The better story is for Kevin Owens to win and keep the heat on for the foreseeable future. He’s really good at being bad. Pick: Kevin Owens
Scott: There is nothing to gain for Shane McMahon to defeat Kevin Owens unless it means he gets some help for the next person Owens will work a program against. I can see Sami Zayn coming into play at some point. The question is which side would he be on. He has been in limbo this year, so going in the other direction could do wonders for him and be something different for Zayn to sink his teeth into. Will we see another McMahon interfere? Will Vince McMahon look for revenge? The falls-count-anywhere stipulation strangely added ahead of the match may be a hint of the finish as well. I, myself, wouldn’t out seeing Kane help someone, celebrating his WWE debut 20 years ago by ripping the door off the hinges and causing some chaos. Pick: Kevin Owens
Aaron: Kevin Owens wins this. He has to, right? The only thing that even gives me mild pause is the constant inclusion of Sami Zayn. With his large role over the past few weeks, it seems likely that he’s going to get involved in this match. Could he cost Owens? Or could he join his old friend? That seems unlikely, but if he’s getting involved, what would a screw-job finish to help Shane really do? I have a feeling that this match could get a bit convoluted before the end of the night. Pick: Kevin Owens
WWE Championship Match
Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Chuck: I have a real problem with this match, and if you’re reading this, you’ll probably disagree. You’re likely an avid viewer who at least passingly keeps up with other promotions. You’ve known about Shinsuke Nakamura for years. The problem is, the other 95% of the WWE Universe is still getting familiar with the guy. And while Jinder Mahal has been around for a while, it’s still mind boggling that he went from being a Three Man Band sideshow to champion so quickly. No matter who wins, WWE will still have a problem. If you don’t believe me, check out the television ratings. Anyway, I’m going with Shinsuke Nakamura just because. Pick: Shinsuke Nakamura
Scott: I think Shinsuke Nakamura is in a must-win situation if WWE wants to give him some sense of momentum. It’s been a decent-length reign for Jinder Mahal, but I don’t know where else this rivalry can go without a Nakamura victory. Though, with WWE touring India in December, the company can easily see Mahal win it back before or just keep it until then. Regardless, let’s hope Mahal’s standup comedy routines regarding Nakamura have come to an end. Pick: Shinsuke Nakamura
Aaron: Why isn’t this match in the Cell? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for fewer Cell matches to try to keep it special, but if any match was going to have it, wouldn’t it be the one where the feud revolved around interference? Either way, this seems like it has to be a Nakamura win. Whatever you think about the Jinder reign, another loss for Nakamura would be a tough blow, even if it’s due to interference. So the age of Nakamura begins at Hell in a Cell. Pick: Shinsuke Nakamura
SmackDown Women’s Championship Match
Natalya (c) vs. Charlotte Flair
Chuck: If this match is anything like their epic battle for the NXT Women’s Championship a few years ago, we’ll be hearing “this is awesome (clap, clap, clap clap clap)!” You have to figure Carmella will be getting involved toward the end. Is this the night she cashes in her Money In The Bank? Perhaps, but for the sake of the match at hand, I’m going with Charlotte to win. It will be a nice feel-good moment to help ease the pain of what has been an incredibly trying time in her personal life. Pick: Charlotte Flair
Scott: Natalya hasn’t had a singles defense on a big show, so I’m hoping she gets a win here against Charlotte. Her and Charlotte have good chemistry to put on good matches dating back to their first encounter in NXT. Even though it doesn’t look like it will be televised, I actually think they change the title at Starrcade as a nod to Charlotte’s dad, Ric Flair. But then again, there is Carmella lingering about. So, she could be the next in line for the gold. Pick: Natalya
Aaron: Two things are in play here. This match was somewhat rushed. Why would you rush Charlotte into the title picture if she wasn’t going to win? Granted, we said the same thing about Shinsuke at Summerslam. Also, if Carmella is going to cash in any time soon, it makes far more sense for her to cash in against a face. Thus, I’m going with Charlotte here. Pick: Charlotte Flair
SmackDown Tag Team Championship Hell in a Cell Match
The New Day (c) vs. The Usos
Chuck: This is a match-of-the-night candidate. I’ve loved every minute of this feud and hope it keeps going. I’m just not sure how much longer WWE can push it. Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin are the next logical team to be in the title picture. If this is indeed the blow-off match between The New Day and Usos, you have to figure the champions will retain. Pick: The New Day
Scott: This match has the makings of a show-stealer, as The Usos and New Day haven’t disappointed. A win here can show that the normal trio of Big E, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston can be successful being a traditional duo. That is with whatever combination they choose. But I think WWE wants to build up those tag team title wins for the New Day. Plus, there are potential contenders on the face side, with Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin and Fashion Police waiting in the wings. Pick: The Usos
Aaron: As amazing as this feud has been, it has to come to an end sometime, right? I personally would have no problem if they fought forever, but someone new has to check in at some point. And if it’s going to end soon, there’s no better place for it to end than in a Hell in a Cell match. For it to end, the New Day has to successfully defend. Thus, the New Day win in what should be the match of the night. Pick: The New Day
>>MORE: From the world of Pro Wrestling
United States Championship Match
AJ Styles (c) vs. Baron Corbin
Chuck: I could see Baron Corbin winning this match and finally getting a chance to wear some gold around his waist. Although there is still something missing from his character, he is connecting more with the audience each week and taking steps in the right direction. It’s time he takes the next step. Pick: Baron Corbin
Scott: It surprises me that Tye Dillinger wasn’t included to make it a triple threat. I might be in the minority here, but I can see Corbin getting the upset over AJ Styles with some type of chicanery. Let’s face it. Styles doesn’t need the U.S. championship right now. He is a made man. For Corbin, it can help take him to the next level if the company still believes in his ability. Plus, there is the built-in feud with Dillinger who pinned Corbin days before on SmackDown. Pick: Baron Corbin
Aaron: This one is tricky. Could it be that Corbin lost the briefcase specifically so he could win the U.S. title without it being awkward? Yes, and it wouldn’t shock me at all if Corbin walks away from this feud with the U.S. title. However, I feel like Styles should have a little bit more time with the belt. It’s possible that this won’t have a clear finish. Maybe Corbin gets disqualified. But Styles retains. Pick: AJ Styles
Bobby Roode vs. Dolph Ziggler
Chuck: The reincarnation of “heel Ziggler” has been glorious. But as a relative newcomer on the roster, Bobby Roode could benefit from a win here, whereas the established Dolph Ziggler could take a loss and not be hurt by it. If anything, it would help. Pick: Bobby Roode
Scott: The build for this match hasn’t been the best, with Dolph Ziggler coming out in his best WWE cosplay. Though given the talent, I have no doubt these two will bring it when the bell sounds. A win here for the “Glorious One” against Ziggler can help elevate the new brand addition. At the same time, I don’t see this being the last time they meet. Pick: Bobby Roode
Aaron: Dolph Ziggler is the new gatekeeper for Smackdown Live. That’s not a horrible spot for him, but you have to wonder if it’s a prelude for him leaving the company. If he is leaving soon, he’ll do it after putting over Bobby Roode, who isn’t losing his first pay-per-view match. Pick: Bobby Roode
Randy Orton vs. Rusev
Chuck: Rusev’s stock has plummeted since he returned from injury and split on-screen with Lana earlier this year. He’s had a slight resurgence thanks to his Mutt and Jeff pairing with Aiden English. The Bulgarian Brute needs a win, and Randy Orton has already gotten his jollies on SmackDown. So, Rusev uderia, Rusev machka! Pick: Rusev
Scott: Randy Orton has ruined Rusev Day far too many times, so I’m going with the Bulgarian here. Orton has already gotten some revenge on his opponent, so it would be nice for WWE to give Rusev some love. Aiden English has complemented this feud well. It wouldn’t surprise me to see some interference on that end. Pick: Rusev
Aaron: I never know where WWE is going with either Rusev or Randy Orton, so I’ll probably get this one wrong. But Rusev needs to win, right? He can’t lose EVERY big match that he’s in. Rusev is always great, but the past few weeks with Aiden English have taken him to another level. So I’ll pick him, but I couldn’t be less confident about it. Pick: Rusev
WWE Hell in a Cell Kickoff Match
Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin vs. The Hype Bros
Chuck: The Hype Bros don’t have much hype these days. This could be the match that drives the nail in their coffin and sets up a feud between Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley. Or do they both turn heel? Either way, change is coming and that doesn’t bode well for their chances. Plus, Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin should be next in line for a tag title shot. Pick: Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin
Scott: We haven’t seen much of Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin the last few weeks on SmackDown Live. However, given the problems WWE has been teasing with Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley, I’ll go with American Alpha/World’s Greatest Tag Team hybrid. They teased something different for the Hype Bros, but haven’t followed through just yet. So, we could easily see a development with that as well. Pick: Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin
Aaron: This match is interesting not because of the result, which you have to think is etched in stone, but what the result will do to the Hype Bros. They’ve been teasing a change for a while now. It could be a heel turn for the team, or it could be a split. And if there’s a split, who would go heel between Ryder and Mojo? I could see Gable and Benjamin challenging for the titles after this, so expect them to win, and win fairly dominantly. Pick: Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin
WWE News & Notes
WWE is dusting off another popular WCW event from long ago. Next month’s NXT pay-per-view in Houston will be Takeover: WarGames. Traditionally, the WarGames match features two rings inside of a steel cage. It was announced the match will feature Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reily) vs. Sanity (Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe, Killian Dain) vs. The Authors of Pain and Roderick Strong.
Jeff Hardy is expected to miss six to nine months following surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. PWInsider’s Mike Johnson is reporting Hardy will also have a torn labrum surgically repaired next week.
John Cena is no longer advertised to appear at Survivor Series in Houston. However, he is being promoted for shows on December 26 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, December 27 in Uniondale, New York, December 29 in Albany, New York, and a SmackDown-brand show December 30 in Tampa, Florida. As of this writing, Cena is also being promoted on the American Airlines Arena website for the live New Year’s Day edition of Monday Night RAW. However, he is not mentioned on WWE.com for that show.
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.