By Haydn Gleed
With Hell In A Cell pay-per-view later today, I thought I would explore through my brain for the matches that stand out there as the best versions of the gimmick I’ve ever seen and the worst that I’ve ever seen.
Best of Hell in a Cell
1. Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels – Bad Blood 1997: I don’t always subscribe to the theory that the original is always better. Empire Strikes Back, Back To The Future 2, and Conjuring 2 are a couple of examples that disprove that theory in my mind. However, in the case of Hell In A Cell that rule is accurate.
For those who don’t know, the Hell In A Cell gimmick was originally devised for the feud between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker who had been battling over the WWF Championship, but Michaels would always get the upper hand thanks to the help of Triple H and Chyna. The Cell was designed to be an upgrade of a Cage match which would mean that Michaels couldn’t run away from the dead man or have any help from his buddies.
This match was brutal and beautiful all at the same time. The way that both The Undertaker and Michaels went at it was perfect for the intensity of the feud. The image of Michaels being long darted into the cage with a crimson mask was an iconic image before WWE went PG, but nevertheless it was a great visual and it underlined the brutality of the Cell match.
It wasn’t perfect and there were moments that in a way undermined the purpose of the cell, but in a way they added to the spectacle of the match and gimmick. About halfway through the match, Michaels got backdropped over the top rope and landed on the cameraman who was at ringside. Michaels then laid the boots into him and as a result, they played up that the cameraman was legitimately injured. This meant that the cage had to be raised to allow medical help to the guy, which allowed Michaels to try and run away from The Undertaker and allowed his cronies to help him out. This was also the debut of Kane, who Paul Bearer had been warning was coming for his brother who left him for dead. Kane walked out and ripped the door off the cage which led to the finish of the match in perhaps the only moment that took this match from being an all time classic to a classic. It did however get Kane over as a monster heel on debut and set him up for a 20 year career in WWE, so swings and roundabouts I guess.
If you have only ever seen Mick Foley being thrown from the top of the Cell or only seen recent Hell In A Cell match, go and fire up your WWE Network now and watch what is an amazing match.
2. Cactus Jack vs Triple H – No Way Out 2000: This might surprise a lot of people as they would assume if I was to have a Mick Foley Hell In A Cell match it would be the first one from King Of The Ring 1998. However, as Foley himself wrote about in his book, the fans had lost interest in the character at the time of KOTR ’98 and the bump from the top of the cage and the subsequent fall through the cage got Foley over like no one would have ever thought possible so it was certainly important to his career. However, going into this match Triple H and Cactus Jack were on the tail end of a hot feud which started when Triple H and Stephanie McMahon had fired Mick (those two as authority figures 17 years ago……) in late 1999, and culminated in first an outstanding Hardcore match at Royal Rumble 2000 and then this match at the next PPV. The added stipulation of Cactus Jack’s career being on the line also gave this match that emotional connection that you simply didn’t have at the KOTR 1998.
The action in the opening 10-15 minutes of this match was good in the ring but weren’t getting the reactions you would expect. As Mick wrote in his book, he realized that it was because nobody in the crowd believed that the match would finish until both men had left the cage. As soon as both men spilled to the outside the action and the crowd picked up culminating in the fall through the cage onto a part of the ring which had been gimmicked to give way.
For me, this was as emotionally charged a match as you could get fearing that this was Mick’s last match with the added bonus of a great visual bump that was much safer than the two bumps taken at KOTR 98. The image of an emotional Mick walking out of the arena, bloody faced, knowing his career was over brought a lump to the throat of most wrestling fans at the time. We will, of course, gloss over the fact that he was unretired within a couple of weeks for WrestleMania and the other feuds that he had the next 10 years, but moving on….
3. Brock Lesner vs The Undertaker – No Mercy 2002: There is one big reason that this match stands out in my mind, and that is simply to highlight that you don’t need a big bump to get over how brutal a Hell In A Cell match can be. There were no stunt bumps in this one, but two men beating the wholly hell out of each other. Of course the visual of both Brock and ‘Taker bleeding heavily (as well Paul Heyman who was ringside for Brock) put over the brutality of the match, and you certainly couldn’t do that today, but even without the blood the match put over the idea of putting two men with a personal grudge with each other that needed to be contained and settled once and for all in the Cell.
Worst of Hell in a Cell
3. Seth Rollins vs Dean Ambrose – Hell In A Cell 2014: If I say to you Obi Wan/Princess Leia/R2D2 effect, you’ll remember this straight away. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose had had a great feud and for the first time in a long time it felt that the Cell gimmick was the right to end a feud. However, after a decent to good match the lights went off and Bray Wyatt’s lantern was in the middle of the ring and a strange holographic image was projected from the lantern. Through the image Bray Wyatt had somehow managed to get into the Cell , and helped Seth Rollins defeat Ambrose. Urgh Urgh Urgh.
When you add the crap special effects, the way the kayfabe nature of the Cell keeping people out from interfering being smashed and the fact that there wasn’t a clean match out of all three Cell matches on this card, it adds up to a match that belongs on the worst list.
2. Kurt Angle vs The Rock vs Rikishi vs The Undertaker vs Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Triple H – Armageddon 2000: Looking back I remember being really pumped up for this match. Not only did you have five of the biggest names in WWE history (and Rikishi) in a match together, but The Rock’s promo mocking each of competitors is probably one of my favorite promos of all time. However, going in it seemed that the reason for this match was for the spectacle it wasn’t based on the reason for the Cell that being to end a feud.
The reason for the match wasn’t to settle any grudges but it was Mick Foley as the commissioner trying to book a spectacular match. They pretty much said that someone would be taking a huge stunt and the question they were trying to promote was who was going to take this bump. Even 16 years later, looking at the six men in the match who do you think most people were 90 percent sure was going to take the bump? During the match, Vince McMahon tried to get the match stopped and had a truck brought to ringside to try and open the cage door. It was parked conveniently right next to where if someone fell off the cage would land on the entrance side, and also just happened to have straw and probably padding instead of tools and sharp objects in the rear of the truck. Hey I’m not against protecting wrestlers taking a bump, but don’t take me out of the moment with such a blatant setup. Also the dead weight fall from Rikishi into the tractor was just lame and too hockey looking.
This wasn’t the worst match you’ll ever see, but it is on this list because it wasn’t a match that should have been in a Hell In A Cell as there wasn’t any feuds that deserved to be in there. It was used as a way of promising the fans there would be a spectacular bump and that was the reason for the match. This was the first time that the gimmick had been abused and used not for the original feud ending reason and for that it belongs on this list.
1. Shane McMahon vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania 32: Controversial I know, but in my mind this is clearly the worst Hell In A Cell match in the history of the gimmick. In short, this wasn’t a Hell In A Cell match, this was putting a structure up so that Shane had a platform for an insane bump. The strange thing is going into this match I wasn’t as down on it as a lot of people were. The logic of the reasoning for it was stretching believability somewhat but it was logical. In the mind of Vince McMahon if you was going to have Shane face The Undertaker with your company on the line, you would put it in the Undertaker’s speciality match. However the way that the actual match played out was just insane.
Shane McMahon’s punches and the fact that full time wrestlers have had to sell for them is a long time complaint, but the visual of seeing The Undertaker selling for this 40 something businessman was just stretching believability to breaking point. The frustrating thing is they had the gimmick to make it believable but they were too concerned with putting over super Shane. If The Undertaker had dominated for a good ten minutes, and the plucky brave Prince McMahon was showing willing to continue fighting and then something happened where he moved as Taker was charging at him and Taker took a nasty bump that gave Shane the advantage I would have believed it, but instead he was going toe to toe with this legend of the business.
Ok, the bump was impressive, but it was also unnecessary. Can anybody explain to me the kayfabe logic of climbing to the top of the Cell and jumping off it? Sure, he had the chance of gaining control of the company on the line, but there was a million other options he had to hurt Taker without resorting to putting his body on the line if we are looking at this through kayfabe eyes. In short, this was simply awfully booked, made no sense and the bump was just a bump for the sake of putting over a not even part time 40-something businessman.
Thank you for reading my favorite and least favorite Hell In A Cell matches. If you want to let me know yours, by all means get in touch via twitter @haydngleed or via email email@example.com