Shane McMahon, Shinsuke Nakamura and Biggest WWE Hell in a Cell 2017 Wild Cards
SmackDown Live's upcoming exclusive event, WWE Hell in a Cell on Oct. 8, will feature a star-studded card from start to finish, and on paper, it promises to be one of the better WWE-produced pay-per-views of 2017.
Not only should most of the matches advertised for the event deliver in the ring, part of the pay-per-view's appeal is that few bouts feel predictable. It will be tough for fans to accurately predict who will reign supreme in each outing, though there's no doubt that some Superstars have a better chance of coming out on top than others.
Whether it's been due to how they've been booked on WWE TV as of late or how evident it is that officials have no plans to push them, there are those who are walking into Hell in a Cell at a distinct disadvantage. That isn't to say it's impossible for them to have their hand raised on Sunday night, but the company's track record with them isn't an encouraging sign for their immediate future on the blue brand.
In a sense, they should be considered the wild cards at Hell in a Cell 2017. Fans may not be betting on them to win at the event, but they could surprise us all by somehow clinching a victory against their opponent.
Although the following five competitors will have the odds stacked against them come Hell in a Cell 2017, they should not be underestimated. In fact, they could prove to be the biggest talking points of the night if they can break out and cement their status as stars.
It's well-documented that Shane McMahon is far from a regular member of the active wrestler, but that hasn't stopped him from throwing hands whenever his family or his own integrity has been put into questions.
Look no further than his feuds with the likes of The Undertaker and AJ Styles in the past two years. In both bouts, Shane took the fight to those iconic talents and came close to emerging victorious but ultimately fell short.
Lately, he's had his sights set on Kevin Owens and avenging the former Universal champion's attack on his father, Mr. McMahon, from last month. He will put his duties as SmackDown Live commissioner to the side for one night at Hell in a Cell when he and Owens do battle, but obviously, the odds will not be in his favor.
Granted, Shane has more experience inside Satan's Structure than Owens, but he lost both times he stepped inside the cell, whereas Owens won his Hell in a Cell debut in 2016. That makes The Prizefighter a much more credible threat, not to mention how Owens has laid out his boss on countless occasions in the weeks preceding the pay-per-view.
Could Shane achieve the impossible and knock off Owens in the main event of Sunday's show? There is a slight chance of it, but history indicates he'll go down swinging and put forth a commendable effort regardless.
Rusev's run on SmackDown Live so far hasn't been the best, and quite frankly, he has failed to fulfill his full potential as a main event player on Tuesday nights. Time remains for him to redeem himself, but his road to redemption must begin at Hell in a Cell 2017.
Two months ago, Rusev made an enemy out of Randy Orton, and The Viper has been determined to make life miserable for Rusev ever since. This has included ruining "National Rusev Day" as well as beating him in 10 seconds at SummerSlam back in August.
To his credit, Rusev holds a (tainted) victory vs. Orton as well, but it won't be until he decisively defeats the multi-time world champion that fans will start to take him seriously again. He is every bit as capable of competing against the elite athletes of SmackDown as Orton is, but he has been booked to look like a glorified enhancement talent for many months.
It doesn't help that the Bulgarian brute hasn't had momentum on his side at all recently, either. He has been blindsided by Orton at every turn, so he's basically the underdog in their upcoming contest.
Orton putting Rusev down for a three count at Hell in a Cell is virtually guaranteed, but Rusev should use that doubt to prove the people wrong and reclaim his rightful spot toward the top of the card.
Baron Corbin becoming the WWE champion seemed to be only inevitable a few months ago, but since losing his Money in the Bank briefcase in embarrassing fashion in August, he has seen his stock drop considerably on SmackDown Live.
In addition to his feud with John Cena not ending the way he wanted it to, he hasn't been booked too strongly during his recent rivalry with AJ Styles over the United States Championship. Not at any point in the last month has he looked like a viable challenger to Styles, so fans have no reason to believe he will walk out with gold around his waist on Sunday night.
Considering Tye Dillinger had been on a bigger roll lately than Corbin, it wouldn't be out of the question to suggest that The Perfect 10 take his place in this championship clash instead. If Corbin will be contending for the star-spangled prize at Hell in a Cell as advertised, he needs to show the world what made him a top prospect in the past.
The Lone Wolf has had his fair share of shots at the WWE and Intercontinental Championships before, and on each occasion, he shined in defeat due to excellent performances. Regardless of the result of his match against Styles, he should be positioned as an equal to the former WWE champion if he wishes to boost his stock within the company again.
Despite how Corbin capturing the U.S. title would have been a certainty at one point, an exceptional outing at Hell in a Cell would take viewers by surprise and get him back to where he belongs.
After Dolph Ziggler spent so many weeks imitating Superstars of the past and present, it was a matter of time before someone stepped up to challenge him. Of course, that individual turned out to be Bobby Roode, and now they're scheduled to go one-on-one at Hell in a Cell on Oct. 8.
Roode's rise on SmackDown Live should resume through the remainder of the year, including a victory versus on Ziggler Sunday, but The Showoff's role on the blue brand beyond Hell in a Cell remains unknown. For years, he has been the go-to guy for debuting talent to feud with, but he shouldn't be relegated to stepping-stone status while he still has plenty to offer in the ring.
While he hasn't referred to himself as "The Showstopper" in some time, Ziggler is capable of stealing the show even over a decade removed from his arrival in the company. When he shares the squared circle with an equally motivated opponent, his takes his game to another level and that's what fans can expect when he goes up against Roode.
Ziggler boasting about how he's going to emerge victorious only to be beaten in decisive fashion has been the standard formula for his character for years, but that shouldn't be the case come Hell in a Cell. It would be foolish for him to hand Roode his first loss since joining the main roster, but he can make him look like a million bucks as well as boost his own stock in the process.
It's whenever fans count Ziggler out that he tends to thrive, and although he didn't have a ton of buzz prior to Hell in a Cell, he can prove that he can deliver when it matters most.
Shinsuke Nakamura is one of the most unpredictable performers on the WWE roster, which should surely bode well for his chances against Jinder Mahal when they collide for the WWE Championship at Hell in a Cell. He has contended for the gold once before, but this time around, he'll know not to shift his focus away from his opponent in the ring, even for a few seconds.
Hell in a Cell 2017 will be a crucial night in the career of Nakamura, for better or worse. If he can find a way to do what no one else has been able to up to this point and dethrone Mahal as champ, he will bring change to SmackDown Live and shake the landscape of the blue brand to its core.
Then again, if he isn't successful in his pursuit of the prestigious prestige, any momentum he has garnered up to this point will have gone to waste, forcing him to work his way back up the ladder to championship contention. Considering he is at the height of his popularity at the moment, it is imperative the WWE capitalize on that by putting the strap on him on Sunday.
The time to pull the trigger on a title change would have been at SummerSlam when Nakamura first vied for the gold, but the WWE can still strike while the iron is hot with him. Mahal isn't the compelling main event-caliber competitor officials had hoped he would be, but Nakamura could possibly get something special out of him with a memorable performance in their upcoming match.
The fate of SmackDown rests on the shoulders of The King of Strong Style at Hell in a Cell and whether he will finally put an end to Mahal's ruthless reign as the WWE champion is what fans are most excited to find out.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.