This month, WWE is presenting their now annual October gimmick PPV “Hell in a Cell”, featuring not one, not two, but three Hell in a Cell matches! That may be overkill (2009 for example), but I decided what better time then now to rank the best the Cell has to offer. Here are my picks for the Top 10 Hell in a Cell matches of all time:
10. The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar (Hell in a Cell 2015)
This is the most recent Cell match on the list and a majority of that can be attributed to the over-saturation of HIAC matches on the PPV of the same name. It is also the only PG-era Cell match to feature blood, whether intentionally or unintentionally (probably intentionally looking at Brock’s glove). This one is much less technical than their first HIAC match but still brutal as hell. It’s mostly a brawl until Brock hits two F5s and then rips apart the ring to expose the wood underneath, which was a nice touch and something we’ve never seen before. Taker hits a Tombstone onto the exposed wood and Brock still kicks out! Then a 3rd F5 onto the wood and that’s all she wrote. The post-match sucks with the Wyatt Family attacking Taker but we will just ignore that part.
9. Triple H vs. Cactus Jack (No Way Out 2000)
This was to be Mick Foley’s retirement match, and if it had been, what a way to go out. Even though their encounter at the Royal Rumble the month prior may be more remembered than their Cell match, there’s some great storytelling in this one too. In a way, they tried to recreate some of the spots from the infamous Taker/Mankind Cell match, with a few modifications. Instead of Foley being tossed off the top, he falls off the side of the Cell through the announcers table. If that wasn’t big enough, Cactus ignites a barbed wire 2×4 and hits Triple H over the head with it on top of the Cell. Then as Cactus is teasing hitting a piledriver on Triple H onto the flaming 2×4, Triple H reverses and sends Cactus through the top of the Cell roof and through the ring below. A nice little touch is added with a Foley kick-out only to be hit with a final Pedigree. The ending felt genuine as a send-off to Mick and probably would have been remembered as one of the best retirement angles in history.
8. The Undertaker vs. Edge (Summer Slam 2008)
The first HIAC match in the PG-era. It’s arguable if the removal of blood has impacted Cell matches in a negative way, but Undertaker & Edge were able to put together an amazing Hell in a Cell match without the need of blood. A feud that had been spanning for over a year (dating back to May of 2007 when Edge cashed in the Money in the Bank on Taker), this match was the culmination of the entire build. There were nods to multiple points in their feud, from Taker using a camera as a weapon (payback from Survivor Series when Edge attacked Taker) to the chokeslam through multiple tables (Edge sending Taker through 4 tables in their TLC match) and even a spear through the Cell (Edge speared Taker to win the title after a cage match). The post match may have been a little over-the-top with the flames coming from the hole in the ring that Edge was chokeslamed through, but it’s Taker so all is good.
7. Batista vs. Triple H (Vengeance 2005)
The two previous matches between Batista & HHH didn’t quite light the world on fire (Wrestlemania 21 & Backlash) and expectations for this Cell match were pretty low at the time, but boy did they deliver. Up until this point, we had never seen Batista (the newly crowned World Champion) in any brutal, for lack of a better term, hardcore matches. Not only was this Cell match brutal, but also very non-PG. All I have to say is barbed wire chair and that would be enough, but no. They also pulled out steel chains (which Batista is quite graphically choked by over the top rope), sledgehammers, steel steps, and blood. Lots and lots of blood. The match really came out of nowhere and was shocking just how extreme it was. Definitely worth checking out.
6. DX (Triple H & Shawn Michaels) vs. Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon & Big Show (Unforgiven 2006)
A majority of the DX/McMahons feud was comedy segments and silly matches. So when Vince booked DX to face him and his son, and the added Big Show in a Hell in a Cell match, expectations were pretty low considering the previous build and the fact that Vince & Shane aren’t the best technicians in the ring. It was a complete shock when they delivered one of the most brutal Cell matches in the past decade. Both DX and the McMahons bled heavily, while the Big Show spent most of the match selling nut shots or dominating for Vince & Shane. Some of the most brutal spots include: Triple H bleeding from the ear after a Coast to Coast by Shane which effected his equilibrium, an elbow drop to Shane from Michaels with a chair wrapped around Shane’s throat, presumably crushing his larynx, and to top things off, a sledgehammer shot to the back of Vince’s neck which snapped the hammer in half. The only comedy in the match is DX shoving Vince’s bloody face into Big Show’s exposed butt. Other than that, the tone of the match is extremely serious.
5. The Undertaker vs. Triple H (Wrestlemania 28)
It was billed as the “End of an Era.” What that means, I’m still not quite sure today, but these two put on an all-time great Mania performance that made us all forget about the previous Wrestlemania HIAC match. Shawn Michaels as a special guest referee added some heightened drama to what was already a huge atmosphere, the Streak in the Cell. This match had been built over 4 years of storylines such as the 2 Mania matches Taker had with Michaels (one being the end of HBK’s career), and the Mania match with Triple H from WM27, which in a way was Hunter trying to avenge Michaels losing his career to Taker. The match is filled with plausible false finishes, hard-hitting action with some attempts at hard-way blood, and Michaels over-selling as a referee. The match perfectly plays off of the previous 3 Mania matches and ends with a satisfying conclusion with the three guys hugging on the stage.
4. The Undertaker vs. Mankind (King of the Ring 1998)
It was only a matter of time before we got to this match. Some may expect this to top the list, seeing as it’s the most iconic and recognizable Cell matches in history. However, if you actually go back and watch the match in full, everything following the two big spots is pretty underwhelming and sloppy. Having said that, because those 2 spots are so memorable, it does rank in the Top 5 of this list. Not only did Foley go to the top, but he and Taker started the match at the top. There’s not much more that can be said about the dives off the Cell. The next 10 or so minutes of the match are a mixed bag of sloppy offense and needless thumbtacks and steel steps.
3. Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker (No Mercy 2002)
I remember at the time being so unenthused for a rematch between these two guys are the stinker match they had at the Unforgiven show the month prior. The feud was kind of awkward with Brock breaking Taker’s hand, a puzzling sub-feud between Taker & Matt Hardy, and will or won’t Stephanie McMahon (Smackdown GM at the time) allow Taker to use the cast in the Cell match that is NO DQ! Thankfully these guys put all the questionable booking behind them and delivered a Cell match for the ages. Brock was busted open early and the cast gimmick played well into the match with Brock trying to first avoid it until ripping it off. There was some great offense such as Brock hanging off one of the roof beams to kick Taker on the top rope, Taker using the same beam to scale the ropes into an elbow drop, and the reversal of the Tombstone into an F5. The thing most people remember from this match was the insane amount of blood pouring from Taker’s head towards the latter part of the match. One of the most disgusting color spots in recent memory. The icing on the cake was Paul Heyman on the outside of the Cell, who provided audibly loud commentary throughout the match advising Brock on what to do. Of course because it’s Hell in a Cell, Heyman ends up getting busted open as well.
2. The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (Badd Blood 1997)
The very first Hell in a Cell match. Most people regard this as the best Cell match in history. It is in fact the best match between Taker & Michaels during their 97-98 feud. Taker spends a majority of the match demolishing HBK, even after Michaels attempts to find a way out of the Cell. Some could argue HBK was doing his occasional “over-selling” during the match but it works with Taker. One highlights include HBK piledriving Taker on steel steps, Michaels’ constant attacks and berating of the camera men (even taking one of them out, leading to the door opening and the two men venturing out), and Taker ramming Michaels’ head into the cell on the outside busting him wide open. Of course what the match is probably most remembered for is the debut of Kane alongside Paul Bearer. Kane rips the door off, gives Taker a Tombstone and leaves as a blood-soaked HBK lays his arm over Taker for the pinfall. Also most people forget, HBK & Taker were the firsts to go to the top of the Cell. Even though Foley’s dive off the roof was frightening, Michaels actually took a similar bump from the side of the Cell as Taker stomped on Michaels’ fingers. He fell roughly 15 feet through the announcers table.
1. Kurt Angle vs. Stone Cold vs. The Rock vs. The Undertaker vs. Triple H vs. Rikishi (Armageddon 2000)
This pick for #1 may surprise a lot of people, but I do feel it is truly the best Cell match there has ever been. Not because it features five of the biggest stars of the Attitude Era, but because of it’s chaotic pace and amazing build-up. The set up was pretty simple, 3 feuds going at once, Commissioner Mick Foley only knows one way to settle things, put them all into the most brutal match known to man for the title. Vince McMahon returns and threatens Foley saying he wants to protect his investment, that being the safety and wellbeing of the participants in the match. Vince even goes to each guy encouraging them to drop out of the match. After unsuccessfully canceling the match, Vince demands that is anyone is seriously hurt, Foley will be fired. The match begins with a nice little touch of having Kurt Angle, the champion, come out 3rd and apprehensively stands outside the cage as others enter. It isn’t until Austin comes out last that he throws Angle into the Cell. What then ensues is straight up brawling and chaos, both inside and outside the ring. Vince even makes an appearance with a large truck as he attempts to tear apart the Cell piece by piece with his truck. The action spills on the outside featuring Austin going headfirst into the truck’s window, large metal barrels being thrown, guys being thrown onto and through cars on the set, and a Pedigree on top of a car to The Rock. Things spill back around the ring while some climb to the top of the Cell. Unfortunately for Rikishi, Taker ends up chokeslamming him off the top of the Cell and into the back of Vince’s truck (which is for some reason covered in padded wood chips). The match is so chaotic that the ending comes from Kurt Angle simply placing a hand on Rock after a Stunner and getting the pinfall out of nowhere. Angle slowly celebrates, bleeding from the left side of his head, as he gets a Stunner to end the show.