The wrestling business is always evolving. Back in the days, the steel cage was the end all be all of ending feuds. With the evolution of the steel cage, we have one of the biggest attractions the WWE has to offer now – Hell in a Cell.
The cage that sits a few feet outside the ring onto the floor, has walls that were initially 15 feet and now are over 20 feet high and a roof to keep people out has proven to be the best way to culminate a heated program. This year though, it does seem a little lackluster. Though I will say, the actions of the four men involved in the two matches – John Cena, Randy Orton, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose – went a long way to add intrigue to this year’s show.
Really, though, you can’t blame the WWE for that TOO much. Yes they need to do a bit of a better job creating top stars, but they have been hit by the injury bug worse than a last place fantasy football team! They build Daniel Bryan, and now he’s out for months. Let’s start building Roman Reigns for a possible WrestleMania main event, but now he is out of action. Even a guy like Bad New Barrett, who it seemed was ready for a bit of a push, is out with an injury. It even goes back to unexpected departure of CM Punk to start 2014. But Hell in a Cell is still Hell in a Cell and the history of cell matches adds enough interest to make sure we watch.
So to get us ready for this year’s installment, let’s take a look at what I think are the 10 best Hell in a Cell matches of all time. These matches mostly come from events that had pretty impressive cards, but anytime the hellish structure is hanging over the ring, the crowd is just waiting for the match that brings the cage down to the floor.
MATCH: Triple H vs Chris Jericho
EVENT: Judgment Day
VENUE: Bridgestone Arena – Nashville, TN
DATE: May 19, 2002
Our countdown starts at what was the first ever Pay-Per-View ever for the WWE, no longer the WWF. An event that saw two of the biggest names in history in the same ring as Stone Cold Steve Austin took on Ric Flair…and Big Show – Hulk Hogan’s 2002 championship run came to an end against The Undertaker - the world was first introduced to a bald Kurt Angle – and, of course, we had the cell.
In this match, Triple H and Chris Jericho ended the rivalry that gave us that year’s WrestleMania main event…well, at least the last match on the card. To culminate the program, Jericho and The Game pulled out all the stops. We had chairs, a ladder, the stairs, Triple H’s patented sledgehammer and, the cherry on top, the 2x4 wrapped in barbed wire.
We saw the end of Tim White’s refereeing career which gave us a reason to have the cell door opened during the match. Anytime the match goes to the top of the cell is a plus. I highly doubt we will see anyone taking a Mick Foley dive off of the new, taller cell - and for the sake of those in the matches thank God! – but just being on the top adds a different element to the match. On his podcast, Jericho has repeatedly said that is a different world looking down from the top of the cell, and how can you argue that? To sum up the fight in this match, we had a camera shot looking straight up from inside the ring with a drop of blood on the camera lens. You can’t script something like that.
After taking a few shots from the barbed wire 2x4, Triple H came back and hit Jericho with the Pedigree on the top of the cage for the win. The two have had great in-ring chemistry since 2000 – the only thing that could have made this match better would be adding a Jericho/Stephanie battle on the mic.
MATCH: Brock Lesnar (c) vs The Undertaker – WWE Championship
EVENT: No Mercy
VENUE: Alltel Arena – Little Rock, AR
DATE: October 20, 2002
Everyone knows that if you want respect in the WWE and you want to be known as a top name in the game, you have to go through The Undertaker – both inside the ring and out. After just six months on the main roster, Brock Lesnar upset The Rock at SummerSlam to become the youngest WWE Champion in history. Still though, something was missing. Some thought he was still just a flash in the pan. It was smart for the WWE to put Lesnar with Taker following the Rock match to solidify Lesnar as a legit star.
Going back to Paul Heyman’s promo from this past Monday, this proved to be another example of how the career of Brock Lesnar seemed to still be pretty similar in a dominant way as it was when he started in 2002 – Lesnar beat Taker in 2002, and I vaguely remember Heyman mentioning something about Lesnar being the 1 in 21-1 or something like that.
The Undertaker gave Lesnar the biggest fight the young champion has had since coming to the WWE in March of that year but the rookie stood toe-to-toe with the phenom. Brock ended up with a clean win over The Undertaker and The Deadman’s face was bloodier than we had every seen. The way that Lesnar won the match proved that he would be a star for years to come - or at least the next 18 months before he thought the Vikings needed a new D-Tackle.
MATCH: D-Generation X vs Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon & Big Show
VENUE: Air Canada Centre – Toronto, ON
DATE: September 17, 2006
Our #8 match involved both Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels and also took place in Canada. Granted, we heard some expected “You Screwed Bret!” chants early in the match, but as the match went on, even the fans north of the border had to just sit back and appreciated what they were seeing.
This was a really bloody and intense battle that ended the DX vs The McMahons program from the summer of 2006. We saw screwdrivers, trash cans, Shane’s coast to coast Van Terminator rip-off and the Chairman of the Board’s head being shoved up Big Show. I think that gives you a fantastic image of just how nasty this match was.
MATCH: Edge vs The Undertaker
VENUE: Conseco Field House – Indianapolis, IN
DATE: August 17, 2008
The 2008 SummerSlam saw a Hell in a Cell match was the end of the program that gave us that year’s WrestleMania main event…well, at least the last match on the card. You know, I swear I have heard that before somewhere…eh, probably just my imagination.
Edge and The Undertaker provided a great back and forth match here – amplified by Jim Ross on the call. We got the full TLC treatment with tables ladders and chairs and an unorthodox way for the two to get out of the cell during the match. After setting the stairs up outside, Edge jumped off and speared The Undertaker against the cell causing an entire panel of the cage to fall over. Once outside, the crowd came to their feet with Edge spearing Taker from one announce table and through another. Also, once back in the cage, The Dead Man gave Edge a chokeslam off the top rope through two tables stacked on top of each other on the outside of the ring which led to the tombstone and the win for The Undertaker.
But the best was yet to come. After deciding that he wasn’t done with the Rated-R Superstar, Taker brings Edge to the top of a ladder in the ring and chokeslams Edge straight to hell – fireball and all! Because, really, where else are you going to chokeslam someone through in Hell in a Cell? It’s not North Dakota in a Cell! Just like going to the top of the cell, fire is always a special added element to any match that makes it that much more memorable.
MATCH: Triple H (c) vs Cactus Jack – WWF Championship
EVENT: No Way Out
VENUE: Hartford Civic Center – Hartford, CT
DATE: February 27, 2000
Speaking of fire, that smoothly transitions us to the #8 match. It’s a pretty memorable match when fire is used, on a barbed wire 2x4 nonetheless, and it’s not the most memorable part of the match…by far!
This match was billed as the WWF Championship vs Cactus Jack’s career. With that kind of a stipulation, you knew that Jack was going to do something crazy, and the fans were not disappointed. This was also the first time that Triple H found his way inside the cell. As you’ll probably be able to pick up from this countdown, it wouldn’t be his last time.
It obviously would take a lot to beat a crazy man like Cactus Jack to end his career, and it end up taking and a back drop from the top of the cell that sent Jack through the top of the cage and into the ring was what had to be done. Triple H got the win and that was the last that we saw of the man known as Cactus Jack!
In a completely unrelated note, some other fully bearded long-haired flannel wearing man named Mick Foley main evented WrestleMania the following month. Again, completely unrelated.
MATCH: Triple H vs The Undertaker
EVENT: WrestleMania XXVIII
VENUE: Sun Life Stadium – Miami, FL
DATE: April 1, 2012
“The End of an Era” Well, both guys ended up having a few more matches so I’m not too sure how the era ended, but still. Thanks to the use of the mics on the cameras, this match may have been the most psychologically dramatic Hell in a Cell match there has been.
This was the second time that the cell has seen the biggest show of the year. The first being at WrestleMania XV in a pretty forgettable match between The Undertaker and the Big Boss Man. If having two stars as significant as Triple H and The Undertaker wasn’t enough, this WrestleMania rematch added Shawn Michaels as the special referee.
The excitement of “The Streak” always added something to Taker’s WrestleMania match, so the crowd was already on the edge of their seats with every near three count. Hearing the “STAY DOWN” “DON’T STOP THIS MATCH” among other quotes from inside the ring just added to the drama for those watching at home. Throw in the physicality of the match, the surprise debut of a hairless Undertaker and the fact that the cell itself had an entrance song – Metallica no less – and this Hell in a Cell match ranks towards the top of WrestleMania history.
MATCH: John Cena (c) vs Alberto Del Rio vs CM Punk – WWE Championship
EVENT: Hell in a Cell
VENUE: New Orleans Arena – New Orleans, LA
DATE: October 2, 2011
No, this is not a misprint. We actually have a match in the top 10 that does NOT involve Triple H and/or The Undertaker! Obviously it would take a really good performance to keep the two biggest stars in Hell in a Cell history – Cena, Punk and Del Rio were able to do just that.
The three biggest names of 2011 provided a great back and forth…and forth (because there’s three of them) match that really made the crowd feel that any of the three could win at any time. It was Del Rio who actually locked Cena out of a cell and nailed Punk with a couple shots with a lead pipe to get the win and the WWE Championship.
The drama was just starting though as recently fired R-Truth and Miz hit the ring and destroyed everything in the cell, refs and cameraman included, with the entire locker room out and trying to get into the cell to stop them. Once again, a lot of credit goes to good ol JR for his frantic commentary to help set the mood for us to realize just how crazy this situation was.
This is the only match in the countdown since WWE started the Hell in a Cell Pay-Per-View in 2009 and I don’t think that is just a coincidence. I think that a part of what made Hell in a Cell matches so exciting before the Pay-Per-View was the spontaneity of it. The announcement that this program was going to have a Hell in a Cell match at the next Pay-Per-View added to the excitement. Now, you know that Hell in a Cell is coming up in October so a lot of the suspense is gone. I think that was another part of what made the Triple H/Undertaker match at WrestleMania XXVIII so special – it was so unexpected that we would get an additional Hell in a Cell match in a year.
MATCH: Kurt Angle (c) vs The Undertaker vs Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Triple H vs Rikishi vs The Rock - WWF Championship
VENUE: Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center – Birmingham, AL
DATE: December 10, 2000
The end of 2000 saw a lot of solid storylines coming to an end. The question remained, which of these programs deserved to be put in the cell? Eh, might as well just throw them all in there!
The story behind it was the Mick Foley was a frustrated commissioner who wanted to put Vince McMahon’s high priced talent in more than just harm’s way by putting them all in the cell. Vince did what he could stop the match, including bringing truck down to the ring to try and tear the cage down. That didn’t work, however it did set up another big Hell in a Cell moment. Rikishi, don’t lie, you know that you read who was in this match and immediately started singing “One of These Things Doesn’t Belong” climbed to the top of the cell and ended up being tossed off by The Undertaker into whatever it was that was in the back of that truck.
The star power alone makes this match so special! How many non-Royal Rumble matches can you think of that includes THIS level of talent. Not only that, but it also started the set up for the main event for what many consider to be the best WrestleMania ever when Stone Cold and The Rock threw punches in the middle of the ring.
MATCH: Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker
EVENT: In Your House – Badd Blood
VENUE: Kiel Center - St. Louis, MO
DATE: October 5, 1997
It’s hard to top the original. When talking about ladder matches, people still reference Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon at WrestleMania X as one of the best. Almost four years later, Michaels stepped into this new structure known as Hell in a Cell with The Undertaker and made history that is still talked about so fondly to this day.
Michaels and Taker set the bar high and not many have been able to reach it to this day. Michaels taking chair shot after chair shot, being “javelined” into the side of the cell and falling from the upper part of the cell to the announce table just let every cell match know that you have a lot to live up to.
Not only was the match intense, but this is where, after months of speculation, we were introduced to The Undertaker’s long lost brother, Kane. Paul Bearer led “The Big Red Monster” down to the ring who tore the door off the hinges and took out The Undertaker giving Michaels the win and a championship match against Bret Hart at next month’s Survivor Series…I can’t really remember anything special happening at that match, can you?
MATCH: Mankind vs The Undertaker
EVENT: King of the Ring
VENUE: Pittsburgh Civic Center – Pittsburgh, PA
DATE: June 28, 1998
If you have any other Hell in a Cell match at the top of your list, you’re doing it wrong.
The match itself started on the top of the cage. Within minutes, JR made one of his infamous calls from this match, “they’re right above us folks, and I don’t like it a damn bit!” Seconds later, his fears were justified as The Undertaker threw Mankind from the top of the cage to the Spanish announce table in what is still considered one of the most famous scenes in WWE history! “Has God as my witness, he is broken in half!” Really, if you want to have a successful Hell in a Cell match, it’s always a safe bet to have JR call it! After about five minutes of trying to get Mankind on the stretcher and out of the arena, they made it almost halfway back up the aisle before Mankind jumped up from the stretcher and pretty much just said, “Nah, I’m good” and went back to the top of the cell! Aaaaaaaand about a minute later The Dead Man grabbed Mankind and chokeslammed him THROUGH the top of the cell and into the center of the ring with Mankind taking one of the most awkward looking bumps you have ever seen.
Later in the match, Mankind introduces a bed of thumbtacks in which he ended up being slammed on. Funny part of it, he didn’t fall right in the middle of the tacks, just the edge. So Mankind, being the logical thinker that he is, told the ref to tell Taker to do it again! Undertaker agreed, chokeslammed Mankind onto the tacks, and hit the tombstone for the win.
How memorable was this match? Stone Cold Steve Austin was, by far the biggest star in wrestling at that time, and possibly ever. That was the same night that he lost the WWF title for the first time to Kane. Nobody talks about that though. All they talk about is Mick Foley and how he solidified himself into the history books of the sport that he loved!
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