RAW Deal: Raising hell (in a cell)
DALLAS, USA —In all my years of watching the WWE, I cannot recall a PPV event so hamstrung by offscreen factors.
I mean sure, there’s Over the Edge 1999 and Survivor Series 1997, but neither of those truly affected the excitement level going into the shows. It’s like somebody decided to take a baseball bat to the WWE’s kneecaps this time around; the product is not paralyzed, but it does hurt, and it is awkward. The top and middle are left intact, although it’s not the best it could be.
Allow me to highlight everything that’s going wrong as I predict the outcomes for Hell in a Cell this Sunday, October 25 (Monday morning Manila time).
Kickoff: Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro, and Neville vs. Rusev, Sheamus, and King Barrett
This is the latest problem WWE’s come across. It was originally going to be Dean Ambrose and Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper and Braun Strowman in a completely logical spinoff of the Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt feud, but Orton apparently got injured last weekend and Luke Harper is now mysteriously nowhere to be found. Rusev is involved in a scandal that totally broke kayfabe (which is already pretty dead to begin with), so here we are. Does this match matter? It could have, but one week and 3 WWE shows are never enough for Vince McMahon and his Creative team to figure out a decent raison d’etre for this 6-man tag.
Winner: The team of Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro, and Neville
Kevin Owens vs. Ryback for the Intercontinental Championship
It’s funny; Kevin Owens is the perfect heel foil for a babyface straight man in Ryback, and these two are two of the hungriest people on the roster, but I’d say this feud is plain heatless. Ryback really doesn’t work in his role as an artificial inspirational leader, a poor man’s Roman Reigns (who was already a poor man’s Hulk Hogan around this time last year). It’s just formalities at this point.
Winner: Kevin Owens (still Intercontinental Champion)
Charlotte vs. Nikki Bella for the Divas Championship
Remember when Charlotte winning the Divas Championship was a big deal and we all thought it could be a new, better chapter to the Diva Revolution? Now, do you remember when Paige and Natalya took center stage, and the Bellas started feuding with Team BAD just because? Who was the Divas Champion again?
Winner: Nikki Bella (new Divas Champion)
The New Day vs. The Dudley Boyz for the Tag Team Championships
There is no stopping the New Day right now. It’s like John Cena, only that they’re on the opposite side of the spectrum; whether you love them or you hate them, they generate Fukushima-levels of nuclear heat every night they’re on. No team should be taking the titles off their waists. On the other hand, this is the Dudley Boyz’ 5121275134th shot at the championships since they’ve returned after SummerSlam, and one would think they’re due to win this time. But like Cena’s opponents, just because they’ve got a rematch, that doesn’t really mean they’re going to win. Besides, a younger team deserves the momentum of defeating such an over heel team.
Winner: The New Day (still Tag Team Champions)
Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt in a Hell in a Cell match
This seems to be the only Hell in a Cell match people are genuinely excited for, and it also seems to be the Hell in a Cell match people forget is actually a Hell in a Cell match. But that’s okay. It hasn’t always been perfect, but they’ve given it a lot of effort, and at the end of the day it’s looked at as a top program. When Bray Wyatt loses, it will be okay, because even though Roman Reigns will have a win he can say he’s earned, Wyatt’s still got a Family that’s four strong. The more intriguing question is whether they’ll let this stretch out some three more weeks in order to take advantage of Survivor Series.
Winner: Roman Reigns
John Cena’s United States Championship Open Challenge
This isn’t a matter of who’s going to win—that much is already foregone, since we all know Cena’s taking an extended vacation after this show until December—it’s a matter of who’s showing up to answer the call. (Cena’s vacation is another force majeure that wrecks plans, but in a good way.) All signs pointed to Dolph Ziggler being that guy, especially after he accidentally superkicked Cena during a battle with the New Day and teasing a heel turn in last week’s championship turn. Orton’s injury forced plans to change, shunting Ziggler to the six-man tag on the pre-show. Since Ambrose is now the guy who’s out of a job on this card, I have a funny feeling about this…
Winner: Dean Ambrose (new United States Champion)
Seth Rollins vs. Kane for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
I say Reigns vs. Wyatt is looked at as a top program because it’s pretty clear, especially after the events of this week’s RAW (where—spoiler alert—the Shield reunited for one night on free TV to face the Wyatts) it’s bigger than its supposedly biggest stories. WWE’s desperation for TV ratings caused that to happen, ending up in even less heat for their world championship program. I had so much hope for multiple-personality Kane, but the lack of concerted effort toward nuance (that would have made Kane something truly different this time around) just sapped all that excitement away. And I fall for it every single time.
Winner: Seth Rollins (still WWE World Heavyweight Champion)
The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar in a Hell in a Cell match
Brock Lesnar’s Go to Hell Tour was a valiant attempt to inject something into this storyline, but it just ended up falling short. There was no real drive to progress the story, the intensity, and the urgency after SummerSlam. Brock Lesnar beat Big Show, and Paul Heyman appears every now and then, but then what? Their biggest story is so handicapped by the unavailability of their biggest stars—now you know what happens when you book two part-timers against each other in a non-Big Four PPV. It just feels like an afterthought of an ending, a big match for the final cap of the trilogy just because they feel they should do that before moving everyone on in time for WrestleMania season. The lesson here for the WWE is that you really cannot book a big match on name power alone.
Winner: Brock Lesnar
We’ll see you all on Monday morning.
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