My favorite match type in WWE is Hell in a Cell. It has EVERYTHING you could want in a wrestling match; it brings with it drama, danger, excitement, storytelling, weapons, violence, crazy spots, and as we have seen in the past (as I’ll go through during this list) some of the most historic moments in WWE history. So with that in mind I thought it only right I begin my monthly top 10 countdown by recapping the best matches that have ever taken place in ‘the devil’s playground’, or maybe it should be called ‘the deadman’s playground’ as *SPOILER ALERT* The Deadman features on this list… a lot…
10. Batista (C) v Undertaker, World Heavyweight Championship; Survivor Series 2007 = 4.5*
I remember watching this match as a kid, it was the culmination of what was an incredible rivalry during 2007 over the old big gold belt. It was in fact the 5th one-on-one meeting between the two, and with one win each and 2 draws before them this was the rubber match to end them all, back when Hell in a Cell matches were only used when required, rather than throwing them away to whatever rivalry was round at the time when the ppv came about… but anyway, back to this match.
The two fierce rivals exchanged their brutal offensive moves early on, both men were separately busted WIDE open, there were nearfalls from both men including notable spots where Batista hit Taker with a Batista Bomb through a table, and then Taker would go on to hit two Tombstone Piledriver’s to The Animal, the later of which was hit onto steel steps that Batista had earlier threw into the ring. Upon the Tombstone onto the steps it appeared as if Undertaker would once again become World Heavyweight Champion; the ref counted 1, 2, but before he could count the 3 he was pulled out of the ring by a cameraman. That Cameraman was in fact EDGE (a man who had also featured as a part in the Batista-Undertaker rivalry having in the same year faced both for the championship until an injury had forced him to give the belt up) this marked his return to WWE. Edge would go on to hit Undertaker with a camera, followed by the use of a steel chair onto Taker whilst his head was lying on the steel steps, and he would then drag Batista over Undertaker to gift the win to The Animal. He would follow this up further by hitting Undertaker once again with a chair after the cell had been raised. It was a shame a great match ended with a screwy finish but it didn’t take away the magic that both men had produced. For the record; Edge would go on to beat both men in a triple threat match to reclaim the World title less than a month later. In this case crime DID pay for the Ultimate Opportunist.
9. Dean Ambrose v Seth Rollins; Hell in a Cell 2014 = 4.5*
Another great example of when a Hell in a Cell match was worthy of the story between the competitors that were in it. This came just months after Rollins had turned his back on both Ambrose and Roman Reigns to end The Shield and join The Authority as their ‘chosen one’. Dean came out first and would make his way into the ring along with a plethora of weapons, before then making his way to the top of the cell itself. The then Mr Money in the Bank tentatively came out with his lieutenants ‘J & J Security’ (Joey Mercury and Jamie Noble) by his side. And after initially teasing that he would be willing to go up and meet Ambrose he instead told Mercury and Noble to go up and “get him”. Unsurprisingly this ended with Dean hitting both men with the kendo stick he had in hand, Rollins then made his way up and the two brawled, Seth then took the kendo stick and hit Ambrose with it with the aid of Mercury and Noble, and after Dean did his fightback from the attack Seth would try and slither away from The Lunatic Fringe by climbing back down the other side of the cell. Ambrose would go to try and catch him, but with both exchanging strikes as they were hanging from the cell they both fell and through the announce tables that were below them.
As the EMT’s came down to take away both men on stretchers it was Dean who broke off from his backboard and went immediately to attack Rollins, flinging him to the floor and off of his own stretcher. Ambrose threw Rollins into the outside wall of the cell, he scared away Noble and Mercury, and then demanded that the nearby referees lock the cell door… and THEN the bell rung to begin the match (yes… after all that chaos the match itself hadn’t even started yet)!!! What followed was MORE chaos between two bitter rivals, both hit each other with a steel chair and Seth’s MITB briefcase, Dean hit Rollins with an elbow drop that sent Seth through a table that he was placed across on outside the ring, Corporate Kane (stood on the outer side of the cell) sprayed a fire extinguisher into Ambrose’s face, Rollins buckle-bombed Ambrose through a table leading to a nearfall, he later went to Curb Stomp Dean onto his briefcase but Ambrose escaped and hit Seth with it instead, before then grabbing two center-blocks (bricks) and was going to hit Seth with them (as Seth had done to Dean leading up to the match), but then with Ambrose seemingly on the verge on inflicting the finishing blow to his former Shield brother… suddenly all the lights go out. There was some weird, eerie foreign language being spoken from somewhere, a light with smoke and some form of hologram appeared in the middle of the ring as Dean Ambrose looked on bemused, and then from the smoke came Bray Wyatt who unleashed his attack. The Eater of Worlds then hit Dean with a Sister Abigail before Rollins then crawled over to make the cover and steal the win. After Rollins had made a quick escape, Wyatt gave Ambrose another Sister Abigail before sitting in his signature pose and making an immediate impact upon his return to action (he had been missing for around a month and had in the meantime ‘set free’ his former Wyatt Family brothers Harper and Rowan).
8. Chris Jericho v Triple H; Judgement Day 2002 = 4.5*
This was the blow-off match in what had become an incredibly personal rivalry that entailed the undisputed championship, the main event of Wrestlemania, Jericho forming a business relationship with Triple H’s wife Stephanie, and now Jericho was the hitman for Triple H’s disgruntled Father-in-law Vince McMahon. Again this was another perfect example of when a rivalry needed the cell to contain it.
The match itself was fantastic. It began with trash-talk after a stare-down between the two and a brawl, Y2J would then go on to use a ladder he had retrieved from under the ring to attack Triple H and despite a fightback Jericho then launched The Game into the side of the cell. A notable spot in this match would see Triple H throw Jericho around, causing him to crash into the match referee Tim White and as the ref was stood on the ring apron on the outer side of the ropes, he went flying into the cell wall. Jericho then hit Triple H with a steel chair and went for a pin but Tim White was still down. Furious at this Jericho took his anger on White by throwing him into the cell again and then beating him down and busting him open. This caused fellow officials to open the cell door in order to get emergency officials in to treat the bloodied referee. Triple H would hit Chris Jericho with a Spinebuster as the refs and emergency officials were tending to Tim White, The Game kicked a chair into Jericho’s face and then hit ‘the Ayatollah of Rock n Rolla’ , before then getting his signature Sledgehammer and hitting a now busted open Jericho with it. He then went for a cover but STILL the referee was OOA. A distraught Jericho then crawled out of the still-open cell door before slamming it in Triple H’s face.
The two eventually brawled towards the announce tables, before Triple H hit a ddt to send Jericho through one of them. This was latterly followed by both men making their way to the top of the cell, with Triple H hitting Jericho with a barbed wire-covered bat he had carried up with him, Y2J returned the favour then and did the same before locking Triple H in a Walls of Jericho on top of the cell, but he refused the calls of another referee (whom had joined both men on top of the steel structure) to submit. The brutal battle concluded when HHH hit Y2J with a low blow, another shot with the barbed wire bat, and finally a Pedigree into the steel to give him the win.
7. Kurt Angle (C) v The Rock v Triple H v Stone Cold Steve Austin v Undertaker v Rikishi, WWE Championship; Armageddon 2000 = 4.5*
The story going into this was the-then-WWE Commissioner Mick Foley made this match to cater for the convoluted nature of the WWE title scene at that time. Vince McMahon accused Foley of making this a HIAC out of bitterness of his losses and the injuries he suffered years prior in a match with Undertaker and also in his match earlier that year in the cell with Triple H. In the build up to the match Vince had tried to convince the 6 participants to not take part in the match (with McMahon fearing for his company’s ‘assets’). During the match itself Vince and his stooges even brought a removal truck to the ringside area and attempted to bring down the cell. The way the truck was parked saw the back of it towards the ring, and so the bed of the truck (which just so happened to be filled with wood chips) was next to the cell. This led to an awe-inspiring visual that would see Undertaker (who ominously claimed he would ‘make someone famous’ in the match leading up to it) Chokeslam Rikishi from the top of the cell onto the bed of wood chippings below.
In terms of the match itself it was 5 of the biggest stars there has ever been in the company (and Rikishi… sorry big guy…) inside a Hell in a Cell structure (and outside of it where brawling between the participants took place too throughout the match), with weapons, blood and every HIAC match spot you could think of (apart from someone going though the cell roof, which thankfully didn’t take place in this one)! The finish of the match saw The Rock hit a Rock Bottom to the champion Angle, Austin then breaking up the pinfall attempt before hitting the people’s champion with a Stunner, but his pin was broken up by Triple H. Austin retaliated by hitting a neckbreaker to The Game that took both men away from the main action, and during this Kurt Angle sneaked over to cover The Rock and somehow retain his WWE Championship. Although Austin then hit Angle with a Stunner to close the show, he had not reclaimed the title that he wanted… yet…
6. Edge v Undertaker; Summerslam 2008 = 4.5*
This was yet another personal rivalry that encapsulated the main event of that year’s Wrestlemania for the championship on its way. This feud stemmed all the way back to over a year before this when Edge had cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase on The Deadman to rob the world title from him. And after Taker had previously been banished from WWE as a stipulation of losing a previous world title match to Edge, his then wife Vickie Guerrero (in her role as Smackdown GM) reinstated Taker in response to Edge’s infidelity with their wedding planner. She then placed Edge in a HIAC match with The Phenom in the main event of that year’s Summerslam.
Weapons-a-plenty in this one too. Both hit one another with steel steps, Edge put Undertaker through a table with a chair-assisted elbow drop, and then would Spear Taker through one of the cell walls and then again through an announce table. A 3rd Spear back in the ring would still not be enough to give Edge the win. The Rated R Superstar mocked Undertaker by performing his ‘Old School’ move, but Undertaker responded by then Chokeslamming Edge from the top rope through TWO tables (placed on top of one another) that were set up on the outside of the ring. Taker would finish off his fallen opponent with a con-chair-to (hitting an opponent on the floor that is laying with their head on a steel chair with another chair to the head, a move which had become a trademark of Edge himself) and a Tombstone Piledriver for the victory. Undertaker was then making his way back down the entrance ramp after his win, but looked up and saw his beaten opponent, via the Titantron above him, still moving. This angered Taker so much he went back to the ring, grabbed Edge and dragged him to the top of a ladder that was set in the ring, and then Chokeslammed him off the top of it. Edge as a result of the impact actually went straight through the ring mat! Undertaker then made his way down from the top of the ladder, knelt down with his arms outstretched and summoned flames to encapsulate the giant whole that the impact from Edge’s fall had left in the ring. Undertaker had condemned his opponent and, as was well put by JR on commentary, Edge had been “sent to Hell”!
5. Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman) v Undertaker; Hell in a Cell 2015 = 4.75*
A rivalry that first began 13 years prior reached a whole new level when Brock Lesnar famously ended The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania undefeated streak in 2014. Taker would gain revenge by costing Lesnar the WWE title over a year later, and then (in controversial circumstances to say the least) The Deadman won the rematch at Summerslam in 2015 to set up the rubber match in the trilogy for the Hell in a Cell ppv that October. The various confrontations between the two had been nothing but brutal, but this match was another level.
Undertaker at one point slammed Lesnar into a ring post thus causing him to bleed absolutely EVERYWHERE! Brock would later hit back with a steel chair attack that led Taker to bleed too. Taker hit a chair to Lesnar’s throat for a nearfall pin attempt, Brock twice hit Undertaker with the F5 but twice it was not enough to keep him down. Brock hit Taker with steel steps, Taker locked the Hell’s Gate submission in on Brock but he escaped. Lesnar then chose to remove the cover of the ring mat so that the hard, ring floor was left exposed but it was first Taker who took advantage of this, hitting Lesnar with a Chokeslam and then a Tombstone for a nearfall. And finally to finish the match there was some wonderful storytelling; Lesnar hit Taker with a low blow (as Taker had done to cost Lesnar the WWE title and then later in their match at Summerslam when the ref’s back was turned) before hitting him with, onto the exposed floor, a third F5 of the match (just as many as it took to beat Taker at Wrestlemania 30) and Brock Lesnar won the match. ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT STUFF! The aftermath saw Taker taking in the standing ovation he was receiving from the adoring crowd, before The Wyatt Family came out to attack and eventually dragged him away in what was a sad (kayfabe) ending to the last great stand of a legend.
4. Triple H (C) v Cactus Jack, WWE Championship (if Cactus Jack loses he must retire); No Way Out 2000 = 4.75*
In the early 2000s Triple H’s run as one of the top guys in the company was in its blossoming phase. He was the champion, he was the top heel, but he still wasn’t IT yet. Enter Mankind/Mick Foley who, after the beatdown and provocation of Triple H & wife Stephanie, transformed himself into his darker former persona. An incredibly brutal match a month or so prior at the Royal Rumble was followed by this re-match that would see Triple H as the champion facing Cactus Jack, who was putting his career on the line versus the prize of being the champion & going on to main event Wrestlemania & realize his dream. We had seen Triple H have a brutal match with Cactus Jack, we had seen Mick Foley go through the cell roof, but both these happened here AGAIN! It was a rollercoaster ride that had viewers on tender hooks throughout and wondering what madness Cactus Jack would come up with next. But in the end it was The Game who crawled his way to keeping his title and “retiring” an emotional Mick Foley, who received a standing ovation from the crowd who assumed they were waving him goodbye with his Wrestlemania main event dreams crushed………… They were very wrong of course but at the time, for what this was, it was beautifully done and served every purpose it had very well indeed. It was the making of Triple H as a top guy, and only further cemented the legacy of ‘Mrs Foley’s baby boy’.
3. Shawn Michaels v Undertaker, winner faces the WWE Champion for the title at Survivor Series (the next ppv); In Your House: Badd Blood 1997 = 5*
One month prior to the Montreal Screwjob, HBK had another unforgettable match, but this time for much more positive reasons. This was the very first Hell in a Cell match, and was also one of the most eventful matches in WWE history. It had pretty much everything! A brash and cocky Michaels quickly became a scared wreck as the enormity of the Cell and his opponent finally dawned on him. Undertaker punished Michaels early on, but Shawn responded with a suicide dive to Taker into the cell, Steel Steps shot to the head and a Piledriver onto them too, as well as chair shots to Undertaker’s back. This was all only enough for the then European Champion Michaels to get a 2 count. He continued his offence until he was stopped by a big boot from Taker, he charged towards Taker not long after but was instead flipped over the ropes to the outside, and HBK fell onto a cameraman, which temporarily cut the view of the show for the audience at home. In his fury Michaels attacked the cameraman, which led for the cell door to be opened so he could be treated by the emergency officials. In the meantime Shawn hit Sweet Chin Music to the Undertaker, but he completely no-sold it and sat up in typical fashion immediately.
Both men then made their way out of the open cell door, Undertaker sling-shotted Michaels into one of the outside walls of the cell… TWICE (which led to HBK being busted open). Eventually Michaels aimed to escape Undertaker’s grasp by climbing up the cell wall, only for Undertaker to follow him to the top of the giant steel structure. With the fear/excitement of the unknown building (remember this was the first ever HIAC) Taker backdropped HBK onto the Cell roof, he threw him again on to the steel, and then as Michaels was left hanging from the edge of the cell on the far side Undertaker stood on his hand enough that it made him fall from the side of the top of the cell and through the announce table that was beneath him. The crowd went absolutely wild for this, and it was awesome. Taker made his way back down from the top of the cell, and led Michaels back into the ring, at which point the previously opened cell door was re-locked. HBK then had to suffer a huge Chokeslam from the top, and then he was absolutely SMASHED by a massive Steel Chair shot as the end looked to finally be near… and then the most amazing part of this whole match.. and as good as it was the main talking point of one of the best matches WWE had ever produced… wasn’t about either man in the match… as what followed The Undertaker signifying that the end was indeed near… was the greatest debut in WWE history. You know what’s coming here right? This moment was so incredible I’ll just put the commentary from some guy named Vince McMahon that called the action:
“It’s all over, now will come the Tombs- (lights go out) … well… (music plays)… oh my god wait a minute, it’s Paul Bearer, it’s Paul Bearer and that… THAT’S GOTTA BE… THAT’S GOTTA BE KANE… THAT’S GOTTA BE KANE!!! (Undertaker looks on in absolute disbelief) … oh my god he just ripped the door off its hinges!
Jim Ross: look at the size of this human being, or is that a human being?
(Kane stands in the ring eye to eye with his brother Undertaker)
VM: Kane, that’s gotta be Kane, The Undertaker , looking at him, looking to the eyes of that giant who stands in front of him, is that his younger brother?
JR: HES HUGE WHOEVER HE IS! HE’S AS BIG AS THE UNDERTAKER!
Kane then makes flames rise from the 4 ring posts before he kicks The Undertaker in the stomach and Tombstone’s him before leaving. HBK then crawls over and covers the deadman for the win as he is then dragged to the back by Chyna and Triple H. Michael’s was going to Survivors Series to make EVEN MORE history, and the 20 plus year WWE career of Kane had begun. One of the best WWE matches in history, the best debut of all time, and about as much of every form of entertainment you could ask for in one match. Absolutely superb.
2. Triple H v Undertaker, Special Guest Referee: Shawn Michaels; Wrestlemania 28 (2012) = 5*
Having reviewed this match already a few weeks ago as part of my Undertaker Wrestlemania matches countdown blog, I had absolutely no problem at all with watching it once again. ‘The End of an Era’ saw two of the all time greats (at this point both in veteran status for sure) and the two most synonymous superstars with the HIAC contest put on one of the most highly regarded matches in Wrestlemania history. So much drama, violence and storytelling going on during this half hour masterclass of sports entertainment. The added element of Michaels as referee too only added to the drama, and the infamous Sweet Chin Music into a Pedigree that saw Undertaker kick out at about as close to 3 as you could possibly get is still a moment that will live on forever. Obviously in the end The Undertaker kept The Streak intact, but the mutual respect between all 3 involved here, culminating in the iconic image of HBK, Taker and Triple H stood arms around each other on the rampway is historic to say the least. I was very VERY close to making this my number 1 best Undertaker Wrestlemania match, and I was VERY close to making this number 1 in this list, but a masterclass in professional wrestling kept this match from being Taker’s best Mania match. And indeed it would be The Undertaker in the match that denies Triple H top spot this time, but in this case his dance partner was not Shawn Michaels, but a certain somebody who would cement his legacy and Hall of Fame career all in one particular (and for him very nearly fateful) night in Pittsburgh…
1. Mankind v Undertaker; King of the Ring 1998 = UNLIMITED*!
I don’t think I need to go into any great detail about this match, one of the most famous in WWE history. It’s my favourite match of all time, for as much as I love pure wrestling and storytelling I would watch this match over and over again if I could, every single time I do it astounds me. The Undertaker (who, you may have noticed by reading this list, is quite the performer in Hell in a Cell matches) was the victor in this one, but this night did and will forever belong to one man, no not Kane who won his maiden WWE Championship later in the evening and not Undertaker after his win, but June 28th 1998 will always be the day of Michael Francis Foley.
If Mick Foley had retired 1 second before he made his way out for this match he had, up to that point, a hall of fame worthy career to look back on. If Mick Foley had of made his wrestling debut the night after this match took place he will have been more than worthy of being in the Hall of Fame. He had to wait until April 6th 2013 but they should have given him the accolade (along with a Knighthood, a Nobel Prize, the freedom of the city of Pittsburgh and every single other possible reward) immediately after the bell mercifully ended this match. With a full technical analysis unnecessary I will just tell you to seek out the footage of this match IMMEDIATELY. And in fact I will simply write for you the notes I took whilst watching this match (for around the 200th time in my life). This is what I got down,word-for-word, and as summary’s go I think this does the job pretty well:
Mankind off the Cell
Mankind through the Cell
Mankind onto thumbtacks… TWICE!
CARNAGE… INCREDIBLE… THE BEST!