Your SO OF COURSE preview of WWE (RAW) Hell in a Cell 2016

In this day and age you can’t just “predict” a PPV anymore, you have to to account for the capricious whims of WWE’s septuagenarian, sleep-deprived egomaniac owner. You can’t just “preview” a PPV…you have to preview how things should go, in a reasonable and sane world, and then add “so of course…” and explain what Vince McMahon will probably do instead.

Consider this your SO OF COURSE preview of WWE HECK IN A SEC, also known as WHY IS THIS PPV NOT CALLED HALLOWEEN HAVOC OR BETTER STILL WHY IS THE RAW ON LITERAL HALLOWEEN NOT CALLED HALLOWEEN HAVOC?!

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Hey look they made the poster!

Last time on Raw’s so of course, the red brand aired the Clash of Champions PPV, where every title was on the line in a show featuring approximately one exciting contest. As of right now, Raw is basically unwatchable. All of the problems that plagued the show before the brand split still linger over the Monday night show, only now there are fewer performers available to pad things out. The show is long, long-feeling, unfocused, directionless, staring unlikable characters (with very very few exceptions) and puts far too much emphasis on trying to be a “sports entertainment variety show” and not enough on being a “pseudo-sport male soap opera.” Smackdown has mastered being the latter, however, and as a result has quickly become the most consistently great wrestling show on the air today. Dave Meltzer insists that Vince has just as much input over SD as he does Raw, and if that’s truly the case I don’t even know how to finish this sentence.

How can one man be responsible for both the best and worst wrestling show every week, week in and week out? The mind…it boggles.

The build-up to this year’s Heck in a Sec show has centered around a trio of matches that will take place in the titular structure. Of course, this being the PG era, all it really means to have a Cell match is you do a safe, no-DQ match while surrounded by mesh. Sure, Shane McMahon did a Foley spot (with extra protection under the table) at Mania 32, but that’s an exception, not the rule. Other than the three Cell matches, the show features a trio of undercard fights so uninteresting, so unenticing, so unremarkable you’d think they were booked by Jim Cornette….2001 Jim Cornette.

Let’s get this over with…

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ROMAN REIGNS vs RUSEV – US TITLE MATCH IN A CELL

WWE likes to space out their big gimmick matches and almost always opens their HIAC shows with a HIAC match. The big story of the night is whether the WWE or Women’s title will go on last, which means this one is a shoe-in to kick off the show. The story here is very by the book. In fact it feels like the HIAC was reverse-engineered. Roman won the title and the immediate rematch was inconclusive. Along the way the two traded insults and blows (Reigns with the insults, Rusev with the blows), making this what hopes to be the blowoff match. The two of them have been feuding for what feels like four months…holy cow they have been feuding for four months (they had a non-starter of a match at SummerSlam).

Reigns and Rusev tend to have good matches, and I’m sure there will be a big Cell spot to make it memorable for a day or two, but beyond that there’s just not much juice left in this tank. The real question will be whether or not Roman is moving back to the main event. If he is, a dirty title win might be in order. If not, then this will hopefully be the match that moves Roman away from Rusev and toward his next US Title challenger.

SO OF COURSE…

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ENZO & CASS vs GALLOWS & ANDERSON

In less than a year, Raw has turned my favorite tag team into one I could not care any less about…asterisk asterisk asterisk. I’ll come back to that. Enzo and Cass are no longer the funny and clever, loud but charming team that helped make NXT my favorite thing. Now they are obnoxious and annoying. Their promos are tired and trite, with none of the spark that they had back when they had Full Sail wrapped around their pinkies. I can only blame Vince because who else should I blame? Enzo didn’t suddenly forget how to cut a promo.

Meanwhile there’s Anderson & Gallows, who entered the company with a lot of hype, not only from fans, but from WWE itself…which makes their status as a joke team all the more baffling. They had that weird friends but not thing with AJ, then went full-bore with AJ, then split off to Raw. Whether or not they were going to team with Finn will never be known (I think not) but either way they are now directionless, like so much else on Raw.

And as with all things pertaining to Raw, it feels like this feud has been going on—spinning its wheels in the ditch—for months now. Will Sunday bring things to a conclusion? Can it? Please?

As for the winner of this match, I am of two minds. On the one hand Gallows and Anderson desperately need this match, and Enzo and Cass seem like the kind of team Vince will spend a decade trotting out there to cut bad jokes and then lose match after match. He loves making his popular acts look bad, so predicting the heels to win is not a bad guess. On the other hand, forget everything I said about Enzo and Cass because they were amazing on Monday night. Sure they were amazing for the first time in months, but still: Amazing is what it is. Enzo’s connection with the WWE Universe is remarkable, and seeing him lead the crowd through his promo spiel without a working mic was one of the great “anything can happen” moments that Raw used to do on the regular. Maybe just maybe Vince was watching and realizes that he’s sitting on a goldmine with these two. If so, maybe they will win and it will lead them to a run with the tag titles, to give the division something fun to revolve around (since New Day is likewise stale these days).

SO OF COURSE…

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TJ PERKINS vs BRIAN KENDRICK – CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH

Wanna know how lazy WWE RAW is right now? The set up to the match between Perkins and Kendrick is the most paint-by-numbers, fill-in-the-blank sort of feud WWE could possibly do. It’s not booking 101, it’s cliche. At Clash of Champions, Perkins defeated Kendrick to retain the Cruiserweight Title. Kendrick then attacked Perkins post-match, because he’s a heel. That’s fine. The following night on Raw, Kendrick challenged Perkins to a rematch, and the babyface, angry from the post-match attack the night before, accepted. That’s simple and smart booking, albeit a little rudimentary. The next Raw, Kendrick defeated Perkins by submission, but since it was a non-title match, the belt stayed with Perkins, setting up a rerematch for the belt on PPV.

This is where doing this same story a million times in the past 20 years has made everything so boring. Everyone knows the story. Baby beats heel, heel beats baby (non-title), baby beats heel again. End story. That’s it. Perkins beat Kendrick for the title, Kendrick beat Perkins but it didn’t count since it was a non-title. That sets up the rubber match, only there’s no drama because we’ve seen this story so many times before. Commentary will try and tell us how much danger Perkins is in because “he just got beat by Kendrick a couple weeks ago!” but we’ve read this book enough, we know that’s a swerve. There’s no drama to the match—a match we’re now seeing for the third time in a month—therefore there’s no incentive for the fans to get invested. I just hope the cruiserweight division doesn’t become the new “divas” division, where the stories don’t matter and the matches are just there to give the people a bathroom break. If given time and opportunity, these guys can steal the show every night. Even if they aren’t given good stories, they can at least entertain an often lifeless crowd.

SO OF COURSE…

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KEVIN OWENS vs SETH ROLLINS – WWE TITLE MATCH IN A CELL

I’m going out on a limb (not really I think) and saying that the Women’s Title main-events the show, which means the WWE Title match will likely anchor the mid-way spot on the card.

This feud is hot garbage. Seth can be a great babyface if he wasn’t being asked to act like a gradeschooler. And how sad is it that the best part about Kevin Owens run with the top title on the show is his comedy bits with Chris Jericho who isn’t in this match or even on the card at all? I love the work Jericho is doing, Owens is always going to be aces, and Rollins is money when he’s allowed to be. All my favorites are on Raw and it makes me so sad.

Obviously they’re not changing the top title in the midcard of a B-PPV, especially when we still have Jericho vs Owens on the horizon, so let’s go ahead and say Owens does something very unorthodox off the cage (maybe…partway off?) that amazes everyone that he could do such a thing as a man of his girth. Then Rollins does something even more crazy, but misses and gets rolled-up for the L.

SO OF COURSE…

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CESARO & SHEAMUS vs NEW DAY – WWE TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH

429 days will be the number New Day hit in their long Tag Title reign when they step into the ring for this match. It’s still about 50 days shy of Demolition’s record with the WWF World Tag Team Championship (whose lineage merged into this title, but whose records do not count or something. I dunno…#WWELOGIC and all that). I don’t think WWE even cares about Demolition’s record since they’re already calling New Day the longest reigning champs, and act as though there was no title merger in the past (Vince is downright Orwellian when he wants to be), so there’s no reason to necessarily think the champs are safe until December. On the other hand, am I really going to sit here in my pajama pants, sipping orange juice, and say that Cesaro and Sheamus are going to be the ones to take the Title off them? Cesaro and Sheamus? Two of the biggest dweebs (one in Vince’s mind, one in the fans’) on the show? No.

Actually I think there can be a storyline here that culminates in their winning the gold, and maybe having a less delightful Team Hell No sort of run, but it doesn’t feel like the time is right to pull the trigger just yet. The better story is for them to lose their first big title match, not break up, regroup, refocus, rematch and then win and go on a tear. But I’m well aware that there aren’t many other options for title changes on this card, and Vince usually likes to have at least one title change on each show, so they may do a switch just for that stupid reason. This is Vince McMahon after all.

You’ll notice I had nothing to say about New Day themselves…because, what is there to say? They’ve been coasting for a few months now and just aren’t doing it for me any more.

SO OF COURSE…

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SASHA BANKS vs CHARLOTTE – WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH IN A CELL

Vince could always get cold feet, and goodness knows he’s let plenty of idiots talk him out of doing the right thing a million times before (not that he needs the help), but it seems a foregone conclusion that the women’s match will main-event the show. The idea of having the women top the bill on a PPV has been batted around for a few years now, starting with the women of NXT routinely stealing the show every opportunity they had. Giving the final spot to the ladies seems like an easy way to score some cheap publicity, and considering how dreadful most everything else about Raw has been lately, WWE needs all the cheap publicity it can get. It’s also very likely that this will be the best Cell match of the three and, by default, the best match on the card. Putting it in the main makes too much sense.

SO OF COU—

no not yet.

As for the match, we’ve seen these two compete for the better part of two years now, going back to their time in NXT. Assuming WWE does not run their feud into the ground the potential is there for this to be something that is revisited periodically for the rest of their careers. If done right it can be Hart vs Michaels or Rock vs Triple H. If done wrong (by overdoing it) it’ll be Cena vs Orton.

Gee I wonder which one they’ll do?

Both women have shown a willingness to go beyond the call of duty in order to give the fans a memorable match, so I expect this—the first ever women’s HIAC match—to be lights out. Having said that, I wonder if the ladies realize it wasn’t the crazy (and dangerous) high spots that won them over, it was the fact that they (1) were positioned as equal to the men-competitors, (2) were given logical “pro wrestling” stories that moved away from the stereotypical “diva” storylines (she’s jealous of her, they catfight, etc), and (3) were given the time to tell a story in the ring. It took all three of those factors to turn the NXT women’s division into the standout it was. The lack of those three is the reason things are not as good on Monday nights as they were on Wednesday nights. I said all that to say this: Please Sasha, do not break your neck trying to get a standing ovation. You (and Charlotte, Becky, Bayley) already have us in the palm of your hands. Just tell a good story, do something crazy (but relatively safe) with the cage and win the match. Hopefully this is the last we see of this feud for a long while.

SO OF COURSE…

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Oh well there’s always NXT…and Smackdown!

Here’s to Sunday!

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