WWE Hell in a Cell 2017: Preview and Picks for Updated Match Card
WWE Hell in a Cell 2017 on Oct. 8 will the ninth installment in the event's illustrious history, with Detroit the host of this year's edition.
Per the tradition of the October pay-per-view, it will feature two star-studded Hell in a Cell matches, though the rest of the card appears to be promising on paper as well.
This year's event will be presented by SmackDown Live and will see several championships up for grabs as well as a handful of ruthless rivalries reaching their apex. Hell in a Cell has been known in the past to host monumental matches and moments as well as shocking twists and turns, so what this year's show will have in store remains to be seen.
Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens is set to headline Hell in a Cell, as the pair have been on a collision course toward Satan's Structure for many months. The New Day and The Usos have also been embroiled in a heated feud since the start of the summer over the SmackDown Tag Team Championship, and thus their Hell in a Cell clash should decide who the superior tandem is once and for all.
Elsewhere on the card, AJ Styles will defend his United States Championship against Baron Corbin, and SmackDown Women's champion Natalya will have her hands full with Charlotte Flair. Randy Orton and Rusev will meet in a rubber match, and Bobby Roode will make his WWE pay-per-view debut versus Dolph Ziggler.
Ahead of the anticipated event, let's look at the updated card for Hell in a Cell and predict who will reign supreme in each matchup.
Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable vs. the Hype Bros (Kickoff Match)
Upon returning to SmackDown Live last August, Shelton Benjamin was immediately paired off with Chad Gable, and so far they have jelled well together. The Hype Bros, on the other hand, have teased tension time and time again and appear to be headed toward a split sooner rather than later.
Between Benjamin and Gable, The New Day and Breezango, SmackDown Live has enough babyface tag teams at the moment, so the division wouldn't fall apart if they were to break up. It's possible that they turn heel, but they have already lost to every other tandem on the show since reuniting a few months ago.
Zack Ryder has grown increasingly frustrated by being pinned in each of their outings, so it would make sense if he were the one to walk out on Mojo Rawley on the Hell in a Cell kickoff show. They can then spend the next several months feuding, with Rawley ultimately going over.
Either way, it's way too soon for Benjamin and Gable to eat defeat, so them scoring the victory versus The Hype Bros at Hell in a Cell is only academic. It might not be long before they enter SmackDown Tag Team Championship contention, regardless of who walks out of the event with the titles in tow later in the night.
This should serve as a fun match on the kickoff show and a nice showcase of SmackDown's solid tag team division.
Prediction: Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable win.
Bobby Roode vs. Dolph Ziggler
After spending the better part of the summer season on the sidelines, Dolph Ziggler recently returned to SmackDown Live to declare a crusade against elaborate entrances, proclaiming that none of that mattered when in reality he was the best wrestler on the roster today.
His impersonations of D-Generation X, The Undertaker, The Ultimate Warrior and others carried on for weeks until he was finally confronted by Bobby Roode, and now the two are set to do battle for the first time ever at Hell in a Cell.
This is a logical first feud for Roode on the main roster given Ziggler's long list of achievements and lack of direction at the moment.
Although Ziggler has scored more television time as of late than he has all year, that doesn't necesarilly mean he should be considered a priority on SmackDown over Roode. He has served as a stepping stone to the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura, Baron Corbin and Apollo Crews in the past, and that shouldn't change with the blue brand's newest acquisition.
As skilled of an in-ring performer as Ziggler is, his time as a top star has come and gone, and it's imperative that WWE focuses on the future. Roode's NXT run was nothing short of spectacular, and he will have plenty to offer on the blue brand, even as a babyface.
Therefore, there is no doubt that Roode will and should win his pay-per-view debut against Ziggler at Hell in a Cell. The feud can continue from there, but the ultimate goal should be to build up Roode as a credible competitor.
Prediction: Bobby Roode wins.
Randy Orton vs. Rusev
Rusev first called out Randy Orton in late July on SmackDown Live, but their rivalry has been poorly handled for the most part since then. After Orton beat Rusev in 10 seconds at SummerSlam, their program was put on hold until Rusev resurfaced on the Sept. 19 edition of SmackDown and avenged the humiliating SummerSlam loss by quickly defeating Orton.
They will have their rubber match at Hell in a Cell, but who this feud will stand to benefit is the question. Orton has been struggling to remain interesting as a babyface for the better part of 2017, while Rusev doesn't have the slightest bit of momentum at the moment.
If given enough time, their match could prove to be enjoyable, but the aftermath will be crucial. Yes, Orton suffered several losses to Bray Wyatt and Jinder Mahal earlier this year, but he can always bounce back given he has been a fixture in the company for the past 15 years.
That said, Rusev winning here would be for the best to allow Orton to slowly start planting the seeds for a heel turn. That would at least catapult Rusev up the card and give The Viper something to sink his teeth into for the first time in a long while.
Unfortunately, that doesn't appear to be in the cards, and instead WWE will just have Orton get his win back over Rusev at Hell in a Cell.
Prediction: Randy Orton wins.
Natalya vs. Charlotte Flair (SmackDown Women's Championship)
Natalya and Charlotte Flair are no strangers to one another, having waged war before over the NXT Women's, Divas and Raw Women's Championships. At Hell in a Cell, they will fight for the SmackDown Women's Championship, but both ladies have come a long way since they last went one-on-one on pay-per-view.
Since re-emerging as a threat to the title over the summer, Natalya has been at the top of her game and has come into her own as a believable heel. She lacked a strong credible babyface to work with for a period of time, but Charlotte recently returned to TV and is the perfect opponent for her right now.
Charlotte has captured gold on every brand she has been a part of except for SmackDown, though she hasn't technically received her rightful shot at the strap in the last six months. While she will be presented with that long-awaited opportunity at Hell in a Cell, there is no telling if Carmella will make her presence felt and cash in her Money in the Bank briefcase.
Carmella has been in possession of that contract for nearly four months and has patiently been biding her time to cash in at an opportune moment. It's unlikely she will unsuccessfully challenge for the championship considering Baron Corbin already failed in his attempt, and stealing the title at Hell in a Cell would prolong Charlotte's chase.
It should be a big moment when Charlotte eventually becomes SmackDown Women's champion, and instead of that happening at Hell in a Cell, I predict Carmella will walk away with the title in tow.
Prediction: Carmella interferes and wins the SmackDown Women's Championship.
AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin (United States Championship)
As a former WWE champion and arguably the best all-around performer on SmackDown Live, AJ Styles is a fantastic fit as United States champion right now and thus shouldn't lose the title any time soon. That includes to Baron Corbin, who has fallen far since failing to cash in his Money in the Bank contract successfully in August.
Corbin should still be seen as a top prospect on the brand, but his stock has dropped considerably compared to where it was even a few months ago. Working with Styles should allow him to regain some of that lost credibility, but he has been made to look fairly incompetent in his recent appearances on SmackDown.
Furthermore, Tye Dillinger has been as integral a part of this program as Corbin has, so his exclusion from this match is certainly questionable. It would also boost the quality of the contest given it could be much more entertaining as a Triple Threat than it would be as a standard singles match.
Regardless of how many challengers Styles has at Hell in a Cell, he should be United States champion for the foreseeable future. He can inject excitement into the midcard scene on SmackDown if he's up against the right people, in addition to bringing back the U.S. Open that he teased several months ago.
As for Corbin, he will have to wait a little longer to clinch his first piece of gold in WWE.
Prediction: AJ Styles retains the United States Championship.
The New Day vs. the Usos (SmackDown Tag Team Title Hell in a Cell Match)
Few feuds have elevated tag team wrestling quite like The New Day vs. The Usos has, and these two tandems have constantly been a highlight on SmackDown Live for the past five months. They have raised the bar with every one of their encounters, both on TV and on pay-per-view, so it's only fitting that their feud culminates inside Hell in a Cell.
Of course, this should be the final installment in their series of matches, since it will likely be tough for them to top what they will do inside Satan's Structure. The SmackDown Tag Team Championship has bounced around enough times that it should be kept with one team or another going forward, and either The New Day or The Usos would excel in the role as champions.
Once this rivalry concludes, there aren't many tandems that can step up to contend for the championship, but The Usos have already run through the entire division, apart from Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable. Despite having held gold more often than not in the last two years, New Day have a fresher batch of opponents to work with right now.
One set of contenders that come to mind is The Authors of Pain, who have been conspicuous by their absence as of late on NXT. That could indicate a possible main roster call-up, and immediately positioning them as threats to New Day would be best for the division.
This match is bound to be a blockbuster, but New Day must walk away with the tag titles intact to end the recent game of hot potato.
Prediction: The New Day retain the SmackDown Tag Team Championship.
Jinder Mahal vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (WWE Championship)
The Jinder Mahal vs. Shinsuke Nakamura feud started out as a breath of fresh air compared to Mahal's previous program with Randy Orton, but it quickly took a turn for the worse once The Modern Day Maharaja began to mock Nakamura's eccentric facial expressions.
It has been evident for months that the Mahal experiment as WWE champion simply isn't working and that it needs to end as soon as possible. He deserves credit for putting effort into coming across like a star appearance-wise, but his matches and promos are not up to par with what is expected of someone in that position.
That isn't to say Nakamura is a master of the microphone, but he is the babyface SmackDown Live desperately needs at the moment to help carry the show back to the heights it was once at. He is also incredibly popular, whereas Mahal hasn't been booked to look like a legitimate threat as champion.
With WWE set to tour India in December, it is entirely possible WWE holds off on taking the title from Mahal until the Royal Rumble. In that case, further damage would be done to Nakamura as a main event player on the rise, so Hell in a Cell needs to be the event when he ends Mahal's title reign.
The Singh Brothers have interfered in every one of Mahal's matches, so Nakamura eliminating them from the equation early on would allow the rest of the match to run smoothly.
Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura wins the WWE Championship.
Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens (Falls Count Anywhere Hell in a Cell Match)
Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon have occasionally crossed paths over the last year-and-a-half, and there has always been a sense of bad blood there, but it wasn't until Owens accused Shane of costing him the United States Championship at the end of the summer that their feud became personal.
What has made this program even more compelling is how Owens has developed this awesome aggressive edge that has cemented him as the most hated heel on SmackDown Live. Additionally, Shane is such a beloved babyface (despite how unrealistic his punches are) that it's hard to not rally behind him whenever he's itching to get his hands on Owens.
Needless to say, the ultimate goal of this rivalry should be to elevate Owens, but then again, Shane hasn't won a singles match since returning to WWE in 2016. Owens wouldn't lose a ton in defeat, but it would ruin his recent hot streak and keep him relegated to the middle of the card.
The Falls Count Anywhere stipulation means that either competitor can pin the other anywhere around the arena, so expect this fight to spill outside of the cage or possibly even on top of it. Interference could also play a factor in that case, but it would be better for them to settle their score on their own.
There is a real chance Shane conquers Owens and sends the crowd home happy with a win, but Owens emerging victorious is the smart choice and my final pick.
Prediction: Kevin Owens wins.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and current graduate student at Quinnipiac University. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.