Through the years, there have been more than three dozen cell matches, some more memorable than others. With Hell in a Cell getting its own assigned spot on the WWE calendar, some of the matches designated for the cell have admittedly kinda paled to its predecessors, the matches that were booked for the giant cage as a means of settling ultimate scores. But to this day, the match will still spawn its share of cool moments.
Paring a list of the best cell bits down to just 10 best has its challenges, but that's why challenges are met. Here are the 10 very best moments in WWE's two-decade history of presenting Hell in a Cell matches...
10. If Del Rio Wins, We Riot (2011)
The triple threat match in which Alberto Del Rio won the WWE Championship against champion John Cena and fellow challenger CM Punk was pretty solid - not great, not bad, but somewhere in the workable groove. Just when it seemed like another decent-enough WWE pay-per-view was about to fade to black, things came unglued.
The Miz and R-Truth emerged wearing identity-concealing hoodies, brandishing metal pipes. They attacked everybody inside the cage, padlocking the door from the inside, which prompted police officers, Triple H, and the entire locker room to come running out, in an attempt to get inside the cage to stop the onslaught. Once the padlock was broken, Miz and Truth calmly surrendered to the cops, with not a hint of remorse. This made the two look positively badass, until Cena and The Rock undid all of that, sadly.
Hey, the highlights of this moment is one of the most watched videos on WWE's YouTube channel ever, with over 42 million hits at the time of writing. HUGE!
9. It's All About Timing (2017)
Shane McMahon and Kevin Owens were certainly an odd combination for a 40-minute Hell in a Cell match, but that's beside the point. The only thing that mattered was the ending sequence, in which Shane O'Mac attempted a top-of-the-cell Leap of Faith similar to WrestleMania 32. Owens was draped across a table and appeared to be a sitting duck, when unlikely aid appeared.
Rescuing Owens from his predicament was Sami Zayn, making one of the more surprising heel turns in recent memory. But it worked - for as charming, affable, and gritty as Zayn was as a babyface, he was perfectly irritating and grating as a cocky villain, complementing Owens' goadful rhetoric and negative attitude. Zayn's perfect was the perfect way to end a Cell match that had otherwise been nothing but continuous sizzle.
8. Red Rain (2002)
In discussions of the most gruesome bloodlettings in professional wrestling history, The Undertaker's gnarly loss of crimson at No Mercy 2002 is somewhat underrepresented. The Phenom was triple coated in his own blood, to the point where it almost had a glazy shine to it. And he just kept bleeding and bleeding, losing enough blood to where he'd have given Dracula a tummy ache.
The ickiest moment came when Undertaker deposited Brock Lesnar with a Last Ride Powerbomb, earning only a two count when the battered WWE Champion snatched the bottom rope. At this point, Undertaker was still dripping red, a fact made clear when he groggily rolled over Lesnar's body, his blood dotting up Brock's torso, and into the champ's open mouth. I'm sure Brock likes his steaks rare, but not *that* rare.
7. Brock Lesnar Doesn't Give A F**K (2015)
For as awesome as the Lesnar/Undertaker cell match was in 2002 (and make no mistake, it was fantastic), their 2015 sequel came damn close to matching it. That's astonishing, considering that their combined age in the 2015 match was 88 (compared to 62 in 2002). The 2015 match was a throwback, feeling like two cosmic forces attempting to destroy the other, creating a vibe that outsized many of its choreographed peers.
The permeating danger around the match felt real, perhaps a little too real, especially for one non-wrestler. When a nasty gash opened up on Lesnar, the action was halted so that a doctor could check out the cut. "Nuts to that," said The Beast Incarnate, who threw the doctor down and fought onward. This was no planned spot - an irritated Lesnar tossed the doctor like a sack of garbage, which reportedly drew Vince's ire backstage. What happened, Vince? You changed, man.
6. Michaels' Fall (1997)
The first Hell in a Cell match, pitting The Undertaker against Shawn Michaels, is regarded by many as the absolute best Cell match ever, setting a standard that even the best Cell matches after it can't quite match. There were a number of key ingredients in play that made this match a success: a killer ending (which we'll get to), the cat-and-mouse give-and-take between two pros, and Michaels' ability to take a beating.
Michaels could sell his ass off, and when he was at his most snotty and petulant, he knew damn well that Undertaker ripping him apart was best for business. In the stretch run of the match, fans who loathed Michaels got their jollies as Undertaker beat HBK senseless and bloody, as The Deadman produced a catalogue of memorable moments that included him crowning HBK with a brain-rattling chair shot, and the pièce de résistance, The Phenom knocking Michaels from the side of the cage through a table. As far as getting ragdolled for the audience's amusement, Michaels did it better than most, with a prime example coming in the maiden cell match.
5. Foley's Other Falls (2000)
Putting Mick Foley in a Hell in a Cell match post-1998 came with an obvious risk: comparisons to *that* match. While we'll get to that particular match later on, let's just say that most attempts to co-opt the events of King of the Ring 1998, with the main victim of that night's mayhem, would likely pale to its predecessor. That is, most attempts, anyway.
As Cactus Jack, Foley wagered his WWE career against Triple H's WWE Championship in a cell match that combined that aforementioned King of the Ring spectacle with Foley and Hunter's Royal Rumble bloodbath. The ending saw a fiery Foley break through the cell's roof, cannonballing through the canvas in a truly horrifying visual. He emerged from the wreckage for only a beat, so that Triple H could Pedigree him into presumed retirement. While Foley would come back to have a few classics with the likes of Randy Orton and Edge, this would have been the perfect parting shot as was.
4. The Superkick/Pedigree Combo (2012)
As the years wore on, it would take a lot to make the jaded fans think The Undertaker's Streak was in jeopardy. As the End of an Era Hell in a Cell match at WrestleMania XXVIII ground on with each passing minute, it remained hard to fathom Triple H halting the historic run at 19. WWE clearly coveted 20 for The Deadman. But they still jolted us good.
Undertaker had choked out referee Shawn Michaels at one juncture due to mounting frustration but pressed on in his attempts to get that 20th win. Michaels was stirring when Undertaker tried to Tombstone Helmsley, which created an opening for vengeful Shawn to Superkick Undertaker in the mush. Helmsley dropped down and immediately landed a Pedigree...for 2. Even the most cynical onlookers bought that as the finish for a split second, a genuine heart-stopper.
3. Take A Bow (2012)
Minor spoiler alert: Undertaker beat Triple H into a motionless collection of skin and body parts, extending his WrestleMania streak to an unmatchable 20. The match was meant to "end an era" (see you in Australia!) and looked to be a genuine curtain call for three men (Michaels included) that had built their legacies in part due to Hell in a Cell bouts, and within the era where the Cell first became en vogue.
When the dust settled, Undertaker and Michaels assisted a barely-conscious Helmsley up the aisleway to a thunderous ovation and earned bigger cheers when they turned to face the expansive WrestleMania crowd. It would have been a more impressive portrait in time had it been a legitimate curtain call, but that's wrestling - nobody retires. Ask Terry Funk.
2. The Three Falls Of Foley (1998)
The Mt. Rushmore of Wrestlers That Lost Matches, But Came Out A Bigger Star: Randy Savage at WrestleMania VII, Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania X, Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13, and Mankind at King of the Ring 1998. Yeah, Undertaker was the one (barely) standing tall at the end of the grimmest of car wrecks, but all everybody remembers is how Foley somehow, some way, staved off death more than once in the match.
First, it was the somewhat-controlled throw from the top of the cell through the Spanish commentary table. Then it was the Nestea Plunge through the cell's roof, down onto the canvas. Capping it off were the two bumps Foley took onto a sea of thumbtacks. The match made Mick Foley, just as much as it broke him.
1. "That's Gotta Be Kane!" (1997)
Some will cry foul that Foley's defiance of death isn't number one, but for my list, I'll always go with the perfect debut. The prospect of the "Kane" character didn't exactly conjure up excitement when mentioned as a plot point, but in execution, the presentation excelled. On the night of Badd Blood, vengeance came from nearly beyond the grave.
When Kane emerged in his full get-up, he looked positively horrifying in his mask and bodysuit, then augmented his own standing by ripping the Cell door off the hinges. For the first time ever, a man looked like an absolute equal to The Undertaker, without looking the slightest bit hokey or silly. There has nary been a character's debut that was as effective as when Kane stormed the Cell and confronted his petrified brother.