Throwback Thursday: The Best of “Hell in a Cell”
When the match debuted on Oct. 5, 1997 “Hell in a Cell” was as innovative and original as “WarGames” a decade before. With 30 “Hell in a Cell” matches to date, including the post-RAW dark Cell match from Sept. 26, 2011, and with Hell in a Cell 2015 less than three weeks away (Oct. 25th on WWE Network), headlined by The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar in the Cell structure, Throwback Thursday on WrestlingDVDNetwork.com is taking a look back at eight of the best “Hell in a Cell” matches available to watch right now on the WWE Network.
The brainchild of Jim Cornette, the genesis for “Hell in a Cell” was the first-of-its-kind “Steel Cage Match” between Tommy “Wildfire” Rich and “Mad Dog” Buzz Sawyer in the 1983 “Last Battle of Atlanta”. Completely enveloped in steel, Sawyer and Rich waged a war where pinfall or submission were the only means of attaining victory. With Vince McMahon’s money and a Monday Night War on the line the simple idea of a steel cage with a roof morphed into the Cell. Though the “Thunderdome Cage Match” and “WarGames” laid the groundwork, “Hell in a Cell” redefined wrestling at the end of the 20th century, defining careers, forging legacies, and creating Legends.
— “Non-Title Number One Contender’s Hell in a Cell Match for the WWF Championship” (WATCH)
The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels(WWF European Champion)
WWF Badd Blood: In Your House 18 • October 5, 1997
After costing The Undertaker the WWF Championship to Bret Hart at SummerSlam ’97, a war erupted between Shawn Michaels and “The Dead Man”. Unable to keep the action in the ring and D-X out “Hell in a Cell” was created. With the winner to get a shot at then-WWF Champion Bret Hart at Survivor Series ’97, “Hell in a Cell” took on a new level of importance. Nearly 20 years later the first Cell match still ranks as not just one of the greatest Cell matches but one of WWE’s greatest matches of all-time.
— “Hell in a Cell” (WATCH)
Mankind vs. The Undertaker
WWF King of the Ring 1998 • June 28, 1998
For better or worse this “Hell in a Cell” is the one all others are measured against. Over a year after Taker and Mankind last battled they again found themselves paired together. After “No Holds Barred”, “Boiler Room Brawls”, and “Buried Alive” matches the two had a ways to go to top themselves. In less than 5-minutes they not only topped the past but changed the course of wrestling forever. This is, hands down, the single most brutal, devastating match in WWE history.
— “3-on-2 Handicap Hell in a Cell Match” (WATCH)
D-Generation X (Shawn Michaels & Triple H) vs. The McMahons (Vince & Shane) & The Big Show
WWE Unforgiven 2006 • September 17, 2006
Few expected the comedic angle between the McMahons and D-X to produce as violent and bloody a match as this Cell match became. The first Cell match to be held in the new, larger structure, this “Handicap Match”, like Lesnar/Taker before it, raised the level of violence in the ring rather than outside of it and produced an instant classic still talked about nearly a decade later.
— “Hell in a Cell” (WATCH)
Edge vs. The Undertaker
WWE SummerSlam 2008 • August 17, 2008
Edge had “retired” the Undertaker after winning a classic “TLC” match at June’s One Night Stand 2008. But when a cheating Edge was exposed at the alter to fiancé Vickie Guerrero the SmackDown! GM reinstated The Undertaker and made this match for SummerSlam 2008. The first truly “TV-PG” “Hell in a Cell”, the first not to feature blood, this Cell match set the stage for all others that came after it. Though handcuffed by the new format these two re-imagined “Hell in a Cell” and produced a masterpiece.
— “Tornado Tag Team Hell in a Cell” (WATCH)
The Legacy (Cody Rhodes & Ted DiBiase, Jr.) vs. D-Generation X (Triple H & Shawn Michaels)
WWE Hell in a Cell 2009 • October 4, 2009
The Legacy had been dogging D-X since August with D-X winning at SummerSlam and The Legacy winning at Breaking Point. To end it once and for all the first and only “Tornado Tag Team Hell in a Cell” in match history was made for the inaugural Hell in a Cell PPV. Starting as a street fight, the match morphed into a “Handicap Match” when Triple H was locked out of the Cell before eventually breaking in and taking Cody Rhodes out for good. One of the most original Cell matches in history this match proved the “PG Era”, despite the lack of gore, could still create captivating stories and legendary moments.
— WWE Championship – “Triple Threat Hell in a Cell Match” (WATCH)
Alberto Del Rio w/Ricardo Rodriguez vs. CM Punk vs. John Cena(c)
WWE Hell in a Cell 2011 • October 2, 2011
The first “Triple Threat Hell in a Cell” came about after months of confusion surrounding the WWE title dating back to July’s Money in the Bank PPV and continuing through SummerSlam to September’s Night of Champions. With Cena as WWE Champion and both Punk and Del Rio deserving rematches Triple H, the newly-minted COO, made this match for Hell in a Cell 2011. With great psychology and pacing this is an underrated gem in the archives of “Hell in a Cell”.
— “Hell in a Cell” – “End of an Era” (WATCH)
Special Referee: Shawn Michaels
Triple H vs. The Undertaker
WWE WrestleMania XXVIII • April 1, 2012
This was the biggest “Hell in a Cell” by far. With the “End of an Era” hanging in the balance at WrestleMania, Shawn Michaels as referee, and the fate of “The Streak” (19 – 0) on the line there was never any more riding on a single “Hell in a Cell” than at WrestleMania XXVIII. This marked the final in-ring encounter between Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and The Undertaker and effectively put the 2000s to bed. After improving “The Streak” to 20 – 0 The Undertaker embraced Triple H and Shawn Michaels in a post-match celebration for the ages.
— “Number One Contender’s Hell in a Cell Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship” (WATCH)
Randy Orton vs. John Cena
WWE Hell in a Cell 2014 • October 26, 2014
With a shot at Brock Lesnar’s WWE World Heavyweight title on the line Randy Orton and John Cena had one of the best “Hell in a Cell” matches of the “PG Era”. While their first Cell match in 2009 failed to live up to expectations this match exceeded them. Both men put on a fast-paced, psychological thriller that looked like it could go either way on more than a few occasions. Neither man held back anything in a match that proved that not only was the WWE title “legitimate” again but so too was the chase.
Since its inception “Hell in a Cell” has provided wrestling fans with moments of breathtaking brutality and incredible drama that continue to make the match a fan favorite to this day. While the limitations of the “PG Era” have caused the match to change and evolve it’s been for the better. Cell matches are no longer two-dimensional bloodbaths but intricate stories and intense matches not dependent on gore to tell the overall story.
That’s it for this weeks TBT on WDN – thanks for reading! Are you a WWE Network subscriber? Then check out the matches, see them for yourself and let us know what you think below. And don’t forget to tune it to Hell in a Cell 2015 Oct. 25th at 8pm on the WWE Network.
In closing, I would like to extend a special word of thanks to fellow WDN writer Jon Potter for his invaluable input and to Daniel Bee for his thankless work as editor. TBT is a team effort that would not be possible if not for the advice, work, and heart of these two men.
Until next week, see ya at ringside!