Professional wrestling has taken on a whole new persona compared to what it used to be back in the sixties, seventies, and even the eighties. Performers are bigger, stronger, and faster–making way for much more powerful and quicker paced matches. There are countless new championships being defended by both men and women alike. Events are taking place around the world and fans are being witness to happenings unlike that of which they’ve never seen. With all these new superstars and a fan base that circles the globe, new innovations are gracing the world of wrestling unlike ever before. And with those innovations comes one of the most demonic and sadistic creations of all time…Hell in a Cell.
The concept of hell in a cell came about back in 1997 and it was used to finish out a back-and-forth feud between Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. Outside interference and their brutality were reasons that something new and fool-proof needed to be invented in order for them to finish it once and for all, and with that, the cell was born. It is a giant metal structure that not only surrounds the ring, but the entire ringside area as well. It is enclosed by a chain-link fence roof that keeps the wrestlers encased, but not always. A single door adorns the cage and is usually unlocked or broken through allowing competitors to escape. Other times we’ve seen the sides of the cage broken through by a power move or one performer being thrown through it. Once outside, the action has been taken to the sides of the cell and all the way up on top of it making for horrific and tension filled moments.
Hell in a Cell only shows up at rare times and is usually put into play when a feud has gone to such lengths that there are no other options. The matches are often times so graphic and brutal that fans can only handle them once every couple months. In ten years since its inception, the hell in a cell has only been seen a total of sixteen times. And even though these matches are rare, what isn’t is seeing numerous injuries and insane amounts of blood lost. Chairs, tables, the ring steps, announcer’s tables, and even the cell itself can be used as weapons in order to gain the upper hand in the matches. Wrestlers’ faces have been grated across the fence walls. They’ve been speared through the walls and to the outside. And we’ve even seen wrestlers thrown through the top of the cage or off the top through tables below.
Hardcore legend Mick Foley hosts this DVD set and gives a lot of background information and history behind the cell. He does a great job of not being over the top and giving a nice and calm description of each match and everything that goes along with them. Mick’s descriptions and laid back demeanor gives the ominous cell that much more of a destructive and sadistic feeling. Not only do we get Mick’s stories and the matches themselves, but we also get video packages showing us why each match happens. It takes viewers back in time to get them back up to speed on what was happening at the time to cause the matches to be made.
**Warning! There are spoilers in this review!**
~ The Debut
~ Bad Blood – October 5, 1997: Hell In A Cell Match: Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels – I remember this match just like it was yesterday because I was mesmerized by the structure that was on the television screen before me. HBK does a great job of also acting (?) like he is simply amazed at what the cell looks like. This is not one of the better cell matches because it is the first one and it took some getting used to. The match is still very violent and brutal and focuses on a lot of blood, especially from Michaels. This match would also be of big time importance because it includes the first ever appearance of Undertaker’s long talked about brother, Kane. He showed up, ripped the door off of the cell, and laid out Taker. Even though Kane’s appearance may be the bigger occurrence here, this is still a memorable match for numerous reasons and quite possibly the greatest cell match ever.
~ Raw In Hell
~ Raw – June 15, 1998: Tag Team Hell In A Cell Match: Stone Cold Steve Austin/Undertaker Vs. Mankind/Kane – Now here is a match that came about right in the middle of the WWE’s “attitude era.” McMahon had gotten the services of Kane and Mankind in a partnership with Paul Bearer. Bearer challenged Austin and Taker to the tag match that very night on Raw in the cell. The beginning of this match is awesome as Kane and Mankind attack Austin outside the cell so Paul Bearer locks himself in for safety’s sake. Little did he know that the Undertaker would come up through the ring and beat the hell out of him with the cell walls. Man, there is just nothing as good as this going on in the wrestling world today.
This is the first hell in a cell tag team match ever, and I can’t exactly remember if the entire match is shown here, but I believe it is. The match itself never really gets going because Raw went off the air as Taker was beating down on Bearer while Austin had destroyed Mankind and was now fighting with Kane on top of the cell.
~ The Defining Match
~ King Of The Ring – June 28, 1998: Hell In A Cell Match: Undertaker Vs. Mankind – You can’t really call yourself a wrestling fan without having seen this match before and knowing exactly what someone is talking about when they mention “the” hell in a cell moment. Undertaker was still in his dead man persona before taking a leave and coming back as the biker, but Mankind was on his way to the funnier version of himself more so then the serious, creepy version. None the less, both guys knew how to put on a good match and could take a bump like no other; especially Mick. This my friends is the match where we saw Mankind tossed off the top of the cage and watched as he crashed through the announcers’ table below. Later on we saw him get chokeslammed through the top of the cage and crash into the mat underneath him. And who can forget the shot of Mick Foley sitting in a corner with a tooth having gone through his nose and sitting in his mustache? How Foley could wasn’t paralyzed is beyond me.
Foley told a good story before the match that it was Terry Funk’s idea to begin the match on top of the cell. Guess he didn’t realize what it would lead to. Line of the year comes from Jerry Lawler with “That’s it, he’s dead.”
~ Partners Turned Opponents
~ Raw – August 24, 1998: Hell In A Cell Match: Mankind Vs. Kane – As if facing Undertaker in the cell wasn’t bad enough; now Mankind has to take on Taker’s brother in the same demonic structure. Let’s not forget that Taker is outside the cell and in his brother’s corner. Hell, the match isn’t even going on two minutes and Mankind already gets pulled off the cage (near the top) and sent crashing through an announce table. In quite an amusing sight, Kane ends up having hundreds of tacks stuck in his backside so he walks around with a silver butt for half the match. After that though, the match doesn’t last very long thanks to interference from Stone Cold Steve Austin who shows up and cleans house. This match is very short but extremely brutal for the small amount of time it goes on.
~ Career On The Line
~ No Way Out – February 27, 2000: Hell In A Cell Match (Cactus Jack’s Career is on the Line): WWE Championship Match: Triple H Vs. Cactus Jack – Mick Foley is an absolute freak in case you didn’t already know that. He’s already been thrown off the top of the cage and through it, so what could he possibly do for an encore? Why, put his career on the line of course and that’s exactly what he does in this match against Triple H. It’s hard to say anything bad about this match because both wrestlers put on one hell of a show. Foley takes another huge bump after getting backdropped over Trips’ head and down through the cage and crashing through the mat below. A very iconic image of Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley laughing is shown as you can’t do anything but just stare in disbelief. This match has a little bit of everything with thumbtacks, steel steps, and even a barb-wire bat being used. Good stuff.
~ The Six Men
~ Armageddon – December 10, 2000: Six-Man Hell In A Cell Match for the WWE Championship: Kurt Angle Vs. Rikishi Vs. The Rock vs. Undertaker Vs. Triple H Vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin – The cell is one of those matches that is best done between only two wrestlers and maybe four men for a tag team match, but six? No, that is just too many because it’s hard to focus on what is going and pay attention to everyone involved. I’m guessing that’s why the Elimination Chamber was created some years later. Not to mention that the cell is always known now for that “one big spot” which needs to be done, in order to differentiate itself from the others. The spot here is not particularly awe-inspiring as Rikishi gets pushed from the top side of the cage and into a bunch of pine shavings and fluff in the back of a flatbed truck. Half the match also happens outside of the cell once Vince McMahon rips the door off of it, and that just takes even more away from it. It’s not a bad match because everyone involved is rather awesome, but it’s also not one of my favorites.
~ End The Game
~ Judgment Day – May 19, 2002: Hell In A Cell Match: Triple H Vs. Chris Jericho – Ok, so now we have a match that uses the cell to its full capacity. The door was padlocked shut as usual, but opened up with bolt cutters so that referee Tim White could be removed due to injury. The poor guy got flung through the air and slammed face first into the side of the cage. Jericho and Trips threw one another into the cage, grated their faces on the walls, slammed one another into the wall bracings…it was just a great use of the cell as a weapon like all of them should be. Making things even better is that the match was decided on top of the cell with the only pinfall to happen on the cell itself. Sadly though, this would be the final time that participants in hell in a cell matches would go outside and up on top. Still, this is a great back and forth match-up with lots of blood and big time shots.
~ Earning Your Respect
~ No Mercy – October 20, 2002: Hell In A Cell Match for the WWE Championship: Brock Lesnar Vs. Undertaker – A legend in professional wrestling versus one of the new up and coming stars at the time. The match starts out extremely slow and remains that way for the first five minutes or so. Taker then proceeds to drag Lesnar from one side of the cage to the other and back again using it to his advantage to bust the young superstar wide open. It is hard to even imagine how many times Taker shoots Lesnar’s face into the steel and then uses Paul Heyman’s tie to do the same to Lesnar’s manager. Once Lesnar gets the upperhand though, he shows the same amount of brutality to the phenom by slamming him repeatedly into the cell and even battering Taker’s broken hand which was in a cast. Even though it isn’t a quick paced match or one that delivers a lot of excitement with huge spots; it does a fantastic job of showing exactly what kind of toll the cell can take on the participants. There aren’t a lot of weapons used and it’s just sheer strength, force, and the metal walls surrounding them that Undertaker and Lesnar use to destroy each other.
~ Special Guest Referee
~ Bad Blood – June 15, 2003: Hell In A Cell Match for the World Heavyweight Championship: Kevin Nash Vs. Triple H – It seems only fitting that there were tons of weapons used in this match because Mick Foley was the special guest referee. Kevin Nash was out of the nWo and on his way to try and capture the WWE Title from Triple H. A hammer, steel chair, the ringsteps, a sledgehammer, and even a two-by-four wrapped in barb wire made their ways into this match and were used at different times by the competitors. It was nice actually seeing the cage used as a weapon too because so many of these hell in a cell matches just take place inside the ring without getting on top of or even seeing someone slammed into the walls of the cage. Nash isn’t always the most agile or talented wrestler out there, but he’s entertaining as a big man and looks like he inflicts some pain to whomever he faces.
~ Good Friends Gone Bad
~ Bad Blood – June 13, 2004: Hell In A Cell Match: Shawn Michaels Vs. Triple H – This particular match was a long time coming after the main event at that year’s WrestleMania for the World Heavyweight Title ended up being turned into a three-way dance. Then Shawn Michaels had a chance in a singles match of capturing the title, but it quickly ended when Trips stuck his nose into it. Well, these two guys really put on a good show which inflicted a lot of damage on both of their bodies and minds. One of Michaels’ signature moves was showcased here when Triple H was set up on one of the announcers’ tables and HBK came flying off a ladder with a big elbow that sent them crashing through it to the floor. I really enjoyed this cell match as Triple H and Michaels always put on big time matches together and it only built up the excitement by having it confined in the steel. They also went for close to an hour in this match and never once got boring or stale.
~ The Animal’s Evolution
~ Vengeance – June 26, 2005: Hell In A Cell Match for the World Heavyweight Championship: Batista Vs. Triple H – Here is another of the cell matches which isn’t quite my favorite and it’s not just because Batista is in it, but he doesn’t help it either. As you’ll notice throughout this bout, Triple H is carrying the full load on his shoulders and actually takes big DAVE to a decent match. It involves some sledgehammers, a big ol’ chain, and even a really cool chair with barb wire wrapped around it. Very deservedly so, Triple H received a standing ovation after all was said and done.
~ The Legend Killer
~ Armageddon – December 18, 2005: Hell In A Cell Match: Undertaker vs. Randy Orton – Good God this is an extremely violent match and that especially stems from a series of chairshots that Undertaker gives to Orton throughout the match. Taker again does a great job of making sure the cell has a purpose out there and uses it as a weapon quite often. He slams Orton into it and even launches him into it like a lawn dart at times. He even grates Orton’s face back and forth against it making Swiss cheese out of his face with wound after wound. Both men go at it for about thirty minutes which obviously takes just about every ounce of energy they have in them. Again, no huge spots to be found, but a good match-up that sees both men make good use of the cage and leave you wondering who will come out on top.
~ The Amplified Version
~ Unforgiven – September 17, 2006: Hell In A Cell Handicap Match: D-Generation X Vs. Shane McMahon / Vince McMahon / Big Show – First let me fill everyone in that this was the biggest hell in a cell by size-wise. The cage needed to be bigger to house five men in which one of them was the giant behemoth, Big Show.
Now this is the kind of match I like seeing Big Show in. He’s free to use his size to his advantage and really cause some serious trouble for people. Not to mention that his two partners aren’t really any slouches because we know Vince is a “Genetic Jackhammer” and Shane is a nutcase willing to do anything. Throughout the match, it is almost as if it is only a tag team match between DX and the McMahons with Show playing enforcer and getting involved any time Trips or HBK get the upper hand. There was a little too much of the “kiss my ass club” stuff going on throughout, but that was made up for with some of the insane stuff Shane pulls out and the amount of blood shown, especially from the McMahons.
~ The End Of The Line
~ Survivor Series – November 18, 2007: Hell In A Cell Match for the World Heavyweight Championship: Undertaker Vs. Batista – Batista doesn’t thrill me at all ever, but I’ll give him credit for this match because he works his ass off in it. Taker and Batista just destroy the hell out of one another throughout this entire match. One of the best moments is watching Batista get the ringsteps and just repeatedly slam them into Taker’s head causing him to bleed big time. Lots of near falls and close counts makes for some great tension, but then everything is ruined with interference from one of my favorite superstars, Edge. I love him and all, but it’s a damn Hell In A Cell match and doesn’t need interference to have a winner.
The event is shown in 1.33:1 Full Screen format and even the older footage from ten years ago looks really good. There are no pixilation issues and all of the interview and montage segments are done nicely as well.
The event is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and it also comes through very well. All music and pyro can be heard around the room along with the crowd noise while the commentary, interviews, and announcing is heard loud and clear through the center speaker.
Wow, what a wild and bloody ride this DVD set is. With this collection you’ll see people falling over sixteen feet to the floor, blood pouring out of arms and faces, chairs slamming across the skulls of unsuspecting participants, and so much more. The Hell in a Cell match is honestly one that makes sure only the strong survive because you have to be a true warrior to come out of it standing up. Not all of the matches are what you might call “gems” exactly, but they’re still all worth checking out. Mick’s introductions and words on the history of this beast of a match really get you pumped up for what you about to see and open your minds to things you may never have known. The video packages bringing us back to when the matches happen help a lot too because you’ll find yourself constantly saying, “Man, I totally forgot about that.” There are no special features, but do you really need any here? Three full discs of history, fantastic matches, and feedback from one of the biggest hardcore legends to ever walk the Earth. I tip my hat to WWE for putting together another great collection and being smart enough to leave out the cell match involving Undertaker and Big Boss Man, and Kennel In A Cell. Best marketing decisions they ever made.
WWE Home Video presents WWE Hell In A Cell. Featuring: Triple H, Undertaker, The Rock, Kurt Angle, Rikishi, Mankind, Kane, Shawn Michaels, Brock Lesnar, and many more. Running time: 540 minutes on 3 discs. Rating: Not Rated. Released on DVD: October 7, 2008. Available at Amazon.com