Let’s travel back to Badd Blood 1997, the first Hell in a Cell match between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker.
The cell has made careers, mainly Triple H and Undertaker, who have won nine and fourteen matches respectively. As well as this, the match was important on so many levels – not only did we get the debut of Kane, we got the birth of this incredible structure which has been a staple of the WWE. Since this date, we have seen 40 total Hell in a Cell matches, with it now having its own dedicated pay-per-view.
Over the course of those 40 matches, there have been some instant classics, like Triple H vs The Undertaker and Wrestlemania XXVIII, and there have been some underrated matches that people forget about because of a poor card or poor PPV timing. In 2016, the female competitors started to compete in the cell and created classic matches of their own, one of which is in this list. Saying that, let’s get into it.
5. Kevin Owens (c) vs Seth Rollins for the Universal Championship – Hell in a Cell 2016
Like this match, it made me realise that Kevin Owens’ Universal title reign is quite forgettable, the only parts of it I remember is him winning and him losing the title. I only remember the win because Triple H turned on Rollins. This match was the second match of the series between the two, the previous coming at Clash of Champions, where Owens prevailed.
It came at a time where Rollins was transitioning from a heel to a face, recently coming back from injury and feuding with Roman Reigns, planting the seeds of the Rollins we see today. The main story of the match was the injured back of Rollins, suffered on the previous RAW thanks to an Apron Powerbomb. Owens kept going for it, hitting multiple sentons and strikes to the back, as well as ripping the kinesio tape off Rollins’ back. These two have great chemistry and great cult followings from the fans, putting on a fantastic match with some innovative spots, an example Owens launching Rollins from the ring into the cell, like a signature Rollins’ suicide dive. Owens used the cell as a weapon perfectly, hitting the Cannonball onto a prone Rollins against the cell and using the cell to balance a table between the ring and the cell. A move that come back to bite him, as he got put through it, and the table underneath, with a Powerbomb.
Rollins got his equal offence in, a Falcon Arrow onto the apron and the aforementioned Powerbomb through a table. Owens eventually got a fire extinguisher, accidentally blinding one of the referees, which gave the opening for Chris Jericho to run into the cell whilst the referee was being escorted out.
Rollins attempted to fight off both Jericho and Owens, nearly getting the win after the Powerbomb through two tables and a Frog Splash before Jericho pulled the referee out, but did eventually succumb to the numbers disadvantage.
Owens gets the three after a Powerbomb through two chairs. An extremely competitive match between the two, kind of ruined by Jericho’s involvement putting a big asterisk on Owens’ whole reign as Universal Champion.
4. Sasha Banks (c) vs Charlotte for the RAW Women’s Championship – Hell in a Cell 2016
The main event of the 2016 Hell in a Cell PPV, emanating from Sasha’s hometown of Boston, with both competitors having Wrestlemania like entrances. Sasha came out in her classic Escalade, surrounded by security, whilst Charlotte arrives being carried by Roman soldiers, and I’m not surprised in the slightest they had these entrances.
The first two women to compete in hell in a cell, and to be the main event of a PPV, fully deserved. The match starts with Charlotte attacking Banks before the cell even fully dropped, nearly dropping on Sasha, who was laying prone on the floor.
These two proved why the women competitors are just as good as the men before the bell even rang, they both attempted to climb the cell with Charlotte dropping to the floor, only to grab Sasha and Powerbomb her through the announce table. Brilliant heel work from Charlotte in the aftermath, shouting at Sasha from behind as the referees take her away.
This is before the match even started. Sasha nearly forfeited the title but jumped off the stretcher and beats away the officials.
After the bell rang, Sasha came hot out the gate before Charlotte dealt with the emotional storm and halted the momentum with a monkey flip into the cell and began to control and focus on the back of Banks. The women would fight over a chair and who would use it as a weapon, Banks did use it first, smashing Charlotte’s head into it, but Charlotte used it more effectively hitting a Sidewalk Slam onto the open chair. Both women, in their debut cell appearances, used it to their advantage brilliantly. Sasha was using it as a springboard and Charlotte was using it to bring punishment like a great heel.
Sasha would go full babyface in her hometown, hitting Eddie Guerrero’s Three Amigo’s as well as his patented Frog Splash. It would’ve been brilliant if that gained her the three, but Charlotte kicked out at two. Two tables are introduced, one broken by Charlotte after she is kicked off the apron, the other is used to ragdoll Sasha into, without breaking before Charlotte hits the Natural Selection for her third Women’s Championship.
3. The New Day (c) vs The Usos for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles – Hell in a Cell 2017
One of only three tag team matches to be held in the structure between two teams who had possibly one of the best rivalries of 2017.
Both teams immediately go for weapons, with the New Day coming out on top before all four men decided to launch themselves from the ring into the cell in an attempt to gain the upper hand.
A vintage Big E spear through the ropes saw him drive his head straight into the cell. Within five minutes of the first match on the PPV, the crowd are already bringing out the ‘this is awesome’ chant.
Xavier Woods was the MVP of this match, starting with great character work as he beat down on Jey Uso with two trombones, a cow bell and a gong. Like every match these two teams have, it was constantly back and forth, constantly using the cell and their environment to their advantages.
One of the best spots in this match, Big E hits an Uranage on Jimmy Uso off the apron whilst Xavier slides underneath and hits a Backstabber on a falling Uso – brilliant timing and a brutal looking spot which turned the tide of the match putting the New Day back in control.
Why we never got any kendo stick kind of match after this is beyond me – between the four men there were probably about ten or fifteen used in this match, including them being used to pin Jimmy Uso and Xavier Woods into the corner of the cell.
Despite their gimmick, The New Day were fantastic in this match, ruthless and served to look like veterans when this was their first experience in the cell. The Uso’s, we expected as this match came around the time of the persona change to the more ruthless team we know and love. Each team put their bodies on the line and just put on a classic that people may forget about, I certainly did. I mean, Jey Uso hit a suicide dive on Big E, whilst E was on Jimmy’s shoulders, E went straight into the support beam. Absolutely ridiculous performance from all four men.
They did copy the spot from a Cena vs Orton match, handcuffing Woods and hanging him from the corner post and hitting him with brutal kendo stick strikes whilst Kofi Kingston looked on from outside the cage. The Uso’s used some kendo sticks, to their advantage and managed to pick up an incredibly hard-fought win after hitting a Double Use onto Woods with a chair laid across his chest. Nothing to take away from The New Day, they fought valiantly but just couldn’t deal with the numbers game.
2. Roman Reigns vs Bray Wyatt – Hell in a Cell 2015
Any match that Bray Wyatt is in, prior to the Firefly Funhouse, is always underrated. He is a brilliant competitor, with two different gimmicks that were unbelievably captivating. During the feud with Reigns, this seemed to be the only way to end it, for both men to meet in this structure. Reigns controlled a lot of the beginning of this match, keeping it mainly inside the ring before driving Bray into it. Eventually, Bray turns the tide with the cell’s favourite weapon, a kendo stick.
This match had all the ingredients it needed to be a captivation match; a valiant babyface, a menacing heel and a storyline to really suck you in. Yet again, another match with incredible innovative use of the cell, specifically from Wyatt who pins a chair in the cell by its legs, for that to come back and bite him as Reigns pushes him head first into the chair. A back and forth match that is definitely worth watching, showing off Wyatt’s evil character as well as Reigns’ ability to overcome.
There are a handful of great spots in here as well. Reigns picking up two kendo sticks and stalking Bray around ringside as he looks on with a horrified look on his face, Wyatt attempts to get in the ring until Reigns’ absolutely batters him with the sticks. Wyatt answered back by hitting a Uranage on Roman from the apron through a table at ringside. The pinnacle of this match was a Spear from the apron through a table folding up both men on the floor, which looked to set up the end of the match before Reigns is hit with a surprise Sister Abigail, but kicked out at two. Reigns throws Bray head first into a kendo stick propped into the corner and hits the Spear for the win and the end to an incredibly hard-fought match between these two.
1. Shawn Michaels & Triple H vs Cody Rhodes & Ted DiBiase – Hell in a Cell 2009
Another match that starts outside the cell before the bell rings as Legacy attack DX during their entrance and brawling around the ringside area. Two young upstarts vs two veterans with a great storyline of the upstarts having the upper hand along the way.
Legacy used a brilliant strategy, using the melee on the outside to separate DX and lock Shawn inside the cell for a two on one advantage whilst Triple H was unconscious on the top of the ramp. The main thing about this match, for me, is the showing that Cody and Ted got as they were always seen as the understudies and lackies of Randy Orton, and what two better competitors for them to face as their coming out match. Shawn is absolutely decimated in the cell, selling it perfectly, whilst Triple H is attempting to get in, only to realise he can’t without a little help.
There’s a brilliant spot by DiBiase hitting his finisher onto an opened chair as well as Legacy constantly ramming Shawn into the cell for Triple H to helplessly look on, unable to get into the cell. Hunter eventually gets bolt cutters and enters the cell saving Michaels from the beatdown during a double team submission with the aid of the ring pole.
As you’d expect, once Hunter is in he cleans house, giving them a taste of their own medicine by locking DiBiase on the outside of the cell leaving Rhodes alone. The veterans use this to their advantage, obviously, to hit Rhodes with the sledgehammer and a Sweet Chin Music simultaneously for the win. Ted gets into the ring as the cell is lifted to be hit with a Sweet Chin Music and the signature DX crotch chop.
Hell in a Cell will always be a staple of the WWE, a match type that will live in infamy due to the incidents that happened in the 1990’s. However, those are what make the matches incredible, and give us the spots that we’ll always remember.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @George_Geal_. Thanks for reading!