This is about the time where I offer my normal predictions column whilst tying in the event's matches with a piece of classic cinema, and I've got just the pick. The recent passing of Burt Reynolds, a true archetype of steady masculinity, has led to many recalling his most notable films, and there were plenty to pore through. Smokey and The Bandit, Semi-Tough, Sharky's Machine, and Deliverance all come to mind, as does his highly-quotable comeback role in Boogie Nights. To pay tribute to a true legend like Reynolds, which movie do I go with?
Then it hit me: if Hell in a Cell is a prison, then there's no better selection than The Longest Yard - and I ain't talking about the watered-down Adam Sandler remake. We're going with the hysterically-funny, unflinchingly-gritty football flick pitting sadistic guards against proud convicts, with Reynolds as the irascible Paul "Wrecking" Crewe. Some of my recent writings for Cultaholic have reflected upon on the unfettered destruction of past Cell matches, so it's only appropriate that I intertwine my picks with a Reynolds classic that was just as brutally boundless. So stick this in your trophy case, and check out my picks for Sunday night's pay-per-view.
Check out Ross, Jack and Adam's predictions for Hell in a Cell 2018 below. Because Adam was stuck in America filming content with WWE 2K19 (thanks very much for the opportunity, 2K), Jack stood in for the predictions video making next week's reactions a triple threat with his Culty in the Bank briefcase on the line.
8. Daniel Bryan & Brie Bella Vs. The Miz & Maryse
"Hey Pop, the time you hit Hazen in the mouth - was it worth 30 years?"
"For me, it was."
"Then give me my damn shoe!"
So the SummerSlam match between Bryan and Miz seemed to confound many who were expecting something a little more hate-filled. Bryan's desire to drill Miz in the face as soon as he received medical clearance gave way to a rather competitive technical battle than anything boasting true acrimony. As far as this match goes, we're probably in for another measured mostly-wrestling bout. I'd take the Bryellas here, just because I figure Miz will get his win back at Super Show-Down. Fifty-fifty booking across several continents is progress I can get behind.
WINNERS: The Danielsons
7. The New Day Vs. Rusev Day
"But you spend fourteen years in this tank, you begin to understand that you've only got two things left they can't sweat out of you or beat out of you: your balls. And you better hang onto them, because they're about the only thing you're gonna have when you get out of here."
While one might assume that "tank" is a deft way to reference Rusev and the greatest WrestleMania entrance of all time, the quote is more a tribute to his endurance and resolve, as he's survived multiple character assassination attempts on the part of creative to remain a beloved performer. Little chance he and English win the belts though, as New Day retains via continued dissension among the ranks. It's better than the love-quadrangle that involved Summer Rae, so there's that.
WINNERS: New Day
6. Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre Vs. Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose
"Why'd you drive her car into the bay?"
"Couldn't find a car wash."
The manner in which Paul Crewe gets arrested at the start of Longest Yard stemmed from a police chase, and the smart-ass quip Crewe offers is the sort of dry remark you could imagine Ambrose giving after some madcap run-in with the law. But he's hardly wacky anarchist Ambrose here in the late summer of 2018, rather a protective guardian of Roman's Sacred Strength. While Ambrose's irreverence could border on goofy, the Dean that stood on his own is only going to be missed even more. As for the match, I'll go with the Shieldmates, but on a DQ that keeps the belts with the heels. Make the Shield look strong by proxy.
WINNERS: Rollins and Ambrose
5. Charlotte Vs. Becky Lynch
"You know something, Crewe? I don't like you. You understand that?"
Frankly, I'm amazed that it took this long for the crowd to revolt against Charlotte. She doesn't exactly do anything babyface-like except win matches cleanly, and the armchair critics can always chalk that up to the company playing favourites over the fan favourites. She's never really connected with the fans either, especially in the manner that Becky, through demonstrated charm on social media, has.
Since there's going to be a rematch at Super Show-Down, you can always mollify the fans by switching the belt to Becky here. Maybe the company's hoping that 80,000+ in Melbourne will cheer for Charlotte regaining the gold.
4. Ronda Rousey Vs. Alexa Bliss
"I don't think the guards know this formation. It's called 'incidental punishment after the ball is blown dead.' Remember, any man you tackle gets an elbow, knee, or kick in the mouth."
Criticize her lack of samey wrestling polish all you want, but it's obvious that Rousey is star material, and her matches reflect the buzz that her sheer presence is able to create. Her dismantling of Alexa at SummerSlam (Hi Oli - where's your jacket?) was less a match and more a Warrior/Honky-like mauling, stretched out to four minutes and with enough bone-wrenching sadism to make Eli Roth nauseous. WWE has a good thing going with Rousey, and they're not getting off the train just yet. I'd expect a more competitive match than SummerSlam, but not by much.
3. Jeff Hardy Vs. Randy Orton
"What the hell was that?"
"That was a dropkick."
"How much is that worth?"
"For that? Bulls**t!"
Seems appropriate that the artistic value of Orton's moveset would be called into question, even as he still takes part in big matches here in 2018. The entire storyline feels fairly lacking, with Orton's tenuous connection to Hardy being hardly expounded upon. As far as it being a Hell in a Cell match goes, remember when there had to be truly-discernible hatred between two individuals to warrant the Cell? Now it's like, "Well, Hell in a Cell's on the schedule so, uh, yeah put them in the cage, I guess". Also, Orton probably wins, and moves onto Nakamura, which will leave everybody delighted once an RKO fells this year's Rumble winner.
2. AJ Styles Vs. Samoa Joe
"Get the ambulance! I think he broke his f**kin' neck!"
"See! I told you I broke his f**kin' neck!"
I mean, shouldn't *this* be the Cell match? Joe spends an inordinate amount of time making shameless remarks toward Styles' family, driving AJ to a blind rage that he hates displaying in front of his wife and kids, and you're putting the two into a regular one-on-one match? You could say that it's a concession that Orton/Hardy is so bland that they *need* the Cell to spice things up, but c'mon now. With a DQ finish at SummerSlam, something more tangible has to happen at Hell in a Cell, and they're in a weird position because you'd think Styles is retaining, but Joe can't exactly lose clean, can he? They're painted into a corner, but somehow, some way, the champ retains.
1. Roman Reigns Vs. Braun Strowman
"He killed three people on the outside and two since he's been in here."
"Yeah, that karate's some bad stuff."
"Oh, that was before he learned karate."
"Say, what's he doing now?"
"Nobody's ever had the guts to ask him."
If Strowman loses this match, it would feel like WWE truly dropped the ball on the next big thing that people were actually clamouring for. The resolute beast that blended cartoon-like mayhem with a frightening bit of gravitas could be sacrificed to give yet another win to a man that many fans flat out refuse to accept. Strowman gets over organically, and now it seems as though he's an official heel once more, for wasteful reasons. Part of me thinks that they have to put Braun over in order to create a new chase, but what good would that really do? Fans will just see Roman coming back and regaining the gold anyway. I'll take Braun, but the endgame doesn't feel like a happy destination.