This Sunday, the Raw brand of WWE presents the Hell in a Cell PPV, featuring an advertised ‘Triple Main Event’ consisting of three matches inside the most dangerous structure in WWE history, one which has created legacies and destroyed careers. With a card that looks like it has the potential to include some very good to great matches on paper, we thought we’d offer some predictions on how we see this PPV going down, as well as thoughts on where Raw and its star-studded roster sits as we head towards the first real inter-brand PPV, Survivor Series, which will see Raw and Smackdown squaring off directly in a series of elimination matches.
10. How To Use Cruiserweights
We’ll get more into the problems of WWE’s handling of their new Cruiserweight Division when we talk about the title match, but throwing six of them into a PPV pre-show match is pretty much a great idea, if WWE lets them have ten minutes to go nuts and pump up the crowd before the show starts. After all, what’s the point of having cruiserweights if you’re going to make them wrestle the same matches as the bigger guys? It’s still very odd that WWE made the smart play with Sin Cara by having him move to the division, but continues to leave Neville twisting in the wind, when he could definitely help raise the profile of the cruiserweights due to being a known quantity, something the division is sorely lacking. Tony Nese and Drew Gulak may be great wrestlers (and we really need an explanation for Gulak’s jacket one of these days), but personality-wise, they’re blank slates, and even Cedric Alexander, while he is slowly winning the crowd over with his in-ring work, doesn’t yet have a lot of character work for people to latch onto. So, either WWE needs to start writing personas for everyone, or they need to just loosen the reins on their ring work and let them show why the fans were so into the CWC, something which could start at Hell in a Cell.
9. Can Bayley Send Dana Back To NXT?
Not that the women’s division on either brand can really afford to get any thinner (although this might free up a spot so they can release Nia Jax from the Phantom Zone she’s been in for the last few weeks), but once you’ve resorted to an arm-wrestling match because you simply can’t trust Dana Brooke to wrestle for five minutes without a massive business-exposing screw-up, you need to admit that she probably got plucked out of NXT a little too fast. Really, what’s the point of a developmental system if you’re just going to call up people regardless of it they’ve actually learned to wrestle or not (while simultaneously leaving guys who could probably out-wrestle half the main roster down there, which is not a slam on the main roster, just an indication of how good Joe and Nakamura are, for no particular reason)? WWE managed to get the crowd to chant “Boring” during a segment containing one of the most popular pure babyfaces they have, which is an impressive waste of resources, if nothing else. Bayley needs to put Dana Brooke away convincingly in a short match at Hell In A Cell, and we wouldn’t be averse to going so far as to stuff her in a shipping container labelled “Back to NXT” at the end.
8. Worst Club Ever
We’re not going to suggest that Gallows and Anderson would have been better off staying in Japan, because the best way to make money and become visible in pro wrestling is to be in WWE, even if they could have made something comparable money-wise in NJPW. However, as they’ve had almost a diametrically opposite WWE career as their counterpart AJ Styles, tumbling down the ladder while still insisting on TV that they’ve “put the tag team division on notice”. As another note, how sad has Raw’s tag division become? You’ve got the New Day, then the thrown-together Cesaro and Sheamus (who, spoiler alert, probably won’t win this Sunday), Enzo and Cass, The Club, Golden Truth, and the ridiculous stop-and-start-and-stop-again push of The Shining Stars, who were beating Enzo and Cass a month ago and now can’t handle the oldest, most directionless team in the division. The Club should have run roughshod over this sad little group and become monster heels of the division, but instead they’re losing to Enzo Amore in distraction finishes. So obviously, this sets up a win at Hell in a Cell, so Michael Cole can scream about how they’re a dominant team on the rise, which, of course, ignores the fact they actually haven’t won anything of consequence in months.
7. Maybe They Could Settle This In Some Sort Of Series…
So it should be obvious after they already blew off the usual climax of “odd couple pairings forced to team up” by having Cesaro and Sheamus win a match against New Day on Raw by working together (until the match ended, anyway) that this was yet another stopgap to stretch out the Cesaro-Sheamus feud as long as they can, because they can’t figure out anything else to do with them. If that didn’t clue you in, the fact that WWE is now relentlessly pointing out that New Day only needs to make it another couple of months to break Demolition’s record (which they should do easily considering they’ll almost certainly be in the 10-team Survivor Series match next month instead of defending the titles) clearly indicates that the European Hate Squad is almost certainly foredoomed to failure at Hell in a Cell. At which point they’ll break up and feud with each other (although perhaps not until after Survivor Series, because as we mentioned, Raw’s going to need five tag teams for that match), because that’s what all tag teams do when they split. Yes, this is what they mean when they talk about “spinning your wheels”.
6. Kendrick Needs That Title
Through no real fault of his own, TJ Perkins ended up as a Cruiserweight Champion who many saw as the fourth best option out of the four Cruiserweight Classic finalists. However, thanks to Ibushi and Zack Sabre not wanting to sign WWE deals and Gran Metallik having to finish up dates in Mexico, Perkins won the tournament in a nice underdog story. Unfortunately, this didn’t carry over to Raw, where it’s become apparent that TJP may have a cool entrance, but he lacks the personality to back it up, and has been reduced to making video game references that were clearly written by someone who glanced at the back cover of Ready Player One in a bookstore once. When we say that Brian Kendrick needs the Cruiserweight Title, it’s not just because that’s the story they’ve been telling (and frankly, it’ll be hard to justify Kendrick sticking around since he’s made it clear he’s done if he doesn’t win on Sunday), it’s because Kendrick is one of the few actual characters that the audience has latched onto in the Cruiserweight Division, and should probably be the face of it, at least for now. In fact, WWE already gave an inkling of where things might go after Hell in a Cell, with Rich Swann, another charismatic guy who the fans seem to enjoy, getting a win over Kendrick in advance of the title match. To keep building this division, WWE needs to get behind the guys who the fans react to, and sadly for Perkins, it’s not him.
5. Just Do A Double Turn And End The Charade Already
Or don’t, and continue pretending that the fans are chanting “Boo-man”, we really don’t care at this point as long as this Sunday sees the end of the never-ending battle between Rusev, honorable defender of family, and Roman Reigns, jerk and cake-ruiner. After the two cut pre-taped promos from the void of space on Monday, you have to imagine that at least one person in WWE knows exactly how both men are coming across, as Rusev continued to be a guy who loves his wife and family and hates that dastardly Roman Reigns who keeps ruining his life, while Reigns maintained that, despite ruining a wedding celebration, destroying Rusev with a chair after showing that he didn’t particularly need to, and repeatedly mocking his opponent’s wife and family, none of this was personal. It’s like they’re on the edge of discovering something that could actually make a big babyface star and a monster heel, but something keeps stopping them from just pulling the trigger. Possibly a 70-year old man who still believes we’re in the thick of the Cold War, and that he’s going to have his next big muscular, blue-eyed, steel-jawed babyface champion no matter how many contact lenses it takes, we’re just guessing here.
4. Charlotte And Sasha Attempt To Kill Themselves
Mick Foley’s ridiculously over-protective stance against Charlotte Flair (who was recently awarded the right to have a last name again) and Sasha Banks wrestling inside the Cell, which ran counter to him telling them only days earlier that they deserved that match and also trumpeting the accomplishment on social media, did not help the build to this actually history-making match. This match needed to be less about “being happy to be here” and more about wanting to destroy someone they’ve feuded with for nearly a year on the main roster and for even longer in NXT. With that said, while there’s no way we’re going to see an old-school bloodbath of any sorts, or some crazy dive off the roof, we fully expect (and definitely worry) that the women will do some ridiculously crazy stunts to try and justify putting this match inside the Cell. Foley may talk about how he destroyed his body to make his career, but Sasha and Charlotte clearly think that they’re using their bodies to set the bar for their entire gender’s future in wrestling, and considering they’ve already nearly hospitalized each other several times in other matches, one can only imagine what they have in store for the Cell. We admire their dedication, but as human beings who want them both to be active wrestlers for a long time, we’re probably going to be watching parts of this match through our fingers.
3. Will The Real Kevin Owens Please Powerbomb Someone Through The Apron?
You might be excused for occasionally forgetting that yes, Kevin Owens is the Universal Champion. Since he won the title, Owens has taken a backseat to a combination of overbearing authority figures and his best friend, Chris Jericho. In the build to Hell in a Cell, the feud over the Universal title has seemed more like Rollins vs Jericho, with sidekick Kevin Owens. For some reason, WWE has stripped out most of what made Kevin Owens great, removing his killer instinct and ability to win matches by being an actual good wrestler, to the point that he did beat John Cena cleanly once, and instead making him the same whiny, weak character that Seth Rollins was when he was the pawn of the Authority during his World title run. The only vestige of the real Kevin Owens that was one of the hottest wrestlers in the world a year ago happened in the last minute of the final episode of Raw this week, when he finally said “screw it”, and powerbombed Seth Rollins on the ring apron, for no better reason than because he could. That’s the guy who we wanted to be Universal Champion, not the one holding the mic for Jericho and running scared from Rollins. Kevin Owens should be a heel who beats up people and laughs about it, not someone who has spent far too much of his title reign staring wide-eyed at his opponent from the ramp, outsmarted once again.
2. You Might Notice A Pattern Here
If you watched the final Raw before Hell in a Cell, you should see a pattern in our picks for the PPV. That’s right, in every case where someone lost a match on Raw, we picked them to win at Hell in a Cell. There’s a long-running joke/theory about “win on Raw, lose at the PPV” that has just enough consistency to continue to be relevant, but we felt it was especially true this month, where Raw’s booking has, at times, been some of the absolute laziest by-the-numbers 50/50 garbage we’ve seen in a while. And the laziest crutch of all is, of course, WWE’s insistence of having people lose matches leading up to a PPV win because they’re obsessed with trying to “surprise” the fans. That’s why Enzo and Cass keep getting the upper hand on The Club, why Cesaro and Sheamus suddenly looked like a competent tag team on Raw, and why Seth Rollins pinned both Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens at the same time in the main event: because they’re all going to lose on Sunday due to WWE’s mistaken belief that nobody will see it coming. The same company that tells everyone who will listen that “wins and losses don’t matter” almost obsessively books their shows around losing streaks because they think it will make the eventual win a big deal, when in reality, it just makes almost everyone look like losers who get fluke wins once in a while. It’s a concept that can work, when used both properly and sparingly, but not when you do it for half the matches on a given PPV card.
1. Three Main Events, One Main Event Spot
WWE really started pushing hard on the idea of a “Triple Main Event” after Mick Foley made his announcement that the women’s match would be the main event of the show and people actually got excited for it, but you may have noticed that the show only has six matches officially booked at this point, which means half the card is supposedly a “main event”. Not since the days of Gorilla Monsoon has the term “main event” been so misused, and frankly, WWE should have just gone with it. Listen, we’re as big fans of traditions as anyone, but there is no reason why Sasha and Charlotte shouldn’t be the main event of this show. It’s the longest-running and arguably best-booked feud that’s being blown off in a big climactic gimmick match, for a major title, in the champion’s hometown. They’re the faces on the PPV poster, for crying out loud! Plus, it would legitimately make wrestling history and WWE would reap a PR bonanza, so of course, they’ve instead spent the past week waffling on who would close the show, before settling on the inane “Triple Main Event” strategy that either screams “we wanted it to be a surprise so we won’t confirm it”, or “we need protection from the backlash when the women don’t actually go on last”, neither or which seem like particularly smart ideas. In fact, there’s even a rumor that WWE is planning to have the women’s match either open or close the show, due to worries that if it happened somewhere in the middle, people might stop watching after it finished. If you have a match that you think might overshadow the entire rest of your wrestling card, regardless of gender, should there really be any question about it closing the show?