Whether it’s in a scripted or non-kayfabe sense by factoring in everything from wins and losses, how much of an emphasis they’re given on the show, their momentum for the next TV episode, match performances and everything between, here’s my shortlist for who I think will be stealing the show at Hell in a Cell.
Shared Glory: Shane McMahon / Kevin Owens
If you’re asking me who wins the match, then I go with Kevin Owens. However, I don’t think it’s as simple as that.
This is going to be a dual effort, since both of them need to sell the feud during the match just the same as they’ve sold it leading up to the match.
If Shane doesn’t go all-out, it will seem like Owens is carrying the two of them. Likewise, if Owens treats this like a lesser feud and we don’t see his normal self, it will seem like Shane doesn’t have much of an opponent and everything will seem out of whack.
I expect Shane to get some pops with a spot or two while Owens ultimately gets the victory, so both of them end up looking good in the end.
There’s no bigger match the SmackDown brand can put on for WrestleMania next year than AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Championship, so somewhere along the line, we have to get to that point.
I don’t think it makes as much sense for Nakamura to take the title from Mahal here, then to have Styles either win the Royal Rumble or the Elimination Chamber to earn a title shot and win the title (or lose his title shot) at Mania, rather than for Styles to go into the biggest show of the year as the champion.
In order for that to happen, Nakamura needs to come up short here to allow for Styles to be the one to dethrone Mahal either at Survivor Series or Clash of Champions.
Piggybacking off that idea, for Styles to be able to win the WWE Championship, he needs to drop the United States title, and there’s no better candidate to be the next in line than Baron Corbin.
The Lone Wolf hasn’t had a good year, despite how it would look on paper here and there.
It seemed like he was going to be the next intercontinental champion by defeating Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania, but he came up short. He lost some matches to Sami Zayn to follow this up. Then, he found his way into the Money in the Bank briefcase, where he subsequently lost to Nakamura several times, before failing to cash in the contract, and then losing to John Cena.
At this point, Corbin needs the US title to help offset these comeuppances, and I think he’ll be successful in obtaining that goal at Hell in a Cell.
The New Day
This is the end of their feud with The Usos, and since The New Day are definitely prioritized over Jimmy and Jey, I have to imagine they’ll make it out alive with the tag titles still in their possession.
This will also be a bit of shared glory with The Usos, as I think this will be the best match of the entire night even though it may not include any spots like the Owens/McMahon match seemingly would promise.
These two teams will want to go out with a bang and after putting on a good performance, I’m expecting to see The New Day standing tall.
Charlotte takes the title from Natalya here and keeps it well into WrestleMania season, with or without Carmella being factored in.
I can’t see much of a future of Nattie holding that title, since she strikes me as a transitional champion more than anything else, particularly as Charlotte hasn’t won the title since moving over to SmackDown.
Now that she’s firmly a babyface, Charlotte as the champion won’t feel as stale as when she was doing the heel champion gimmick for, well, the majority of her career, it felt.
My guess is we have the title change here and Natalya gets her rematch on an episode of SmackDown leading up to Survivor Series, where the brand vs. brand matches will take place of the title being on the line. Then, by Clash of Champions, WWE will have built up Tamina enough or Paige will have returned to be the next challenger.
Those are my picks, but who do you think will end up being the primary focal points? Drop your predictions in the comments below!