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The Devil's Duplex. Sinful Steel. An Instrument of Destruction. Morally Corrupt. Sado-Masochistic Personality. A Device of Disaster. These have all been actual phrases to describe the monstrosity known as Hell in a Cell.
Concocted by wrestling mastermind Jim Cornette in 1997, the Hell in a Cell match combines elements of steel cage matches from Memphis area wrestling promotions and the classic "War Games" matches from NWA and WCW to bring absolute closure to blood hot feuds. In the early years, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Mick Foley, and Triple H, among others, sacrificed limbs, bones, blood, and years of their careers and lives to deliver once-in-a-lifetime performances.
Over time, the Hell in a Cell match got a little mature, and by a little, I mean the action has been confined to within the cell, which, let's be honest, was the concept of the match in the first place. That hasn't exactly lessened the brutality, as rivals were still looking to damn near kill in the name of victory.
This part of the Hell in a Cell retrospective will focus on the Hell in a Cell match in the Ruthless Aggression Era, from 2002-2007.
2002: Tim White's sick bump and Undertaker's sick gash:
The feud that started just before WrestleMania came to a merciful end at Judgment Day inside of the demonic structure. Amazingly, I can only remember three things from the match:
(1) this was on the first PPV after the WWF was forced to get the F out.
(2) Tim White's sick bump that led to the god-awful suicide vignettes that summer (and legitimately, the end of his career), and
(3) Triple H winning with a Pedigree on top of the cell. I'm not sure how that ending made sense. But it was 2002, and not a lot of stuff in WWE made sense.
Plus, the crowd was pretty dead for this one following what turned out to be a pretty epic hair vs. hair match. It was less than six months before we got another one, a particularly violent affair between The Undertaker and WWE Champion Brock Lesnar.
With Taker in a cast as a result of an attack a few weeks prior, it didn't take long for the blood to flow. Brock bleeds first thanks to said cast. In one of the more uncomfortable visuals of the match, Paul Heyman is yanked by his tie by Undertaker and damn near choked out.
This is why zoos have the "Don't Feed the Animals" signs: for moments like this. (I know its apples and oranges; just go with it)
The Undertaker suffered a nasty cut after having steel steps imprinted into his head by Lesnar, who just casually tosses them in the ring like it's nothing. Even without the cast, which does get ripped off, The Undertaker mounts enough of an offense to win, but a reversed tombstone piledriver to an F-5 puts away the Biker Phenom.
2003: Going to hell with your best friend (Part I):
The 2003 encounters involving Triple H and Kevin Nash were very underwhelming, so as a last-ditch effort, WWE brought in Mick Foley, the man Triple H retired-twice-in 2000, to referee the bout and salvage the remains. I see what they were going for, but it didn't exactly work out that way.
This Hell in a Cell encounter is plodding at best and boring at worst, though the match featured a screwdriver, a sledgehammer, and an apple crate. An apple crate.
All three men bleed, Triple H wins, continuing his invincible run. Nothing remarkable from this encounter. But then again, Kevin Nash is one of the men in the match. Side note: the show ended about a half-hour earlier than intended.
2004: Going to hell with your best friend (Part II):
Nearly a year to the day Triple H met fellow Kliqer Kevin Nash in a Hell in a Cell match at Badd Blood; Triple H met fellow Kliqer Shawn Michaels in a Hell in a Cell match at Badd Blood.
Full disclosure: if you don't like psychology and methodology in your wrestling matches, you're probably not going to like this one. It clocks in at around 48 minutes, making it the longest HIAC match ever.
Triple H went after Shawn Michaels' back (makes sense, since that back put him into semi-retirement), while Michaels went after Triple H's left knee (makes sense, since that knocked him out for seven months back in 2001 and limited him since).
It does slow down to a grinding halt at times, but you get Shawn's elbow drop through a table. Both men bleed. A lot. Shawn kills Triple H dead with Sweet Chin Music. Triple H does the same to Shawn with consecutive Pedigrees to end the match.
Pure hell and carnage, with a solid dose of psychology. If you get past the dead spots (and there are plenty of them), its worth a look. It put an end to a rivalry that spanned two years... albeit temporarily, as HHH and HBK beef briefly again before reforming D-Generation X in 2006.
2005: Going to hell with your best friend (Part III)... and family:
Concluding the Hell in a Cell in June trilogy is the Vengeance main event from 2005, the third and final encounter between Triple H and Batista for the world title. Considering the violent nature of their first two world title matches, they were gonna turn it up to 11 on this one.
And they did.
Triple H tried to hang his former protégé with a chain. But shit got real, as the kids would say, when the cerebral assassin grabbed a barbed wire chair. Because, well, why not? It's Hell in a Cell and such.
Batista's back gets cracked with said chair, and he's bleeding. (Triple H started bleeding earlier when his head repeatedly got up close and personal with one of the ring posts and one of the cell walls.) Eventually Batista gets the chair, and damn near concussed and/or kills "The Game" with it. And of course Triple H's face gets grinded into the barbed wire chair.
And per Hell in a Cell tradition, Triple H's face gets grinded into one of the walls. Triple H recovers and attempts to end it with a Pedigree, only to get backdropped by Batista onto the barbed wire chair. That only gets a near fall. This, by the way, was the first attempt by either man to win the match, and its 14 minutes in. I believe they were trying for the winning by loss of limb rule (though no such rule exists...that I know of).
More brutality ensues, including Batista getting DDT'd on the barbed wire chair, Batista's face getting grinded into the cell, both men's obligatory usage of the sledgehammer, and Triple H getting MURDERED with the steel steps (not to mention being on the business end of a spinebuster -- ONTO THE STEPS).
Triple H has the sledgehammer and tries to nail Batista as the champion goes for the DEMON BOMB OF DEATH, but the DEMON BOMB OF DEATH gets to the wire first to cap off a brutal world title match and cement Batista as a main-event player.
It wasn't the best Hell in a Cell match, but it may have a case for most violent. The match from Vengeance is far superior to the one that took place later that year at Armageddon between The Undertaker and Randy Orton, legend killer. There's not a lot special about it, though there is an urban legend involving one of the participants in the match that led to his release a short time after the match. It was thirty somewhat uninspired minutes that ended with the Ortons (both Bob and Randy) getting dropped with a Tombstone Piledriver and Undertaker posing with his urn on top of the cell.
2006: The biggest crack you'll ever see:
Hell in a Cell has featured many things: falls to Spanish announce tables, chokeslams through and off roofs, flaming 2x4s, a pinfall decided on top of a cell, blood, lots of blood, barbed wire chairs, chains, sledgehammers, near death, even a communicable disease. With all these elements, it seemed the next logical step was nudity.
So, of course we get nudity at Unforgiven in the first ever tag team Hell in a Cell match, and it's a handicap tag at that.
Side note: it's an introduction to Hell in a Cell 2.0: 20 feet high instead of 16 feet. Combine that with the 30' x 30' area it surrounds, and you get 18,000 cubic feet of brutality (or just under 510 cubic meters since the show is in Canada).
It's the male McMahons (Shane and Vince) with Big Show taking on D-Generation X (Triple H-aah McMahon by marriage--and Shawn Michaels, non-McMahon, who have quite a bit of experience in these things...hell, they fought each other once in one).
An indication of how brutal this match would get came real early as DX kicked Big Show in the nuts. Twice. Shane gets slingshotted into the cell and bleeds. Vince gets the traditional Hell in a Cell face grind and bleeds. Shawn Michaels gets thrown into the cage and bleeds. Triple H bleeds in the ear after a Van Terminator. TRIPLE H BLEEDS IN THE EAR!
A Vader Splash intended for Shawn ends up hitting Vince and Big Show getting crotched in the ring post. (That's three low blows on Big Show if you're scoring at home.) Shane's neck gets all Pillmanized by a Shawn Michaels elbow and he's puking blood and whatnot. Big Show looked to finish with the steps, but Triple H brought a chair in and the chair gets to the pay window first and Big Show gets KO'd with it and the steps.
With Big Show stretched out on the middle rope, we get nudity as DX pulls Big Show's trunks and shoves Vince's face in Big Show's ass. Bloodied and stinkfaced, Vince gets Sweet Chin Music, then KILLED DEAD by a sledgehammer shot to the back of his head. So hard, the hammer breaks.
It's an unusual Hell in a Cell match that's quite fun to watch. You'll get a good chuckle or two while watching four men bleed. Good news: the aftertaste of seeing Big Show's naked ass is watching Lita and Trish Stratus in their final match together.
2007: Edge? Huh?
It was no surprise that Edge would come back during Survivor Series. (Hell, he was on the promo poster!) It was just a matter of when. This match capped off perhaps the feud of 2007 in WWE, Undertaker vs. Batista.
Not a lot of stuff that would stand out from other Hell in a Cell matches, outside of Undertaker kicking out of the DEMON BOMB OF DEATH through a table and Batista kicking out of a tombstone piledriver. Undertaker tried to finish it with a second tombstone on steel steps, but just as the referee was about to count three, a cameraman pulled Undertaker off the pin.
The cameraman actually turned out to be Edge, returning from injury. Edge kills the Deadman with a one-man con-chair-to on steel steps, and Batista gets the win. The match is mostly pedestrian (in Hell in a Cell terms, anyway), but the shock of the final few minutes makes it worth a look.
In our conclusion, I will look at Hell in a Cell in the "PG era" and question whether it's really worth it to keep this gimmick around.
Editor's Note: This FanPost proofed and promoted to the front by Cageside Seats on Oct. 25, 2012. Be sure to read 'Part I' of this awesome series from The Notorious Eddie Mac which can be found right here, and check back soon for 'Part III'.