The blue brand doesn’t get Mick Foley or Triple H to finish the sell job for Hell in a Cell, but they do get lots of matches announced in advance for their Sept. 11 show from Lafayette, Louisiana.
One of those actually features U.S. Titleholder Shinsuke Nakamura, in his first televised action since SummerSlam. He’ll face Jeff Hardy, the man he took the belt from all the way back at Extreme Rules. The Charismatic Enigma is getting ready to face Randy Orton in a Cell match, as the Viper’s had a mad on for Jeff ever since returning from injury. Shinsuke and Hardy haven’t had much on-screen interaction since their rematch in Brooklyn last month.
Where’s Nak been? He’s working house shows, so it doesn’t appear to an injury-related hiatus. In story, he’s done the whole “there are no worthy challengers, so I’m chilling” thing.
It’s entertaining enough, and naming himself is protector of the “United States of Nakamerica” is a clever enough continuation of the “no speak English” trolling he’s been doing since turning heel at WrestleMania 34. But it also feels pretty generic, and combined with the lack of any real feud or program, gives the impression he’s an afterthought in SmackDown’s current plans.
Tonight’s match is all about Hardy wrapping up unfinished business before entering the demonic structure with Orton on Sunday night (Sept. 16) in San Antonio. It’s not even clear why Shinsuke would accept the match without complaint. WWE.com’s official preview makes it sound like a non-title match, which would eliminate a reason to try and refuse. And, of course, there’s little reason to think we’ll get a clean finish before the Viper strikes.
Nakamura’s WWE career has undoubtedly been a mixed bag, and there’s lots of blame for that to go around. But his heel character felt like a chance to start over and do big things. It just doesn’t seem like anyone has any idea how to get to, let alone do, those things.
It looks like he’ll sit on the sidelines for this weekend’s pay-per-view (PPV). But Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton! In a Cell! Get excited?
The Title Scene
There’s no mention of WWE Champ AJ Styles or his opponent for this weekend (somehow not taking place in a Cell, probably because they already have another match next month in Australia at Super Show-Down) Samoa Joe. Those two may have finished the build to Hell in a Cell during their brawl last Tuesday following the latest villainous promo from Joe about AJ’s wife and kids.
Another feud we’d prefer got the HiaC stip over Orton/Hardy will definitely be represented on the show tonight. Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair will lock up with Sonya Deville. Flair and #1 contender Becky Lynch had a great interview last Tuesday which reaffirmed the “no heels or faces” reboot of their rivalry. How will they continue that vibe during the Queen’s warm-up match?
We’ll find out who will challenge The New Day for their Tag Team Championship on this weekend’s PPV when The Bar and Rusev Day face off in the finale of a mini-tourament. This should be a lot of fun, even if we’re spending some mental energy convincing ourselves the already announced New Day vs. Cesaro and Sheamus match for Melbourne doesn’t necessarily spoil anything.
Other stuff to keep an eye on:
- Brie Bella and Daniel Bryan got the last laugh over Miz and Maryse last Tuesday when they thwarted an attack by Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega after the A-Lister suffered a humiliating defeat. It was a really good night for the YES couple, as earlier in the show, DB picked up a win over Cien. Now, Brie will try to make an even bigger statement by beating someone they’ll actually be facing on Sunday when she and Maryse square off in tonight’s main event.
- R-Truth might not be sure whether he wants to wrestle Carmella or partner with her for Mixed Match Challenge. But after playing everyone to get into and win last week’s main event against his old Awesome Truth partner, he’ll look to keep the momentum rolling when he faces that other guy who’s been a supporting character in the Mizanins vs. Danielsons feud, Almas.
- She wanted back-up for her fight against IIconics, and Naomi got it, in the form of Asuka!
It’s the Hell in a Cell ‘go home’ show!
What will you be looking for on SmackDown Live tonight?