Hell in a Cell was conceived 25 years ago and is WWE’s premier gimmick match, designed to settle blood feuds once and for all.
Although it’s lustre has faded over the past decade, the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view remains one of the most anticipated events on WWE’s annual premium live event calendar.
This feature looks back on the five greatest Hell in a Cell matches ever held.
#5 The Undertaker vs Mankind (King of The Ring – June 28, 1998)
No list of greatest Hell in a Cell bouts would be complete without Mankind versus The Undertaker from King of the Ring 1998.
In truth, however, the match is nothing more than a series of high spots. That being said, those high spots are among the most dramatic and brutal ever seen in professional wrestling.
The match immediately commenced on the roof of the steel structure as the pair brawled with steel chair in hand. That ended when ‘The Phenom’ in a highlight reel moment, launched Mankind off the 16-foot high cell through the Spanish announcers table below.
That stunt stopped the match dead in it’s tracks for several minutes whilst Mankind was placed on a stretcher. The lunatic then came back for more and incredibly managed to climb atop the cell once again. This time however, he was promptly chokeslammed through the cage. Unfortunately, the steel chair also smacked him in the face on the way down. After withstanding a Chokeslam on steel tacks and a Tombstone Piledriver, Mankind finally succumbed to defeat.
That ended 17 minutes of complete anarchy and mayhem. It may not be a five star classic, but it was an unforgettable spectacle. Over two decades on, it has lost none of it’s power. It remains one of the most famous bouts in company history. For good reason.
#4 The Undertaker vs Brock Lesnar (No Mercy – October 20, 2002)
The Undertaker was no stranger to Hell in a Cell when he challenged Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship inside the demonic structure. His bout with Lesnar marked his sixth appearance inside the cell, out of the then-nine bouts inside the roofed cage.
However, for once, he appeared to be overmatched when he challenged Lesnar for the gold inside the cell. Coming into the match with a storyline broken hand, ‘Big Evil’ was vulnerable to Lesnar’s aggressive attacks. ‘The Next Big Thing’ used Paul Heyman’s belt to tie ‘Taker’s arm to the mesh. He then battered ‘Taker’s broken hand relentlessly with a steel chair. The champion subsequently busted ‘Deadman Inc.’ open with a vicious steel steps shot, which left ‘Taker with blood literally gushing from his forehead like a faucet.
The Undertaker impressively staged a comeback late in the bout and hit Lesnar with a Last Ride, but was too exhausted to immediately cover. That enabled the WWE Champion to recover. Lesnar then reversed a Tombstone Piledriver into an F-5 to score a hugely impressive victory in a brutal, bloody encounter, that was a truly classic match-up.
#3 Triple H vs Cactus Jack (No Way Out – February 27, 2000)
Triple H contested some memorable matches inside the cell. A number of them were some of the finest matches he ever participated in. One of them was his all out Hell in a Cell war with Cactus Jack.
A re-match from their Streetfight classic at the 2000 Royal Rumble for ‘The Game’s’ WWF Title, this contest inside the hellacious structure had the added stipulation of Cactus’s career being on the line.
Building on the story told in the Streetfight, barb wire and chairs came into play once more. However, the violence surpassed their previous battle, when Cactus lit a 2×4 wrapped in barb wire on fire. Triple H was wiped out by a vicious shot with that weapon. Cactus was determined to climb on top of the cell, but there were added padlocks on the door to prevent any escape. Cactus continually tried to break free from the confines of the demonic cage and finally did so courtesy of a steel chair tearing a hole in the structure.
However, much like King of the Ring 1998, ascending the cell went badly wrong for Cactus and he was backdropped through the roof and fell once again to the ring below. On this occasion the ring buckled under his weight. One pedigree later and Cactus’s career was over (for about a month, anyway) and one of the finest cell matches ever had concluded.
#2 The Undertaker vs Triple H (WrestleMania XXVIII – April 1, 2012)
One of the few occasions in the past decade where Hell in a Cell has settled a long-running blood feud, saw the structure receive only it’s second airing at WrestleMania, after ‘The Phenom’s’ woeful battle with The Big Boss Man at WrestleMania XV. WrestleMania XXVIII played host to a superlative match between Triple H and The Undertaker, with ‘Taker’s Streak on the line.
Shawn Michaels, whom ‘The Deadman’ had retired two years earlier was inserted as special referee, and only added to the drama. The Undertaker’s famed Streak had never been under so much threat.
Building on their bout the previous year at ‘Mania, the early going followed a similar pattern with ‘The Cerebral Assassin’ dominating. Frustration built, as despite dishing out a tremendous amount of punishment, Triple H could not put ‘Taker down for the three count.
Exhausted, Triple H eventually found himself on the receiving end of an Undertaker assault, which culminated in two Tombstone Piledrivers, which put ‘The Game’ down. The Undertaker’s Streak was extended to 20-0 and a four year story was put to bed in fine style.
This contest is one of the best bouts of the 2010s and one of the most memorable cell matches of all time.
#1 The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels (In Your House XVIII: Badd Blood – October 5, 1997)
When it comes to classic Hell in a Cell bouts, none can top the original. In October 1997, Shawn Michaels and his D-Generation X comrades had terrorised The Undertaker for two months. After costing ‘The Deadman’ the WWF Championship in the headliner of SummerSlam 1997, Michaels continued to smash ‘Taker’s skull in with brain rattling chair shots at every opportunity.
‘The Showstopper’ and ‘The Phenom’ had contested a wild brawl at In Your House XVII: Ground Zero in September. However, that match ended in a No Contest, due to boatloads of outside interference and multiple officials being decked by the participants. As a result, the cell match was conceived to guarantee a definitive result and remove the possibility of outside involvement.
It turns out that even the Hell in a Cell cannot keep out a ‘Big Red Machine.’
The Undertaker stalked a panicked Michaels around the structure. When ‘The Phenom’ laid his mitts on ‘HBK’ he pulverised him. Michaels to his credit hung in the fight and used his agility to mount short-lived comebacks. However, ‘The Showstopper’ could not keep ‘The Deadman’ down for long and took out his frustration on a ringside cameraman. As the cell door opened to enable medics to check on him, Michaels made a beeline for the exit. Unfortunately, for him he was followed by ‘Taker.
In a desperate bid to escape, Michaels ascended the cell with ‘The Phenom’ in hot pursuit. As ‘The Icon’ tried to escape down the other side of the cage, ‘Taker stamped on both of his hands causing Michaels to fall through the announce table. With a bloodied Michaels at The Undertaker’s mercy, victory seemed assured for the resident of Death Valley.
However, it was at this moment that Kane made his WWF debut, blasted ‘The Phenom’ with a Tombstone Piledriver, leaving him easy prey for a Michaels cover.
Blood, violence, brawling and intertwining stories all told logically make the inaugural Hell in a Cell bout an all time classic. The contest had it all. It still stands the test of time as the pinnacle of the gimmick.
You can watch all of these Hell in a Cell matches and the Hell in a Cell premium live event exclusively on the WWE Network.