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History of Hell In A Cell
Image: WWE

Wrestling

The History Of Hell In A Cell In WWE 1997 – 2007

The steel cage match had long been the most violent match stipulation in professional wrestling. There is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from your opponent. However, that all changed in 1997.

History Of Hell In A Cell Part 1

In 1997, a new match debuted in WWE and would quickly become the most brutal match that could happen in WWE. The match was a cage covering the ring and the ringside area, but the cage was also enclosed with a roof and would be known as Hell In A Cell. It wouldn’t take long for Hell In A Cell to become the ultimate way to end notable feuds in the WWE.

Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker - WWE In Your House: Badd Blood 1997
Image: WWE

Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker – WWE In Your House: Badd Blood 1997

At SummerSlam 1997, Shawn Michaels cost Undertaker the World Championship by accidentally hitting Undertaker with a chair shot intended for Bret Hart. Michaels and Taker would have a good match at In Your House: Ground Zero in September, but there wasn’t a decisive winner. Thus, to have a decisive winner and crown a number one contender for the WWE World Championship, they squared off inside Hell in a Cell at Badd Blood on October 5th, 1997. The match was absolute carnage, with both men bleeding. Michaels fell off the side of the cage through the announcer’s table at one point. It’s a great introduction to the stipulation. Wrestling fans may best remember the match for the debut of Kane, Taker’s younger brother. Kane ripped off the cage door and spiked Taker with a tombstone to allow Michaels to win the match.

Mankind vs. The Undertaker - WWE King of the Ring 1998
Image: WWE

Mankind vs. The Undertaker – WWE King of the Ring 1998

This match may be the most recognizable Hell In A Cell match of all time and one of the most talked about bouts ever. In 1996 and 1997, Mankind and Undertaker had some memorable brawls. Mankind became one of the first viable wrestlers to defeat Undertaker and put on a good match. In this case, the match may have been based on their history rather than anything that recently happened. Sure, Mankind had cost Undertaker a number-one contender spot, but the issues over the years led to this significant match. The match itself isn’t a great match but a great spectacle. Mankind tossed off the top of the cage through the announcer’s table and chokeslammed through the top of the cell to the mat are memorable moments in the match. It’s absolute carnage, but it’s unforgettable.

Mankind vs. Kane – WWE RAW August 24th, 1998

Kane and Mankind had become an unlikely duo to be the WWE Tag Team Champions in the summer of 1998. However, an apparent reunion between Undertaker and Kane caused a wedge between Kane and Mankind. Thus, a rare Hell In A Cell match took place on RAW. There wasn’t a winner between Kane and Mankind due to Steve Austin getting involved and attacking both men.

The Undertaker vs. Big Bossman – WWE WrestleMania XV

In early 1999, Undertaker returned to the WWE after a hiatus towards the end of 1998. Taker developed a cult, the Ministry of Darkness, whose main goal was gaining control of the WWE. Well, Vince McMahon and the Corporation would not allow that to happen. So, McMahon inserted his bodyguard Big Bossman into a match with the Undertaker at WrestleMania XV, hoping to end the Undertaker. Unfortunately, that would not happen since the Hell In A Cell match is one that Undertaker helped put on the map in the first place. Undertaker walked out victorious and left Bossman hanging from the cell in a controversial moment.

History of Hell In A Cell
Image: WWE

WWE World Champion Triple H vs. Cactus Jack – WWE No Way Out 2000

This match marked the first instance of the WWE World Championship defended inside the Hell In A Cell structure between two hated rivals. It’s a fitting conclusion to a rivalry that had been going on for three years. They had an incredible street fight at the Royal Rumble the previous month. The only way to upstage that encounter was to incorporate the cell. HHH ended Jack’s career in a match featuring a flaming barbed wire 2×4 and Jack once again crashing through the top of the cell and the canvas.

WWE World Champion Kurt Angle vs. The Rock vs. Steve Austin vs. Triple H vs. Rikishi vs. The Undertaker – WWE Armageddon 2000

WWE Commissioner Mick Foley made the Hell In A Cell match, and the risk of one of WWE’s top stars getting injured led to WWE Owner Vince McMahon firing Foley in storyline. McMahon is against having all his top stars involved in the most dangerous match WWE had to offer. A memorable moment during the match saw Undertaker chokeslamming Rikishi onto a bed of hay outside the ring in the back of a truck. Angle retained the title despite all the top challengers.

Triple H vs. Chris Jericho – WWE Judgment Day 2002

There wasn’t a Hell In A Cell match for over a year and a half, but the stipulation returned for a showdown between HHH and Jericho. They were in the main event at WrestleMania 18, where HHH won the WWE Undisputed Championship. HHH no longer had the championship, but his hatred for Jericho remained. They cost each other several matches leading to the pay-per-view contest. The bout continued the brutality trend of the matches previously. Referee Tim White’s career ended after White was knocked off the apron and his shoulder hit the cage. HHH won the contest after connecting with a pedigree on top of the cell.

History of Hell In A Cell
Image: WWE

Smackdown World Champion Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker – WWE No Mercy 2002

The feud between Undertaker and Brock Lesnar became one of the most personal feuds ever in Hell In A Cell. At Unforgiven, Lesnar and Taker had a wild brawl, and Lesnar got thrown through the stage setup. Leading into the cell match, Lesnar and Paul Heyman played mind games by incorporating another woman to claim that Taker had an affair with her. Lesnar disabled Taker by breaking Taker’s right arm leading into the pay-per-view. However, Taker was able to use the cast as a weapon. This match is a bloody encounter with Taker gushing blood. In the end, Lesnar survived the title defense after delivering an F-5.

RAW World Champion Triple H vs. Kevin Nash – WWE Badd Blood 2003

HHH and Nash were best friends, but by the spring of 2003, HHH focused on being the World Champion and nothing more. After WrestleMania XIX, HHH attempted to convince Nash to align with him and eliminate Shawn Michaels. HHH instead hit Nash with a low blow, and eventually, they had a singles match at Judgment Day, which Nash won by disqualification. Nash powerbombed HHH through the announcer’s table afterward. Nash and HHH had to settle their feud, and thus the Hell In A Cell stipulation returned to WWE programming. Mick Foley became the special referee because no RAW referees wanted to be involved since a lot of HHH’s violence toward them in the past. HHH successfully retained the title despite Foley’s involvement.

Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H – WWE Badd Blood 2004

Ever since Michaels made his remarkable return to the WWE at SummerSlam 2002, Michaels and HHH had been at each other’s throats, trying to end the other’s career. They competed in Elimination Chamber, ladder, and last-man-standing matches. So it was only fitting that after they both cost each other WWE World Championship opportunities, they’d square off inside Hell In A Cell. Their battle at Badd Blood 2004 went on for nearly 48 minutes. HHH managed to keep Michaels down long enough to earn the pin after two Pedigrees.

History of Hell In A Cell
Image: WWE

RAW World Champion Batista vs. Triple H – WWE Vengeance 2005

When Batista won the RAW World Championship from Triple H at WrestleMania 21, it marked a new era. HHH wasn’t ready for his period of dominance to end. Thus, despite losing a rematch at Backlash, HHH had another opportunity after tricking Batista into thinking he was walking away. Leading into the pay-per-view, Ric Flair tricked Batista into having an alliance. When HHH returned to RAW, Flair hit Batista with a low blow leading to HHH destroying Batista with sledgehammer strikes and Pedigrees. Despite not having defeated Batista, HHH remained a credible foe for Batista. At Vengeance 2005, they had a bloody encounter with several weapons involved. In the end, Batista won the feud by hitting HHH with a Batista Bomb onto the ring steps.

Randy Orton vs. The Undertaker – WWE Armageddon 2005

Throughout 2005, Orton and Undertaker competed in a feud full of destruction and mind games. They first met at WrestleMania 21, where Undertaker won and continued his incredible streak. At SummerSlam, Orton managed to earn a victory over Undertaker to even the series. Randy’s father, Bob Orton, helped Randy win a handicap casket match at No Mercy 2005. Before Armageddon, Randy left Undertaker bloodied with a chair shot and RKO. Inside the cell, Taker, Orton, Bob Orton, and the referee Nick Patrick all ended up bloodied. Ultimately, Taker won the match following a tombstone piledriver on Orton to finally end the feud.

Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon & Big Show vs. Shawn Michaels & Triple H – WWE Unforgiven 2006

When DX reunited in 2006, they quickly made an impact at the expense of the McMahon family. There was a tag team match at SummerSlam 2006 where DX was victorious over Vince and Shane McMahon. Before the Summerslam match, there was a moment where DX dumped manure on the McMahons and the Spirit Squad. DX won the battle at SummerSlam, but the McMahons were hunting for revenge.

Thus, at Unforgiven, they wanted a match with DX inside Hell In A Cell, but they’d have the advantage of having Big Show on their team. During the bout, Michaels took Shane out with an elbow drop onto Shane, who had a chair wrapped around his neck. Shawn Michales took Big Show out with a superkick. Vince was left alone and ended up having his face rubbed into Big Show’s bare buttocks before suffering a sledgehammer strike by HHH, leading to the victory for DX.

Batista vs. The Undertaker - WWE Survivor Series 2007

Batista vs. The Undertaker – WWE Survivor Series 2007

The rivalry between Batista and Undertaker went on throughout most of 2007. Their battles included a classic match at WrestleMania 23, where Undertaker won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. They’d have a last-man-standing match at Backlash ending in a draw and a steel cage match ending in a draw. After Batista retained over Undertaker at Cyber Sunday 2007, they went to battle one last time in 2007 in a singles match at Survivor Series. However, it was inside Hell In A Cell to settle their feud. Unfortunately, Edge got involved and cost Undertaker the match, allowing Batista to retain the title successfully. Both men were bloodied in the encounter, and the match solidified their feud as one of the best of the year.

The stipulation of Hell In A Cell would continue and evolve. Hell In A Cell’s history from 2008 to 2018 will be coming soon to TILT.

Hell In A Cell returns to pay-per-view at WrestleMania 39 when Edge squares off against Finn Balor.

Written By

Bob Colling Jr. is a professional wrestling writer and reviewer based in Syracuse, New York. He is the owner of Wrestling Recaps a website dedicated to reviewing and documenting professional wrestling from a wide range of promotions. In his spare time, he is often times podcasting about professional wrestling or on the losing side of gambling bets.

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