Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Hell in a Cell 2013 preview

In previous years I've written extensively about why gimmick pay-per-view names are not - ahem - good for business. I'm not going to repeat the argument at length here. The thrust of it is that gimmick matches should be employed on shows throughout the year as and when feuds require them. By tying them to a particular show it imposes constraints on an already uninspiring creative process. In previous years it's led to feuding wrestlers being put into the Cell when their disputes don't really feel serious enough for it. Happily that's been bypassed this year by two rivalries which have been running since the summer and feel natural being put into the structure.

When I was writing my preview of Battleground I completely forgot what show was following it. Had I remembered I would have altered my predictions accordingly. With hindsight it seems obvious that Bryan and Orton were going to wrestle to a no contest to set up another match in the series inside WWE's premier gimmick. With their programme stretching back to SummerSlam it makes sense to have the final showdown occur in the Hell in a Cell.

There are arguments to be made in favour of both as far as winning's concerned. 'The Viper' could become a eight time champion and head into a dispute with Big Show. That wouldn't be anyone's favourite feud but it would at least make sense and follow on from the last few months of story. Bryan could win and continue his rivalry with Triple H. The championship has been central to the animosity between them, Bryan wanting it and Tripper wanting to keep a tight control on who gets it. Casting Bryan as the renegade champ might not be the best fit but it would at least follow from what’s already happened.

When thinking about who'll win this match I've not paid much attention to Shawn Michaels being on referee duty. The likelihood is that he'll call the match fairly. I can't see him turning heel, there would be little point as there's no match that could come directly from it. I could see him giving Sweet Chin Music to 'The Viper' though, after bring sufficiently provoked. That would provide a storyline clause for 'The Game' to keep up his campaign of hatred against Bryan: he won because if the actions of HBK. Alternatively Orton could win after an errant kick floors Bryan, although that would serve only to prolong a programme I think is wrapping up.

The minutia of the match layout is impossible to predict and so I'm not going to bother trying. What I will predict is a win for Daniel Bryan and a title defence in the not too distant future against Triple H. That ‘The Cerebral Assassin’ went out of his way to say that he would not face Daniel Bryan during the October 21st RAW can be taken as a pretty clear indication that the match will happen. Or at least that it's being considered.

The other world championship will also be defended, though in a regular match as opposed to inside the Cell. In one corner will be Alberto Del Rio. No surprise there: he's been wearing or challenging for the WHC all year.

In the other corner will be John Cena. Which is surprising for a couple of reasons. Firstly Cena underwent surgery shortly after SummerSlam and we were told he'd be gone until early next year. Having seen him return quickly from injuries before, thanks to his Wolverine-like ability to heal, I wouldn't have been surprised to see him in a match at TLC. But to cut back his recuperation time from five months to two verges on witchcraft.

The second reason Cena's involvement is surprising is that the World Heavyweight championship has been beneath Cena for years now. That the company's top star shows no interest in it is part of the reason the title is now considered to be the second tier prize. Cena has concerned himself exclusively with the WWE title, cementing that belt's reputation as the more prestigious.

It's not impossible Cena will win as part of a long-term title unification plot. But don't get your hopes up. I think the title is likelier to stay with ADR. It would be a hindrance to Cena at this point and any argument that him winning it could enhance is stature is invalid: if Cena won the WHC it would clearly be to give him something to do and, more to the point, championships increase in credibility over time as opposed to overnight by being slapped around the waist of one man (even if that one is the biggest active name in wrestling). If anything the title would be harmed being on someone clearly viewing it as something to do until more important business comes their way.

I'll be amazed if the match doesn't see 'The Essence of Excellence' focusing on Cena's arm. Cena is returning from surgery on his elbow and Del Rio's finisher, the cross arm breaker, has been built up over the years as a legitimate hold that consistently gets wins. It's too good an opportunity to miss. ADR may beat Cena clean with it, setting up the story of Cena returning too soon. Where that would lead is anyone's guess but it would be nice to have that element of fallibility introduced to the currently nigh invincible Cena character.

The other option is that Del Rio gets disqualified for shenanigans. That would protect Cena, always of importance, and would also keep the strap on Del Rio. It's the safe, and boring, option and the one I suspect they'll go with. Whatever the result I expect ADR to leave with the gold.
Another month, another guy on the poster not booked in an advertised match
If we follow the progression of WWE titles the next in line is either the Intercontinental or the tag team. At the moment I think the doubles belts just clinch it due to a combination of disinterest in the IC strap and the focus brought to teams over the last few months.

The tag team titles were won by Cody Rhodes and Goldust in a very good match on the October 14th RAW. That the titles changed hands wasn't surprising: Cody 'n' Goldy have been amazingly popular over the last month or so, to the extent that WWE practically had to capitalise on it. Not only that but The Shield had been the champions since May 19th. It was time for a change.

WWE are not presenting a straight rematch. The reason is probably that we've seen Rollins and Reigns versus the Rhodes boys twice in the last three weeks. As good as a third bout would be it would not be able to offer anything new. Unless of course a gimmick had been added, which for some reason seems to be off limits at this year's HIAC show.

To keep things from getting monotonous the Uso brothers have been added to the match. Someone in WWE, quite possibly Triple H, seems determined to have the public accept Jimmy and Jey. They're a perfectly serviceable unit but I don't think they can progress much further than where they are now. I get the feeling they're in this match to protect the more important teams by taking the loss. 'The Hounds of Justice' could regain the titles to keep the rivalry alive and ensure they remain hot but I think a successful defence for the new champions is a better bet.

Meanwhile the Intercontinental championship will be defended on the pre-show. Paul Heyman Guy Curtis Axel will defend against Big E Langston. Think Big E's a heel? Think again! He became a good guy out of nowhere on Monday's RAW, in a move that makes the breakup of the Langston-Ziggler-AJ unit even more depressing. There was clearly no long term plan for any of them (beyond having AJ "save" the Divas division) so there was no reason they had to be parted.

I think we'll see 'The Perfect One' win with help from Heyman. That would reinforce the image of Heyman being an effective agent and someone wrestlers would want to have at ringside. It'd create reason for a rematch too. I think Big E will get the gold at some point, just not this Sunday.

On the subject of Heyman, he'll compete in his second pay-per-view match of the year at Hell in a Cell. Like his Night of Champions outing it will be a handicap match against CM Punk, only this time he'll team with Ryback as opposed to the rather less effective Curtis Axel. And, to really push the boat out, this match will also be fought inside the Hell in a Cell.

As I've already noted the addition of the Cell to this match makes sense: Heyman and Punk have been at each other's throats since July. I still think it's been a mostly tedious affair but it’s still one that lends itself to the Hell in a Cell and the importance that comes with it.

Traditionally Hell in a Cell marks the end of a feud in WWE. It’s a fittingly epic environment for a feud-ender and generally produces matches that can’t be topped, so why bother trying? I’ve a feeling Punk v Heyman and co will continue until Survivor Series (at least) and take in an elimination match: Team Punk v Team Heyman.

‘The Second City Saint’ has lain down for Heyman clients and Heyman himself at the last three pay-per-views. While wins and losses at the level Punk is at don’t usually matter too much within WWE there does come a point where a wrestler has to get a win to retain credibility. That’s the point I think Punk’s at here. A loss won’t see him fall down the card or lose the backing of people who already support him but it will send the message that he’s doomed to failure battling Heyman. I don’t think that’s a message WWE wants to give and so I’m predicting a Punk win.

AJ Lee defending the Divas championship against Brie Bella is the final match announced. This is the third straight supershow on which they’ll face each other. That’s not as bad as other matches on this card but it is strange when you consider that WWE has a not insignificant number of women that could be pitted against Ms Lee. The constant title shots for Brie are desperate attempts to establish her as a babyface.

The Total Divas star has guaranteed victory. I don’t think that’s something we should focus on. That’s not to say Brie definitely won’t become the new champion, but I don’t think it’s anywhere close to a certainty. I’d like to see AJ retain the title and move on to defences against some of the other ladies on the roster (and for some NXT Divas to be called up). Even if she remains champion I don’t think I’ll get my wish.

If we take the rumours that WWE wants to make Hell in a Cell a top quality show to make up for their recent offerings to be true the card we have is a little surprising. Yes, they're wheeling out the premier gimmick. Yes, John Cena is making a comeback (after missing a grand total of two pay-per-views). Yes, they've roped in Shawn Michaels to add interest to the main event storyline. But that's it. The show was going to feature the cage no matter what. Cena may attract a few extra buys but he by no means ensures the show will be a classic. 'The Heartbreak Kid's' involvement could and should be worthwhile, which is something, but not much by itself.

Ultimately though there's nothing about the card which makes me think it will be significantly better than Battleground or Night of Champions. WWE has misunderstood what was lacking from those shows: it wasn't Cena or focus on the major matches, it was an enticing undercard. If WWE wanted HIAC to appeal to fans irritated by the previous two supershows they should have spent more time working on matches outside of their central plots.

On paper I don't think Hell in a Cell looks bad. Both of the cage bouts should be enjoyable and the tag title affair has the potential to be memorable. But nothing's been announced that makes me think this show will reach the heights WWE apparently wants. The show could reach those heights but it's going to take numerous excellent performances and surprises. And those are disappointingly light on the ground in WWE at the moment.

Predictions summary:
Daniel Bryan to defeat Randy Orton
CM Punk to defeat Ryback and Paul Heyman
Alberto Del Rio to retain the World Heavyweight championship
Cody Rhodes and Goldust to retain the tag team championship
AJ Lee to defeat Brie Bella
Curtis Axel to defeat Big E Langston

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