WWE Hell in a Cell predictions and insights

Shane McMahon and Kevin Owens have both been known to take extreme risks under the brightest spotlight, so what's going to give when they clash at Hell in a Cell? Courtesy of WWE

When it comes to spectacles in the WWE, the sight of that giant, all-enclosing Hell in a Cell cage is enough to give you chills from head to toe.

On Sunday, the annual pay-per-view of the same name will play host to two matches inside of the 20-foot steel structure. If you've ever watched Hell in a Cell matches, you know what can happen inside -- or on top of -- this cage. Here's a reminder of some of the biggest Hell in a Cell moments, if you've forgotten.

It should be another memorable night, so let's get to it.

(c) - Indicates defending champion

Hell in a Cell (Last Man Standing): Kevin Owens vs. Shane McMahon

The case for Owens: There's something about McMahon that has brought out the absolute worst in Owens. And by worst, we mean best. KO is the top bad guy in the business, but his ongoing feud with the boss' son, which has been fraught with haymakers both verbal and physical, has made him even more diabolical.

When Owens was moved to SmackDown Live in early April, there were some initial concerns about whether or not he could maintain his villainous appeal. Gone was his Universal championship, and the narrative with his best friend turned bitter rival Chris Jericho was coming to an end. Owens was starting anew.

It didn't matter. He began a fantastic feud with AJ Styles that saw each come out on top to win the United States championship (Styles doing so twice). It carried SmackDown through the summer, even if the carrot at the end of the stick wasn't about the top title on the show.

Those accolades aside, it was Owens -- not John Cena, not Roman Reigns, not Brock Lesnar and not Braun Strowman -- who single-handedly forced the boss back onto television. Not once since the week after WrestleMania had Vince McMahon appeared on either brand, but he couldn't contain his anger anymore after weeks of Owens threatening and berating his son, Shane.

By now you know Owens' total disregard for rules and respect. Not only did he go chin-to-chin with Vince, but he handed the CEO a Stone Cold Steve Austin-like beatdown. It was as ugly as it was terrific, and it raised the stakes that much higher ahead of Sunday's battle inside Hell in a Cell.

The case for McMahon: While we don't know the probable twists and eventual outcome, we can tell you with full confidence that Shane O'Mac is going to push the limits of his daredevil theatrics. Question is: What should we expect? And how can he possibly top his flying elbow from the top of the cage at WrestleMania 32?

McMahon, of course, is not a regular performer. And in singles competition, he's hardly a regular winner, which bring us to ... trivia time: Who did Shane beat the last time he won a one-on-one televised match?

A. Randy Orton, 2009
B. Bobby Lashley, 2007
C. Shawn Michaels, 2006

If you guessed C, stand up and do a little Shane O'Shuffle. That match, if you're doing the math, came on Monday Night Raw a whopping 4,220 days ago (as of Friday). Unless you're Curt Hawkins, that seems like an unfathomable reign of futility.

Still, for McMahon, it's not about wins and losses -- it's about theatrics and viral videos. That's his thing, and that's what we're going to get.

Prediction: Shane will finally end that dubious streak. But he won't do it alone. Vince will make an appearance, and he will interfere. Or will he pull a Triple H and align himself with KO? Hmmm. We're going to bet on dad assisting son, because no one can be stopped for 4,222 straight days. Right?

WWE championship: Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

The case for Mahal: Just look at the man, for Pete's sake. He looks and exudes championship gold.

It seems like a lifetime ago that Mahal was destined for filler time, at best. Just two years ago, he thought about walking away from the business for good.

But Mahal's fortunes changed at Backlash in May, when he beat Orton for the title. From there, it's pretty much been cartwheels for Mahal, who continues to hone his character as the lead anti-American in the company.

Now Mahal is on pace to become the longest-reigning WWE champ since Seth Rollins two years ago.

Unless Nakamura beats him Sunday.

Their showdown at SummerSlam was largely underwhelming, but the dynamic between Mahal and Namakura should be much better in the rematch. It's the powerful, methodical modern-day Maharaja against a much quicker and electric opponent, who will likely set the pace.

While Mahal has earned every bit of his gold, his promos the past few weeks have come across as lazy. His shtick is effective, but it has to grow. And the reality is that his in-ring arsenal is still limited.

Still, if there's one thing Mahal has proved in recent months, it's that he'll rise over any limitations -- and opponents.

The case for Nakamura: Even as he walks to the ring, you can get chills listening to and watching the uber-exciting Nakamura.

He's been piling up wins, and not just any wins. He has recent victories against all-time greats Cena and Orton. He has earned the respect of nearly everyone he's stepped into the ring with.

WWE creative has been careful, so it seems, up to this point, to not push him to the apex too quickly for fear of backlash. But he's put in his time and checks off nearly every box in what makes up the DNA of a WWE champ.

As mentioned, Namakura fell to Mahal at SummerSlam, thanks to the Singh brothers interfering. That tactic has been used one too many times by Mahal, and any more nefarious antics are going to seem trite -- unless they backfire.

It's clear the WWE has made a staunch effort to augment its presence internationally, and Mahal has been the poster boy for global growth. But Nakamura has just as much worldwide appeal, along with the undeniable pedigree and likability to take the baton from Mahal.

Prediction: All the credit in the world to Mahal, who rose rapidly, not just winning the title, but holding it for months. But his character is beginning to fall flat. Nakamura wins and holds the title until the Royal Rumble -- make that WrestleMania.

United States championship: AJ Styles (c) vs. Baron Corbin

The case for Styles: We don't really need to make a strong case here. This is AJ Styles, after all. The question, though, is how much longer the creative team wants to keep the Phenomenal One out of the WWE championship picture.

Truth is, even though from soup to nuts he has been the most accomplished performer in the business for more than a year, Styles has not found a sexy enough storyline of late.

Since his beef with Owens ended, Styles has been entangled with Corbin and Tye Dillinger in a narrative that has hardly crossed T's and dotted I's. Most of that is a result of Corbin's Money in the Bank twist, which left The Lone Wolf without a clear path on SmackDown. It was only two weeks ago that Corbin actually challenged Styles to a match.

For Styles, this seems like a short rivalry, win or lose. With either Nakamura or Mahal likely looking for their next foe, Styles almost certainly has to be that guy.

The case for Corbin: Forgive us for the cliché, but for Corbin, after everything that happened with Cena, his time is now. Actually, Corbin's time should have come six to eight months ago, but here we are.

He won the Money in the Bank briefcase earlier this year, which is a fairly significant accomplishment in today's landscape, but then he infamously rushed to cash it in just days before SummerSlam and got caught in a roll-up pin by the champ Mahal.

Corbin has already passed the point of biding his time. He won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32, which ostensibly put him on the fast track to stardom -- except it didn't. At some point, patience becomes less of a virtue and more of a career burden.

A U.S. title would be an appropriate way to finally begin Corbin's push in earnest before it's too late and we stop caring entirely.

Prediction: It won't come cleanly, but Corbin will find a way to beat Styles, which will be a win-win for all of the reasons stated above.

Hell in a Cell for the SmackDown tag team championships: The New Day (c) vs. The Usos

Case for The New Day: Can you imagine the possibilities here? These are the two best and most-thrilling teams in the WWE.

Two of their past three matches, at SummerSlam and a Sin City street fight on SmackDown, should be contenders for match of the year. And now they're going at it inside of a 20-foot steel cage, in the first tag-team battle in a Hell in a Cell in eight years.

Already the longest-reigning tag-team champs in WWE history from their stint on Monday Night Raw, The New Day have held the belts twice since joining SmackDown earlier this year.

But more impressively, the trio has evolved from what was, many moons ago, a gimmick-laden existence to become elite performers night in and night out. Big E said it Tuesday night on SmackDown: "Whether we were in kickoff or main show, a tag match or street fight, we left with everyone knowing we had the best damn match of the night."

That's the truth. Their rivalry with the Usos is arguably the best one going in the WWE, with either team worthy of emerging from HIAC with the coveted hardware.

Case for the Usos: It seems like a generation ago that this team was wallowing in an identity crisis, largely because of Jimmy and Jey's ties to Reigns.

But they showed what the power of a heel turn can do for a career. Yeah, maybe their "Uso Penitentiary" thing they have going on is a little over the top, but this is about as appropriate an environment as they're going to get, in that regard.

For a team that has spent a good amount of its time in the air, can you imagine a Samoan Splash from the top of the cell? OK, that might be a little ambitious, if not ludicrous, but this match screams "this is awesome."

Prediction: This is as 50-50 a match as there is on the Hell in a Cell card because these teams are equally as dynamic, and they've each walked away as winners multiple times in their head-to-head matches since mid-June at Money in the Bank. For the sake of some consistency, we're going with The New Day to hang on to their titles.

Women's championship: Natalya (c) vs. Charlotte Flair

The case for Natalya: She's a worthy champ who has filled a vacuum in the women's division on SmackDown. Nothing about Natalya suggests a long-term reign, though her body of work, both in the ring and on the mic, deserves more credit than it gets.

The reality, though, is that Natalya, who beat Naomi for the SmackDown women's championship at SummerSlam, is still too vanilla as a personality, and given the amount of time she has been in this business, that's likely not to change.

But take nothing away from her staying power. Sunday will be her 40th pay-per-view event, the most of any woman in WWE history, according to ESPN Stats & Info. She's won 16 of those matches, but none have been against such a high-profile performer with the championship on the line.

The case for Charlotte: By comparison, this is almost a step backward for Charlotte, who a year ago at this event not only regained her title but did it inside of Hell in a Cell against Sasha Banks -- in the main event, no less.

You could make the argument that that moment, more than any other, truly cemented the women's division on equal footing with the men's. Unfortunately, Charlotte hasn't been able to build on that momentum, especially since joining SmackDown Live in the Superstar Shakeup. She has spent more time entangled in Fatal 5-Ways than building an organic rivalry with one person, the way she did with Banks a year ago.

While Sunday's match won't in any way garner the same attention as last year's match, it seems as if it should be a pivotal moment in getting Charlotte back on track.

Prediction: It seems all but likely Charlotte will come out on top, but the X factor is whether or not she'll leave Detroit as the champ with Money in the Bank winner Carmella waiting to cash in for a shot at the title. But because we're all expecting her to, smart money suggests it'll be nothing more than a tease, setting the table for an extended feud between the two and a cash-in coming when we're least expecting it.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Bobby Roode

The case for Ziggler: Finally, we're going to see Ziggler in action after weeks of nauseating impersonations. His antics mocking fellow stars' entrances are a case of when too much becomes too much.

But we can't deny the words that Ziggler has aggressively tried to make clear; he is a great in-ring performer who has been taken for granted. Unfortunately, he's had little TV time until recently, and he's been used more as a stepping-stone for up-and-coming talent than anything else. As our research team noted, at Backlash in May, Ziggler lost to a debuting Shinsuke Nakamura. Two years earlier, at Survivor Series, Ziggler fell to Tyler Breeze in his first pay-per-view match.

Not exactly encouraging news for Ziggler, whose opponent Sunday is making his initial WWE pay-per-view appearance.

The case for Roode: He made his debut on SmackDown only recently, and it's clear the creative team is building his "glorious" brand slowly.

Roode, who held the NXT championship for more than 200 days, has all the chops to one day rule Tuesday nights, and a win against Ziggler would be an ideal start before he begins a fresh rivalry with someone who has a little more cachet.

Prediction: There's no chance Roode loses cleanly, so the question becomes more about what the future holds for Ziggler. Is he merely a pawn in the greater Roode path to stardom, or will this rivalry linger a little longer to get both competitors a consistent opponent. You'd have to imagine Roode could learn a lot from Ziggler in the coming months, so in the upset of the night, we're going with Dolph, who'll dig deep into his book of sinful tactics to pull out the win.

Randy Orton vs. Rusev

The case for Orton: He's no longer the champ, and likely won't be again for quite some time, but Orton continues to be a can't-miss personality, if only because his RKOs, more than any other finishing move in the WWE, get fans jumping out of their seats.

His feud with Rusev has little background. It's a case of two guys needing an opponent, but the dynamic works. Recent rivalries against Bray Wyatt and Mahal (which included a Punjabi Prison match) did little to showcase Orton, who is not a guy who thrives with over-the-top gimmicks.

Just give him someone to beat down. But more so, give him someone with true athleticism to tangle with in the ring, to keep the cadence moving.

The case for Rusev: Perhaps no one has suffered as much as he has since switching brands. To call Rusev a mid-card talent at the moment might be overstating it.

But it wasn't all that long ago he was going toe-to-toe with Cena in high-end matches and seemed like the next big thing. Rusev did, after all, hold the U.S. title for a combined 272 days.

He has all the tools to establish himself as a legit heel on SmackDown and begin longer-term rivalries with the likes of AJ Styles or Shinsuke Nakamura.

But he needs his mojo back. He's become more of an afterthought, a Dolph Ziggler-esque talent. That's not a good thing.

Prediction: Unlike Ziggler, Rusev has time to snap out of his funk, and to be fair, the Bulgarian spent quite a bit of time on the DL. But he needs a win -- a notable win in a match that lasts more than 10 seconds. That'll happen Sunday.

Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable vs. The Hype Bros (Kickoff Show)

The case for Benjamin and Gable: They're a newly aligned team that hasn't had a lot of time to truly showcase how good they can be.

Benjamin only recently rejoined the WWE, but he has a strong resume. Gable, who spent some time, albeit limited, as a singles competitor, is a phenomenal tactician and athlete.

SmackDown needs more high-end teams, as The New Day and The Usos will need to branch off into separate feuds eventually.

Benjamin and Gable are likely candidates to become that team -- unless, you know, Breezango ever decides to step in the ring again (and the Fashion Files do, finally, return on Sunday).

The case for The Hype Bros: Well, we know where this team is headed -- straight to a breakup and a beef destined to come to a head at the next pay-per-view Kickoff Show.

Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley have accomplished as much as Ziggler in recent months, and it's clear they are fed up with losing and in need of a new storyline. That's all we really have to say about that.

Prediction: Either Ryder or Mojo will make a boneheaded move costing the team a win. They'll start clobbering each other. Ryder will become the heel in this new feud.