Greetings and salutations, kiddos. My name is Mark Nestico, and like you, I’m a grown child who, at 31, is still hopelessly addicted to professional wrestling. I am the former host of After Raw Radio Podcast, which was at one time rated the #1 Amateur Sports Blog on iTunes. As much as I dig talking about wrestling, I love writing about it even more, which is why the fine folks of Ringside Chats have brought me in to brighten up your day.
So…world…here I am.
I don’t think there’s a better place to start than to talk about Hell in a Cell 2017. This falls under the umbrella of one of WWE’s more “extreme” pay-per-views, and you can expect bedlam to unfold at almost every level. The Road to Wrestlemania hasn’t quite started yet, but you can expect HiaC to have ramifications that ripple until we reach the Showcase of the Immortals.
Let’s dive in!
Preshow: American Alpha Zero Sugar vs. The Hype Bros.
Chad Gable is somehow in a better position than his former partner Jason Jordan. While Jordan has been main event’ing Raw in multiple losing efforts to top talent, Gable has been quietly putting together works of art with Smackdown’s elite ala AJ Styles, Rusev, and now with his new comrade, The Gold Standard, Shelton Benjamin. This will be their first PPV outing, and one can only expect that this will end up squarely in the ‘W’ column for them.
On the other side is the ever-so-over and the ever-so-not combination of Iced Z, Zach Ryder and a fifteen-year-old who pounds too much Mountain Dew, Ricky Ortiz Mojo Rawley. Ryder has a wealth of upside, and has for years. His in-ring capabilities and ability to connect with fans on a molecular level is well documents. Mojo is friends with Gronk, so that means he had a temporary rocket strapped to his back, winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal that has acted as a launching pad for so many careers in the past.
Prediction: Ryder and Mojo are headed for Splitsville. Somehow, Ryder will come out of this with the crowd’s support in the initial stages, since it’s clear they haven’t backing Rawley in any sense. They’ll have to work very, very hard to turn the Internet Champion into a heel, and Rawley will likely best him in several contests until Ryder gets a crucial PPV win. American Alpha 2: Electric Boogaloo will keep climbing the midcard. I expect the Fashion Police to take the next spot in line for a Tag Team Championship opportunity, but look for great things from Gable and the veteran Benjamin to follow if they’re able to keep electrifying the crowd.
Shane O’Mac vs. Kevin Sort-Of-Steen-Again
Sami said it best: this isn’t the snarky and annoying Kevin Owens that we’ve grown accustomed to over the years. Instead, we have a Kevin that fans of CZW, PWG, and ROH have been aching to return to us. This is an unapologetic juggernaut that systematically picks opponents apart with glee and utter madness. Every move that Owens makes on the mic and in the ring seems to matter more and more with each passing week. On the 10/13 addition of Smackdown, these two closed out the show in a segment that almost ran for 20 minutes.
This shows incredible dedication to their feud on the part of WWE. But let’s get real here- there are two possible outcomes:
- Sami Zayn interferes and costs Owens the match. Their battle begins again. The crowd will yawn soundly.
Then there’s my prediction:
- Sami Zayn will interfere in this matchup, but it will be striking down Shane and aligning himself with Kevin Owens.
Earlier this week Daniel Bryan tweeted that Sami Zayn “didn’t work out the way he thought he would” when he was drafted to Smackdown. The Underdog from the Underground tweeted back to him “that would be an understatement.” Sami is a bankable talent in the ring, and has made his money being that guy who is just on the cusp of greatness, but whose own morality keeps him from grabbing the brass ring.
His interaction with Shane at the close of Smackdown was to warn him, which Shane in a showing of disrespect wrote Sami off quickly. This could be the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back and propels Sami to the side of chaotic evil, and sets him up with his old best friend in a pairing that would finally bring the two men back to brotherhood under the banner of destroying the main event on Smackdown. The real winner here? The United States Championship. WWE has found a way to elevate the title by-proxy, with Kevin Owens driven insane due to losing it. If that doesn’t increase its stock- nothing will.
Jinder Mahal vs. KIIIIIIIIIIIIIINSHASAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAmura
What was once a breath of fresh air in the WWE has soured into an experiment the WWE will be quick to remedy as soon as possible. Regulated to the third…maybe even forth most important storyline on Tuesday nights, Jinder has established himself as WWE Champion that the crowd simply can’t care about. While his look and in-ring abilities aren’t in question, his booking is tedious at this point.
- Jinder gets housed for 95% of the match.
- Singh Brothers interfere.
- Finisher is executed.
- Que Bollywood music.
Without any form of variation on Jinder’s part, not only have his matches become grossly predictable, but they have also become overwhelmingly boring. He is outclassed in almost every category by his charismatic challenger, Shinsuke Nakamura.
Shinsuke is looking to finally cash in on the promise of a WWE Championship run. Aside from the awful promos they have written for him, Nakamura has the support of the WWE Universe. His entrance is electric and iconic, his matches are very, very good, and his connection to the fans is undeniable. This is a man crowds want to see hoist the best.
Prediction: WWE will use Nakamura as a way to bring back prestige to the division and restore what a Tier 1 Superstar looks like holding the most coveted belt in the company. Jinder Mahal is better served in the United States title picture in a role similar to Miz on Raw, only with more of that anti-United States heat that he can bring. Watch this match very closely. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Styles lose his belt on Sunday to set up a “dream” program with Nakamura and give American fans a taste of what made Japanese audiences lose their minds.
The New Day vs. The Number One Contenders’Ish
Like Friday the 13th sequels, this is a storyline that will not die. It will keep happening. It will fill at least ten minutes a week of Smackdown time. Children will be bathed in cereal. You will spend several moments Google’ing what “Day One Ish” means, at which point you’ll lose days at a time.
The problem? These two teams put on damn good matches. Their chemistry is undeniable, and the Usos have experienced a renaissance over the last year as an interesting heel tandem that can really get the crowd off their feet.
The other problem? The New Day is still wildly over, and seeing them lose the titles again in a back-and-forth seems highly unlikely. New teams will be moving upwards eventually, and The New Day will have to close out this feud eventually if they are to remain the premier tag team in the WWE. My fear is seeing the Usos lose relevance in the face of a loss, because they truly have been a delight to watch.
Prediction: This will be standard fare: The New Day will retain and the match will be super entertaining to watch. The only twist I can see coming about is a team interfering to keep Usos in the picture and giving access to a three-way tag team match down the line. The Authors of Pain seem like the best candidates to move to Smackdown and begin carving names into the Book of Pain.
Natayla vs. AND NEW WOMEN’S CHAMPION Charlotte Flair
The most shocking thing about this match is that Asuka wasn’t drafted to Smackdown, given they sorely need an infusion of new talent to clear up the waters that have become very stagnant. Natty Ice is a transitional champion if I have ever seen one, and despite being owed this belt for years of terrible storylines, putting over talent, and being the preeminent leader of the women’s locker room, she will almost certainly be dropping the belt to Flair.
With Ric on the shelf and generating incredible amounts of social media buzz, putting the belt on his daughter will increase its visibility tenfold. WWE scarcely passes up on an opportunity to exploit gluttonous amounts of free press, and you can expect to a picture of Charlotte standing next to her dad, smiling, while he holds the championship she just claimed.
Prediction: Natayla will lose in a scorcher, because these two women have had some very good matches due to their technical soundness. If they wanted to really blow the doors off of things, this would be the single best scenario to bring Paige back into the fold. Imagine Charlotte holding her title high- and then Paige’s music hitting to ruin the celebration. They might not have gotten Asuka, but the Anti-Diva would be a wonderful addition to a floundering Women’s Division on Smackdown. Don’t expect Carmella to cash in just yet…she still has plenty of time to be a f-a-b-u-l-ous champion.
Baron Corbin vs. TOO SWEET Styles
Baron Corbin is looking a lot like a United States Champion to me, and that’s only because AJ Styles is meant for bigger and better things. That’s no disrespect to The Lone Wolf, but he’s better served infusing the US Title with some new blood and building his own legacy. Guys like Tye Dillinger will make excellent opponents for Corbin, and using that belt as a stepping stone to the WWE Championship is exactly where it ought to be. AJ has done exemplary work making the title more relevant.
Corbin is in a very peculiar place. His booking has been solid, but his victories when it matter are few and far between. Failing to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase have given a do-or-die mentality to where he goes from here. If Corbin is unsuccessful at Hell in a Cell, it would be catastrophic for him, and would likely regulate him to the same unhappy spot Rusev found himself in roughly a year ago.
Styles retaining wouldn’t be all that bad, however. As I mentioned a moment ago, Tye Dillinger is right…there. The crowd is firmly behind the Perfect Ten, and a win over Styles would legitimize his push and throw him into the stratosphere. At this point it all comes down to who WWE wants to back. If Corbin wins, expect greater things from him over the next year. If he doesn’t, begin looking for the next wrestler to start betting your chips on, because his train will have officially left the station.
Prediction: Too close to call. Both men winning makes a ton of sense in future storylines. AJ winning means keeping one of the biggest names in WWE at the helm of the US Title division to maintain the importance of that belt. Corbin winning signals Styles likely ascent back to the main event and an interesting turn for the belt.
Either scenario is riveting, and should lay the groundwork for what to expect heading into the next glut of big, important pay-per-view events.
The Oh-So-Glorious Bobby Roooooooo vs. That Guy from the Cricket Wireless Commercials
At this point in time, it’s very, very clear that Bobby Roode is about to be showcased on a much higher level. Dolph, who is near the end of his contract with WWE, is doing what he does best: putting over new talent. As sad as it is for me to write that, Ziggler’s tenure is coming to an end. The Show-Off is one of the best hands WWE has ever, and I mean ever, seen. The man could sell ketchup popsicles to a woman wearing white gloves. He is that good, albeit snake-bitten by injuries at crucial points in his career.
Thanks, Jack Swagger.
This match will probably be the best worked on the card. Roode is safe, but flawless. Ziggler is meticulous and perfect. They will tear the house down for eight minutes and act as the pace car for the rest of the show.
Predictions: Bobby wins this one with almost no question. Ziggler may have zagged his last run in WWE for the foreseeable future. He is a certifiable Hall-of-Famer, and doing the job to put Roode over is just another in a long line of people Dolph has been sacrificed for.
The Artist Formerly Known as Roo-Roo vs. I Saw this Guy Make Out with a Fan Once
Rusev’s deal with Lucifer must have ended, because he’s seemingly stuck in mid-card hell and partnered with sunglasses aficionado Aiden English. Slumming it for the time being is Randy Orton, who is locked in a sexy game of “is-he-a-main-eventer-is-he-not-a-main-eventer” after he was bodied by the Great Khali through a bunch of bamboo sticks.
The era of guys like Orton and Cena is somehow coming to a close- making way for new talent to take the reins of WWE. Rusev, however, is not someone I’d expect to be the heir to Randy’s throne. If he wins, it will be with trickery and interference by English. If he loses, grass is green and water is also wet.
There are few surprises here, but they’ve done a fairly interesting job of building this feud. Rusev does something very neat, and then Randy RKO’s the bejesus out of him. Rinse and repeat, but bless their hearts it’s fun to watch.
Prediction: The crux of Orton winning is “where does he go from here?” Already out of the title picture, it makes little sense to have Randy go over a younger talent and then continue doing nothing, whereas Rusev makes sense dominating the mid-card on an eventual run back at the US Title, which defined his career in its infant stages. I have Orton winning this one, but I am MORE than happy to be wrong about that.
All-in-all, Hell in a Cell is shaping up to be a respectable event with some important matches. The key points to hone in on are Jinder and Shinsuke, as it will ultimately define which direction WWE will be taking multiple members of the roster. Also, Shane and Kevin Owens have all the makings of a classic.
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I hope you’ve enjoyed this chat, and let’s all pray that Hell in a Cell rights the ship. I’ve had a few weeks to get over Strowman not winning the Universal Championship, but if they let me down again I’ll…I’ll…I’ll probably keep watching because I’m addicted. Oh well.