…Truth be told, It’s been some time since we have seen a quality Hell in a Cell match. At least not since the match between The Undertaker and Edge at Summer Slam 2008. The HIAC matches we’ve seen since then were tame in comparison. Even the one between ‘Taker and Shane ‘O Mac at Wrestlemania 32 fell far below expectations despite Shane’s memorable dive off the top of the cell.
The match involving Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins did offer glimpses of what we may see at this Sunday’s outing: A return to the brutality the WWE Universe has come to expect from a match titled Hell in a Cell.
Let’s look at 8 of my personal favorite Hell in the Cell matches up to now:
8. Triple H vs. Cactus Jack
Ah, Mick Foley’s retirement match. It would be a travesty for this to not be mentioned. It was Championship vs. Career as Triple H battled Mick Foley in the match the latter made famous two years earlier. Just like back then, Foley was put through the cage. The difference was his time it was clearly pre-planned.
7. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Flair
Charlotte and Sasha made history last year as the first women to compete inside Hell in a Cell with the RAW Women’s Championship on the line. I commented on this last year but the beatdown Sasha took before the match officially started ruined it. You already knew at that point the outcome had been decided. Charlotte was a Heel but I agree with the critics she could have won without the pre-emptive attack.
The reason this made the list is simply because it opened the door to more HIAC matches involving the Women’s Division.
6. Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins
Dean Ambrose had me believing we may see a return to the brutality that has been absent from the now HIAC matches for almost 10 years now. This match took place a few months after The Shield broke up. Ambrose channeled his inner Mick Foley and put on a classic in this battle against The future King Slayer.
5. The Undertaker vs. Edge
Ah, the first of 4 matches on this list featuring The Undertaker ^_^
This was a grudge match made in hell between The Rated-R Superstar and The Phenom who made the match famous. The Undertaker gave Edge a personal lesson in pain after the match was over: After winning the match, he chokeslammed Edge off a ladder through the ring straight into hell.
4. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels
…I only just watched this match for the first time on WWE Network today. Afrer seeing how brutal it was, I had to put it on this list. Holy hell. This would be higher up if not for the participants involved in the Top 3.
The match lasted almost an hour.
You would have thought both men were trying to outdo their previous HIAC matches with the brutality they inflicted on each other. By the time it was over, both men were laying unconscious in the middle of the ring.
3. Kurt Angle vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Triple H vs. The Undertaker vs. Rikishi vs. The Rock
This was a star-studded HIAC at Armageddon 2000 for the WWE Championship. The match involved all of the company’s top talent. As you can probably imagine, there was a number of memorable moments from Triple H being Suplexed onto the hood of a car to The Rock overselling The Stunner in the middle of the ring.
The above picture stands as one of the top moments in HIAC history: Hall of Famer Rikishi being pushed off the top of the cell by The Undertaker into the back of a flatbed truck filled with wood chips. ‘Taker DID warn Rikishi if he wasn’t careful, he’d make him famous.
Kurt Angle retained the title by taking advantage of some confusion in the ring.
2. Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker
Ah, the very first Hell in a Cell match.
Tomorrow makes it 20 years to the day The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels stepped foot inside what would come to be known as The Devil’s Playground for the first time. The only thing more shocking than the horrors The Deadman inflicted on HBK was the Kane’s shocking first appearance in WWE.
‘Taker literally did everything he could think of to HBK from throwing him around like a rag doll to using him as a human battering ram against the side of the cell. He even made him fall off the side of the cell and crash into the announcer’s table. Despite the brutality, it’s agree the abuse he took in his HIAC match with Triple H 7 years later was far worse: At least HBK was able to leave the ring.
Even so, there is a reason this is #2…
1. Mankind vs. The Undertaker
…There will never be a match like this again. EVER.
There is Hell in a Cell and then there is The 1998 Hell in a Cell match between The Undertaker and Mankind at King of the Ring. Do yourself a favor: Watch the full match on WWE Network if you’ve never seen it.
Let me give you a bit of background info on this legendary match: Prior to the start of the match, ‘Taker had concerns about competing with a nagging foot injury. The match starting on top of the cage was Mick Foley’s idea. Little did they know when they were both up there, this match would cement their place in Wrestling History.
When Foley is thrown into the announcer’s table, he breaks his left arm and fractures bones in his spine. ‘Taker would later say he was legit concerned since they both knew Foley would have to carry the match since he was competing with an injury. Despite that, Foley would refuse medical treatment and continue the match. Unlike Foley’s match with Triple H, the fall through the cell was not planned. Foley blacked out for 2 minutes from the impact of hitting the ring. It’s said later Foley suffered a ruptured spleen and a concussion from the second fall.
Since the second fall was a legit freak accident, ‘Taker’s shock seeing Foley hit the ring below was legit. With things now gone to hell–pun intended–you’d think things couldn’t get any more over the top. But it did: Foley introduced THUMBTACKS. Then he was dropped and chokeslammed on a bed of them. TWICE. You literally have to see it to believe it.
…Never before and never again.
The only thing even more crazy: Both of them ran interference with the match that followed involving Kane and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Unbelievable given Foley was legit hurt and hurt bad.
…I left this out until now but what made the top 2 matches so memorable was Jim Ross calling the matches.
A few matches worth getting an honorable mention:
- Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker: Their first Hell in a Cell match in 2002 had originally been booked for ‘Taker to win but since ‘Taker had a broken wrist, he had to take it as a loss to put Lesnar Over.
- Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker: Their second, more recent Hell in a Cell match in 2015 had all the makings of a classic. It packed the grudge factor like their first HIAC match only both men were healthy. The Beast took The Undertaker to Suplex City, ending the rivalry in convincing fashion.
- Mankind vs. Kane: This 1998 match is underrated since it was the only HIAC Match that took place during RAW. It was also Kane’s first venture in HIAC in which he destroyed his then tag team partner Mankind.
- Triple H vs. Kevin Nash: Holy hell, you’d have thought Triple H was legit trying to kill Kevin Nash. It took everyything The Game had to put his best friend down for good.
- Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan: The only reason this gets an honorable mention is because of how it ended: After Daniel Bryan punts Triple H out of the ring, Special Guest Referee Shawn Michael drops D-Bry with Sweet Chin Music, allowing The Viper to win the match and the vacated WWE Championship.
I have my fingers crossed Shane vs. KO delivers on the brutality it’s being built to be. We will find out for sure this Sunday.