‘Sup, Lords of Pain? Mazza here, back once again after a couple of weeks hiatus. Whilst real life has been rather busy recently, I can’t help but notice that there is a WWE PPV on the horizon. Gimmick PPVs aren’t a favourite in the IWC but none feel the wrath of the smarks more than Hell in a Cell. It makes sense really because a cell is notoriously a place to end a bitter blood feud, so shoehorning matches in gets frowned upon with good reason. We have seen the gimmick watered down in the years since the PPV was born but in the build up to this year’s event I have had a couple of questions on my mind. First of all, just how much relevance do the gimmick PPV cell encounters have in comparison to the other cell matches. Secondly I can’t help but think we have two matches at this year’s event that actually could easily fall into the gimmick so I would be interested in seeing where they belonged in the larger scheme of things.
Ranking The Talent: A Tough Cell (CPR Productions)
By Mazza and Maverick
Oct 24, 2013 - 1:38:59 PM
A TOUGH CELL
To do this I have enlisted the help of some of the finest minds on Lords of Pain. A panel consisting of Hustle, Doc, Tito, Skitz, Pen15, Plan, Prime Time, Mizfan, Cult Icon, Subho and some guy called TO ranked all the cell matches out of ten in terms of a how relevant the cell gimmick was to the feud at the time...
And here to help Maz count down the matches from most relevant to the cell to least relevant to the cell is me, his fellow Brit Maverick. You may know me from such columns as CF staple ‘Requesting Flyby’ and such LOP Radio shows as The Right Side of the Pond. Like Maz, I’ve not been too much of a fan of the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view events, seeing as they’ve heavily watered down the original concept of the cell as feud ender extraordinaire, but I’m hopeful that this year will be different. Anyway Maz, get us started will you?
Mazza: Yes Mav, but interrupt me again and we are going to have problems!
25. The Undertaker def The Big Boss Man @ WrestleMania XV (28/03/99) - Cell Relevance 2.8/10
Mazza: Whilst I am not surprised to see this match get ranked dead last, I think maybe there is a little bit of bias simply because of just how poor the match turned out to be (so bad that we wouldn’t see the cell again at Mania for 13 years). Still, it is fair to say that this definitely did not warrant a cell match. The Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness was pretty fresh and waging war on Vince McMahon’s Corporation. To have the Ministry’s leader go at the Corporation’s enforcer does make sense, but not at the biggest PPV of the year, and definitely not within the confines of the steel. The feud between the two factions would deepen after the event before a huge U-turn would reveal Vince was the “Higher Power” telling The Deadman what to do all along. Shame Bossman wasn’t informed as it could have saved him from getting hanged after the Mania XV match.
Maverick: Ugh, what a mess this was. For anybody clamouring after a wholesale return to Attitude, let me just point out the fact that you’d be asking for the return of this type of nonsense. I love a good stable war as much as the next guy, but the whole Corporation transition into the Corporate Ministry was pretty rum. Fortunately for ‘Taker, he got injured shortly after this and escaped any further damage to his dignity. As for Bossman, he must have been wondering how he went from feuding with Hogan in the late eighties to being sacrificed live on TV in the late nineties. Poor guy.
24. CM Punk def Ryback @ Hell in a Cell (28/10/12) - Cell Relevance 3.2/10
Mazza: As we head towards a rematch to this (of sorts) we can now look back and take in Ryback taking on CM Punk in the Cell at last year’s event. The build up was strange with nobody sure whether it would be Ryback or a half-injured John Cena challenging for Punk’s WWE Championship until quite late on. Cena vs Punk in a cell would have made all the sense in the world given their history but this would be the first time the champ had locked up with Ryback. Not only did the cell have no business being involved, it also appeared to back creative into a corner with no clear way to keep the title on Punk and Ryback looking strong. To be fair, the WWE dealt with that well having referee Brad Maddox screw the challenger over but it set the tone for Ryback’s booking going forward and it fizzled out the great momentum he had built up since his repackage.
Maverick: The awkward hot potato-ing of the number one contendership did the build to this match no favours whatsoever. Add the typical three week build to Hell in a Cell and you’re asking for trouble in terms of relevance and heat. I guess it’s easy to forget how over the “feed me more” chants were at this point, and I thought the Straight Edge Superstar did a very decent job in making Ryback seem a monstrous threat. For what it is, given Ryback’s limitations at the time, it’s a pretty decent match, and I do like that this match gifted us the legend that is MADD-OCKS. Did it need the cell though? Nah.
23. Mark Henry def Randy Orton@ Hell in a Cell (04/10/09) - Cell Relevance 3.3/10
Maverick: Henry was on an absolute tear at this point in time, inducting fools into the Hall of Pain at an alarming rate and ripping the World Heavyweight Title from the grasp of The Viper at Night of Champions. In fact, Mizark was being booked so strongly at the time that his victory within the cell seemed an inevitability, which is probably why it places so low in the relevance list. For actual USE of the cell once the bell rings, I think this match stands up pretty well, but as the feud had begun one PPV earlier, it’s understandable that the good folks down in the CF rated this match fairly low for how much it warranted Satan’s Structure.
Mazza: Yeah, this feud didn’t quite have the substance to it to warrant being put in a cell. It wasn’t that it was bad. On the contrary, it was rather gripping, but this was essentially Orton’s rematch against Henry and there wasn’t much reason to have such a strong stipulation to it. Even a No-DQ would probably have been pushing it.
22. Randy Orton def Sheamus @ Hell in a Cell (03/10/10) - Cell Relevance 3.5/10
Maverick: I don’t have fond memories of 2010 as a year of grappling action, and Randall and Sheamus’ lame title feud from that summer/autumn is a prime example of why nobody is going to much remember it in future. Orton carrying a feud as a babyface is always going to be problematic and the Celtic Warrior was still pretty green at the time, so this was never going to be a classic build to a cell match. The focus seemed to be on Sheamus never having beaten Orton in a one on one match; not exactly the foundations of a heated match within the cell. The actual match turned out to be decent enough, but not especially memorable. A bit like most of Sheamus’ matches, in all honesty!
Mazza: Yeah, this was just all wrong. The cell and the WWE championship should have had a logical relationship during this period in time with The Nexus causing havoc but the time for it was the cage match between Sheamus and Cena a few months previously. Whilst there was some decent history between Orton and Sheamus, it simply wasn’t a very good fit here, particularly with Orton having taken the title from Sheamus a month earlier in a six pack challenge. It might have had more emphasis if this was the place Orton finally won the title.
21. The Undertaker def CM Punk @ Hell in a Cell (04/10/09) - Cell Relevance 4/10
Mazza: This one places a little lower than I thought it would have. Whilst it was definitely a not a culmination of a long series of matches or years of tensions between the two participants, I don’t think it had terrible placement in the context of the feud. The Deadman was set to challenge the World Heavyweight Champion at Breaking Point and that would be Punk after he came out on top of his feud with Jeff Hardy. In another example of a gimmick PPV hurting storylines, the match would need to be won by submission. Despite Taker appearing to win with Hell’s Gate, Teddy Long came out to announce the move was banned (by Vickie a year earlier) and Punk would win in another of WWE’s Montreal Screwjob reenactions. The Deadman went on to kidnap Long, who would announce that they would have a rematch in a cell once Taker let him go. Logical that The Phenom would want a rematch in his type of gimmick after the screwy finish but still nowhere near as warranted as many of the other cell matches throughout history.
Maverick: Again, I’m very much in agreement with Maz here. Any time that The Undertaker is involved, the cell match just seems justified, regardless of how much heat that feud may have had behind it heading into the pay-per-view. Poor old Punk was in the midst of a punishment depush at this time, as he’d dismissed the Deadman’s backstage advice about wearing a suit while carrying WWE gold, and thus the entire Punk/’Take feud was lopsided and nothing like as good as it could’ve been with more patient and logical booking. I imagine our pal Phil spent a decent amount of time after being tossed around the cell by Callaway thinking about shutting his mouth in future. Thankfully, he remained outspoken and eventually delivered the “pipe bomb” that changed everything for him.
20. Alberto Del Rio def John Cena and CM Punk @ Hell in a Cell (02/10/11) - Cell Relevance 4.3/10
Mazza: I do wonder if this ranking so low had something to do with the terrible booking mess that was going on at this period in time. If you follow the story of all three participants back a few months to Money in the Bank, there really is a logical reason to put all three in a cell. There was already controversy over the WWE title before Kevin Nash decided to send a text to himself to “stick the winner”. Del Rio’s cash-in added to that and with Big Sexy getting in Punk’s business again at Night of Champions, keeping the competitors in and the interference out was a good move. I am pretty sure that if the previous couple of months had come off as well as the company thought it would, this may have jumped up quite a few spots.
Maverick: In my series on the CM Punk vs. John Cena rivalry, I defended this match rather rigorously; I think that, as a pure wrestling match inside the confines of the cell, it works extremely well. I watched it back recently and enjoyed it a great deal. The triple threat element was different and led to a number of exciting and innovative spots, and actually, when you think about the fact that Del Rio was up in both Punk and Cena’s business, the cell was more justified than for some matches I could mention. But as Maz says, the IWC’s collective ire at the booking of the WWE title post Money in the Bank 2011 inevitably leads people to rate it low on the scale. Go and watch the match though, it’s a bit of a lost classic.
19. Triple H def Kevin Nash @ Bad Blood (15/06/03) - Cell Relevance 4.4/10
Maverick: Holy cow. What an awful rivalry this was. Despite the “former best friend” angle, the entire thing was completely devoid of heat, and not even the addition of Foley as guest referee could make it interesting. Nash was an embarrassing irrelevance in 2003, and his programme with The Game was just another one of many reasons to avoid Raw and watch Smackdown instead. Dreadful match, poor use of the cell, in my book.
Mazza: I cared more about their 2011 feud. Take that for what you will. As Mav said, Raw was just terrible at this stage. Whilst the long term and recent history between the two men probably did constitute a blood feud, it was just that nobody really cared. I can’t help but think this cell match was kind of stumbled into in a similar way to the HIAC PPVs. With the last Bad Blood being the event where the original cell was used, did the WWE have a cell main event in mind bringing back the event six years later? The fact that they did it again in the next and final Bad Blood would add credence to that theory.
18. Degeneration X def Vince and Shane McMahon and The Big Show @ Unforgiven (17/09/06) - Cell Relevance 4.5/10
Maverick: Ah the infamous DX reunion. I must admit to not being its greatest fan; watching 40 year old dudes in backwards baseball caps make cock jokes is not really my idea of wrestling television, you know? Nevertheless, the anti-authority duo’s feud with the McMahons certainly had its moments, notably the epic Shane O’Mac and VKM impressions they did on Monday Night Raw. Those were certainly well observed. So after Shawn had beaten Vince at ‘Mania and tagged with “God” against Vince and Shane O’Mac, the reunited DX then buried the Spirit Squad at Vengeance before burying them again in the process of beating the McMahons at Summerslam. The handicap HIAC that concluded the rivalry was logical to an extent, though as ever, Big Show being pressed into action as “generic enforcer” was a bit random, almost as if he were only there to facilitate the gross out humour that follows. Funny period of time in company history, the mid-2000s.
Mazza: Yeah this was definitely a strange one. The original feud between Shawn and Vince was a bitter rivalry but it very soon transcended into a high profile comedy angle. Comedy and the cell just don’t seem a good mix to me and as such, this one just didn’t feel right. On a different day in a different feud, it could have been perfect considering the history of the men involved. In fact, who knows, we could be heading down a similar path on this year’s Road to WrestleMania.
17. Triple H def Chris Jericho @ Judgment Day (19/05/02) - Cell Relevance 5/10
Maverick: Poor old Y2J. His entire feud with Hunter was overshadowed by the McMahon-Helmsley era coming to an end so that none of the build up to any of their matches seemed to have anything to do with him. He practically had to stand in the background doing star jumps, shouting “LOOK AT ME!” It really wasn’t a very heated rivalry; Trips didn’t do a great job making Jericho look his equal, and The Game is an absolutely terrible babyface who spends most of his time yelling “passionately” or hitting people with a sledgehammer, despite that being a heel move. Not a great use of the cell, all in all, though the actual match is decent enough.
Mazza: Here’s another one we could be building towards once more following Triple H’s comments on Raw and Chris Jericho’s clearly in-character tweeting. It would probably have more heat this time around too. There were so many other people involved in this whole thing (obviously to counteract H’s super face powers) and Jericho felt like a bit of footnote in it all. Popping the WWE title on Hogan didn’t help matters either. You could have played the whole “the feud has become more than just about the title” card, but again, the fact that it wasn’t solely about Hunter and Jericho took away a lot of that potential heat.
16. Randy Orton def John Cena @ Hell in a Cell (04/10/09) - Cell Relevance 5.4/10
Maverick: These modern cell matches really aren’t faring well in this countdown are they? This is one of the more justified modern usages of Satan’s Structure in the sense that Cena and Orton had been going back and forth over the title for what seemed like decades. It was one of those feuds that the company wanted to be era defining but actually fell some way short of that; there’s something about the dynamic of these two guys that is just a little bit flat. Of the nine hundred or so matches they had in this feud , this was probably the second best after the Bragging Rights Ironman Match, and they worked around the limitations of the PG rating fairly well. In some ways, I think the low-ish rating our voters have given this bout is a consequence of the IWC’s general perception of the rivalry as lasting too long and being somewhat shoved down our throats. Objectively speaking, I’d probably put this a little higher up the list, personally.
Mazza: Whilst I absolutely hated this feud (and this match) I have to say that I am surprised to see it this low. I think Maverick hit the nail on the head as to why it didn’t show up higher. Personally I’d have it very close to the top of the HIAC PPV matches and probably top ten overall. A big feud between the two had always been on the cards and to be honest, the summer of 2009 was the perfect time. Something just didn’t click until it was basically over. Quite why I have no idea. They had worked extremely well together previously and would do so a couple of weeks later (in the aforementioned Ironman Match) but the hot-potatoing of the WWE title in this four match run had people zoning out. Despite that, I personally don’t believe that should mean the cell wasn’t a warranted part of the series, as I believe it most definitely was.
15. Kurt Angle def The Undertaker, Triple H, The Rock, Steve Austin and Rikishi @ Armageddon (10/12/00) - Cell Relevance 5.5/10
Mazza: I was very interested to see where my esteemed colleagues would place this one. There was quite a range of opinions, similarly to how people see the quality of this match. I think this cluster**** is a great way to sum up the Attitude Era if you only have one match to do it in. This was not about one rivalry, it was about a whole bunch of rivalries from the era coming together in one huge brawl. You had a bunch of the era’s key players just wanting to beat the living hell out of each other. Then you had the goofy underdog rookie champion who looked out of his depth and with no chance of retaining. Then on top of that you have the whole story of Mick Foley booking the match in a cell and Vince trying to cancel it but failing. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I absolutely love this version of Hell in a Cell and it would actually make my top five of matches that warranted the steel. Unfortunately nobody really agreed with me to that extent.
Maverick: Again, I have to agree with Maz, I think this match very much deserved its booking within the steel prison. Rikishi had issues with Rocky and Austin. Austin had issues with Triple H and Rikishi. Rocky had issues with Rikishi and Angle. Angle had issues with Rocky and ‘Taker. ‘Taker just wanted to throw people off the roof of the cell. It was a brilliant, brilliant pay-per-view build that’s still fresh in the memory. I’m not sure why the voters have this one so low on the list. As a royal cluster**** of Attitude Era main eventers, it really did seem appropriate to me to have them battle out in such claustrophobic confines. The match itself is a whole heap of fun and well worth your time, as is The Rock’s epic piss take promo of each of his five opponents.
14. Degeneration X def Legacy @ Hell in a Cell (04/10/09) - Cell Relevance 5.7/10
Mazza: I have stated numerous times in my columns over the years that I thought this was a great feud, and a trilogy of matches and would have made Ted and Cody major players if creative didn’t decide to totally ignore them at the end of it. For me it was one of the more logical cell matches of the Hell in a Cell PPVs. The fact that this main evented over two world title cell matches points to that. The series between the two teams was tied at 1-1 following a DX win at SummerSlam and Legacy evening it up at Breaking Point. The latter was a Submissions Count Anywhere match so it made sense to confine them for round three after causing havoc all over the arena in round two.
Maverick: I have very similar views to Mazza when it comes to Cody and Ted; that series should have made them instantly. They looked a million dollars in taking on DX and did very well away from Orton’s apron strings in a meaningful feud of their own. The Legacy era is a point in time I often YouTube fondly, and the build and execution of this match were both excellent. I’m surprised that this hasn’t placed a little higher actually. Probably all those Ted haters out there. Screw you! Ted Jr. rules! Ahem.
13. CM Punk vs Ryback and Paul Heyman @ Hell in a Cell (27/10/13) - Cell Relevance 6.3/10
Maverick: If we had been talking about the Heyman vs. Punk feud a month or so ago, I think we might have seen quite a different response. The rivalry just seems to have dragged on a little too long, and the involvement of Ryback and Axel after Lesnar exited the storyline is a little bit like getting served a big plate of cabbage after you’ve just been eaten a luxurious chocolate fondant. Punk and Heyman are still doing their best, but there’s only so many times they can run the same sort of promos before the whole thing becomes routine. Mercifully, it seems as if the feud is coming to a natural end inside the cell, with Heyman forced to be Ryback’s unwitting handicap partner. I can only assume that Punk will finally get to Heyman and wipe the canvas with Paul E.’s sweaty head. All in all, the cell is very much justified, it’s just a pity that it isn’t Best vs. Beast II with Heyman’s safety on the line rather than Punk vs. a very devalued Ryback.
Mazza: I can totally see Mav’s point here but I have to be honest, I think the feud has simmered down for two reasons. One is that this whole bully gimmick thing has come into it and taken away from what it should be, and that is Heyman getting his comeuppance. The second thing is that Punk got his hands on Paul E, even if not for long, at Night of Champions. Ryback really should have made the save there before Punk could get to Heyman as it would have made the chase that much more satisfying. I think that if Ryback had been booked as a dominant monster, it would have pushed this match higher up the ranks. As it is, it still places decently amongst the rest of the Hell in a Cell PPV matches but that is all down to a lot of the work Heyman and Punk put in before these last few weeks. It’s without a doubt a blood feud that deserves a cell ending, it may have come just a little too late in the day.
12. Randy Orton vs Daniel Bryan @ Hell in a Cell (27/10/13) - Cell Relevance 6.5/10
Mazza: This match has cell written all over it for me. I know a lot of people haven’t really been that fond of the Orton-Bryan dynamic, or the way the title has been held in abeyance, but this should definitely have made the top ten for my money. First things first, this will be the fourth PPV in a row that they have closed. If that in itself is not enough to warrant a cell match, there has also been major controversy at every turn. Whilst the idea of an ironman match between the pair sparked a lot of interest a few weeks ago, a trip to hell works better for me. The feud has seen plenty of interference and with guys like The Big Show and The Shield never likely to be too far away the cell, in principle, should keep them out. The man who will be in there with them also adds a level of intrigue and Shawn Michaels is no stranger to refereeing, cells or both. It is time to put this whole feud to bed here and there is no better place than Hell in a Cell for me.
Maverick: I guess the reason why this Sunday’s match hasn’t ended up too high in the list is because of the way that Orton has been almost secondary to Triple H and Stephanie during the whole affair. It’s wise not to give The Viper too much mic time, but simultaneously, it’s also vital that he retains his own identity. It’s difficult to see this as a heated Orton vs. Bryan match as the American Dragon’s real issues are with Hunter. Still, I expect this “abeyance breaker” to be an excellent modern cell match- perhaps the best since Edge vs. Undertaker at Summerslam 2008? And by the way, BRYAN HAS TO LOSE. If his final ascent to superstardom is to mean anything, The Beard will need to win that title clean at Wrestlemania. Anything else would not make sense in the context of the storyline.
11. Batista def The Undertaker @ Survivor Series (18/11/07) - Cell Relevance 7/10
Mazza: I find this one a very hard one to rate. The pair has an extremely close war earlier in the year and had The Deadman not been injured, I have no doubt that a HIAC would have been the perfect way to end the rivalry. As it is though, a lot of the heat was taken out of the storyline. Edge got involved for a while but he got injured and that whole run of bad luck gave us the absolute pleasure of Big Dave chasing The Great Khali for the World Heavyweight Championship. Batista eventually got the big gold belt back and the Deadman returned but the intensity of their Mania encounter and subsequent matches just wasn’t quite there still. They certainly had more business mixing it up in the cell than plenty of others, it just wasn’t as big a deal as it possibly could have been with a tad better timing and luck.
Maverick: It’s a funny rivalry, Batista and ‘Taker. On the one hand, whenever I happen to think of it, I think to myself “that was a pretty good feud!” and then, like Maz mentioned, I remember how awkward and intermittent it was. Plus, they were both faces throughout the entire affair; it might have garnered more heat if one of them had turned heel for the duration of their war. Anyway, if you were to watch the ‘Mania match, the LMS match and the cell match in sequence, you’d see three very good matches and a good feud...just a shame that it couldn’t be as coherent as that in real time!
10. Kane def The Undertaker @ Hell in a Cell (03/10/10) - Cell Relevance 7/10
Mazza: As we hit the top ten, we find the highest ranked cell match from a Hell in a Cell PPV. If the guy with the most matches in the structure ended his career without taking on his biggest rival in the steel then it would have been a bit of a travesty. They put that right though during the Kane-Taker feud of 2010. This match found itself in the middle of three wins for Kane at consecutive PPVs. The storied history between the two meant that you could pretty much warrant throwing them into a cell at any given moment. I think the match may have not rated a bit higher because it was the second part of this particular storyline as opposed to the final part. I guess a Buried Alive match is one of the few gimmicks that tops Hell in a Cell as a match to lay a feud to rest, but I still think it would have had that much more impact had it been the match to end the series.
Maverick: Yeah, this one basically makes it in because of who is in the match as opposed to the quality of the actual 2010 storyline which involved Rey Mysterio being blamed by Kane for putting Undertaker in a coma (riiiiight) before it transpired that it was actually a jealous Kane, who re-christened himself the “Devil’s Favourite Demon” and went on the fun, signature title run he’d always been denied in his career. Sadly, the kayfabe brothers’ three matches together pretty much stunk. Funny how two guys who worked together so much always had such poor chemistry (see also: Wrestlemania XIV, Summerslam 2000).
9. The Undertaker def Randy Orton @ Armageddon (18/10/05) - Cell Relevance 7/10
Mazza: There is something I really like about the build to this Hell in a Cell. It was almost a year in the making yet it was on and off as opposed to constantly in our faces. A young brash Orton put his failed face and world title run behind him by challenging The Deadman at WrestleMania 21. Orton lost but he would get revenge at SummerSlam thanks to interference from his dad and at No Mercy the Ortons would defeat The Deadman in a handicap casket match. Following their victory, Randy would set the casket on fire, killing Taker off for the umpteenth time in his career. He would come back at Survivor Series and set the scene for the feud to be put to bed inside a cell at Armageddon. A well booked feud with the Cell match being the icing on the cake.
Maverick: Yes! Yes! Yes! I loved Orton’s cocky bastard character through this point in time, and the feud that he put on with the Deadman was the perfect way to rehabilitate him after that abortion of a face run. These two had excellent chemistry, Cowboy Bob was terrific value at his boy’s side and the whole thing came together beautifully. For the mid-2000s, this was a well constructed feud and the cell was more than justified.
8. Triple H def Shawn Michaels @ Bad Blood (13/06/04) - Cell Relevance 7.3/10
Mazza: Just like Kane vs Undertaker, the love-hate relationship between The Heartbreak Kid and The Game also very much warranted a cell match. Best friends became bitter enemies in 2002 and Shawn came out of retirement to compete in a brutal Street Fight. That was only the beginning however. They would spend the next two years in and out of each other’s business and once World Champion Chris Benoit had tapped both out in consecutive PPVs, it was time to give the feud a push to the finish line. This was most definitely a blood feud and the cell was the perfect place to draw things to a conclusion.
Maverick: I loved every single one of the Hunter vs. Shawn matches; they were probably the only thing I truly liked about Triple H’s time as the company’s undisputed number one guy. Of course, WWE logic dictated that these two would reunite as D-Generation X only two years later...maybe their time in the cell was enough to clear the air for good? Either way, as Mazza says, this was one of the better uses of the cell over the last decade, I think 7 out of 10 is about right as a relevance rating.
7. Batista def Triple H @ Vengeance (26/06/05) - Cell Relevance 7.4/10
Maverick: How many of these bloody things has Hunter been in? This was, in fairness, a very well executed storyline, developed with patience and thought. Batista’s face turn was teased and teased, and when they unleashed The Animal upon the Rumble, it was inevitable that he would give Trips that iconic thumbs down and take his title at Wrestlemania XXI. Given that Big Dave was backstage pals with the Cerebral Assassin, he actually got put over huge three times in three matches, which doesn’t often happen with guys that feud with H. In this case, I think the level and intensity of the feud justified the cell, and they put together a fun match to boot.
Mazza: The fact that this placed so highly despite both men hardly being IWC darlings speaks volumes for just how brilliantly booked this feud was. A few months ago I named it as one of my favourite feuds in Mania history and it carried on very well following Batista winning the title. After losing at Mania and his rematch at Backlash, it made perfect sense for Trips to try and draw Batista into the world where he shines the best. The fact that Hunter had won all four of his one-on-one cell matches before then just added to the intrigue of nobody believing that he would do the job three times in a row. It was a great way to put an exclamation mark on a thoroughly entertaining storyline and actually turned out to be easily the best match of the bunch. A sometimes forgotten classic.
6. Brock Lesnar def The Undertaker @ No Mercy (20/10/02) - Cell Relevance 7.7/10
Mazza: This may have been only the second PPV meeting between the two, yet it comes in as the sixth most relevant cell match in history. I think it comes down to two words. Violent intensity. You will be hard pushed to find two men who display that better and that is why the feud built to a crescendo so quickly. Their first encounter was called off due to the fact that neither man wanted referees getting in their way so they decided to “deal with them”. The bro code was broken with Heyman and Brock accusing Taker of having an affair. More importantly however, Lesnar’s interference meant that The Deadman lost a match to Matt Hardy of all people. If that is not a good enough reason to put guys in a cell, I don’t know what is.
Maverick: Heyman made this feud guaranteed money with his heel manager work, and just the prospect of seeing a legend like ‘Taker bring his cell ‘A’ game against the prodigiously talented rookie was enough to make us all desperate to see the match and it’s that intangible, I think, that has led to our voters placing it so high in the list. It’s crazy to think that Brock had been on the main roster for only a few months before they chucked him inside the cell against the Deadman. That’s an upward career trajectory if I ever saw one. Watch the match back to see Paul E. get his face mashed against the steel mesh. Now that’s managerial dedication.
5. The Undertaker def Mankind @ King of the Ring (28/06/98) - Cell Relevance 7.7/10
Maverick: It’s interesting to ponder just where The Undertaker would be today were it not for his late nineties feud with Foley. After his impactful debut with the company at Survivor Series, the Demon of Death Valley had been booked in all manner of horrible special attraction matches against the worst bums pro wrestling had to offer. Foley’s entrance into the Fed in ‘96 gave ‘Taker the opportunity to finally build a meaningful feud with a talented opponent who could talk, work and bump, and it did immeasurable good in freshening up the Deadman and forcing him out of his comfort zone.
After two entire years of colourful history between the two men, the cell was lowered for the second time in company history, and I don’t think anybody could possibly say that the gimmick wasn’t justified. It is perhaps a measure of how revered the match is, with those two absurdly dangerous stunts, that the quality of the rivalry itself is often forgotten. Foley was on fire on the mic; this Mankind was certainly not the goofy Mankind that would surface later on. This was a deranged, brutish, disturbed individual that wanted only to hurt Undertaker in order to please “Uncle Paul.” One of the best uses of the cell of all, if not the best.
Mazza: Whilst this match will be remembered for those two sick, sick bumps, it certainly deserves to be remembered for why it took place as well. It was essentially the culmination of two years of being all up in each others business. They had fought under all sorts of gimmick matches during that time and this would be the perfect way to end it all. I guess we can all be thankfully that that wasn’t the case literally for Mick with those two hellacious spots that he took.
4. The Undertaker def Edge @ SummerSlam (17/08/08) - Cell Relevance 8.5/10
Maverick: What a fantastic feud these two put on; I’ve always been of the opinion that the Phenom is at his best when he shows a bit of weakness and when he gets an opponent who is able to create a sense of having “worked him out”. You had that with Foley, you had that this year at ‘Mania with Punk, and you certainly have that with Edge. From the moment he cashed in on a wounded ‘Taker in July 2007, they were right up in each other’s grills, with The Rated-R Superstar continually getting the better of his illustrious opponent through intelligent, nefarious means. After the Canadian had triumphed in his signature TLC match at One Night Stand, the Deadman was technically banished from the company, but some kayfabe sexual activity with Alicia Fox undid Edge, and the Demon of Death Valley was re-hired by a vengeful Vickie to set up the feud finishing cell match. Great rivalry, great match.
Mazza: Yeah, I can’t really put it any better than Mav did. This one just made total sense and worked really well. It was the culmination of a two year on-and-off feud ( I am conscious that I have said that more than once in this column) which saw them not only exchange the title with each other, but also cost each other the title against other people. I am not a fan of having feuds on a monthly basis that surpass the prestige of world titles, but this is one that definitely deserved to. I don’t think this could have been in any setting other than a cell and to have it main event a stacked SummerSlam card over two world title matches and the first meeting between John Cena and Batista just goes to prove how big a deal it was.
3. The Undertaker def Triple H @ WrestleMania XXVIII (01/04/12) - Cell Relevance 8.6/10
Maverick: Anyone who knows me and my work well will know that I’m no great fan of the way The Undertaker’s feud with Triple H came about. It was a pretty cynical move at Wrestlemania XXVII for these two guys to decide they had to face each other in order to “save the show”. In deciding to book themselves in the match in Atlanta, they arguably started the loathsome trend of booking part timers in prominent bouts at the expense of young, hungry talent. The build to their second ‘Mania contest was pretty weird, with the Deadman suddenly given this random Johnny Cash inspired “Last Outlaw” gimmick that never surfaced again after that match. The finish to the grindingly dull finisher fest No Holds Barred Match had a barely able to move ‘Taker tap Hunter out with Hell’s Gate when all appeared lost. This didn’t sit well with the Phenom, who surfaced on the Titantron a ‘Mania season later with some postmodern videos that featured him cutting bits off a black wig with a razor blade because...a haircut equals shame? Or something.
Anyway, after a few weeks of promos, The Game agreed to the match on the condition that it was in the cell. The Deadman happily agreed and the stage was set for ‘Mania XXVIII. While I’m not a fan of the feud or the series, I did enjoy the actual match a whole lot more than I thought I would. I could have done without the Cerebral Assassin wandering about with a chair yelling at Shawn to “end it” but that might just be me. Still, decent match. For me, these two men are those most associated with the cell...I just wish that they’d judged the actual feud better. For me, the work they did together in the lead up to Wrestlemania X7 was light years better than the build up to either Wrestlemania XXVII or XXVIII. This one is placed too high for me.
Mazza: Unfortunately too late to sack Mav from my column at this stage. I still remember that one of the first columns I posted in the Columns Forum of LOP was a dream card. Pride of place on this card Triple H vs The Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match with Mick Foley as guest ref. Mick and Shawn are pretty interchangeable in the equation but the point is that seeing the two guys who really carried the gimmick through its formative years square off in the cell has been a dream match for me for a long time. As such, this would make my top five irrespective of how it was built. But it was built as the culmination to the most intriguing feud in Mania history. The series of matches that saw The Deadman take his streak from 17-0 to 20-0 (and actually make it more than just numbers) needed something special to end and the cell was the perfect fit.
2. Triple H def Cactus Jack @ No Way Out (27/02/00) - Cell Relevance 8.6/10
Maverick: Blimey, I’m getting to start all the big ones here aren’t I? Watching the Street Fight between these two men at Royal Rumble 2000, my main thought was “how on earth do they follow this?” Of course there was only one match with the potential to be more brutal, and that was the cell. This was such an era defining feud; it made Triple H the company’s top heel for the next six years and transitioned Foley into a semi-retirement from which he would occasionally emerge to conduct epic put over jobs for the like of Randy Orton and Edge. However, the way that Mick, in his Cactus Jack persona, made The Game a household name is, for me, his crowning achievement. This was a brilliantly heated feud between the McMahon-Helmsley faction and the Hardcore Legend, and the cell gimmick was brilliantly employed here, meaning that Hunter overcame his challenger in his two signature match types. What a way to start a decade.
Mazza: Hatred. What makes Triple H so good as a heel is the fact that he draws so much hatred, whether it be from the fans, his opponents, or JR at the announce booth. He just knows exactly what to do to be hated. That is why he has found himself in so many cell matches over the years. But it all started here for The Game in the feud that made him a major player. And it was all based on hatred. Hunter and Foley were like chalk and cheese in almost every way you could look at them. That’s what made this work so well. The Street Fight at the Rumble was undoubtedly a vicious and phenomenal encounter which surely couldn’t be topped. Hell in a Cell was the only place they could even try to. Whilst it is debatable whether they managed to or not, it cannot be denied that if they didn’t, they got pretty damn close.
1. Shawn Michaels def The Undertaker @ Badd Blood: In Your House (05/10/97) - Cell Relevance 8.7/10
Mazza: The original Hell in a Cell match is still, 16 years later, regarded by many as the best edition, and now as the most relevant to the gimmick. Whilst the rivalry did go back further, it really kicked into gear at SummerSlam where Shawn Michaels would referee the match between Taker, and a guy he hated even more, Bret Hart. Not only did HBK inadvertently knocked The Deadman out with the a chair before counting the fall and handing the WWF title to his fiercest rival. Whilst I doubt he lost much sleep over the guilt, he may have knowing he had a pissed off Phenom on his case. They would go onto battle it out at Ground Zero but just like Taker’s match with Lesnar five years later, it turned into ref hitting practice. Pretty much the whole locker room had to separate them and the next stage was a cage match… with a difference. There was a roof and room to walk around the outside of the ring. It was definitely a monumental moment which changed the future of the company, and for that it deserves the number one spot, even if I personally probably wouldn’t rate quite as the number one rivalry to warrant the gimmick.
Maverick: Shawn is another one of those guys who always got under ‘Taker’s skin. Indeed, until Wrestlemania XXV, he was perhaps the only WWF/E star who conclusively had the best of the Deadman. The fact that the cell was created in order to house this feud says an awful lot, and I imagine that the high scores of our voters for this match take account of that historical fact. Truthfully, there have been more heated rivalries inside that steel structure, but not many, if any, better matches. Inside that cell, HBK put on an absolute masterclass, flying all over the place, bumping like a maniac and generally showing everyone watching just why he was the undisputed best in the world at the time. If anybody is unaware of what Michaels brought to the table prior to his first career ending injury, you absolutely must check out his 96-97 CV. As for ‘Taker, he looked like an absolute beast due to the size differential and the Boy Toy’s bumping. As an added bonus MOTHER****ING KANE makes his debut, ripping aside the wall of the cell and tombstoning the hell out of his brother. Good times!
Maverick: Well folks, there we have it. I think it’s fair to say that the top 5 are a pretty good representation of the best Hell in a Cell builds, though I would certainly argue that the six man match from Armageddon 2000 is very worthy of inclusion in that illustrious top echelon. The moral of the story, judging by the matches that rated well, is that there needs to be an extended, well thought out build up that means that the only way to settle things is in the confines of the cell. There are, of course, rumours that WWE intend to ultimately drop Hell in a Cell as a gimmick pay-per-view, and I certainly believe that this would be a move that would rejuvenate the match type, as it would once again be a truly special occurrence.
Mazza: I agree totally. It is intriguing that only one match from the Hell in a Cell PPVs made the top ten overall and that one only just. The combined average cell relevance of the PPV matches came in at just 4.9, whilst the non-PPV ones was 6.7. That isn’t just a slight difference. It’s not just that the matches are more recent either. The final cell match before the HIAC PPV begun and the only one outside the event since both find themselves in the top 5. So it all points to the event watering down the gimmick a lot. As for this year’s event, the cell matches certainly fit the gimmick more than any other edition. In fact with an average rating of 6.4 it is well ahead of the matches at previous editions. Only Undertaker vs Kane finished higher and at 12th and 13th respectively, Daniel Bryan vs Randy Orton and Ryback/Paul Heyman vs CM Punk should be great additions to the list of Hell in a Cell encounters. I, for one, am definitely looking forward to watching them on Sunday.
So there we have it. All 25 (proper) cell matches have been ranked in terms of relevancy. I’d like to thank all the guys who helped out with the rankings and especially Maverick for being part of this column. I have no doubt that he will be dropping columns of his own on the main page some time very soon. Do make sure to check out the next edition of The Right Side of the Pond on Lords of Pain Radio. You can hear Mav and I discuss today’s top five in a little more detail. In addition Plan and Mav talk Jericho vs Steamboat in 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die and Joey takes charge to bring you our Hell in a Cell predictions. You can listen to the show on Friday at 9pm UK time which is 4pm EST >>>HERE<<< or download it after the fact at the same place (or >>>HERE<<< for iTunes). I shall be back sometime soon with something else. Until then however, I hope you all enjoy Hell in a Cell. Peace!
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