“It doesn’t matter what you call it: Hell in a Cell, Rage in a Cage, Painus in Your Anus…” A wise prophet once said.
The rich history of the Hell in a Cell match in WWE dates back to 1997 at Badd Blood: In Your House, where two future icons battled in the first ever Hell in a Cell Match. Hailed as one of the most “destructive forces” in WWE, it was cutting edge for its time, and has birthed a healthy handful of classic moments.
From the early days of ‘The Last Battle of Atlanta’ in 1983, the cage has been adapted over time to appease an ever-changing audience – the original WWE cell at 16 feet has swollen to a ridiculous 20 feet tall, yet the sentiment remains the same for hardcore fans.
At first a rarity, there have only been 30 Hell in a Cell matches since 1997, being more than not device to blow off a feud. However, the first Hell in a Cell pay-per-view in 2009, ensured that we would be gifted with at least one Hell in a Cell match a year.
So aren’t we lucky this year? The United States, Universal, and for the first time, the Women’s Championship will be defended inside Hell in a Cell. Overkill? Gimmick saturation? Perhaps.
As RAW-branded pay-per-view Hell in a Cell is just around the corner, the team here at VultureHound recounts our favourite Hell in a Cell matches of all time, and you should most definitely watch/re-watch all of them.
Badd Blood 1997: The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels
5th October 1997’s In Your House production was eventful. Scheduled to fight Dude Love, Brian Pillman was tragically found dead in his hotel room earlier that day. It was the last pay-per-view event Vince McMahon led the commentary team. But it was also the first time two men would step foot inside Hell in a Cell in the WWF.
Shawn Michaels took on the Undertaker, for an opportunity at Bret Hart’s WWF Title at Survivor Series. HBK saunters to the ring with D-Generation X (Triple H, Chyna and Rick Rude), before his counterparts are forced to leave ringside, leaving Michaels alone in the ring. He plays the cowardly heel to a T. All the staple spots are crafted meticulously – A cameraman goes down, and the cage door opens; it was a simpler time. Michaels is vintage here; he bleeds, he hangs from the cell and falls through the announce table. The man is timeless.
As red light filled the arena and Paul Bearer guided The Undertaker’s half-brother Kane to the ring, a new rivalry is foreshadowed, and door to the Attitude Era is ripped off its hinges.
King of the Ring 1998: Mankind vs. The Undertaker
Mankind and the Undertaker brought their feud to new heights on a warm summer night in the igloo in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. After battling one another for the last two years in Buried Alive and Boiler Room matches fans thought their rivalry couldn’t get any more violent.
The two clashed in the second ever Hell in a Cell match at the 1998 King of the Ring. Rather than start the match inside the structure, Taker and Mankind battle on top of the structure. This resulted in one of the most memorable moments of the Attitude Era when Taker threw Mankind off the cell 20 foot down crashing on the announcers table. Rather than give up Mankind climbed back up the cell. The result was Mankind being chokeslamed through the cell crashing down into the mat. With his tooth jammed up his nose Mankind continued to fight adding thumb tacks into the mix. After a chokeslam on the tacks and then a tombstone, Taker pinned Mankind to win this crazy match.
From the iconic commentary of Jim Ross, to the absolutely crazy risks, this Hell in a Cell match is considered the greatest of all time and a defining moment of the Attitude Era. These two defined what the Hell in a cell Match should be, and provided fans with one of the most iconic moments of all time.
No Way Out 2000: Triple H vs Cactus Jack
It was the match that ended Mick Foley’s full-time career, spelling the end for the wrestler who meant the most to me during the Attitude Era. You might raise an eyebrow, or want to flip me the bird to communicate who your favourite star of that era was, but I would personally like to fire finger guns at you to tell you how wrong you are. Mick Foley’s retirement devastated me. Sure, it was undermined by all the times he came back, but how was thirteen-year-old me supposed to know that?
The Cell was a perfect place to retire Foley too. His most memorable moment was against the Undertaker in that infernal construction. He helped immortalise the stipulation, and ending Mick Foley’s career in it helped maintain the structure’s reputation, which in recent years WWE has let slide irrevocably.
Armageddon 2000: Kurt Angle vs The Rock vs Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Triple H vs The Undertaker vs Rikishi
What happens when you add 6 iconic stars, and the Hell in a Cell? The answer is absolute carnage. In December of 2000, the Attitude Era was in high gear and WWE was loaded with talent. After constantly cheating to defend his championship, WWE Commissioner Mick Foley forced Kurt Angle to defend his title in a 6 man hell in a cell at Armageddon 2000. Locked inside the cell with Kurt Angle were The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, The Undertaker and Rikishi.
From the moment the match began there was absolute chaos both inside and outside the ring. Not a fan of having his marquee talent in such a heinous match, Vince McMahon brought a truck out to the ring to try and demolish the cell. However after only ripping off the door, the combatants left the cell only to cause chaos all around the arena, from the stage area to the top of the cell. The most memorable moment from the match came when The Undertaker on top of the cell chockeslamed Rikishi off the structure landing in the truck bed, Vince McMahon had brought into the ring. A stunned Rock, Triple H, Austin and Angle all in the ring could not believe what had just happened. After Triple H, Austin and Rock exchanged their finishers on one another, Kurt Angle snuck in pinning Rock, escaping Hell in a Cell with his belt.
This match always seems to be forgotten when Hell in a Cell matches get brought up. Despite this, the match was one of the all around best during the Attitude Era and a great way to end the first year in the new millennium.
Bad Blood 2004: Shawn Michales vs Triple H
Many fans only know Triple H and Shawn Michaels as best friends. What they don’t know is that these two at one point were bitter enemies. From 2002 to 2004 Michaels and Triple H battled in Street Fights, Last Man Standing and Three Stages of Hell matches. With GM Eric Bischoff afraid these two would kill each other, he booked them for one final clash inside the Hell in a Cell at Bad Blood 2004.
The result would lead to one of the most underrated cell matches of all time. Michaels and Triple H battled inside the cell for nearly a full hour. From the use of ladders, tables and steel chairs this match was filled with violence and blood. The two exchanged near falls for 50 minutes. Finally after landing three pedigrees in a row Triple H crawled to cover Michaels for the three count.
These would be the two’s final major clash, as two years later the two would reconcile, reforming D-Generation X. However this match showed that even the closest of friends can be the most bitter of enemies.
Vengeance 2005: Triple H vs Batista
From one tale of two friends turned foe, the demolition derby between Triple H and Batista saw no shortage of barbaric weaponry and all out carnage. Having seen their all-conquering faction – Evolution – split at the turn of the year, the Game and the Animal embarked on a months-long feud revolving primarily around the World Heavyweight Championship.
Unlike most Hell in Cell meetings, Triple H vs. Batista didn’t take a hold of nuanced psychological details, opting for a story of two men beating one another to a pulp instead. The match was filled with an array of weapons, including some of the more unorthodox foreign objects that blended old-school brutality with new-school innovation. And of course, the Game brought along his trusty sledgehammer without fail.
In the end though, it was Batista who emerge victorious, handed his former Evolution running mate his first defeat inside the Cell and reinforcing his new status as a main-eventer.
WrestleMania 28 (2012): Triple H vs The Undertaker
After Triple H almost broke the streak the previous year in an unforgettable match, he met The Undertaker once again at WrestleMania only this time it was (Vince McMahon impression) inside Hell in a Cell! Shawn Michaels stepped in as guest referee for this truly remarkable match up that showcased three of the greatest superstars of the modern era.
As expected with such huge booking, this one was full of spots, the finest of which saw the former DX buddies hit Taker with a Sweet Chin Music and then a Pedigree. This had everyone’s heart in their mouth as we all thought the unbreakable streak of The Deadman was to come to an end. Then suddenly, at the strike of 2.9, his shoulder lifted and we all breathed a sigh of relief. That was until the Phenom met Brock Lesnar two years later at WrestleMania 30… Yet, win number 20 came for the Undertaker as he hit Triple H with a Tombstone Piledriver and got the 1,2,3.
Hell in a Cell 2011: CM Punk vs Alberto Del Rio vs John Cena
One of the more recent greats on this list features three men who battled it out for the WWE Championship in 2011. After CM Punk beat ‘Big match’ John for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam of that year Alberto Del Rio (née El Patron) cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase to beat the unlucky Punk.
What followed in the coming months was pure gold with it all culminating at the Hell in a Cell pay per view in October. In the early exchanges Alberto El Paige managed to keep Cena outside the 16 foot structure by locking himself inside with Punk and obtaining a steel pipe. With Punk arguably being the more technical of the two, this somewhat aimed to level the playing field. But in reality, what happened was a brutal assault from Del Rio on Punk. On occasion the Mexican would taunt the ‘Dr of Thuganomics’ who was still outside the cell.
Del Rio was able to beat Punk with a three count much to the dismay of the on looking Cena. It was a brilliant match where all three men played their part superbly in putting on a great performance for the fans.
Hell in a Cell 2014: Dean Ambrose vs Seth Rollins
2014 saw Ambrose totter on the line of channelling Brian Pillman, and playing the goofy ‘Lunatic Fringe’, but on this night, he had all the qualities of the ‘Loose Cannon’.
Ambrose climbed the cage and stood atop, kendo stick in hand, a warrior prepared to end his cowardly rival. Rollins sent J&J Security (Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury) up the cage to unsuccessfully retrieve Ambrose, before climbing the cage himself. Nodding to the many iconic falls of the match’s history, the two fell from the side of the cage and through the announce tables, before the match had officially commenced.
This was the moment that should have solidified the status of two new leading faces of the company. As Ambrose rallied to perform a Curb Stomp of his own, the lights go out, and Bray Wyatt returns as a singles competitor to initiate a feud with Ambrose. I can’t complain – I’m a mark for Bray. Yet given the way this turn of events ultimately crushed the momentum of both Ambrose and Wyatt, I’d deem it an interference cutting short what could have easily been a modern classic.
Images via WWE