CM Punk's reign as WWE champion has lasted nearly a full year, which is the longest run with the company's top belt since John Cena five years ago. He will face Ryback at Hell in a Cell in a match that benefited from a couple extra weeks of buildup.
There are four other championship matches on the card, including a battle between Sheamus and Big Show for the World Heavyweight title. The only non-title match announced prior to the event will feature Alberto Del Rio taking on Randy Orton.
It's an important event for the WWE because Survivor Series, one of the year's most prominent pay-per-views, is right around the corner. So Hell in a Cell must provide a perfect jumping off point for that build in order to be considered a success.
With that in mind, let's take a look at all the important viewing information for Sunday's show followed by some predictions for the night's action.
Where: Philips Arena in Atlanta
When: Sunday, Oct. 28 at 8 p.m. ET
Watch: PPV (local cable providers)
Live Streaming: WWE.com has PPV for $44.95
CM Punk (c) vs. Ryback – WWE Championship match
Sheamus (c) vs. Big Show – World Heavyweight Championship match
Kofi Kingston (c) vs. The Miz – Intercontinental Championship match
Team Hell No (c) vs. Team Rhodes Scholars – Tag Team Championship match
Eve (c) vs. Kaitlyn vs. Layla – Divas Championship match
Alberto Del Rio vs. Randy Orton – Singles match
Main Event Preview and Prediction
The WWE Championship match will be incredibly difficult to book. Ryback has been built into an unstoppable monster and it's hard to believe the creative team will make him lose all of that momentum at a secondary PPV like Hell in a Cell.
That said, it's tough to imagine a scenario where Punk doesn't walk out of Atlanta with the title. And it's basically for the same reason. It would be unceremonious for him to drop the belt at a second-tier show after holding it for so long.
Due to those conflicting storylines, the most likely outcome features outside interference that would allow Punk to retain the title without forcing Ryback to endure a clean loss. There are several different ways to make that happen.
Cena, who underwent arm surgery during the extended break between PPVs but made a clear point on Raw to state he's been medically cleared again, could force his way into the cell to help Ryback while also furthering Punk's respect storyline.
There are no shortage of options on the other side, but Paul Heyman's other client Brock Lesnar seems like a logical choice given the fact he will probably be involved in some fashion at Survivor series. He's been gone since just after SummerSlam.
Regardless of what type of interference occurs, it seems like that's the only way to make the outcome work without having one of the superstars negatively impacted.
Prediction: CM Punk retains
What They're Saying
Kofi Kingston is prepared for his rematch with The Miz after winning the Intercontinental title on Main Event last week.
Hell in a Cell is gonna be something serious. Hope Miz is ready. I know I am. #HIAC— Kofi Kingston (@TrueKofi) October 23, 2012
The superstars aren't the only ones pumped for Hell in a Cell. Announcer Michael Cole is looking forward to the two biggest title matches on the card.
Can't wait for the wwe championship and world title matches at #hiac Sunday!Awesome— Michael Cole (@MichaelCole) October 23, 2012
Undercard Match to Watch: Kofi Kingston vs. The Miz
Since there were a few extra weeks between marquee shows, the mid-card titles were able to garner a little bit more of the spotlight and it paid off for Kingston and Miz. They have put together a really good feud over the last couple weeks.
The most memorable moment came when Kingston busted Miz open with his finisher on Raw before winning the title a couple nights later on Main Event. It's the type of highlight-reel moment every storyline needs to succeed.
It seems like the time has arrived for Miz to move back up the card toward the main-event scene, which is why he dropped the title in the first place. He's too talented to get lost in the mid-card shuffle for an extended period of time.
Expect a terrific back-and-forth match a lot like the one when Kingston won the title. It will allow Miz to look strong in defeat while still keeping the belt on Kingston.
Prediction: Kofi Kingston
Which Star Will WWE Bury?
Although there aren't many options on the card due to the low number of matches, Alberto Del Rio is the most likely candidate to exit the PPV in worse shape than he entered it. His stale character isn't doing him any favors in terms of remaining relevant.
Orton should be ready to return on a full-time basis after finishing his movie shoot, meaning a major push is likely on the horizon. Getting a clean victory over Del Rio would be the first step toward making that happen.
For Del Rio, something needs to change for him to start moving back up the ladder. His Mexican aristocrat gimmick has run its course as evidenced by the lack of crowd enthusiasm. Unless it changes, he'll continue to fade.
Star Unaccounted For: Dolph Ziggler
Ziggler has been booked poorly since winning the Money in the Bank briefcase back in July. He's struggled to build up any momentum and whenever it seems like he's finally making progress he suffers a string of losses.
Even though the fact he's been left off the card would make it seem like a cash-in is likely at Hell in a Cell, it wouldn't be an ideal time to do it because he hasn't been built like a champion. That's a key part of making a title reign work.
There's no doubting his talent. He's one of the best workers in the business and can sell moves better than just about anybody on the roster, but the WWE just doesn't seem fully committed to him yet. Hopefully that changes soon.