Throwback Thursday: The Best of ‘Hell in a Cell’ on WWE Network

October 8, 2015 by Brock Allen

WWE Network Throwback Thursday - Logo

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 is taking a look back at eight of the best “Hell in a Cell” matches available to watch right now on the WWE Network.

WWE - Undertaker Throwing Mankind Off Hell in a Cell

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

WWE - The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels Hell in a Cell

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

WWE - DX vs. The McMahons Hell in a Cell

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

WWE - DX vs. Legacy Hell in a Cell

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

WWE - Undertaker, Triple H & Shawn Michaels Embrace at WrestleMania 28

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.

Final Thoughts:

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.

WWE - Hell in a Cell Match

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!


New WWE DVDs on

18 Comments left on this article...

Leave Your Comments


  1. attitude.era.4life says:

    Kennel from Hell match! MUHAAA HAAAAAAA HAAAAAAAAH!

  2. Daniel Bee says:

    I’ve always had a soft spot for HHH/Cactus Jack at No Way Out 2000.

    • attitude.era.4life says:

      should def. had been Mick’s retirement match seriously.. JR’s : “Godspeed, Cactus”, is one of many commentaries from that era of wrestling, where you could feel the soul and heart in commentaries.

    • Brock Allen says:

      Made the list first time out and survived a few cuts did HHH/Jack. But Triple H is represented well throughout the list, as is Taker, which is the main reason this and other matches missed the cut this time around. There is always next time.

  3. Anan says:

    Surprised as well that the following didn’t make the list:

    Taker vs Lesnar – No Mercy 2002

    Armageddon 2000 HIAC

    Taker vs Batista – Survivor Series 2007

    Taker vs Orton – Armageddon 2005

    Ambrose vs Rollins (it was a good one….till maybe Wyatt’s interference. IMO, a match shouldn’t be judged based sorely on the ending/finish/interference.)

    However the first ever HIAC, Taker vs Mankind and Taker vs HHH were rightfully included. Didn’t enjoy DX vs McMahons & Big Show. I believe that one should be replaced by any of the above missing matches. Just my opinion.

    • Brock Allen says:

      All of those matches made the preliminary list in the early stages of the article. Trouble was the list was becoming Triple H or Undertaker heavy in a way that is not representative to the history and legacy of the match. There will be, I’m hoping, another chance to revisit this match and those matches that didn’t make the list. Truth be told the hardest cut for me was Triple H/Y2J, one one my personal favs. As for the Taker/Lesnar HIAC? As John Potter said, stay tuned. That one is definitely NOT forgotten.

      • Anan says:

        Fair enough. It was still a great list. But if it was “becoming HHH or Undertaker heavy”, then rightfully so as they competed in most of the HIAC matches. And the greatest HIAC matches involve one or both of them. KOTR 98, Bad Blood, WM28 are the most often talked about HIAC’s and all involve either Taker or HHH or in WM28’s case, both.

  4. Timothy Thorpe says:

    You can’t forget the longest HIAC match in history… all 47:26 of Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels at Bad Blood 2004.

    • Brock Allen says:

      Another that made the list very early on but was cut in favor of other matches. I, personally, think the match is overrated to a degree. There is little new in it and feels to me like a Greatest Hits match in which the best spots of the feud were simply reshuffled and dealt in a different order. However, the match was the a great way of ending one of WWE’s greatest feuds. It may make the list next time or in another TBT, ya never know.

    • Leonard Lee says:

      HHH vs Steve Austin vs Kurt Angle vs Taker vs Rikishi vs The Rock. Best HIAC match ever. Armageddon 2000

  5. MikeS_87 says:

    No Taker v Boss Man from Mania XV?! That was a classic! Joking aside, I’m very surprised that Brock v Taker (No Mercy 02), HHH v Batista (Vengeance 05) and Taker v Batista from Survivor Series 07 weren’t mentioned. Might sound odd but for me, the cell match lost a lot of its edge when they changed the design of the cage itself. I much preferred that gritty, flimsy mesh cell that was used up until 06ish. I didn’t like the taller, shinier cage from the second it debuted.

  6. LP1 says:

    One Cell match that gets overlooked a lot is the 6 Man Cell from Armageddon 2000 with Angle, Austin, Rock, Taker, HHH and Rikishi. That was just such a fun match. One of my favorite Cell matches.

    Another Cell match that I’m surprised more people don’t talk about is the Ambrose vs Rollins Cell from last year’s HIAC ppv. In my opinion, this was the best Cell match in many many years. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, I highly recommend really giving this match a viewing.

    • attitude.era.4life says:

      Love the Armageddon 2000 show..key word: Truck. From the beginning where Vince and the Stooges arrive, to the Last Man Standing match, all the way to the amazing Cell match, the truck is shown in such way, that even first time I saw that show, I thought to myself: something’s special is going to happen.

      Caring for even the smallest details is what I really miss these days.. all-around story telling is what the WWF and Ruthless Agression WWE was always the ultimate best at!

  7. attitude.era.4life says:

    why the ending of the Unforgiven 2006 HIAC match never made an OMG moment on top 50 set is still a shock for me. 😉

  8. attitude.era.4life says:

    Hell in a Cell died after Summerslam 2008 imo. Yes, it was sort of “resurrected” with the End of an Era match in 2012..but..still very light compared to pre-PG eras.

    The story telling completely gets flat when surrounding in the cell the story goes on. The cell is so much part of telling a story, but only when it is being used.

    I can not help but already feeling let down when the Beast and the Deadman enters the Cell..cos, it will NOT be like in 2002…and you just can not forget that masterpiece.

    At least they should have waited to WrestleMania would make much more sense, and have much more vibe to it, even if it will not be like No Mercy 2002.

  9. Mark Markson says:

    I liked these matches better when blading was allowed. There doesn’t have be blood at every PPV, but it works well in HIAC, elimination chamber, cage matches and at Extreme Rules.

  10. Joe Young says:

    How could you forget the best Hell In The Cell match with Brock Lesnar Vs. The Undertaker?!!

More of the latest WWE Network News...      

WWE Network Hidden Gems Review: Boogie Jam ’84
WWE Network Hidden Gems Review: A Tribute to Harley Race
WWE Network Hidden Gems Review: SummerSlam Spectacular 1993
WWE Network Hidden Gems Review: A Pro Wrestling USA Supershow
WWE Network Hidden Gems Review: Super Early ECW VHS Releases Plus a 1992 TV Pilot
WWE Network Hidden Gems Review: A Pair of ‘Extreme’ Dark Matches