Going into this year's Hell In A Cell pay per view, there have been 33 matches inside the demonic structure, or whatever the hell they try to bill it as. I watched every HIAC match and this is what I thought / found / realized. Yes, that is crazy. Yes, I did spend almost 12 hour watching those matches this week.
I'll get this out of the way now. If you're looking for a list of good HIAC matches, here ya go (listed chronologically):
- Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker, Badd Blood 1997
- The Undertaker vs. Mankind, King of the Ring 1998
- Triple H vs. Cactus Jack, No Way Out 2000
- Kurt Angle vs. The Undertaker vs. Triple H vs. Stone Cold vs. The Rock vs. Rikishi, Armageddon 2000
- Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker, No Mercy 2002
- Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels, Bad Blood 2004
- Batista vs. Triple H, Vengeance 2005
- The Undertaker vs. Edge, SummerSlam 2008
- The Undertaker vs. Triple H, WrestleMania 28 (2012)
- Alberto Del Rio vs. John Cena vs. CM Punk, Hell In A Cell 2011
- Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan, Hell In A Cell 2013
- Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose, Hell In A Cell 2014
Losing the meaning?
When Shawn Michaels and Undertaker stepped in the Cell at In Your House: Bad Blood in 1997, it meant something. It felt important. Those things came with the territory of a new match, but you get my point. In the first decade of HIAC (1997-2007), most matches inside turned into classics. Undertaker vs. Mankind (Mick Foley getting thrown off the top, chokeslammed through the Cell, etc), Triple H vs Cactus Jack (title vs career match, with Foley having to retire), and on and on. During the first 10 years, there were 15 HIAC contests.From 2008 to now (including 2016 HIAC ppv), there have been 22 matches. The average number of HIACs went from 1.5 a year in the first decade to 2.75 in the last 8 years. Not to mention that since 2009, a HIAC pay per view became an annual occurrence. I get that they're trying to draw ratings, even more so now with WWE Network, but bastardizing one of the most intense and gruesome matches isn't the answer. In some ways, it's similar to NWO. It was fresh and cool, but then WCW beat that horse to death and then some, which is what WWE is doing to HIAC now.
There will be (less) blood
It's not as simple as no blood equals a boring match, but when the bleeding stopped, the matches (some, not all) became less exciting. Maybe it was the nature of marathon / binge watching these matches, but I didn't notice the change right away. The first match without blood was Undertaker vs Edge. What helped the bloodless transition was that the match between The Deadman and Rated R Superstar was great. It was a solid match with a number of spots that live on today. Edge getting choke slammed off the top rope through two table was pretty wild. But the HIAC matches that followed were sub par. Basically, all the Cell contests from HIAC 2009 were awful. With a lackluster HIAC match, the absence of blood became all the more noticeable. Again, that's not to say that matches without blood. Alberto Del Rio vs. John Cena vs. CM Punk at Hell In A Cell 2011 was great. Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose at Hell In A Cell 2014 was a quality match, as well.
No (Dude) Love for Foley
There are things that happened and didn't happened that don't make much sense to me. One of the biggest things in Mick Foley never winning a HIAC. Let's pause here and think about that...
Okay, now we're back.
Mick Foley is regarded as a hardcore legend. He has been put through the announce table, whether it's getting thrown off the Cell roof or pulled off the side, in pretty much every HIAC contest he has been in. The bumps and spots he did in the infamous match vs Undertaker at King of the Ring 1998 should have warranted at least a win at some point. Realistically, how many times can you say you heard an announcer say"he's dead" after a wrestler takes a bump? The only instance I can think of is from this match, when after Foley's lifeless body careened through the Cell roof Jerry "The King" Lawler said "That's it. He's dead." Long story short: Alberto Del Rio, Mark Henry and Roman Reigns each have more HIAC wins (1) in HIAC than Foley. While I respect all of those men, none of them come close to Foley's hardcore. That's just not right.
Messed up stuff
Just a list of quick hits of things that were very, very bad decisions:
- Hanging Big Boss man from Cell roof
- Mick Foley never winning a HIAC match
- A 5 minute HIAC match that was a RAW dark match
- CM Punk losing his World Heavyweight title to Undertaker in under 11 minutes to open a PPV
- DX vs. Legacy headlining HIAC 2009
- Finish to Cena-Orton (2009), where camera showed Orton blatantly missing Cena's head with a punt kick
- The entire HIAC 2009 PPV
Then. Now. Forever.
After 33 matches (36 matches by Monday), the legacy of Hell In A Cell continues to grow, in ways that are good and bad. If I had a say in it, I would stop the using HIAC as a PPV and return to using it as a seldom used match to serve as a blow off for a heated feud. Or at the very least, there to be an actual reason to use the match. I believe all those competing inside the Cell at HIAC 2016 (Rusev vs. Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens, Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks) will do the match justice. But as talented as each individual is, I worry that trying to push the envelope and top prior spots like that of Undertaker-Foley is an uphill battle that can't be won. That comment is for all those currently and in the future competing in a WWE ring. While Charlotte hitting a Corkscrew moonsault off the Cell roof or Owens hitting a Pop-up powerbomb through the Cell top would be an unbelievable spectacle, what is the cost for them or their opponents long term? I don't think there is any amount of fame or respect that would warrant potentially shortening a career or life from one glorious bump.