Very few things improve the drama of a wrestling match quite like a 20ft steel cell, and although you can question the wisdom of stipulation-specific Pay-Pay-Views, WWE Hell In A Cell 2017 has some tantalizing bouts on offer. Team Smackdown didn't exactly cover itself in glory at Summerslam back in August and so the blue brand has some making up to do, especially with struggling crowd numbers at weekly shows.
Confirmed to be stepping into the actual cell this year are The New Day and The Usos in their latest Tag Team Title clash, as well as Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon in arguably the most anticipated match on the card.
With three other belts being contested, the main roster P.P.V. debut of Bobby Roode and the always-mesmerizing AJ Styles, Hell In A Cell 2017 promises to be a must-see event for WWE fans and although the company does have a habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory with erratic booking, the wrestling community will be tuning in regardless. Why no Sami Zayn though?
Bobby Roode vs. Dolph Ziggler
Poor Ziggles is quickly becoming the go-to guy for putting over NXT call-ups, which is frustrating, as the man desperately needs a big win. Unfortunately for Dolph, Roode is hot property right now and the company seemingly have big plans for him, therefore the chances of the glorious one losing his debut main roster P.P.V. clean look decidedly slim.
Although Ziggler cheating his way to victory can't be ruled out, a win for Bobby Roode seems far more likely. With that said, Dolph has only just debuted his new gimmick and needs to save face somehow or risk being buried entirely. Perhaps getting himself disqualified in a fit of anger will allow Ziggler to walk away with his reputation intact while also not hindering Roode's momentum.
Predicted winner: Bobby Roode (possibly via DQ)
AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin (U.S. Title Match)
After winning the Money In The Bank Ladder match earlier this year, it seemed Baron Corbin was on the verge of a major push but his subsequent failed cash-in only served to make WWE's grumpiest superstar look very silly indeed. Reports soon surfaced claiming that the company had lost faith in The Lone Wolf, although his current position as No. 1 contender to the U.S. Title would seem to suggest otherwise.
By contrast, AJ Styles is in the form of his life and generally considered to be the best in-ring worker in the business today (sorry Okada). This effectively rules out a clean win for Corbin. However, it could be argued that AJ is due a return to the WWE Championship picture and will drop his current Title at Hell In A Cell as a result.
While AJ is certainly deserving of a return to the main event scene, Corbin's cash-in failure means he simply doesn't feel like championship material right now. Tye Dillinger may also prove to be a factor in this match's result.
Predicted winner: AJ Styles to retain
The New Day vs. The Usos - HIAC (Smackdown Tag Team Title Match)
The Smackdown Tag Team Championships have been hot-footing it between The New Day and The Usos recently and backstage reports suggest that WWE's intention is to install Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods as the team with the most Tag Title reigns in history. That honor is currently held by The Dudley Boys with 8 separate stints and The New Day have a way to go before besting that record.
Jimmy and Jey are perhaps favorites for this one then and that would make perfect sense in kayfabe logic as the Hell In A Cell stipulation cuts off The New Day's numerical advantage. Whatever the result, these two teams have been putting on some stellar matches of late and this one should be no different.
Predicted winner: The Usos to become Smackdown Tag Team Champions
Randy Orton vs. Rusev
It was impossible not to feel sorry for Rusev at Summerslam when after a long absence from TV, he was ruthlessly squashed by The Apex Predator, Randy Orton. Talented both in the ring and on the mic, the Bulgarian Brute undoubtedly deserves better and Hell In A Cell should at least give fans a decent scrap between these two superstars.
In terms of a winner, Rusev needs the rub far more than Randy does and this match may act as the starting point for Rusev's Smackdown Live career after being mostly a comedy act thus far.
Predicted Winner: Rusev
Natalya vs. Charlotte (Smackdown Women's Championship Match)
A tough match to call, particularly with Carmella waiting in the wings to cash in her Money In The Bank briefcase. Natalya is a fine worker, no doubt, but she's been struggling on the character side of things for some time now and as such, unfortunately feels like a transitional champion.
With Charlotte being forced to take time off recently to be with her ill father, Ric Flair, a Title win would be a hugely heartwarming moment and the heat generated by a subsequent Carmella cash-in would be monumental. On the other hand, the Charlotte/Natalya rivalry has the potential to go far longer than a single match and the best way to prolong the feud would be to have Natalya retain.
When all is said and done however, Carmella needs to cash in soon and the impact will be far greater if she does so on Charlotte.
Predicted winner: Charlotte (with possible Carmella cash-in)
Jinder Mahal vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (WWE Championship Match)
Please, Lord, it has to be Shinsuke, doesn't it? Jinder Mahal's Title reign hasn't quite been the abject failure some fans would have you believe but propelling a glorified jobber to the top spot was never going to result in a legendary champ and the WWE title simply doesn't feel prestigious right now. It's also worth remembering that Jinder finds himself in this position purely because of the company's desire to tap into the Indian market.
If reports are to be believed, that marketing experiment hasn't succeeded and with the hugely popular Nakamura waiting in the wings, the sooner the Title changes hands, the better. Admittedly, the Rockstar/Artist/whatever WWE calls him this week hasn't been as explosive on the main roster as he was in NXT but Nakamura still has the charisma and ability to elevate the WWE Championship to its former glory.
Predicted winner: Shinsuke Nakamura to finally hinder the Jinder.
Kevin Owens vs. Shane McMahon - HIAC
Shane McMahon. A tall structure. You know what to expect. Kevin Owens' feud with the McMahon family has been the clear highlight of Smackdown Live over the past few weeks and Hell In A Cell shouldn't be the final chapter in that story.
After consecutive singles losses to The Undertaker and A.J. Styles, it may be tempting to plump for Shane in this bout but many would argue that there's no way Kevin Owens should be laying down for a man who - in kayfabe terms at least - isn't a proper wrestler.
In either case, Shane proved at Wrestlemania that there's more to his move set than just "jump off tall stuff" and this match has the potential to be epic. To keep the feud going, Owens should absolutely lay waste to Shane here, incurring further wrath from the McMahon clan.
Predicted winner: Kevin Owens
WWE Hell In A Cell 2017 airs October 8th on the WWE Network.