Hell In A Cell: The Greatest Hell In A Cell Matches Of All Time (2008)

DVD Cover (WWE Home Video)
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Overall Rating 78%
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Genres: Sports Wrestling

Connections: Wrestling: WWE

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Review by Crispy
Added: November 13, 2012
A few weeks ago, I caught WWE's latest pay-per-view, Hell in a Cell. From someone who watched the company in the infamous Attitude Era of the late 90s, the whole affair was, well, depressing. You see, the Hell in a Cell was revered in that time as the end-all-be-all of brutality, used only to end the bitterest of feuds. After seeing it reduced to a scheduled, annual event with a match that would have been lackluster even if the cell was nowhere in the building, I was jonesing to see some matches back when the phrase would make entire audiences, in arena and at home alike, mark out to the highest degree. Lucky for me, WWE has released just such a compilation.

Narrated by the infinitely appropriate host, Mick Foley, Hell in a Cell: The Greatest Hell in a Cell Matches of All Time features fourteen of the first fifteen such matches in the company's history. Between each, Mick would give his thoughts on the preceding match, a word or two about the upcoming one, followed by a vignette of the events that led up to the Cell. And then it was show time. The fourteen complete matches included are:

  • Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker (Badd Blood 1997)
  • The Undertaker and Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Mankind and Kane (Raw Is War 06/15/1998)
  • The Undertaker vs. Mankind (King of the Ring 1998)
  • Mankind vs. Kane (Raw Is War 08/24/1998)
  • Cactus Jack vs. WWF Champion Triple H (No Way Out 2000)
  • The Undertaker vs. Triple H vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock vs. Rikishi vs. WWF Champion Kurt Angle (Armageddon 2000)
  • Triple H vs. Chris Jericho (Judgment Day 2002)
  • The Undertaker vs. WWE Champion Brock Lesnar (No Mercy 2002)
  • Kevin Nash vs. World Heavyweight Champion Triple H with special guest referee Mick Foley (Bad Blood 2003)
  • Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels (Bad Blood 2004)
  • Triple H vs. World Heavyweight Champion Batista (Vengeance 2005)
  • The Undertaker vs. Randy Orton (Armageddon 2005)
  • D-Generation X (Triple H and Shawn Michaels) vs. Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon and Big Show (Unforgiven 2006)
  • The Undertaker vs. World Heavyweight Champion Batista (Survivor Series 2007)

To make a long story short, these matches certainly scratched the itch that the current product left and then some. You see, Hell in a Cell matches quickly earned a reputation as brutal, career-shortening things that forever altered its alumni's lives. Between Triple H's sledge hammer, Foley's barbed-wire-wrapped 2 x 4, ring stairs, ladders, chairs, and most importantly, the Cell itself, not one match would go by without pushing the combatants to the brink of their pain tolerance. By the time some of the matches ended, blood would be absolutely pouring from the wrestlers' faces. THIS is what I want in a Hell in a Cell match, by God! Sure, everyone remembers the first one between Taker and Shawn Michaels and the bout between the Phenom and Mankind that infamously began on top of the Cell, but the reputation the structure enjoys has been well-earned throughout the years, and every match in the collection is worth watching. The only two I had a problem with, and they were minor at best, were Mankind vs. Kane and Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H. The former I just didn't like the ending; it's mostly my being anal I'll admit, but calling to an end to the match was so out of line with the other offerings, I couldn't help but be irked by it. The other one was a bit more subjective though; you see, at over forty-five minutes, it just went on way too long. I know they wanted both men to be perceived as the legends they are, but there was so much filler between the spots that my interest was waning long before it ended. They could have trimmed it down to the standard twenty-five to thirty minute length and it would have stood just as strong as the rest of the collection.

As an added bonus, bringing in Foley to host the affair was the perfect decision. Hell, if you mention either "Hell in a Cell" or "Mick Foley" to an Attitude Era fan, their first thought is likely going to be Taker throwing Mankind off the top of the cage. His perspective is a refreshing addition to those early matches. Also, I loved the way he was able to toe that kayfabe line. You can obviously tell he has an emotional investment in the cell and that he's talking from the heart, but he never quite reveals the scripted nature of the business.

As much as I enjoyed these matches, there's no denying that you can already see the taming of the product I complained about earlier. Don't get me wrong, this early on they were all still pretty brutal, but when you watch them all in succession, you notice that you aren't cringing as much in the later bouts. Plus, the last two matches featured here are in the "new and improved" cell. For reasons unknown, WWE decided to replace the original structure with a much larger cage. I imagine it once again has to do with that PG movement, because despite its increased size, it looks so much less menacing. In fact, I'd say the larger size is actually part of the problem as it's lost the claustrophobia the other one provided. Also, this one has a bright, shiny finish; it almost looks inviting compared to the flat, unemotional gray of the last cage. Finally, half of the matches came after the Brand Division in the middle of the decade. In other words, half of them were announced by Michael Cole and either Tazz or JBL. JR and Lawler have been commenting together for years, and their chemistry was all but palpable. The difference between the matches they called and the ones Cole handled was incredibly noticeable. This isn't mere neophobia either; Cole being named Worst Announcer for three years running by Wrestling Observer Newsletter is evidence enough. With all that said, it's worth noting that only the beginning of the transition between the violence of the Attitude Era and the kiddy-safe era of today is seen, and the collateral damage on this DVD set is minimal at best.

One last thing I'd like to mention is the omission of the Undertaker/Big Boss Man match from WrestleMania XV. Now, I do see why they left it out. After all, it culminated in Taker's minions, The Brood, hanging Boss Man with a noose from the top of the cage, and with the combination of the aforementioned PG movement and the fact that Boss Man has since died, I can see why WWE would like it forgotten. Plus, let's be honest here, it was a pretty lackluster match anyway, so it's not like its not being there hurt the DVD set at all. What is a problem, however, is the way WWE denied its very existence. In the introduction, Mick claims he was in four of the first five Hell in a Cell matches, then in his segment between his matches with Kane and Triple H, he claims that he competed in the "very next match." Well, this disowned match was between these two, making that statement a flat-out lie, and actually putting him in four of the first six Hell in a Cell matches. If you didn't want to acknowledge the match, you didn't have to, but don't insult our intelligence.

Petty complaints aside, this is an amazing compilation. The Hell in a Cell has a well-deserved reputation of being one of the most brutal matches the WWE has to offer, and these early matches are a bloody testament as to why. Whether you're an older fan wanting to relive better times or a younger fan who can't understand why you keep getting flamed on Youtube for being a die-hard Cena fan, this DVD set is a must-see. 9.5/10.
Crispy #1: Crispy - added 03/17/2013, 05:55 AM
Four months after this writing, Michael Cole's Worst Announcer streak has continued for a fourth consecutive year. Between that, his horrid heel run (which also earned a WON Worst Gimmick award), and that wrestlemania crap with Lawler, I can only imagine what dirt he has on one or more McMahons.
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