Over the course of more than two dozen Hell in a Cell matches, one trusim has remained constant: Once Superstars enter the unforgiving steel structure, their careers are never quite the same.
Hell in a Cell has been home to daunting stories-high falls, treacherous introductions of steel and flesh, and monumental World Title changes. But which Hell in a Cell matches were the absolute best? Not just the most barbaric, but also dramatic and emotional, the kind of long-awaited, expectation-shattering showdowns between Superstars that helped defined Hell in a Cell's legacy as WWE's gravest combat zone?
Click through WWE.com's ranking of 10 especially influential and rival-setting bouts to have taken place under the Cell's steely ceiling, and then add your rankings in the comment section below.
10.) D-Generation X vs. Mr. McMahon, Shane McMahon, and The Big Show, Unforgiven 2006
One month after Shawn Michaels & Triple H bested Mr. McMahon & Shane McMahon at SummerSlam 2006, the McMahons enlisted then-ECW Champion Big Show to face DX in a Handicap Hell in a Cell Match that was equal parts absurd and explosive. Marking the debut of an XXL-sized Cell structure, it was a kinetic clash full of big hits.
The 3-on-2 brawl had an unrelenting pace and spectacular moves, including Shane-O-Mac’s Van Terminator on The Game and HBK’s elbow drop onto the younger, chair-ensnared McMahon. Even though Big Show was mighty effective as his team’s heavy, the makeshift three-man crew was no match for DX’s teamwork. Mr. McMahon was pinned after being hit with Sweet Chin Music and struck with a sledgehammer. Yet, even before enduring those attacks, Mr. McMahon found himself the butt of an ironic joke: After years of welcoming others into his exclusive club, the WWE Chairman wound up getting his face stuffed into Big Show’s backside. Egad!
9.) Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H, Bad Blood 2004
Bad Blood was certainly an appropriate setting for this 2004 tilt, as the supposedly unbreakable friendship between Triple H and Shawn Michaels had soured so badly they headed into WWE’s wicked fortress to work out their issues.
The longtime best buddies left their shared history at the Cell door and tore into each other like a pair of animals, with HBK scaling a ladder to drop a big elbow onto Triple H, who had been laid prone on a table. The King of Kings ultimately got the last word with the Pedigree, but the match serves as proof positive that sometimes it’s the best of friends who make the bitterest enemies.
8.) Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker, No Mercy 2002
Brock Lesnar took WWE by storm in 2002, winning that year’s King of the Ring tournament and handily defeating The Rock to capture the WWE Championship within his first few months. The vicious youngster continued on his path of mayhem through the fall, when he finally met a little resistance in the form of The Undertaker. The rivalry was so heated that it had to be settled inside Hell in a Cell.
With a broken hand, The Deadman Phenom still brought the fight to Lesnar in the brutal opening minutes of the match, grating The Anomaly’s face against the cold steel. The giant cast on Undertaker’s right hand, though, was a target for Lesnar, who ripped the protective dressing from the challenger’s hand. The Undertaker threw everything he had at the seemingly unstoppable rookie, but Lesnar battled back after a chokeslam and reversed a Tombstone attempt into an F5 to shockingly retain his title. The WWE Universe was stunned as Lesnar scaled the cell, standing atop it and snarling with the WWE Championship securely in his clutches.
7.) Batista vs. Triple H, Vengeance 2005
In the aftermath of Evolution’s splintering, Batista and Triple H famously embarked on a war over the World Heavyweight Championship that climaxed inside the structure best known for settling rivalries. The bruising contest lasted nearly 30 minutes, and was a perfect representation of both Superstars’ efficient and unpretentious knock-down styles.
The demolition derby that was Hell in a Cell saw no shortage of barbaric weaponry. There was a blend of old-school brutality (a chain, which The Game used to whip and tame The Animal) and new-school innovation (a chair wrapped in barbed wire, utilized by both warriors). Of course, Triple H’s trusty sledgehammer found its way into the ceremonies. Among the multiple Batista Bombs and Pedigrees were enough organ-shaking spinebusters to make Arn Anderson weep with joy. In the end, Batista handed The King of Kings his first defeat inside the Cell, the domain he had dominated in his previous five outings.
6.) The Undertaker vs. Edge, SummerSlam 2008
Most Hell in a Cell matches boast a single, defining moment — a boiling point at which the collective energy of the participants and the crowd erupts into an ecstatic frenzy. Then, there are matches like The Undertaker vs. Edge, which are so jam-packed with highlight-reel crashes that it’s impossible to single out just one moment.
The Rated-R Superstar went Spear-crazy that night, using both the elements of metal and wood to his advantage: He harpooned The Deadman through the Cell structure and demolished him with a Spear through the commentators’ desk. The Undertaker wasn’t to be outdone in the match type he made famous, however; propelling Edge off the top turnbuckle and through stacked table with a stunning chokeslam, he pinned The Ultimate Opportunist, then cast him through the ring floor with a chokeslam off a ladder. The post-match celebration was suitably hellish, too, with The Undertaker conjuring a giant flame that shot up from beneath the ring.
5.) The Undertaker vs. Mankind, King of the Ring 1998
The WWE Universe was forever changed on June 28, 1998. That’s the date of The Undertaker and Mankind’s Hell in a Cell Match, an event so memorable that it’s known in some circles by the simple shorthand “KOTR ’98.” In the expansive WWE mythos, few bouts start to approach the destructive legacy that The Phenom and Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy imprinted on canvas and cage that night.
Best known for two falls so dramatic and familiar that they’re almost unnecessary to recount (for the uninitiated, Mankind was first heaved off the top of the Cell, then chokeslammed through the Cell roof), the collision prompted WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon to place a governor on Mankind. Even though Mick Foley lost that night, the at-times hard-to-watch brawl — which saw him get stretchered out early on, only to return — remains a lasting testament of his inextinguishable desire to compete and entertain.
4.) Kurt Angle vs. The Undertaker vs. Triple H vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. The Rock vs. Rikishi, Armageddon 2000
With six of the top Superstars of the Attitude Era battling in a free-for-all, the main event of Armageddon 2000 provided the recipe for a Hell in a Cell spectacle the likes of which had never been seen before. Despite Mr. McMahon’s best efforts to tear down the Cell mid-match (he even commandeered a construction truck before being halted by then-WWE Commissioner Mick Foley), the veritable all-star lineup of competitors never let up in their fight.
The scene that undisputedly stood out above all others was the exchange between Rikishi and The Undertaker on top of the Cell. After plastering Rikishi with right hands, The Undertaker chokeslammed the super-heavyweight off the cage. Rikishi’s massive frame fell some 15 feet, landing miserably onto the bed of the construction truck that Mr. McMahon had left parked next to the Cell. With the Samoan warrior taken out of action, the field of five continued the conflict until Angle pinned The Great One to retain his WWE Championship.
3.) The Undertaker vs. Triple H, WrestleMania XXVIII
The word “epic” gets thrown around a lot, but how else do you describe the WrestleMania XXVIII Hell in a Cell Match between Triple H and The Undertaker? Dubbed the “End of An Era” — as in the “Attitude Era,” as in the most vital era in WWE history — the half-hour war saw The Game and The Deadman carry out a passion play as one man fought to end a Streak while the other fought to preserve a legacy. All the while, guest official Shawn Michaels served as the bout’s beating heart, adding emotion to a match that was already brimming with it.Watch the "End of An Era" in its entiretyBest moment? Maybe it was the unforgettable reveal of The Undertaker’s shaved head. Or maybe it was the emphatic Tombstone that sealed The Game’s fate. Nah, it was the sight of Triple H, The Undertaker and HBK leaving the ring together, arm in arm, collectively ending an age that each helped bring to life.
2.) The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels, Bad Blood 1997
There is perhaps no better proof of The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels’ sports-entertainment trailblazing ways than their duel in the inaugural Hell in a Cell Match. Never before had Superstars gone to war inside the unforgiving Cell, and though expectations were high, they were all but completely uninformed. Despite the unprecedented nature of the contest, The Phenom and The Showstopper did not disappoint.The ever-innovative Michaels, in his brash and insolent D-Generation X prime, incorporated all elements of the nascent Cell. So did the powerfully stoic Undertaker, who bounced HBK around the cage like a pinball and sent him off the side of the Cell through a ringside table. With its combination of creativity and brutality, the initial Hell in a Cell Match not only set the bar almost insurmountably high, but it also introduced one of the mightiest Superstars in history with the debut of Kane, who Tombstoned The Deadman and paved the way to victory for HBK.
1.) Cactus Jack vs. Triple H, No Way Out 2000
No rivalry cemented Triple H’s reputation as a hardnosed brawler more than his years-long grudge with Mick Foley, and although a great number of their encounters helped set The Game’s transformation in motion, none could touch the sheer brutality of their Hell in a Cell Match at No Way Out 2000.
With his WWE career on the line and Triple H’s WWE Championship at stake, Foley — competing under perhaps his most hardcore persona, Cactus Jack — brought with him elements from his pre-WWE days wrestling in “death matches” in Japan, arming himself with a flaming barbed wire board. The King of Kings may have been reluctant to tussle under such extreme circumstances, but he nonetheless fought on. Once the brawl moved to the roof of the Cell, however, things took a severe turn: Triple H reversed a piledriver attempt by Foley and sent The Hardcore Legend falling not only through the roof, but also the ring floor. A Pedigree later, and the result was academic.