The Greatest WWE Hell in a Cell Matches!
The steel cage match is a time-honored pro wrestling tradition, usually signaling the end of a huge feud. A cage is supposed to keep out opposing managers, allies, or enemies who have exercised undue influence on previous matches. Somehow, it never quite works out that way but that only adds to the spectacle. WWE always goes bigger, so a steel cage became the now notorious Hell in a Cell. It has ended rivalries, thrilled spectators, and shortened careers. Here are 10 of the best HIACs ever to take place:
10. Cactus Jack vs HHH(C) World Heavyweight Championship
No Way Out 2000
Mick Foley had done so many things in the wrestling business by 2000, including immortalizing himself in a HIAC match. He hadn’t yet headlined Wrestlemania, and HHH would use that desire in an attempt to be rid of Foley forever. HHH and Foley, now wrestling in his Cactus Jack persona, were in the midst of a feud that threatened HHH’s World Title. The Cerebral Assassin was also in a relationship with Stephanie McMahon, using her power to keep himself at the top. She said the only way Jack could have a title shot was if he put his career on the line, endangering his Wrestlemania dream.
Both HHH and Foley, in any incarnation, were always at their best in HIAC. They battled to the top of the cage, leading to Cactus Jack attempting to nail HHH with a flaming 2×4 wrapped in barbed wire. The game backdropped him through the Cell, hit the Pedigree for good measure, and emerged victorious. Linda McMahon would later reinstate Foley, allowing him to live that Wrestlemania dream. Fans got both a classic Hell in a Cell and Foley at Wrestlemania, so everybody won.
9. Undertaker vs Brock Lesnar(C) World Heavyweight Championship
No Mercy 2002
Paul Heyman told WWE that Brock Lesnar was the next big thing, and he made good on the promise instantly. Ric Flair, Randy Orton, and John Cena all tried to derail Lesnar’s ascension and failed. He choked the life out of Hulk Hogan to win a World Title shot against The Rock and then pulled off a huge upset. Lesnar broke Undertaker’s hand in the run up to their HIAC match, a move he came to regret as Taker used his cast to bloody both Lesnar and Heyman. Lesnar smashed what was left of the hand between a steel chair and the Cell.
When Lesnar countered a Tombstone Piledriver attempt into the F-5 he did the unthinkable, besting the Deadman in his own match. It wasn’t the last time Lesnar would score an unbelievable win over Taker, going on to end his coveted Wrestlemania undefeated streak. Their industry-defining rivalry began in earnest during this HIAC. Many people believe The Streak should have stayed intact. One thing is not up for debate: when The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar matched up it was always magical.
8. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks
Hell in A Cell 2020
Before this feud began, all indications were that Sasha Banks was about to betray Bayley. Instead, it was the lovable, friendly Bayley, a face since her earliest days on the NXT roster, who delivered a shocking heel turn.
She revealed her whole friendship with Banks had been an elaborate ruse and after the pair lost the Women’s Tag Titles, she saw no reason to continue it. This kind of attack is the reason Hell in A Cell was born. The former friends bashed each other with every weapon they could find while taunting each other relentlessly. Bayley told Sasha a neck injury meant she was no longer The Boss. When Sasha took the upper hand, she said Bayley was nothing without her.
Sasha finally ended the contest by slapping on the Bank Statement, forcing Bayley to tap out on a steel chair. Sadly, because of pandemic restrictions, no live audience witnessed this. The surprise Bayley heel turn, the feud, and the Hell in a Cell match ending were all work that deserves to be remembered, earning a spot on this list.
7. Batista vs. HHH
Since Batista struck out on his own to win the World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania 21, HHH had tried every dirty trick in his considerable arsenal to get it back. In a pre-match promo, Batista let the world know he was tired of the sneak attacks:
“Tonight is for every time Hunter stabbed me in the back, for every time he hit me with that damn sledgehammer. HHH is going to have to kill me to take this title from me. HHH and I are going to Hell, but I’m the only one walking out.”
This feud ended in a brutal, bloody Hell in a Cell. The encounter wasn’t about taking huge bumps but dishing out vicious blows. The Game assaulted Batista’s back with a steel chair; choked him with a chain, and of course, deployed his famous sledgehammer. None of it was enough. After a devastating spine buster onto the steel steps and a Batista Bomb, the Animal’s ascension was complete. He had gone from pro wrestler to a true superhero. It wouldn’t be long before he would conquer Hollywood, going from opponents such as HHH and Undertaker to the likes of James Bond and Thanos.
6. Kurt Angle(C) vs HHH vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock vs Rikishi vs The Undertaker
It had been only three years since WWE introduced the HIAC concept, but already hard to top what some of the stars on this list had done. Armageddon 2000 raised the stakes with a Six-Pack Challenge for Kurt Angle’s WWE Title. There will likely never be another cage match with this kind of star power. It included The Rock, now the biggest movie star in the world. Stone Cold Steve Austin may be the most popular superstar of all time. HHH transitioned seamlessly from a Hall of Fame wrestler to the man now tasked with running the company’s creative endeavors. Angle is an Olympic Gold medalist and one of the best technical wrestlers ever. Undertaker had the longest reign of dominance in wrestling history and is in the conversation for best wrestler ever. Rikishi was in the midst of an improbable rise up the card taking him from dancer to dastardly.
WWE had turned Rikishi from the lovable guy who dances for the fans into a villain who ran Austin down so The Rock could profit, without ever consulting The Rock. It didn’t elevate Rikishi as much as WWE had hoped, but he got one of the biggest moments in this star-studded tilt. Part of the story was that Vince McMahon didn’t really want all his biggest stars murdering each other in a cage, but Commissioner Mick Foley demanded this for the fans. At one point, McMahon flanked by his corporate stooges brought out a construction truck to pull the cell down. Undertaker shoved Rikishi off the roof into the flatbed of that truck in a now legendary bump.
Rikishi told Chris Van Vliet that he knew he wasn’t going over but wanted to do something that would be remembered years later. He accomplished that, as his huge fall is the standout moment of a chaotic match featuring some of WWE’s greatest.
HHH put in serious work as well. In an awesome moment, Austin runs HHH face the length of Cell. Taker, not about to be outdone in his signature match, bounced HHH’s head off multiple cage walls. He attempted a measure of escape when Vince’s interference opened the cage, but that only led to Stone Cold bashing the DX member’s head into multiple cars.
Against all odds, the technician Angle retained his championship in a bloody battleground.
5. Becky Lynch(C) vs. Sasha Banks
Hell in a Cell 2019
Sasha’s Hell in A Cell legacy rivals that of Michaels, Mankind, and Undertaker. WWE has called her number almost every time they want a Women’s HIAC and she has delivered. Becky Lynch is also a gamechanger, and her feuds with Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair, and of course, Banks have taken women’s wrestling to new heights.
They bashed each other constantly with kendo sticks, chairs, and the Cell itself. Banks hit incredible meteoras into Lynch using ladders and chairs. Lynch rested a chair supported by kendo sticks against the cage, placed Banks in it, and hit a phenomenal dropkick. Banks dug a whole pile of folding chairs from under the ring, planning to drop Lynch onto them. But The Boss instead was the architect of her own destruction, as Lynch hit a Bexploder Suplex onto the mass of metal. The Raw Women’s Champion locked in the Dis-arm-her and despite Banks’ best efforts to resist, the pain was too great and she tapped out on a steel chair.
4. Undertaker vs Edge
These two superstars spent more than a year brutalizing each other starting in 2007. Edge cashed in Money in the Bank to the World Heavyweight Championship from Undertaker. Edge interfered in Taker’s HIAC title match with Batista, smacking him with a camera allowing The Animal to win. After costing him the belt, Edge set his sights on The Undertaker’s coveted undefeated record at Wrestlemania.
They don’t call Edge the Ultimate Opportunist for nothing. After failing to end the Undertaker’s vaunted undefeated Wrestlemania streak, Edge had his fiance Vickie Guerrero book a TLC match with the Deadman’s career on the line. Edge, master of this stipulation, picked up the win and exiled Taker. This might have worked had Edge actually loved Guerrero. She caught him cheating with their wedding planner, future Divas Champion Alicia Fox in an early on-camera role. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, particularly one with Undertaker on speed dial. Guerrero not only brought him back but forced Edge to fight him in Taker’s signature match, the Hell in a Cell.
This was the first HIAC after WWE committed to a PG rating, but fans didn’t need to worry. The two legends did so many insane spots some described this as a “TLC in a Cell.” The pair taunted each other without end. Edge poked fun at Taker’s Old School ropewalk. The Dark Lord hit Edge with his own man Conchairto, used Edge’s signature spear, and even used ladders to finish the King of the TLC stip. Undertaker ended the match with a Tombstone Piledriver and started to leave. But he returned to chokeslam Edge off a ladder through the ring itself, fire coming up from the freshly made hole in the canvas. Thanks to storytelling, two Hall of Famers, and a good smattering of ladders and chairs, no blood was necessary. With his lengthy, cage match-filled career taking a toll on his body, Undertaker transitioned to more of a part-time attraction after this. He couldn’t have had a better partner for his final full-time rivalry.
3. Cody Rhodes vs. Seth Rollins
Hell in a Cell 2022
Cody Rhodes has never been afraid to bet on himself. That was the case when he left WWE to help found AEW, and even more so when he left that company for an unthinkable return. The second-generation superstar told Sports Illustrated he is the best wrestler in the world, and that he doesn’t believe No. 2 is that close. He stated his case convincingly in an incredible match with Seth Rollins. Victory in a HIAC environment doesn’t come without sacrifice, without competitors doing something above and beyond to secure the victory. Cody’s “No Jeff, don’t do it!” moment came as soon as he removed his ring robe. Word was already out that Rhodes had torn his pectoral muscle. But when he disrobed, his chest resembled someone who has been hiding their zombie bite for the last hour of the movie. Rhodes would take on WWE’s Kingslayer with one arm. Rollins, master of mind games, showed up for this encounter clad in polka dots poking fun at Dusty Rhodes’ terrible gimmick from his WWE stint.
Rollins was merciless in his assault on the injured arm, using everything from kendo sticks to Rhodes’ own weight belt to inflict more pain. Since Rollins had already invoked the spirit of The American Dream with his ring attire, Rhodes did his part and introduced a bull rope. This was a staple of Southern specialty matches such as the Bunkhouse Stampede. Rollins agreed to lock himself in and the pair wailed on each other, giving a WWE creation some old-school NWA flavor.
For the finish, both men tried to end their opponent’s night with one of his own signature moves. Rhodes hit The Pedigree, but it wasn’t enough. Rollins nailed Cody with his own Cross Rhodes rolling cutter. It took two Cross Rhodes by the American Nightmare to end this one. It was a fitting end to an outstanding feud, and one of the gutsiest performances ever seen by Rhodes. Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer gave it his coveted five-star rating, the first WWE match since 2011 to earn the honor.
2. Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Badd Blood 1997
These superstars have perfect in-ring chemistry with each other, evidenced by their ability to two deliver all-time great contests more than a decade apart. DeGeneration X had made their presence known every time Undertaker tried to get his hands on Shawn Michaels, so WWE created the first ever Hell in a Cell to ensure no outside interference. The crafty veteran Michaels still figured a way out. He attacked a cameraman, then made a run for it when WWE officials came to check the employee. There was no escaping Taker, even atop the Cell itself. After Taker sent Michaels through the Spanish announce table, it seemed to be all over. Then the lights went out and Paul Bearer headed to the ring with Kane, the Undertaker’s long-lost brother. After an intense staredown, he’d hit the Deadman with his own Tombstone Piledriver allowing a lifeless HBK to pick up the win.
Michaels-Undertaker in the first HIAC was unforgettable before the Kane run-in. The reveal of Undertaker’s brother, teased for weeks, had to be seen to be believed. Not only was the match legendary, but it also laid the groundwork for two decades worth of storytelling. Taker and Michaels would deliver many more wonderful matches together. Undertaker-Kane would be the best of enemies and allies over the years. Oh, and as an added bonus winning this bout gave Michaels the right to challenge Bret Hart at Survivor Series in the now infamous “Montreal Screwjob.”
1. Undertaker vs. Mankind
King of the Ring 1998
Michaels-Undertaker is a more competitive match, but HIAC is about so much more than that. It’s the “With Gawd as my witness, he is broken in half!” moments that stick in fans’ memories, and none has more quantity or quality of those than Undertaker-Mankind. It won’t be replicated because it shouldn’t be. Mick Foley took more punishment that night than any human being should, starting with Undertaker throwing him through the announce table. A bump that would end most matches was only the beginning.
Mankind went through the cage again, this time unintentionally as a panel gave away. A chair hit him in the face on the way down, causing knocking a tooth out of Foley’s mouth and into his nose. At this point, Taker was seriously asking his opponent to stay down. Not only would that not happen, but the now legendary Hell in a Cell would go on for 30 minutes. The Deadman ended it after choke slamming Mankind onto a pile of thumbtacks and hitting the Tombstone Piledriver. Taker didn’t want to do the thumbtack spot after everything he had already done to his opponent’s body, but Foley insisted. It was an instant classic, and no montage of HIAC moments is complete without it. The commentary of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler was a perfect compliment to the carnage unfolding. Vince McMahon summed it up best in the first words he said to Foley after the match:
“Mick, you have no idea how much I appreciate what you just did, but I never want to see that again!”