Hell In A Cell. The Devil’s Playground. Satan’s Structure. Whatever you want to call it, the “two tonnes of unforgiving steel” is the stuff of legend. A legend that was helped into the world by one, Mr Jim Cornette.
The first ever Hell In A Cell took place in St. Louis, Missouri on October 5th 1997. The event was Badd Blood: In Your House, and the combatants were Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. And while the Deadman would help change the wrestling landscape with Mick Foley a year later, his outing against HBK heralded the arrival of Kane.
In storyline, the match was made so that Taker and Michaels could go to war, with no outside interference. Thus the creation of a match which blended together a traditional Cage Match and WarGames. It was a match without rules, without limits and with no means of escape.
It was also a match willed into life with the help of Jim Cornette.
Speaking on Jim Cornette’s Drive Thru, the legendary wrestling personality recalled how the initial idea for the match came about. Detailing how WWE’s old blue cage, simply wasn’t fit for purpose.
“And once again another one of my brilliant ideas, actually it wasn’t my idea just my suggestion for the cell. I said ‘Make the cage around the ring like Lawler did in Memphis’ where Savage could come off the top with the double sledge out to the floor and still do his sh*t. You still had some room to fight around the ring on a limited basis.
[co-host asks who did you make that suggestion to?]
Who did I? Vince.
[co-host ‘Was he receptive to that? Because they had that blue cage that they used for 15 years?]
Yes and they sucked. That blue cage was 100,000 lbs and expensive as f*ck and would bust you open in a heartbeat if you looked at it sideways.”
In a match full of stunning moments, the debut of Kane, with The Big Red Machine ripping the door off the cell might just stand above all others. Expanding on the idea of the cell, Jim Cornette explained how the structure itself was key to Kane’s presentation.
“We were discussing Taker and Michaels in a cage. That was the original thought was in a cage. But it’s a big PPV and we are trying to do things differently. Especially at it was going to be the debut of Kane and that was going to be Glenn Jacob’s big chance and I like Glenn. I said Instead of just a cage match, by the way I said to Vince a lot of the wrestling fans believe that a cage match should be no way in and no way out. That’s what they grew up on.
I said two things. I said put the roof on it like the Wargames, because that way people know that there was no way to get in and no way to get out. Because to make the finish work where Kane appears, you have to had sold a situation where nobody can get in and nobody can get out. So it couldn’t work for a standard WWF style cage match. Put the roof on like with Wargames and make the cage wider around the ring so they have room. That way it’s a bigger structure, and there’s more sizzle to it than just the same old cage they have already seen. So you’re going to see a structure like you have never seen before.”
The legendary manager closed by saying that not only was the presentation changed to help Kane, but it also meant there was a new gimmick that could be re-used.
“Say it’s the ultimate score settler and there is literally no way in and no way out for anybody unless the match comes to a conclusion. Because then, the whole idea of Kane coming out, well how’s he going to get in? When he rips the door off the impenetrable cage, that gets over. If he had opened the door off a regular WWF style cage match, the referees did that multiple times, it wouldn’t make a big f*cking deal. So we changed the presentation in parts specifically to make the finish more impactful. But you also had a gimmick match you can use ongoing and then overuse and prostitute. The first time that I saw them with the guy with the lever that lifts and drops the cage, when he was on the payroll I’m like well they’ve f*cked this one too. But originally that was the idea for Hell in a Cell and that’s where all those things came from. As I mentioned I researched Kane ripping the door off the cage, which Vince liked.”
The match at Badd Blood left an impact on the wrestling industry that few could have imagined. Not only did the Hell In A Cell Match go on to become one of the most popular and brutal matches that WWE had available, it also launched the career of Kane.
After footage recently appeared on social media of Jim Cornette teaching Kane how to sit up like The Undertaker, the promotor turned podcaster explained how it was key to Kane’s presentation. Cornette revealed that having Kane copy The Undertaker’s mannerisms was important to his character.
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