19 years ago, WWE introduced their Hell In A Cell match during a feud with Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. Following a contest from the month prior which could not be controlled, HBK and The Deadman would do battle in an innovative, dangerous environment, that was full of potential for future entrants of the hellish structure.
It was set to be the ultimate match where blood rivalries went to die. Mick Foley’s legacy, while long and quite dangerous without mentioning his time in the cell, was essentially sealed in pop culture the night he fell through and off of the cage. While showing how dangerous wrestling could be to non-fans or skeptics, this should be no lower than #2 on the list depending on how you feel about Shane jumping to his doom while trying to save a middle of the road WrestleMania, but more on that later.
Seriously, 100 years from now clips will be shown of Foley’s body tilting sideways in the air before crashing through an announce table with furious anger, while Jim Ross made the famous call which has been dubbed into any high impact sporting disaster. Oh, then he went through it on accident a short time later.
While matching Foley’s exploits would never be completely done, other men walked in the cage and established themselves as legends. With a resume rivaling The Undertaker’s, Triple H fought friends and foes while spilling blood, and leaving years of his life in the cell. Brock Lesnar looked like the world’s real most dangerous man (Hi Ken Shamrock) inside his first Hell In A Cell with The Undertaker, and The Undertaker himself literally made peoples asses famous in there, ask Rikishi.
On top of sheer brutality, the cell often found itself being the 3rd man in the ring, with all due respect to the referees. The cell became the backdrop to grand storytelling such as WrestleMania 28’s encounter with Triple H and The Undertaker with an assist from Shawn Michaels. Kane’s debut was enhanced immeasurably by ripping off the door with ease, and when Taker reached behind himself and slammed the door all while keeping his eyes locked on whatever sorry soul might have to fight him, we knew it was truly on. However, by elevating the cell into the number 1 position, it has been like asking Toni Kukoc to keep winning championships after MJ and Scottie retired in 98’.
With that said…
I’m Done With Hell In A Cell Matches.
While not the first time, this year’s event will host 3 matches including the first ever women’s contest with Sasha Banks defending the Women’s Championship against her nemesis Charlotte. With a ghost of the Cell’s past in Mick Foley pleading with the women to take this more seriously, much of the narrative has centered on the ladies making history. As previously mentioned, the cell works best as a silent partner rather than a broadcasted one. As Foley launched into what should be remembered as an awesome promo, it felt so familiar. If it did to you, it’s because it is. Every October, Foley is rolled out to explain the ramifications of the Hell In A Cell match and what it will mean to the careers of participants. From Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, to John Cena and CM Punk and now Sasha and Charlotte, they’ve had to sit through Foley expressing the side effects of the night where he became immortal. The only problem is, he’s explaining things the current group likely won’t ever relate to. Much in the way some artists of Hip-Hop’s newer generation have to hear grumpy old dudes talk about how things were back in their day, these stars don’t have adhere to the same standards of back then.
It is never going to be how it was again, nor is any of these competitors facing The Undertaker.
In the years since Hell In A Cell has become its own show, we’ve seen foolish endings to several of them, microwaved cell matches that seem to come only because the calendar says October, and in a shocking development to no one, much glorification of matches from 1990 something.
WWE has scrapped major matches and events in the past when they are no longer needed and when no one asked them to. Look no further than King Of The Ring. A foolproof concept that WWE “outgrew” when they decided running an annual tournament to create a new star was just too much to ask. On the flipside, Elimination Chamber limped along for ages before it was moved from a February PPV to a network special in 2015. Following the disaster that was the IC Title Chamber match, we haven’t seen it since.
Earlier this year, Shane McMahon and The Undertaker walked around and punched each other for 30 minutes sandwiched around a massive fall that most fans knew was coming. The enhanced structure had never seen someone go off the top, and when Shane did, it was undoubtedly a moment, but it was a hollow one. Nothing about Shane McMahon is different now than it was before the match. It wasn’t a man attempting to defend his position in the company like Mick Foley; it was WWE moving the goal posts on a dying gimmick, and paying off the question of “How Will Shane McMahon Attempt To Kill Himself?” Yes, people lost their shit… this I know. But Shane didn’t have to wrestle the next day, or make his primary living in the ring like Charlotte, Roman, Rusev, Sasha, Owens or Rollins has to.
I don’t want to see them attempt to top what the past was, most of us were there, we remember. They can’t bleed, or use shots to the head for good reason. Selling Hell In A Cell in 2016 as this brutal environment just doesn’t connect with me, and to position it as anything other than nostalgia is ridiculous. It’s just not needed anymore barring a circumstance where no other option is suitable.
Hell In A Cell was once a brilliant innovation that soon morphed into a mid 30’s NBA player with bad knees, launching jumpers after a half dozen pump fakes. We all knew what he was capable of, but those days aren’t coming back*.
Are you fine with the direction Hell In A Cell has taken in WWE?
Would you be good with Hell In A Cell being scaled back?
Which Cell match intrigues you the most?
Do we have a chance of seeing an all-time Cell match this year?