With Hell in a Cell 2019 just around the corner, Matthew Roberts eschews his usual positivity and delves into the archives to bring you what he considers the worst five Hell in a Cell matches in the history of the concept.
There was a time that Hell in a Cell was the ultimate feud ender and not just a gimmick match that happened because it was October and the PPV schedule means we have to have a Hell in a Cell match. Putting cynicism aside there is no doubting the fact that the gimmick has proved one of the most successful in modern WWE history and has given us some spectacular matches. Even if, for me, they still haven’t topped the first one.
However, as with everything that has a 20+ year history there are bound to be moments that aren’t so successful and after a marathon of Network viewing, I’ve come up with the five worst. They’re brought to you in chronological order and with the proviso that I don’t expect you to agree with me.
5. The Undertaker Vs Big Boss Man – WrestleMania 15
This was still in the early days of the gimmick, when the Cell match was still generally saved for something really important in terms of a feud. Yet here we were, heel vs heel at Mania in a match that in terms of respective profile within the company wouldn’t have cut the mustard as a Raw main event, never mind a feature match on the biggest show of the year.
It’s dull, it’s boring, it’s a snoozefest. There’s absolutely NO drama and it’s all topped off by the commentators having to effectively no-sell the fact that Taker “hangs” Boss Man by the neck from a noose at the end. Yeesh. You can see the clip that is ensuring Boss Man doesn’t actually die as well.
4. Kevin Nash vs Triple H – Bad Blood 2003
In some ways this isn’t TOO bad. It’s certainly better than a straight match between the two could ever have been in 2003. But there’s just so much wrong with this one that it becomes a chore. Like most of the worst Cell matches, there’s been little in the build up to really say that the only way the two can settle their grudge is in the demonic structure. The addition of Mick Foley as special guest referee acknowledges this and is about as logical as well.
Props to Triple H in this one as he tries to make something approaching half decent out of it but in the end he just can’t do it. There’s all kinds of shortcuts with weapons and all that, which brings up another illogical segueway as Foley has no problem with a barbed wire wrapped baseball bat being used but seems apoplectic that HHH would use a sledgehammer. It all seems a little pointless and desperate.
And even after such a gruelling match, a sledgehammer to the face isn’t enough to knock Nash over. Go figure, huh?
3. Randy Orton Vs Sheamus – Hell in a Cell 2010
Perhaps this is the moment where Hell in a Cell really became just another gimmick match. Sure, it would rebound on occasion in the years to come. But this was a perfect example of the match happening simply because it was the time of the year where we have a Hell in a Cell event, as opposed to the two people in it having had such a violent feud that there is only one way we can end it…
It was barely even a feud beyond this being a title rematch (that’s another trope that would pervade in the years to come, in the months and weeks leading up to the PPV of the name, World Title matches would suddenly become inconclusive or controversial solely to engineer a Hell match). Off hand I can’t remember a match these two have ever had against each other that was any better than mediocre.
If I’m being honest, until researching this article I’d forgotten this match even existed. After watching it again I’m hoping I can forget all about it again soon.
2. CM Punk vs Ryback – Hell in a Cell 2012
My reasons for including this one aren’t really to do with the action. It’s fine for what it is (allowing for the lack of unique cell action). For me, it’s more to do with the booking.
At this time the WWE have been pushed into a corner with the absence of John Cena and need to find a new top babyface, albeit for a little while. For some reason they choose Ryback. Even more bizarrely, it actually works to a point. People get behind him to the extent that fans actually want to see him win the title. The problem is, WWE have inked in Punk Vs Rock for Royal Rumble 2013 and nothing can be allowed to derail them from that.
So instead, Ryback gets the “screwed in title match after title match until the fans lose any faith they had in him” push. Which is fine but gives us the worst of all worlds in that this is a Cell match that has been engineered by screw job endings in previous matches AND also seems to be largely pointless in terms of a feud. The latter point comes across especially in the fact that referee Brad Maddox hits Ryback in the balls and does a fast count to ensure that the Champion retains. So the babyface gets screwed in what should be the ultimate feud ending match.
And as said at the top, this is one of those Cell matches which makes almost no use of the Cell at all and has hardly anything that you wouldn’t see in a “normal” match. A match which manages to dilute every aspect of the Cell in one not-so-magical package.
1. Shane Mcmahon Vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania 32
Oh I know what some of you will say. “But it’s Shane, and he did some amazing bumps, and it’s The Undertaker and it’s his match”. Well boo hoo to you. Is this really worthy of a place in the “worst” list if we were just looking at the match action in isolation? Probably not. Yes, it’s painfully slow in parts but that’s because we’ve got a company legend who by 2016 was largely past it and is very much an “attraction” rather than someone who is going to deliver classic matches. And we also have a non-wrestler who wasn’t that good when he was in his “prime” and whose hard man persona was grating when he wasn’t old, grey and sweat buckets before he even gets to the ring.
I’ll admit I’m biased against Shane for all the reasons (and more) above. But what did this match actually achieve? The storyline made no sense (no-one will even give me a salient reason why Taker would put up his career against Shane’s “ownership” of Raw). Besides, a man who has been through hell and back (to pardon the pun) against the likes of Lesnar, Michaels and HHH is suddenly in a 50/50 match with the son of the owner who is so devestaingly adept at putting on the Sharpshooter that it puts Taker out of it enough for Shane to do another one of his “stunts”.
It did nothing for Taker and all it did for Shane was extend his overbearing on-screen presence that continued for another three years, at the detriment to people who could actually make money for the company. If you cheered for Shane during this episode in 2016 you deserved what you got as a result.
You can find me on Twitter @IWFICON.