When WWE first began doing Hell in a Cell matches back in the late 90s, they were served as the blow-off to some of the company’s longest and most intense rivalries. It was the kind of match that would rarely happen, and when it did, fans knew they were going to see a brutal, bloody fight.
These days, Hell in a Cell comes around at least once a year. Why? Just because. That’s how WWE wants it. Most of the time, the annual October show doesn’t even have feuds that need to be settled inside the Cell, and because of that, the match has lost its appeal. On top of that, WWE books too many Cell matches on the October card. In fact, this year’s event will have three, Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks, Roman Reigns vs. Rusev, and Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens, none of which are feuds that need to be settled inside what used to be WWE’s most demonic structure.
It’s been quite a while since WWE has put on what would be considered a great Hell in a Cell match. But, from the late-90s, until the late 2000s, great Cell matches happened all the time, and here are the five best from the pre-Hell in a Cell pay-per-view era.
- The Undertaker vs. Mankind [King of the Ring 1998]
The Undertaker vs. Mankind match from 1998’s King of the Ring show has unfairly been called the greatest Hell in a Cell match in WWE history. Of course, it’s by far the most memorable Cell match, but it’s certainly not the best.
The match is famous because of two big bumps, with the most famous one being when Undertaker threw Mankind off the top of the Cell, and he went crashing down through the announcer’s table. It’s a match that defined Mankind’s career, but, unfortunately, it shortened his career as well.
Mankind, a.k.a Mick Foley, ended up retiring from wrestling just two years later. He did come back and wrestle several times after his first retirement, but he was never the same, and this match was a big reason why.
- The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar [No Mercy 2002]
In the fall of 2002, WWE had put all of their chips behind one man, Brock Lesnar. By the time he had stepped in the ring with The Undertaker at No Mercy, he had already torn through huge names such as Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Rob Van Dam, and Ric Flair.
The story of the match was that Undertaker would be entering the Cell with a broken hand and that he would be allowed to wear a protective cast, which he used to bloody Lesnar up. But, that didn’t stop “The Beast” from targeting The Undertaker’s injured hand and fighting his way to victory over one of WWE’s greatest superstars of all time.
- Six-Pack Challenge [Armageddon 2000]
Typically, a Hell in a Cell match is a one on one encounter, but, in December of 2000, WWE decided to put its six biggest superstars at the time — The Rock, Kurt Angle, The Undertaker, Triple H, Steve Austin, and Rikishi — inside the Cell.
The most famous spot of the match was when Undertaker tossed Rikishi off the Cell into the bed of a truck that was parked on the entrance ramp.
In the end, Kurt Angle, who was the WWE World Heavyweight Champion at the time, was able to retain his title in quite a sneaky way. The win got Angle a ton of respect from the fans, who hated him up until that point. It was the first time in his young career that he had been through a tough, bloody match, and at the end of it, he came out on top.
- Triple H vs. Cactus Jack [No Way Out 2000]
This was one of, if not the best match of Mick Foley’s pro wrestling career. By the time this match took place, Foley had already publicly announced that he was planning on retiring due to concussion issues on TSN’s Off the Record with Michael Landsberg, so everyone knew that he wasn’t going to defeat Triple H in February of 2000.
The stipulation of the match was, if Foley lost, he’d have to retire. He lost, and he retired, but he came back and wrestled just a month later at WrestleMania 16.
Foley did a heck of a job in putting Triple H over. In fact, Foley is probably responsible for making Triple H a legitimate main-event superstar, because he brought out a side in “The Game” that WWE fans hadn’t seen before, and up to that point, they weren’t buying into him as a top guy.
The final spot of the match saw Foley going for a piledriver on top of the Cell, but Triple H countered with a back drop and Foley went crashing through the top of the cage, down to the ring, and the ring broke upon impact. All Triple H had to do is climb down and pin him, and he did just that.
- Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker [Bad Blood 1997]
This was the first ever Hell in a Cell match, and even though it’s best remembered for being the match where The Undertaker’s long, lost brother Kane made his WWE debut, it should be remembered for being what it truly was, the best Hell in a Cell match in WWE history.
Michaels, who was the cowardly heel at the time, bumped around for The Undertaker for most of the match, as he put “The Deadman” over as a force of nature.
At one point in the match, Michaels got busted open, and it became one of the bloodiest matches in WWE history. But, even though The Undertaker completely destroyed “The Heartbreak Kid,” he was never able to score the pin, as his brother Kane ripped the Cell door off, and hit him with a Tombstone, which allowed Michaels to pick up the victory.
[Featured Image by WWE]