World Wrestling Entertainment's Hell in a Cell pay-per-view is just over a week away, and with three main event matches already announced, it is shaping up to be the most eventful of the company's monthly offerings since August's SummerSlam.
As is the case every month, there will be a number of wild cards surrounding the evening's festivities, several of which will have a direct impact on the card's most anticipated bouts.
They could affect the finishes of several high-profile bouts. They could affect several of the high-profile angles featured on the show.
What, or who, are these wild cards and how will they affect the October 27 show?
Let's take a look.
Finding a time-related, wrestling-related picture is a lot more difficult than you would think.
With three main event matches poised to take up the bulk of the broadcast, the distribution of the remaining time throughout the rest of the card will dictate the quality of those matches and the show as a whole.
One of the prime examples of an event's quality being adversely affected by the lack of time available to the undercard matches is the 2001 King of the Ring.
That year's show featured Superstars such as Edge, Christian, Rhyno, Jeff Hardy, Kane and The Dudley Boyz in matches that had potential to be very good, if not great. Unfortunately, four of the five show's undercard bouts were given less than 10 minutes, and none of them really lived up to expectations.
The two main events on that show—Kurt Angle vs. Shane McMahon in a Street Fight and Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho vs. Steve Austin for the WWE title in a Triple Threat match—were outstanding matches that saved the show from mediocrity. Still, one could not help but be disappointed, as what could have been an all-time great show instead was simply really good.
On the other hand, No Way Out 2001 was one of the best pay-per-view events in company history, and the longest undercard match on that card clocked in at just over 12 minutes. That show featured main events featuring Kurt Angle defending the WWE title against The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin clashing with Triple H in a Three Stages of Hell match.
Rather than bowing to those two marquee matchups, every match on the undercard sought to steal the show.
An undercard that lacks time to develop matches and tell stories will not necessarily destroy the quality of a show, especially if the main events deliver. However, if those main events do not deliver or if a Superstar or two has an off night and the bouts leave fans dissatisfied, the lack of a really strong supporting match can doom the entire show.
The Superstars who maximize what they do, in the amount of time they are given to do it in, are the ones who will reap the rewards for their contributions. Those who let a lack of time limit them, however, will earn the doubt the company has about their capabilities.
The time and the performers' ability to use every second given to them to deliver an above-average match go hand-in-hand.
It should be interesting to see which Superstars step up and which melt under the pressure at Hell in a Cell.
Perhaps the biggest wild card at Hell in a Cell is Shawn Michaels and his role as referee during Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton's match for the vacant WWE Championship.
There are plenty of questions surrounding Michaels and what, if any, part he will play in the conclusion of the bout.
Will he turn on Bryan and reveal some master plan he and Triple H concocted? Will he allow his past with Orton to influence how he calls the match?
It is safe to say WWE did not bring back the 2011 Hall of Fame inductee simply to count to three or to preside over a submission finish and raise the winner's hand. The company has called him up to take part in the pay-per-view because it has a definite plan for him that will play into programming in the coming weeks.
Whatever the case may be, Michaels will be the Superstar under the microscope come October 27.
This past Monday night, Brie Bella once again factored into the Daniel Bryan-Randy Orton angle.
She was in the trainer's room, recovering from an assault by AJ Lee and Tamina Snuka, when Randy Orton entered. It was a distraction the drew Bryan out of the ring during his match with Alberto Del Rio and to the locker room area.
He burst through the door and was jumped by Orton, who left Bryan lying.
Brie's involvement has allowed Orton to further revert to his old self, the self that would not think twice about threatening the family of a rival if it gave him a decided advantage. It has also revealed a weakness for Bryan that could easily be exploited if need be.
If she plays a role in the Hell in a Cell, it will be interesting to see how it affects Bryan and if her involvement has a direct affect on the main event.
Big Show playing a role in the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view is a given.
Will he become involved in the WWE title match for the second consecutive month, potentially angering fans who were dismayed and disappointed with the conclusion to Battleground?
If Cody Rhodes and Goldust make the first defense of their WWE Tag Team Championships at the show, most likely against The Shield, will he become involved in the same manner that he did this past Monday night?
Will there be some sort of confrontation between he and Triple H on the show, perhaps setting up a headlining match at Survivor Series?
Over the last two months, Show has managed to do something that no one wanted and no one thought was possible: He stole the attention away from Daniel Bryan and his rise to the main event scene. For whatever reason, the creative team thought a story involving him and an unrealistic loss of fortune was a great way to integrate him in the Bryan versus the authority story.
In recent weeks, the Big Show-Triple H angle has taken center stage. Now, with just under a week until Hell in a Cell, there is no way the giant stays on the sidelines of a major WWE event.
How he makes his presence felt is the only interesting aspect of his impending appearance on the broadcast.
The effectiveness of the World Heavyweight Championship match between champion Alberto Del Rio and the returning John Cena will heavily depend on the health of the challenger.
Cena is just two months removed from triceps surgery and was originally slated to miss four to six months of action.
Then Raw ratings sagged, the show following WWE Battleground being the lowest-rated episode of the program this year.
The company undoubtedly hopes the return of its top star will steady the ratings, and Cena has proven in the past that he can return from injury sooner than expected and not miss a beat.
If he is close to or at 100 percent, the match with Del Rio has a legitimate chance to be the match of the night. After all, Del Rio has proven himself one of the best in-ring workers in the sport this year, and Cena has the track record of one of wrestling's best big-match performers.
However, if the injury is not completely healed, the quality of the match against Del Rio could be hurt, and more importantly, he could reaggravate the injury and face a longer layoff than before, which would be incredibly damaging to the company and its plans heading into 2014 and WrestleMania XXX.
Daniel Bryan cannot afford a loss.
Does CM Punk finally get his revenge on Paul Heyman inside Hell in a Cell?
What does The Big Show do to leave his mark on the PPV?
How will Shawn Michaels factor into the main event WWE title match?
The majority of the wild cards covered in this article, as well as some of the biggest questions heading into Hell in a Cell, come down to the booking of the show, which is, as a result, the most important wild card.
The booking at Night of Champions and Battleground left a lot to be determined. Fans were largely disappointed with both shows and the questionable booking decisions that surrounded them and the Monday Night Raws that followed.
From stripping Daniel Bryan of the WWE title to Big Show's interference at the conclusion of the Battleground main event, the top angle in the industry appears to have derailed after such a strong start at SummerSlam and the week or two that followed.
The perceived success or failure of Hell in a Cell and the featured storylines on the show will hinge on the booking decisions made on the show.
For the sake of the company, the fans and the upcoming Survivor Series pay-per-view, Vince McMahon and his creative team should do everything in its power to assure there are more successes than failures.
If not, the returns of John Cena, Shawn Michaels and any other big-name star of the last 10 years will not help a product that has taken a hit in terms of ratings, PPV buyrates and critical praise in recent weeks.