This past Monday on RAW, Finn Balor and Edge threw the proverbial gauntlet down to presumably end their near year-long feud at WrestleMania 39. A Hell In a cell match, the de-facto coup de grace for the ending of any extended feud between two competitors who can’t stand each other. The Hell In a Cell match has been a WWE fixture for years, dating back to 1997’s inaugural debut of the stipulation, featuring Shawn Michaels and Undertaker. The match itself has undergone many semblances, including alterations to the cage itself. However, when we talk about Hell In a Cell matches at WrestleMania, we will see some common themes, and also understand how this year’s match between Edge and Finn Balor will break that mold.
WrestleMania 15: The Undertaker vs. Big Bossman
This, of course, is known as being one of the most infamous matches, not only in Hell in a Cell history, but in WWE history. For one, this was unique because both men were heels at the time. While the Undertaker was the more popular, iconic figure at this time, he was deep into his run with the Ministry of Darkness. Essentially, the story goes that The Undertaker was threatening Stephanie McMahon, and Vince sent in the Big Bossman as his stand-in to do his dirty work and take Undertaker out.
Well, for those who remember how this match ended, we see how well that went. The match was far from anything special. There was even a portion of the match where the Undertaker was handcuffed so that Big Bossman can wail on him with a nightstick. But while the Undertaker was falling over the handcuffs accidentally snapped off. And after Undertaker secured his victory, we then bore witness to the disturbing imagery of Big Bossman dangling from the ring with a noose tied around his neck.
Not the best Hell In a Cell match to be sure. But you have to give the Big Bossman credit. Being murdered and somehow surviving to be featured on WWE television again is some kind of something, isn’t it?
WrestleMania 28: Undertaker vs. Triple H
Now this was certainly a match deserving of Hell In a Cell at WrestleMania. Triple H and Undertaker are WWE’s two most prolific competitors of this match stipulation. Undertaker and Triple H rank first and second respectively in wins and appearances, and signified the end of the old guard in WWE (we’ll forget 2018 ever happened).
Triple H had failed to end the Undertaker’s undefeated streak the prior year at WrestleMania 27. However, in that No Holds Barred match, the Undertaker was unable to leave the match without assistance, which damaged his ego and mystique. Triple H had grown more into his post-fulltime WWE competitive career as the on and off-screen Chief Operating Officer of WWE, and in spite of Undertaker’s greatest taunts, Triple H refused to give into Undertaker’s demands.
But eventually, enough was enough, and Triple H suggested they do it the only way the two know how to settle a heated feud. With the added wrinkle of Shawn Michaels, who had two fail bids at ending Undertaker’s undefeated streak in 2009 and 2010, being named as the special guest referee, there was a slew of possibilities that were to take place in this match.
In prior years, there was speculation that stars such as Edge or Randy Orton could end the streak. But in terms of the actual match, this was probably the first time I thought the Undertaker’s streak was as good as gone. After nearly a half hour of brutal chair shots, use of the cages, finisher kickouts and obscene violence, Shawn Michaels did what most of us were expecting. After Undertaker went after Shawn, Shawn connected with Sweet Chin Music onto Undertaker, which led right into a Pedigree. There was no pause after the Pedigree hit. No gap in time for both stars to catch their breath. Triple H hit the Pedigree and covered Undertaker just as quickly as he hit it. Michaels counted without delay, and the Undertaker kicked out in probably the greatest kickout in WWE history, considering the stakes. It was truly remarkable watching it live, and the sheer look of disbelief on Michaels’ face told the whole story.
The Undertaker’s victory was pretty much assured at that point, and as Undertaker secured his streak, Triple H and Undertaker, both of them bearing the scars of their epic battle, helped each other with Shawn Michaels to the top of the stage, all signaling that this was the end of their story. Because 2018 absolutely did not happen at all.
WrestleMania 32: Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon
Of course, this match wasn’t nearly as epic, nor did it have the backstory necessary to use the Hell In a Cell stipulation. Shane McMahon appeared on WWE television for the first time in 7 years, much to the surprise of Vince McMahon. And what better way to welcome you back into the fold than to put your son in a match against the Undertaker inside Hell In a Cell?
Now, let’s be honest. The only reason why this match was given the Hell In a Cell stipulation was just so that Shane McMahon can go back to doing what he was most famous for, which is his Jeff Hardy-like death-defying stunts. I will say that it is rather surreal to dive off the cage in one of WrestleMania’s marquee matches. Yet in still, the match was highly underwhelming, the storyline made no sense, and there was no consequence to Shane losing the match as he was granted a lot of power across RAW and SmackDown before the return of the brand split.
Edge vs. Finn Balor
Edge and Finn Balor will be involved in the first Hell In a Cell match at WrestleMania not to feature WrestleMania’s most iconic competitor, The Undertaker. It’s a lofty standard to live up to, even though the match quality of the prior 3 WrestleMania Hell In a Cell matches range from legendary to amateur.
Edge and Balor’s heated feud began in the summer of last year, when Finn Balor took over the reigns from Edge as the de facto face of Judgement Day. Since then, both of them have been at each other’s throats, costing each other matches, and inflicting punishment on one another. I would say it’s a passing of the torch, but we often forget that Finn Balor is 41 years old. For Balor, it’s about cementing his place atop the pecking order not only on Judgement Day, but on RAW. For Edge, it’s about getting a proverbial monkey off his back so he can remain focused on the one thing that’s eluded him since his return, and that’s his desire to win championship gold.
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