No wrestling match quite builds anticipation like Hell in a Cell.
A level of brutality above the steel cage matches of yore, Hell in a Cell upped the ante since it was introduced to the WWE (then the World Wresting Federation) in 1997.
The constraints of Hell in a Cell’s closed-ceiling cage increased the potential for titillating violence and brutal sports entertainment. Watching wrestling stars make their way out of, on top of, and through the cage’s ceiling is as big a part of the match as the action inside.
Hell in a Cell is such a fan favorite that it graduated from match to a full-on pay-per-view, when the WWE Network established it as a live broadcast event in 2009.
While last night’s Hell in a Cell was controversial -- with fans yelling "refund" and tweeting #CancelWWENetwork after the highly-anticipated matchup between Seth Rollins and “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt ended in a confusing “no contest” -- wrestling fans who are feeling slighted would do well to remember all the jaw-dropping ways that Hell in a Cell matches have been controversial too.
These are some of the most iconic Hell in a Cell matches from over the years.
The Undertaker vs. Mankind
This 17-minute match from the 1998 “King of the Ring” is era-defining. Featuring The Undertaker and Mankind -- both creepy and both fearless -- it contains some of the most iconic Hell in a Cell moments, including a chokeslam through the cage, a bag of push pins, and this tossing of Mankind over the top of the cell into an announcer’s table.
Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker
Who better to star in the first Hell in a Cell match ever than the Heartbreak Kid and The Phenom? This 30-minute match to determine the number one contender for the championship set the bar high for the 40+ cell matches to come. You’ll be in as much of a daze as the two wrestlers in the match, which ends with an exhausted crawl and hand-over-chest pin.
Triple H vs. Cactus Jack
There’s a reason Triple H and Mick Foley are two of the most repeat contenders in the Hell in a Cell cage. As evidenced by this 23-minute match at No Way Out in 2000, no one quite knows how to take steel chairs to the body, chain-link fences to the face, and steel chairs to the head like these two legends.
Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker
You know things are getting real when the McMahons step into the ring. For someone from C-suite, Shane McMahon was always pretty fearless in the ring, having established an impressive wrestling resume for himself on the foundation of a few larger-than-life, don’t-know-any-better elbow drops. He took this one from Wrestlemania 32 like a champ.
Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker
Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker are very scary guys, in their own ways. You wouldn’t want to step in the Hell in a Cell with either of them, but if you’re looking for a blood-gushingly good time with some of the most metaphor-shattering crimson masks encountered in the ring, look no further than this match from 2002’s No Mercy.
Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks
While fans are up in arms about the outcome of last night's match between Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt, they were not let down by the matchup between Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks from the same 2019 pay-per-view event. One highlight includes this Hellish dropkick from Lynch to Banks, the culmination of some inventive interior design on Lynch’s part.
Six-Man Championship Match
At the pinnacle of the WWE’s perfect Attitude era, this match brought together the league’s biggest stars for a championship bloodbath match that spread all over the arena, with slams in the cage, on a car, and everywhere in between. Angle emerged victorious in this match against The Undertaker, Stone Cold, Triple H, Rikishi and The Rock. It’s true, it’s true.