John: It's the third WWE pay-per-view in the last six weeks as Hell in a Cell emanates Sunday night in Miami, Florida. I could talk about the card and my expectations for it, but frankly I'll do that when we get to talking about the matches. Instead, here's a WWE produced about Daniel Bryan that they really should have put on Raw this past week because I'm sure most fans watching the show would have loved it.
It's awesome. It makes me more excited for Hell in a Cell. When Brock Lesnar came back they did similar videos with him. I'm glad they don't do them too often because it makes them stand out more this way. It's just a guy talking into the camera while highlights are shown. Simple? Sure, but it works.
I think WWE has to have a good show this time around because Night of Champions and Battleground were both below average PPVs. The lineup is stronger here. The return of John Cena certainly helps. Shawn Michaels as referee in the main event adds to the star power too. There's still plenty of unpredictability on the card and some matches could be excellent, so if all goes well I think Hell in a Cell can be a success.
Joining me for the preview are TJRWrestling's Andrew Johnson and Christian Michael.
(Note: All graphics are from WWE.com. The banner is courtesy of our friend Steve Melo.)
Intercontinental Championship: Curtis Axel vs. Big E Langston (Kickoff Show)
Christian: With only six announced matches for the PPV I'm surprised this is on the Kickoff Show.
Big E Langston is the epitome of what is wrong with WWE's booking. He debuts hot as Dolph Ziggler's heavy. Then he never really goes anywhere because he starts losing matches. Then he falls of the face of the Earth. Literally. He hasn't been on TV since SummerSlam. Now we're supposed to take him seriously as a babyface that can win the Intercontinental Championship just because he teamed with CM Punk. How many times have we seen similar scenarios play out and then WWE wonders why a guy doesn't get over?
They could throw the title on Big E now and waste an opportunity to turn him and the belt into something special. Or, they could have him chase for a little longer and really have the win mean something.
I should mention the current Champion, Curtis Axel here. There. I just did. Prediction- Big E Langston wins via Count Out
Andrew: I am all for Curtis Axel losing the IC title and just falling into the background as Paul Heyman's Other Guy. You know, the one that opens doors for Heyman and pushes his wheelchair out to the ramp before disappearing. That's a good role for Curtis Axel, instead of this whole "Perfect Son" thing he's going for. I bet if Curt Hennig were suddenly alive today he'd point at Dolph Ziggler and claim him as his prodigy, and just fake a sneeze whenever someone would try to correct him.
I've been reading a lot of opinions on the Internet about Big E lately, and I can tell you most certainly that most of them are wrong. He's being compared to Ahmed Johnson and Ezekiel Jackson (who still works for WWE (shockingly)) which is ridiculous for SO many reasons. Biggest one being, he's good. Very good. The dude hits like a Mack Truck and has skills that both of those guys lacked. Plus he's legitimately the most entertaining WWE Superstar on Twitter, and a person with that much personality should never be denied a chance to show off his abilities.
I think a title change right now would be premature, but eventually he should have the IC title. It doesn't really mean a whole lot right now, but that's only because of the dude (okay, the last 4 dudes) who held it were pretty big bummers. He could make the IC title matter.
Oh God, I feel like I've typed "He could make the IC title matter" a million times. Is it Groundhog Day? Winner: Curtis Axel
John: I think they're going to move the title onto Langston here. I could see a situation where Axel retains and they move it over to Langston at Survivor Series or possibly in a TV match, but why not here? Axel isn't going to get more over than he is now. The guy is losing steam quickly. He's not having a very successful IC Title run. Langston has a bright future.
My guess is WWE has realized they're not going to get much more out of Axel as IC Champ, so might as well put it on Langston. The only thing that puzzles me about this is that this should be on the main show rather than the pre-show. It's still something they can do to pop the crowd for the first match, so in that sense it's not a bad idea. Langston wins the gold. Winner and New Intercontinental Champion: Big E Langston
Real Americans (Antonio Cesaro & Jack Swagger) vs. Los Matadores
Christian: If given a decent amount of time this match could be a real sleeper. Epico and Primo were always really good in the ring and we all know the accomplishments of Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro.
I think the match outcome is pretty much a given since Los Matadores are the new team and it seems that WWE really wants to get them over. I just want to see Cesaro swing the little bull. Prediction- Los Matadores
Andrew: Here's a shocker: The Real Americans are the best tag team in WWE right now. They are the most entertaining, the best legit in-ring talents, and their manager is the funny kind of crazy. He cracked a bullwhip in the ring on Monday. That's like watching my racist grandpa doing army drills in his yard. It makes me feel better about chanting "WE THE PEOPLE" with Zeb at WrestleMania when we saw him backstage. It wasn't racist, he's just old and insane. That makes it cute I think.
Los Matadores were seemingly bred to give Cesaro and Swagger to feud with, which is fine with me because they're gimmick is Chikara as hell and until Quack gets his shit together and brings that company back, this is probably as good as it's going to get for a while.
Whatever. This team is weird, this feud is weird, and my preview of it is all over the place. Take it away, John! Winners: Los Matadores
John: There are four very good wrestlers in this match that are taking part in a comedy match. It would be much better if we had a competitive tag match with Swagger & Cesaro taking on Primo & Epico, but instead we have this. We will likely see the little person El Torito attack Zeb Colter at ringside because watching that is exactly the kind of humor that Vince McMahon loves. We'll also likely see a Cesaro Swing on the little person because that's all Cesaro does to stay relevant today, which is sad because he's such an awesome worker. I think Los Matadores will win because it's their first PPV match as these characters so WWE is going to want to give them some momentum. Winners: Los Matadores
Divas Championship: AJ Lee vs. Brie Bella
Christian: Do we really need to see this again? And what's the logic behind it? AJ beat Brie in a title match but Brie deserves a rematch because she won a non title match? The makes no sense to me. You know WWE wants to put the title on Brie so just do it already. If AJ retains then the logic of this is just going to aggravate me more. Prediction- Brie Bella wins the Divas Championship
Andrew: This is what I wrote last month about this match:
"The writing is seemingly on the wall when it comes to the future of the Divas title. It's likely the title itself is going to become a centerpiece of the "Total Divas" program, and that's fine I guess because it's kind of a terrible title so it might as well be featured on the show that shares it's namesake.
Here's a suggested plan for next season: Drop the increasingly horrible Natalya (forever, make her disappear until she understands how to interact with other human beings normally) replace her with AJ, have Sara Del Rey come on and tell them all how terrible they are and constantly call them on their shit. Then have her beat Curtis Axel for the Intercontinental Championship because A) She is better than him and B) It would f**king rule."
I really don't have anything fresh to bring to my commentary on this match, except that maybe Sara Del Rey should go after the US title, because a match between her and Dean Ambrose would be INSANE. Winner: Brie Bella
John: I want AJ to retain and I will pick her retain. Three weeks ago I thought Brie would win. I've maintained the opinion that the best thing would be for AJ to hold this title until early next year. I still feel that way. I don't know how the "look strong on TV, lose on PPV" theory works here because Brie pinned AJ clean on Smackdown two weeks ago and also this past Monday on Raw. Then on Smackdown, AJ beat Nikki and Tamina took out Brie for AJ, so technically AJ had the advantage there.
It makes sense that they would put the title on Brie because then they can show it on Total Divas in a month or two and the girls can celebrate it like it's a big deal. I'm going with AJ, though. I think she's going to have that long title reign until somebody else comes along and is built up better than Brie as the woman that takes the title off her. I want to see more of this AJ/Tamina friendship as they dominate the title for months ahead. That's what would be the best for the divas division. Winner: AJ Lee
WWE Tag Team Championship: Cody Rhodes & Goldust vs. Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins vs. The Usos
Christian: I am so glad that WWE remembered that The Usos won the right to be number one contenders. I remember a PPV in 2007 I think, that Cryme Tyme won a Tag Team Turmoil match to become number one contenders and then never got a shot. It's good to see the writing team up their ginkgo biloba this week. It would have been nice to see The Usos come out on TV and cut a "hey we get a title shot" promo instead of on the app. Nobody pays attention to the app.
Back to the match, if they get 15-20 minutes this could be a show stealer. All three teams are great in the ring and have good chemistry with each other. I think it's too early to take the belts off CoDust even though I think the Usos deserve a run with the giant pennies. Prediction- Cody Rhodes and Goldust retain the Tag Team Championship
Andrew: I'm not going to complain about a Rhodes Brothers title reign, but at the same time I kinda feel bad for the Usos. Those dudes have been working their asses off, and have been shoved down to the end of the table so WWE can eat its dessert first. The Shield had a good but largely ineffective run as tag champs, spending the majority of their time with the big pennies in handicapped matches against Daniel Bryan or Big Show. Cody and Goldust get the sentimental run, but ultimately it should go to a team that will actually use them and be elevated by them. The tag belts have some prestige right now, and it would go a long way in legitimizing the division if two dudes like Jimmy and Jay were defending the titles against other great teams like the Real Americans.
Okay, this is just a convoluted way of me telling you that I want the Real Americans to be the tag champs. I guess I could've just typed that instead of being all explanatory about it, but here we are. Winners: The Usos
John: This has been one of the best feuds in WWE since SummerSlam. The way that Cody Rhodes has been built up is an example of how you tell a story the right way in pro wrestling. Everything they've done has been pretty basic in a lot of ways, but that's part of the reason why it works so damn well. The fans felt sorry for Cody for being fired, for Goldust losing to Orton and for their dad Dusty getting knocked out. When they won the tag titles a few weeks ago on Raw, the ovation they received was genuine.
I have no problem with the Usos being added to the match. It makes sense. They won a number one contender's match, so they earned the right to be here. It's not often that we get to see triple threat tag team matches. I've been known to gripe about overdoing triple threat matches, but I don't have a problem with it. The chemistry is great between these guys. I have high expectations for it.
I like the champs to retain here. I think The Shield will eventually get the tag titles back at some point. I'm hoping that these three teams continue the feud all the way to TLC so we can get a three team ladder match out of it. It would be a great thing for the tag division, which is becoming stronger every week. I'm happy about it. I love tag wrestling. Winners: Cody Rhodes & Goldust
World Heavyweight Championship: Alberto Del Rio vs. John Cena
Christian: John Cena. Duh.
I guess I could say more but why waste my time writing it and your time reading it? I do want to commend WWE for trying to make the World Heavyweight Championship important again. Prediction- John Cena wins the World Heavyweight Championship
Andrew: I could write about how John Cena wrestling for the World Heavyweight Championship is probably the best thing that could happen to the title right now, but I'm going to link you to an article written by Thomas Holzerman that explains it better than I ever could.
I will say that as much as I love Del Rio, him being the champion has run its course. I don't know if Cena holding the belt will be beneficial in the long run, but right now it would work. Especially if the guy that beat him for that belt was Damien Sandow, who would not only get the World Title rub, but more importantly the "Guy who pinned Cena" rub. Because let's be serious, having the WHC belt right now isn't really a star maker. Just ask Dolph Ziggler. Winner: John Cena
John: This is a tough match to predict. I really don't know where they are going with it. I realize that most are going to see Cena in a match and pick him to win, but does that seem likely to you? To me, it doesn't feel like the title that Cena will set his sights on. They put him in this match because Del Rio had nobody else to feud with and it puts Cena in a match near the top of the card without overshadowing the other top babyfaces (Bryan and Punk) that are in long-term storylines.
I think Cena wins...by disqualification. The story of the match will likely be about Del Rio working on the surgically repaired left arm of Cena. JBL will be there saying Cena's not ready to be back while Lawler and Cole will talk about how Cena is showing incredible heart by not giving up. "I've never seen John Cena take this much punishment before" blah blah blah you know how it goes. The finish will likely be something where Del Rio's nearly about to lose, so he uses a chair or the title to hit Cena in front of the ref to get himself disqualified. Maybe it's a double countout. I'm not sure. I just don't think we'll get a clean finish with either guy winning the match. Winner: John Cena via DQ
That's not all, though. I expect Cena to get his revenge after the match. He'll be mad that Del Rio got disqualified, so Cena will go after him an Attitude Adjustment. Then he'll put him in the STF. Once Cena's done getting his revenge, Damien Sandow will march down to the ring with the Money in the Bank briefcase. He cashes in on Del Rio. He wins the World Title. I'm not sure if Sandow will become a babyface, but that's an option after he wins the World Title. Nobody has really talked about Sandow cashing in. He's barely been on Raw or Smackdown this month. That's how WWE likes to do it by making it happen out of nowhere. Winner and New World Heavyweight Champion: Damien Sandow
Handicap Hell in a Cell Match: CM Punk vs. Ryback & Paul Heyman
Christian: Isn't it funny as we acknowledge the one year anniversary of the death of Ryback that here we are at the same event, in basically the same exact match? It's been well documented by me and others that screw job or not, once Ryback lost last year's Hell in a Cell Match vs. CM Punk that whatever momentum he had, whatever it was that made him special in October of 2012 was gone the exact second Brad Maddox's hand hit the mat for three.
Turning Ryback heel and aligning him with Paul Heyman is WWE's reclamation project for Ryback and it is not going to work. Why? Because he already lost to Punk at Battleground and he's going to be on the losing end in this match.
The Hell in a Cell stipulation was added so Punk can once and for all put an end to Paul Heyman. A "rat trapped in a cage" scenario. Whether he locks Ryback out of the Cell and then destroys Heyman or he takes out Ryback and then finishes off Heyman the end game will be and has to be Punk laying out Heyman and ending this feud. It's gone on way too long and it's time for Punk to move on. Prediction- CM Punk
Andrew: Look, you can't just substitute Ryback for Curtis Axel and put it in a cage and expect it to be automatically better. Oh, wait. Turns out you can. You absolutely can. Way to go, Not Curtis Axel! You've made this match infinitely more interesting by being Not Shitty!
I wasn't really interested in this match until Paul Heyman talked about his lava forcing its way out of his head (oh God, I realize what I just typed. No going back now (literally, I don't own a backspace key)) and now I'm SUPER on board. The lifespan of this feud is literally in the sweaty yet somehow clammy hands of Paul Heyman, and he is knocking it out of the park.
Truthfully this feud needs to end, but more importantly it needs to end in a satisfying way. Punk has beaten everyone in Heyman's stable (including Heyman himself) save one: Brock Lesnar. Ideally this match would end with Punk getting the upper hand, and when Heyman looks like he's about to get murdered suddenly HERE COMES THE PAIN and the cycle begins anew. In the end this whole thing hinges on the involvement of Brock Lesnar, but if he can't be bothered to go to work in the fall, I guess we'll just have to make do with what we have. Winner: Ryback and Paul Heyman
John: I get the feeling that this is the end of this Punk vs. Heyman feud. It's the fourth PPV match based on the rivalry with Lesnar beating Punk at Summerslam, Heyman & Axel winning over Punk due to Ryback's interference and then Punk beating Ryback with a low blow three weeks ago at Battleground. Now they're inside Hell in a Cell, which means they're in no better place for this story to come to a close.
It's been weird to see all of this stuff going on with Triple H and Stephanie being so evil all over the place while Punk is in some alternate universe because he has no involvement with the main storyline at all. I feel like Punk's the guy that could take that main storyline to the next level, to make it seem like a bigger deal yet here he is feuding with Heyman. I don't have a problem with this feud. It's definitely had its high points. I just don't care about seeing Punk vs. Ryback because we saw it last year, it was average at best and their last match was average. Imagine how good this feud would be if Cesaro was the Heyman guy instead? I know I've written it before, but that's the feud I would have wanted to see here.
Picking a winner is tough. I think there's a chance that Ryback will win because Daniel Bryan's going to need a heel opponent in the near future. Punk doesn't have to win. All Punk needs to do on Sunday is get his hands on Heyman, give him a GTS and maybe slap on the Anaconda Vice. He didn't promise a win on Monday night. He just said he would bring the pain to Heyman. And he will. I'm picking Punk to win, but I am reluctant about it. If Punk loses will there be another match or will it be enough if he puts Heyman out for a few weeks? That's why I think Punk should win here because it gives this story the closure it deserves. Then Punk can move back in to the WWE Title picture as we head towards the end of the year. Winner: CM Punk
For the Vacant WWE Championship - Hell in a Cell Match: Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan (Shawn Michaels as special referee)
Christian: Hopefully the third time is the charm for Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton. Hopefully they put on a classic match and we finally get a WWE Champion.
The title should have never been vacated since Night of Champions. Randy Orton should have been Champion since SummerSlam. If Bryan wins it'll be the third time he won the title in three months. It's hardly the career making, feel good moment SummerSlam should have been. I understand that Orton cashing in at SummerSlam made sense to the story but he shouldn't have lost the belt a few weeks later. Instead Bryan won and had the title stripped which lead to a completely meaningless main event at Battleground. I haven't been a fan of the way Bryan has been booked since Night of Champions either. He's hardly done anything that would show me he's pissed off that he was robbed of the title twice. WWE seems more focused on getting over a 40 year old giant that's been in the business for almost twenty years.
The wild card in the match is Shawn Michaels. He's the special referee and could he in fact cost Bryan the match and align with his best friend, Triple H? I hope not for two reasons. The first being is why turn HBK heel? He's a retired legend and the fans don't want to boo him. Number two is Daniel Bryan better not lose this match. If he doesn't walk out of this PPV the new WWE Champion then all of WWE TV since SummerSlam will have been a complete waste.
All signs of the story point to Bryan being Champion but it really scares me that he got the upper hand on Orton on RAW and SmackDown this week. I firmly believe in the "win on tv, lose on PPV" theory. I hope the theory is wrong on Sunday. Prediction- Daniel Bryan wins the WWE Championship
Andrew: Please don't get all Internet-y about my opinion here, but I don't really understand the need for Shawn Michaels. Like, at all. He was a great wrestler who sometimes took liberties with selling that made the match look dumb and he has a history of being a difficult shithead, but that was all excusable when he delivered on the reg. But now he's not wrestling anymore, and he's never been a "butt in the seats" kind of draw. Why put up with a pain in the ass when you don't need to? Why do we need him at all?
Oh right, because he's best friends with the guy in charge, and WWE believes their own rewritten history.
I don't dislike Michaels, but I don't think he adds anything, only detracts. This story went from being about "Who will be champion once and for all?" to "What will Shawn do?" It's the same thing we complained about Triple H doing at SummerSlam, but because this is Shawn Michaels--a man who looks like a human dashboard decoration for a big rig--we accept it and move on. I don't know about you, but I don't need to contemplate on the moral decisions of a 48-year-old man that calls himself "H-B-SHIZZLE."
For me it doesn't matter how good the match is (it will be very good) because I can't get past the accepted hypocrisy of the fans who are totes okay with Shawn Michaels being needlessly inserted into this match. Then again I'm not somebody that you should aspire to think like because my opinions aren't popular. So ya know, it's whatever. Winner: Randy Orton
John: I'm looking forward to this match just as long as it's the last one on one Bryan vs. Orton match for a while because three in six weeks is more than enough. The Hell in a Cell addition should give it more of a fresh feeling compared to the other two matches, which didn't really have stipulations.
I think it makes perfect sense for a special referee to be in this match and for that person to be a babyface. The reason they need Shawn there is because at Night of Champions a referee with a fast count (Scott Armstrong) ruined the finish of the main event. At Battleground, the referee was pulled out of the ring, then they sent Armstrong to the ring again and there was no finish. Michaels is there as a babyface legend that the fans know and trust. It's the right time for a special referee because they need to win back the trust of the fans with a babyface ending to a show after two endings that frustrated the hell out of everybody watching. With all of that said, I don't think Michaels goes heel. He's there to raise the hand of the guy he trained to wrestle: Daniel Bryan.
I think Bryan has to win this because if he doesn't then he comes off like such an idiot for the past few months. I believe WWE made a mistake in vacating the WWE Title. It should have been on Orton since SummerSlam and he should have dropped it here. Simple. It works. Instead, they vacated it (maybe they just wanted to say "abeyance" dozens of times?) and it has hurt the storyline. Whoever leaves without the title is hurt by this story. Feuds are supposed to be good for at least one person, but in the best case they are beneficial for both guys. If Bryan loses he looks like too much of a loser and a guy that's been WWE Champion twice without ever really holding the title for very long. If Orton loses then he doesn't look like the dominant heel that he should be.
The hard part is trying to predict the actual finish of the match. I know that with the Hell in a Cell stipulation that we shouldn't see any kind of interference. However, I think we'll see Triple H come down to ringside and try to get in Michaels' face about screwing Bryan out of the ring. Michaels refuses, he gets face to face with Hunter and then Big Show comes out (through the crowd) to KO Hunter. That sets up Show vs. Hunter at Survivor Series. I don't see Michaels going heel. He's retired. I don't think he'll wrestle again or get heavily involved in storylines. It's not necessary. Plus, they just had Triple H go heel as the ref at SummerSlam. It would not be fresh to see it again so soon.
What worries me about my Daniel Bryan prediction is that he had the advantage on both Raw and Smackdown this week. When you factor in the "win or gain advantage on TV/lose on PPV" theory that would suggest that Bryan is losing. I'm not saying the theory is always right. I'm just saying I do have some doubts about this prediction. It's not a lock. I just think the story makes sense for Bryan to win the match and the title with his mentor raising his hand. That's the right kind of babyface finish in the same building that went crazy with the "yes" chants last year the night after WrestleMania. Winner and New WWE Champion: Daniel Bryan
Christian: This PPV should blow away Night of Champions and Battleground in terms of quality. The undercard is filled with good matches that have some build. The two Hell in a Cell matches will do what the structure was designed to do, end feuds. Not to mention, you also have the added star power of John Cena and Shawn Michaels at this PPV. It should be one of the better shows this year. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@Christian_973) as I'll be on during the PPV tweeting my thoughts.
John: I think this is an interesting show in terms of the booking. I'm not that sure what's going to happen in the three biggest matches on the card (two HIAC matches and Cena's return), so to me that makes it a worthwhile event. Unpredictability is good. The rest of the midcard has some intrigue too. There really aren't any matches that look awful to me. I think it will be an above average PPV in terms of in-ring action too. If the booking is good and the matches live up to expectations then it could turn out to be an excellent event. Do I blame any fans that don't have interest because of the stinker we got three weeks ago at Battleground? No. But I do think WWE is back on the right track. I'm optimistic. That's just how I am.
I won't be watching Hell in a Cell live, so my review of the show will get posted on Monday afternoon most likely.
On behalf of Andrew and Christian, thanks for reading.
Follow all of us on Twitter at the following places.
Christian - @Christian_973
John - @johnreport
If you want to send an email, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll make sure the other guys see it too.