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This year's installment of Hell in a Cell comes at an awkward time in WWE's schedule. While Hell in a Cell is the monthly traditional PPV, there are two other major events taking place shortly after it; the Super Showdown in Australia, and the all-women's Evolution PPV. While Hell in a Cell is this Sunday, WWE has dedicated a lot of time on RAW and SmackDown to pushing those two additional events, leading to a situation where WWE is promoting three different shows all at the same time. Some times, it has been hard to even keep straight which match is happening at which event.
Hell in a Cell of course, is all about feuds, or at least in spirit it is supposed to be all about feuds. Historically, a Hell in the Cell match is the most serious stipulation WWE has to offer, and only the most intense feuds ever step foot inside the cell. However, ever since WWE began hosting a fall PPV with the Hell in a Cell gimmick, the Hell in a Cell stipulation has not been brought out for the most intense feuds, but rather for whatever feuds WWE has going on when the annual event rolls around. This has effectively killed a lot of the aura around the Hell in a Cell match; and it is no surprise over the years the PPV has turned out a lot of lackluster matches.
Not aiding the cause is WWE promoting seemingly random matches as Hell in the Cell matches. While it makes sense for Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman to take place inside the cell since it's WWE's biggest feud over their main title, why exactly is Randy Orton vs Jeff Hardy taking place inside the cell? The idea of the match being this unbelievable attraction is lowered a bit when it is being used for a non-title midcard match.
Anyway, here is a look at the feuds being featured at Hell in a Cell, ranked in order of how interesting they currently are.
1. Charlotte vs Becky Lynch
After deciding to turn Lynch heel at SummerSlam following a title loss to Charlotte, WWE experienced a tremendous gift of good fortune when the fans revolted and refused to boo Lynch, instead cheering her on as she attacked Charlotte. While the crowd didn't supply the intended reaction, WWE struck gold in that by denying Lynch her signature victory and having her go rouge against Charlotte, the crowd became much more interested in Lynch's chase for the title. Fans are much more interested in Lynch right now than they would have been if she simply won the title at SummerSlam, so even though it could be argued that having her lose and turn heel was a mistake, the reality is that so far it has only been a huge positive for Lynch's career.
There is some awkwardness with the situation, particularly when the announcers still try and sell Lynch as a dastardly heel while the audience pops for everything she does. Lynch is somewhat in the Daniel Bryan role, where the denial of her championship is aiding her popularity, but I don't think Lynch is going to be like Bryan; to me she has to win the title soon or she is going to cool off. In WWE's mind, they could believe that since beating Lynch was what got her more over in the first place, beating her again at Hell in a Cell will just get her more over, but I'm not sure that is a great strategy. Eventually the fans will just become too frustrated with the product and stop caring; so I think it would be wise to let Lynch win the title here.
AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe
Styles and Joe had a hell of a match at SummerSlam, with a strong ending to set up their rematch at Hell in a Cell. There is no doubt that they are going to have another very good match at Hell in a Cell. The feud has really been about Samoa Joe's ability to project himself as both a predator and a star within WWE. Fans have always wanted to buy Joe as this incredible badass, but his time on the main roster hasn't really been filled with major victories over big names. Still, Joe is so good at projecting himself as a legit tough guy that it doesn't matter how he has been booked in the past, if he is in a big match, through his ring-work, mannerisms and attitude, he comes across like a serious threat to anyone who stands in his way.
The feud has been built on Joe insulting Styles' family. I think in some ways it has been a very lazy storyline. Joe comes out, talks about Styles' family, and leaves. That's pretty much it. However, Joe is so good in delivering the scripted material and Styles has been great in the babyface role, that it hasn't mattered at all. In the hands of less capable performers, this storyline could very well bomb, and instead it's one of the most compelling in WWE.
3. The Shield vs Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre
The reunion of The Shield has gone about the way I expected it to go; the crowd likes Ambrose and Rollins and pops for the team beatdowns, but that hasn't translated into them loving Reigns as a singles star, which is what the reformation is intended to do. Turning Strowman seemed at the time like a backwards idea; WWE had spent months and months working to get Strowman over as a babyface and it was working. Remember, when WWE first started pushing Strowman he didn't get over right away, it took time and effort to make him a beloved hero to the fans. Undoing that just to try and get Reigns over seems like a big waste; because at the end of the day the crowd is going to react to Reigns the same way they've always been reacting. Aligning Strowman with Ziggler and McIntyre is kind of the most important part of this feud, because it gives Ziggler and especially McIntyre something important to do while McIntyre awaits his big push.
They have two matches at Hell in a Cell, Ambrose and Rollins in a tag match against Ziggler and McIntyre and Strowman and Reigns inside the cell for the Universal Championship. The Australia show on Oct. 6 has already been announced as having a six-man tag with all of these guys, so no matter what happens on Sunday it is expected that they will keep feuding. I don't think Strowman wins the title; it would be too redundant after Reigns' epic chase for him to lose the title in his first defense. I think Reigns wins with the help of The Shield; followed by Strowman winning the tag match and setting up a blow-off match at Survivor Series.
4. The Miz vs Daniel Bryan
As far as longevity goes this is the biggest feud in WWE. The Miz has been really good in this program as the boisterous bully, and he's the perfect foil for Bryan to go against. Against The Miz, Bryan isn't the ultimate underdog that he is frequently portrayed as. Instead, the crowd knows that Bryan can kick the crap out of The Miz and it's up to the Miz to sneak away with wins, as opposed to the other way around. This helps promote Bryan as not just this feel-good longshot that won the title, but an aggressive and dangerous wrestler. This feud would rank higher if it not for their match at Hell in a Cell featuring Brie Bella and Maryse in a couples tag match. Clearly this is just a holding match building up to the Australia show, which has a singles match between Bryan and Miz with the winner becoming the new number contender for the WWE Championship. This is a good feud, but it's not necessarily peaking at Hell in a Cell.
5. Jeff Hardy vs Randy Orton
When Randy Orton turned heel, hopeful fans were looking for a change in Orton's stagnant character. While he has definitely been more sinister since turning heel, he hasn't exactly blown everyone away the way he did ten years ago. To me, he has been the same Orton he was as a babyface; a guy with great timing and anticipation in the ring, but a very generic character that cuts wooden promos. His feud with Hardy has been simple, aside from Orton fingering Hardy's gauge hole, and the two have just exchanged beatdowns, which I guess is now enough to warrant a Hell in a Cell match. Really, this match seems to exist so the fans can watch Hardy fall off of something; so I just hope he doesn't get seriously injured.
6. Ronda Rousey vs Alexa Bliss
Rousey obliterated Bliss at SummerSlam to win the RAW Women's Championship, so they'll meet again at Hell in a Cell. There isn't much to say about this, Rousey is going to retain her title and probably dominate Bliss. The next big match for Rousey is pegged for Evolution, where she is reportedly going to face Nikki Bella. Since Rousey is tagging with the Bella twins at the Australia show, I don't see Nikki turning on Rousey here. My best guess is that Alicia Fox interferes in the match on Sunday, Nikki comes in and runs her off, and Rousey squashes Bliss.
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