By Matt Straub
For the first time in probably two years, I had trouble getting through Monday Night Raw in the last month. One night when I was off I forced myself to plow through three episodes at once from my DVR to get ready to write this preview. I enjoy writing these previews because I like the give and take with Brad, but writing this is the best part of this show.
I’m only looking forward to one match on the card, and it won’t be one of the main events on the show. This is the kind of show which can be pleasantly surprising, since I have no expectations for it. It’s a holdover show until one of the big ones like Survivor Series, when they’ll bust out the good matches.
The Hell in the Cell card can usually stand on its own because someone will do something crazy on the cage. I hope so. Let’s get to why I think this show could be such a dud.
Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro & Neville
vs. Rusev, Sheamus & King Barrett (Kickoff Match)
The thing I find funny regarding this match is the way WWE had to change their Rusev-Summer storyline when he revealed he was engaged to Lana in real life. Other than that and wondering if that’s the reason he got stuck in this match, there’s nothing interesting to see here. There will be some good spots here with the faces all capable of creating something exciting, but from a storyline perspective, this match is garbage. Oh, hey, Barrett is on a kickoff show! Kofi graduated to the main show, maybe Barrett someday will as well.
Matt’s Pick: The faces win and no one cares.
Brad's Pick: This is truly one of those matches where the WWE has no time or use for any of the performers, and just throws the together in a six-man tag so everyone will remember they actually work for the company. It's too bad the WWE can't find anything better for Rusev and Sheamus, who can be so much better than what the WWE has stuck them with. Sheamus, remember, has the Money in the Bank briefcase, so he's pretty certain going to be champion soon. What does it say if the future WWE champ is on the kickoff show? Nothing good, that's what. Ziggler, Cesaro and Neville win because you might as well start off with the crowd getting hyped for a good show. In theory, though, six-man tags stink.
John Cena U.S. Open Challenge
It’s interesting because you never know who will come out, but there aren’t any obvious upcoming feuds for him, so I doubt he loses. Hopefully this is early.
Matt’s Pick: I’ll check Twitter to see if Cena won while I’m getting a snack.
Brad's Pick: Surely, Matt is jesting with everyone. This is the highlight of any PPV for Straub, as he lives the Hustle, Loyalty, Respect lifestyle, blinded to the fact Jon Cena is everything that is wrong with today's wrestling product. But I digree. You would believe the WWE would bring one a big name to take this challenge, perhaps Finn Balor, but he might only appeal to hardcore fans. Balor would, however, provide one of the great entrances the WWE has ever seen and the crowd would either be amazed, scared, or both, making him one of the most intriguing wrestlers in a long time. But more often than not, the WWE delivers a dud, somebody that comes down the aisle that nobody cares about seeing in this spot. That's likely the case again. Cena will beat whomever they through out to the ring in what probably will be a solid match. But the overall feeling amongst everyone will be why the heck did that just happen at a pay-per-view.
Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt in Hell in a Cell
We’ve never quite figured out why Wyatt is so hell bent on making sure Reigns doesn’t succeed, which is my problem with Wyatt in each new feud. He develops this deep hatred for someone almost at random. In this case, maybe he’s just listening to the will of the people. I have defended Reigns in the past, but his promos leading into this match were pretty bad. Any of the improvement I saw in him in the spring seems to have faded. I like him with Ambrose because I enjoy when WWE remembers its history and has friends stay in touch, even if they don’t form a true tag team or stable. Ambrose likely won’t be in this match, however, unless the family runs in at the end and he has to save Roman. Wyatt could use a win as WWE looks to reestablish the family’s dominance, but I don’t think they want to give up on Reigns yet.
Matt’s Pick: Reigns wins, people boo.
Brad's Pick: The WWE has ruined Bray Wyatt so much I hardly care anymore if he wins or not, a stark contrast to our recent columns where I championed his cause to not only start winning, but become WWE champion as well. That's not going to happen any time soon, and maybe never as this point. Roman Reigns is the same terrible wrestler he always was, although it appears Matt finally has seen the light in that area. Matt, which I will always point out, loved Reigns because he loves the wrestlers who are big, something that would make him an excellent WWE executive, because that's exactly what they look for in a main-eventer. Reigns' only good trait is he's big and good looking, which is everything. Never mind he stinks in every other way. The Wyatt family will make their presence known, and Reigns will get some help, too. But in the end Wyatt uses that advantage, perhaps Stroman comes in through the bottom of the ring during the match, to beat Reigns and make the crowd go wild. WWE execs, on the other hand, will say "what is wrong with people."
Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens
I’m taking a shot at the order of matches here as well, since there’s not much to pick in the matches themselves. I like Owens a lot, and there’s no reason to think he’ll lose this one. If WWE wants to get Ryback going again after his injury, fine, but not at the expense of Owens. By the way, WWE needs to let Owens talk more to get his own character some juice again.
Matt’s Pick: Owens wins, though I’m more nervous about this one than I should be.
Brad's Pick: Owens is an old-school bad guy, doing everything he can to be booed by the crowd. But the more he does of that, the more the crowd cheers him. Ryback is another of Matt's favorites, because, we'll he's big. Ryback is even worse than Reigns, as Ryback is so muscle-bound he's a walking robot. This match is a no-contest in a wrestling world, as Owens would win every single time. But in sports entertainment, anything goes. Still, I can't see Owens stopping now and losing the belt.
WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day
vs. The Dudley Boyz
This is the best match on the card to me. The Dudley Boyz still have it and the crowd loves them. The New Day has been given a tremendous twist on their gimmick. They’re still doing the goofy stuff, but they have an edge to them which makes them much more of a heel but also much more entertaining. They’re violent now on top of being goofy, and it works. I’m much more interested in them now than when they were clapping. As for the match itself, I hope the Dudley Boyz win just so we can keep watching this feud, but they can’t do that to the future of the division.
Matt’s Pick: New Day wins. New. Day. Wins. New. Day Wins. Sorry, I got into it for a second.
Brad's Pick: The New Day is the best thing the WWE has going right now, and bringing in the Dudley Boyz only solidified that fact, as the McMahons actually gave them a foil so they could remain heels. Being the heel works much better for them, rather than the faces everyone wants them to be. The Dudley Boyz are great too, one of the best tag teams of all time, and a couple of guys still capable of putting together a great match. For the match itself, unfortunately, it doesn't make much sense for the Dudleys to win the belts, so New Day somehow leaves with the titles in hand.
Divas Champion Charlotte vs. Nikki Bella
Is the Divas revolution over yet? Charlotte’s father is my favorite wrestler of all time, but she doesn’t do the sweet face thing well. She should be an arrogant jerk like her father, exuding confidence and making fun of people. She isn’t the greatest women’s wrestler going, but she can hold her own in there. Nikki is backed by John Cena. Anyway, Nikki needs the belt to lose it to Sasha or another one of the Divas getting a bigger push.
Matt’s Pick: Nikki wins but doesn’t keep the belt long.
Brad's Pick: We've talked about it before, the Divas Revolution only works when the Bellas aren't part of it, but the Bellas have to be part of it because you just can't forget they ever existed. It's a bad spot for the WWE to be in. Charlotte is only champion because she has the name, as there are better women's wrestlers in the WWE now. Eventually, however, the women will get their due when the Bellas are made to be secondary players, which they should be anyway, because none of them can wrestle. Charlotte wins, setting up a fued with Sasha, and then everyone will get to see what can happen with women's wrestling when the women can actually, you know, wrestle.
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins
vs. Demon Kane
This worked in the 1980s, but now the idea of Kane having two personalities at once is just dumb. This feud is the reason I’ve been struggling to watch Raw lately. It’s just tedious. I like Rollins, but he’s nothing special. He needs to be in a big match against a huge setting, and this just isn’t that kind of feud. If Demon Kane loses, Corporate Kane is fired, you know, because they’re different people. Don’t worry, Kane isn’t going anywhere, and Seth isn’t losing his belt.
Matt’s Pick: Rollins wins, Corporate Kane is fired, Demon Kane raises havoc next month.
Brad's Pick: At least they made the old Kane come back for this feud, because corporate Kane would have been the most boring thing ever. Even still, the best part of a title match is the fact the title could change hands and a new champion would be crowned. There isn't that chance here, as there is no chance Rollins leaves without the belt. It's really that simple for picking this match.
The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar
Hell in a Cell Match
This is what happens when you take so long between matches. It becomes difficult to keep the momentum going. This feud, once great, seems to have lost its energy. WWE brought out a bunch of legends to try and sell it last week, but they just took too long to build this whole thing. If you’re going to make a feud take up much of a calendar year, it has to built incredibly well like Hogan-Sting was in the 1990s. I’m just ready for this to be over. The actual booking for this one is fascinating, however. WWE has really backed itself into a corner here. It will be harder to sell Lesnar when he’s ready to go after Rollins again coming off a loss, but it’s hard to imagine Undertaker ending his run with another loss to Lesnar. Maybe he can recover by next Wrestlemania if he loses and then disappears and we forget he lost this match. That makes the most sense here. In fact, it could be a good place to put Demon Kane, making him the man who tries to avenge Undertaker’s loss. Boy I can’t wait for that. Maybe Lesnar will be gone for a while after this. All I know for sure is I don’t like any of the options coming off this match, which in and of itself could be nuts if Taker has any big bumps left in him.
Matt’s Pick: Lesnar wins a wild brawl.
Brad's Pick: Matt is right, this match has lost nearly all of its luster, as it's been so long between the last one that nobody cares or remembers the circumstances anymore. Undertaker tapped or he didn't. Lesnar won or he didn't. Right now, it doesn't matter anymore. Which also proves that in wrestling a short memory is best and the worst. If this is really the last match of Undertaker's career, he has to win this, anyway possible. If it isn't, and we probably won't know that until later, Brock wins and "kills" Undertaker. Then, Undertaker returns again to get utlimate revenge at WrestleMania, beating Lesnar after a quick set-up. Which of those happens I couldn't tell you, but if I had my guess, it's the latter. Brock wins. Everyone gets upset Undertaker lost. Until a few months from now when we start it all over again.