By Chuck Carroll
Can you believe it has been 20 years since Mick Foley cheated death twice in a Hell In A Cell match? His combined hang time for the falls can’t exceed more than a second or two, but the impact they had on both his body and the wrestling world will last forever. It’s only fitting that WWE inserted the man behind Mankind into the main event of the pay-per-view built around the five-ton cage he made famous.
Foley has been tapped to be the special guest referee when the steel door swings closed and Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman are trapped inside to battle for the Universal Championship. I get the feeling we’re going to see something special happen in this one, but will it be a title changing hands?
The Hell In A Cell card is stacked, with Ronda Rousey’s first defense of the RAW Women’s Championship since capturing it from Alexa Bliss at SummerSlam. On the SmackDown side, Charlotte Flair will be defending the title against former best friend Becky Lynch, who is in the midst of a character reboot as a heel.
Elsewhere on the card, AJ Styles will put the WWE Championship on the line and continue his heated feud with Samoa Joe in what could be match of the night, Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella will battle The Miz and Maryse in a real-life couple-vs.-couple match, and Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose seek to reclaim the RAW Tag Team titles from Seth Rollins and Drew McIntyre.
Who’s walking away with gold, and who’s going home empty-handed? Here is how I see everything playing out along with veteran wrestling journalists and Press Slam Podcast co-hosts Scott Fishman and Aaron Oster.
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Hell In A Cell Match (Mick Foley as special guest referee)
Roman Reigns (c) vs. Braun Strowman
Chuck: Adding Foley to the mix was a nice late addition to this one. It makes me wonder whether we’re going to see somebody take a free fall to pay homage to the man who first tried to Peter Pan off the top of the imposing steel structure. As for the result, don’t expect WWE to take away the gold from Roman anytime soon. The long-term plan remains for him to be the face of the company, and reuniting him with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose has taken the stink off for much of the WWE Universe, who mercilessly rebel against him. A title change would be a big setback for him. Pick: Roman Reigns
Scott: I’m just going to keep picking Braun Strowman until he wins the Universal championship. Then there is the question how Mick Foley plays in this match as special referee. I think if they really want to establish Strowman being the dominant force, he can’t afford a loss after cashing in the Money in the Bank opportunity in this way. Pick: Braun Strowman
Aaron: The only reason I can think of for including Mick Foley is to find a way for Braun to lose without losing completely cleanly. This is a mistake to have this match, compounded by the mistake to ever put the briefcase on Braun if they didn’t want him to win the title fairly quickly. Pick: Roman Reigns
AJ Styles (c) vs. Samoa Joe
Chuck: Why this match isn’t inside Hell In A Cell, I will never know. This has been a blood feud, if there ever was one. Both AJ and Joe have been brilliant working together, and the always-captivating Samoan has taken his promos to a new level. Honestly, I could see this one going either way. But I also think it wouldn’t hurt to have a shakeup at the top of SmackDown. Pick: Samoa Joe
Scott: AJ Styles has had a lengthy title reign, but I’m going with Samoa Joe finally winning the big one and becoming WWE champion. The story being Joe’s mind games and using Styles’ family to get in the titleholder’s head, causing him to make mistakes. Maybe we even get some interference from Styles’ wife, Wendy. Pick: Samoa Joe
Aaron: This really feels like Samoa Joe’s time, doesn’t it? This is, by far, the best work he’s done on the WWE main roster, and he’s really a highlight of the programming every week. So why do I have a bad feeling that WWE won’t pull the trigger? There’s a #1 contender match in Australia next month. So is this program ending? Something about this feels off. While I think it’s the wrong move, this feels like AJ Styles retaining. Pick: AJ Styles
RAW Women’s Championship
Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Alexa Bliss
Chuck: This goes one of two ways: Ronda wins decisively or there is a no-finish. Bottom line, there is no chance that Ms. Five Feet Of Fury reclaims the title. WWE isn’t going to play hot potato with a title held by their biggest attraction. Pick: Ronda Rousey
Scott: One way or another, there is no way Rousey is dropping the title so quickly. I’d be surprised if she weren’t the women’s champion come Evolution. That said, maybe more seeds will be planted for whoever her opponent ends up being. Whether it’s Nikki Bella or someone else that gets on the UFC Hall of Famer’s radar. Pick: Ronda Rousey
Aaron: Ronda Rousey isn’t losing this belt for a while, at least not until WrestleMania. The question is: how do you make this match more credible than SummerSlam? They worked to that objective somewhat by building in an injury, but does that make this match any more credible? We’ll have to see. Pick: Ronda Rousey
SmackDown Women’s Championship
Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Becky Lynch
Chuck: This is another match I wish would have been inside the cell. Becky is knocking it out of the park as a heel, so much so that the WWE Universe is having a hard time backing the babyface champ. The right decision would be to slow-play the angle and bit and have the Lass Kicker’s chase continue for a while longer. But given the overwhelming sentiment of fans, the pursuit could end here. Pick: Becky Lynch
Scott: This heel turn for Becky Lynch has completely gone in the opposite direction, as fans seem to love her more. That said, I’m going with this one ending in a no contest, with both letting their emotions get the better of them. Plus, I think there is more story to tell approaching the Evolution Pay-Per-View. Pick: No Contest
Aaron: Becky Lynch needs to get the title, and if it were up to me, she’d get it fast. That would at least calm the angry mob who believes it’s her time. Yet, I wonder if they want to do that moment at Evolution. It would be a great, special, moment they want to have at that PPV. So I see this ending weirdly somehow. Maybe Becky gets angry in the match and draws a DQ. Maybe it’s a double-countout. No matter the way, I see Charlotte retaining here. Pick: Charlotte Flair
Daniel Bryan & Brie Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse
Chuck: I still can’t help but to think this is a repeat storyline from WrestleMania 33. The Miz and Maryse are once again in a mixed tag match against a Bella and her boo, only this time it’s Brie and Daniel Bryan rather than Nikki and John Cena. Since Brie and Bryan have already said “I do,” we can skip the post-match proposal, but the rest will play out the same. Pick: Daniel Bryan & Brie Bella
Scott: After The Miz got the win at SummerSlam, I’m going with Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella getting the feel-good victory. They even the odds, leading Miz to hold the singles win over his head moving forward, until their next encounter. Pick: Daniel Bryan & Brie Bella
Aaron: This match was a good way to extend this feud without having Daniel Bryan and The Miz face off again one-on-one. So you could make the case that either side could win, considering that the women will probably be involved with the fall. Since The Miz won last time, and I fully expect The Miz to win the No. 1 contender match next month, I’ll give the win to Daniel Bryan and Brie here. Pick: Daniel Bryan & Brie Bella
Hell In A Cell Match
Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton
Chuck: This feud lacks venom in my opinion (pardon the pun, Viper). The build felt flat to me and didn’t rise anywhere near the level of hatred usually needed to settle a score in such a hellacious structure. So, it’s best to enjoy two vets who will go in there and put on a heck of a show. Hardy is always good for something crazy, but ultimately, I think he’ll be looking at the lights. Pick: Randy Orton
Scott: With Jeff Hardy known to be a risk-taker, one has to believe the “Charismatic Enigma” is going to pull out all the stops for the Hell in a Cell environment. It would be nice for him to get a victory against Randy Orton, finally getting retribution for all the attacks. Pick: Jeff Hardy
Aaron: If Randy Orton is going to be the top heel on SmackDown that it seems like WWE wants him to be, then he needs to win this match. Jeff Hardy is Jeff Hardy, results don’t matter quite as much. And while the same could be said for Randy Orton, it does defang him somewhat if he loses the first big-blood feud since his turn. Pick: Randy Orton
RAW Tag Team Championship
Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose
Chuck: This one is going to be fun. WWE has only scratched the surface with Ziggler and McIntyre. And with the recent addition of Braun Strowman to the faction, they really need time to jell. Stripping them of the gold now would be a setback, and Rollins and Ambrose are already well-established with The Shield. Leave it with the guys who need it. Pick: Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre
Scott: I don’t want to see the tag titles get taken from Ziggler and McIntyre right out of the gate. I think a win here establishes a strong unit with potentially Braun Strowman. They are a new duo the division can be built around. A breath of fresh air. Pick: Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre
Aaron: There’s a problem with this match. The Intercontinental title had been such an important part of the company over the past year. Granted, part of that was that the Universal title was MIA, but it still bothers me to see the IC title completely disappear over the past few weeks. Seth Rollins isn’t even carrying it around anymore. Putting the tag titles on The Shield as well would just hammer that home. So Dolph and Drew retain, and hopefully, they remember Rollins carries the IC belt going forward. Pick: Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre
SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The New Day (c) vs. Rusev & Aiden English
Chuck: The SmackDown tag division was forced to scramble after an injury to Eric Rowan forced The Bludgeon Brothers to relinquish the titles the night after SummerSlam. Everything here seems kind of thrown together, but I’m glad the reunited Rusev-English group is back in the title picture. They should win the titles and then have their relationship splinter once again, leading to a heated Rusev-English feud that was teased not long ago. Pick: Rusev & Aiden English
Scott: As much as I enjoy Aiden English and Rusev together, there has been too much going on to not get a blow up between the two. I can see English snapping and finally revealing a jealousy of Lana coming between he and Rusev. The Yoko Ono. Then again, maybe English ends up having a thing for the “Ravishing Russian.” Either way, New Day retains here in my eyes. Pick: The New Day
Aaron: There have been so many times over the past year when we felt Rusev’s time was coming. He finally gets a shot at a title, and we think the WWE is responding to how over Rusev is. And it never comes. I don’t expect that to change here. Pick: The New Day
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.